Parting Words

Before I part ways with Tangier, I do not wish to say goodbye. Goodbye marks an end. Instead, I will leave with “See you soon.” I do not consider this last week to be my final encounter with the ever-changing city. I am young, with a wide-open future. “Everything happens for a reason” is a quote I was raised on. Life is a trail, a combination of forks in the road. Although I have the power to influence my direction, I do not have the ability to create the trails. Some paths may lead to the same destination, but they will take you on a different course. There will be some paths that lead you far from where you intended to go, but their purpose is to help you find who you are.

Morocco was the path that led me in what appeared to be, at least at first, that “wrong direction.” Before I finished my first semester in college, I was given the offer to switch my major from psychology to social work. Because the social work program was new, however, I would be forced to graduate later than my original date of May 2019. This meant I now had the opportunity to take a leave of absence, declare a minor, or study abroad. Taking a leave of absence never crossed my mind, so that left me with two options. As I was still unsure whether a career in psychology or social work was in my future, I made the decision to travel to Morocco.

Words can’t explain the anxiety that ran through my body when I received the acceptance letter. The coming of that letter meant that my second semester was going to be spent overseas, in North Africa. I had never left the United States before and wondered if studying in Morocco was going to be a waste of my time. I believed there was no possible way I could better my understanding of psychology in Tangier.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lessons I have learned while in Morocco are unobtainable in a lecture hall. I’ve learned philosophy from those who have so little. I have seen people who have all the reasons to hate everything smile wider than humanly possible. I’ve seen a homeless family give up the food I gave to them because someone else down the street had a baby girl who needed it more. I’ve even been lectured about the meaning of life over a cup of steaming mint tea.

Studying in Tangier has provided lessons that will last a lifetime. No matter my career, no matter my location, I will always remember the place that opened my eyes. I’ve always been thankful for what I have but, after spending four months here, I realize just how fortunate I am. One day I will return and I will learn much, much more.

Boarding the plane at Logan was my first step on the questionable path. Somehow, that path still led me to where I was destined to go.

—Kevin Thibodeau

Letters to Dad

Dear Dad,

I thought of you today. Today I am in Morocco, three days ago I was in Spain, and tomorrow I am headed off to Italy. With all of the traveling I have been doing these last few weeks, I remembered how you used to tell me about the places you traveled to during your time in the air force. In all those years and all those countries, you never landed in Morocco.

It is impossible for me to picture your facial expressions or the reaction you would have if you were ever to experience Tangier. So many people have told me that there is something different about Tangier, some sort of special charm that entices people to become immersed in its culture. It is so difficult for me to decide whether or not you would give in to that charm, and allow yourself to see Tangier as it really is, or if you would simply pack up and leave—crushed by its overpowering intimidation. Would you roam the streets, curious about what you would find? Or would you remain sheltered behind the gates of the university, avoiding the copious stares directed toward your bluntly white skin? Would you have the willpower to avoid eye contact with the incessant beggars on every sidewalk? Could you figure out how to communicate without using words?

Throughout my last few months here, I have learned that Tangier is a place that has to be seen, explored, and experienced by diving in headfirst, without hesitation. If I ever get the chance to come back to this amazing place, I am taking you with me, and that is exactly what we will do. I will lead you through the winding whitewashed walls of the medina, where I will show you how to bargain with the local shopkeepers to ensure you don’t get ripped off. Once we are finished playing mind games with the tireless shopkeepers, we will hop in a little blue and yellow taxi and head to Café Hafa for some cliffside mint tea.

I know how much you love your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but I’m sure once you taste this tea you will understand why I am always going on and on about how delicious it is. By the way, don’t be surprised when the two men at the table next to us start rolling a joint, it’s only hashish. We will toss fourteen dirham on the table then make our way to Plaza Pool. I can picture your eyes lighting up as we walk down the stairs that open to a sea of pool tables. I can imagine the look of confusion on your face when you see the wrong kind of “football” playing on every television screen around the room. Please go easy on me for the first few rounds of pool—I haven’t had that much practice.

Dad, there is way too much to show you here in Tangier; I can’t even begin to explain it all in one letter. In fact, no matter how many letters I write to you, you will never fully understand or appreciate this incredible city unless you experience it for yourself. Sometimes I wish you were here with me so you could see what I’ve seen, so you can explore with me, and have crazy new adventures every day. I can’t wait to see you and tell you absolutely everything when I get home! I love and miss you.

