Thank you David Bonderman!

Because of Mr. Bonderman's generosity, I have been given the opportunity to travel the world and learn about culture. As a Bonderman Travel Fellow I plan on traveling through Western and Eastern Europe, East Africa, Northern India and Southeast Asia. I am excited to experience new and amazing things that will better enable me to empower and inspire the next generation of young students.

ALSO!!! If you are interested in following the nasty development of my beard and can follow it at

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mission Maroc

So, I spent the last four nights in Africa...away from the comforts and luxuries of having friends, drinkable water and a semi-recognizable language nearby. On the 25th I arrived in Melilla, Spain (Spanish Morocco) and spent the night there. Then I spent the 26th and 27th in a rural area of Morocco. I slept at a typical countryside home with a family friend from the states (Melodie) and a Moroccan family (Parents, Siham and Mohammed; Siham's Aunt; Elias, 4; and Teetee, 2). Out in the country I spent my time picking figs, harvesting cactus fruit, cracking almonds, digging the foundation of the future community center, playing with the kids, going to the beach and eating a lot of great food cooked by Mohammed.
The beautiful home that Melodie and the Moroccan family live in

The house from the backside

Teetee, Elias and I

Cracking Almonds with the family

Picking Cactus fruit with Elias

The Moroccan sunset from my bedroom (aka the roof)

On the morning of the 28th Melodie and I headed west towards a small mountain town called Chefchaouen. Along the way we passed hundreds and hundreds of fields full of lush marijuana plants. It was absolutely crazy! Marijuana is definitely illegal in Morocco, but the authorities and government turn a blind eye to almost all drug activity. Chefchaouen is a beautiful and somewhat touristed area that looks and feels a lot more like Europe than the country did.
Chefchaouen at sunset

This is Melodie :)

I needed to leave very early in the morning on the 29th...around 6 am. So, I got up, got ready and started to head out the door, however, the main entrance to the hotel was locked and the manager was nowhere to be found!!! I started scouring the entire building for an alternative exit, but was unsuccessful. The main door was the only exit other than windows, and all of the first floor windows were barred shut. So, I resorted to using a rope from REI and an open second story window(seen in the picture below right behind me). It may not look it from the photo, but the drop from that window is about fifteen feet....thats pretty far. First, I lowered my 30 lb pack from the window. Step 1 was simple and accomplished without any hiccups. Next, I wrapped the rope around the middle window frame so that half the rope hung out the right window and the other half hung out the left window (I did this so that after I climbed down I could get my rope back). Then, I barely squeezed through the left window, feet first with my pack on my back. I proceeded to lower myself down from the window, but the rope didn't reach all the way to the bottom! I ended up jumpiing the last 5 or 6 feet with my 10 lb pack on my back. I landed safely without any broken ankles or bruised joints, was able to regain my rope and was ready to find my way across the mediterranean and through Spain to Barcelona. It was an adventure!


Stephanie Petersen said...

These pics are so great! I am so excited for you and and can't wait to hear more about all of this! and might I mention that your beard is coming in quite nice! :)

minatm said...

Hahah Joe I was highly amused by the escape story from the window. That's a nice one to have under the belt. You look like you're having an awesome time!! I want a review on which agricultural job you preferred most between the almond cracking, cactus picking and what not. Have you visited any schools yet?

Betsy said...

Joe! It looks like you're having a great time and sounds like it too. Keep up the blogging, I love reading about your adventures! Praying for you friend! :)