Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reality Check!

Life has been crazy busy for the past couple weeks! It's that rush to the end of the school year, teachers trying to cram their students brains full of everything they didn't have time for. This year seems especially busy and exciting, probably because each day brings me closer to my dream of Morocco! Since I last wrote, I went to my first wedding ever, which was extremely exciting! I enjoyed the wedding from start to finish, all the delicious food, great music, and happy people! Congrats Beth & Ernie! I'm hoping to go to a Moroccan wedding so now I have something to compare it to, if I get the chance to go!
Last Thursday, my Peace Jam club had our banquet at an Indian restaurant. A night of Indian cuisine and laughter with my Peace Jam friends made me very happy! I can't imagine what this year would have looked like without our weekly meetings to look forward too, and it makes me sad to think that most of them will have graduated when I come home from Morocco. We also watched Half the Sky, a documentary about turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. Definitely inspiring well worth the watch! Check it out here! 
On Sunday I headed over to Ann Arbor for a soccer game and walk around the University of Michigan. School session ended a couple weeks ago, so there weren't many students around, but I'm glad I got a chance to look at the campus. Because I won't be here for junior year, I'm trying to get in college visits before it's too late. Plus college visits are always fun and exciting. The size of Michigan intimidates me a bit, but the Honors Program and other Learning Communities seem like they could be a good fit for me. I'm impressed with how many languages they offer! Not just your typical French, Spanish, and Arabic...you can brush up on your Urdu or Woolof, among many other lesser taught languages. 
I received my long awaited 45 page pre departure handbook for Morocco! Reading all the little cultural tidbits renewed my excitement for Morocco. Not that it ever really faded but this made me realize that this is actually happening! I'm almost three months out from departure and that feels like a long time but it's not! I'll be in Rabat before I know it! 
I gave a presentation at international club today, I think it went well and I hope some of my peers will decide to apply to YES! I'm the only person from Michigan on YES this year, and I'm making it my mission to get more Michiganders involved in YES and other state department funded exchanges. Because it's AWESOME!! 
I also had my final day of assistant coaching for Girls on the Run Practice (GOTR). Girls on the Run is a program for 3-5th grade girls. It teaches self esteem and positive life skills through running and culminates in a 5K run. We did our community service project--making cupcakes and cards for the birthday parties held at our local homeless shelter. Like anything with GOTR, it was a blast. I've so enjoyed the past ten weeks of coaching, watching the girls grow and gain skills that will benefit them for years to come. I'm so proud of all of my Girls on the Run! 
The end of school feels closer each day. I love seeing the countdown in the hall telling me how many days are left. On one hand, I am bubbling over with excitement for summer, PDO, and departure, but on the other I know I will miss my friends and this place. I'm trying to balance both emotions but the excitement for school to end overpowers my other emotions (for now). Who knows what the next few weeks will bring though? All these endings are giving me a series of much needed reality checks, reminding me to slow down and enjoy the present moment, because it can be just as beautiful as any moment in Morocco. The biggest reality check was my realization that I only have two more English classes left. I love my English class (true confession of a nerd) and the English program I have been enrolled in for the past two years. I've had three amazing, inspiring teachers and expanded my world view and writing abilities in numerous ways. Though I've grumbled about the papers I've had to write, I really have enjoyed my classmates, teachers, and the material we've covered. I'm going to miss everything about it (except maybe the AP practice tests). 
Well, that's all for now! I'm sure more hectic-ness will ensue in the next couple days! Until next time, enjoy this picture of BEAUTIFUL RABAT MY NEW HOME!! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Doors of Morocco

After finding out about Morocco, running around my house, and calling everyone I knew, I sat down at the computer and entered "Morocco" into a Google image search. In a quarter of a second, Google called up endless pages of images--displaying maps of North Africa, drawings of flags bearing a single green star, snapshots of medinas full of carpets, and pictures of Moroccan homes, office buildings, and mosques. The search also linked me to portraits of Moroccan doors, many of which display beautiful mosaics and carvings.
 It's in Rabat and apparently the blue color keeps away the mosquitoes? Anyways if that's the case I have one more reason to paint my future home this color (as if I need one, I love this color!)

These doors are in front of the Hassan 2 Mosque in Casablanca, the largest in Morocco and one of the few that non Muslims can enter for tours. It was commissioned by the King in memory of his father to be the most ambitious structure in Morocco. 

Doors at the Palais de Roi (King's Palace) in Rabat!

In the Medina of Rabat. (The medina is the old city)


This is a door on a mosque in Rabat. 

Not sure where this is but I love the pastel colors and pattern. I have never seen such intricate doors before! 

This door is in Chellah, Rabat. Chellah is a complex of Roman ruins. 

Not sure what the symbols stand for. 

These are in Rabat as well!! 

Another shot of Rabat. 

I can't wait to take my own pictures of Moroccan doors and of everything next year! Thank you Pinterest and Google for helping me to find these pictures! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My New School!

