Posts Tagged ‘morocco’

The Jittery Feeling in My Legs

May 28, 2015

Lately, I’ve been struggling with every English major’s worst nightmare: writer’s block. I feel defeated every time I crack open my journal or notice the Word icon lit up at the corner of my laptop’s screen. I know there’s a blank page waiting for me but it’s not comforting; it’s intimidating. Writing used to be my absolute form of release and it was my crutch through years of loneliness and depression. Every thought and emotion that would stick to the back of my throat during intimate conversations could later be peeled off and laid out neatly onto a page. But now, I feel like my writing isn’t me. I feel like the tiny voice in my head who knows who I am, is silent. Without the tiny voice, I feel anxious. I can’t sit still and I walk around aimlessly for hours just praying that my thoughts will sort themselves into something easy to comprehend and fix.

I feel disorganized. I feel off-center. I feel homeless and without purpose for the first time in a long time.

My mind is silent but my legs are screaming at me to go.

I want to go.

I can completely understand how poor little Ali Zaoua felt when he dreamed of being a sailor. To sail away to a new place where you could be anyone and be free of responsibilities and stereotypes for just one summer- can you imagine? And the jittery feeling in my legs won’t stop until we go. I can’t wait for Morocco.

This week, I wrote a paper on the US welfare system and why it is inherently beneficial to American children. The required narrative had me thinking of every sacrifice my parents have ever made just so I could grow up to be the person I’m supposed to be. That paper had me crying for every child born stateside who would never be able to reach their full potential just because of the circumstances they were born into. Ali Zaoua had me crying for every child born outside of the US who would also never be able to reach their full potential just because of the circumstances they were born into. But, cry as I might, what will that do to help those children? What will me being aware of their poverty, being aware of their existence, change? Maybe this will be a turning point. Maybe my jittery legs and quiet mind will lead me to a nation whose people I can listen to.

Maybe this isn’t about finding myself, but about finding them.

Feet, don’t fail me now.

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Unsure Hypotheticals and Thoughts on Travel

May 28, 2015

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

– Caesar Pavese

Alley

“Why are you traveling to Spain, to Morrocco? What is it that you seek?”

I suppose I am trying to live more fully. More intentionally. To learn how to love more deeply. To seek the heart, the desires of my maker. I am trying to lean into the curves. I seek to live a life of many pilgrimages, and I’m adding this to my list.

“Where else have you travelled?”

Oh, well, nowhere really. I drove a couple hours north of Vancouver, BC once to backpack through the mountains. Almost five years ago I left Chicago, the only home I’ve ever known, to seek the wilderness of Washington. I did not have much of a plan. I suppose I was looking for adventure, for newness. I’m still looking for those things.

“What, if any, are your reservations for doing this study abroad?”

I’m going to miss my husband. He has been incredibly encouraging about me taking this trip. We met in 2009 when I was twenty-one, we have been inseparable since. We share everything. He called me today to tell me how his croutons in his salad got soggy before he had a chance to eat it, silly, little things like that. We will have been married for two years in a couple of weeks, he is my dearest friend. I’ve experienced so much life with him, large and small. It will be odd to not have this experience with him there. I think I live a very different daily life than some of my trip-mates. I don’t know the women in our group all that well. I can be overly independent sometimes, so I know I am going to have to be mindful about building relationships.

“What do you hope to learn?”

Gosh, a little bit of everything. I know so little. And what I do think I know–I have a sneaking suspicion–will all be turned upside down. That is how it always seems to be. I’ve learned to be as open as possible, to be willing to not have any answers. I’m looking forward to experiencing Spanish and Moroccan culture. I want to practice listening well. I want to immerse myself as completely as possible in the small amount of time I have. I want to make space for my writing. I hope to be so overwhelmed with beauty and struggle that I can’t stop the words from flowing. I want to have stories to tell. I hope to learn about the sojourner, the transient, the pilgrim. And I want to become all of these things.

Asilah at dusk

September 30, 2013

Asilah at dusk

Roman Ruins in Morocco

September 30, 2013

Roman Ruins in Morocco

Morocco, as told through hip-hop dance.

September 30, 2013

      After traveling thousands of miles around the world and arriving in the city of Meknes, Morocco, I was greeted with an unexpected surprise, a trip to an international, urban, hip-hop dance competition. Films like “Step Up” had already popularized this type of dancing in the States, but I was wholly unprepared for such a similar type of expression in Morocco. Subsequent to my conversations with some of the dancers, I realized that the motivations behind hip-hop dance are quite akin to dancers in Western nations, therefore establishing a common bond and understanding that left Morocco feeling not so dissimilar to America. 

      The throbbing bass, the encouragement of the crowd, the heavy, humid feeling of a sweaty auditorium left me feeling as if I had stumbled onto the set of that Step Up film. These common sensations left my time at the competition seeming very familiar, but with a distinct Moroccan flair. The event served as a bridge by which I could meet Moroccans my age, hopefully allowing me to catch a glimpse at their unique way of life. In my discussions with these dancers, I sensed a personal longing, that was conveyed through the method of dance. Each person loved their life in Morocco, and yet there was a common desire to break free and experience somewhere beyond their familiar borders. I was told stories by Salah– a dancer of a crew who specialized in “krumping” a specific style within hip-hop dance– of another dancer from Morocco who went on to become a background dancer for Beyonce. The thoughtful look in his eyes as he spoke betrayed his desires for a similar fate, not out of desperation, but of opportunity. 

