July 31, 2009

Final Images from Maroc....

Follows are some of the more treasured images from the Hotchkiss program as captured by Anne, Genevieve, Taesoo, and Sarinda:

Anne's Photos:

Moulay Idriss

Setti Fadma, Ourika


Genevieve's Photos:

Essaouira Camel Train

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca


Taesoo's Photos:

Panorama of Moulay Idriss

Da, Genevive, Taseoo, and Kevin - camel caravan in Essaouira

The Group inside Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque exterior

Sarinda's Photos:

Maroc 09 052.jpg
kempie et wendy devant Café Clock

Maroc 09 131.jpg
my favorite post office (Volubilis)

Maroc 09 177.jpg
Wendy sarinda Fès homestay fatima zhara et sa maman

Maroc 09 227.jpg
almost all of us at Établissement El Araki in Marrakech

Maroc 09 366.jpg
Christina and Sarinda

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Sarinda and guide

Escargot at Djemaa el Fna!

July 3, 2009

Back in Marrakech for the Program's Final Night

I just got word from Kempie that the group has made its return to Marrakech after a blustery beach camel ride in Essaouira (pics to come). So for this final evening's menu: one last stroll through the medina, one last gawk at Djemaa el Fna, one final reflective moment amidst swooning swallows and blooming passion flowers then back to US for most, Asia for some, tomorrow.


July 2, 2009

Ahawash - A Berber Music Experience

On our last night in the Ourika valley, we were honored with an Ahawash, a traditional performance of Berber music and dance. It was a very special opportunity and the energy in the air was contagious! As guests, we were lucky to be the preferred dance partners for most of the village children.

Genevieve, Anne, Kevin and Taesoo in traditional garments

The dancers and musicians getting started

We are now in Essaouira and about to visit the fresh fish market!

July 1, 2009

Arrival in Essaouira, "The Windsurfing Capital of Africa"

The group has made its way down the High Atlas mountains and to the Atlantic coast town of Essaouira with its evocative ambience and whitewashed medina (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Much more very soon. But first, an Atlantic sunset and fresh, grilled seafood (the langoustines are mammoth). Word has it that the Amazigh through quite the farewell bash for the group last night...only a few days remain of this Morocco journey.


Blog for the First of July

We've been in Morocco for two weeks but I feel as though we've lived four here thanks to our incredibly varied program and the fact that something as simple as where we wake up and how we begin our ablutions is an event of sorts. We are en route for Essaouira having just left our homestay families from the douar (small village) in Ourika. Yesterday was a full day; alongside the Dar Taliba gardeners and lots of hardworking local students, we helped to finish up the planting. Once the olive trees were freed of their black plastic and set in holes of rocky red clay-like soil, we moved on to the salle de cours for some theater by the students who joined us for these past several days at Dar Taliba. Two girls performed a fable in French about the importance of keeping one's pride in check. Four student acted a longer one-act in Tashlhit (my phonetic spelling for the local Berber language) called L'Ecole de la Vie / School of Life. This showed the generation gap/clash that can exist between a young man who wants to continue his studies and a father who is illiterate but knows so much about life and wants to convey much to his son about a good, spiritual, hardworking life. Symbolic and important – both of these plays' messages tie in nicely to what we've been learning from the people with whom we've spent our mountain time.

(We just drove past a man biking along with a milk crate full of 5 palm trees. I have great appreciation for the various means of transport we've seen here. Bikes and small carts, donkeys and tri-pod motorcycles... so far my favorite personal transportation scenes are donkeys with loads of hay (or mint!) wider than the donkey is long, the man atop, bobbing side to side as his donkey moves forward. It's almost peaceful watching them advance at their steady but slow pace.)

Walking back to the douar after a hike/climb to the first (of seven) waterfall at Sitti Fadma, I asked our local guide Mohammed what his favorite moroccan meal is. Framed by the gracious appreciation that seems to be such a pillar of Islam, his response was typical. Perhaps I should have predicted it.
“Le repas que j'ai devant moi.” / The meal that I have in front of me, he said. “Any meal that is served to me is a meal for which I am grateful and which I will enjoy with whoever shares it.”

We've come to Morocco with little to no depth of experience with Islam; perhaps we've done some reading or have Muslim acquaintances. But through conversations with so many welcoming, generous, peaceful and warm Moroccans, everyone in our group has come to acknowledge the appeal of this religion. I listened to Mohammed's thoughtful explanation of sharing a favorite meal and formulated my question another way so as to get to a preferred menu...


