June Backdated Post

JUNE 24th 2010

General Observations in the Field

–          Apartment contracts do not exist in the same way in Morocco – do not expect it to work the same as in the states for several reasons:

1. There are no contracts

2. You might be evicted randomly

3.  Your landlord will stop by uninvited – often

  • Also, a note for females working abroad in Morocco:  When choosing an apartment in Moroccan cities, try to find one within the old medina (if they have one) walls rather than in the villa nouvelle or outside areas. Your movement is less restricted and people will know you forming a kind of safety net.
  • If at all possible, live with a family.   You will learn more during this time and from the people you live with about the culture than 10 months of research outside the family home.

–          Internet is limited and tenuous – for research purposes anyway

–          Language is key

  • My time here will be very limited because I cannot fluently speak either French or the Moroccan dialect (darija) of Arabic.

–          NGOs are distrustful

  • Gaining permissions at NGOs are incredibly difficult sometimes because of the issues discussed and other times because of the mistakes of researchers before you.  Which brings up a good point….

–          Responsibility, preparation, and careful choices in your actions are incredibly important.

  • It is important to understand cultural views and norms BEFORE even attempting to engage in interviews or communication on your topic.
  • Understanding yourself and the people you will interact with lessens confusion and the potential to offend or harm.
  • Be more understanding and conscientious of their needs and expectations rather than assume that yours takes priority.
  • Organizations do not run the same as in the states – do not expect them to and prepare for this.

My thoughts so far:

I am finishing up my first independent month in the field.  I keep reminding myself that I am an undergraduate student.  All the books I read preparing me for the field are for graduate students and professors or professionals with a team of graduate students or assistants.  I have to constantly remind myself not to measure my level of success with this level.  Although, since I unconsciously do this at times it sometimes works in my favor as it pushes me to work harder.  I am happy and healthy although finding the language barrier a huge problem.  I expected as much, but I did not realize just how much.

I am also dealing with much more sexual harassment than in the times that I was studying abroad.  I cite many reasons for this.  I have moved outside of the medina walls, it is summer (more people are home, out and about), and unemployment is only rising.  I am also a white, American, female.  I could go on but this too hinders my movements and therefore my research potential.  I wish I spoke French or Darija.

I have found my friend Zakaria to be an invaluable research partner.  I have learned more about the culture and he has been acting not only as a translator but assists me in my work and serves as a gateway that as an American female I would not have.  I am extremely grateful to him for his help.

I really want to get into some NGOs.  I am still working on this.  Zakaria is invaluable in this endeavor.  I am not sure if my original intention of volunteering is going to work.  The NGOs just do not work the same.  I also do not speak the language.  However, my ties to this country, this issue, and my determination to ensure that I will work here in the future are only becoming more solidified.  So while I may not be able to volunteer my time now, I have not given up on the idea altogether.  I believe it just might be in the future and in ways that I was not planning.

Research in the field has also heightened the feelings of self-exploration and attempts to understand myself more than my study abroad experience.  Time away from one’s home country seems to force yourself to critically evaluate everything in your life, but research even more so.  In research, no longer is it only the differences in life experience forcing you to evaluate but now the people you interact with becomes so much more a part of that process.  As my relationship deepens and they share with me, the more I am forced to share of myself and in turn learn about myself.  And the more I become determined to assist or become a part of the changes that are rapidly occurring in this culture and country.

I struggle with developing my ideas of success and ways in high to improve my research.  I feel like I am doing all I can and simply pushing through.  I sometimes feel lost even though on paper it seems I am exactly where I should be.  I hope in the coming months I gain a better center and understanding of where I am in the field.