By Annabelle Gould
“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” – Mark Twain
During our time in Morocco we found ourselves spending plenty of time reflecting on our long bus rides to all of the places we were visiting during our travels. The bus acted as our maternal hub that would take us to all of these new and beautiful places as we reflected on what we had seen, past experiences, our music, etc. In a way, our time on the bus was cherished because it acted as our place of safe reflection — both away and together with the group as one drifted in and out of sleep, music listening, etc. To me, time in the bus was one that I found myself getting excited about. It acted as a portal for me to reflect, prepare, and then jump into the next activity on our next stop. As we sat on the bus in our own little worlds, we would pass beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, mountains, and rivers with the occasional fruit stand and the lonely tender. During these bus rides, I never slept. I was always listening to my music and looking out the window at all of the passing scenes, acting as my own personal movie show. I found it to be fascinating that I, a young American, was looking in on these external scenes so far removed from my own world. At times, I felt invasive with the confused and baffled glances we received from people in our passing. Other times, I felt welcomed with the waves and smiles of young children following our bus out of the small villages we visited. Our time on the bus meant something more than a journey for me. The bus acted as a safe hub, where we observed and the actors external to our bus (whether they were landscapes, people, animals, etc.) acted as our entertainment. It was hard for us to connect when we were in the bus — that was our domestic hub. We were able to be our own American selves without the fear of not being able to connect with those whom we met during our time in Morocco. We were never completely immersed on the bus, no matter how many pictures we took nor how many landscapes we saw. Only until we stepped off the bus and into those villages, homes, city streets did we completely feel that we could connect with those whom we met. To the people looking in on our bus, we probably acted as the same factor within their lives — disconnected foreigners looking at them, while they looked back. This acted as a similar act of voyeurism – they look at us, while we look at them relationship. Acting as nothing deeper until we stepped out of our comfort zone and into their lives.
Upon stepping off the bus, we found ourselves in cities, rural villages and mountainside towns that we had only seen within our travel booklets and National Geographic. As disconnected as it sounds, I had thought of all of the individuals whom we saw in passing as one-dimensional characters acting in a global play. I had never thought about their lives, struggles, ways of life – nor had I bothered to know a little bit more – until I stepped off that bus. My own metaphorical bus was applying for this Mosaic – I stepped on my “bus” when I submitted my application to the Center for Global Study, not thinking about the individuals but rather about the promise of the landscapes, cities, and towns I would traverse through — ones of which I had seen in National Geographic and similar magazines. It wasn’t until this trip gave me a little bit of a kick in the rear off the bus and into the landscapes, cities, and villages that I was completely aware of the multi-faceted angles of all of these individuals. Stepping into their homes, their ways of life, asking about their mothers, families, and values painted a broader picture for me. They all have different and interesting customs, family values, viewpoints than we do, and yet we find ways to put them into a hierarchical viewpoint of being looked at. With our journeys on the bus, we could see that this relationship would work both ways – they were just as fascinated by us just like we were with them. Understanding that we could work in conjunction by allowing them to probe our lives as much as theirs was an interesting and invaluable lesson we have taken away with our time not only in Morocco but on this complete journey through three different cultures. And for that, we have the “bus” to thank.