June 30, 2009

"In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran" - Washington Post OpEd

In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RABAT -- If you want an antidote to the photographs of police officers beating demonstrators and girls dying on the streets of the Iranian capital, take a drive through the streets of the Moroccan capital. You might see demonstrators, but not under attack: On the day I visited, a group of people politely waving signs stood outside the parliament. You might see girls, but they will not be sniper targets, and they will not all look like their Iranian counterparts: Though there is clearly a fashion for long, flowing headscarves and blue jeans, many women would not look out of place in New York or Paris.

Welcome to the kingdom of Morocco, a place which, in the light of the past two week's events in Iran, merits a few minutes of reflection. Unlike Turkey, Morocco is not a secular state: The king claims direct descent from the prophet Mohammed. Nor does Morocco aspire to be European: Though French is still the language of business and higher education, the country is linguistically and culturally part of the Arabic-speaking world. But unlike most of its Arab neighbors, the country has over the past decade undergone a slow but profound transformation from traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy, acquiring along the way real political parties, a relatively free press, new political leaders -- the mayor of Marrakesh is a 33-year-old woman -- and a set of family laws that strive to be compatible both with sharia and international conventions on human rights.

Continue reading ""In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran" - Washington Post OpEd" »

June 29, 2009

Reflections from the Majorelle Garden

So here we sit, Kevin et moi (Sarinda) on a cool green bench in the middle of the Jardin Majorelle – a bamboo, floral, bird-filled palm oasis in Marrakech, Yves Saint Laurent's dream and creation. We'll blog a bit together.

So what do we feel about Marrakech?
KX: it's cooler, the weather is more pleasant than in Fes. The roads are more spacious even though we have to jump to the side to avoid being hit by speeding motorcycles!
SPW: Pedestrians certainly don't have the right of way. I do miss seeing donkeys (and the donkey 'trash truck' passing each day in Fes Medina.) But we learned quickly to walk in a line, listen for the quick series of beeps, whistles, honks or shouts of “balek!” which means “attention!” in French or “watch out” in English I guess.
KX: I really like the square Jamaa el Fna. Lots of cafes, petits magasins, performing artists (snake charmers, story tellers, dancers, traditional Berber musicians) Most important is the food! There must be like 100 restaurants there. And the orange juice which you can find nowhere else in the world. Oh...don't forget the gelati... I haven't had such a taste since my last summer in the Amalfi coast.
SPW: The bees like the gelati too. Each morning we share our jam and honey with them, too. Copious Moroccan breakfasts (homemade bread in our homestays, tea, a variety of crepes, honey, confitures, cafe au lait, brioches, baguette, pistachio/banana yogurt, hard-boiled eggs when we're in hotels...) start us off well. Happily, while breakfast isn't so new to us, (most of) our digestive systems are agreeing with all these vetetable and chicken or beef tagines, couscous, beef and chicken brochettes, pastillas (chicken or pigeon and almonds in a flaky pastry dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar – I admit to having ordered chicken rather than pigeon!
So we've already had one person decide he'll come back here for his honeymoon. (Christina just came by our bench and says she will, too.) It IS a romantic city in many ways: sitting inside a riad like Gita's listening to a gentle fountain, coexisting peacefully with so many other people in this city and then hearing the calls to prayer, we feel the harmony of busy activity and more spiritual introspection.
OK - Kevin's feeling left out: I'll pass back to him with a question: Kevin, what are three things that have surprised you in Marrakech?
KX: Well, it's not easy to pick up only three things... Anyway, I would say they are the well-preserved Riads, the incredible food, and the friendly people. Through the Riads, we've learned a lot about traditional Moroccan architecture as well as the Islam cultures. Personally, I've always loved eating and just one thing, you've got to try the fresh juices here. Bargaining is a kind of art here.
SPW: OUI! What's the secret, Kevin, in your mind?
KX: You need to make friends with the shopkeeper, which is actually not that difficult. You start with “Salam Alikum” (President Obama used the same way in his Cairo speech), and tell them a little bit about yourself. As Kempie told us earlier, very few things in Morocco have a fixed price. So, we must be very patient in haggling down the prices. I always tell them “Je suis un etudiant et Je n'ai pas d'argent,” hoping they will give a “special” price for me. Sometimes you even need to pretend that you can't afford the price they asked and walk out of the shop, slowly. Then they'll probably drag you back and agree to the price you've offered if they can accept it.
SPW: Time is up, and we're off to Ourika (the high Atlas mountains) so I want to just add something about waking up in Morocco. For the past two days I've wondered if the 4 am call to prayer has even happened. This morning I finally heard it, loud and crisp projecting from the minaret just next to our hotel. It's a nice snooze button – three more hours to slumber until the roosters begin to wake me. The other day I asked everyone how they were waking up each day. Genevieve's response wins the prize: “Well, I set my alarm each day for 7 but there's a donkey outside my homestay front door, so he gets me going by 6:30.”

