Ninth Grade Four Point 2020: Morocco
Day 11: Chefchaouen to Casablanca
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 – Last full day in Morocco
Oli: Today we had an early start and hit the road to go to Casablanca at 7 am.
Sam and Sam do some competitive tomato-salad eating
Upon arrival in Casablanca, we went to the Hassan II Mosque for a 3 o’clock tour. This Mosque is the third-largest in the world and one of the only mosques in Morocco where non-Muslims can visit. The inside of the Mosque was humongous, unlike anything I’d ever seen, with a large open space that could fit 30,000 people inside. The walls and ceiling were decked out with beautiful designs, and perhaps the most astonishing thing was the roof, which could open and close. During the tour, we learned basic information about the Mosque, for example, it was built from 1987-1993.
Crew sitting by the seaside waiting for our mosque tour
Chouaib helps Meitong to put on a headscarf
The interior of the Hassan II mosque with the ceiling open for ventilation
A detail of the ceiling of the ablution room
The group in front of the mosque
Jackie: The Mosque is so magnificent that we were all surprised by it. We finally ended our tour at 4:00 pm. We went back to our bus and quickly arrived at the hotel. After settling down our backpacks, we got together around 5:30 pm. We played a game about telling the story of our trip from the beginning as a group one by one, with each person saying no more than a sentence. Everybody laughed when we talked about some special experience of this trip. We also reflected on what we wrote about the fear and hope to the homestay after the game. Around 7:00 pm, we had our last dinner which had delicious tagine and couscous. After the dinner, we gathered again in the hotel and had our closing ceremony. Everyone shared what they wanted to leave behind and also about what they want to take in from this trip. At the end of the day, everybody was so tired but we had really enjoyed our last full day in Morocco.
Final reflections on the top of the hotel
Headed to dinner… our last of many tagines this trip
I know I can speak for Lolo, Kristen, and Chouaib when I say it has been a pleasure to travel with this group of students. We are excited to head home tomorrow full of stories to tell and experiences that will shape decisions to come.
Day 10: Chefchaouen
Monday, March 9, 2020
Eva: Today, we had a nice later wake up with breakfast on the rooftop. Then, we all met to see a presentation about photography with the theme of the day being perspective. We were shown many examples of photography with different perspectives. We had a photo assignment and had to get a picture of the following:
- Part of a whole
- Still life
- Shadow and light
- A minimum 10-picture Photo Story
For a self-portrait, I took a picture of my shadow. For a part of a whole, I took a picture of a pretty doorknob. Next, for a still life, I took a picture of some plants with the blue background. Then, I took a picture of a street vendor selling homemade jewelry (with permission of course). After that, I took a picture of a cat in the shadow reflecting in the light. And then, I took a picture of a bright blue car in the bright blue city. Lastly, we had to make a story with at least ten pictures but without any words that represents something. For example, Catie had a great story showing a weaver hard at work making a rug. Another example is Oli taking pictures of Riley buying and eating a chocolate bar. It was a super fun morning that we all enjoyed and I’m glad we got to experience it for our last day in Chefchaouen!!
Sammy: After this exciting morning, we had time to either relax in the hostel or go shopping downtown. We met back up as a group in the central square to go to a surprise! We walked to the roof of a restaurant and had tea and pastries. The view was amazing since you could see the whole town with all the blue. When we finished, we had more time to go shopping for anything else we needed. We met up as a group at 6:00 at our hostel. We then went on a short hike to a Spanish mosque on the top of a mountain! We sat there and enjoyed the sunset and took more than a few photos. The hike down was very quick and we were soon back in the hostel. Around 8:45, we walked to get dinner (the same place we went last night) and had a nice meal. We walked back to the hostel and packed our bags to depart for Casablanca very early in the morning tomorrow.
Looking out at Chefchaouen
One of our final sunsets
Just a few photos today. I’ll work on getting some images of the student took on their photo assignment tomorrow to add to the post.
Day 9: Fes to Chefchaouen
Sunday, March 8, 2020 (International Women’s Day!)
We have stronger internet in Chefchaouen so I have gone through and added images to the last few days. -Colin
Nolan: Today was a travel day, so don’t expect too much. The basic outline is that we went from Fez to Chefchaouen. At 9:00, we went up to the rooftop of our hostel to eat breakfast. It was the usual (so far) eggs, bread, jam, salad.
