Goodbye Limerick

This post is by Dar Si Hmad Ethnographic School Manager, Maisie Breit

 

There were some amazing students that I knew

Who came to Morocco, as an all-girl crew.

While today was the end of one part,

for another, it’s only the start.

And so this poem I dedicate to all of you.

 

Mervian has so much to say,

and is hysterical in every way.

So fast-paced is her mind.

sometimes we need a rewind.

But we love hearing from her everyday!

 

Anyx is a lady who knows how she feels.

She’s honest, but careful how much she reveals.

And through some highs and some lows,

I’ve watched her question what she knows,

And challenge her own ideals.

 

Kemeria is our big helper star,

And wow what a boss lady you are.

In even the toughest case

She’ll have a smile on her face

Without her help, we would not have come far.

 

Nasya started a little bit quiet,

showing frustration with the Moroccan diet.

But she’s come out of her shell,

She expresses herself so well!

Hearing from her is a riot.

 

Sandra has been so understanding and tough.

Switching houses for her started rough.

But with such strength and grace,

she found her sense of place.

She’ll be back to Morocco, I’m sure enough.

 

Delia could never get enough rest.

She was an eager and adventurous guest.

She would never say no,

Everyone yalla, let’s go!

Yet never got herself stressed.

 

Suad was a joy to be around.

Her enthusiasm and love did abound.

As each day went by,

something else caught her eye

It was infectious, the excitement she found.

 

I hope to hear from you girls all the time!

It’s been an honor to see you all shine.

Please send me messages, bizaff.

I’ll miss you making me laugh.

I consider you all, friends of mine.

 

 

 

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Farewell and Bslama!

This Blog entry is by WGEI Participant Mervian Smith

mervian tagine

This trip has been fun but also mind and heart cleansing , whether it was from going to Dar Si Hmad, the excursion to Sidi Ifni or doing morning check ins. We have created strong relations, enhanced our intelligence levels, and discovered a new way of life.

taroudant

We have noticed we have a room full of bold personalities and feisty lovable attitudes. We also took time to embrace and discover each other’s characteristics like Suad’s confidence and open mind, Delia ‘s boldness and leadership skills, Sandy’s caring and supporting personality, Kemeria’s momma vibe and protectiveness, Anyx’s politically thinking, Nasya’s cuteness and beautiful personality when she gets out of her comfort zone and Mervian’s hilarious jokes. We developed strong connections with very friendly and accepting host families that we are going to miss so much and appreciate our wonderful support systems , our chaperons and how they all have extremely different character traits. We love how organized and determined Samantha is, Sara’s listening and encouraging skills and overall positivity also how concerned and sarcastic Ms.Kirk is and how she always tries her best to get things done for us and how Maisie is always there for us even if she is sick she is always at our service and does her best to help.

However, a surprising change had a large effect on my overall host family experience. Let’s just say now I have successfully developed connections with two amazing and loving host families. The families have lots of differences but still a few similarities which made adjusting an extremely difficult task to take on. I luckily wasn’t left to experience the change along but with another student only problem is I had an additional person to attempt to befriend. So I had to put my communication skills to the test or actually develop some.

My first host family connected a lot so naturally, so our bond was honestly unbreakable . We were a house full of girls with a couple younger boys so we felt like free spirits and had lots of girl time , conversations, freedom to express ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin. My second host family is amazingly very family oriented and intelligent. All the girls have found compromising ways to become comfortable around each other whether it was from being in the same host families or seeing each other most of the time at Dar Si Hmad. We have found ways to solve problems on our own or take matters into our own hands when adult guidance wasn’t available.

I think we are proud to say that in Morocco there wasn’t an opportunity we allowed to slip away or a challenge we didn’t successfully accomplish. The best experience we had together I think would be the hike and swimming in the valley. They were so uplifting, relaxing and had very peaceful scenery. Long story short, our heart – filled adventure is coming to a close. It is very difficult to write about the ending of our journey when it is still beginning.

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Visit to local NGO

This Blog Post is by WGEI Participant, Nasya Watson

On July 25, the students of Dar Si Hmad were given a lecture on Migration and the effects it has on people in Morocco. The lecture gave us information on how people from North Africa struggled to migrate into Europe. They often had to travel through Morocco to reach that area, and if families were to host these people then they would have to pay a fine of almost 1,000 dh. Some people were stopped halfway through their journey and some went through harsh climates just to reach their destination. The students were also told about some children in Morocco have very limited access to education.

