Learning to be dependent

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“Come on girls, over here!” Yells my new Moroccan friend, Fatma, to me and my four other American friends as we wander in the opposite direction like we are a pack of lost sheep. Fatma is on a mission to get us a taxi back to the hotel from her house which is located at the opposite side of Meknés. We, on the other hand, have no idea where we are and she has to scramble us together before we take the treacherous risk of crossing the busy street that involves a game of dodging cars in every direction, feeling like we are risking our lives with every step. It always feels like a miracle to be alive every time I manage to cross the street without being hit; Moroccan drivers dont stop for anyone!

Thank God for Fatma. We would be beyond lost without her guidance through the busy city of Meknés. Besides the fact that she knows her way around so well, she also walks like the strong, independent woman she is. She defies all stereotypes that we, Americans, have been led to believe for so long. She is not the silenced Muslim woman. At only 20-years-old Fatma walks with her shoulders held high, head up, illuminating a type of confidence that I wish I had while walking through Morocco. The few men who yell out to her with cat calls and whistles are non existent in her eyes; she is not phased. Fatma owns these streets. She is not afraid of anything and as much as I try to imitate her attitude on the streets, her story is not my own. I am victim to unwanted attention as a tourist. And I let it bother me. I have let this new cultural “norm” invade my thoughts; it has stripped me of my independence

We deal with constant stares, eyes always on us, feeling like we are being watched at every move like some sort of alien species. We might as well have “American” painted across our foreheads.

Yes, I get we are a large group of twelve American girls and we must be a sight to see parading through the streets of Morocco, laughing, joking, and sometimes talking a little too loud, but I can’t help but feeling like some type of prey to the eyes of Moroccan men lined up in chairs outside coffee shops, restaurants, shops, you name it. And yes it is the culture here, and I’m sure most of them don’t mean any harm by it but it’s such a different type of culture than what I am used to. I can’t casually walk outside our hotel to grab a juice down the block without being hollered at by men along the street, “hi beautiful!” or “hola chica” – the noise of multiple languages thrown out with hopes that one phrase will register for us. Due to this, I feel like I have somewhat lost a part of my independence while being in Morocco. I feel like I have been confined to staying in groups with other women to avoid any discomfort or fear of looking vulnerable. It’s a strange concept to me, to not feel confident or safe enough to make an outing on your own as a woman – something I am so used to doing back home. My independence is something I have taken for granted in the States but something I truly miss.IMG_7273

While I may have lost some independence, I have also gained a greater sense of dependence while in Morocco. We are from a culture that thrives off of being independent and “making it on your own”. Somehow we rejoice in the fact that if someone can become successful on their own terms and own free will then they have achieved the ultimate goal. Community seems to be lost more often than not in the busyness, individualistic way of life in the United States. Maybe that’s why I am feeling a lack of independence; I’m only being immersed in a something that feels so foreign but in reality this is is exactly what I needed. To learn how to live in constant community like they do in Morocco. The women are seen walking in pairs but in reality they are still strong, independent women; they just choose to look out for each other and that’s what I have learned on this trip. I have learned how to be dependent on the other eleven girls along with me on this journey. We have experienced the highs and lows of being in another culture together like homesickness (or food sickness), succeeding (or failing) when trying to speak another language, and learning the basic social norms of a different culture. Despite how uncomfortable I may find myself at times, the moIMG_7236re I realize we weren’t meant to do life alone and I have eleven sisters with me through it all. We were meant to share in the ups and downs of all parts of life together. That’s how they do life in Morocco and I have been blessed to experience it first hand with eleven girls I now call great friends who conquered three weeks living and learning in Spain and Morocco together. Even when we stick out of the crowd and inevitably draw attention to ourselves, I will choose to believe we stick out but like a bunch of wildflowers, crazy but beautiful in each of our unique ways.

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