Sincerely (your favorite daughter),

Courtney

Before I Leave

Before I leave Tangier, I want to discover something more. I want the feeling paleontologists get when they uncover bones that prove something existed on this planet millions of years ago. The feeling of something being always there but never noticed, because no one ever took the time to see it or to understand its purpose. I want to find the hidden treasure of Tangier. It could be a particular mint tea in which the sugar perfectly evens out the bitterness, creating the definition of yin and yang. The café view where you forget where you are: you just feel overwhelming beauty that you can only describe as tranquility. An alley of the medina where you’re transported back to a time long before even your grandparents’ births, where the colors create such a vibrant rainbow you wonder if you’re staring into the sky. Rugs upon rugs, tapestries with patterns and color collaborations you couldn’t have dreamed of, vegetables and fruits in dynamic shades that you couldn’t find in the States no matter how hard you tried.

Before I leave Tangier I want to find a way to capture everything I’ve seen and wrap it in a little bow. So I can give it to my family, allowing them to live through this experience too. I want to witness tradition more—I was given a glimpse purely by fate when adventuring with Kevin one night, following the trail of music to a wedding and seeing how Moroccans celebrate the sanctity of marriage right outside the UNE gates. I didn’t realize the influence of traditional Moroccan culture in a modern-day city until then. We Americans always claim that our heritage will remain a part of us but Moroccans do it. They practice what they preach and think nothing of it; culture is tradition and tradition is life, something they were raised in and don’t question. The most I can say about my culture is I’m a fan of wine and I can roll a mean meatball.

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Before I leave Tangier I want to thank every Moroccan I’ve met. Starting with Douaa who I have become amazing friends with, a friendship I know will continue after I leave. And ending with the old man in a green djellaba I saw sitting in the Chefchaouen medina, looking like a piece of seaweed floating within the blue pearl. Everyone in between made this experience a little sweeter and more memorable. From the loud nights surrounded by music and alcohol in Régine, to the quiet evenings sitting at our secret garden café, enjoying mint tea and conversation accompanied by an acoustic melody.

—Natalie Tremblay

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in Tangier on 200 Dirhams

Tangier, Morocco, is a city known for its unique culture, ability to attract famous musicians and writers, and its affordability. With only three weeks left in my new home, I decided that it would be interesting to see just how easy it is to spend a full day in the city with only 200 Dh—about $20 USD or enough to buy a large pizza and 2L coke in the United States.

Leave Campus 9:00 a.m.
After repeatedly ignoring my alarms for several hours, I work up the strength to break free from the grasp of my warm bed. Now that I’m awake, showered, and dressed, my next order of business is breakfast.

Remaining: 200.00 Dh

Eric Kayser Bakery 9:15 a.m.
The smell of fresh croissants wafts in a 100-foot radius of the café’s modern glass walls, leading my still half-asleep body through the front entrance. In the inner portion of the café there is an arrangement of breakfast food ranging from chocolate pastries and quiche to macarons of every color—all of which have both an eat-in and a take-out price, with the latter being cheaper. With my limited funds in mind, I select one Plié au Chocolat to go (7.50 Dh) and leave in search of somewhere to enjoy my breakfast for free.

Remaining: 192.50 Dh

“Lazy Wall” (Sour Al Meêgazine) 9:30 a.m.
No seating is available in the upper region of wall by the cannons. Instead I find a vacated bench several flights down, amongst the scattered groups of sleeping homeless men. My chocolate pastry is rich and sweet, its crispy golden-brown exterior crumbles with every bite I take—contrasting with its interior that is still warm and chewy. Other than the blanket forts from my homeless companions, the landscape in front of me is clean and colorfully green—reminding me of a local dog park near my home back in the States.

Remaining: 192.50 Dh

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Le Salon Bleu 11:50 a.m.
The secluded rooftop terrace is a nice change of scenery from the waves of French cruise passengers that fill the streets of the Kasbah. The entrance blends in perfectly with the surrounding residences: only a small blue sign and a framed menu reveal the actual identity of the tall whitewashed walls. I order an expensive cup of mint tea (20.00 Dh) and Kasbah Croq’ (12.50 Dh) to share with my companion, Alyssa. The tea is sugary and hot, the croq’ is smoky and sweet from its combination of roasted turkey and melted brie, and the complementary straw hat effectively protects my eyes from the glaring sun.