 

Afterwards, the students were then treated to a delicious meal for lunch that included chicken, salad, and macaroni. We talked and laughed, enjoying our time with each other before taking a short break to prepare for our departure to the village of Ait Amira.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

We drove for about an hour before reaching our destination. There, the students along with Maisie, Samantha, and everyone else, were given a wonderful presentation by one of the members on the work the organization does, specifically for migrant communities in the region. Once the presentation was over, the students met with an organization called the L’Association Anouav touzaikou pour le developpement et la Cooperation, with a total of four young women. Each member, including the Dar Si Hmad students, introduced themselves one by one—allowing each person in the program to know one another.

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The Dar Si Hmad students and the organization enjoyed a small snack with a water and Sprite, this gave the group a chance to have small talk with each other for a while. After snack time, the L’Association anouav touzaikou pour le developpement et la Cooperation group and the Dar Si Hmad students stepped outside to receive a “Clean & Green” shirt. They were then placed into four teams, (Two students from Dar Si Hmad and one from the organization) each team was given a specific category of trash that is found mostly everywhere like plastic, glass, etc. The four teams had a cardboard box handed to them, their job was to write the name of the trash category they were given and to draw examples of that category all over the box. Once everything was completely and done, the students of Dar Si Hmad bid farewell to the members of the organization before returning to Agadir. The students of Dar Si Hmad had a great time doing the activity and were grateful to know the importance of recycling.
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Panel Discussion with Moroccan Women

This post is by WGEI participant Anyx Burd:

 The Final countdown

     In the words of a famous rock band: it’s the final countdown. We have come to the last week of this marvelous adventure to Morocco. This trip has really taught  me a lot about self acceptance, keeping an open mind, and coming out of my comfort zones. On this journey I have listened to many social justice speakers on issues dealing with racism, immigration, and gender inequality and so far, the most interesting speakers have been on gender equality.

       In Morocco, I’ve noticed everything from different variations of wearing a hijab,  the Amazigh culture, and the lack of veggie burgers. Each piece of their culture has intrigued me in a positive and negative way, especially views on the way to respect women. At first I got real Millennial bra burning feminist towards how I saw it as an injustice that men who are supposed to be so dedicated to their religion treat women the way they do and felt it was a catastrophe and they all need to be taught  a lesson. I had to calm down and check my privilege and realize where I’m at. In Morocco, the public space is a man’s space and they feel as though they own that space. However, that does not mean to use your gender to make me feel like a piece of face and boobs and cat call me on the street. I mean in America, I got it, but on my body and not anything else and it wasn’t as calm as it out here. But neither situation is better than the other and I have been so frustrated and needed to talk to a group of women to get their opinions on this gender injustice, which is exactly what happened today.

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    Today 7 women (plus Jamila’s insightful daughter, Fanou) came together to let us ask them questions about gender and sexuality in Agadir and I have to say, I was very satisfied. Out here sometimes when I ask a question to Moroccans I get either a beat around the bush type answer, or I don’t get an answer at all, so for them to actually take the time to answer all of our questions with straight up answers, was really cool. I asked questions like if they looked down upon if they are not wearing a hijab or if menstrual periods are a taboo subject. The women made sure to take their time and answer each question honestly, in her own special way.  For example, I asked if in their travels out of Morocco, if men treated them differently and one woman said that when she went to Paris, she was not cat-called, or harassed in comparison to Morocco, but another woman said the complete opposite and said that she was harassed sexually and racially. At the end of it all. They just agreed  to disagree which I found very strong of them.

Which leads me to my next topic; when these women were asked what’s the main problem with the women in Morocco,  I found it very interesting that some of them said that some women have been brainwashed and just won’t stand up for themselves or get a education to get themselves out of that “stuck” feeling. I had to analyze it for a second. Imagine, all you were told your whole life was  that you were meant to marry a man, and be a housewife for the rest of your  natural life without the gifts of education, personal freedom, or self discovery. Would you really try to think about going out of your comfort zone or out of anything you were taught and had been drilled into your head? Unless you have some sort of outside support system then no, you’re going to keep going with your life and not worry about changing your mindset or even your life.

   Unfortunately that is a common truth out here but for the ones who do have some sort of support or drive to do more, they are changing the common perception of Moroccan women, and certainly challenging my own, making it known that women are strong enough to do what they want , be with who they want, and marry who they want, whenever they choose they want to.

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Tizgui Valley!

