On the flight from Detroit to Paris, I met Jim Hocking, founder of Water for Good, who travels to Africa to drill water wells. I shared how my students read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and how they were shocked by the lengths that some young people must go to in order to provide a basic necessity for their families. He gave me a bracelet that says "water=life." I’ve been wearing it during this trip, and as the time in my host city comes to a close, i find myself thinking about what it is that equals life here in Fkih ben Salah.
Family. Our host teacher and dear friend Salah, welcomed us as part of family. His wife fed us and his children played with us. When we visited his oldest sons school, he ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. His mother always greeted us warmly and sat with us, even though she did not speak English. They did not just invite us this week, they invited us forever. I know that when I return, there will be a warm meal and cookies waiting for me.
Hospitality. I find it hard to explain just how much the people of Morocco go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The manager of the Hotel Ifrane was patient with the idiot Americans as we bumbled with Google translate French to talk to him. The sandwich guy at the grocery store always greeted us with a smile, a handshake and attempted to speak English for our benefit. And the schools. The teachers of English at Salah's school, Tighnari High School, put together a cultural celebration, complete with musical performances of "Hotel California" and "Zombie," sketches, and speeches, of which we were the guests of honor. Salah spent hours driving us to sites such as a Marrakech and Ozoud waterfalls so we could shop and see the countryside. He even hiked with me to get a better view. After a three hour drive to deliver PD to a group of teachers in the mountains, we were surprised to discover that one of the teachers had made lunch for us in her home. Even on our last day, we found ourselves at a celebration in a country school where the students sang and cooked for us. And tea. Everywhere we went, we were received warmly with tea and cookies.
Powerful Young Women. The female students we met are ready to take on the world. Another young woman, the host of the cultural event at Tighnari, was able to command a large audience of her peers with grace and humor. Merieme Achmerk delivered an emotional performance of Ms. Nobody that shook the building and stirred my soul. And earlier that same day, we watched her deliver a speech to her peers, written as an assignment on why she should be elected principal of the school. Both of these women, plus many others, make me hopeful for the future.
Life in Fkih ben Salah is tied to many things. I often find myself overcome by emotion. Emotion for Morocco, emotion for the Moroccan people, emotion for the experience. Even now, as I drive down the mountain and watch the sunset, I look as far as I can into the horizon and know that 6,000 miles away the three pieces of my heart are waiting. Peace.