Remaining: 160.00 Dh

American Legation 1:00 p.m.
Despite being my second time through the legation, it is more memorable after reading the stories of American author Paul Bowles (there’s a whole room dedicated to his work)—it’s well worth the affordable entrance fee (20.00 Dh). The large rooms are empty of any other visitors—apparently French vacationers are not interested in the U.S.’s history with Morocco.

Remaining: 140.00 Dh

Unknown Nut Stand—Medina 2:30 p.m.
This undistinguished, closet-sized shop attracts my attention for one reason: the man is selling the caramelized peanuts that I’ve been searching for since I first had them in Jamaa El Fna Square in Marrakech. I ask for two servings (10 Dh), and receive a paper cone filled with the sweet and salty nuts—making for a perfect snack while traversing the medina.

Remaining: 130.00 Dh

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Café Hafa 3:00 p.m.
As a renowned destination in Tangier, Hafa’s multileveled whitewashed terraces have been attracting locals, tourists, and famous artists—including Paul Bowles and the Rolling Stones—for over a century. As a result of such timeless popularity, the café’s numerous mosaic tables are often fully occupied by groups of Tangerines relaxing in brown plastic garden chairs. Today is no exception, forcing Alyssa and I to sit at the last remaining table on the second lowest balcony. I order a cup of the best mint tea in Tangier (7.50 Dh) and enjoy the views of the bustling blue waterway separating Europe from Africa.

Remaining: 122.50 Dh

Medina 4:30 p.m.
I finally find the Moroccan flag I’ve been searching for, completing my collection of flags from every country I’ve visited. The shopkeeper’s initial price is unrealistically high, claiming that the material is the finest in all of Morocco. I barter down to a more reasonable price (50.00 Dh), less than half of what he was asking.

Remaining: 72.50 Dh

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Tanger Nord 6:00 p.m.
This is the only restaurant I have found near Avenue Mexico—a long bustling street that contains everything from counterfeit Nike apparel to kitchen utilities—that actually serves traditional Moroccan food. I order a sizzling chicken tajine served with bread and fries (40.00 Dh) and a 0.5L bottle of Sidi Ali water (12.00 Dh) to help quench my thirst from walking all day.

Remaining: 20.50 Dh

Le Gelateria—Iberia 7:30 p.m.
The air-conditioned rooms are crowded and full of cigarette smoke, as is traditional for cafés in Morocco when soccer games are being broadcast. After selecting a table with minimal exposure to the cancerous clouds, I wave my arms frantically to catch the attention of one of the waiters—who always seem to be preoccupied with something more important than their customers. I order one scoop of chocolate gelato (15.00 Dh) and sit back to watch as the final groups of French vacationers migrate back towards their docked home.

Remaining: 5.50 Dh.

After spending 10.5 hours navigating through bustling streets, dodging the never-ending supply of wild felines, fighting off unrealistic sale offers, and consuming lots of traditional cuisine—my day is finished. In the end, I have walked 13.42 miles shopping, eating, and finding amazing views while only spending 194.50 Dh—confirming that a full day in Tangier can be had for less than a pizza combo in the United States.

—Aidan McGowan

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Address list:

Erik Kayser
Rue Des Amoureux
+212 05 39 33 1683

“Lazy Wall” (Sour Al Meêgazine)
Avenue Pasteur

Le Salon Bleu
Rue de la Kasbah
+212 06 62 11 2724

Café Hafa
Avenue Hadj Mohamed Tazi

American Legation
8 Rue d’Amerique
+212 05 39 93 5317

Tanger Nord
Rue Ibn Zaidoun
+212 05 39 33 1264

Le Gelateria
Place Quiete (Iberia)
+212 05 39 37 990 04

 

The Treacherous Trench

We came to a halt at the rotary in front of the Grand Mosque of Tangier. This roundabout is encircled with popular cafés and restaurants and was especially crowded at rush hour, with blaring horns from the congested traffic. Our group crossed the street halfway and waited in the median, stranded by the flashing red lights on the other side. Just then I heard something behind me and to my right.

I turned to see a Moroccan man in a tan djellaba, accented with a slightly darker shade of brown. He began to cross the street about twenty feet away from where I stood in the crosswalk. He wore an off-white taqiyah, a traditional Moroccan cap worn by Muslim men, and walked with a cane, tapping it casually on the pavement with each step. My initial thoughts were that he was blind, but he seemed to have no trouble navigating the street. I began to wonder if his cane was to assist him in walking, rather than to scan the ground in front of him.

