The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Georgia Morgan.
As I get off my final flight feeling weary-eyed, fatigued and vulnerable, I am hit with a warm burst of air and the salty smell of the ocean. The sun is glowing on the horizon through the orange dust of the desert. I go through the motions of customs and baggage claim until I see the bright and smiling faces of a fellow gapper, Katie, and my new coworkers, Maisie and Jamila.
When you land in a completely foreign country for the first time, those first several hours are quite honestly the most overwhelming moments EVER. After traveling for hours on end, feeling like a zombie from little sleep and food, you are then dropped into the center of life in another world.
We’re driving through the city in the middle of rush hour to meet my host family for the next three months, and the roads are nothing shy of chaotic: people running across the street every which way, cars driving in both lanes, motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic. Not to my surprise, we are even rear-ended by a motorbike while completely stopped! Meanwhile, my senses heightened, I’m trying to take everything in with a grain of salt and breathe.
I meet my host family at my new place of work, Dar Si Hmad, and we are sent on our way. Immediately, I can tell how sweet and generous they are, but that the language barrier will prove to be challenging, given I know hardly any French and no Darija at this point. My little siblings, Mohamed and Sara, have been working hard to help teach me things and translate so that I can accurately communicate with my host parents.
Once we arrive at my new home, I am presented with the traditional and delicious Moroccan tea, served with every meal, and chocolate cakes made for me by my dear host sister, Sara. After we eat and get to know each other, I unpack my things and prepare for bed when Sara tells me that we are still to eat dinner! As 10:30 p.m. rolls around, my new family presents me with a delicious and traditional Moroccan dish called tajine. The tajine sits in the center of the table, and we are given one utensil: bread. We pick away at the tajine using our bread and hands, and soon it is gone.
For the rest of the week, I go to Dar Si Hmad, a gender, environment and education based organization, to meet everyone and get a taste of what I will be working on. I will be working a lot with Dar Si Hmad’s new RISE program that focuses on social and global issues with young adults in Morocco, and I am very excited for that! It reminds me a lot of the UNITE program I worked with in Cape Town.
In the next couple weeks, I will also get to travel further southwest to visit Dar Si Hmad’s fog project. In short, Dar Si Hmad has installed giant fog nets in a very rural area of Morocco that traps the fog droplets and condenses them into drinking water for the nearby villages. The lack of rain and well water in these areas is a manifestation of climate change, and this project has given back women the 3-4 hours a day they traditionally spent walking to get their families water. I am very excited to see this project in action and to work with Dar Si Hmad over the next several months.
I’ve been in Agadir, Morocco for about a week now, and it feels like a lifetime. Just yesterday, my little siblings and I spent several hours exploring Agadir’s beautiful beach. My host father then drove me and my siblings through some of the villages on the outskirts of the city, where they showed me ancient Mosques and shops. As we were driving, my host father pulled over on the side of a narrow road when I realized a crowd of men walking up the street. They were praying as they carried a deceased man. My family proceeded to explain to me that in Islam it is customary to do this when someone in the village dies. It was an intense, moving and unique experience for me.
I then got to experience the Souk (the Sunday Market) with my host family for their weekly shopping. It was a whirlwind of craziness: fresh produce, meat, animals, spices, clothing, shoes and so much more. Mohamed made sure I was just a step behind as we navigated the market, and he made sure to stop and explain new things to me. The day settled down with another meal, and yes you guessed it, BREAD, and some dates for desert. Mohamed and I will sometimes go up on the terrace and look at the stars after dinner, and that is always special.
This whole year has been so turbulent, with new shocks and experiences at each destination, from South Africa, to back home to Morocco. Each place has had its own challenges, and it seems that once I find some comfort, I’m on to the next adventure. I guess the key is to find comfort in the turbulence and change. Despite all the challenges, I am grateful, especially for my family here that has so graciously welcomed me into their home, the opportunity to work with Dar Si Hmad, and the endless support I continue to receive across the pond.