Greetings from Anne

Although I'm sifting through unexpected sicknesses (nothing too worrying, Mummy!), I've found myself really enjoying all that Morocco offers. One of the most surprising and noteworthy experiences I've had thus far was in Fes. Genevieve and I were strolling through the medina and encountered an interesting shop, filled with assorted touristy items (camel toys, small tajines, etc). We entered and were greeted by a friendly shopkeeper. After purchasing a few items (and bargaining, of course!), the shopkeeper invited us to have tea with him later in the afternoon. This kind of generosity is unsurpassed in most other countries I've visited, and yet this is only one example of the continuous gestures of kindness.

I love/miss my Mummy, Daddy, and tibbies very much. Hope all is well!


P.S. Anne is feeling much better now and according to her, she is back to her normal self! Alhamdoulilah!

Enjoying a Riad Rest

6/26 – Marrakech, 6:30 PM

We are all finding it surprisingly difficult to write down what we are living, except perhaps in a private journal, which a number of us are keeping. Right now I am alone in one of the main sitting rooms of Gita Sellman's Riad. I hear the fan, the beautiful and constant song of birds, a few voices from below, and the now familiar and wonderful aroma of Moroccan cooking is making its way up to me. I am torn between launching myself into a run-down of everything we have done – just today – and going downstairs to settle into Gita's library, which is a feast unto itself. In fact, I think that I am going to do the latter. I want to share that I think that many of us are simultaneously more stimulated and more reflective than we are accustomed to being in our everyday lives. The two experiences are a bit difficult to reconcile, because they draw our energies in different directions. We will be processing for weeks, months, and some of us possibly years to come, so apologies to those friends and family who have been looking for the instant gratification blog entries that we naively promised pre-departure. Many pictures will soon be available, and the images may well speak better than our words. Like others, I miss friends and family, but am feeling incredibly blessed. Hum dullah.

Greetings from Lauren & Emmy

At Emmy's homestay in Fes, the shower had been broken for over a year, so she had to use a bucket of water and a little bowl to dump water over her head! The first icy bowl was always the worst, but when in Rome...

Before arriving in her homestay, Lauren was expecting an intimate experience with a traditional Moroccan family of 5, speaking purely French. Little did she know she would be spending 5 nights in a multi-cultural bed and breakfast consisting of a Spanish couple, a French couple, and two other American students! In addition, of course, to the family members themselves and 50 of their closest friends – I guess you can never deny the impeccable Moroccan hospitality.

Walking through the streets of Fes, Lauren was quickly offered 5,000 camels for her hand in marriage! We were all quite impressed with this offer until Emmy received a bid for the whole desert!!! Too bad they both refused – think of all the money their parents could have made.

After arriving in Marrakech, shopping for our friends and family was a top priority. Lauren caught sight of “a lustrous bangle” and we hurried over to the stand to inspect. The man started out at a ridiculous price – 450DH! Lauren bargained it down to a mere 200DH, and insisted on being shown a test to prove that the metal was real silver. The vendor promptly produced a dagger and began sawing at the bracelet, leaving no mark: we were convinced. About 10 minutes later, in a second jewelry store, Lauren tried to buy a silver ring, and cited the price of her bracelet as a bargaining tool. Unfortunately, the seller quickly showed the bangle to be a fraud; it wasn't really silver!

Despite periods of discomfort while pulling through colds and stomach aches, it is clear that both Emmy and Lauren are experiencing a culture unlike they have ever seen before, and enjoying every minute of it!

Lauren & Emmy

June 28, 2009

Berber Home-stays

I spoke with Kempie and the group had just returned from a pleasant day-hike in the High Atlas foothills. Tonight, group home-stays commence with home-cooked mountain fare, many laughing children, and prodigious amounts of mint tea. There is no Internet connectivity in the village, so student postings will have to wait until the next leg in Essaouira.

