Recent UI graduate Brandon Jennings participated in the Critical Language Scholarship Program in Morocco this summer. He shares some of the most interesting parts of his journey in this blog entry.
Between homework and lectures we have weekend excursions, all of which have been very enjoyable, although Marrakesh was a little eccentric. And, upon visiting, it becomes quickly apparent why the city is internationally renowned as a tourist trap. The main square of the city is internationally known for the street performers and the souks. The vendors there raise prices three- to four-fold simply for foreigners. In order to buy anything in the souks you need to drive a hard bargain, which can actually be a lot of fun. My limited ability to speak Arabic usually makes the haggling process hilariously theatrical. A lot of arm-waving, dramatic expressions, and shouting simple expressions “Had Ghali Bzzaaaf!” (This is soooo expensive!) I'm pretty sure the shop keepers appreciate my efforts, though. I bought my shirt in Marakesh for a third of the starting price and I still can't tell if it was a reasonable deal.
My favorite trip so far has been camping in the Sahara! We went for a short, three-day excursion last weekend and, despite a rough beginning (our train caught on fire... followed by a seven-hour bus ride), the Sahara made for an incredible experience. We rode camels into the desert (had to deal with a small sandstorm, which was uncomfortable) and set up camp behind an enormous dune. At night, the sky in the Sahara filled with stars. It was breathtaking...like those pictures you see in fancy astronomy magazines.
All in all, this trip has been a singular experience. Intensive, frustrating, and rewarding. In one moment I feel like Morocco punches me in the gut and then it kisses me on the forehead. Strange analogy.
At the end of his program in mid-August, Brandon made the decision to remain in Rabat for a couple of months instead of returning home to the States. He has set goals to become involved in various organizations around Rabat and is excited and nervous to continue this chapter of his life.