Archive for the ‘Signs of Globalization’ Category

October 1, 2013

When traveling, one is faced with a fair amount of questions that they would normally not encounter. Some find their answers in the people they meet, the personal experiences they have, the places that they walk upon, or in the endless things not mentioned. When first embarking on an adventure, we don’t start with knowing what we are looking for, but instead, with anticipation that whatever it may be that we are searching for will be found. And usually by the end, you are either left with a cliffhanger or a reason to free-fall. On this journey I was left with a reason to fall. I did fall. I fell completely in love with Morocco and its people. They had a different approach. Not just to some things but to mostly all things. The way that the people of Morocco would interact with me was one of the most comforting while respected actions I’ve ever encountered. Instead of being in a comfortable place, with people I knew and streets I could read, we were put into a community that made us the minority. This experience was not something that was entirely new to me, yet everything about it was different. When crossing the straight of Gibraltar, we were crossing into a new world, a territory that we had no claim or understanding of. There was a sense of anticipation, and anxiety that came with steeping off of that boat. Nothing would have prepared me for what was to happen next. There is no guidebook, no handout, no studying that could prepare your heart for the immense amount of love that you gain for Morocco and its people. I use the word love because love is something that cannot be explained. And I believe that Morocco is the same way. A place that you can tell endless stories about, a place that you can try to create for someone back home, but until they are able to go and experience it for themselves, they will never truly and fully be able to cross with a good understanding. Love is something that happens while in Morocco, it does not have an explanation. While there, enjoying the community, the Medina, the sun beating on your shoulders, the chawarma, and all of its many wonders, we are given love, by almost everyone we come into contact with or create a relationship with, a love that crosses barriers that we have in the US but to them is second nature, a love that can communicate based purely on physical connection due to a language barrier, a love that is unconditionally going to love you back, but also a love that is painful. Painful in the way it longs for you to come back, after a heavy goodbye is weighing over you. It is painful because it does not want to see you go, and it does not want you to forget about all of its complicated, extensive feelings that it made you feel. I will never let this fade. I will not let this discovery be a distant memory. I will never settle to think about Morocco as a far away place that I can only see in my dreams. It will become as much of a reality as I make it, and I will do more than my best to never forget it. I am forever grateful for all the love that Morocco gave to me.

Advertisements

Transcendence of Faith

October 1, 2012

Today was the day we saw the Imam. I had no idea what to expect. We walked up a couple flights of stairs in a dimly lit stairwell and when we reached the room we were going to meet in we were instructed to take off our shoes. The room we walked into was divided in two equal sections, each with seating lining the walls to form two slightly incomplete squares. The only spot without seating was the middle of the two sections for crossing from one to another. The room was filled with light from large windows with a view of the busy street below. The floor was made of white tile but was covered with two huge tan rugs, one in each section.

Some of the men who were doing discipleship or worked with the Imam were in there sitting with us while periodically  serving us dates, cake, and milk. They were all extremely generous.  When the imam arrived about twenty minutes later he in the opposite section with his back facing towards us. I learned later that this was done out of respect because there was so many women. He was wearing a long grey robe with a hood that came to a point at the top of his head. I could not see his face though. Iman, one of our guides served as our translator. He started out by saying that God was great and big and that God was mercy. Then he opened himself up to questions. The first question was about the call to prayer and wouldn’t you know it, one of the men in the room happened to be a caller. So we had the great honor of hearing the entire call to prayer right in front of us and it made me want to cry. It sounded so amazingly beautiful and the man sounded like he had so much respect and passion for what he did. His voice was so steady and strong and it seemed as if he could hold a phrase for what seemed like a lifetime before taking a breath. In one phrase he would have an abundance of melisma that added to the complexity and beauty of the prayer. That experience was absolutely incredible.

We were able to ask questions for about a half an hour but here is what stood out the most to me. I was overwhelmed with how welcoming and excepting everyone was. The Imam talked about how there were no quarrels between Islam and Christianity and Judaism and that he had respect for all people who had faith. He also said that he thought that the world was too intricate and perfect for there to be more than one God and so he thought that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all prayed to the same God and just called him by a different name. That was mind blowing because I had never thought of it like that. Overall the whole experience was very emotional because I felt so completely love. It made me want to become a better Christian and learn to really love other cultures; not that I hate other cultures or anything but I just don’t feel like I really LOVE them and as Christians we are called to love everyone. The Imam showed me that this is possible and that faith knows no boundaries. And that, that gives me hope.

