Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Coming Home

I'm coming home!

In a few hours I will be leaving this place that has been my home for the last 2 months. It's been such a fun time, and I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity. If you are in college and want something amazing to do next summer, I highly recommend applying for the Critical Language Scholarship program from the US Department of State.

I will miss all the people I have met, I will miss seeing little lizards in the bathroom while I'm taking showers, I will miss getting sandwiches from the "melbana," I will miss having freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast every morning, and so many other things. Morocco has been a wonderful country to live in for the summer.

But I am ready to get back. I can't wait to see my family and friends, I can't wait to eat some of Mama Stirgwolt's cooking (peach cobbler, please, Mom!), I can't wait to drive a car again, I can't wait to get back to Purdue and graduate and see what lies ahead...

Yesterday we had our final party. The guest of honor at our party was Mohammad from the melbana. He has got to be one of the most genuinely friendly people I have ever met. He has been incredibly nice to us all summer, so we invited him to the party. After the party ended, a few of us went to the melbana to buy some juice. Mohammad told us, completely honestly and graciously, that it was the best night of his life. I will miss him a lot.

Nina, Mohammad, and me at the melbana.

This is the melbana where I bought a majority of my food this summer.

Well, once again, this is the last blog post that I will be putting up for awhile. I had no idea that this blog would have even been resurrected this summer, and I really don't know when it will come back again. Let's hope that it's soon...

I wonder what the what will be in the blank: Ben's _______ Adventure...

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope that I will see you soon!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The End is Near

Only a few more days left in Morocco. That's really hard to believe. This summer has gone by so quickly. I am ready to get back to Purdue for my last semester and to find out what's going to happen in the next phase of my life. Right now I really have no idea--which is exciting and scary at the same time.

As I mentioned last post, this week we studied terrorism, which was actually pretty interesting. However, for my research paper I decided to do something totally different, so I wrote about the future of space exploration and the importance of the private space companies. If your interested and able to read Arabic, then here's the link to my paper.

I really don't have much to report because nothing too exciting has happened here recently. So, in order to make this post worthwhile, I decided that I could upload some photos. I realized that I never took pictures of the campus where I spend 85% of my time. So here are my photos:

On the path to the pool.

The dormitory. My room is the furthest to the right.

The BEAUTIFUL pool. I've spent many hours here...

My room.

I expect to put up another post before I leave on Thursday night, but I wanted to mention that I will be getting into Columbus at midnight on Friday, then will be at Josh & Rebecca's wedding on Saturday in Wadsworth, and then will be leaving for Purdue on Sunday, with school starting on Monday. That's the plan at least...

Have a good Sunday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spies, Drugs (again) and Sheep Feet

How could you resist a blog post with a title like that? I guess I'll start with the first word...

Johan came to visit me in Tangier this weekend since he is working on his graduate research. We didn't do anything too exciting, just walked around the city and spent a long time catching up. As we were walking to (attempt) to get lunch, we walked into a restaurant and I asked the two men sitting in the restaurant if they had any food or not because it is Ramadan and a lot of places don't have food. One of the men said, "No....and I wouldn't give food to Israeli spies anyway." I told him that we were Americans (Johan is Norwegian, but that's almost America, right?) and that we are not spies. But I was angry because of his comment, so we left, looking for a new place.

As a rule of thumb, I won't go to a place that has people out in the streets trying to get more people to come to their restaurant. You've just got to assume that there is something wrong with that restaurant if there's people fishing for you. Anyway, we ran into a man who wanted us to go to his restaurant. We told him that we were not interested (I only used Moroccan Arabic here just so the idea would click with him), but he became very hostile quickly. He said some very derogatory things and then accused us of being Israeli spies.

I'm very curious as to why we were called spies twice within 20 minutes. I have a feeling that it is because Johan was wearing what I call "FBI sunglasses." I don't know. Where do these people get these ideas that Israeli spies are infiltrating their country?

And moving onto the second word--drugs.

This is really a non-story because it happens so often, but to some of us who come from Wadsworth, Ohio, this isn't exactly an every-day experience. It's not uncommon to be walking down the street and have some creepy man come up to you and say in English, "Hey, do you want some hasheesh?" He may even then whip out a sample for you to see. Just like when you're accused of being a spy, this is another time when you just have to pretend like you only speak Japanese and you have no idea what he's saying (have I written about how I've had to explain to so many people that neither my mom nor my dad are from Japan?).

And sheep feet...

Yeah, I ate one. I wasn't really sure at the time. I had a suspicion, but I wasn't really sure. The meat was just in a strange shape and there were a lot of bones. It was kind of like leather. It wasn't very good. I probably won't eat it again...but it was a good experience...I think.

That's all for now. I have a lot of homework to do--write about some terrorist organization in Algeria and about the future of space exploration. Guess which one I'm really excited about...

Have a happy Monday!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just Like Home

I realized that I forgot to mention something amazing that happens every week here in Tangier. At the school we have the nicest ladies who clean our dorm and our rooms and do our laundry for us. They fold everything, too. It's a wonderful thing that happens every Thursday, and I'm going to miss it a lot when I return to America. It's so nice that I can't believe I forgot to mention this earlier...

This week we have been discussing the economy, which includes a whole new set of vocabulary for me. I really don't care for economics all that much, but it's such an improvement over poetry, where we're essentially given a line of poetry (maybe 15 words, only 3 of which I knew) and are asked to explain it. That was the worst week ever. But this week has been better. It was interesting to present on the economies of different countries. I chose Iraq for my presentation and actually learned a lot from doing the research for it.

