Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Great Sahara

I have just returned from a weekend trip to the Sahara Desert where after an 11 hour ride both ways landed us on camels to camp under the stars in the desert. This was by far one of the coolest things I have ever been able to do. We were escorted by our great guide, "Hamza", who narrated our ride through the towns we passed and were able to stop at; even stay the night Friday, midway through the drive at a mountain hotel. To get to the Sahara from Rabat we had to drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, where at one point we were over 7000 ft. above sea level (Comparison to ASU Campus: 3,330 ft approx.). It got chilly to say the least.
It is hard to describe all that happened this weekend because the desert is a place you are truly in awe of. Riding camels is a neat experience in itself but especially when you ride in during the sunset and ride out the next morning as the sun rises. Sadly my camera battery died Saturday night after we arrived at our "campsite", which was incredibly nice. We were accompanied by some men from a Berber tribe who played drums and sang to us around the campfire after dinner as well as take care of the camels, etc. Once the sun died off it became a little chilly but not cold enough to keep me and a few others from choosing to sleep outside of the tents in order to stare at the stars while we dozed off. The amount of stars you could see was truly unreal, even if it could be captured on a camera, it still wouldn't do it justice. I found myself staring at the sky, completely engulfed in the amazement above me. That alone was worth the 22 hours of travel in the two and a half days. The ride home today was long but eventful when we stopped again along the Atlas Mountains to see and feed the Barbary Apes, a monkey indigenous to those mountains as well as areas like Gibraltar. They look a lot like the arctic monkeys who live in hot springs but these guys survive on just about anything including bark off of the trees. I wish I had a picture to show you but I suppose you will have to take my word for it since I couldn't sneak one back on the van.
It is wild to think I have been here a week, the time seems to have passed slowly because of everything I have been able to experience and learn. I hope all is well wherever you may be.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rabat and My Moroccan Lunch

Hello to all. It is Wednesday of my first week here in Rabat and although I still have some lingering effects of jetlag I have been having a great time. The house, the staff, and fellow volunteers continue to be a great part of my experience so far. A very eclectic group with plenty of personalities makes for entertaining meal times and outside travels. This weekend we will be heading North to the Sahara Desert for a camel trek/camping trip which I am very excited about. I hope to have some great photos and memories to share with you soon. I have spent the last few days teaching English for the advanced students at the foundation in the mornings and then becoming familiar with Rabat in the afternoons. Rabat is definitely full of "hustle and bustle" and seems to be a completely new world. I have been able to practice French plenty while being bombarded by Arabic as well. It can be exhausting trying to communicate at times but hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to converse with ease while exploring. I haven't had time to fully explore the Medina and downtown area yet but some areas feel like Chinatown on steroids. It is hard to describe the culture other than by saying it is rich and full of life, almost like the city has its own personality with many different tongues and faces. I am eager to travel to other areas as well but I know in the remaining weeks I will have plenty of time.

Yesterday one of my students, Al Hassan, invited me to his house for lunch which was an incredible experience. Moroccans are extremely friendly and practically beg you to eat and drink everything. I was also warned by the staff not to say you like anything in a Moroccan's home because they will want to give it to you and "no" is not an acceptable answer. Al Hassan brought out a ridiculous amount of food, followed by fruits, teas, yogurt drinks, coffee and more. I was able to meet his mother, brother, niece, and "stepmother" as he called her. Basically his father has two wives which he explained necessarily rare in Muslim culture. His mothers only spoke Arabic but Al Hassan translated to tell me they were saying "Thank you for coming" "Our House is yours" "Today is a great day that you are here". Although you can receive awkward looks on the streets because you are obviously western, you will find that when you interact with Moroccans, they're are some of the most overwhelmingly friendly people I have ever encountered.

I will post more pictures as I take them



Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Have Arrived

I am currently in Rabat sitting in Cross Cultural Solutions home base. So far everything has been great, including my fellow volunteers and those Moroccans working with us. The food especially has been fantastic. Tomorrow we will have our orientation where I will be told more about my placement and what exactly I will be doing. From what I have heard from a fellow volunteer at La Fondation Occident (East-West Foundation), it may be sort of chaotic. When she leaves in a few days I imagine I will take her place in helping teach a class of Moroccans and even some refugees from other African countries how to master their English skills. From her perspective it sounds a good bit like the classes I was able to assist in Haiti, many students some days (up to 66) and only a handful of people other times. And all with different skill levels.

The house we are staying in was the house of a former Spanish diplomat, able to accomodate up to 25 volunteers although right now it holds maybe 15-16.
I hope to take some pictures soon of the house and put them up here but I want to wait until we have some sunlight and I get some shut-eye.

I am very appreciative of all the love and attention that has been sent my way the past few days.
I hope to speak to plenty of you soon.


Je suis en France

I have just arrived in France, waiting for my flight to Rabat in a few hours. I believe it is 4am eastern time for the folks in NC but 10am here in Paris. My body although hasn't quite decided what time it is either. I have been able to practice some french on some fellow travelers and also the airport staff, I think I could have been in a bad spot with out it seeing as how nothing in the Charles De Gaulle airport is easy to comprehend even though I could read all the signs. This airport is massive requiring a train/shuttle and long walks but I am at my gate waiting to head to Morocco safe and sound. I hope all of you are well and not currently awake yet.

I will make sure to post more when I arrive.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Soon To Depart

So I have come to find that packing for 11 weeks can be difficult and definitely less than perfect.
Nonetheless I am excited that I will soon be flying over the Atlantic Ocean to Rabat, Morocco where my stay with Cross Cultural Solutions will begin. I hope to keep up this blog during my journey but there is no promise of timely posts, seeing as how I never know exactly what to write on these things.

It is starting to set in that I will be flying out on Friday, that I am leaving a perfectly great life here in the US, with the most amazing family and friends who can be compared to those great people in the world like Chuck Norris, Hulk Hogan, Hank Mardukas, Sloan Kettering, and you know the Doctor, Dr. John D. Mac Rebennack. But I know that we all will be better for the wear and I will be in communication with everyone throughout my journey.
(My Skype Name is aprice.704)

Although it is sad to leave I know that this trip is "a must" for me at this point in my life and I am happy to have this trip finish my undergraduate career.

The links to the right are the two organizations I will be working with while in Morocco. Cross Cultural Solutions provides many opportunities to travel and volunteer worldwide and La Fondation Orient Occident is where I will be every day working helping with English instruction, etc.