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01

Nov

currentlyinmorocco.tumblr.com

So my posts from currentlyinmorocco have stopped reposting themselves to this personal blog. I probably won’t post on currentlyin for the time being just because it’s already tough finding time to post on my currentlyinmorocco. Please follow my travel blog if you’re interested! Look out for new posts on here in May!


A typical Moroccan lecture hall… pretty familiar looking

A typical Moroccan lecture hall… pretty familiar looking

29

Oct

Experiencing a Moroccan University

I’d say this weekend was pretty solid. Since our Fridays are the start of our weekends, this week we decided to go to school with Zinab for the day! The univerisity she goes to is mainly for English Literature and science majors. Her focus is on lit, with the final goal of becoming a teacher insha’allah. 

The univeristy itself wasn’t too far off from an American college. The general classes were a bit smaller (kind of like high school size), but they do have a few large lecture halls like the ones we’re used to. Not everyone (actually, almost no one) brings a laptop to class for notes; they all mostly take notes via pen and paper… When walking around campus in the morning, there a few student protests going on. They were performing these sort of songs that actually sounded really cool. They weren’t like intense, angry chants, they were songs that I could see people dancing to or something (maybe that’s because I didn’t really know what they were saying).

Zinab’s class for the day is scheduled for 8am, but she told us how the proffessors are rarely on time. They like to have a nice leisurely tea in the morning like anyone else would… This English Lit teacher, Dr. Riad, was very amusing. He had this Moroccan Arabic/British English/Scottish/French accent going that Lilly and I had to sometimes really think about what he was saying. The class was reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and besides a few “comedic” inputs in Arabic, the rest of the class was taught in English. They were mostly trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of the lighthouse: symbolism, themes in society, etc.

After class, we met up with a few of Zinab’s friends and enjoyed some amazing msemen with cheese and casher, a typical Moroccan breakfast, out on the school’s cafeteria patio.

I’m really glad we got the chance to see how the universities work here just because we haven’t seen much to do with public schooling here besides in the Atlas Mountains. It’s crazy to think that college here is completely free; Zinab was telling us how you don’t really need to apply for these schools, you mostly just have to prove to them that your grades in the desired subject back in high school, or bacheloriette, are adequate enough to go on and eventually get a degree in. Next Friday, we want to go to her 10am lecture of Literary Criticism, so hopefully that happens and I’ll have more stories for you!

27

Oct

Group Blog!

Our group of 17 students have a blog going about everything we’ve been experiencing. It’s updated just about everyday with exciting new stories. Check it out! Here’s my last blog post…

Generation: I Don’t Really Know Yet by Negina Pirzad

So far on our stay here, I have had countless run-ins with the children of Morocco. There have been pleasant experiences, and unsettling ones too, but every occurrence has been really different from the one before. Even just comparing the kids in Casablanca to those in Marrakech to the ones in the Atlas Mountains, the children vary so much that it’s hard to make a general opinion of this nation’s newest generation.

In Casablanca, the kids that we encountered seemed to be more adamant to sell things to us because we looked like tourists and they were also more adamant to gain our attention in negative ways. I remember two girls on the Casablanca Beach who wouldn’t give up on selling us gum. They tried Arabic, French, and even some English, but all that came across was a sad desperateness that couldn’t be hidden behind their young charm. It seemed incredibly annoying at the moment, but looking back on it, it’s really unfortunate that some children, by choice or by the demand of parents, feel the need to spend their days nagging touristy looking people for a few durhams that would actually make a pretty big difference in their lives. Another negative experience with the kids of Casa was when we passed a group of boys after our couscous lunch. It seemed like they wanted the attention of us Americans so badly that they used the only material they thought would work on us: cursing. A four letter word here, a middle finger there, I was definitely rubbed the wrong way.