This post is by WGEI Participant Suad Abdella:

After our long 5-hour hike up a mountain on Wednesday, a relaxing swim in a beautiful valley this past Saturday was very well needed and deserved. We visited a wonderful family that lives in the bled by Tizgui valley. The family makes delicious homemade amlou (a butter made from almonds, honey, and argan) as well as homemade honey and argan oil, which we had the opportunity to taste and enjoyed very much.

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The amlou is made by Ayesha, she spends days making the amlou, waiting for the nuts to drop from the tree, then waiting for them to become dry. Afterwards, she cracks them open (which is very difficult to do because of the hard shell but she has mastered cracking them open and can crack 5 in under 10 seconds, while it took most of us 20 minutes to just crack one) after she cracks them they get roasted, along with the almonds. After they are roasted, she manually grinds them in a stone grind with the nuts along with argan oil and honey and at the end a thick brown butter is made.

cracking nuts

The argan tree is something very well known in morocco and the culture. They are trees that can survive in dry condition and don’t need water to grow. Their roots grow very long and deep under the ground. The oil that comes from the nut has multiple uses, you can cook with it or use it in your hair or skin.

After we looked at bees and the process of getting the honey. We tasted some fresh honey along with honeycomb, (which is delicious) We had tagine (meat and vegetables cooked for a long time in a clay dish) which we eat with bread (which we have become addicted to while our stay in morocco)

honeycomb

honeycomb

tagine in the bled

After we ate we hiked down to the valley for a swim. We have become pro hikers, so that 20-minute hike was a breeze. We had some slips and trips because we had to actually climb over rocks but it was all worth it because of how beautiful the water was.

hiking in the valley

There wasn’t anyone around so we had lots of privacy. We were all so happy to see that water that we jumped right in, some of the students even went in who originally said they weren’t going to. Our braver students were jumped off of rocks into the water (something they have wanted to do for years) and we have gotten the chance to cross off so many things off of our bucket list, swimming in a valley is officially checked off.

swimming

After our swim, we went back to house and enjoyed more honey, amlou and tea. Some of us even bought some of those delicious things to bring back to our families in the US. (my family is going to love that honey!!!!!!!)

 

Sidi Ifni!

This blog post is by WGEI participant Sandra Cuin

Goodbye Agadir and Hello Sidi ifni !!
We started the day with a great lecture about the education system in Agadir and Amazigh culture. Afterwards we went for a great lunch at the souq and had tahjin. After lunch, we headed back to Dar Si Hmad and waited for Abderrahmane, our driver, and we headed out for another road trip.

Lunch at the souq:

souq

Next stop Sidi Ifni!! After some naps, listening to music, and drawing on the ride to Ifni, I was awoken to a stunning view of the ocean. The house the students stayed in was radiant, with colors everywhere. Later that day as we all settled in and headed to La Fondation where we had dinner cooked by Hadda. The day was not over after that: there was live music at the leader’s hotel and everyone went to go watch. Soothing music coming from the band provided a great atmosphere as well as low lights and candles burning, with great Moroccan tea. A couple of songs passed by but all the students had a curfew because we had a big day ahead of us.
WGEI ladies got to see the Fog Nets!!! Getting to have the privilege of seeing the fog nets in person and how everything works was hard but worth it. The ladies and I were challenge-ready, for many of us it was our first time hiking a mountain. I may say this was tough for my team but it didn’t matter, because we kept having breaks, we all supported each other, helping and encouraging each other step by step. We finished about half of the trail and then the donkey that started with us decided to let us ride him, taking turns about all of us got a bit of a help thanks to the donkey Sya named “donkly.”

donkly

Once we got to the top of the mountain and were finally done with the hike we all celebrated and had delicious loubea, a white bean stew, for lunch. We met with Dar Si Hmad’s local liaison Zaina, and she told us about her experiences as one of many females who went from not having easy access water to now having it at her house.

made it to the top

Following a well-needed rest for it was time to finally see the nets !!! The nets are the future if I may say, these nets WILL be famous in a couple of years and I myself will be proud to say that I got to see them in person.

learning about nets

YALLA YALLA as we finished and closed out the lecture on the fog nets and hopped on to the Jeep and went down to the van so we could head back home! Before getting back to our beach house in Sidi Ifni we drove straight to La Fondation for dinner. We finished the night with a game of pool with our driver Abderrahmane and a friend of his.
The next day, our final stop on the way home was to the Silver Market in Tiznit. Sparkles were everywhere, and I’m not going to lie it was a bit overwhelming, trying to buy souvenirs for my loved ones was hard — I might end up keeping the things I got and get them something else!
The ladies of ATL and Nola had one of the best weekends thanks to Dar Si Hmad, so many emotions memories we all will look back at. Knowing we’ve accomplished a tough challenge that was thrown at us but we didn’t let it beat us — together we all pick each other up.

