My socks were Morocked. Shooting stars were seen, dunes were conquered, friends were made and memories created. Walking from the bus stop home Wednesday at midnight, following the 14 hour travel day back to Spain, left me on the verge of tears and I still am not sure why. Sleep deprivation was part of it, as we awoke for the sunrise every morning in the Sahara succeeding late nights under the stars. An incredible joy was part of it as well – as Morocco, of all places, reminded me of Home in the same way as does Summer’s Best Two Weeks (Summer Camp) and Urban Promise (Spring Break Service Trip). Still, I think there is something more. I hope I am able to look back in twenty years and put a finger on what really happened during my first trip to Africa; but for now, I am content in professing the one thing I know for sure: I love Morocco.
Here is a quick skeleton of the memories:
- The Medina in Fez. Among 80,000 Shops and 9,400 streets (each 3 feet wide), we had to be careful not to get lost – forever. Home to 300,000 people who all know each other personally, the Medina is easily the greatest Hide n Seek site this planet has to offer.
- We found Switzerland and the Grand Canyon. They were hidden in the middle of Morocco all along. I got to pee in 50 mile an hour wind and met a mountain goat shepherd.
- The Sahara. First night, we arrived at our pillow fort in the middle of the desert by Defender, raced across the obscure dunes, and star tipped, (game where you spin around looking at one star directly above you until you collapse) made infinitely more fun when you are on 30 foot hills of soft sand.
- The Sahara (again). We rode camels. Mine peed on himself a lot and kept licking me. Then we got skis and a snowboard and shredded the dunes into the sunset. The colors of the Moroccan sky are absolutely unrivaled.
- The Sahara (revisited). Berber night. The last night in the sand was spent around a campfire of wax candles surrounded by drunken Berber men. They kept telling jokes and then rolling down the dunes laughing at each other. My friends Jill and Garrett and I snuck away to stargaze. There were a lot of stars. Approximately one shooting star every 45 seconds. I made so many wishes.
But I’m not sure that this is the real Morocco – or at least the entirety of Morocco. In the same way that the United States is not the glory of Times Square without its institutionalized racism. In the same way that Thailand cannot be encapsulated by the beaches of Phucket without considering the sex tourism epidemic. Morocco, like every country, is so much more than its splendor. Perhaps it is not the most “real” Morocco if the majority of Moroccans do not live it. I am confident that most Moroccans will never experience the magnitude of the Sahara or the thrill of sand-surfing.
So let us consider this beautiful country from another angle. In Morocco, I watched a 10 year old boy slam into the front of the bus behind us, left bleeding out in the middle of the road. In Morocco, I watched a 12 year old dragged across the road and beaten with clubs by police. In Morocco, I watched at least 7 boys younger than me pried from the burning engine between a bus frame and the ground. All in a 30 minute span. All trying to get to Spain AT ANY COST. These children, with nothing to their name except for the shoes on their feet, repeatedly risk their life to cling onto the belly of tourist buses (among other remarkable strategies), so that they may ride to a new life. When they fail, they are gifted with 6 months of free food and a roof over their head in jail. What’s hardest to consider is that this is just a taste of the truth. Morocco is not the only country with borders like this, and is certainly not the worst.
The impact is outstanding. It seems our bus was split between two reactions: comical indifference and world-shattering shock.
These kids make great joke material. How often do you get to tweet about refugees hiding on our bus? I can’t wait to tell all my friends about this. These kids are so stupid. How dumb do you have to be to try and ride the bottom of a bus back to Spain? Where are their parents anyways? They smell bad.
This attitude is summed up by a series of complaints beginning 5 minutes after we left the border. Among them, “these movies suck”, “I’m tired of sitting”, and “why is dinner so late”. The response of one of the girls at my dinner table when asked how her day went:
“My day was like s***”.
How is this even possible? Why isn’t the government doing anything? Can we bring them home with us? Why did the police man hit them? How is it fair that the 12 year old has to go to jail? Can I get out to help?
I suppose most of these people have no idea that more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. That 1 billion children worldwide live in poverty. That according to UNICEF, around 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. These kids are the product of a broken world, manifested in a neoliberal economic structure, corrupt governments, an unjust supply chain, and a million other brilliantly built and impossibly large hurdles.
So what does this mean for us? For me?
First, our modern society is in love with the idea of justice. However, as long as it requires any self-sacrifice, we make excuses. Instead of living in thanksgiving for what we have, we rationalize getting more. We prioritize getting and not giving, but continue to idealize equality and justice.
My natural response to all of this is to work as hard as I can. To give everything in order to do as much as is possible. To maximize my blessings for others. To give my life away.
But this is not nearly enough. I know I will fail sometimes. I will be selfish. I will not do enough. I am not a savior. Most of all, this is not about me.
My role, our role, is not to save the world. Instead, it is to love. That’s it. We love by laying down our lives for those around us every day. We love by serving each other, using our money for others (our kids, parents, and friends) and by affirming our neighbor even when we cannot stand him. This is much more than a geopolitical issue, it is a person issue. God created the beauty of Morocco, but greater He created the people.