Colors of Casablanca

During the NOW Encounter, I had worked in small projects with Zvijezdana. My impression is that she is a talented young lady and we formed a great team, but we did not get to know each other more outside of the sessions. I am really excited to spend a week with her in the buddy exchange part of the Journey!
On our first day in Casablanca I felt that my buddy was stressed out about the safety of the country and the cultural differences. I told myself that she should experience at least one new thing and, if she did not like it, we could spend the rest of the time in the city center, going to malls and cafes.

While I was walking through streets of Casablanca, I was thinking how I met Ghizlane during the preparation for a performance on gender equality and how we shared similar ideas regarding gender equality. I recognized an immense energy between us and an interest to learn more about my buddy as young women who lives in an oppressive community.

Touring Casablanca was for me a boring routine, but for her it was really appealing and exciting! She noticed and highlighted lots of things I was used to and to which I would not pay attention anymore. When she said “It is salty”!, it took me a minute to understand that she meant the smell of the ocean not far from where I live. Her happiness and admiration for everything around her was really contagious!

On Tuesday I got to see a lot of different smells, colors and things around me. Morocco was rich with diversity, different influences, culturally important sights and a long history of colonization. It inspired me to take a look at this society from a different perspective. And all of my fears and stereotypes went away,  thanks to my engaging and welcoming buddy.

After a long walk on Wednesday we suddenly had Hassan II mosque in front of us. My buddy was really impressed by this great Moroccan monument. I had been here many times already, but I started to look at it from another perspective.
After visiting the mosque we went on to the traditional market. It was crowded, and that was really different from what she is used to, but once again she surprised me with her flexibility and open-mindedness!

We got to explore the most majestic mosque I have so far seen in my life! Coming from a diverse country I got to see a beauty of the Moroccan culture that emerged from the people and the tireless efforts to preserve it. Visiting the market with all the vivid colors and sounds was a completely new experience for me, and I got to grasp what the ordinary life looks like in Casablanca and how people are living in this diverse society beyond the media pictures and the commercial images.

On Thursday we chatted the whole way from Casablanca to Rabat, it was a non-stop sharing, debating and discussing diverse topics ride. I was surprised to discover that we had similar bucket lists. All our discussions were inspiring and sometimes even challenging.
I felt so close to my buddy, and our connection was getting deeper. Whenever we met someone and my buddy would say she is from Bosnia, everyone replied that they love her country. We have similar cuisine, family traditions and customs so she was feeling home most of the time.

Our trip to Rabat was intense but a huge life learning moment for me, as I got to connect with my buddy on different topics we discussed. We were persistent in our efforts to walk around in order to experiment different parts of Rabat: from a boat-tour to the taste of Moroccan “Shawarma”. It was a great, heart-warming experience for both of as we got to try something new together but also learn more about each other’s life, activism, goals and aspirations.

My friends and sister talked to Star – Zwijezdana’s nickname – in Arabic thousands of time by habit. I was surprised that she actually understood what they said and answered them in English! The context and tone helped, but it was funny to see. Everything has a Moroccan touch, even the mall. Waking in the souk was super fun, I am starting to notice the smells too! My buddy really influenced me to pay attention to it.

On Friday I was blown away by the Casablancan mall and the diverse people I met, such as some of the Ghizlane’s friends and enjoyed their conversation on a beautiful Arabic. I was positively surprised to see them addressing me on their native language as if I were one of them. That made me feel like at home!

It was probably the hottest day on Saturday, I was getting tired of going to markets. I turned around for a moment, and Star’s eyes were shining. My buddy was admiring the effort of the people working hard to earn a living.

I had a huge admiration for the people in the market, seeing them struggle to sell their products and also how engaging everyone is in the whole process. The market was a really comfortable place, because I got to see that everything is accessible and affordable, which sometimes it is not the case in Bosnia. I really appreciated the effort of my buddy to help me purchase gifts for my family.

It is my buddy’s last day, so we tried to make it special and do the thing she was excited about the whole week: going to the beach!
It was early and chilly. Sitting on the warm sand and enjoying the huge waves reminded me of the giant Swiss mountains. After less than ten minutes talking, I felt the same positive energy I had felt a month ago, the energy of the NOW Encounter.
Zvijezdana told me that she rarely cries, unless it is really dramatic. I did not argue and, even though I am very emotional, I tried to be strong this time. I gave her a big hug and we both smiled. I walked away for a minute.
She was sitting and opened her laptop: there was too much work waiting for her in the other side of the world. Goodbyes are hard but we will stay buddies forever!

Sitting on the coast of the Atlantic ocean on a Sunday morning with my buddy and enjoying the taste of peaches and the smell of water I was appreciating the simplicity of life and  understood that there is a huge struggle going on in the world and we are all part of it.
That day, when I was feeling the freedom of riding a horse, I became aware that the whole humanity is in the same boat. That diversity is a power that comes in different shapes and colors and it is up to us to recognize it.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of my buddy I was able to open my eyes wide and feel and smell that part of a world with all of its colors.

Written by Zvijezdana and Ghizlane, NOW Journey participants.