Travel Plans: East Africa 2010

Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Baltimore, MD, USA (map)

Ciné Afrique: a landmark on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar
It all started with the World Cup.

Four years ago, I spent the summer in Tanzania, mostly watching the 2006 "football" World Cup in local bars. While sipping Safari, Kilimanjaro, or other domestic beers, my friend Charlie and I rooted along with the Tanzanians for the African teams. Each night for a month, they whooped and clapped zealously for Ghana, for Ivory Coast, and for Trinidad & Tobago. Amid this fervor, I witnessed what I'd been missing all along by watching the World Cup in America, and vowed to myself that I would be at the next World Cup: South Africa 2010.

Over the last few years, I've met many who shared the same aspirations, but I knew we wouldn't all make the Cup. South Africa is distant, the event is expensive and lasts a whole month. Surely the rigors of jobs, grad school, and other "real life" obligations would keep many at home. But I knew

Goodbye Morocco, Until the Next Time

Thursday, December 17, 2009 | Rabat, Morocco (map)

The khemisa, a symbol commonly used for good luck in Morocco.
It has been 15 months and about a week since Jacqueline and I moved to Morocco.

The fact that we are leaving tomorrow morning, on a flight from Casablanca, feels extremely surreal. My arrival, and that first train ride to Fes, are still vivid in my memory.

In the last week we have packed our bags, sold our furniture, and moved out of our apartment. Yesterday I finished my last day of work.

I told co-workers that I would return someday, and despite my many frustrations with Morocco over these past months, a big part of me does want to visit again one day.

In such a surprisingly large country, we have inevitably left much undone, and many sights unseen. We covered much of northern Morocco last year, but I had hoped of late to spend more time in the south—a region I have only visited on my trips to Mount Toubkal and Essaouira. Tragically, the

The Final Countdown: Surfing Mehdiya in Winter

Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Mehdiya, Morocco (map)

Jon, Jen, and I pretending to be professionals, before being put in our place by the waves.
A year and a half ago, when I first began to tell friends that I was moving to Morocco with Jacqueline, they often asked what I planned to do here. Of course, I had no clue, no real answer. So I usually just smirked, and said, "I'm gonna work on my surfing skills."

The few who knew there were waves in Morocco chuckled, while the rest called timeout: "Wait, do they even have surfing in Morocco?"

Yes, they do indeed, though finding an opportunity to try it certainly took me a while. When we moved to Rabat last spring, I was excited to visit the city's well known Oudayas Surf Club. But once I saw (and smelled) the water quality, common sense dictated that these waves just weren't an option. Then this summer, I was stuck sweating behind my desk in Rabat while Jacqueline and her cousin drove down for a week in Taghazoute, one of Morocco's most famous surfing destinations.

How To: Study Arabic (and More) in Morocco

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Morocco (map)

"...قل هو الله أحد, الله الصمد, لم يلد": In Marrkech's Medersa Ben Yousef, a partial verse from surat al-ikhlas (112).
I spent my first three months in Morocco studying Arabic in Fes. Before leaving the country, I thought it might be useful to share what I learned through that process, as well as what I learned from other students during the year since then. Hopefully prospective study abroad students or anyone else looking to brush up on their Classical or Moroccan Arabic will find this information helpful.

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First, a note on Moroccan Arabic: no, it's not easy. Arabic students who know only Modern Standard Arabic (العربية الفصحى) will at first find very little that is recognizable in the Moroccan dialect, known locally as darija (الدارجة المغربية). Darija incorporates many words and grammatical constructions from French, Spanish, and multiple Berber dialects. However, having heard for years before I came here