jump to navigation

Pickens Blogs About Experiences in Morocco July 8, 2013

Posted by Sam Angell in Uncategorized.

Alexandra Pickens, a freshman on last year’s Drexel field hockey team, is not having your typical offseason. She is in Morocco for an Arabic language program, and has had to get creative to keep in shape and ready for the upcoming season. Here, she shares her experiences with the Dragons Den:


Greetings from Tetouan!


The week I’ve spent in Morocco has been filled with so many eye-opening experiences. Initially, I stayed in the old medina (city) in Tangier for three days. An ancient, traditional way of life is preserved there like I’ve never seen before – many people live off of 15 dirhams a day (less than $2), and if you want toilet paper, you’d better bring your own.


Although these people have next-to-nothing in material terms, they have the time to speak to each other and devote their best efforts to every task they undertake. In the words of an American expat couple that has lived in the medina for seven years, “these are among the happiest people in the world.”  These three days really put things in perspective for me, and I gained a new appreciation for the life I am able to live.


All too soon, I departed from the medina in Tangier and headed for the medina in Tetouan to commence an Arabic language program. I attend classes in the dar loughat, (house of languages), where a typical conversation consists of no less than four different languages. My teacher speaks French, but not English, and teaches the class in Arabic.  Luckily, I have a Spanish classmate who speaks French and can provide me and my Latvian (but English-speaking) classmate with a Spanish translation. Although some locals exclusively speak Darijat (a dialect of Arabic quite different from the classic which I am learning), many Moroccans also speak French and Spanish. I have never felt so linguistically useless as an English speaker!


With August quickly approaching, I have to maintain and build my fitness during my travels. In the old medina of Tangier, I had a really cool experience. A female runner is just about the most exotic thing most of these people have seen, so running the steps to the casbah (castle) attracted a lot of attention. At first people just stared, but eventually they began to cheer me on each time I passed on my way up the hill. One young boy (maybe four years old) jokingly blocked my path each time I came down and laughed uncontrollably as I played along.


I found a gym in Tetouan, but it is open to women for only one hour each day. I’m pretty sure the seven or eight women in that gym think I’m the craziest person alive. On my first day, I began running on the sole treadmill in the small room.  However, the instructor/ head of the women’s gym soon stopped me and said the treadmill should not be used at that speed. Subsequently, I joined the rest of the class in stationary biking. After about half an hour, a while after the class stopped biking and began doing ab exercises, I looked up to see the entire class staring at me. Not many of them broke a sweat, so I’m sure it was strange to see the drops falling on the floor by my bike. The language barrier prevented me from explaining why I was not following the class, and I felt slightly rude at times (doing my own thing/neglecting to join the class when asked). However, at the end, I provided a more or less coherent Spanish explanation of my situation, which a few people were able to follow. I think the instructor understood, and she responded to my “thank you” with a kind smile.


Since the lone hour the gym is available to women is during my Arabic class three days a week, I’ve had to get creative with my workouts. Being a female athlete in Morocco has been a challenging experience, but I’ve learned to communicate, problem-solve, and understand the origins of diverse perspectives.


Thanks for reading!






No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: