07 September 2010

There and Back Again

I'm leaving one hometown in 6 hours. Bus to Chicago, plane to New York, plane to Casablanca, train to Marrakech, taxi to my old site. Inchallah, I'll be resting on a ponj and ready to break the fast to the sound of a real, live adhan by 5pm local time on Wednesday.

Of course I've nicked the title for this blog from a very famous source. And Bilbo and Frodo have very much helped me understand how to deal with going "there and back again." What they've never told me is how to go "there and back and there and back and there and back and there and back again." Whenever I leave to or from Morocco now, it never seems real until I get there, and then it feels like I've never left. But each time I'm gone from both places, things change, relationships shift, and a tiny (or big) readjustment happens.

Before I'm going this time, I've been thinking about how America will be different when I come back (whenever I do come back). And I'm a little bit nervous. I don't know what to believe, but the ignorance I continue to see in the media about Muslims in America (and about Islam and the Middle East in general) makes me nervous. Will what is simmering rise to a boil? Will it fade away after the election? Most of me would like to think that the country we've been raised to believe is the "home of the free" would not be so backwards, but my experience sometimes suggests otherwise. I hope for the best.

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The other day, a friend in Morocco showed me this video. If you understand Modern Standard Arabic, great. If not, you can watch it and still get the point that it is giving examples of great Moroccan women, and their accomplishments - Islamic jurists, astronauts, judges, gold medalists, members of parliament. I asked my friend what he thought about it, about these women having careers and being accomplished, and he said it was great. He said that they are free to choose, and that they are bringing honor to their family and their country by achieving such things. He said that if they wanted to choose that life, and they knew what they were doing, then who was he to say one way or the other what these women should do with their lives. And what about if his sister wanted to do this, instead of, say, getting married? Sure, why not?

This may seem obvious to my readers out there (I know there are a few!), but to me, he seems on the more liberal side of small-town people that I've met in Morocco. But it is changing, and in his (and my) generation, it is becoming more normal for women to do these kinds of things. Different enough, obviously, for it to warrant a YouTube video, but still... a step towards normality. I wonder still if he or his parents would feel the same if his sister was 30 or 35 and still showed no interest in marriage - and if he would even tell me, because he knows very well how I feel about the issue. Interesting indeed.

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Moroccans Debate Controversial Ramadan Fast Law:
A Moroccan civil rights group is seeking to decriminalise public eating during Ramadan.

Someone asked me what the poverty level is in Morocco the other day. Turns out... it's up for debate!

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