View from the top!:

view

Excursion to Taroudant

This Blog entry is by Delia Mendez:

Week two is almost over! Last Saturday we went to Taroudant for the day.

We spent a day long excursion going through the Medina ( a walled city) of Taroudant  with a very informative tour by Dar Si Hmad’s very own Founder/President alongside staff member Khadijah, who currently lives in Taroudant. Enjoyed a zween ( good) lunch that included a beef tagine, a salad, and refreshing fruit to top it all off. After enjoying our lunch we left to the tannery which was followed by a musical performance and even got henna done.

 

group taroudant

 

The girls and I didn’t really know what to expect due to the climate that we may have been coming across with but like the “real troopers” we are, quoted by Maisie, we got through it. Our tour of Taroudant consisted of going around the city learning about the house of  the king’s wife, background information about certain buildings that are now completely different from what they were in the beginning, and visited the souq were we had some leisure time to get some souvenir shopping done. We definitely stopped many times during the tour to get some and well it’s fair to say many candid group shots as we closed our Medina tour. Before leaving, we visited a tannery where we saw the tedious process of how leather is made and the final product.

tannery

 

During our visit of the tannery we got the full experience and the behind the scenes action of all that it takes to make leather and precious bags, wallets, shoes, belts ,etc. Towards the end of our tannery tour we had a special band performance of traditional Moroccan music which gave us a closer look of the culture and of the different types of music there are in Morocco. Thanks to wonderful Khadijah, she gave the ladies and I a surprise of getting us henna tattoos done while listening to the music. We definitely enjoyed our time in Taroudant! Can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip brings!!

henna

First few days in Agadir!

This blog entry is by WGEI participant, Kemeria Abdella:

It’s finally Friday! After our lecture on the history of Amazigh people, we had benin(delicious) couscous at Dar Si Hmad. Couscous is a Moroccan dish which consists of small balls of crushed durum wheat semolina  boiled and steamed in multiple iterations and topped with a meat and vegetable stew. Our wonderful cook Hadda prepared our couscous with turkey and a variety of yummy vegetables. To say we were satisfied is an understatement.

couscous

 

We had an awesome tour at the Museum of Amazigh Culture. History is always intriguing in every perspective. We were taught about the strong Amazigh woman and their beautiful jewelry which had a multipurpose use, such as fighting and holding clothes together. All of the jewelry was made out of silver because the Amazigh people had silver mines and we’ll be able to visit the silver market in Tiznit next week too! It was interesting to learn the number of things that symbolized fertility and protection.

After the museum, we went to the Marina! As someone who loves long walks on the beach, I would have to come back at a different time because it was so packed! We were able to explore the different stores at the marina but old habits die hard because we ended up at ZARA. Although the water was cold and there were thousands of people there, the sound of the ocean was extremely calming and peaceful. We took so many pictures and had fun getting our feet wet.

beach

It has been amazing so far learning about the Moroccan culture and customs! The best way we’re learning is by living with our host families. The conversations during dinner bring laughter to my heart. Even with the low language proficiency from both sides, we never fail to make each other laugh and have meaningful conversation. So excited for Taroudant on Saturday!

 

Working with Dar Si Hmad!

Our study abroad group is in Agadir working with a small NGO: Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education, and Culture. Through their Ethnographic Field School, WGEI developed the study abroad program that we’re experiencing.

Students spent all day on Thursday in orientation at the NGO offices. They played some games and did icebreakers, learned about the work Dar Si Hmad does and met our staff, talked about surface culture and deep culture, Moroccan customs and traditions, their fears and hopes for the program, prepared for their homestays, wrote a group constituion, and played more games! It was a big day and despite being jet-lagged the students were focused and engaged. Of course, they also ate their first tagine!

Below are the students writing their own group constitution:

Group Constitution

 

We’re Here!

The students finally arrived in Morocco! After quite a challenging travel experience, it’s clear these girls can handle anything. We had some of Dar Si Hmad‘s staff join us Wednesday night for a welcome dinner at a restaurant near the coast, and then we tried to sleep off some of our jet-lag to be ready for a full day of orientation on Thursday.

WGEI