My exposure to kids in Marrakech, so far, has been both good and bad. The most touching and most positive of all would have to be going to The Center of Hope baby orphanage. A group of us visit the infants, toddlers, and children with handicaps that stay there on a weekly basis. Our job is to basically brighten their days. Even though I look like an obnoxious crazy person when I’m singing and dancing for ten not-so-enthusiastic babies, it is so worth it to see the slightest grins on their adorable faces. Since there are usually only about four caretakers present while we’re there, a lot of the babies have gotten the self-soothing method down. And despite the countless nurseries the orphanage has, it’s surprising and a little eerie how quiet it can get.

During our time in the High Atlas Mountains, I also got to see another side to Moroccan children that was dramatically different from the two cities before. The Amazigh, or Berber, kids we ran into along the village streets carried enough amazingness for me, but when we visited the public school, I felt like we were in their worlds for those short fifteen minutes. We were in their classroom where their educational careers were beginning, where their dreams are starting to come alive, and where their peer interacting was blossoming. I loved just looking at their ten year old-ish faces, trying to figure out what was going through their minds when twenty Americans disrupted their lesson. For the most part, the kids out in the mountains just seemed to have genuine ambitions that they worked for day in and day out. Of course we experienced the select few who were begging for pens or hair ties and followed us until they got one or the other, but overall, the Amazigh experience was an amazing one. The youth out there don’t have parks or soccer fields to play in, they have nature and their imaginations to get them further in life. 

I’m happy I’ve gone through every positive and every negative experience I have with a handful of Morocco’s youngest generation. Every day is another major lesson in the school called life for me (don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking, but there is seriously no other way to describe Morocco). I’m genuinely interested in finding out what the kids of Marrakech, Casa, and the Atlas Mountains will make of themselves in the future because as of right now, I’m supes confuzzled.
 

Once again, until next time,

 Negina

A Mzyan Birthday

So I know I have a lot to catch you up on about my stay in Marrakech so far and I definitely will do it, eventually. However, this past Tuesday was different from every other day I’ve had here and I feel like I should share what happened while it’s still fresh in my mind :)

The 25th of October, was not just special because it was my 18th birthday, but because I really felt the love of all the Moroccans and Americans I know here. I’d like to take some time now and back-track to the start of one memorable birthday.

My Moroccan friends and family have shown me so much love, it’s unreal. I think Tuesday night was the first time I genuinely got surprised at my own surprise party. My host sister Z, asked me to ride with her over to a friend’s house to drop off a pair of shoes because she didn’t want to go by herself at night. So I went and by the time we got back, I was expecting to get into pj’s, maybe do some studying, then just go to bed. Little did I know that when I slid the glass door open to the living room, I would be faced with my three other host sisters, host mom, host brother, host brother-in-law, and Z’s friend Sara. They were all gathered around the dinner table, screaming happy birthday to me, and their excited faces glowed in the candlelight beaming from my birthday cake. They decorated the room with a banner and balloons and even dressed in traditional Moroccan tux shetas (what women wear as guests at weddings). Dinner was a strategically planned to remind me of my Afghani dinners back home and I think my host mom achieved her goal with an amazing kabob and rice combo. And for gifts, I got two pairs of adorable earrings, a chic brown leather purse, a hand-made wooden jewlery box, a floral keychain, and a jeweled headband. They completely caught me off guard with every aspect of that night that I’m still blown away.

And as for the NSLI-Y group, I feel so incredibly close to them that it’s weird to think that we’ve only been together for a little over a month now. Tuesday morning at 7am, my roommate Lilly slowly woke up to our alarm and her first words were “Happy birthday, Negina!.” I was even at the point where I forgot myself that it was the 25th. The group also wished me happiness on this incredible day that marks my birth when I got to school. Bridget wrote me an adorable poem; Charlotte got me goodies from the hanut (the fun and convenient shops along the roads); Shannon made me a birthday sign; and the whole group got me a vibrant new journal (which was perfect timing since I was looking to buy one from Acima, the closest supermarket).

I had a delicious lunch at a Seafood eatery with roommate Lilly, Char B, Caleb, Heather, and group leader Melissa. At the end of our meal, Melissa snuck away and got back to our table with delicious cakes from a little pattisserie down the street. Not only was the company good, but the food itself was pretty bomb.

