Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Social Justice Project

October 4, 2017


After our trip to Morocco, let’s change the campus!

The Art Department has invited students to make visuals/signs about needed changes in our society. Does anyone want to join me Friday at 12:30? Perhaps some representation of fighting Islamophobia? Or welcoming others and immigration? The department wants to cover this wall (below) with student art.



Myths of Poverty

October 4, 2017

I have been looking forward to this day on our trip for quite some
time. Acts of service give me a sense of meaning and belonging to my life. I feel more complete when I am helping others, especially out of the
goodness of my own heart. Since being involved at the local community
dinners at SPU, I felt right at home when going to a school to help fix a
classroom. The types of community service that warm my heart are the kind that individuals can specifically benefit from. I like to start at the
foundation, so that things can be built properly and can make the lives of
those using them more efficient. For example, in the classroom we were
painting and installing shelves, I want those students to feel at home in this room. This room should be a safe space for them to thrive in any subject
they might be taught.
Even though we went to this school to help them out, it brought many of the myths of poverty to my mind. The one myth that comes to my mind, is that poverty looks the same for everyone. Each person who is facing poverty might face a different type, because no struggle of poverty is the same.
Many of the children at this school were orphans who didn’t have contact
with their parents. The other case is children who have parents but they
can’t afford to take care of them. Many of these children are facing difficult situations that influence them and their overall upbringing. It brings joy to me knowing that there is a school like this that is providing help and
education for children in these specific predicaments. Needless to say, I felt very happy to be at this school to help out any of the children in need.
Another myth of poverty that really hits home for me, is the white
savior complex. Since going to a Christian school, I find this to be extremely relevant. Being involved on mission trips, seems to be a common decision
that many young college students make during their first few years as a
member of a new church. The part about this that explains the white savior complex, is that these young individuals go to a place to fix what in their
eyes needs fixing. Just because we are providing our finances, materials,
and labor doesn’t mean that it’s helping those in need. When going to a
country with a different culture, religion, and way of life, one should
become understanding of their differences. We should be more open and
vulnerable to their life stories and hardships. If we don’t take the time to sit down and get to know the people we are helping, then we aren’t really
helping. We might be making the problems they have to begin with worse, and that would negate all the hard work that is done to better their situation.
The myths of poverty that we have in the U.S. are completely different when you are able to see them in person in a new place. I am one who is guilty of this because of the emotions I felt when I went to Morocco. I was initially sad when seeing all of the young street children because it
reminded me of the film we watched in our orientation class. It also reminded me of the image of young African children starving in the television commercials I grew up seeing. I have to remind myself that yes it might be hard to see and understand, but it is the reality of life. A lot of poverty happens because of a lack of infrastructure a country has for their citizens

Why Travel?

October 3, 2017

By Jessica Cunnington

                                                             Why I Travel

           Traveling can be one of the most eye-opening, challenging, and memorable opportunities to have in life. It provides reflection, peace, and positivity to whoever might decide to leave the comfort of their home to a experience a completely new way of life. The part of traveling that is the most exciting is the journey getting to the destination. The airports are bustling with people going to and from different places, at varying walking speeds. There is always a sense of urgency when traveling, this comes in the form of double and sometimes triple checking your boarding pass, passport, and visa. It’s almost a feeling of mania that overcomes the mind, due to the excitement and nervousness that comes along with going to a new place. But most importantly, the reason why I travel is to provide myself with a vulnerable, but yet educational experience of a new culture, language, and religion.

            While on the journey to a new place, one might have expectations of what this unfamiliar place may be like.  This can come in the form of various stereotypes that can encompass a countries traditions and cultural practices. Even though there are many who “leave their assumptions at home and those who don’t (143). When experiencing these from a different perspective, it allows for one to see “the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly (142).” This the part is the most eye opening because we see things we aren’t used to seeing, like sheep being skinned for the Eid-Al-Adha. It’s almost as if you’re heart and mind widen by “leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light (143).” These new experiences almost squash every stereotype or previous thought that is brought from our home country. It gives us a new found appreciation for what we’ve seen, and with that comes acceptance.

