Marissa Davis

Marissa Davis Paducah, KY — English Literary Studies, 2017

Marissa Davis, originally from Paducah, Kentucky, is a member of the class of 2017. Marissa is pursuing a major in English Literary Studies and a minor in French. This summer, she will be partaking in the OACS service trip in Rabat, Morocco. This two-part program includes pre-trip trainings and informational sessions followed by six weeks of on-site service. The program specializes in health, education, and community development.

Blog Post One:

My first week in Morocco has been a whirlwind! After a day of orientation and touring the city (seeing landmarks such as the famous Hassan Tower, the terrace of the Kasbah, and the souks of the medina), I began working at my service site, Fondation Orient-Occident. The Fondation exists to facilitate cultural exchange and to act as an educational resource for migrants and refugees. They provide classes in Arabic, computer science, and, of course, English – I teach the latter, along with a partner teacher from the Maldives. I was overjoyed to find all of my students incredibly passionate and eager to learn; even outside of classes, people who are learning English on their own often come and chat with Mary (my Vanderbilt site-partner) and me about our time in Morocco and our lives in America. Likewise, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a bit about their lives, whether they come from a neighborhood not far from our own Rabat medina or nations as far as Mali or Ivory Coast.

Right now, the Muslim world is partaking in the holy month of Ramadan, and Morocco has become nocturnal. People fast during the day, working shorter hours and napping; at night, they feast and spend time with family and friends.  At my homestay, my Vanderbilt roommate and I are often awake until one or two in the morning eating ftour (the traditional meal to breakfast) and dinner and watching Moroccan TV with our mom and sisters. Much like the tradition of American Christmas specials, Morocco broadcasts Ramadan specials until very late at night (or very early in the morning, depending on how you look at it) – comedies, soap operas, and game shows for the families to enjoy together during the night’s meals.

From making new friends at my service site to waking up to the calls to prayer and rooster crows, from inhaling the perfume of spices and teas in the souks to soaking up the Atlantic breeze on the city’s stretch of beach, so far, living in Rabat has proven to be an incredible experience. I’m excited to see what new adventures lie in the five weeks to come!

Blog Post Two:

Right now, I’m writing this post in a café in Paris, a sea away from the city I’ve called home for the past six weeks. It’s been a rough and tearful few days. Each brought a new series of bslamas – first to my dear students, who took my teaching partner Mary and me to see the breathtaking rocky beach near the school as a final celebration; then to my host family, who presented me with home-made traditional Moroccan garb as a farewell gift, and finally, the prolonged goodbyes to the Vandy students of my cohort (prolonged due to an airline strike that ended up cancelling most of our flights; they had to be rearranged rapidly and haphazardly, and often to times much earlier than expected).

But that’s not to say that this week has been, by any means, all bad. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s been one of the best of the program. Realizing that the end was nearing, I’ve tried my hardest to squeeze a lot of activities into very little time, whether that’s spending more time with my students outside of class or taking a solo afternoon to write in the Kasbah’s Andalusian gardens. What’s more, coming to the end has allowed me to look back at the beginning and think about everything that’s changed since then. It’s been a long time since that first confused walk down Avenue Mohammed V. I’ve made so many new friends; I’ve seen Moroccan cities from Merzouga to Chefchaouen, discovering the various cultural distinctions woven into the country’s fabric; I’ve learned about ethical service from groups as diverse as local grassroots co-ops fighting desertification and poverty in the villages of the south, and large international organizations such as Amnesty International. In short, it’s been a pretty transformative six weeks.

And even if it may be a long while before I can see my host family and my students again (though I’m sure I will, nshallah), I know that I can look forward to seeing my Vandy fam here in one short month. Though things will be different in Nashville, what with the beginning of a new school year and the onslaught of responsibilities that that brings, our group has already made plans for reunions (which will hopefully include some tasty homemade Moroccan meals). No matter what, we’ll always have Rabat.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. ed nichols says:

    Hi Marissa, Thank you for your post and for telling us about your time in Rabat and your work at Foundation Orient-Occident. I am glad that you are enjoying your trip and have had time to see some of the sites. Morocco anytime must be special but Morocco during Ramadan must be extra special. I wanted to find out more about Foundation Orient-Occident and google it but almost everything was in French and I did not learn much. Please try to come to the Nichols Humanitarian Fund reception in October and tell me about the place and more about your work there. Until then thank you again for your post but most of all thank you for caring enough to give up your summer to go on this trip and teach the children there English. Ed

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  2. Marissa says:

    Hello, and thanks for the reply! Fondation Orient-Occident is an NGO with the goal of promoting cross-cultural exchange and understanding (in French, Orient means East and Occident means West). The Fondation works predominantly with refugees and immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, but many local Moroccans come as well; my class, for example, contains around two-thirds Moroccans and one-third Sub-saharan refugees. They offer lots of different classes and workshops, many though not all of which focus on language learning (there are computer science classes as well, for example, as well as probably several others I just haven’t heard of yet!), and from time to time, they host cultural events as well. Hope this helps some, and I would be delighted to explain in more depth at the reception in October!

    See you then, and thanks so much for helping to make such an incredible summer possible for me! – Marissa

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