And before we walked home yesterday, Lilly, Caleb, and Sarah got me a beautiful pair of baby blue antique studs and a soft blue leather wallet from Sarah’s shop in Jmaa Al Fnaa. I left with a shiny red gift bag full of presents from people that really made yesterday so incredibly special.

I have to admit though, I was feeling a little homesick Monday night just because it would be my first birthday away from my family, but I think I’ve made a bond with everyone around me that I can confidently refer to them all as my second family. I did get a chance to talk to my actual family back home though. Hearing their voices made me incredibly happy :) When I talked to my mom and dad specifically, I felt so normal and so proud of myself because I didn’t feel this intense urge where I absolutely had to see them right then and there. I think that even though it hasn’t been too long, this experience abroad has made me grow up, mostly in the sense that I can be seven hours ahead of my family and still be OK. Good thing I turned 18; my adultness is starting to expose itself!

This birthday was definitely one for the books (quite litterally, I journalled about it for an hour earlier).

Until next time,

Negina

25

Oct

Here are some pictures to go along with my description of Casablanca!

23

Oct

Second Stop: Casablanca!

After an entire day of flying, over the Atlantic and into Madrid, we finally landed at the L’Aéroport Mohammed V in Casablanca, Morocco on September 21st. I was definitely hit with some culture shock right when we got off the plane. I knew I wasn’t in America anymore; I don’t know, it was probably the hundred degree weather, or the people dressed in niqabs (burkas) and hijabs, or maybe it was the fact that everything was written in French and Arabic… hmm not quite sure what triggered it, but it was there and it completely took over my mind.

We stayed a night in Casablanca for some more orientation, but again, got to see a lot of the city. Like people from the program said, I don’t think Casa gave the best first impression of Morocco as a country; however, it’s understood that when traveling to a developing country, there will be a lot of visible poverty and people who don’t act in ways others are super comfortable with. I was completely fascinated by the Casa people and to see how their ways of life differ specifically from mine back home in Oregon.

Along the way in this historic town, one of our first stops, and probably my favorite one, was the Hassan II Mosque. It does have a controversial background to how funding came about for its erection and just how luxurious it is… but I still have to say that it is one of the prettiest standing structures I have ever seen (I mean it should be if an estimated $800 million, 2,500 construction workers, and 10,000 artists were needed for it). It’s something that you have to see for yourself and base your opinion off of other similar buildings like it. For me, it was such a grand experience because all I have to compare it to are the masjids back and let’s just say: there is no comparison.

Also in Casa, we got to go to the Casablanca Beach which marked my first time seeing the Atlantic. It wasn’t the tidiest of beaches, but the picture it painted was so humbling. When looking out before hitting the sand, there were soccer scrimmages between men and kids alike, scattered around before the water. There were women wearing headscarves, sitting under sun umbrellas, watching their children play. And not to mention, the numerous amounts of horses and donkeys being pulled left and right (one horseman even posed for me). The beach seemed to be a place that brought the city of Casablanca together which sort of rubbed off on our group too. It was a cool place to get tighter and form more bonds with the NSLI-Yers and just experience our first glimpse of Morocco together.

20

Oct

Our group of 17 students all met up in our country’s capital for a few days of orientation, but we also got a day to go sightseeing. It was my first time in D.C. and it was really amazing to see so much of America’s history in just a few miles of driving. We hopped from memorial to memorial with an awesome tour guide, Mr. Eddie. My favorites of the day were definitely the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and then the scene of the Lincoln Memorial across from the Washington Monument. That one just because so much has happened there and seeing it up close made the entire image that much more majestic.

Finally… a Post!

It’s been exactly a month and two days since I’ve been away from home and I finally feel like I’ve gotten into the mix of things around here. So much has happened since I first arrived in Washington D.C., not to mention finally hitting Morocco. Summing up everything that I’ve experienced thus far would take kind of a long time, so I’ll just do my best to include as many details as I can in a few short blurbs.

16

Sep

Homemade stationery! Got the idea from Every Nothing Wonderful. Such a cute blog!