French Impressions: Jennifer Haug on French Morocco and cross-cultural appreciation
25 Wednesday Jul 2012
American Language Center, Basque, Bayonne ham, French Morocco, Lower Navarre, Marrakech, Master Gardener, Morocco, National Conference for Undergraduate Research, NCUR, Nepal, Ossaulraty, Ostabat, Pyrenean foothiils, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Spain, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, TESOL, Thailand, University of Wisconsin River Falls, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, WWOOF
Jennifer Haug, TESOL educator and world traveler, received her B.S. of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While in school, Jennifer traveled to several states and countries including Montana for NCUR (National Conference for Undergraduate Research), Thailand for study abroad, and Nepal for an independent study teaching English.
After graduation, Jennifer backpacked through Ecuador and Peru with a friend. She continued on to Marrakech, Morocco for a teaching position at the American Language Center. In Marrakech she started “Earth Club,” a group of teenage students from the school where she taught who picked up trash off the streets and received permission from the city government to plant trees in specified areas. Jennifer returned to the U.S. and became a Master Gardener, a country-wide state extension program of volunteers that educates the public on horticultural and gardening projects, and taught classes on composting to students who managed school gardens. Her dream is to work with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), on agricultural projects around the world, in particular on farms in Portugal or Central America.
Jennifer is currently working at a vineyard in Wisconsin and will soon be traveling to Northern India to explore new regions and cultures.
AWP: What sparked your interest in other cultures?
JH: When I was a freshman at the university my sociology professor told our class about a unique month-long opportunity to study different cultural groups in Thailand. I was the youngest of my group, but I knew when I arrived back in the U.S. that I needed to see more of the world.
When I returned from Thailand, I began my degree in TESOL and two years later as a junior I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal to teach English as a volunteer. Kathmandu was my definition of culture shock: chaotic, poor, loud, and completely humble. It may be my favorite place. I loved riding on top of the buses. My original plan was to stay for four months, but I remained for ten, privately teaching English to Nepalis. I starred in two media videos: a Yum Yum Noodles television commercial and a promotional video for a 5-Star hotel.
AWP: What is it about France?
JH: The summer before my senior year, I traveled to France for a month and stayed primarily in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, which literally means “Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass,” in French. It is a town in the southwest close to Ostabat in the Pyrenean foothills and the old capital of the Basque province of Lower Navarre near the Spanish border. It is a beautiful, quaint town of old buildings of pink and grey, brick castles, and its specialties are “fromage de brebis” or Ossaulraty, sheep’s cheese, and Bayonne ham.
France is special, sophisticated. The food and wine are the best I’ve ever had.
To me France was magical, yet a bit haute. I felt alive in the countryside: beautiful farms, vineyards on the rolling hills. The stone houses and French residents had a peaceful nature to them, undisturbed by the bustling cities and media.
AWP: Some expatriates are predisposed, each in their own way, toward other countries; through fantasy, family or a cultural context. Some may have already held a piece of their narrative. How was that the same for you?
JH: After earning my B.S. in TESOL, I now had many options post graduation: Peace Corps, travel abroad, teach in the U.S., among others. After graduation I backpacked through South America for a month, then chose to live abroad and find a job. I wanted to go somewhere I could speak French, preferably to Africa, because it is so large and often misunderstood.
I decided on Marrakech, Morocco. The call to prayer each day, eating cous-cous on Fridays, the close-knit families; I felt at home.
France had a protectorate on Morocco, which ended in 1956, but the French influence remains throughout the country. Following the French school system to this day, the language is taught from a very young age. My students would often speak French to each other rather than Arabic. Maybe this was seen as a sort of affluence. Not all Moroccans speak French, but it is becoming more commonplace among the young.
AWP: In your teaching abroad, what was the most surprising thing you witnessed?
JH: Political upheavals began in northern Africa early in 2011, but after a bombing scare, not 50-feet from my Moroccan hosts’ home, I remained.
I would watch the uprisings on television and hope that they wouldn’t occur in Morocco. The news was in Arabic. I could only watch the videos and try to discern what was happening. Luckily, Morocco’s riots were short-lived. I continued to teach and began to model for Enshallah, a “Moroccan born, English bred,” handbag company.
I have gotten the most unique opportunities while living abroad. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
AWP: Several of our readers and contributors have lived abroad as students or have taught school in France or Francophone countries. Many are preparing to study or live abroad. What would you say to them?
JH: I felt that every trip I took through my university, and alone, were life-changing. I’ve told students that are worried to leave that they most go and see and experience something different; something unlike their current life. Being in a place where you don’t speak the language humbles you and you truly respect those that help you to learn about their culture. Whether you go to an industrialized country or not, there is much to learn. Be brave.
After returning to the U.S. from Marrakech, I interned at the study abroad office and edited many international handbooks that are in use today. I was the “go to” girl about Nepal. I loved it!
AWP: Your passion for cultures different from your own is extraordinary. What’s next?
JH: I will be backpacking in India for a few weeks this August and hope to do WWOOF, in Portugal during the winter. Graduate school is definitely a part of my future plans.
AWP: Do you think the new technologies make a true study or living abroad experience obsolete?
JH: For those going to live abroad I recommend to bring little luggage, very little technology, and talk to locals. You will meet more people this way, whether they are expats or visitors just traveling through.
Try the local cuisine. Believe me—cow tongue is not as gross as it sounds!
Bringing books is a good idea, especially if you are going to a country that doesn’t speak English (if it is your primary language). It can be difficult to find native-tongue language novels abroad.
One last recommendation; dress moderately. I lived in Nepal and Morocco, both of which have conservative dress traditions. You don’t want to be the sore thumb that sticks out in the crowd. You will likely get hassled more and be charged more for things.
Go and be safe. The biggest step is getting on the plane.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, The streets of Marrakech, by Jennifer Haug, world traveler and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in Marrakech who writes about the French influence in Morocco and her teaching experience there.
French Impressions: Dr. Fatima Araki on the automobile rally, Rallye des Colombes in Morocco, created for women by women. Dr. Araki is the first Moroccan woman to be the president and founder of a motor racing club in 2001 (Union Automobile Club of Morocco) and the first Moroccan woman to organize rallies in Morocco. (French)
Automobile road rallies in France: Women in the drivers seat (Camille du Gast Crespin, Michèle Mouton and Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, Moroccan desert), by Barbara Redmond who writes about the women who compete in a nine-day, off-road adventure in the sandy dunes of the Moroccan desert. And “Coeur des Gazelles,” the money generated from the race to help finance doctors providing medical care for people in the remote areas of Morocco.
Paris photo shoot – in search of the perfect Moroccan slipper, by American writer Lisa Rounds who tells of her adventures in the North African neighborhood of Barbès in Paris searching for the perfect slipper in red, of course, for a Cosmo photo shoot. Her story of “living the dream,” working for a publishing company in Paris.
French Impressions: Alice Kaplan – the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. Author and professor of French at Yale University, Ms. Kaplan shares her new book, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. By entering into the lives of three important American women who studied in France, we learn how their year in France changed them, and how they changed the world because of it. (French)
A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre
We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)
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Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.