Wednesday, August 27, 2014

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

I have now been in Morocco for two days and I am experiencing so many new and exciting things. I arrived to Ifrane with eight other American exchange students. We were the first to arrive on campus and we have travelled together since arriving. I could not see much of the campus because we arrived at two a.m., so when I woke up I was in awe of the gorgeous architecture and views around me. My dorm is huge and we get a bathroom in the room; which is something I am very excited about. In Morocco, the lights are always off in the hallways to conserve energy and to refrain from creating too much heat since there is no air conditioning in the dorms. When I first arrived, having the lights off in the hallways was scary and nerve-wracking, but I am really starting to appreciate the conservation technique as well as the cool halls.

The first day we arrived, the group I flew in with decided to wake up early and explore the town of Ifrane. We were told that at the Marche there would be shops where we can purchase toiletries, cell phones, and supplies. After walking to the town—which is only a mile from the University—we thought we arrived. After exchanging money and looking through some stores, we ate lunch at a busy restaurant. For an 8-inch pizza and a cappuccino, the total was only 55 MAD, which is only $6.51. I am thrilled about the cheap prices and the low cost of living here, getting a 1.5 L water bottle was only $0.75! We could not find any stores with supplies that we needed so we all walked back to campus to enjoy a late afternoon nap and some time to unpack. We all met for dinner that evening on campus and then were invited by three Moroccan students to go down to the actual Marche, and then to a bar near campus. The Marche was absolutely amazing. It reminded me at first of Chinatown in NYC, but as we walked deeper into the commune of shops and street venders, it realized that I have never been anywhere like it. One of our Moroccan friends, Kenza, took us to a shop to buy clothes hangers and cell phones, and then we were led to a little restaurant where we ate M’semn (I’m not sure how to spell that) and drank mint tea. M’semn is a bread that kind of tastes like a flakey roll that can be eaten plain, with cheese, or honey. We ate ours with honey and it was absolutely delicious. We then took a cab to the bar where we sat and talked to the Moroccans about their culture and life here. Apparently the cops in Ifrane have no control because the students at AUI come from rich and powerful fathers and the police are afraid that they will arrest someone who has connections and can get the police in trouble. We also learned that if someone gets arrested before 18 years of age, the parents or guardians pay the price of the child’s crime. After a couple hours, we walked back to the University and finally got to settle in for the night.

Today we met up to go to a famous tree called Cedre Gouro. We woke up and had some pastries for breakfast and then went outside the campus gates to wait for a taxi. We were waiting for a while before one drove past and we were able to arrange for more to come. Only three people are allowed to go in a taxi at one time, so we waited for two more to come after three people from our group went off in the first one. A nice couple that was leaving the University, offered to take three of us to the place where we would transfer taxis to get a bigger one. They were so nice and made sure that the taxi drivers were giving us a fair price and would take us to the tree. After about a fifteen-minute ride, we all arrived at the tree. Immediately after arriving, we were swarmed by men who wanted us to get on their horses to ride around on a trail. They ended up pulling one of the girls and forced her onto a horse, so we decided to go with it, and all got on a horse. We were led around a circular path for about one hour. I hated the way the animals were being treated, since they were not in good shape, nor were they being properly fed or hydrated, but I had to just sit on my horse and make the most of it. One girl’s horse actually fell during the ride, which was so scary and sad. We convinced the owners of the horses to let us off so we could look around and the animals could get a break. We saw a lot of monkeys, which was so cool, and we got to get really close to them. After exploring, we finished our ride and took the taxi home.

Orientation starts tomorrow and I am happy to learn more about the University and Morocco as well as meet new people. I am so thankful that I arrived with a great group, but I am also excited to get to know others.

Unfortunately, my adapter does not work for my computer, so I am borrowing a friend’s, so I have limited computer use until I find a three-pronged adapter for my Mac. Hopefully, I will find one soon!

The past two days have been full of adventures and activities. I am so excited to be here and am getting ready for classes to begin and looking forward to more adventures.
This is a water fountain in downtown Ifrane. 
Getting on the horse was easy, trying to find out where we were going was the hard part. My horse was decorated with Kent State colors too! 

We were all waiting for all eight of us to get in one place before heading off into the woods.

I saw a monkey attack a person right before this photo, so I definitely wanted to keep my distance.

This tree is the tallest, largest, and oldest in the region.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

It is a couple days before I depart for Morocco where I will be studying abroad at Al Akhawayn University for four months and I cannot help but feel nervous. This will be the first time I am without family abroad, and the longest time I will be away from home. Although I am used to moving around and transferring schools, I have always had a constant variable: my family. I hope that when I study abroad, I will be able to create a new constant: myself. I have been told not to make homes out of people or places, and I hope that through self-growth and adventure, I will realize that I am home, and wherever I go, I do not need to worry.

Morocco is not a typical destination students’ choose to study abroad. I chose to apply to study there because I wanted to go to an Arab country, live in a country that does not have English has its official language, and to immerse myself in a unique culture and history.

I am excited to document and reflect on my experiences and adventures in Morocco through this blog. It is crazy to think that on Sunday I will be on my way to the “Kingdom of the West”.