Written By Tori
Our group gazed eagerly at the ocean as we arrived to the city of Essauoria. We loved the mountains, but it was nice to smell the crisp air of the beach and know we could rest these next couple days. Almost immediately after we settled into our hostel, the group discussed dinner options. Sheldon often suggests the best restaurants; it is considered to be his super power. He shared information on an authentic Italian restaurant that cost only around thirty dollars for three courses- something almost unheard of in the US. I firmly believe that Clemente died of happiness when he saw his coffee and chocolate mousse come out. The night ended with us walking back to the hotel near the beach. Eliana, being the curious person she is, stopped and tried find out why a bunch of tourists were clumped together cheering. Our group was pleased to see our friends from the hostel we stayed in Marrakech doing street performances. The rest of the time in this city was practicing our bargaining skills and getting ready to travel to Agadir.
Our bus to Agadir was filled with so many twists and turns that almost everyone in our group got car sick. Don’t worry, we’re all fine. Most of the time on the bus was spent distracting ourselves by listening to the conversations of a group of US military cadets that was directly in front of us. When we arrived, our group was greeted by Tasnim from Dar Si Hmad—one of our many friends from the NGO we would learn from over the course of the next week. After dinner at the office, we were driven to the hotel. Most students who traveled all day would go to bed, but our group decided to have a costume party. At this party, we played card games and listened to CNN (the only channel in English) while dressed completely ridiculously. It was probably one of the most exciting parties all of us have been to in our lifetime.
We only had one full day in Agadir, but the day was stacked with activities. In the morning, we learned more about Dar Si Hmad’s inception and all the programs they offered during orientation. One of the projects we focused on throughout the week was their fog harvesting program. Dar Si Hmad created a system that uses large nets to catch the fog that come through the mountains. The fog water is mixed with well water and supplies beneficiary families directly to their homes. This program has saved women copious amount of time since they don’t have to walk long distances to get water from wells. Later in the day our group listened to a lecture on the Amazigh and got a tour in a Amazigh Museum where we learned about the symbolism behind the artifacts left behind by this indigenous group to Morocco. Finally we went shopping in the Souq El Hed- a very large market before returning to our hotel.
Early the next morning, we started traveling to Sidi Ifni. Our ride there was filled with adventure. We stopped in Tiznit to have lunch and shop in this well known silver hub. Here are the highlights from that shopping spree: Brandis and I were looking at jewelry and started conversing with the owner about how we were from the United States. The owner stated that his brother died in the US and proceeded to show us his brother’s death certificate. I have to say I have never had this happen to me in the US. In addition, Kate has officially found the earrings that represent this trip—they were gorgeous. Her earrings are an upside down triangle representing an Amazigh fertility symbol and women’s empowerment. We were only there for an hour, but almost all of us bought silver before getting back onto the road. After an hour in the car, we stopped at a beautiful beach where Geoff and a few others played frisbee. Unfortunately, the game stopped short when the frisbee was caught by the wind and blown into the rough waves. No worries, Kate completely submerged herself to retrieve the frisbee. When we finally arrived, Tasnim led us on a tour that gave some background information on Sidi Ifni. We learned that the main way people make money is by fishing. However, the city is struggling economically due to the fact that most of the expensive fish are distributed to other cities and only cheap fish like sardines are kept to sell in the Sidi Ifni. In 2008, activists from the city took over the port to raise awareness of this pressing issue.
The first day we were supposed to hike Mt. Boutmezguida to see the nets collect the fog, but it was raining. Instead, we were put into a jeep and small groups were driven up to the mountain to the nets. Gina, Kate, and Eliana were enjoying their time hiking when a hailstorm started. Luckily, the jeep came to save them. The upside of the rain was we were the first group to witness the fog harvesting in action! We all gathered around the nets and asked questions about the project before hiking down the mountain to have lunch. During lunch, Vanesia lead the group in asking questions to the beneficiaries of the fog project to see how having direct water supply has affected their lives. One example was how young girls could stay in school and continue their education because they no longer were needed at home to travel to gather water from the wells.
The next couple days were spent working on a plot of land and learning more about permaculture. The land was given to Dar Si Hmad as a donation by one of the beneficiary families. Currently, the organization is developing the land as a farm to demonstrate techniques the community could use to make their farm land more productive. The first day we started by making soil for plants. Since the soil is arid, we had to go to the well to gather water and add it to compost and dirt we had dug up. This is the day we learned Kayla is the queen at collecting water from the wells. I stood in awe as she quickly filled up the bucket. It was difficult process because you had to orient the bucket correctly to collect water and then lift the water a long way. Our group planted over 65 very young trees into small bags. The next day we also got to learn how to calculate if the portion of the land was level and physically fixed it. It was fun, but hard work using picks and shovels to move rocks and dirt. The days working on the farm showed us how strong and dedicated you have to be to produce crops on Mt. Boutmezguida.
Our group will never forget the service learning about the environment from this past week. We were sad to leave our new friends at Dar Si Hmad, but we are off to our next adventure. It is finally the start of student directed travel and I can’t wait to for you guys to hear it from the other end!