      While I am not a hip-hop dancer by any means, Aziz’s words struck a similar cord with my own hopes. Through a different medium, music, I practice and refine my own works with the faintest hopes that someone will happen to hear me play and I am whisked away from the prospect of a dead-end, 9-to-5 job. The shot of achieving this kind of success is incredibly slim for both Salah and I, but the drive from something more is what makes both forms of expression so meaningful. This drive is our connector, giving us the opportunity to bond in ways previously thought to be unlikely. The landscape and culture of our experiences may be dissimilar, but the desires and dreams of Salah are quite reminiscent of my own. We may both be unknown artists right now, but I know I’ll keep an eye on Beyonce’s stage in the future, hopefully catching a glimpse of my Moroccan friend. 

Rethinking Gender Across National Lines

September 29, 2013

       In crossing cultures into the nation of Morocco, one experience I was entirely unprepared for was that of the hammam. The hammam is a place of great cultural significance in Arabic culture, a public bath that cleanses one in a way unlike any other. Scalding hot water, black soap– a rough mixture specifically engineered to grind away the grime– and a coarse scrubbing glove that are all utilized by the hands of another person make  the hammam an emotional and spiritual experience as well as a physical one. 

      My only previous public bath moment was the showers after sports matches in high school. The immature, collective consciousness regarding group showers left my expectations of the hammam wildly incongruent with its reality. Instead of a testosterone-fueled gauntlet of sorts, those in the hammam welcomed me with a graciousness that accepted the fact that I was there to get clean. This is not to say I was traumatized by my high school experience, but merely left my bar a little lower regarding this event in Morocco.

       In Moroccan culture, I experienced a respect and openness to the male body that is typically disregarded in younger male circles in America. There is still laughter and camaraderie to be had, but it is out of a genuine graciousness instead of competition. As I was being bathed and scrubbed like I had lived my life in utter filth, I felt grateful, rather than weary of what might come next. It is quite an experience to submit oneself to another person and have them bathe you. I’m quite sure it would be akin to being a newborn again, helplessly at the mercy of another individual.

      The concepts of respect and submission in the hammam are undoubtedly influenced by Islamic culture.  Witnessing firsthand more peace from the Islamic community further ripped me from my narrow, American experience. I was a student, being taught by my scrubber the value of releasing my inhibitions and trusting another person. WHile I left feeling as though I’d been polished within an inch of my life, I also ventured out with something far greater, a lesson in humility and grace.

Morocco Bloopers

October 23, 2012

By popular demand, more footage of our trip abroad!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/51952087″>Morocco Bloopers</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user12063822″>Caitlin G</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Top 12 iPhone Photos

October 1, 2012

Do a Turn or Light a Match

September 27, 2012

“Las manos arriba,

Sintura sola,

Da media vuerta,

A saco duro”

This is one verse from a song that my professor would sing (or try to make us sing) when she was missing her young daughter, who she left home in the states during our trip. It’s a Spanish song about a girl who is sad, so she does a little turn in this dance and makes herself feel better. She does something about her bad feelings. While this is just a song, it resonated deeply with what I learned about the Arab Spring.

People like Fadwa Laroui and Mohamed Bouazizi had lost everything, hope included. They had to do something about their problems. Yes, they lit themselves on fire and sparked the Arab Spring. While it is sad that they had to do something so extreme, their protest is exactly what the world needed to see in order to recognize the issues of unemployment and housing in countries like Morocco and Tunisia.

We read two books by Laila Lalami that seem to have predicted the Arab Spring, since they were written years before Bouazizi even got his food cart taken away. Of course she predicted this – it seemed so imminent, looking back. Just as the writer of the song predicted this girl would do something to fix her problem, so too did Lalami with the Arab Spring. She knew the issues in her home country and she knew it wouldn’t be long until the desperate would begin standing up for themselves and their rights.

A few of us at an Imam’s home in Meknes. We learned so much about Islam during our meeting with him, & it helped us gauge our learning of the Arab Spring as well.

We Crossed with Humor

September 26, 2012

“You’re not an American,” said the Moroccan woman who invited me into her home for dinner.

“Um, yes I am?” I replied as my three classmates broke into laughter.

“But you don’t look American, like them?” she claimed, pointing at my fair-skinned friends.

At this point, I had to explain that my mother is Filipino and my father is white, that’s why I look different than the others, but that I’m just as American. I told her that’s the thing about Americans: they look a lot different than what you see on the TV.

We were blessed to have the opportunity to go to our new friend, Meryeme’s, home to dine and fellowship with her and her family. Us, a group of four AMERICAN, Christian students sitting in a living room with a Moroccan, Muslim family; it was beautiful. The conversations were hilarious and despite the language barrier we got to know each other very well. Meryeme’s dad only spoke French and Arabic, but he had his daughter translate every fact he knew about American history.

“Did you know that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as independent?” he said. “Did you know I’m best friends with Obama?”

We laughed. Oh, we laughed. And we were able to chat about our cultural and religious differences with level heads and open minds. We befriended a family in a way that would likely never happen at home in Seattle. We met each other in the middle and accepted our differences with smiles… and bellies full of chicken and mint tea.

We crossed with humor. We reconciled through sharing a meal together. We entangled our lives in a way that will always be honored.

The four of us with our dear friend, Meryeme, & her cousin, who graciously opened their home to us one night in Meknes.