The group is not staying exactly in this setting, but to provide some perspective, this is a typical summer scene in the High Atlas Mountains (the highest in North Africa--with Morocco laying claim to the highest peak, Mount Toubkal, at 13,671 feet):

High Atlas scene 2.jpg

June 27, 2009

Into The High Atlas Mountains

The group has arrived in the mountain village of Ourika where they've just enjoyed a delicious welcome lunch with requisite Berber hospitality. After urban perspectives in Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech, all will now experience a more rugged, rural setting for the next few days. This afternoon, the students will survey their rural development project--creating a sustainable garden, planting trees, and building an irrigation system all for a local school--and will begin their community service effort tomorrow. Kempie and Marie have collected some additional student blog entries, and these will be posted as soon as they can acquire a reliable Internet connection (which may not be until their arrival in Essaouira). So check back for these reflections.


June 25, 2009

Adventures in Marrakesh

Hi families! We are Taesoo, Christina and Da, and it is our eighth day in Morocco. We all are exhausted after our seven-hour-long train ride from Fes to Marrakesh. Our days in Fes went by pretty quickly, and we all miss our home stay families and their hospitality. In Fes, we found out that our stereotype of Arabic women doesn't seem to apply to the Moroccan women. They are free to wear what they want, although some choose to remain conservative by wearing Hijabs (the head coverings). Contrary to our expectation, a lot of them are very well educated and are already playing important roles in the society.

So we are in Marrakesh! Marrkesh is also known as the rose city for its roses, and the queen city for its acceptance of the homosexual community. We are excited about and looking forward to our three days in Marrakesh!

June 24, 2009

Arrival in "The Pearl of the South"--Marrakech

We received a message from Kempie that the group has made its way to Marrakech, Morocco's buzzing, 2nd largest city. They will begin their introduction with an evening tour of the famous Djemaa el Fna--a square teeming with acrobats, henna artists, musicians, fortune-tellers, magicians, snake charmers, storytellers, and countless vendors of kebabs, fresh-squeezed OJ, and dates. There's no place else like it. Check back for their impressions.


June 22, 2009

Taking it all in...

Our last days in Fes are going quickly! The daily French and Darija (Moroccan Arabic) classes have been enlightening academically as well as useful in our day-to-day interactions with Moroccans in restaurants, shops, and our cultural activities. Everyone is learning conversational Arabic at an impressive rate! After our final classes today we had a lunchtime discussion with Fatima Amrani, a noted feminist scholar who spoke about the history and current state of feminism in Islam and in Morocco as well as the recent reforms to the family code. She was a bright and engaging speaker whose lecture sparked many questions and a lot of informative discussion.

Our afternoons have been spent learning about restoration and preservation of the beautiful architecture and tilework of the old city of Fes, and yesterday we were able to try our hand at creating a piece of traditional Moroccan plasterwork – much harder than the skilled craftsmen make it look!


Last night, we were able to take in a concert of Issawa (drums, horns, and singing) music last night at a local cafe – and a few of us were even brave enough to dance.


Today we had a calligraphy lesson from a classically trained artist who works both in the traditional style and who has participated in fusion projects like “Calligraffiti”, tying together modern and ancient art forms.

June 21, 2009

Genevieve's First Reflections on Fes

After waking up for the first time in our home stays, we enjoyed our second round of language lessons. It is wonderful to see how each experience increases the ease of the other. We returned to our home stays for lunch and a quick break before heading back out. In the early afternoon we toured the medina homes where we will be working on restorations tomorrow afternoon. We are all enjoying a bit of free time now and looking forward to an evening lecture, “Intro to Islam” at Cafe Clock.


June 20, 2009

In the bronze shop


Christina examines a beautiful hammered bronze plate in the Fes medina.

June 19, 2009

The First Few Pieces of the Mosaic

Salaam Alaykum from Fes!

We arrived yesterday afternoon after spending a whirlwind two days in Casa. A dinnertime chat with journalist Hannah gave us some perspective on current issues affecting the press in Morocco. We visited the Hassan II mosque overlooking the ocean - the third largest mosque in the world, and stunningly beautiful.