Signs of Globalization

October 1, 2012

On September 2nd, I landed in Madrid, Spain. I was so excited that my body couldn’t stop fidgeting. I could not wait to start exploring and to learn all about Spanish culture… Well, after the five hour bus ride to Granada. Once on said bus, I fixed my eyes on the window, hoping to see sights of what I had imagined Spain to be like. I saw buildings that had slightly different architecture styles, people dressed better than what I was used to seeing and… What is that? I felt like my eyes were fooling me and that I had to rub them to make the image change. However, my eyes weren’t deceiving me. It was… Burger King. Feeling confused and disgusted, I realized that I had expected McDonalds, but Burger King?! I don’t think that people in the U.S. even like it. It looked so out of place in the land that I had been imagining for months prior. This was my first big shock regarding American and Western globalization on the trip.

Despite my negative reaction to seeing BK in Spain, most other globalized products that I found during the rest of the trip proved to be comforting in a land where American products are the only thing that are really familiar. I found American snacks at gas stations while on long bus rides and Fanta was available at every meal. My host family even brought out their deep frier to make us fries and fried ham and cheese, which seemed so odd at the time, but later turned out to be a huge blessing to me after hearing about huevos con queso (ew, even the meer thought of eggs makes me shudder and dry-heave). While I turned on the TV, I found American movies in English with Arabic subtitles, which I wasn’t expecting. These little reminders of home helped me get through the trip in a land where I felt like I couldn’t relate to anything else.

However, once in Meknes, I found a part of American globalization that I didn’t like: the standard of beauty being American women. All over the city, I saw ads for beauty products featuring celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Instead of promoting their own beautiful women, they made fair skin and blue eyes the ideal, which made me sick. The women in Morocco were so naturally beautiful with their flawless dark skin, their thick hair, and their dark and uniquely shaped eyes. However, because of American influence on the rest of the world, the natural beauty of Moroccan women isn’t appreciated the way that it should be.

trois petites carafes

September 29, 2012

Three little carafes. One with espresso and two with steamed milk. They served us this at many cafes we went to in Morocco. The coffee here is so delicious. The blend is smooth and the atmosphere familiar. Going to each different cafe in Morocco reminds me of the numerous times I frequent my favorite coffee shops in Seattle with friends.

This has been a tradition that started when I moved up here, and I love it. But as I think about how this favorite memory of mine has crossed transnational borders, I also must reflect on the two different scenes. At home in Seattle, I always go to coffee shops to get a quick espresso, or to do a lot of homework. In fact, as I sit here typing this up I am in a coffee shop where the latte was $3 and the pastry $2. I never find myself going just for the pleasure of coffee and friends and sit there for hours. Thats also not the vibe I et when I go to coffee shops either. At times, I even find myself at a cafe where there is a limit to how long you can be there. In Morocco, the culture seems to revolve around the cafes. They are on every corner and all of them vastly populated. Everywhere you turn there are at least two or three cafes packed with people-mostly men, but thats another story-who are sitting and conversing. Everyone greets each other with a hug and kiss, even if they don’t know the other. Men walk through the tables selling cigarettes and newspapers, merrily talking with everyone. The community that has evolved here is incredible.Young people gather to chat and laugh over a cup of tea; old men sit back and read the paper while dozing off between pages. The environment is exhilarating. The time at the cafe in Morocco is more of a cultural practice than a quick stop on the way to work or class.

The globalization of the coffee shop is incomparable. It is such a beautiful thing that I can go enjoy a great cup of coffee with friends at home in Seattle and here in Morocco. The transnational journey that a latte has in my life is wonderful. The tradition of sitting in a community and drinking coffee or tea has come from the east and is something that the West has picked up. The transnational connection of the globalization of a cafe was an unexpected pleasure I encountered on this trip.