This particular stretch of road was under construction. To my right, part of the median had been replaced with a trench 10 meters long and just shy of waist deep. The trench was completely open to its surroundings, without warnings or barricades, not even a street cone. Scooters raced by the pit with their tires a mere six inches from the edge, treading a dangerous line. The floor of the trench was littered with chunks of cement and rocks. Some were blunt, but many were jagged and rough.

The man continued forward, crossing the street with ease before approaching the trench. He tapped his cane and slowed with the recognition that there was a step down. I watched attentively as he began to lower one foot, with his body continuing forward. At this moment, time seemed to slow to a standstill. Led by his cane, and then his arms, the man fell into the rock-filled pit. The top half of his body arched downward and his legs sprawled above his head. His face was overcome with a look of surprise and fright as he let out a brief shriek. Then his head met with the jagged edge of a block of cement. The wooden cane landed a couple of feet away from him in the trench.

“Oh, God,” I said.

I rushed toward him and lowered myself into the trench. The gravel crunched beneath my feet. The man was surprisingly alert as I handed him his cane and helped him to his feet. I stood with one hand on his left arm and the other across his back. He began feeling his way up the rough inner edge of the trench, then pulled himself out as I gently supported him from behind. Once out, he repeatedly touched his left hand to his head before holding it in front of his face, as if he was inspecting it.

From beneath his taqiyah, a single trail of blood began to fall down the side of his face and neck. Each time he brought his hand to his head, it became more and more covered in blood. The blood was the most intense red color I have ever seen; it was vibrant, almost neon. A small stream now dribbled down his head, dividing itself into two red trails.

Now across the street and away from the treachery of Moroccan road work, we stopped in front of the Grand Mosque. I asked our group if anyone had a phone and could call for help, but nobody knew who to call. Other bystanders began rushing to the man’s aid; soon he and I were completely surrounded. Women selling tissues stopped their routines and used their merchandise to clean his face and head. One man removed his cap to reveal the wound: a one-inch gash across the parietal region of his skull. I remained as people began to clean him and help him, holding his hand.

I looked around at the people who had come to his aid. Men and women spoke to him while others tended to his wound. All of their faces blurred together. It seemed people were jostling for position to help the man. I was surrounded and overwhelmed with the crowd around me. So many voices, so many hands, so many people. I rubbed his back in parting before hesitantly weaving my way out of the crowd. Just then a woman turned and spoke to me with a hand over her heart.

“Shukran,” she said. Thank you.

Despite the large, public audience for the man’s fall, there were no actions taken to change the construction site. The trench remained for almost two weeks, slowly being filled but still otherwise exposed and prone to accidents of a similar nature.

—Nicholas Bolognia

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Letter to a Young Nephew

Dear James,

Happy half-birthday! I can’t believe that it’s already been six months since you came into this world. I have been apart from you for over three months now, and I’ve missed being around you for every second of it. Despite being over 3,000 miles away in North Africa, I still feel as though I’ve been right there with you—living vicariously through Aunt Margo’s constant Snapchat selfies with you and Gramber’s notoriously poor-quality photos of you playing with the dogs.

As a way to help satisfy my godfatherly desire for interaction with you, I have taken to volunteering some of my free time at a local orphanage, where I can hold and play with little boys and girls your age. Whenever I’m brought into the small sunlit room—furnished only with twelve full cribs, a large red carpet, and a small arrangement of used toys—I remember how fortunate we are to have been born into such a caring and loving family. My time away from you and our family has changed me as a person, opening my eyes to the realities of the world and the different cultures that it contains. Now, as you pass the first milestone of your life and quickly approach the next (one year old), I want to pass along some lessons that I’ve learned during my time in Morocco!

photo by Paxton Arsenault

photo by Paxton Arsenault

1. Be Adventurous. As you will hear your grandpa say countless times in your lifetime, “Maine is a small state that contains only a small fragment of the world.” Advice that I never truly heeded until I decided to venture across the world for a semester. During my time in Morocco, I have hiked a windy mountain trail leading to the mystical Akchour waterfall, wondered along the rolling seaside in Rabat, and explored a few of Europe’s most famous cities. Cappy is right: the world is full of amazing places and unique people—all you have to do is look. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and explore the unknown!

