Hilton Garden Inn - Stony Brook

Morocco diary

Our foreign correspondent

April 13, 2007 | 03:23 AM
Madeleine Meek is not your average recent college graduate. For starters, the Poquott resident is in Morocco. Meek has signed on for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, beginning her training in Philadelphia two months ago and continuing her preparations now in Azrou, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. A 2005 graduate of Yale University, the Ward Melville High School alumna then earned a master's in environmental management. She has now committed the next two years to putting that education to productive use and at the same time spreading understanding to a very different society.

"I wanted to go to a Muslim country," Meek said in an interview before leaving. "I had a desire to learn Arabic and understand the Islamic world." Her assignment in Morocco will be to work on "protected areas management, agro-forestry and environmental education" in a rural area.

"I'm not sure yet how often I will be able to stay in touch," said Meek before leaving. Many areas of the countryside in Morocco do not yet have electricity, phones or, frequently, running water. She showed off her new laptop the day before she left for the first stage of her training, but added, "I don't know if I'll be able to send messages every day or week or month."

Now in Morocco for about a month, Meek sent her first message to family and friends last week. Her excitement and enthusiasm leaps off the page. Meek described her initial training in Philadelphia, where she first met the other 60 volunteers from across the United States that would share her adventure. The group will break into smaller bands of five or six in Morocco, and when the two-month training period is complete each will go his or her own way to a host family.

Arriving in Rabat, Morocco first, the group spent three days learning "rules and regulations, emergency action plans and safety and security" while being introduced to the local languages and customs. They met with the U.S. ambassador, received additional immunizations and were exposed first-hand to the very different culture. Meek's adventure, and work, begins for real when her training ends next month.

Meek will be writing of her experiences, the Moroccan people, the similarities and differences in cultures over the next two years for TBR Newspapers. Her potentially irregular stories, depending on the frequency of her access to the Internet, may bring a greater understanding to those of us who have not travelled so far, or been so adventurous as to immerse ourselves in a foreign land. We look forward to sharing her adventure.

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