Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Jordan Journey

It's been awhile!!

I'm spending this summer in Amman, Jordan. I've started a new blog--check it out here!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Blog

Hi, friends and family!

I'm back at the good old Grand Rapids Airport. As of today, I am student at Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific.

Thank you for following Writings from Rabat. It's exactly a year to the day I left for Morocco. That first step out the door felt significant and scary. Summing up this experience is no easy or possible task and I'll be carrying these wonderful changes and memories onto the next step. To learn more about Pearson and my time there, please follow my new blog: catherinecartier.wordpress.com.

Thanks for reading--ma'a salaama!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Back in the States!

I'm back in the States! Leaving Morocco was difficult and stressful, but our entire group arrived in D.C. last Wednesday afternoon. We spent a day and a half with our D.C. based coordinator visiting the State Department and AMIDEAST offices. I enjoyed having time to decompress and reflect before saying the last goodbye to my fellow YES Abroad-ers! In the airport, we ran into some returning YES students (who had spent their year in the United States) on their way home. The instant connection we shared, no matter how short our conversation, fueled my excitement and gratitude for the K-L YES program.

Reentry has been one of the most challenging parts of my exchange experience. I miss my host family deeply and because they don't regularly use Facebook or email, snail mail it is! After spending a year in Morocco, the United States can feel very busy and rushed. Interacting with people in stores takes some adjustment--in Morocco I found that shop owners chatted with me easily, after they saw I was open to conversation and interaction. I appreciate the automatic friendliness of store owners here, but it can sometimes feel impersonal. Adjusting will take some time and I'm grateful for everyone's understanding.

I've loved catching up with friends, family, and food that I have dearly missed. My family greeted me with a wonderful sign and flowers in the airport.

I feel very far from Morocco and my life there, which is unnerving because my experience was/is so meaningful to me. Morocco will always be a part of me, and I need to find a place to channel my energy from this year. Thankfully I have several opportunities--the first of which is next week: I'm going to be attending the pre departure orientation in D.C. for this year's YES Abroad students as the group leader for Morocco! (I'M SO EXCITED). I'd also like to do some volunteering with AFS, an organization that brings exchange students to my area. In between catching up with people and places, finding a job (inchallah), and completing an online math class, I have a full summer ahead! Until next time, I'll be dealing with my Morocco withdrawal by making copious amounts of Moroccan food. 

With rafeesa, one of my favorite foods. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Last Post from Rabat

My room is empty and my suitcases are full. In exactly 24 hours, the bus will come and take me to the airport.

It's been a crazy last few days in Rabat: I saw Alicia Keys in concert (THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE), thanks to Mawazine (a music festival sponsored by the Moroccan government). We had a little get together at AMIDEAST for our host families and close friends. I received henna on my hands and feet. (My nails are now dyed redish brown). Goodbyes, gift buying, packing and reflecting have filled my remaining hours.

I know every exchange student says it, but this year went by so fast. It's easy to ask where the time went. But I know where it went. It went to hammam trips, medina wanderings, long afternoons in cafes, chopping vegetables, learning Darija, and countless other adventures. Now that my time in Morocco is almost gone, I am so grateful for everything I have experienced this year. I will miss Morocco wholeheartedly. 

To my friends & family in Morocco--shukran bzaf. Kanbrikum bzaf u williftkum. Hazeena, hate xsni n-mshi. Walakin, fr7na hate jit l mghrib. Mashi ma-salama, ghir n-shoufkum mn bad, inchallah. Bisous mn l ham9a bint amerikania!

Goodbye to the best year of my life (so far)! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

One Hand

I can count the number of days left in Morocco on one hand.

I've been pretty busy these last few weeks, here's what I've been up to! It's been a bit crazy but I can't imagine a better way to say goodbye to Rabat!

  • Finished my capstone project about the hammam (I wrote a book called "Hands of the Hammam" which will soon be available for download in the Ibooks store) 
  • Had my last day of junior year (I was one of three students in my class to show up on the last day of school) 
  • Went to the beach with my class from the school where I volunteer (No swimming for me, but playing soccer and taking selfies was pretty fun)    
  • Attended my dear friend's wedding (She looked beautiful and happy! The wedding lasted from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M. and we danced the entire night)                                                                                                               
  • Said goodbye to my energetic English class (I miss our crazy Wednesdays already)       
  • Reflected about what I'm going to miss in Morocco. Life in Morocco will never be the same and I will miss it wholeheartedly. (That being said, of course I am also excited to see friends and family in the States) 
See you next Friday, Michigan :) 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ibn Sina's Got Talent

For the past few months, Belinda (fellow YES Abroad student) and I have been collaborating with students at a local middle school to put on a bilingual talent show. Last Friday, the show (called Ibn Sina's Got Talent) took place! As the name of the show would suggest, the students of Ibn Sina are extremely talented. For starters, the emcees spoke in Arabic and English, so that everyone could understand and improve their language skills. There were several hilarious skits, some singing and original rap songs. Many of the students have only studied English for a year, but conveyed emotion and humor in their performances. 

