"It was so different from anything I had ever known."
I will never forget the moment I stepped off the plane and into Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. Jet lag seemed to be dragging my body into the floor beneath me and I struggled to read the signs around me.
This was my first trip overseas, the first time I would ever travel on my own. All I had ever known were big American cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, DC. I think that was part of what drew me to Morocco – it was so different from anything I had ever known.
I sat at a table with my oversized luggage and awaited for a member of the CCS Rabat team to meet me. We took a train to Rabat and I spent every moment glued to the scenery that passed by us. To this day I'm not sure how long the train ride was. Whether it was twenty minutes or two hours, I can't be sure. I fell in love upon arrival – and the following weeks only reassured that I had found my home away from home.
It's hard to pinpoint any one defining moment of the four weeks I spent with CCS in Rabat. My volunteer placement was challenging. If I'm being honest, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Providing care for disabled children isn't something I ever thought I would do, but I woke up each day excited to see the faces of those children. I came to learn each of the children's favorite things, the way they liked to be fed, and their favorite spot to sit in the courtyard. I exchanged witty banter with one boy and danced around with another. Despite their disabilities, these children showed me just how much life one little body could possess. The conditions in the orphanage took a lot of getting used to but the love and care the nurses gave the children taught me that home was much more than a roof and four walls.
The weekends were spent away from the orphanage and gave us volunteers time to explore the beautiful country. I was able to travel north for a whirlwind of a weekend. Some volunteers and I spent Friday night in Tangier, Morocco and took a ferry to Tarifa, Spain on Saturday morning. After a long day on a beach straddling the Mediterranean and Atlantic, we had dinner in Gibraltar. Seeing three countries in one day was something I never thought to be possible!
The most amazing part of my trip, I would say, was a trek into the Sahara Desert. A group of us volunteers were picked up in a van on Friday afternoon and started driving across the country. We stopped along the way to see monkeys on the side of the road and to eat traditional Moroccan meals. Once we made it to the site, we waited for the sun to cool then hopped onto the backs of camels for a journey out to the desert. As someone who had never camped before in my life, I found myself in an entirely new environment. Our Berber tour guide led eight of us volunteers on camelback through the desert until we reached the campsite. We watched the sun set over the dunes then settled around tables and candles for dinner. Mohamed, our new Berber friend, played traditional music on the drums as we danced around and climbed the highest dunes we could find. I fell asleep giggling with the other volunteers and counting shooting stars as they danced through the sky.
There are countless things about Morocco that stand out but I believe that you have to experience them on your own to fully cherish them. From bargaining prices in the medina to walking along the beach at Rabat-Sale, trying not to break anything at the pottery village to learning how to read and write in Arabic, you'll never find yourself bored or underwhelmed here. Rabat is an incredible city with warm, welcoming people that are as excited to meet and learn about you as you are them.