Sitting here on deck five, watching the sun go down and seeing nothing but ocean around me, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be sailing around the world…and how much I never want to leave the MV Explorer. To have left Europe, gone to Africa, and now be heading back to Italy…it’s insane! The spring voyage is looking better and better (mom and dad, I see why you stayed on the ships as long as you did).
This post will likely be a lot longer than my usual ones; we squeezed in more than I thought possible in our four days in port. To put it in the most clichéd of terms, Morocco was an eye-opening experience. Until this port, we had been in lots of cool places, many of which I hadn’t envisioned traveling to before, but they all had many of the comforts of home. Almost every previous port was filled with English speakers, and while we encountered poverty, it was nowhere near the level in Morocco. The first day, on the bus to a field lab for my Education and Economic Systems class, I was struck by how quickly our surroundings changed as we went from the port terminal, with a newly built train station just outside it, to the, for lack of a better word, sketchy area the university we were going to was located in. Police escorted our bus in, just to be safe. Once inside the university though, I felt like I was in any Florida indoor/outdoor school. It reminded me of Sawgrass Springs Middle actually. (That is, until I went into the bathrooms and was transported right back to China, squat toilets and all. Not ideal.)
Despite the somewhat unnerving drive to the school, our time at the university offered the first of many great interactions with locals. After presentations from three Moroccan educators, who talked candidly about the shortcomings of their education system and how they’re working to reform it, we ate lunch and had tea with university students. I sat with a 19-year-old named Muhammad, who asked me and my classmate questions about what kind of classes we can take, how big they are, what our political views are, whether boy-and-girl interactions are really like what he sees in American movies. He in turn told us all about his school and customs. One of the most interesting things he said came up when we asked how often foreigners come to visit his school; he said he meets foreigners fairly often, and they are so kind, gentle, and respectful that he can’t believe they are not Muslims. It was really interesting to hear, especially in contrast to how Islam is often portrayed or viewed in the west. My other favorite takeaway from Muhammad was his laughter when I said my ex-boyfriend was allowed to come over and hang out at my house…he said in order to date a girl, he would have to tell her father he intended to marry her!