            It’s without a doubt that traveling is a challenging experience since “we carry values and beliefs and news to the places we go, and in many parts of the world (144).” This is one of my favorite parts of traveling because with our beliefs we are able to discuss them with others we meet in the different places we travel too. We become more free, since being “abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse, and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love (145). Traveling provides a place to challenge oneself in conversations with others who might have differing views than them. I was able to have quite a few conversations like this with one of the Moroccan college students. To my surprise, we had a lot more in common with our beliefs than I would have thought. This broke every expectation and skewed thought I had about the culture and religion of Islam. I had never experienced something more beautiful than being in the presence of a Moroccan man, who is Muslim, and was raised in a completely different environment than me. Even with these situational aspects that might seem like a barrier, we were able to talk about equality of sexes and the importance of God. We were breaking barriers just by sitting on a park bench together. 

Cathedrals and Loss

October 3, 2017

Converting and Losing Everything

By Arianna Atwater 

            In Toledo, Cordoba, as well as Granada we were taken on many different cathedrals. These cathedrals were all so unique and beautiful in their own way. However, the stories behind these cathedrals are what make them so important and impactful on the history of these places. Hearing how everything; the churches, the land, culture was taken from the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims really changed my perspective on my own religion of Catholicism and what it means to me.

The Cathedral on the very first day in Toledo was the one that stood out the most to me. Before even entering the cathedral, walking up the hill you see sets among sets of shackles hanging from the building itself. The tour guide Mario says that it is symbolizes how the people of the town were forced to leave when the Catholics came to take over. Walking into the cathedral where Isabelle and her husband Fernando wanted to be buried but then had later changed their mind and were buried in Granada, you get this sense of power from them, but also the sense of fear from the people who where on this land before them. The hurt, the disappointment and everything that has happened have shaped these people and the way they feel about their history. I was honored that Mario was willing to share the history of Toledo with us and was very honest and insightful about it.

While learning about how different religions and people have lost everything; their land, their religion, their identity, I was able to relate a lot of this to the overthrow of Hawai’i. Although I am very aware, just like the people in Toledo or Granada today, that our land will never be ours again and we are who we are today because of what has happened in the past, our pasts are very similar. The Hawaiian people were very self sustained and independent, considering they were their own sovereign nation. It wasn’t until January of 1778, when Captain Cook arrived and decided that he was going to take over Hawai’i and eventually make it a part of the United States. January 17, 1893 the overthrow of Hawai’i happened. The last queen; Queen Lili’uokalani was imprisoned in her own home, known today as ‘Iolani Palace while Captain Cook and other missionaries took over the land and culture of the Hawaiian people. Hawaiians were forced to stop practicing their culture and start living like “Americans”. Til today, people are still fighting to make Hawai’i a sovereign nation again. People believe that if our ancestors did it, we can do it again. However, I have come to a realization that we deepened too much on tourism for that to happen and there is no way we would be able to sustain ourselves the way we did in the past. Just like places in Spain, Hawaii was ripped of their culture. All we can do now is inform people so that they are aware and can learn from it and appreciate it.  

A Re-evaluation of Feminism

October 3, 2017

Kalin Atkinson

Gender in the Marketplace: A Reevaluation of Feminism

As we walked through the market in Marrakesh, a hijabi woman sped beside us on a baby-blue motor bike, her scarf rippling from the breeze and her speed fast and steady. There were about twelves of us from our American study abroad group, but although we were aware that the market is not a dangerous space, the men shouting out from the market stands and the masses of people navigating though the tight space of the market was already overwhelming. Shiny, espresso colored dates were piled high and vibrant rugs with every color under the sun hung from walls and clotheslines. The shop owners call out trying to catch the attention of the busy people passing by, and if your appearance gives you away as a tourist then you instantly become the target audience.  The energy is not aggressive, but it is abrasive; the shouts from the shop keepers and the sights of the vibrant and unfamiliar goods will grab your attention and pull it in all directions.