Today the French and Darija classes began, giving us yet another window into the culture. Afterwards, we enjoyed a medina tour from our guide Mohammad, visiting a pottery workshop on the outskirts of the old part of the city and then venturing in to visit the largest tannery in Fes. Being in the medina gave us a chance to look at the beautiful architecture that we will be helping to preserve through our medina restoration project which begins tomorrow. A lecture from Youssef, our leader in this project, cemented these ideas. This evening everyone retreated to their homestays for the first night of cultural immersion (and their first homecooked meal in the country!)

The group above the landscape of the densely packed Fes medina

We hope all is well at home!

June 18, 2009

Into the Soul of Morocco, Fes

We've received word from Kempie that the group has made its way to Fes where they've had their first tour of the fantastic 1200 year old "medina" (old city)--a UNESCO World Heritage site--and are heading to dinner at Cafe Clock, home to the most delicious Camel Burger in the Maghreb. We should be hearing from participants shortly once they settle into Fes, their unique home for the next several days.


June 17, 2009

Safe and Sound in Casa

Marie sent an email letting us know the group has arrived safely in Casablanca. The flight was smooth and all are hungry. After lunch, they will begin their tour of this largest city in Morocco. Much more to come.


Onward to the "White House" (Casablanca)

The plane has left the gate at JFK and sights are set on a Wednesday sunrise in North Africa. Let the Maroc journey commence. Check back for what should be fascinating dispatches from the field.


Up & Away

The Morocco-bound travelers about to go through security at JFK for their flight to Casablanca, where they will meet the boys in the group.

Bon Voyage!

June 8, 2009

President Obama's June 4 Speech in Cairo

In case you missed last week's historic speech, including references to Morocco's longstanding friendship with the US, check it out here:

June 4, 2009

"As the Myths Abound, So Does Islamic Outreach"

While not Morocco-specific, this article addresses the enduring misperceptions and stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims--and the role of greater awareness and understanding in debunking them.


As the Myths Abound, So Does Islamic Outreach

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Aida Mansoor expects a skeptical crowd for her diversity training class, so she arrives an hour early to create a reassuring atmosphere. She tapes serene posters of mountains and rivers to the walls of the Hartford Public Library and displays a stack of pamphlets emphasizing that, yes, "Muslims also love and respect Jesus." A snack table outside the room is divided into two sections, with homemade samosas on one half and generic sugar cookies from a local grocery on the other.

"We don't want to risk insulting anybody," says Mansoor, 41.

Continue reading ""As the Myths Abound, So Does Islamic Outreach"" »

June 1, 2009

Marie Troutman, Assistant Leader



I am so excited to meet all of you and experience Moroccan life together! My first few moments in Fes, hearing the call to prayer while waiting for my scalding hot, sweet mint tea to cool down, are some of my most vivid memories.

Continue reading "Marie Troutman, Assistant Leader" »

May 30, 2009

"Morocco's New Guiding Force"

I thought all of you might find this of interest as you begin to explore Morocco's distinct "face of Islam"....



Morocco's New Guiding Force
Muslim Women Being Trained as Spiritual Leaders and Family Counselors

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not long ago in the Moroccan city of Rabat, Nezha Nassi met an 18-year-old girl in prison on drug charges. The girl was afraid to leave prison because her parents said she was no longer welcome at home.

For months, Nassi counseled the girl, who seemed to bloom slowly and build an idea of the life she wanted. Nassi visited the girl's mother to persuade her to take her back, saying the girl would be worse off in the streets and that she had worked to give up her addiction. Nassi told the mother she had the girl's promise.

In Morocco, Nassi's word means something. That's because Nassi is a murshida, or guide, a female religious counselor recently trained by the country's Ministry of Religious Affairs to teach Islam and offer counseling in mosques, prisons, schools and hospitals -- even to make house calls to work through the most intimate family problems. Nassi is one of about 250 murshidas trained to occupy the same role as male imams, in every sense but leading prayer.

Continue reading ""Morocco's New Guiding Force"" »

May 28, 2009

Christina introduction

Hey my name is Christina, I live in Houston and I go to Emery Weiner high school. I was born in New Orleans but moved here after Katrina. I will be a senior this upcoming year. I have never studied french before so that's kind of freaking me out but I'm sure I'll learn to get around. I’m really excited and nervous about this trip I can’t wait!

