“You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca…”
– from the movie Casablanca
…and in Sale and Azrou as well! As many of you may be aware, I recently returned from a unique opportunity in the country of Morocco. From May 24 through June 4, I was one of 12 people from Elon University who traveled to Morocco to participate in both a service and cultural experience. Sponsored by Elon University’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning as well as the Truitt Center for Religious & Spirtual Life, I was fortunate to be selected as one of two faculty/staff advisors for this trip. And it was both professionally and personally enriching – not a day goes by without me thinking about the places I traveled to, the foods that I ate, and most importantly, the people who are now my friends.
To give you a quick idea of what we did and where we went, here is a quick run-down of some of the activities that we participated in:
- Casablanca: visit to Hassan II mosque and quick city tour
- Sale: Host family stay; worked with children in a school and cleaned up schoolyard; went to a free concert
- Rabat: Visited Mohammed V mausoleum, Chella, and a medina (market)
- Azrou: Host family stay; worked with young people at the Bridges of Culture center; cleaned up local schoolyard; visited caves where people lived until 1962
- Fes: Toured the city; visited a medina with local artisans and saw the Medrassa Bouanania, Mausoleum of Molay Idriss
- Meknes: Visited various monuments and the local medina
- Volubilis: Visited the ancient Roman ruins of this city
- Azrou: Returned back to our host families; screened a cross-cultural documentary made with the assistance of our guide, Lotfi
- Sale: Had a cross-cultural discussion between the Elon University students and Moroccan university students about cultural differences (based upon the the documentary previously screened); reunited with our original host families; had the opportunity to go to the beach
- (You can see many of these places in my Flickr photostream on my blog!)
And thus you can see, it was an incredibly busy trip! What I found to be quite interesting on this trip was the experience that I had learning more about the Moroccan culture compared to other international trips that I have made. For example, when I usually travel to recruit for Elon, I am literally making quick stops into countries to visit schools. While there is certainly value in the experiences that you can obtain just by being in ANY country for ANY
amount of time, it only gives you a quick snapshot of what the actual culture is like. This experience, however, was more like a movie (to use the above media analogy). Our group experienced the language (both Arabic and French), the food (breads, olives, meats, etc), the medinas, the various climates, the people, etc. We were truly immersed in the culture, particularly with the opportunity to visit local schools, meet with a local politician to ask questions, and stay with host families.
And thus my quote from the movie “Casablanca” at the top of this entry… it was an amazing experience to not only get to know 11 other Elon people better, but also to meet many people in Morocco who I now feel privileged to call friends.
I am looking forward to when I can return to the country!