America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

Interview with Eric: Ultra Marathon in Morocco

We had written about Eric before, giving a little bit of information about him, the race itself and his fundraising efforts.  His campaign is still underway as he continues his training, so be sure  to look at his website and please consider a donating.  Large or small, any amount helps him get closer to his goal. Still very curious about him as a person, his motivations and why he chose AUA, we decided to interview him!   Here is what he had to say:

AUA: Why run a marathon in Morocco?  Why not New York, DC or Boston?

Eric: I am currently living in Rabat, Morocco and studying advanced level Arabic with the support of a NSEP Boren Graduate Fellowship.  I have done sports all of my life and running is a very popular sport in Morocco.  Every day I see people running around in Rabat and I feel that it is one of their national sports.  I have competed in many running competitions, including the major marathons and half-marathons in the United States, and so I signed up for the half marathon in Rabat in April.  After completing this half marathon in April I signed up for the ultramarathon in the mountains of Ifrane Morocco at the end of June.  I know that 54 miles or 90 kilometers is a long distance, especially on the mountainous terrain, but I also know that it is beautiful in Ifrane, and could not imagine a better way to spend my weekend than to run with Moroccans in a beautiful location.

AUA: Why did you choose AUA as the charity to support?

Eric: I had read Benjamin Orbach’s book that he wrote about his experiences on a NSEP Boren Graduate Fellowship to Jordan.  I have found that many of his ideas and experiences are ones that I see here in Morocco.  I then saw his website and saw that he worked at an organization called America’s Unofficial Ambassadors and so when I thought about what charity I wanted to fund I did not have to think long before deciding to choose AUA.  I feel that with all the changes happening in North Africa and the rest of the Middle East, there is a real need for greater dialogue and understanding between the peoples United States and this region so that we break down stereotypes and are able to work constructively and form friendships that foster greater peace and stability in the future.

AUA: Tell us about your first experience in a Muslim-majority country.

Eric: I had studied two semesters of Middle Eastern history in college before I went to Cairo.  I knew about the pyramids and the various monuments and so I was very excited to study Arabic in Cairo.  I went there and studied Arabic very hard and when my parents and younger brother came to visit I was able to show them around to the various tourist sites.  And when they left Egypt a week later, I remember they told me how wonderful their trip was to Egypt and that they hoped that they would be able to return and to explore other parts of this region.  I think that the main reason why they enjoyed the trip, however, was not because of the pyramids or the camels or the various sites but because I was able to interact with Egyptians in their own language.  By the time that I was ready to leave Cairo to return to the United States I had learned so much more than I ever could have learned about the region in my Middle East history class.  I also learned so much more than just the Arabic language in Cairo.  I had formed many friendships with Arabs and with Muslims.  I had formed a few lifelong friends with whom I stay in touch to this day.  I realized that even if my background is different from theirs, and even if we do not have a common language, that we have many things in common because we are all humans.  I think that the most important lessons to me were not just language and information but experiences and friendships that continue to this day.

AUA: Please tell us a little bit more about your background.

Eric: I am a graduate student in the PhD International Economics program at UC Santa Cruz.  I completed my BSFS International Economics at Georgetown University and my MA International Economics at University of San Francisco (USFCA).  I have studied Modern Standard Arabic for about 6 years and completed the advanced course at Middlebury Arabic Language Summer School.  I have worked on Middle East and North Africa research projects and my professional goals is to combine my background in Economics and my Arabic language skills to contribute to better economic relationships between the United States and this region.

My main extracurricular interests are running and music.  I have always participated in running competitions and I run every morning for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Running is a great sport because it gets me outdoors and I can run with people from all walks of life.  I have played violin for 15 years and play in a semi-professional orchestra in the United States called the San Francisco Sinfonietta.  I have performed in San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco Symphony Hall, Herbst Theater, and many other big name locations in the United States.  I have also played in concerts and shared my music with people from other countries.  Music is a great way to build relationships because it is a common language that everyone can understand if they have an open mind and have an appreciation for culture.
Eric giving a speech in Morocco
It’s fantastic to see an individual with such similar goals and ideals as those which we hold here at AUA.  Eric’s experiences abroad are testament to the impact that spending any time, whether serving or studying abroad in the Muslim world, can have on one’s life.  Again, we encourage everyone to look at Eric’s fundraising website.  Also, if you think Eric’s story is inspiring and you’re interested in volunteering or studying in a Muslim majority country, get involved with AUA!  Be sure to look at our directory of partner organizations and apply for the Mosaic Scholarship here.  Again, good luck Eric!
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One comment on “Interview with Eric: Ultra Marathon in Morocco

  1. Pingback: UPDATE: Eric the Ultra Marathon Runner is Ready to Go « americasunofficialambassadors

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2011 by in Volunteer Related.
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