Lauren introduction


Hi, my name is Lauren. I am currently a junior at National Cathedral School (NCS) in Washington DC, and have been a student there since my freshmen year in high school. I am a member of the Varsity Softball Team and participate in the Chorale, a large choral organization with participants from both my all girls school and the all boys school, St. Albans, on the other side of the close. In addition, I am applying for a position to be a peer leader, a role of leadership to help the incoming freshmen make the necessary adjustment to high school, and will hopefully be a member of the Madrigals Singers, a highly selective a cappella choir, as a part of my senior year. I am an avid traveler and have been to 4 continents in countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico, Australia and many more.

Continue reading "Lauren introduction" »

May 20, 2009

Da introduction

My name is Da, and I am a student of Korean descent currently studying in the United States. I attend a private boarding school in America and by the time I arrive in Morocco I will have studied French for one full year. The main reason why I considered participating in this program was that I have always believed that the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself into a society where the language is being spoken. Just the thought of home-staying in a Moroccan household and getting to speak French while learning Morocco's distinct domestic culture excited me to a great extent. Having participated in many other programs like this, I know how valuable an experience it is to step out of my cultural comfort zone and be part of a foreign culture.

Continue reading "Da introduction" »

Sarinda introduction (teacher)

I have been teaching French since 1987 at The Hotchkiss School where I live with my husband and two children. I teach varying levels of French, advise 6 students, work with our school’s Outing Club, serve on several faculty committees and (having lived for sixteen years in 5 different boys’ and girls’ dormitories) am now an affiliate faculty member in one of our girls’ dormitories.

Continue reading "Sarinda introduction (teacher)" »

Kevin introduction

My name is Zixi (Kevin), a senior at the Hotchkiss school. I’m from Wuhan, the third largest city in China. I began to study French at Hotchkiss and this is my second year here. Coming to Hotchkiss from China was a great challenge for me; though I found it difficult at first, I adjusted pretty well and now I’m really enjoying my time here. In the same way, I have never participated in a French speaking program but I’m confident that I’ll be able to adapt to the different environment in Morocco.

Continue reading "Kevin introduction" »

Wendy introduction (teacher)

I have been teaching French at the Hotchkiss School for the past eleven years. I live on campus, in an apartment adjacent to a girls’ dormitory, with my husband and our four year old son. I was drawn to teaching language by my own early experiences of foreign language as a vehicle for vital personal and cultural exchange. I love the “aha!” moments of language learning. I also love the thrill of catching wisps of insight into the humor, passions, and trials of a different culture that language can convey, especially through direct human discourse, even when the exchange relies on a lot of gesturing and guessing. The “we are in this communication together” contract is one that draws out compassion, respect, and self-discovery.

Continue reading "Wendy introduction (teacher)" »

Taesoo introduction

I, as a foreigner, came to United States only in recent years. I have lived in South Korea for almost fifteen years, out of my seventeen year life. I enjoy living in a boarding school in the United States, although it is thousands of miles away from my home. Exotic style of different life allured me as I first decided to study abroad in the U.S. Diverse people from all around the world lived up to my yearn for entirely new experience in Hotchkiss. I now appreciate the Hotchkiss school for providing me with much knowledge and opportunities, but there was a time when I regretted coming to Hotchkiss. I had a hard time making friends in Hotchkiss, as I was passive and shy. Upon my first arrival at the U.S., I could not speak English very well. Language barrier was, and still is another huge problem for me as a student living in the United States. However, I see my English getting better each day, as I try hard with passion for learning new language. I feel the same passion for my future language, French.

Continue reading "Taesoo introduction" »

Genevieve introduction

My name is Genevieve and I am in the class of 2012. I am currently studying French and I am very excited to improve my language skills in Morocco. I have never been to Morocco before so, as a person who loves to travel, experiencing a new culture is very exciting. Morocco has influences from many countries and cultures, so I am looking forward to experiencing those differences and seeing how they influence me.

Anne introduction

My name is Anne and I’m in the graduating class of 2012. I’ve always loved traveling and am so excited for this upcoming Morocco trip. I’ve never ventured to Africa before, so this experience will be brand new for me. I study French currently and am interested in observing and partaking in a francophone country/culture.

Continue reading "Anne introduction" »

Emmy introduction

I’m Emmy, and I’m in the 10th grade at Hotchkiss. I came in new this year from a tiny, all girls’ school in New York City. One of the main reasons why I chose to come to Hotchkiss was to take advantage of all the opportunities it has to offer. Not only is it a much larger and more diverse (economically, racially, nationality wise) community than my previous school, but it offers more classes, clubs, activities, and programs.

