Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Letter Volley

I arrived home from Morocco at 12:30 a.m. this morning. Excited to be home but sad to be separated from my new friends.

The students of Assaada High School were thrilled to receive the letters from our students and couldn't wait to learn more about them. The response was overwhelming and I think I received more letters in return than I brought over. Many of the letters I received included drawings and small gifts, WhatsApp numbers, Facebook contacts, Instagram and many other ways to get in touch. The students are hungry for communication, to learn about America, and to share themselves with America.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moved to Tears

We have spent the week in several classrooms at Essaada High School in Ait Melloul. Rotating through classes, students were a bit shy about asking us a lot of questions. Today we were with one class for a second time and they were a little more open to discussion.
My partner Stacey asked them what they wanted us to tell our students about Moroccan students, two sentiments were repeated many times.

1. We LOVE America and Americans.
2. We are not terrorists. Islam does not = terrorism.

We were able to have a deep discussion about the power of media driven by advertisement, and how the terrible deeds or offensive words said by a few are used to represent many.

Near the end of class a young man asked if he could perform a recitation of the Holy Quran. His beautiful voice moved me to tears, as well as Stacey and several other students. I am crying now as recall the experience and write this post.

The bracelet on my wrist in the picture above was slipped on my wrist by a girl at the end of class. They call the symbol Hamsa (the hand of Fatima) and is meant to protect against evil.

If there is an evil in this world, I think it is  in forming stereotypes about individual people we have not yet met.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I love Olives

Our esteemed host Karim and his family took us to the Grand  Souk Al Had
for a day of shopping. The vast rows and mountains of fresh food, spices, and handmade goods was enchanting. Families do their regular shopping here weekly and most of the food we saw arrived that day.
Karim purchased two live chickens which were cleaned right there. His wife Hanan served us these chickens roasted in her home with homemade olives, apple cake, saffron rice, bread, fresh fruit, and spiced coffee. Can you guess how long we lounged and ate for? If you thought 3 hours, you are wrong, closer to 3 1/2!  Moroccan hospitality is beyond reproach; gracious, giving, and so sincere.
 video of the Souk 
 Souk Al Had map

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Never been so happy to speak Espanol!

We had a leisurely morning and took a taxi down to the beach. The beach was very busy, locals with their families, lots of children. It could have been a boardwalk anywhere in the US except It was cleaner and quieter quieter; lots of stores, lots of restaurants and you are allowed to use the restrooms without making a purchase. On our way home we found a taxi and the driver Ahmed spoke Spanish, he had worked in Spain for 10 years and was very friendly. I had never been so happy in my life to speak Spanish. We have been navigating through three and four languages in a single conversation : French,, Tamazigh, Derija, French, English,  Fahsa. This conversation was the first one in which I understood every word!

Saturday, March 12, 2016


In the morning we toured Karim's (our host teacher's) private University. He introduced us to the president, director, and many professors. They have a large engineering lab and modern biotech and chemistry labs. After all the tours and introductions my partner Stacey and I gave a lecture on nanotechnology with an interactive lesson on hydrophobicity. The students really enjoyed it and we made great new connections. Thank you @nano-link!

Could they really one-up themselves?

Day two at Assaad high school.
We started in Karim's 12th grade, 2nd year baccalaureate students and assisted him with a lesson on citizenship. The lesson started with a discussion about stereotypes where we shared or stereotypes of them and theirs of us. Two questions they asked were about racial discrimination and the lack of graciousness and generosity with strangers. We were able to discuss the truths and misperceptions about discrimination; unfortunately I felt that I could not defend our lack of graciousness. There is absolutely NO comparison to between how Moroccans and Americans treat strangers. Here you are immediately a friend until proven otherwise. At home, you are a stranger until proven otherwise.
But on to the "outdoing"....
In the afternoon we returned to the school for a celebration put together by the staff and students.
They arranged a wedding celebration for us to witness!!!
There are not enough words, pictures, or videos to convey what a special experience it was. We were treated like royalty.

