David Crocker M.Div.
A few weeks ago, Fatima Mernissi, the Moroccan and Islamic feminist, shared with a few of my University of Maryland students, my wife (Eddie) and me some of her (Fatima’s) philosophy of life: Life goes well where there is travel, dialogue, and love. Travel brings new experiences and ideas as well as strangers who sometimes become friends. Critical dialogue with and about the “other” enriches our lives. Traveling together deepens our love and extends it to others. After more than 55 years together, Eddie and I find that Fatima’s words ring true.
In June, accompanied by our 15-year old grandson, Luke, In we returned to our favorite places and people in Peru: Posada Amazonas, an indigenous ecolodge in the Peruvian Amazon; the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu; and Cuzco. With new Peruvian companions, in the mountains above Cuzco we visited thirteen families and their promising guinea pig development project. Our friends in Lima helped us put these experiences in the context of Peru’s environmental and development challenges.
September found us returning to Nicaragua for the first time in 21 years. Dismayed by the authoritarian turn of Ortega’s government, we were encouraged in a workshop that featured both democratic opponents to the current government and a site visit to niece Susie Dix Lyons’s Clinica Verde, an impressive health clinic in rural Boaca.
In our three-week study-abroad trip to Morocco, we were thrilled to introduce our fourth cohort of UMD graduate and undergrad students to the country for which we have so much affection and hope. With the theme of “Human Rights, Security, and Development in Morocco,” we heard lectures and made site visits to such places as Parliament, the World Bank, rural women’s cooperatives, and the Royal Institute of Amazigh [Berber] Culture. Our 18 students had home stays with Moroccan families; they arrived uneasily as strangers and departed tearfully as friends. For the first week, our daughter Cathy and son-in-law Steve joined our UMD group, enhancing it with, respectively, a novelist’s and an architect’s questions and ways of seeing. Dialogue both within the group and with diverse Moroccans gave us increasing insight on Morocco before and after the Arab Awakening. With much collective work still to do, Moroccans – very proud of their country – are making progress toward fuller implementation of human rights for women, the Amazigh, and other marginalized peoples.
Returning to the USA with new eyes and renewed commitments, we have disturbed by some of the same things we found in Peru, Nicaragua, Morocco, and the US: government corruption, limited citizen activism, environmental degradation, restrictions on freedom justified by security threats, and growing inequalities. We are renewed, however, by knowing that people of good will abroad and at home are together seeking ways to make their neighborhoods, cities, nations, and world better places to live and love.
College Park, Maryland
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