Ibn Sina School

Belinda and I took to the stage to show off our talent: speaking Darija (Moroccan Arabic). We performed two skits, one about the corner store and another about the hammam. I loved seeing the audience members faces light up as we conversed in Darija.

Belinda & I with our fellow performers (Belinda's picture)

 After our skits I gave a speech in Darija, which you can watch here. (Please forgive my accent). In English, my speech translates to: "Hello everyone, peace be upon you. My name is Catherine. I came to Morocco with the program Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad because I wanted to learn about Moroccan culture. I study at a Moroccan school and live with a Moroccan family. I arrived here in September. Everything was new to me but I liked it all. I did not know Darija--nothing. I was like a baby. Today, I've been in Morocco for nine months. I speak a little bit of Darija and French. I have friends from Morocco. I know how to cook cous cous and rafeesa and I drink mint tea every day. I saw Eid l Kabir. I went to a Moroccan wedding and danced all night. I traveled to Marrakesh, Essouira, Fez, Azrou, M'diq, Tetouan, Meknes, Cassablanca and Chefchouen. I like Essouira a lot but all the cities in Morocco are beautiful. Before I came here, I never went to the hammam in my life. But when I came to Morocco, I liked the hammam a lot and now I go there about twice a week. When I go to the United States, I will be sad because I will miss the hammam. In the United States, we don't have the hammam like in Morocco. I feel with the city of Rabat like I feel with my city. I have to go back to the United States in June. Yes, I have an American passport, but my heart is half Moroccan, half American."  

 After the official talent show ended, we had a dance party. I love Moroccan dance parties so much--no soundtrack needed, just voices to sing and hands to drum a rhythm. There's no feeling of self consciousness--everyone just lets loose and has a wonderful time. I'm going to miss Moroccan dancing! Performing in Ibn Sina's Got Talent allowed me to connect with a great group of young people, and I'm so grateful to the show's organizer, Nabila, for coordinating the event and involving Belinda and me. 

The fantastic Nabila, Belinda, and me (Belinda's photo) 

P.S. Sorry for not posting much lately. I'm leaving on June 11 (too soon), so I'm busy soaking up every moment left. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Inevitable Question

Exactly three weeks left in Morocco. My plane tickets await in my inbox, and the hunt for the perfect gifts has begun. The end has loomed for the past few months, but I've mainly been thinking about the "happy to go, sad to leave" paradox that most exchange students are facing this time of year. However, on Monday I had to the privilege of visiting the U.S. embassy with the YES Abroad and NSLI-Y groups, and the end suddenly feels much closer.

At the embassy, we met with some embassy workers, members of a visiting delegation, and the ambassador himself, which was a cool look into the world of diplomacy. We spoke about our years and shared the moments that changed us and those that made us realize how much we have changed. In the next few months, there's a lot of conversations like these ahead. When we return home, we will inevitably be asked "how was Morocco?" 

To everyone who asks "how was Morocco?" thank you. My response will depend on whose asking, but I'm so excited to respond. What a privilege it is to be asked this question--to know that there are people in my life who are curious to hear about what I've been doing for the past year, whether they are former teachers, neighbors, or close family and friends, and to be able to share even a small part of my story with them. 

If I only have a few words, what do I want to tell people about Morocco?

I want to tell them that I feel incredibly lucky to have had an experience so multidimensional, I struggle to summarize it. Morocco was my home for the past 10 months, the backdrop to some great adventures and the most powerful classroom I have ever learned in. There were wonderful days, bad days, and flat out boring days. I awakened to the possibilities of myself and the world around me. And that's just the beginning of a conversation that could last for hours.

I suppose that's the hard part of the "how was Morocco?" question: time isn't infinite and neither are people's abilities to listen. Not every interaction will lead to heart to heart--that would get pretty tiring. I want to remember that, as I find it difficult to compose a response about an experience that changed MY life, I'm not the only one. The question "how was your year?" will slip out of my mouth, and my friends will have a pretty difficult time answering that too. Though my year was very different from that of my peers, they will want to share their trials and joys, just as I do. 

At one point in our lives or another, we're all asked to find the one word that can summarize an event that has rocked our world for better or for worse. Perspective: As I sit here trying to answer the question "how was your year?" after having the opportunity to go on this adventure, someone is searching for the response to "how are you?" after losing a spouse or child. One of my goals is to remember that everyone in the world has a story to tell. I want to be a person who is okay with asking a few word sentence and getting a few hour answer, because we all need someone to sit by our side as we unload our observations on our lives. Through listening, we validate each other's joys and fears. In every day interactions, I'm going to try to be more conscious of the emotional baggage everyone is carrying. It's easy to forget the complexity of our lives until someone gains the courage to open up. I am seeking the type of community that welcomes and encourages these surprising conversations.