August 14, 2014
by Alyssa Banotai
Name: Irène Delaney
Major: French and Francophone Literature
What's happening? We'd love to hear how your internship is going! Salaam from Morocco! I have spent almost a month living in a gorgeous, flower-hugged home in Casablanca, picking up phrases in Darija (Moroccan dialectical Arabic) and working as a French-English translator for Casamémoire, a local association with the goal of raising popular awareness of the city's rich architectural history.
My job began with reading up on Casa's vibrant past, starting with the ancient and going through the eras of colonialism and decolonization all the way to present urban efforts and art. Gaining this context was particularly enriching given my past experience in a Bryn Mawr 360° course on Marseille and Mediterranean port cities; in that course cluster, we attended a couple of lectures on le Corbusier (an architect) and post-colonial urban planning in Algiers, just one country away and quite similar in many respects.
After doing my homework, the real task began: I was handed the French-language version of the association's architectural guide to Casablanca's 20th-century buildings (there is also one in Arabic) and told to translate it. Simple, right? Not very. The book-sized guide is thankfully full of pictures and translation is something I enjoy, so the work was not too daunting; at times I went into the office by tram, but at times I worked independently from home, nestled into some cushions on my boyfriend's balcony with some Hawai (very tasty Moroccan soda), some msemen bread with honey, and a glossary.
When I wasn't translating passages about famous mosques or reading about postcolonial housing projects, I was able to submerge myself in as much Moroccan-ness as possible. I study Morocco and the Maghreb pretty closely, both in classes at Bryn Mawr and in my free time, so being there in person for the first time was as breathtaking as it was hot (very, very hot). I arrived right in the middle of Ramadan and actually had quite a fun time fasting... and then breaking the fast with a mixed Algerian- and Moroccan-style "ftour" dinner on the terrace every night, after cannons were fired to mark sunset. During Ramadan in Morocco's biggest city, everything stays open into the early morning, so it was not rare to leave dinner and walk along the corniche by the Atlantic or hang out in a large group until 5 a.m. After Ramadan comes l'Aïd al-Fitr, a day that we spent in a huge family gathering full of cookies, cousins, and "tberguig" (gossip). It w as such a singular and warm experience to share in all of this tradition and community -- my real encounter with Ramadan as a fasting non-Muslim in Morocco were so much more rewarding and less intimidating than some Americans might expect. I kind of missed it when it was over!
I did leave the city of Casablanca, making treks out to the nearby Atlantic coast at Dar Bouazza; the breezier Mediterranean coast in the north, near Tétouan; and Marrakech, which is worth the sweat and sunburns. I grew accustomed to the crazy taxi drivers, the heat-induced thirst that only a fresh panaché from a juice bar can heal, the smell of sage, and the constant noise and color of the country, even if an enormous chunk of Morocco remains unseen to me at this time.
Because a book is quite a lot to translate, no matter how intriguing the subject is, I still have some work to do. I'm hoping to spread the remainder of the work over the next year, which should result in an eventual publication of the English guide with my name on it... and with any luck, a return trip to Morocco in the not-so-distant future.
Bissalaama à toutes et à tous, and happy August!
How I heard about my internship: Good luck and connections! My own internship search this past spring had been pointing me in the direction of English language instruction for a Moroccan charity or non-profit, but a stroke of luck (and a boyfriend whose mother has lots of interesting friends) lead me to contact the head of communication and development at Casamémoire. We sorted some things out and talked about my past work, and then it was off to Morocco!
Why I applied for my internship: I'd like to add that, now that all is said and (almost) done, my internship in Casablanca would not have been possible without financial support for the plane to Africa and back. I started a GoFundMe page in May and was astounded by the rapidity and generosity with which individuals from the Bryn Mawr community, Morocco, and elsewhere contributed to the campaign. I am so grateful for the gigantically rewarding opportunity that these people helped me to have and I hope that this virtual postcard lets people know that (A) I had a really cool summer internship experience and (B) they should never give up on having really cool summer internship experiences, even when it seems financially impossible.