Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas Vacation in Morocco

Several days ago I got back from my Christmas trip to Marrakech, Morocco. I volunteered for two weeks at an orphanage through the coordinating organization "International Workcamps Morocco". Fifteen to twenty children ages 5 to 17 call "Al Karam" orphanage home while more than half that number participate in day activities at the center. The kids come from a variety of backgrounds and will be there a month or two to years depending on their situation. While there I lived and worked with two other short-term volunteers - a guy from South Korea, Howard, and girl from Hong Kong, Crystal - who are now studying in the England. In addition, there were long-term volunteers from Germany and France.

As a former French protectorate French is the unofficial business language of Morocco and is spoken widely. Some of the kids spoke French and all spoke Moroccan Arabic, but, unfortunately, only Crystal spoke a bit of French. Language was definitely a barrier especially when trying to teach or give instructions. We communicated with Moroccan staff in a mix of bad French and bad English, while the German served as our on-call interpreter. We often found it much easier to communicate with the children - often through actions - than the adults. They are much more animated, forgiving and less afraid of being wrong than us old people.
Plus, who needs to speak to play a game of soccer? Our activities there centered mainly around games, drawing and frequent trips to the nearby soccer field and sports complex. The kids had so much energy!

Aside from our volunteer time we got to know Marrakech by walking around and getting lost in the city's medina or old city center. As the tourism capital of Morocco there were plenty of souvenir shops selling ceramics, metalwork and woven goods. Most of these shops are concentrated in the medina. It's a confusing, lively maze filled with buzzing scooters and shopkeepers eager to lure you into their stores.


sam said...

Thanks for the update!!! Do you have pictures to show?? :)

doc said...

Your wish is (was) my command. I know you've already seen them, but I posted pictures on Facebook and added the link in the post above.