Traffic jam on the way out of the Medina
At 10:20, we left the Fez Medina, and piled into a van and went screeching out of Fez. The roads kept you occupied. We went up, down, left, right, and all the ways that the van should and should not have. The van was larger than airplanes in terms of legroom, and the interior was orange. But it still got uncomfortable after the second hour.
On da bus
We stopped for photos and a stretch overlooking a lovely lake
First views of Chefchaouen
We arrived in Chefchaouen at around 2 in the afternoon. It was about time to find our new hostel. Everybody wanted to help, but nobody wanted to damage their ego and they had no idea where the hostel was. We finally found it. We got ourselves situated and went off to lunch. We ate Tagine — again. We also had beans and different types of salads. After lunch, we stopped at the Kasbah of Chefchaouen. We climbed the Portuguese tower to have lovely views of the city and sat in the beautiful garden, resting under the blossoming orange trees. We were nice and full so we decided to rest. While people were sleeping, we learned much more about each other with the game Hot Seat.
Taking in the views of Chefchaouen from the Portuguese Tower
Oli gets a drink after forgetting his water bottle
Leaving the Kasbah
At around 8, we decided that we wanted more food. So we headed out once more. Only this time, we decided that Tagine was getting a little boring, so we tested different foods. Oli tried Moroccan pizza. “It was really good,” said Oli. Milka is a kind of chocolate that isn’t available in the red, white, and blue, so a bunch of kids decided to stock up. Until Madame collected it.
Day 8: Fes
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Sam B: We had a famous storyteller, Ibrahim Daldali, come talk to us this morning about the tradition of storytelling in Morocco and to help us with public speaking. When we get back to class we have to create a Ted Talk and this will help us with the presenting of the Ted Talk, which is difficult for a lot of people. He used a lot of hand gestures to help illustrate the story. He also had lots of range in his voice, which helped the story become much more exhilarating. He walked around a lot and looked people in the eyes when he spoke this made the presentation of the story more exciting. He also spoke a bit about his job as a storyteller. He told us about how he memorized the stories and made sure that each story’s message was portrayed in his presentation. All his stories have been passed down from other storytellers and he never writes his own stories. He also works to preserve the culture and pass it by collecting the stories of older storytellers who are willing to share with him and teaching a new generation of storytellers.
Ibrahim tells us a story in Darija (Moroccan Arabic)
Meitong reads part of the translation, working on her storytelling skills
Meitong: This afternoon we went to the tannery, also known as honeycomb tannery. It is a place where people make leather. The tannery was one of the tasks that we needed to do in the scavenger hunt, but none of the groups managed to make it because too many people offered to take us and we were scared to go with them. So our trip leaders decided to change the schedule just because it is a great place for us to visit. It was a long walk from our hostel to the tannery. On the way there, the road was really narrow. We passed a lot of shoe shops and it was really crowded. We even struggled to keep together as one group and got a little separated a couple of times. We had to walk up a lot of stairs to get to the top of the balcony to see into the tannery. The tannery looks super cool, just like the pictures we saw when those people were offering us to go the tannery. As we know, it also called honeycomb because the vats create a pattern as if made by bees. They separated it into different parts so that they could do different kinds of steps in them. There is one side that is for washing (using pigeon poop rather than chemicals!) and the other side is for dyeing. We saw some of the workers were working and they were standing in the vats, stepping the hides, tried to dye them. However, before we went to the tannery, our leaders warned us that it is going to smell bad. But when we got there, we thought that it actually didn’t smell that bad. We all enjoyed the beautiful view on the roof and also the amazing history of the tannery.
Group by the tannery
The white cleaning vats and dying vats
Tomorrow, after a nice breakfast, we head from Fes to Chefchaouen. Hopefully, we will have internet and can get some photos up on the blog from the past few days.
Day 7: Fes
Friday, March 6, 2020
As with yesterday, for the rest of the trip we are going to have students working on writing the blog, often with some notes from me tacked on at the end.
Catie: This morning we went to The American Fondouk to learn about their work. The American Fondouk is a charity clinic that serves the people of Fes who rely on their mules and horses for their livelihood. We got a tour of the Fondouk by Abbey, a student on an externship from North Carolina State University. She showed us all the animals and we learned about the severity of each case. Not only did we learn about the animals that habited the Fondouk that day, but we also learned about what daily life looks like at the Fondouk and many of the common issues they see. After asking questions about the jobs of the veterinarians we got a chance to help out ourselves. We were assigned the task of scooping poop and leftover hay from one of the spaces for the healthier animals. Our time learning about how people volunteer and the projects to help save the animals of Fez was an amazing experience.
