During winter break this year, I went to Morocco for two weeks I learned about the Moroccan culture and health care, but also had the chance to educate and gave back to people while visiting their villages.
On Day 1- Friday
In Morocco the people speak Arabic and French. After an 8-hour flight, I arrived in Morocco at 11:15 am Moroccan time which is 6:15 am EST. I exchanged $80 which equals 650 dirham (Moroccan currency). When we arrived, we had beef, chicken, lentils, and a lot of bread. I didn't know that the Moroccan diet consists so much of bread but it was all fresh and tasty. Then we went to souk which is like a shopping market. We saw snake charmers, monkeys on chains,and a whole table of dentures! We saw beautiful shoes, fake American purses, leather bags made in Morocco, traditional Moroccan attire, and tagines, which are what moroccans make their great food in. I bargained a leather bag for my mother for $30 which I am very proud of.
Day 2- Saturday
On this day we took a bus for 7 hours through the Atlas mountains with a local college students' rotary club. The road was very narrow and dangerous and there were 25 of us in a tour bus, but we made it. When we got to the village the villagers welcomed us with open arms playing music and dancing for us. Then we ate a delicious dinner made in a tagine. The villagers there spoke berber, a local dialect and not the typical Arabic Moroccan language. That night we slept in the doctor's home. It was very cold that night but that's why we had gone up to that village; there were reports of health problems but because the village is so far and the road is dangerous people never come to help the village.
Day 3- Sunday
In the village we went to the nearby school and did blood pressure and glucose checks, then gave away food for the village and two comforters for each individual. We taught the little kids about dental hygiene and gave them backpacks. The women were so thankful they would say "sucran" which means "thank you," then they kissed our hands. That moment, and the smile on the children's faces when they got free brushes, toothpaste, & backpacks, made me feel like I was doing the right thing by helping on this trip.
Day 4- Monday
I went to labor and delivery at a local hospital in the city of Agadir. I saw four births, all of them natural births. I got to see the dynamic of birth in the Moroccan hospital compared to in the U.S. It was very different, woman delivered their babies with no family and only the midwives to help. The different levels of cleanliness and the crowded nature of this hospital really caught my attention. But I also think the births were beautiful. I helped hold one woman's hand and hold her leg as she pushed her beautiful baby girl out. I was her support since she had no family, not even her husband. She eventually fell asleep on my hand once the baby was out. That day made me very happy and opened up my eyes to the culture and also confirmed that I want to be a midwife after I graduate. Later that night our group of 10 went to the Italian restaurant for New Years dinner. We played games to recognize different national anthems and songs in movies and cartoons.
I went to the orphanage and played with toddlers, who I learned are very dependent on touch. We were told that the children get left on the steps of the orphanage or are found in trash cans. All these children wanted was attention and it was sad that when people left the orphanage, all you heard was cries. I tried to make the best of my time and play with as many children I could. I helped change diapers and fed some of the babies.
On this day I went to the emergency room, where I saw a lot of broken noses. There wasn't as fast of a pace as I thought and it was organized. Interestingly, I met a couple of male nurses and I'm glad the men are proud to work as a nurses. It didn't seem as frowned upon in Morocco as in America, where it's mostly seen as a women's profession. The nurses had a huge work load, with two nurses for a 12-hour shift for all patients, compared to America's 1 nurse to 2-4 patient ratio.
I learned that "En shalla" means "god willing" and "Ma shalla" is said when you don't want god to taint something because it's beautiful. I admire that these phrases are said everyday in Moroccan culture and how everyone stops when it is time to pray. In Morocco most people pray 5 times a day. On this day I climbed a mountain, which for me is crazy. We climbed a mountain to get to a school to provide fluoride treatment to the elementary students. A lot of the children had rotten, black, yellow, or decaying teeth. It was really sad because I never thought kids teeth could decay like that or that there wasn't oral care occurring in parts of the world. Then we went to a, English class and talked to the kids in English, asking their name, age, favorite sport, and favorite subject. English is hard but I saw that the kids have potential to become fluent like many of the kids in the city.
I painted a Mickey Mouse on the wall of the school I was so proud of myself because I felt so artistic and I took my time to make sure it came out right. I imagined how happy all the wall art would make the children in the village. Then we organized a 5k race which was 3.1 miles for the kids of the village and the prizes were things for their mothers, like food, oil, and blankets. It shows the difference between two cultures and what is really important to those with very little. I thought it was a great idea. After the prizes were given we walked to the beach. And what a walk it was.
Day 12- Our last day
I went to a private clinic and saw 7 surgeries, which made me so happy. I saw three c-sections, a tonsiletomy, a circumcision, a removal of a coin a 3 year old had swallowed, and a breast biopsy. I was very impressed with the surgeries and how similar they were to American ones. The doctors and nurses were very sweet and tried to explain everything they were doing to me in French, which is a language I understand. After the surgery we went to a management college and had lunch with the college students and did karaoke. It was our last day so all the girls went to the hammam which is where they scrub all the dirt off your body after sitting in a 100 degree sauna. It was cool and weird all at the same time. Weird because you were naked with like 40 other woman, but cool because you felt so clean after.
I would do the trip again because I learned so much about myself, people in need, and healthcare. I feel so grateful for all the opportunities I have in the U.S. I believe its very important to travel to a different country if you can and to give back because your not only giving back but the people you help also give back to you.