Transfering to Al-Akhawayn University....
Don't worry, I don't think any of us are planning on transfering to Al-Akhawayn, but the extremely interesting lectures and gorgeous buildings are rather enticing. During our time there we attended three lectures, two private ones on Moroccan Geography and Politics, and Rai Music and History. We also went to a third open lecture with many Moroccan students where Stephanie William - Bordat talked about women's legal rights, and lack thereof, in Morocco. The first geography lesson was really nice and refreshing. The professor was Canadian and he cleared up a lot for us and gave us straight facts, something that is often missing when we talk about Moroccan history and politics. It has such a rich and interesting past that often the truth is buried and with politics everything is so convoluted and multi-facited that discussions can go in wild directions and cirlces. So it was nice to just here irrefutable facts and dates.
Our second lecture was early the next morning, it really felt like school getting up with an alarm and rushing off to a lecture. But this lesson was completely unlike anything we had ever experienced in high school, even though the professor was from Billings, Montana. He played the progression of Rai music for us as he carefully explained how it evolved to become the music we hear today. Rai is basically the blues of Morocco and Algeria. It began as a way for those who are down and out on their luck and on the receiving end of bad politics to let some emotion loose. It used to be all amatuer musicians and singers. It was actually generally women who wrote and sung, women with a very bad reputation because they often worked where the down-and-out nursed their drinks daily. But, as all things do, as times changed Rai changed. People began to really listen to it, and it became such a tool for those wanting to lash out at bad government policies that the conservative Algerian President banned it for many years. Of course he could not have had teenagers or he would have known that forbidding something would just increase the popularity and make everyone want to listen to it. So he inadvertantly pushed forward the Rai movement. It became country-wide, not just those on the fringes of society, but those in the heart of it, who were not yet willing themselves to speak out against bad governmental policies. So it grew and grew and grew, eventually topping the BBCs top hits charts and expanding world-wide to recording studios in France and Los Angeles. Today Rai has many 'pop' beats but it is still used as a tool for speaking about that which is often swept under the rug.
Our third lecture, with Stephanie William-Borday was by far my favorite because I not only learned a lot about Moroccan legal policies, but it also gave me a lot of insight into my world. Her lecture was very in-depth and loaded with information so to go into all of the specifics would a very long time and my host mom would miss me for dinner, but I will give you the highlights and reactions. There is a 'family code' here in Morocco that was revised in 2004 and outlines the rights and laws pertaining to the family, such as divorce, custody, marital property etc. Although the reforms are a definate push in the right direction, it was astounding to hear about some of the 'new reforms' put forward by this law that seem so old fashioned and downright sexist in many cases. So as Stephanie was talking, pinpointing where the law fell short, where the de facto gaps are in the legalese and where reforms are priorities I was getting more and more angered. She talked in such a calm manor about things that felt atrocious in my mind. Laws that make it extremely difficult for a woman to get a fault-based divorce on grounds of physical abuse, the only typy of abuse recognized by Moroccan law. Laws that make it illegal for anyone, including family members, to give safe harbor to a woman running from her husband because he beat her because it is considered abandoning your family. Even if the law got updated with the new family code and protects women, the judges haven't been trained with the new family code and end up ruling in favor of the old laws anyway. So understandably I was sitting in the auditorium of a gorgeous American style university surrounded by other students, fuming. Then a Moroccan woman four seats down from me asked this question 'isn't what you are talking about a global issue, not just a Moroccan issue? Even in highly advanced states such as the U.S. women don't have equal pay or absolute shielding from sexual harassment or domestic abuse.' And that's when I realized that although the United States definately has less inflamatory laws, it's still a far cry from a perfect system. There I was feeling all high and mighty about my country, when this Moroccan woman reminded me, that it wasn't perfect, that before I go placing a black seal of judgement here, I should make sure I have done all I could in my own country. It was definitely a surreal feeling. It also really brought this whole gap year experience into perspective. People always told me that what I was doing was great because it was real life living, I was getting out of my bubble in the U.S. But sitting in that lecture hall, surrounded by the citizens who are actually deaply affected by the laws we were learning about, I realized what expirimental learning is. The difference between sitting in my International Issues class in my U.S. high school and learning about human rights violations in far away lands, and sitting in a university lecture hall in Morocco learning about Moroccan law, its very very different. In would definately say it was an 'ahh ha' moment and I am very glad that we will have another chance to talk to Stephanie in Rabat because I'm bursting with questions and I can't wait to explore this aspect of Morocco even more and make more comparisons with the U.S.
So although I am not transfering to Morocco, being there made me even more glad that I took this year off to learn about the world, in the world. An update on us. We have had two darija classes since returning to Fes and the highlight today was that we began to learn arabic script! It was so cool being able to actually write in the strange swirls and dots that we see everywhere and we can't wait to continue. And tomorrow I begin my caligraphy ISP so that should fit in very nicely. b saha ~ Lexi