There's less than a month left of American high school! I'm breathing a sigh of relief as my major projects and AP exams are wrapping up. Today is Project Day at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC)! We're required to do research each year, and on Project Day, we put up our tri fold boards, turn in our papers, and celebrate having our research behind us. At night, we all come back for an awards ceremony. I'm looking forward to it!
I had my first AP exam today (AP English Literature/Composition). Four hours of scantrons and essays later, I emerged from the testing room a little dazed and extremely relieved. I have AP Language/Composition tomorrow and AP Government next Tuesday and then I'm done with AP until Senior Year! My AP-free year in Morocco sounds all the more amazing right now! 
We had our School Webinar last night! We will all be attending L'Institut De L'Agdal, a high school with grades 10-12. I'm going to be in 11th and will probably in the Economics or Social Sciences track. Our school has around 100 students and they are helping AMIDEAST to find host families for us! I also found out that we're going to be doing a final project for AMIDEAST. I'm excited to learn more, this year the students are taking photography classes and making a portfolio, though I don't know if we will be doing that. School in Morocco works differently than it does here, as it operates on the French system. We have school on Saturday mornings, I'm still trying to open my mind to this idea. We don't have classes for seven hours a day, all day, instead, our classes will meet for two to three hours on a couple days during the week. This results in open hours during the day, perhaps I can sneak a nap or two in there, though I doubt I'll have time for it! Here's a picture of our school that one of the current students took for me!

I positively cannot wait. I've been reflecting on my American high school experience and how I will explain it in Morocco. So as a test run, for everyone who doesn't live near me, I thought I'd explain my American high school. 

This is Portage Northern High School, where I'm a current sophomore. 

I go to Portage Northern in the afternoon, for my social studies and language classes. There are about 350 kids in my class and our mascot is the huskies! I've enjoyed being on swim team and forensics here, and my school has been amazingly supportive of Peace Jam, a club they helped me to start this year. Happily, it will continue next year, though I will miss being a part of it very much!

I spend my mornings at the Math and Science Center (KAMSC). There are 80 kids in my class, we take math, science, and computer classes there. I can't find a picture of it anywhere online, but it's on the fourth floor of a very old building, resulting in daily 84 step walk up the stairs. I applied to KAMSC in 8th grade, and I will return to KAMSC after my year in Morocco. My classmates come from high schools all over the area and because our class is so small, there is a definite sense of camaraderie, which I will really miss next year. 

At this point, I'm not too sad about leaving. A year is a long time, but it's not forever. It hasn't really sunk in yet that I won't see all my amazing friends for a year, and I'm not sure when it will. I will be leaving behind two great communities, both of which have supported me and challenged me in different ways over the past two years. Of course, high school is high school, and there are inevitably bad days and good days (and the year isn't over yet!). But on the whole the good days have outnumbered the bad ones and I will remember PN and KAMSC from L'Institut de L'Agdal in the fondest light! Lots of love! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Five Lists of Ten

In celebration of the ten months I will spend in Morocco, I've decided to take a study break from APs and make five lists of ten! Enjoy!

Ten Things I'm Excited For
1. Feeling the plane wheels touch down in Rabat and knowing that THIS is my new home.
2. Meeting my host family and seeing their house!
3. Going to school and making Moroccan friends!
4. Our trips around Morocco!
5. Becoming close with my fellow YES-ers.
6. Gaining insight on the United States from a Moroccan perspective.
7. Learning more about Islam and hearing the call to prayer.
8. Going to the souk and bargaining!
9. Our Arabic classes!
10. Living in a BIG city!

Ten Things I Will Miss
1. My family and friends (obviously)
2. My dog, Amber
3. My house
4. My awesome English class.
5. Swim team
6. The bike path near my house
7. My Girls on the Run Team
8. My room
9. Being able to understand what's being said all the time
10. Wearing shorts

Ten Things I Will Take With Me
2. Laptop
3. journal
4. Longer skirts/dresses
5. host family gifts
6. scrapbook
7. Christmas ornaments
8. scarves
9. Cameras
10. My blankie (can't leave the country without it)

Ten Things I Will Leave Behind (Material wise)
1. cell phone
2. books
3. hair straightener
4. shorts
5. tank tops
6. Mini Christmas tree (hoped to bring it, but too big)
7. Winter boots and coats (yay!)
8. Krumkaka iron (used to make Norwegian Christmas cookies)
9. all of my old journals and scrapbooks
10. most of my dresses

Ten Places in Morocco I Want to Go
1. Kasbah
2. Fes
3. Marrakesh
4. Essaouira
5. Atlas Mountains
6. King's Palace
7. Beach
8. Chellah
9. Hassan Tower
10. National library

5*10=50, the number of days left until our PDO in Washington D.C.! Can't wait for PDO and the adventure ahead! Until next time, ma'a salaama!