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Greetings from Kempie Blythe, Morocco Program Director

Kempie Camel.jpg

Asalamualaikum!

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…

“As I wandered one foot after another into the infinite rolling hills of sand in the cool gray morning, I took in the vastness surrounding me. Over each dune lay another, taunting me to go further. I could hear the distant voices of the others, yet when I glanced around, there was no one else, just the desert and me. In that moment, I was struck with fear and awe. I felt like I had reached the ends of the earth. The experience felt surreal, yet frighteningly alive. Charting totally unfamiliar territory, I felt as if the dunes could swallow me at any moment.

I was exposed--completely vulnerable to the will of nature. Despite the foreboding desert, the silence and the sand beneath my feet gave me a sense of serenity. When I reached yet another peak, I sat and watched the desert awaken. The blinding sun shot out of the nothingness and painted the gray dunes a deep reddish orange. I watched the color consume every grain of sand in the horizon; the desert’s grandeur swept over me, leaving me curiously enamored in its wake. I walked further into perilous dunes to experience the unknown. Feeling the sand beneath my feet, my experience of the surreal faded. My expectations of the desert took new form. The moment became real, and I found comfort in the familiarity of this once seemingly alien environment. As I sat in this comfort, I sought further. I realized that beyond this exotic beauty lay the harshness of this environment. I wanted to understand the reality not merely of the desert but of the ones that endure it.”

This is just a beginning. I could describe the first awe-inspiring moment I stood on a rooftop and heard the call to prayer coming at me from all directions, the awkward moments in which my “vegetarian” meals had a lamb’s head involved, the amusing time I said a word wrong in Arabic and ended up saying a part of the male anatomy, or the days I spent watching my imam host father share his wisdom and life stories with my five-year-old host nephew…but I don’t want to spoil the excitement that is to come!

While I was studying indigenous perspectives in Mexico a respected teacher of mine, Gustavo Esteva, said so gracefully, we must learn to “host the otherness of the other.” Exposure and interaction breeds understanding and acceptance. As we all open up to the worlds beyond our comfort zones, we invite the experience of the unknown. This process triggers a curiosity that will lead us further…

Together we will shape and transform this program into our realities…realities we will never leave behind…realities that will challenge us and inevitably demand growth. That’s why I have joined Global LAB and I imagine that’s at least a part of the reason that you have chosen to take this leap with me. It will be an unforgettable one!

I will leave you with one of my favorite phrases in Arabic: la shukran ala wajib. It means “your welcome;” however, it literally means “no thank you (necessary), it is my duty.” I am honored to take on the responsibility of being your guide, leader, and friend through this incredible adventure! Please feel free to contact me at 704.905.5362 or kempie@global-lab.org.

Kempie