There was a feeling of vulnerability that creeped in when all of our senses were overwhelmed, but when that Moroccan woman sped by on her motor bike, she seemed to have an invisible shield around her. This seemed to be a pattern with the other Moroccan women that filled the markets.  They pushed through the crowded as comfortably as if they were walking the floors of their home. A determined glean lit up the eyes of the women keenly haggling down the price of jellabas, spices, and more with the shop keepers, the majority of whom were male. A strong push-for-a-push dynamic seemed to be happening, with a mutual understanding that this was a woman’s game just as much as a man. You can be sure that the deep purple, blossom patterned scarf that we later saw that hijabi bike rider buy would be nearly half the price it first was.

Feminism is not something that most people would associate with Morocco or Islam, but in that determined look that lit up the eyes of the women in the market I saw a new concept of feminism. Their motor bikes lined the dirt streets with tire marks, they walked alone with their heads high and without the safety blanket of smart phones or headphones, and they were quick-witted and not afraid to show it. This is not to say that on a larger scale there is not more work to be done on reaching legal and social equality for women in Morocco, but these tire marks and determined stares tell a story of grit and independence that deserves to be recognized.

Myths of Poverty: A New Lesson

October 3, 2017

Kalin Atkinson

Myths of Poverty: A New Lesson

When our grey taxi cab drove down a small dirt road in Meknes it pulled up to a white, arching gate where a man with wire-rimmed glasses and a warm smile greeted us in both French and Arabic. “Bon jour”. “Sallam a’lakom”. This arched gate guarded a small boarding school that hosts about one hundred children. The man with the wire rimmed glasses explained that he is the superintendent of the school as he ushered us through the gate across a huge basketball court. The basketball court already seemed out of place, but what was more unexpected was the anime character painted on the outside wall. With spiky black hair and cutoff jeans, the anime boy posed in a powerful jump kick. The anime character and the basketball court jolted our class into realizing that this space may not be what we expected.

The international group ISA arranged for our group to help renovate one of the classrooms that day – a fresh coat of paint and some new shelving was in order. Harsh, electric blue paint covered the walls, the plaster underneath already crumbling off in patches. Although dirty and bare, a diamond patterned mosaic of green, blue, white, and coral decorated the bottom half of the walls. Each piece of glass is carefully shaped and laid together one at a time in Moroccan mosaics – it was curious how this mosaic was given such meticulous attention while the cupboard doors on the wall fell off in our hands. After touring the school and our new project space, we quickly painted over the neon walls with a crisp white coat and raked and weeded the garden outside the classroom; after the afternoon had passed our clothes were splattered in white specks and our hands had red blisters and dirt caked in every crease. Everyone’s face had a proud grin from the day’s work, but that intricate mosaic still drew in the most attention. It almost served as a reminder of how special the space was before we even came to work on it. 

While rolling on the fresh new paint, ideas of foreign aid and images of brown children with tattered clothes and tear-filled eyes flood my thoughts. These children are usually what you see on commercials and pamphlets distributed by top NGOs. The tears and the bare stomachs that showcase every rib are usually bring in the money that funds their aid; the white saviors coming in to save the brown victims. The work that these organizations do is very valuable, but when the camera lingers on the teary eyes of the children and villagers huddled in flimsy houses, it cements the role of the victim to the audience. It can draw in pity and money from the targeted viewer, but at the price of the agency and respect of the impoverished. One of the most prominent myths of poverty lies within the image of the white savior. This does not mean that there should not be aid and intervention across borders but partnership must be prioritized; in most cases the people of the area in need are capable of huge contributions to the development and the ones that understand what will help the community the most. it is possible to create sustainable aid and development as an outsider, but you cannot understand all the needs of the community until thoroughly engaging with it.

The school in Meknes is a boarding school developed by Moroccans teachers and administrators -they planned the curriculum, the housing system, and even a school psychology system. A housing system is also in place because there are many children that don’t have access to other schools because they live in the mountains or with nomadic parents- this issue is so individualized to the local geography that it is easily missed by an outside view. As proud as I was that day of my paint and dirt caked fingernails, my mind kept going back to the hands that laid the glossy mosaic and to the hands that organized the school books in the little library; there is a mosaic of people within the school already that pour their passion and their talent into it every day, and they deserve a spotlight too.

