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07/04/2017

AL Program Second Newsletter

It gets to you eventually. You can try to avoid it; shelter yourself or stick to sterile pre-packaged versions of the real thing. But after a while, it doesn't matter how hard you try to steer clear of it all: you'll have to deal with them and struggle through whatever hardships come with adapting. I'm talking about microbes, of course. Or was it Morocco? The society, culture, and assorted oddities?

Maybe it works for both: Just like your LifeStraw can shield you (but only until you accidentally sip that tea that hasn't yet reached 100ΒΊ C), you can pretend to go about things your way, constantly erecting a filter composed of six dirham bottles of Sidi Ali. Or you can give in preemptively and drink the proverbial water – because eventually, it all gets to you, and you just get used to it. And, hopefully, you come out enriched a little; both in the gut and in the mind.

It's funny how many things have become normal after only a few months here: just like with any new city, moving to Rabat brought its fair share of adjustments. Only when talking with friends back home do I realize how different things are here: All these little idiosyncrasies will only really become obvious once I'm out of Morocco, back in another culture and country. But reaching this level of comfort took some time, and there were moments whose closest analogy might be the experience of just pitifully sitting on a toilet with no end in sight (and only if I'm lucky enough to get one with a seat!)

Initially, coming to Morocco, I would experience these pressures to "take it all in" and hit all the points of interest. I'd be laser focused on seeing the mosques we visited, or getting a glance of the old medina and the oudayas, but only long enough to snap a picture and retreat from those unfamiliar – and, frankly, often frightening – places. That was my bottled water. But reflecting back now, after nearly seven weeks here, I think what matters in hindsight aren't the things that can be checked off on a to-do list or located in a guidebook: it's been the day-in day-out slog that's been the most interesting. Some of my greatest experiences here have been unplanned: I'll never forget the time I shared iftar with a couple and their friend on the beach in Casa, after I had taken their photo. That's something that  you can't schedule or find breaking your fast in a McDonalds, but is only obtainable when you open yourself up to the environment here and engage with others.

Both physiologically and mentally, living here has honestly been draining. But in the end, the numerous little stresses that I've felt here have been ultimately positive. Just like the biome in my intestines has grown and flourished by adopting the local bacteria, my worldview and perspective has expanded since coming to Morocco; and it's all been well worth the discomfort.

By : Conrad Ronk

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