Posing at the Dar Chabab (Youth Center): Fes, Morocco. Photography: Stefan Agregado.
Hello all! Orientation days in Rabat, Morocco are over and I am now beginning week five of my training experience in Fes, Morocco. I will be training for another month until I begin my actual volunteer service. As a Peace Corps trainee, my typical day includes hefty courses on cultural awareness, working with youth at the “Dar Chabab Al Quods” (which means “house for youth” in english) and intensive language lessons. Afterwards, I make it home in the evening to spend time with my Moroccan host family (a Mom, Dad, 2 sisters, and a brother), eat dinner, go to sleep, and then wake up to do it all over again! Needless to say, we are busy!
Learning about Moroccan youth has been the most rewarding and insightful moments of my experience thus far. There are so many stereotypes about people of the Arab culture and living with a Moroccan host family on a daily basis has taught me the importance of not pre-judging or relying on stereotypes to assess an entire culture or person before taking the chance to know them. While I am not a muslim nor do I agree with any of the beliefs of the muslim religion, interacting with my host family has reminded me of one important fact-as humans, its important to recognize the aspects of our character which bring us together rather than the differences which separate us. What brings us together you ask?–Love. Love is the central component which connects all human beings and the one tie that made my host family experience a worthwhile adventure.
For example, my host sister, Ikram (photo below), has been nothing but hospitable to me from the moment I met her. When I caught bronchitis, she went out in the cold rain to go get my medicine, cooked all my meals, and made me warm tea for my throat. The rest of my family, especially my mother, reminds me everyday with their actions and words of how welcoming they are. My father’s first words were “you are our daughter now and this is your home. Do as you like.”
My experience in Morocco has also contradicted many of the stereotypes people tend to have about Africa. The central topic of most U.S media news stories in relation to Africa have a tendency to focus on poverty, war, and protests. As a result, there are many negative assumptions that people of U.S culture have made about both people of African descent and Africa as a whole. For example, before leaving to study abroad in Europe during my junior year in college, people reacted to my study abroad opportunity by saying encouraging statements like: “wow that’s exciting,” “What museums will you see?” and “Have fun!” In contrast, people’s reactions to my announcement of my travels to Africa were more negatively related and included reactions like: “Wow, are you going to live in a hut?,” “Please don’t drink the water” and “Don’t forget to get your shots.” Although these people had been to neither place for themselves, they developed assumptions based off the narrow focus of news and media in which they were exposed to about each continent. While it may be important to bring awareness to any area of need in Africa, it is even more important to know that these areas represent neither Africa nor the people of Africa in its entirety. While in Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer and journalist, I’m hoping to change these assumptions and stereotypes through my writing and photo sharing. As always, below please find a few updated photos of my experience.
I pass by these beautiful fountains and palm trees every day during my walk home from the Dar Chabab! 🙂
Enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon in Fes, Morocco at a cafe…I love the beauty of the landscape in this photo!
Goofing around with the girls during my first Moroccan slumber party: My host sister’s friend, my host sister (Ikram), and myself.