Continue reading "Emmy introduction" »

May 18, 2009

Pre-travel Orientation


The group, minus Christina and Lauren, gathered last Friday evening at Ms. Wilson's home for some excellent Moroccan food and a couple hours of discussion with Global LAB's Executive Director, John Eastman, about the upcoming journey to North Africa.

We went through the itinerary of the whole program, reviewed packing suggestions, discussed health and safety issues as well as cultural etiquette and ways to be model visitors during our stay, which is less than one month away.

Thanks Ms. Wilson for hosting a great gathering at your place!

April 22, 2009

Greetings from Kempie Blythe, Morocco Program Director

Kempie Camel.jpg


I’m thrilled to be a part of what will surely prove to be an amazing, challenging, and life-changing experience for you all! My life journey began much as yours will. I took a leap–decided there was something beyond (what I did not know)–and landed halfway across the world into something exotic, strange, frightening at times, but nonetheless exhilarating.

Morocco is an incredible place filled with vivid sounds, smells, tastes, and images that will stimulate you, drive your curiosity, and eventually all come together in a myriad of ways in your mind, body, and soul.

I know that, at this moment, you’re wondering what it is like and thus I have chosen to share a piece of my writing…a piece of my Moroccan experience…

Continue reading "Greetings from Kempie Blythe, Morocco Program Director" »

April 20, 2009

Program Itinerary

US to Morocco
June 16
Depart JFK to Casablanca

June 17

Morning Arrival Casablanca

Shared Accommodations in Casablanca hotel

Instruction/Cultural Touring/Activities
o Transfer from Casa airport to hotel
o Tour of Hassan II Mosque
o Lunch/Siesta
o Tour of Jewish Museum
o Dinner

Casablanca to Fes
June 18


o Breakfast Discussion with al-Akhawayn University Graduate: “A Young Professional Woman’s Perspective on Morocco ” - tentative
o Late Morning Departure to Fes by Train (approx. 3 hours)

Shared Accommodations in Fes hotel

Daily Instruction/Cultural Touring/Activities
o Home-stay orientation at hotel
o Afternoon guided medina tour #1
o Group Welcome Dinner in medina

June 19-23

• English-speaking home-stays for non-French, non-Arabic students
• French-speaking home-stays for French students

Shared Home-Stay Accommodations in Fes medina
o To be arranged by SACAL Fez (www.sacal-fez.com), Global LAB partner

Daily Instruction/Cultural Touring/Activities
*All instruction/lectures will take place in “the new city” (Ville Nouvelle) unless otherwise noted; group will meet each morning at Bab Racif in “the old city” (medina) and be transported by minibus to the Ville Nouvelle

June 19
o Morning: French language instruction
o Late Morning: Group darija (Moroccan Arabic) language instruction
o Afternoon guided tour of medina #2
o Afternoon Discussion: “Cultural Heritage Preservation: Fes medina case study”
o Evening home-stay placements, dinner
June 20
o Breakfast with home-stay families
o Morning: French and darija language instruction
o Lunch with home-stay families
o Afternoon: Commence medina restoration work
o Afternoon Tea Discussion: “Introduction to Islam, Sufism and ’Moroccan Islam’”
o Evening: Return to respective home-stays for cultural immersion, dinner
June 21
o Breakfast with home-stay families
o Morning: French and darija language Instruction
o Lunch with home-stay families
o Afternoon: Continue medina restoration work
o Afternoon/Evening: Return to respective home-stays for cultural immersion, dinner
June 22
o Breakfast with home-stay families
o Morning: French and darija language Instruction
o Lunch with Dr. Fatima Amrani: “Gender Roles in Contemporary Moroccan Society”
o Afternoon: Zellij and Tadelakt Artisan Workshops
o Afternoon/Evening: Return to respective home-stays for cultural immersion, dinner
June 23
o Breakfast with home-stay families
o Day Trip to Roman Ruins of Volubilis / Holy village of Moulay Idriss
o Late afternoon Henna party, live Andalusian Musical performance
o Farewell dinner with home-stay families

Fes to Marrakech
June 24

o Late morning train to Marrakech, arrive evening

Shared Accommodations in Marrakech medina riad (traditional courtyard home)