A welcome beyond belief

We finally got to see our host school Asaada. I was moved to tears when we were welcomed and again just thinking about it. The whole school, more than 1200 students, and the entire faculty was in the courtyard cheering for us as we walked in. Four students were dressed in traditional clothes and served us dates and milk in carved crystal glasses, the customary way to greet honoured guests.
One of the girls played the Moroccan national anthem while the crowd sang. The US anthem was next and we sang along as they watched; well, we sang the first verse and stood uncomfortably as the next two verses played until I could get them to stop the music.
After some official greetings we retreated to the "teachers lounge" which is a beautiful area designed by one of the English teachers. We were served mint tea and assorted pastries while everyone asked to take pictures with us one by one.
The teachers then brought us around the campus to show off their rooms,  administrative offices, and science labs all of which they are very proud of.
I can only hope to be as welcoming and gracious the next time e have a campus guest. I need to step up my PV PRIDE.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blueberry crepes just shy of 3

We were invited to attend a symposium at the Mohammed V Rabat University. We listened to doctoral candidate students' research summaries on critical thinking in education. Our TGC Fellow and  colleague Todd Noyes presented on rewriting algebra curriculum to integrate global competencies.
After a long day of academics, a small group of us decided to step out for a quick bite to eat. Earlier we had seen a cafe along the Bou Regreg called Blueberries that our travel mates had raved about their crepes.
After being seated we prepared to order the renowned blueberry crepes only to be told they were out of blueberries. So how about cheese crepes? No, out of crepes too. So, the the best tactic to take was to ask what they DID have. We had a delicious array of seafood and pasta dishes nonetheless.
And our quick bite out only took 2 1/2 hours.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

This is what an engineer looks like

Today we visited the Moulay Youssef high school next to the royal palace in Rabat. It is the #1 public high school in the country; winning international awards and engineering competitions. Top students from around the country compete with grades to attend. The students were shy, but could not hold back their enthusiasm to talk to us.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Travel Weary

After more than 36 hours of travel over three flights, and seven hours of time zones, the travel is not done.
My partner Mrs. Haas and I have to now travel to our teaching destination in Agadir, and it looks like bus is our best option. 
Oh my.

Those of you who traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula with me on the bus might remember the nifty shades of green I turned.

Three Hours Part Zhzhuzh (two)

So, you would think that my post today would be about our lunch with the President of the (of the country) English Education Association who spoke about reforms to the Moroccan language education system. About how they are moving towards integrated subjects and project learning, and trying to get teachers to stop "covering the curriculum ." Or our visit to the Ecole Normale Superieure (the National Education University) where all teachers earn their certifications. The President of the University welcomed us then the teachers and students shared their personal experiences in the Moroccan education system, their path to becoming a teacher, and the struggles they face, as did we.
But no, it is going to be about the food. I think we spent 5 of our waking hours eating and drinking, which included another 3 hour dinner with 5 courses. One of the courses was comprised of 3 main dishes. I am only complaining in the fact that I did not train prior to my arrival for this much food, otherwise it is unreal, fantastic, and enchanting.
I am having difficulty uploading pictures and will include them in a future post. Pictures of the food of course.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Three Hours

 I had my first Moroccan tea and dinner on a boat on the river Bou Regreg between Sale and Rabat.  I normally like tea, but this tea is enchanting; mint, sugar, and a splendid service with fresh cookies. Dinner was nearly 3 hours long, after which I was delirious having had only 3 hours sleep during the past two days of travel.
Good Night.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Breakfast at 11:20pm

Just over an hour away from Paris (7:20am) and the flight crew has awaken the cabin with breakfast. However it is the middle of the night for me and I have not been able to sleep.
Being served meals on a flight causes me to reminisce about a time when everyone was treated like they were in first class.

Friday, March 4, 2016

I'll consider it a movement

More than 260 PV students wrote letters for me to bring to Morocco. Interesting how many of the letters were the same; how many mentioned  In and Out Burger, and how many love tacos. Many students described their daily lives as going to school, hanging out, listening to music, playing video games, and going to the movies.
I am excited to bring letters home to them.
I wonder if the Moroccan students' letters will be so similar to each other's too.