Guest post by Natacha Danon, a Seattleite who is studying political science and sociology at Bates College. She submitted this shortly after arriving in Morocco for a semester abroad.
While preparing to study abroad in North Africa and spending the last few weeks interning at Jolkona, I’ve been considering global connections. My Jolkona work has enabled me to travel (virtually) around the world and explore the innovative and remarkable work people are doing – from providing prenatal care to mothers in Palestine to increasing educational services for disabled schoolchildren in Nepal.
In Morocco, I will be learning Arabic and studying Moroccan literature and history – but the real learning, I suspect, will occur outside the classroom in the heart of Rabat, a city where Europeans mingle with Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East. The richness and diversity of the country is encapsulated by Darija, a dialect that combines Arabic, Tamazight (Berber), French, and Spanish. It is also reflected in a site I visited today — Chellah, which features beautiful gardens, Roman ruins, an ancient mosque built by the Arabs when they first arrived in North Africa, and royal tombs. This was a breathtaking display of the many cultures and people that have inhabited Morocco over the millenia.
In between seeing some ancient sites and modern malls, I’ve already enjoyed good food and company. My host family welcomed me with a relaxing late lunch – chicken couscous with raisins and chickpeas – and we watched the soccer game on TV. My new father (“baba”), mother, two sisters, and brother speak French (“alhamdullilah”) to me, but Darija amongst themselves. I’m hoping to learn this language soon, perhaps from the Arabic-dubbed Indian and Turkish soap operas the mother, daughters and I watched all Saturday afternoon! The value placed on hospitality and family are two things that will stay with me.
I’m excited about this opportunity. But at the same time, through my work at Jolkona and the countless hours spent navigating the website, it’s comforting to know that when I’m back in America, even if I take a desk job after graduating college, I can maintain my global connections. I won’t need to go halfway across the world to fulfill my desire to understand and impact people beyond the confines of my insular world. Besides, the cost of my plane ticket is enough to provide hundreds of books for Burmese kindergartners or agricultural training for dozens of women farmers in Sudan. I can continue to expand my horizons and make a global impact from my computer in the comfort of my own home.
And so can you.