2. Be Grateful. It is easy to take everything around you for granted, as it can be hard to recognize how fortunate you are to have something until it’s gone—something that I have learned first-hand during my time living in a developing country, submerged in a foreign culture. The streets of Tangier are full of young children who have dropped out of school because their families need them to help keep food on the table by begging. I can remember a specific time when a young boy—who wore tattered forest-green shorts and a dirty brown shirt that appeared as though it were originally light blue—approached me asking for food because he was hungry. Luckily I had just purchased a small bag of tangerines and was able to give him a few pieces. Wake up grateful to be born into a family that loves you unconditionally, in a place of opportunity where you can become whatever you want.

photo by Paxton Arsenault

photo by Paxton Arsenault

3. Be Open Minded. When I first left the United States, I brought with me a narrow-minded attitude that nothing in Africa could ever compare to my homeland. However, now as I prepare to leave, I return with the realization that being different doesn’t make something bad or lesser in any way. Rather, it is better to welcome differences with open arms and a willingness to learn. Everything about Moroccan culture—whether it is the weekly consumption of freshly prepared couscous or waking up early every morning to the call to prayer—has surprised me in new and enjoyable ways, helping me become more self-aware and accepting of other cultures. Living life with an open-minded mentality will allow you to better understand and interact with any person or culture you come into contact with, making your horizons endless.

Morocco has forever changed me as a person, and I hope these three pieces of advice will someday prove to be helpful. Have a happy half-birthday Babyman, I’ll see you soon!

Love you lots,
Uncle Aidan

Sushi in Tangier?

Dear Dad,

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here in Morocco for four months, but it’s even harder to believe that you haven’t been here with me. This is the first time that you and Kayla have not accompanied me on a significant trip. When I miss you, I think back to all our other adventures: clutching a cup of Timmy’s hot chocolate while blazing our way through the icy Montréal wind; exploring the vast Jasper Mountains by horseback; walking through the thick mist of Niagara Falls; cracking freshly cooked lobsters on the beaches of Shediac. Thinking back to all of these adventures makes me wish you were here even more.

One of the things that I’ve missed most while going new places without you is sushi. I’m disappointed that you can’t make it out to Tangier, and that we can’t continue our tradition of trying sushi in whatever new place we’re in, but I understand that work is an obligation. So I decided to carry on and try sushi here.

On Sunday—with a recommendation from UNE’s area coordinator, Doua—Aidan, Ashley, Hannah, and I went to one of the few sushi restaurants in Tangier for lunch. Otori Sushi was set off the busy roads of town. Soft music played inside, and if you had dropped a loonie on the hardwood floor, it would have been heard on the other side of the room; we were the only customers. The modern dining room contained mahogany tables and chairs that were lined with purple velvet. It was so clean and chic I forgot I was in Morocco—until I went to the washroom to wash my hands. The sink inside sputtered with great effort—a characteristic of Tangier’s sometimes unreliable plumbing.

The menu included a salmon cream-cheese roll, which reminded me of the first time we tried this type of roll, at Sense of Tokyo in Saint John (I think they called it a Philadelphia roll there). I remember taking shelter in that restaurant from the bitter winter, sipping our steaming hot bowls of miso soup while reading the menu. We both spotted the Philadelphia roll because it looked unique, yet we both questioned the combination of salmon and cheese. Once we tried it, however, we fell in love with the complementary tastes of the creamy mild cheese and the tender smoky salmon. I contemplated ordering Otori Sushi’s version, but decided to hold off because the only cream cheese I have seen in Morocco is the Laughing Cow triangles.

I ordered my usual—something with salmon—but instead of cream cheese as an accompaniment, I opted for smooth thick avocado. For my second roll I decided to try something new, as you always do. I was worried about getting food poisoning, so I stuck with something that sounded safe: a crab and avocado roll.

photo by Alyssa White

photo by Alyssa White

When our sushi was finally brought out, I was taken aback. I didn’t realize that my “safe choice” would be topped with tobiko, which is flying fish roe. Instead of scraping it off like I usually would, I decided to try it. The best part? I liked it—you would have been so proud. The sushi itself was impeccably made; there was ginger and wasabi—although the wasabi was not as strong as I would have liked—and the fish tasted fresh. It wasn’t the best sushi I have ever had, but it was definitely not the worst. I don’t really know why I had been so skeptical; after all, we’re right next to the ocean.

