Name: Lucy Goodman
Occupation: Go-getter, morale booster,
Location: Dar Ourigane, High Atlas
Morocco, 1hr from Marrakech, 20 minutes from Asni.
Languages spoken: Only English, and
some extremely shoddy French…how rubbish is that! These girls speak
Arabic (Darija), Berber (Tashelhit), French and some English!
Why did I decide to come here: The
culture and people are beautiful, I found this out from a previous
trip to Morocco. I find the country has a Star Warsy feel when you
see everyone in djellabas at the souk, and this can only be
interpreted as a good thing. Anyway, I wanted to perceive life from a
woman’s perspective and as a tourist it is pretty impossible to do
this. Mainly though, I wanted show my support for EFA and offer the
girls some international solidarity. If you haven’t got loads of
money you can always give your time and energy.
To be honest when I first arrived in
Ouirgane I felt completely overwhelmed! But I was expecting that. 30
hours without sleep makes life hard in any circumstance. Ahmed, the
driver, had kindly been waiting for me to get through passport
control in Marrakech for over an hour, and I was truly grateful to
have him pick me up. I’ve never had anyone greet me at an airport
holding a sign with my name on it; I felt quite important, and also
terribly inadequate. During the hour’s journey to Asni I requested
an emergency Arabic lesson; Ahmed was keen to exchange in English. We
picked up Latifa (the head housemother) and then carried on to
Ouirgane. Wow, what stunning scenery! Jbel Toubkal and his mates were
are covered with snow, the sky is so blue, and in the foreground the
red, yellow and brown sedimentary terrain provide great contrast.
Evidence of the torrential rain in November was striking. Landslides
lined the road, debris still covered parts of it, and the deep
ditches that catch the rock fall at the sides of the road were full
and overflowing. Big boulders hang precariously in the cliffs above
whilst work was still ongoing to clear the talus and repair the
I didn’t even
know how to pronounce Ouirgane before I got here, nor did I have any
idea how the next few hours, days and months would pan-out. What an
adventure; I just hoped I could be really useful to the girls and to
Badiaa, Mina and Samira who do their upmost to look after them. I
knew that communication would be a problem for us, but trading emails
in broken French before my arrival had made me feel a lot more
comfortable about coming out here. I was assured that we would all
live and work well together because the love and respect between us
was already there.
It’s now day
three…or four…I’ve forgotten, but that can only be a good sign,
as so much has happened already. I want to thank all the girls here
in Dar Ouirgane, and especially Badiaa the housemother for such a
delicious warm welcome. I’m amazed at how quickly we’ve built a
rapport and I’m thankful for their patience whilst I continually
pronounced their names wrong over and over again. The good news is
that I’ve pretty much got there now, although the sad news is that
today the girls in the 1st and 2nd year of
college have just gone home for their holidays. Last night though, I
was treated to a proper Berber sing-song complete with drum and
tambourine accompaniment. I’ve never been so impressed with how a
group of people can produce such catchy rhythms and intense sound
with their hands and voices. It was a right knees-up.
So I’m here with the 3rd
years this week, and can help them prepare for their English exam.
It’s important that they take breaks and relax…and I can
certainly help with that. For instance today and yesterday we played
football, and I think it’s great that Badiaa instigates this; the
girls love it. They’re REALLY good at keepie-uppies and matches get
quite competitive and sacrificial. I have to say the girl’s
commitment to their studies is astonishing. None of them need
encouraging to get books out and crack on with revision or homework.
They all seem appreciative of their chance to learn and they’re
dead keen to do so. It really makes the work of ‘Education For All’
completely worthwhile and I can advocate with confidence that the
money given by past, present and hopefully future donors, couldn’t
be put to better use.
After the 3rd
years sit their exams, everyone goes back to their various villages.
Badiaa, Mina and Samira need a well-earned rest too. When we
reconvene, my ‘work’ can start in earnest and we will hatch a
plan as to how I can best support each individual; so I look forward
to that. Even though I have no prior knowledge of teaching English, I
do have a sound knowledge of English, lots of books and buckets of
enthusiasm….and with that I hope to do the girls justice. We’ve
had quite a few informal impromptu lessons already. It’s amazing
the ideas that come to you and the fool you’re prepared to be
infront of keen learners. Spontaneous songs and games come to mind
when you’re in the moment. Everyday I spend lots of time with
Badiaa, as she is super keen to improve her English. It’s really
pronunciation and grammar that I can help most with; and of course
we’ve done the obligatory labelling of all items in the house in
French and English to enhance vocab.
I’m grateful for
this opportunity; thanks to everyone involved. I promise to work hard
and will keep you updated as things progress here.