A patient we were lucky enough to see head home
Sam B. helps with some cleanup
Sammy gets things sorted in the paddock
Riley: After a great morning at The American Fondouk, we spent the afternoon doing a scavenger hunt through the Medina of Fes. After the teachers split us up into groups of 3 or 4, each group departed for adventures hoping to be the team to win. Given tasks such as, buying small things from a hanoot and talking to the owner about the changes that have happened in the Medina, gifts for teachers, and finding important places in the Medina, the three groups came very close when it came to scoring. However, “No Cap” (Keara, Catie, Jackie, and Sam B), stole the win. The scavenger hunt provided ways for our group to travel through the roads of Fes and to explore many of the small treats found in stores through this area. The scavenger hunt was fun for everyone and provided a way for everyone to work together.
We had an opportunity to head to Cafe Clock for a traditional Friday meal of couscous. Cafe Clock, in addition to being a restaurant, is also a cultural space hosts different traditional Moroccan arts, such as storytelling, music, circle dances, etc. We had the opportunity to hear a renowned Oud player. The Oud is a traditional instrument that is a bit like a guitar. The students enjoyed being serenaded and hearing a type of music that is different from what we are accustomed to hearing.
Jackie and Meitong interviewing about climate change
After a lovely dinner and the beautiful music, we headed back to our riad for an early bedtime after a very busy day.
Day 6: Azrou to Fes
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Students spent the morning with their hosts. After lunch, we gather to hop in grand taxis and head to Fes. We got to our riad in the late afternoon and gathered to debrief the homestay experience. After debriefing, we headed out to dinner. It was really nice to have our first meal together as a group since we left Moulay Idriss.
Ended the meal with tea… because, in Morocco, you drink tea.
After dinner, it was back to the riad for bedtime, because we have a very busy day tomorrow. (On that note, not sure when a blog will be posted. Between the slow wifi and the busy day, it might be a few days until we can get something up.)
Below are two short reflections on the homestay experience written by two of our students.
My homestay was amazing. At first, I was a little uneasy about certain things that I thought would present problems, communication being one of them. By my last day, I had learned a few things. You don’t need to speak the same language to be able to communicate. Additionally, I realized that we all need less than we have. I realized this by living with a lot less for three days. I got to experience the way that a Moroccan lives their daily life. My favorite day would be the day I went to the school that my homestay brother works at. He took me up on a flat roof with a view of all of Azrou, and I journaled until the end of the school day.
– Sam C.
Going into the homestay portion of my Four-Point trip, I was very nervous. I have never done anything like this before so I was getting anxious, but trying to keep calm. Things that worried me were not being able to communicate and feeling awkward being in somebody else’s house. These were things most people were worried about going into the homestay. Catie and I ended up in a homestay together which ended up helping with communication. Our family spoke Arabic, French and a little English making it hard for me to communicate. Catie studies French back at school so most of the time she would be explaining to me what was going on. When being in my hosts’ house, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought after the first night. I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone is something that is good for me to do. This is something that I will probably never do again in my life so I am really happy that Gould has let me have the experience of being in a homestay.
Day 4+5: Azrou
Tuesday and Wednesday, March 3 and 4, 2020
We had a very busy last two days. Sorry that I wasn’t able to blog yesterday; we didn’t get back to our hotel until almost 11 pm!
Tuesday, March 3
We regroup after the students’ first night with their homestay families. Many, many stories about home much they had been fed… and then more than half the group found out they hadn’t even made it to dinner. Most Moroccans have a late lunch, an early evening snack of bread and tea, and then dinner at 10 or 11 in the evening. Many of our students had already gone to bed before dinner was even served.
The Wise One setting the tone for the day.
After a quick check-in and some discussion and reflection lead by the group Wise One, Sam B., we headed out to the souq, a weekly market on the outskirts of Azrou where you can buy anything and everything. The students had time to explore and see all of what the souq had to offer. We had a chance meeting by the tea tent and went in for a cup of tea (because, you know, it had been more than an hour since tea). We watched the sheep seller and buyer outside as we enjoyed our mint tea break. The students headed out for a bit more exploring before we regathered and went back into town for lunch.
Tea time at the souq.
(Many people in Morocco are uncomfortable with people taking pictures of them, so I don’t have pictures of the students walking around the souq to respect that.)
Once the students were suitably stuffed, we gathered again in late afternoon, to talk to Redwan the owner of a local hanoot. These are small convenience stores, but the owners are also important parts of the local community and help out their neighbors. We learned about the multiple systems of payment that hanoot owners accept and how they do business.