Atay bi Nana

October 2, 2017

By Jessinia Ruff

A silver teapot with floral engravings sits on the counter in my Seattle apartment overlooking Lake Union. Picking up themetal teapot evokes memories of my time in Morocco. My thoughts smile at the memory of haggling the price from 600 dirhams down to 70 dirhams at a little shop in the marketplace. The medina’s bright colored rugs and the smell of the spices linger as I set the teapot on my electric stove. I reach for my green tea leaves bought from a Berber woman in Meknes. Heaping a couple spoons of sugar into the teapot, I recall her instructions on how to make the Moroccan tea: “Place mint leaves along with the tea and sugar in the pot then let sit for three minutes on the stovetop.” Steam thrusts out of the neck of the kettle dissolving into the weighted air as the Moroccan and American cultures mix and brew.

In a pot of tea, the cultures mix. I sit on the couch and stare at the skyscrapers framing Mount Rainer as the rain pounds on the windows. Three minutes pass and my mind has wandered to unknown, complex depths. I take the teapot and pour two glasses of tea from shoulder height to make bubbles appear around the rims of the steaming glass. I call to my roommate if she wants to try a cup of Aytay bi Nana. “It’s the Moroccan tea; we drank it everywhere,” I tell her. She enjoys a sip, tells me it’s different than other teas.

Different. A word rings true to my anxious soul. Anxiety – like a camel sitting on my chest. I have trouble breathing. There are layers of thoughts in my head like the swirling sand on the beaches in Asilah. I crave a macuda potato sandwich. I want to hear Arabic ring in my ears – it’s foreign tongue tickling my intrigue. I sip the tea with my roommate and savor the warmth that travels inside my body. I am momentarily comforted. Salam.

I can’t change everything. I can let this experience impact me; change within to change what surrounds. So I take to writing, making words travel from my apartment across nations. I’m still left resistant to everything around me. The normal balance I had so carefully curated dissipated in an instant of stepping off that fourteen-hour plane ride back to the States. In my steps to achieve a normalcy in my daily living, do I have to let go of my memories abroad? I sip tea.

I believe my calling is to communicate the injustices in the world. As I write, a turquoise sticker on my laptop stares back at me and reads “people matter”. A simple statement reminding me why I am here. Like the swirling of the tea leaves in hot water, the cultures I feel tied to spin in my heart. The twisting of anxieties can propel me into learning more about more culture, their history, the inequalities. By doing so, I may be able to be a small drop of change in an ocean of people who matter.


Hamam Child

October 2, 2017

By Jessinia Ruff

The nervous laughter echoed down the streets of Meknes as we walked to our unknown fate at the hamam. The baths of Morocco, a common practice for women and men here, and a challenge for Americans. In the West, women are taught that our bodies are weird. Our boobs not big enough or not Barbie-perky. Our waist too small or too large – and stretch marks only happen to pregnant women. Our curves too much, or our lack too boyish. The list of not enough goes on in our minds, in this laughter.

When we arrive at the Hamam it seemed oddly normal in its similar appearance to a locker room at a gym. We undress and quickly wrap our towels around our torsos. Taking a breath, I walk into the back room with my plastic basin. After removing her hijab, our Moroccan guide leads us inside. There are women laying on the floor being scrubbed by another. Their stares pierce my anxieties.

I pick a faucet and fill the bucket with warm water. Sitting on the tile floor, I feel childish in my unknowing of the practice. We all look similar, the Americans balled up in a steamy room with our buckets. Beauty. I pour water over my tangled body, the hot water slowly unraveling the tension of discomfort. A woman comes behind me and throws henna and black soap on my back. I reach for the mud-like mixture and coat my body, quietly observing the curves of my legs and the rounds of my shoulders.

I’m told to wait on a mat for a woman to scrub me. Holding my legs across my chest, I wait. I feel like a zoo animal being stared at – maybe my blonde hair, light skin, or tattooed arms stand out. Or maybe my discomfort is more revealing than my nakedness. A woman in her underwear sits behind me. She starts scrubbing my back. It’s rough, back and forth, peeling my skin off. She flips me over, my head rests on a strangers inner thigh. I try to relax as I watch the rolls of dead cells fall to the tile. Skin piles float in streams of water flowing in the moats that cross between the rooms.