And even better than learning about economics was our discussion about renewable energy. This was the best class we've had by far. We even watched a clip about renewable energy used in aviation. There was even a solar-powered airplane. I think our teachers were definitely catering to my interests, since this is also what I wrote my research paper on.

This weekend Johan (my Norwegian friend from Egypt) is coming to Tangier to visit/continue with his research. It will be an awesome reunion! When I left Johan in Cairo I never would have thought that I would meet him in Morocco. It's funny how things like this happen...

Have a good Thursday!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Waiting for Ramadan

We've been waiting for several weeks now for Ramadan to get here, and it's so close that we can almost taste it. Over the last few days I've noticed several telltale signs of the month of Ramadan--the bakeries have huge platters of sweets, lights are strung from houses, flags adorn the parks...and the Moroccan King reset the clock (thanks for the extra hour of sleep)! I wouldn't have known about the time change had it not been posted by one of my friends on Facebook. Google was also aware of the time change. I see how it is...Now we're just waiting for the official announcement of when Ramadan actually starts.

This weekend we made another trip to the beach, which is where these pictures are from. This was our first free weekend this summer, which was really nice to be able to relax a little bit. Besides having 7 people squeezed into a car for an hour, the entire trip was great.

As we were leaving, we stopped by a bookstore just to see what they had. I ended up buying 4 small books about the Wright brothers, space & artificial satellites, and Galileo. As I was about to pay for my books, I was explaining to the owner that I focus on astronautical engineering in my university and that I was really excited to buy books in Arabic on this topic. He then began to enlighten me on how, in reality, it is not the Earth that revolves around the sun, but actually the sun revolves around the earth. I didn't want to get into an argument, though, and plus I haven't taken AAE 532--Orbit Mechanics, so I probably wouldn't know anyway...

Low tide at Asilah.

Artist's depiction of immigration (remember the video I posted awhile ago?).

Our group.

There's really not much to report here, just a lot of studying. Last week the subject was Arabic literature, and this week we're discussing economics. It's hard to believe that I'll be headed back to the US in 2.5 weeks and will be starting school shortly after that. The summer has really gone by quickly!

Have a good Sunday!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Another Weekend, Another Vacation

I don't know how it's been almost a week since I last posted anything. Perhaps it's because the weekends always go by so quickly. This last weekend we went on another trip, this time to Chefchauen and Tetwan, which are about 2 hours away from Tangier.

There's a lot of blue decoration in Chefchauen.

Chefchauen is probably my favorite city that we have visited so far. It's beautiful. It's a rather small city, settled into the mountains. There are also waterfalls nearby, but I didn't have time to hike to them. However, I might go back during one of our upcoming free weekends. I took a lot of pictures, which you can view here (28 new ones at the end of the current album).

View of the mountains from our hotel.

The city is very laid back. The weekend essentially consisted of shopping, eating, hiking, and swimming. Not too bad at all. The city is especially known for it's wool and its artwork. It was warm trying on wool clothing, but I did make some purchases.

One of the things that I've noticed is how the articles that we are reading in class are affecting the way that I look at things in Moroccan society. For example, we spent a bit of time reading about drugs and begging in Morocco. For the first (and second time) this weekend, I was asked if I wanted to smoke hasheesh, which apparently is pretty popular here...not to mention the marijuana farm that was just off our hiking trail...

Mosque on top of the peak near our hotel.

But what really is bothering me is the people who beg on the streets. There are a lot of them, and I always feel so badly when I pass by them, especially if they are holding a child. We read an article about how these people will purposely use children as part of an act to get more sympathy and more money. So whenever I see beggars, I wonder if they are really as bad off as they appear...and then the thought that I am even considering this makes me angry at myself. So usually I just walk by them, struggling with understanding them...

Hanging out under a tree during our hike.

The most unique thing that happened in the other city we visited (Tetwan) was when we were walking through the medina and saw two WHOLE (yes, everything), skinned cows on a cart, on the way to the butcher's store. It was totally gross. Give me camel hooves hanging on a hook any day...

Oh, and the king was in town that day, but we unfortunately didn't get to see him, just the opening of one of the huge doors to one of his palaces.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Halfway Done

It's hard to believe that we're already about halfway done with the program. In about a month I will be back in Ohio for about 36 hours (for Josh & Rebecca's wedding) before returning to Purdue for my last semester. I'd imagine that the remainder of the summer will go by just as quickly as the first half has.

This last weekend we went on a trip to a small city called Asilah, which is about 45 minutes away from Tangier. We were supposed to see the annual arts festival, but that was essentially non-existant. Instead we wandered around the city, saw some of the murals from the previous year's art festival, and went to the beach.

In order to get to the beach, we could either ride in a taxi or take a horse and "carriage," which was more like a horse and a board with 2 wheels. I decided to take the horse. The trip itself was not too exciting, and it was nice to be able to slowly see the city until we got to the poor part of the city.

As we rode through the slums, we saw a group of young boys gathered in the street. After we had passed them, we noticed that they had begun to throw rocks at us. I was surprised at the distance they were capable of launching their rocks. I'm not sure why they decided to throw them, but fortunately it didn't last for too long and they decided not to chase after us because another horse-drawn cart was coming their way.

Right next to the slums are probably some of the nicest buildings in the city. These buildings are brand new (built by rich Middle Easterners) and were a stark contrast to the poorest part of the city right beside it. It was very sad.

The beach itself was really nice. You can see my pictures here. We had a lot of fun, and the waves were huge.

Friday is my birthday, which is hard to believe, but we're going on another trip this weekend, so that will be my birthday celebration.

Have a good Tuesday!