Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Learning Across Continents: Let Me Tell You about the Mountains in Morocco!


Written by our former intern, Ms. Ambar Khawaja

Ambar during her stay in Morocco

Let me tell you about the mountains in Morocco. As you begin to climb them, you look up to see the sun shining through the clouds and the peaks peeking out above them. As you continue forward, you begin to find yourself in the fog. This fog can be bothersome, because you want to be able to see the top and the climb is no longer as scenic as it started out. It clouds your vision. It seems like forever until you are out of the fog, but as you keep walking you start to brim with joy and thankfulness because you can once again see clearly. You are high above everything, watching the world move along at what seems like such a slow pace in the grand scheme of things. Perspective.
I once was the girl who thought she had her life figured out:
1.    Graduate high school accomplished;
2.    Go to a good college and major in neuroscience;
3.    Get my PhD and do research on the brain;
4.    Get tenure at a university so that I can be a professor and have my own lab;
5.    Amongst all of this, travel the world
Truthfully, this was not entirely my dream. It was a mixture of the dreams of the people I’ve looked up to and it was sculpted by how society views success. I was equipped for this specific version of life and did not expect to deviate from it. I had such certainty chasing after these goals. Everyone was in awe of my drive and determination to reach the end; but it seemed like even if I did reach the end, I would never reach satisfaction. I felt empty without praise because my worth was based off of my achievements. It was no wonder that when I reached a new goal, I would either become stalled or feel like there was still something lacking. The thought that there is always someone better than me out there constantly seeped into my mind. This led to a cycle of chasing prestige, recognition, and anything else that I could use to make myself feel better about my worth. I never knew that success and despair could happen simultaneously, and that the former could cause the latter. I didn’t know how to just be.

Taken by Ambar

What do people do in the in-between of life? The in-between is what I refer to as the space that occupies the emptiness between my failures and my successes. It’s my worst mental enemy, but if handled correctly it can be my best mental friend. I would like to point out that this space that baffled me is actually just called life by most people, and that the accomplishment-hungry-me just didn’t know what living actually was yet.
While my goals and accomplishments were a large part of my life, they weren’t the only part, and I was neglecting the rest of myself. I was becoming unaware of the many other layers I contained as a person, leading me to be hollow.
At times like this, far away from home on another continent, where people speak another language and I know virtually nothing, I am sitting in my room reflecting and writing about the changes I have noticed in the month and a half I’ve spent here. Worries are less, small mistakes are forgiven easier, and I am not basing my value on achievement. Here, people do not care about what you have done as much as they care about the kind of person you are; whether you are kind and how willing you are to try and learn. Finally, in a place where I know nothing, I can learn everything without self-judgement. I do not have the pressure to always be doing something in a society that puts emphasis on busyness. What a privilege. Finally, I am learning to act in the in-between. I am emptying the pot that everyone poured their hearts and souls into and putting it in storage so that I can begin to fill my own. Each is important. One is what I came from and what I am made of, and the other is what I will become.


My community pumped me with love and purpose, so even though I didn’t expect to deviate from my original life plans, I was prepared for it. My family, mentors, teachers, and friends are only some of the people who helped inflate me so that I could learn to fill up my skin. Creating a community for myself was a conscious choice. Yes, I am uncertain about my future place in the world. My plans are changing, and I don’t know what I am meant to do. Purpose is such a heavy word that calls my name. At a time like this, I have found that my immense skill of worrying is truly no help to me, but the simple human action of breathing serves to be the best mechanism to assist me. Life has taken me this far, and the universe has created a path and given me all the signs I need to follow it along to my destination.
Every day I may find myself in the foggy place, I remember the top of the mountain I’ve always reached, regardless of my worries, confusion, and uncertainty. Faith is showing me my way, step by step. I need to take the time to pause and remember the grand scheme of the universe. Every small mistake I have made will not crush me, and every person who doesn’t like me doesn’t diminish my value.
Where do I go from here? Besides wherever life is taking me, I have learned that I need to place more effort into self-validation rather than external validation. I need to remember to learn from everyone, because everyone has something to teach me, whether good or bad. It’s silly to think that any given life has nothing of substance. I should not be so quick to judge others and instead I should grow my patience by realizing that I too have made mistakes. However, I need to continue to become better at discerning those who are toxic and become wiser with how I invest my energy and who I invest in. Above all, I want to become a person that jumps into the unknown quicker because it is always an opportunity to grow, and I must always make time to reflect on how far I have come and where I want to go next.