I walked away satisfied with the sushi, and satisfied with continuing our tradition of trying sushi in new places—even though this time it was just me. Despite enjoying my meal, I think I am going to wait until we are reunited to eat more sushi, because it is 100 times more special with you.

There are only a few weeks left Daddio, and I can’t wait.

Miss and love you lots, Lyss

Beating Him at His Own Game

He breaks the pristine arrangement of red and yellow. The assortment of colors splays upon the green table with the motion of spilled Skittles. I play first and aim for a red one, succeeding in bringing it closer to the pocket just for my rival to sink it on his next turn. Immediately after, he tactfully sinks two more in a row. It’s a bleak start for me, a relative newcomer to the game of pool.

He starts to seemingly knock balls around but he is strategically placing them to give me a hard time. My rival is commanding the game’s difficulty. He coaches me how to execute some of these difficult plays, and one by one I sink the yellow balls and begin to make a comeback. Finally, I have two yellow left, while my rival has only the 8-ball.

photo by Michaella Wiss

photo by Michaella Wiss

I play for the yellow far across the table. I attempt to hit right but my hand moves and it hits left. However, now the cue is wedged behind the other yellow, obstructing the 8-ball. He is surprised by the dirty play, but his friend has taught me to do this. Sure enough he misses. I have two yellow left and two shots.

I line up my shot and sink the yellow in the corner. The cue rolls back into place and aligns perfectly with the second yellow. I sink it with ease. My rival is sweating with the realization that he could lose: a blow to his pride and his title as undefeated (by me). Unfortunately I mess up my shot with the 8-ball. The game is in his favor—until he misses the 8-ball due to overconfidence. I again have two shots.

The 8-ball is nearest to the side pocket: the most difficult pocket. It’s also in the middle of the table with the cue at a bad angle. However, I have learned to use my two shots to my advantage.

I tap the 8-ball closer to the pocket. The cue bounces off the wall and everything is now aligned.

“Don’t mess this up,” he says, trying to add pressure.

I tap the cue ball gently and the 8-ball slowly rolls in. I am overcome by a mix of pride and excitement—my friend has always managed to beat me by a very close game. Today, I have dethroned a king.

The woman who maintains our table gives a cheer—she was rooting for me to win and looks very pleased. My friend commends me for a good game; he had not expected me to win so soon. The woman resets the table to its previous perfection. We agree to play again. My friend is eager to reclaim his title and I wish to keep it. This time, I get to break—a privilege meant for those who win. The next game begins with a new intensity and higher stakes.

—Michaella Wiss

The Cherimoya

In Tangier, shopping is no longer a task, it’s an adventure.

photo by Aidan McGowan

photo by Aidan McGowan

Intense rays from high in the sky blind our eyes and sear the exposed skin on the back of our necks; the strange smells of the Tangier medina fill our noses. We know it is close to midday from the sounds of the dhuhr prayer filling the air, reminding us that we only have a limited amount of time till we need to be back on campus for our Society and Culture lecture. We walk with intention through the crowded streets, dodging immigrant beggars and a large group of tourists that might slow us down, all in search of the cherimoya, a fruit that Mark Twain once described as “the most delicious fruit known to man.” With our timeline quickly ticking down, we dive straight into the fresh foods portion of the medina, submerging ourselves in the flowing stream of Moroccan men and women buying freshly slaughtered meat and ripe produce. After several minutes of swimming our way up the crowded corridor, we find the treasure we have set out for; in a small wooden carton sits a pyramid of the green dragon-scaled fruit. Without hesitation, Alyssa dives into a short French dialogue with the shop owner, inquiring how much one cherimoya would cost us.

Il coûte combien?” she asks. “How much?”

To which the shop owner replies, “Soixante, sixty.”

When we attempt to barter, the man declines, suggesting that the price is fixed. While deliberating what our next move will be, I am tapped on the shoulder by a tall slender Moroccan man.

In broken English, he states, “Fruit too expensive . . . Want hash? It’s free, come with me to my spice shop!”

With the realization that we are making no progress with the fruit vendor and that we are starting to be targeted by the other salesmen of the medina, Alyssa and I quickly decline both offers––the overpriced fruit and the supposedly free hash that is––and quickly start to weave our way back out toward the open streets. As we proceed on our journey back to campus, Alyssa and I reflect about the unusual situation we have just escaped from, realizing that we aren’t upset about leaving empty-handed: it was all part of the adventure.