After being scrubbed and slid around on the floor, I walk back to the faucet. While still raw, this time my posture is a little straighter. Sitting again in front of my bucket, my body unfolds into a cross-legged seat, a posture of meditation. Playing with the water I remark how I feel like a child in the bath. When did bathing become a task? A way to just clean and wipe the dirt of the day away. Here, the practice of pouring water over and over is nearly spiritual. Not rushed, our beautiful bodies are clean.



Amplified Nervousness

October 2, 2017

By Jessinia Ruff

A voice lilts with each phrase of the Qu’ran, pausing on certain words and then suddenly dropping off at the end of a verse. Silent pauses give way to a foreign tongue of Arabic words knit together by a scribe who has spent his life memorizing the book. Bismillahi rahmani rahimi. The unusual sounds taking me back to the chants I heard while sitting in the wooden pews at the Lutheran church of my childhood. The merging of two religions: Christianity and Islam. Each faith with a song attempting to share the words of God.

The Islamic center with its complicated tile mosaics on the walls, floors, and columns echo the melodic chants. I arch my head to gaze at the golden chandelier above the waterless fountain and stand in awe of the stalagmite-like carvings dripping from the white ceiling. Blue light stream from the stain glass windows on the white marble floors. My classmates and I circle around the entrance of this education center. Women in djellaba robes and men wearing babouche slippers walk this ostentatious lobby to study Islamic teachings in Meknes. On Friday, the holiest day in Islam, our feet take the same steps to ask the Imam, the scholar at the mosque, any question about Islam.

Entering the conference room, the importance of this meeting weighs on me as the large leather chairs swallow me. I imagine a United Nations official in a seat such as this, discussing political issues. Yet here we are fourteen curious Americans fidgeting with our personal microphones. A woman in a hijab pours us mint tea and offers us ornate pastries; she is the only Moroccan woman in the room. Our guide and translator sits next to the Imam, who wears a white robe and cap. His two male colleagues on either side of him write on the notepads in front of them. After the reciting of the Qu’ran, they welcome us. “We feel that all should follow a religion; it’s in our nature,” begins the Imam.

We take turns asking our questions. Moments of reflection pass while we wait for the translations of the Imam’s answer. I attempt to interpret his hand movements into ideas. With deep reverence for his religion, he carefully explains the rules of Islam. His face remains pensive with wrinkles barely moving with his words. I press the button to speak into the microphone, my heart racing a little as I speak: “How are women viewed in the Qu’ran and Islam versus men, and can a woman ever become an Imam?” My trepidation arises with reminders of the stereotypes perpetuated in the West; it’s thought that Muslim women do not have rights in Islam.

“Men and women come from the same source of the Sprit. They are created equally. But there are different roles for males and females, so that they may complete each other,” the Imam responds. It’s a respectful answer, maybe even more progressive than some Christians’ view of the creation of men and women. Still, my Western feminist’s gut twists in hearing the next remarks: “A woman cannot be an Imam, but she’s welcome to study. A woman cannot enter the mosque during the time of her period, and she cannot teach men. But women can pray and discuss teachings with other women,” the Imam completes his answer. My blood curdles as the word period is dropped like the dirty rags that fill during that time. Women can’t lead because of a God-given beautiful curse of childbearing miracles.

With a bitter taste in my mouth, I listen to the others’ inquiries: types of religious practices, the complexity of the soul and spirit, and whether there’s space for doubt in Islam. My inner dialogue bounces between a woman who wants equality in all aspects to a woman trying to respect a foreign culture’s ideas. While continuing to mull over the complexities of gender roles, the Imam interrupts my thoughts. “There’s room to ask questions and we encourage it.” In that statement, I felt more respected by him than by some people I’ve encountered in the Church. There’s room for me and my doubt. As I walk out of the daunting room, I cross through tall wooden doors onto a patio lined with stone columns. The mountains caress a purple sky that fades to orange, the sounds of the chants lingering in the cool air. Breathing deeply, my thoughts settle in gratitude for the bridge we created with our words in harmony.
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Spain Morocco 2017!

October 2, 2017