During my volunteer trip to Rabat, my new friend Paige and I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Merzouga. It's a small town in the eastern part of Morocco, just 31 miles (50 km) from the border of Algeria. To get there, we took a 10-hour drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, and the scenery was beautiful enough that I never opened the book I'd brought with me for the journey.
During my volunteer trip to Rabat, I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. It lies along the Atlantic Ocean on the country's western coast and is home to one of the largest artificial ports in the world. The city was originally called Anfa in Berber, but the Portuguese renamed it Casa Branca, or "white house," when they took over in the 15th century AD and built themselves a large, white fortress. When Portugal became part of the Spanish union, the town was renamed Casa Blanca to reflect the newly predominant language. Today most Moroccans simply call the town Casa.
“Aren’t you afraid to go by yourself?” Before I went on my volunteer trip to Rabat, that was the question I heard most frequently. I left for Morocco in April 2016, a month after airport bombings in Brussels had left 32 dead and 300 injured, and my flight had a day-long layover in Paris, where 130 people had died just five months earlier in a terrorist attack. It never occurred to me to stay home. While my “job” on this volunteer trip was to teach English classes at a women’s center on behalf of Cross-Cultural Solutions, the bigger purpose for these excursions is cultural exchange. The only way to do that is to show up and get to know people on the other side of the world.