Month: March 2014

thought spot: my experience with french in morocco

thought spot: my experience with french in morocco

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my stay in Morocco, it’s that to survive, you’ll need every word in every language you know. I came to this country with what I figured were passable skills in French and Spanish; though I’m learning Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic, French has been my saving grace throughout this trip.

Last week, I was reading a chapter from Valérie K. Orlando’s Francophone Voices of the “New” Morocco in Film and Print for my Islamic Society and Politics (more specifically, Chapter 4: “Sexuality, Gender and the Homoerotic Novel of the New Morocco”) when I realized that I could read all of the excerpted French passages with few problems. I knew I had been practicing my French in overdrive since my arrival- it’s the only way I can communicate with my host mom or the people of Morocco- but it was only as I was reading this homework assignment that I realized my French has progressed significantly… dare I say I may even be semi-fluent?

Truly, there is no better way to learn a language than to become immersed in it. Coupled with some study, it’s a sure path to fluency. Once I had this revelation, I went to a local bookstore and purchased Abdellah Taïa’s Une Melancolie Arabe (An Arab Melancholy), a book that has been on my wishlist for years… in the original French. Being able to read Taïa’s words in the language he chose to write in is something truly special. Sure, I have to look up a word here or there, but it takes time and patience to absorb a whole new lexicon.

Writing down some vocab for memory... practice makes improvement!!
Writing down some vocab for memory… practice makes improvement!!

Two years ago, I read a brief article from the New York Times about Taïa; two years later, I am reading his words for my class in a Moroccan university. The coincidence unnerves yet soothes me. Though I’m not sure what the future holds, I feel confident in what I’ve come to accept as a simple truth: I am exactly where I need to be, studying what I’ve been destined to. That in itself is one of the fundamental reasons this study abroad experience has proven unforgettable. I move forward with no regrets, no expectations: just the knowledge that each day is another opportunity to learn something new.

photo spot, morocco: free as a bird

photo spot, morocco: free as a bird

Morocco is a photographer’s dream, for it is a land of mystery, contradiction, and enchantment.

For me personally, it means a new environment to photograph my favorite subject: birds. I’m by no means pursuing it to the depth of Eliot Porter, but I’m having a good time nonetheless.

In many ways, I have felt a growing companionship with birds as I travel around Morocco and the world. My home “nest” is almost 6,000 miles away, and I’ve flown away to find something new. I travel with my fellow flock of ISA students, and together we have the most bizarre and wonderful experiences. Yet even though we travel and learn together, there are times when I feel lonely, lost, and confused. For all the bad days, my good days outweigh my former feelings of dismay. I have no regrets about embarking on this experience, because Morocco has given me more than I could have ever dreamed of intellectually, culturally, mentally, spiritually…

I have so many friends and family that I can share my journey with; they walk with me through all the changes and new experiences. I’m free as a bird and unimaginably lucky. In 47 days, I will make my way back home, but for now, I will sing the praises of my travels, taking in the unexpected and finding contentment in the strangest of places.

Here are a few of my personal favorite photos so far.

Stork in Ifrane
Stork hiding in Ifrane
Bird perching on a cloudy Meknes morning
Bird perching on a cloudy Meknes morning
Birds in the Meknes countryside
Birds in the Meknes countryside

 

Birds at sunrise in Meknes
Birds at sunrise in Meknes