By Winter Shaw
As a foreign visitor to Morocco, I couldn’t have imagined how welcomed I’d be by a culture of such stark contrast to that of America. I felt a sense of place and connection with every person I encountered. From the vender on the street who welcomed me in with tea and bread, to my host mother who invited me to cook alongside her, and altogether share her life and home with me in such an intimate way. One might think the language barrier would be an obstacle, but I found that, similarly to my assumption about the cultural dress, not sharing a language allowed for more freedom of expression and ultimately led to genuine bonds.
One of my most profound experiences came when I was having lunch with a local family and the grandmother was teaching my group and I the process of making argan oil. After we ate and she demonstrated the extraction process, I went over and sat with her and a few of the other elder woman who continued to knead the argan butter. We were all sitting on stools in a circle while they were speaking in Arabic, and although I didn’t verbally understand what they were discussing, just sitting there listening and being present as while they poured a few drops of oil they extracted into my hand made me feel content. My heart was brimming with love and my spirit was euphoric. The woman and I would eventually find ourselves overcome with laughter over practically nothing. We just were, and were together and connected on a level that transcended words. This experience wouldn’t have been possible if my heart wasn’t opened by the judgement free atmosphere.
Ana hiya Ana; I am who I am. This is the mantra that Girl Captains endeavored to follow during our stay in Morocco. This Moroccan journey, full of adventure and mystique, brought me closer to understanding that the “I” is not simply that I exist, but is more about a collective whole. I couldn’t be more grateful to ImprintEd Abroad and Girls Leadership Camp for creating the opportunity to connect with Moroccan people—particularly women—and to learn and grow on every level. To call our trip a “stay” would not do justice to the life changing experience that connected us to both women and culture.