The inside of Redwan’s Hanoot while he is talking to the students.
The group in front of Redwan’s Hanoot
After talking to Redwan, we went to Aicha’s house for a talk about Islam. Aicha lives and works in Azrou and has facilitated our homestay experiences. Our talk was led by Mohamed Mhmmoudi, a Moroccan man who has worked with the Peace Corp and lived in the USA for a while. He is very knowledgeable about Islam and connected with the students really well. The students came away with a much better understanding of Islam and had a lovely evening in Aicha’s home. The students headed home just after 8 for a snack and then dinner.
Students and leaders enjoying a snack break with tea during Mhmmoudi’s talk
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Luckily, none of our students exploded after being fed, fed more, hand-fed, and then offered a bit more food. We gathered in the morning at the Artisanal Center, checked in and had an opportunity to tell some stories about their homestay families. We spent the rest of the morning working with different artists in the center. The students had a wonderful time learning about weaving, woodcarving, leatherwork, and Moroccan minerals.
Jackie learns shoemaking.
Jackie practices his stitches.
Catie works on balling yarn
Riley takes over
Catie and Riley worked together to weave the red-striped section.
Oli works on oiling a spoon that he had just sanded
Sam works on a mystery project with a woodworker
Eva learns to run a loom
Keara takes over
Sam sands a lion
Sammy learns to knot a rug
Meitong works on a rug and enjoys time with the weaver she was working with
Nolan hunts through minerals to make a display box of local minerals
After our morning together, the students headed to their homestays for lunch and the rest of the day. We will meet tomorrow after lunch (and after each of the students has gained at least a few pounds) to head to Fes.
Goodbye sunset in Azrou
Day 3 Moulay Idriss to Azrou
Monday, March 2, 2020
We had an earlier start to the day, packed and ready to leave before breakfast at 8. Sitting there as the sun broke through the morning cloud cover, we enjoyed our breakfast once again on the roof of our riad. After breakfast, Meitong and Riley, our group leaders, lead us through morning check-in and then we had our homestay briefing. Students had lots of great questions and we learned a lot about how Moroccan families live.
Riley pours mint tea after breakfast. Mint tea is a ubiquitous part of Moroccan meals and life.
After the briefing, we headed down the hill to hop in a trio of Grand Taxis to head to Azrou. It was a two-hour ride through the countryside and several cities and towns. I can’t speak for the other taxis but I know we had a fun ride of laughing, napping, and storytelling.
You never know what you will see on the road…
Sam and Oli at a scenic overlook on the road near Azrou.
We arrived at in Azrou at an Artisanal Co-op, where many of the homestay parents work. We had another opportunity to talk about our hopes and worries for the homestays before the families arrived to pick the students up for lunch. Each student headed out with members of their family for the afternoon and evening. We will meet tomorrow morning for a day at the souq, the market, and several other adventures.
Meitong doing some reflective writing.
We will have a longer blog tomorrow with stories of their first night.
— Colin and Lolo
Day 2: Moulay Idriss and Volubilis
Sunday, March 1, 2020
S-salamū ‘lekum! Hello!
After a leisurely morning and delicious breakfast of 3 types of bread, rice cakes, muesli, jam, honey, goat cheese, and yogurt, we had morning meeting, checking in about how we are feeling, physically and emotionally, our bowel movements, and our water consumption. Students selected leadership roles and, throughout the day, they have done a great job stepping up into the roles.
Our morning continued with a lesson on the cultural history of Morocco. We learned about the Amazigh people. (Although we would generally use the term Berber, the word derives from the same linguistic roots as Barbarian and is seen as a rude term by the Amazigh people.) The Amazigh are the indigenous people of Morocco who lived here before the Arabs came, bringing Islam in 680 CE. We discussed some of the cultural practices of the Amazigh people, how both Islam and Arabian culture have changed and continue to change how Amazigh live, and some of the stresses that modern life has put on the traditional way of life of the Amazigh, such as the concept of land ownership on people who are nomadic.
After this discussion, we had our first Arabic lesson. We learned some basic greetings, asking about names, and how to ask: “How much is this?” (Although, we don’t know how to understand the response yet, so…) We also learned more words throughout the day. Each student mostly knows one number between 1 and 11. Oli, the group linguist, helped to teach us the words for “water” and “help” at our meals, and Chouaib has been teaching new words as quickly as the students ask for them. All of the students have been very brave about trying their new linguistic skills greeting people we see on the street and responding to the calls of “Bonjour” with “S-salamū ‘lekum!”