Daily Instruction/Cultural Touring in conjuction with Academy Arabesa, Global LAB partner

o Minibus transfer from Marrakech train station to riad
o Check in, settle in
o Traditional Friday couscous dinner at riad
o Guided tour of Djemaa el Fna by night

Continue reading "Program Itinerary" »

April 8, 2009

Suggested Packing List

THINK LIGHT! You will have to put whatever you bring onto luggage racks in minibuses, trains, and you may have to carry your bag for long distances and we really don't want to end up like this. Here's a list of all that you will need to stay warm, dry, cool and comfortable. Since it will be the heart of summer, lightweight, breathable, cotton fabrics will be the most comfortable. Yet we will also be in The High Atlas Mountains for a few days and best to think "layers" for cool nights. The lighter you pack, the happier you--and the rest of the group--will be. Also keep in mind the great likelihood you will indulge in some shopping and that this saved space will come in handy towards the end of the tour. There will be opportunities to do “self-service” laundry or pay for outside laundry service where we’ll be staying.

PLEASE NOTE: We strive to be model visitors, and therefore ask that participants bring clothing that is lightweight and durable, but that also covers the body well, and looks respectable. Tie-dyed T-shirts, cut-off jeans, tight fitting leggings, short skirts, and tank tops are inappropriate, as they show disrespect for local cultures.

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Recommended Multimedia Resources for Morocco Background

Follows is a list of content in various media that will provide useful background for your upcoming tour and help contextualize your experiences. If time allows, borrow or purchase a few of these titles before your travels--try to coordinate with fellow travelers so these may be shared during the tour. Many libraries are likely to carry some of these as well. A short-list of highly recommended readings is asterisked (*).

Continue reading "Recommended Multimedia Resources for Morocco Background" »

Welcome from Alex Safos, Director of Middle East & North Africa Programs

Alex and Soudani.JPG
Mohamed Soudani, Lecturer on Berber-Sahara Culture, with Alex Safos, Global LAB Director

I was an anxious, rudderless college sophomore when he got the call. It was from Washington, DC—the State Department to be exact—and the beige rotary phone was ringing in a remote University of Texas at Austin professor’s office, some 1,500 miles plus away. This was 1986, and to me, 1,500 miles was a faraway place. Dr. James Bill politely and unpretentiously said, “Alex, have a seat. I need to take this call from State. They need some input—help, really—with their Iran policy.” Now this is pretty cool, I thought, eyes like saucers.

Continue reading "Welcome from Alex Safos, Director of Middle East & North Africa Programs" »


Casablanca * Fes * Marrakech * The High Atlas * Essaouira

Each time I go to a place I have not seen before, I hope it will be as different as possible from the places I already know.
–Paul Bowles, author of The Sheltering Sky, composer, traveler, Morocco expatriate

A mere 17 miles south of Europe, across the Strait of Gibraltar, a very different experience awaits—an intriguing place of great contrast, color, culture, history, and hospitality. The late King Hassan II described Morocco’s complexity and essence best—“Rooted in Africa, watered by Islam and rustled by the winds of Europe”—and during our fortnight here, we will encounter this country’s intriguing mélange. Through various guest lectures and language training, urban and rural service learning, guided tours, cultural and spiritual performances, and intimate home-stay settings, we will uncover a layer of Morocco and Moroccans unrevealed to most visitors.

Our diverse journey will take us from the commercial pole of Casablanca with its striking modern-traditional contrasts and the third largest mosque in the world…to the Arab-African pulse of Marrakesh, “The Rose City”, and its hypnotic, carnivalesque Djemaa el Fna ("Square of the Dead")…from the soul of Fes and its inimitable medieval medina (old city)…to the spectacular High Atlas Mountains with its distinctive Berber culture and rhythm…and to the cozy Atlantic coast city of Essaouira with its whitewashed medina and impressive Portuguese ramparts. Since we’ll be covering much ground in such a short period and since we’ll be striving hard to explore, engage, decipher, and document, there is a Moroccan proverb to keep in mind: “Little by Little, the Camel goes into the Couscous.” By travel’s end, we’ll only have tasted our first few grains. Spicy, sophisticated, and no doubt delicious, but much more will remain to savor in the future.

Below are two ambient public radio dispatches on Fes and Marrakech to stoke your excitment and curiosity. Give a listen:

Audio from Elsewhere
Sounds from the old city of Fes
Sounds from Marrakesh’s ‘Square of the Dead’”