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.
Morocco’s landscape diversity is simply incredible. In many ways it reminds me of my home state, California: there can’t be too many places in the world where palm trees, desert, snow, heavy rain, and forest can coincide in the same territory. Naturally, Morocco facilitates this odd mix with ease.
In the spirit of trying to explore Morocco as best I can, yesterday my roommate and I accompanied my host mom to her friend’s house in Khedrache, a countryside area about 30 minutes outside Meknes. Lydia (the roommate) likes to make fun of me because I’m very much a city slicker; the moment we stepped in the front yard of the country home, I noticed some wandering roosters and exclaimed, “now that’s free range!”
For all of my city living, I often forget how peaceful it is to live simply. The home was old-fashioned yet utterly charming. I was introduced to farm animals: a chicken coop, and a cool hole with a rabbit hanging out. The bathroom was outdoors, and there was a “John Deere” tractor for planting assistance. Toto and I were definitely not in Los Angeles any longer.
I’ve come to the conclusion that individuals abroad are generally more hospitable and kind than those I’ve met in America. No offense, America, but Moroccans have you beat in terms of making you feel at home (though I must admit my roommate has been showing me the ways of Southern hospitality, which is a definite competitor). We were immediately sat in front of a gorgeous feast of tea and melwi (ملوي), a thick, crepe-like bread. Lydia and I ate and vocalized our gratitude with murmurs of appreciation (such is the way when you can’t speak much Darija), and stopped after a few melwi. Now, Moroccans love to eat. It’s a fact. So when Lydia and I didn’t continue eating, we were immediately asked if we were on a diet. Oh, Morocco.
My host mom’s friends were so kind and genuine- I couldn’t understand much of anything, but I was able to pick up fragments of someone telling me I was welcome to come by whenever I wanted, which was very sweet. Another fun part of the trip was meeting a little girl named Malikah, who was a bundle of sass and joy. It had been quite a while since I’d been around children; in contrast, my roommate works at a preschool. I turned to her and muttered “I don’t remember what the protocol is for this!” when Malikah wanted to sit on my lap.
After eating, we got a tour of the grounds and walked around. The highlight was definitely walking to the top of the house and finding a beautiful rooftop view. What do you hear when you climb to the rooftop of a building in Los Angeles? Traffic. Horns. Chatter.
Do you want to know what you hear when you climb to a rooftop in the countryside in Morocco? Silence. The chirping of birds. The laughter of a child playing next to you. It’s a scene that makes you pause, close your eyes, breathe in the fresh air, and quietly count your blessings for knowing what it means to experience a moment of serenity.