Hannah Montana and a Goat Head

September 29, 2012

A Hannah Montana backpack hangs high in a stand at the souk in Fes. In the stall to the left hang Moroccan leather shoes and bags. To the right are a variety of meats hanging raw from the ceiling emitting a smell hard on my nose. As I look at these three stalls I can’t help but think that 20 years ago this integration of cultures would not be so present. Everywhere I go in Morocco I see the evidence of Globalization. From the TV shows in a multitude of languages to the many different greetings yelled to the tourists in Marrakech.  No matter where in the world I travel there will always be a touch of my home culture there. No culture in the world is completely its own. Countries are so integrated together with a transnational history that it is hard to depict where one ends and the other begins.

As technology advances and travel becomes increasingly easy I wonder about what we are losing. There must be parts of the Moroccan culture that have been lost in their strive to keep up with the western world and keep tourists coming. The economy, especially in Marrakech, relies heavily on tourism. In order to keep up with the industry it is important for the vendors to sell up to date trinkets and speak their client’s language. As I travel I become increasingly aware of globalization and the effect it has on the countries I visit.  

A World of Languages

September 28, 2012

A carpet seller in Meknes named Abdul, whom we talked to and bought rugs from

Our first meal in Morocco was in a small restaurant in Tangier. As we left, we passed the cook and attempted to say that the food was good in some combination of Spanish, English and patting our stomachs. He replied in good English, “You liked it?” We all cheered for the English-speaking chef! We asked him how many languages he could speak, and learned that he could speak five languages. The people of Morocco continued to surprise me with their knowledge of languages. In America, if you know one language fluently then you’re doing pretty good. In Morocco, however, many people we met knew at least four languages.

With globalization and the fact that traveling is getting easier, learning the languages of the tourists is a necessity. The people learn multiple languages in order to survive. The vender who can talk to Spanish, English and German-speaking tourists is going to make more money  than the vendor who can only speak Arabic or French. The effort the Moroccan people put into learning my language amazed me, since I had flown across the world not knowing any of theirs.

A Proclamation on the Skin

September 28, 2012

It was evening in Meknes, Morocco; three of my classmates and I sat across from our new friend Meryeme and her family. We were invited over for dinner, and what a dinner it was.  Laughing, joking, talking and lots of eating filled our evening. Meryeme’s mother sat next to me at dinner; she was hysterical.  She kept placing huge pieces of chicken, lamb and grapes on my plate. With a small chuckle and a grin she would encourage me to “eat, eat!”  After the fifth unasked-for-piece-of-chicken, I raised my hand and gave the universal sign of “enough!” when something caught her eye. She grabbed my wrist and examined it, looking intently at my tattoo.

Two summers ago, I decided to get a small tattoo. Sola Fide is now scrolled across the inside of my wrist. It means By Faith Alone in Latin. I stumbled across it in one of my books winter quarter of my freshmen year. That season of my life was difficult; I struggled a lot with not only identity issues, but also the unexpected death of my brother-in-law. I questioned a lot of things, especially my relationship and faith in God.  There were times I never thought I would, but a year and a half later I’d made it through that deep darkness. My tattoo is a proclamation that I had not and most likely will never comprehend why things happen, but that By Faith Alone, I will trust and believe in God’s goodness and character.

Meryeme translated her mother’s words, saying she thought my tattoo was beautiful.  She then began to tell me about the traditional Berber tattoos that women get on their foreheads to show beauty. Berbers are native people of Morocco. Their roots trace back thousands of years before the seventh-century Arab conquest that brought Islam to the region’s mountains and deserts. The two most traditional tattoos are the ghemaza (tattoo between the eyebrows) and siyâla (tattoo on the chin). These are not only a proclamation of beauty, but also a sign of protection from evil spirits. Tattooing is an art form that has been popular in many cultures and nations. For me, it was a proclamation of my beliefs, and that reigns true for many others, even the Berber women of Morocco.

Globalization & Food: I’m talking about McDonalds

September 24, 2012

A typical Moroccan meal goes something like this: It begins with round loaves of bread and the soda of your choice. Next, we get vegetables, usually an assortment of lettuce and tomatoes taking the form of a salad. Then, there’s the main dish, which always seems to be chicken… unless there’s a tagine… or both. Yes, sometimes we’d have roasted whole chicken first and then a tagine of lamb or other meat second. Then, there was the melon and grapes. Don’t misread this: the food was delicious. I’d never tasted Moroccan cuisine before, so it was a real treat.

The first of four courses – a traditional meal prepared by a new friend in her home in Meknes.

