Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Same World

Oh these Moroccan days…
Prior to coming to Morocco, I really did not know much about its history. Having been a history major in my undergraduate studies, I learned about the 700 years of Moorish rule in Spain and the role Morocco played during this historical period. Afterwards, the only exposure I got was through films such as Casablanca, The Bourne Ultimatum, and a documentary by Globe Trekkers. I came to Morocco excited to be transformed by a culture with which I was not familiar. In the five weeks I spent in this country, we, the Fullbrighters, have traveled to well over thirteen destinations. I was surprised to see such geographic diversity in a country slightly larger than the state of California. From the ancient city of Fez, the Roman ruins in Volubilis, the gorge in Dades, the Sahara desert, the souqs in Marrakesh, the laid-back mountains of Chefchaouen, the beach cities of Tangier, Essaouira, and Assilah, to the major cities of Casablanca and Rabat, I noticed Morocco was as diverse geographically as its people. This particular experience is one I want to take back to share with my family, friends, and more importantly, with the students I teach.
Morocco has granted me a perfect opportunity to educate minds in debunking myths on Islam and the continent of Africa. Traveling in Morocco does not warrant me the authority to speak for a faith or an entire continent, but at the very least, my experience in one Arab African nation can help change negative notions of this part of the world into positive ones by sharing what I have witnessed while traveling through this country. Usually when working on curricular units I try to make the content relevant to activate students’ cognitive skills. Research shows that using the affective emotion promotes cognitive development. By showing students pictures and video clips from my travels and the stories behind each person or place is a start in the right direction. For many of my students whose parents are from Mexico or a Central American country, the images I plan on showing are similar to the landscape in developing nations. As we drove through the countryside, there were countless times where I thought back to my own travels throughout Latin America. In particular, we stayed two nights in a town 15 minutes away from Chefchaouen. The getaway cottage tucked in the forest mountain reminded me of the state of Michoacan, Mexico, where my father’s family resides. Looking at the hillside brought back great memories. It is places such as Chefchaouen that helps to show people in my community how Morocco is similar to their own world. Now, of course, there are places unique to only Morocco but I first want to show the parallels between our worlds to begin dispelling some of the misguided perceptions of Arab African nations.
Another fascinating thing I noticed in Morocco is the diversity within its people. Many of the folk in this country look like Latinos; I saw plenty of my “relatives” and even my grandmother’s long lost twin! The historic melting pot of Morocco and even in Latin America is perhaps a reason for the similar physical characteristics. I want to show people from my neck of the woods that although the vast majority of Moroccans practice a different religion, when you look at them they do not look too different than us. My hope is to show people in my sphere of influence the “real” Morocco and begin a conversation of this beautiful place.

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