Practicing Arabic phrases.
After class, we had an opportunity to explore the local market. Students found out where and how people buy their food on a daily basis. We also had a lovely lunch in the market.
Produce in the market.
From lunch, Nolan, our timekeeper and navigator extraordinaire, led us on a beautiful walk down off the mountain where Moulay Idriss is situated, through the farmland, and to the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. Volubilis was an important Amazigh city in the Kingdom of Mauretania and later the capital of the Mauretania Tingitana province of the Roman Empire. It was amazing to walk on roads that people had been walking for more than 2000 years. Our tour guide, Hassan, was wonderful and had lots of stories to tell about the buildings and the lives of the rich and powerful who had lived there.
The city of Volubilis was entirely destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. There was archeological excavation between 1918 and the 1950s, during which a number of buildings were partially reconstructed.
The group in the Royal Palace where Juba II lived with his wife, Cleopatra Selene II, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.
Friends in front of the Basilica.
Lovely day to be outside. Perfect Weather!
A panoramic of the ruins and the “breadbasket of the Roman Empire” that surrounds Volubilis. In the upper left-hand corner of the picture, you can make out Moulay Idriss, where we are staying.
We had a grand adventure in our Grand Taxis (a taxi for 6 rather than the 3 of a Petit Taxi) back to Moulay Idriss. We disembarked at the Taxi Stop in Moulay Idriss and had a lesson about transportation in Morocco. We headed back to the hostel for a rest and a chance to pack before a lovely final dinner on the roof of our guest house.
The stairs down into our Riad guest house. A riad is a traditional style of house with a central courtyard onto which all of the rooms open and have windows.
Tomorrow, we head out to Azrou for homestays! Students are a bit nervous to meet their new families but excited to see experience life in a Moroccan home. Every year I have been on Four Point, the nerves turn into great bonds with new friends and family quite literally overnight.
A final sunset in Moulay Idriss from the roof of our Riad.
Day 1: Boston to Casablanca to Moulay Idriss
Saturday, February 29, 2020 (Leap Day!)
And leap we did. Across the pond and into a new adventure. We landed this morning in Casablanca and moved through customs without a hitch. After grabbing our bags at the baggage claim, we headed out to meet Kristen and Chouaib, our awesome co-leaders from Where There Be Dragons (usually just called Dragons.)
We have our bags… we might be somewhat tired…
We hopped on a van and headed off to Moulay Idriss, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the airport. While it was a long day of travel, everything went smoothly and it is great to finally be here in Morocco. We spent some time this afternoon getting an orientation to Morocco. Talking about cultural norms, thinking about how to be travelers rather than tourists, and setting intentions for our learning during the trip.
We took a break from our orientation for a “light” lunch.
Just part of the “light” lunch. Each of us got a tomato salad and a plate of fries. We shared bread, beans, and beef meatballs.
Our lunch spot made us a long table on the sidewalk for our meal.
After finishing the orientation for the day, we took a quick (both in length and speed) hike (read: lots of stairs) up to a beautiful view over one of the two hills of Moulay Idriss and the setting sun.
The group with the sunset.
We returned to the guest house for a delicious meal of various types of tagine and salad.
Half the table with the salad course… before we got many tagines of food.
We gathered for a final welcoming reflection, seated around the word زوين, Zwin, beautiful in Darija (Moroccan Arabic), which can be used to express positive feelings about a wide array of ideas. Kristen led us through an exercise thinking about our hopes for the trip and finding ways to see the beauty that exists everywhere around us.
Zwin, beauty, in candles.
Tomorrow will be another busy day. Lessons on history and culture in Morocco and then a visit to Volubilis, Roman ruins just outside of Moulay Idriss.
Pre-Trip: Are You Ready?
Friday, February 21, 2020
In a short time, we’ll have ninth graders all over the world in Peru, Morocco, Ecuador, and Tanzania as they take part in their first Gould Four Point experience. Eleven students will be in Morocco learning about the country, staying with local families, visiting schools, and immersing themselves in the culture.
Students have been working on various topics related to their destinations in their history and English classes. They have also been preparing their journals, packing their bags, and thinking about all of the things they might learn through this experience. Our older students who have already completed a Ninth Grade Four Point trip look back on their experience and say, “I learned more than I ever thought I would!”
We can’t wait to hear what this year’s students have to say about their experience.
Keep up to date with their trip by following this blog. Trip leaders will do their best to post updates regularly.