However. We were there for two weeks and ate the same thing every single day. No matter what city we were in (and we were in like, at least six cities) you could always make a safe bet as to what you’d be eating.

I will never forget seeing the golden arches of McDonalds for the first time in Meknes on our way to the market one day. It’d been something like 10 days since I’d even seen the establishment. Which, for a girl who loves her McChickens, was a stretch. Sadly, our professor grounded us from American establishments while in Morocco. But the fact remains: it was there, right next to Pizza Hut.

It’s all personal opinion as to whether globalization is a good or bad thing. In my opinion, it’s good. I like living in a country where there are many different types of food available and I don’t have to eat the same type of food every day. I don’t see why it’s bad giving Moroccans the option for McLovin’ too. Neither tourists nor locals are being forced to eat there. It’s all choice. Having a McDonalds in the city is clearly not doing anything to affect the local economy. The place is full of cafes, hanouts (corner stores), and restaurants: all of which were always filled with people, despite the presence of the American franchise. That McDonalds and Pizza Hut were the only two American joints that I saw in Morocco, I think.

Globalization allows options, at least when referring to food. It’s not some ploy to take over all the small businesses; at least that’s not how I interpreted it when I was there. It’s just a chance to allow a change of taste if one so desires.

This blurry photo is of a McDonalds in Marrakech. The Golden Arches are clearly recognizable, but with the Arabic name displayed below it. Globalization at its finest.

*And no, I did not eat at McDonalds in Morocco…. I waited until we returned to Madrid 🙂

The Suq

September 24, 2012

The Suq (Market) resides inside the Medina (old city) of every city. The dusty stone streets give way to a sea of traditional clothing, rugs, teapots, and so on. Shops shoved into the nooks and crannies of the centuries old market walls display handwoven Jellabas and leather slippers of every color. Moroccan men stand outside their shops encouraging tourists to come see their one-of-a-kind rich Berber rugs. Intricate tiled home decor and pottery of blues and yellows and reds charmed onlookers.

I expected this. I read about the Moroccan Suq and all it’s elaborate and exotic trinkets. What I didn’t expect was that next to all the traditional items would be an off-brand fashion shop or an electronics store. Halfway from our hotel to the Medina was a McDonalds and Pizza Hut. Corner stores offer Snickers and Pringles. I made the mistake of asking a young person if they had facebook (because that is one way we could connect, but I wasn’t sure if people did that) and they laughed and exclaimed, “everybody in Morocco has facebook!” Having never been out of a Western country and being full of ignorance and naivety, I was surprised by all of this. I just had never thought of the extent of globalization. The designer sunglasses and clothing almost look real, too. I read an article on Globalization in Morocco, written by Shana Cohen and Larabi Jaidi, and they argue that Globalization is creating a new job market for people. “These young business men/hackers/technicians”, they write, “manage to bring electricity into the area without infrastructure. More importantly, they overcome unemployment by creating jobs, however illegal, for themselves” (1).  Access to Western culture and its products is actually aiding the population in some way. The government isn’t making it easy for employment so the people found a different way. However, it takes a lot of charm and creativity to lead illegal businesses of any kind, which still leaves plenty of room for the Arab Spring revolution to continue it’s protest for economic rights.

1. Shana Cohen and Larabi Jaidi, Morocco: Globalization and it’s Consequences. NY: Routledge, 2006.

The World as a Melting Pot

September 23, 2012

When I first thin of the term “globalization” I think of the loss of tradition and the spread of Western (mainly American) culture; I did not view it positively to say the least. However, on this trip I noticed that globalization can be simpler and more positive than that. It is the sharing of ideas, products, people, and culture. I have been able to notice both Western and Moroccan products in every restaurant and shop. Coca-Cola cans sit next to traditional loaves of bread; Mars Bars are stacked next to candies with Arabic names and unknown ingredients to me. Another aspect of globalization that I noticed was the fact that every one knew classical Arabic, Derija (the Moroccan dialect), French, and some even knew other languages such as English and Spanish. This knowledge of different languages allows these people to understand and communicate with so many different areas of the world. It allows ideas to spread rapidly and create noticeable change. This mixture of Western and Eastern culture is so apparent in this part of the world. It is not the loss of the traditional Moroccan culture but a the growth of a stronger and more culturally diverse nation.