—Aidan McGowan

Tarik and the Black Hearts

The other night Nikita and I went with two Moroccan friends for some tea. When in Morocco, do as the Moroccans do. We met up shortly after the sunset started and raced to the coast hoping to seeing the last few rays of sun on the ocean. Although the Sunday traffic made us miss the sunset, we did find a little café on the coast, exactly what we needed.

While letting our tea cool off in the ocean breeze, we started the conversation. The subjects spanned the distance that we had traveled to get here (Morocco). To sum up our friends’ introductions to the subject: “Moroccan women are a combo of a black widow spider and a praying mantis.” Said our friend Karim, “They have black hearts and will rip your head off.” Tarik nodded in agreement.

Nikita and I were categorized as the opposite of Moroccan women. Apparently Moroccans like their women big. To my delight and that of any American girl, we were told that “big” was hardly close to our description.

Just hearing their ideas about the differences between Moroccan women and American women made it so clear why all our Moroccan friends are men. The women here don’t go out at night, they travel in packs, and the thought of trusting a Moroccan man is childish and stupid. All these things are part of the definition of a woman to Moroccan men, and yet so completely different than us.

From our conversation, you would think since women were treated differently, men’s morals about them would be different. But, just like any man would say (or should say), women are respected. “How could you be disrespectful to a woman when someone just like her raised you since birth and cared for you, when you couldn’t care for yourself?” said Tarik.

We don’t dress slutty or disrespectful, we said, we are American women given the majority of the same rights as men in our country. As our conversation continued, the ideas went deeper and deeper. Our friends made it clear they didn’t even trust their own mothers. “Don’t get me wrong,” said our friend Tarik, “I love my mother with all my heart, but I would never trust that woman.” There is no one in the world they respect more than their mothers; however, their respect only reaches so far.

After hearing this information, I now have a little more of an understanding for the comments in the streets, the looks at the cafés, and the catcalls while walking to grab a taxi. I may not possess a black heart like a Moroccan woman, but I’d still like to think I have a bit of that same fire.

—Natalie Tremblay

photo by Hassan Elkourfti

photo by Hassan Elkourfti

If You Hand a Girl a Baby

I lifted the knocker on the timeworn white door. The loud ting of metal on metal created even more nervous tension than was already present. I stood alongside four anxious friends, staring at the unopened door, awaiting an invitation to enter. The clamor of the doorknocker reverberated in my ears, then was abruptly interrupted by the swift opening of the door. In front of us stood a husky Moroccan woman dressed in an all-white uniform. She greeted us with a look of confusion and silence, awaiting an explanation of our presence. Her face seemed occupied with anger.

After an initial moment of hesitation, one of my companions spoke up. “We are from UNE,” she exclaimed, but this only provoked a look of further confusion. My friend spoke again, “University of New England,” and this time her words were acknowledged by a rapid nodding of the woman’s head and a welcoming hand motion, beckoning us to enter the orphanage. “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said.

As we entered the beautifully aged building, I immediately noticed the sound of children’s voices floating between rooms. At the same time, my eyes wandered over the scattered toys on the floor and the many highchairs that lined a long dining table. Our greeter unlocked a child-proof door to the stairs and directed us to go up. She yelled something (incomprehensible to our American ears) and another voice quickly responded.

On the next floor a smaller woman, with comparably relaxed facial expressions, promptly handed each of us a baby and a warmed bottle. As I sat down on a cushioned wooden chair and received a rather plump baby boy in my arms, I experienced a feeling I had never felt before. As I glanced down upon the Buddha-belly-baby, I took in every detail of his innocent face: his dark skin tone, slightly lighter than that of his hair, and his wide brown eyes, decorated with handsomely long eyelashes, which seemed to be studying the contents of my own eyes. A sensation of happiness, contentment, and adoration fell upon me as I fed this boy and held him tightly in my arms.

For the next hour and a half I found myself in a room full of babies. They crawled and stumbled around on the padded floor, while their twelve colorful cribs lined the four gray-tinted walls. Although I was surrounded by eleven other babies, I couldn’t help but return to the Buddha-belly-baby. He was so quiet and happy, and his big eyes seemed eager to receive the attention I was all too willing to give him with my baby talk and big hugs.

After leaving the orphanage, much happier and relaxed than when I had entered, I realized what an impact an innocent human being can have on your mood, enough to force you to question your own mindset.

—Courtney Gautreau