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.
This post was written by Rachel Wiser after her first few weeks volunteering in Morocco.
Before coming to Morocco I was constantly warned of the dangers and annoyances. I was told to expect harassment from random men on the street twenty-four seven. What I was not told, though, was the light-heartedness and wittiness that could come from strangers on the street. Instead of harassment I have seen more good-humoured interaction. People seem just as curious of the tourists here as the tourists are of people. Some of what may have been taken as harassment, I would venture a guess was just miscommunication. Other countries often ignore visitors walking about while Moroccans often point them out. To some this may be a nuisance, but for me it is quite refreshing.
I have come to actually like this experience. While there were a few comments I was uncomfortable with, the vast majority have been cheerful. Most comments made to me seem to be about my skin tone. When walking up to a Mosque in Chefchaouen one man asked where I was from. When I told him America he responded with “Ahh, there must not be sun in America”. Later that day while walking strangers across the street shouted “I LOVE SWEDEN!” I thought to myself ‘I do too, but I am not from there’. Several more asked if I was from many of the Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway. No one has immediately guessed I was from America. The highlight of the comments, though, came from a fellow counsellor at AUI summer camp. He told me “Your eyes are blue like the sea, and your skin is white… like cheese”.
While I obviously do not blend in here, I have come to appreciate its people and their comments. My experiences have showed me they are not afraid to speak to strangers. While this can get you into trouble, it is certainly a romantic perspective of the world, which I admire. Maybe by the end of this trip I will gain some of their courage and speak to all the strangers around me. Until then, I will focus on not getting sunburned!