Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Violence Against Women: Bad News, Good News

Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

It's kind of a crap day. We shouldn't need an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Because that shouldn't be a thing.

But it is.

That's the bad news.

The good news? There are really cool people doing creative things about it.

Check out a piece I wrote with The Conversation, a cool open-source peer-reviewed blog-journal:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Ramblings" Reboots

After an embarassingly long (eight months!) hiatus, "Ramblings with Rebecca", my YouTube vlog, returns today with an apology and a promise to myself to start posting once again.

As I am off in the field, there are certainly stories to tell and issues to be reflected upon! My intention is to ramble a bit more habitually, using the vlog as a tool for intellectual exploration as I grapple with a variety of concepts and questions. Come along for the ride, if you like: (the specific "Reboot" episode is available at

Monday, November 16, 2015

After France, Beirut, and all the rest...time to spread some love

I've been struggling about whether and how to post in the past few days. The attacks in France were horrible. The attacks that have happened - and are happening - elsewhere in the world were and are also horrible.
Suffering and trauma are not things easily compared or measured.
Global media and various countries pay attention to some kinds of trauma, and some people's suffering, more than others. And we must question why and how this is, and work against egocentric and unjust systems that enable this. We must also recognise that losing loved ones, feeling physically unsafe, and encountering intolerant ideology is painful no matter who you are and where you live.
So mourn. Cry for those who have suffered and are scared. Weep for our broken world. And then...figure out what you can do to make it better.
When we encounter the worst of humanity, we must seek to be the best of it.
As one option for those of you who are physically and/or relationally removed from the recent attacks, here is one way to reach out and show your support. The day before the Paris attacks, dozens of people died from terrorist action in Beirut, Lebanon. A beloved friend of mine, Maya Terro, is striving to empower the best of humanity in her country to respond to systemic hunger and economic inequality. SOUPer Meals on Wheels is a mobile food kitchen that helps alleviate the ongoing suffering of Syrian refugees and Lebanon's poorest. Rebuilding lives in the midst of terrorism is not an easy task, and it takes all kinds of efforts. A hot meal, prepared by a diverse set of volunteers, is a powerful way to let people know they are loved. Giving to the Food Truck will support efforts to make those regularly affected by terrorism more able to engage in and support their new communities. I invite you to support a bit of peace and friendship in the midst of our war-torn world:


I have been incredibly spoiled for day trips as of late. Yesterday, the two Fulbright Teaching Assistants I'm living with decided to adventure to Taroudant. Why not join them?
Taroudant is nicknamed the "Grandmother of Marrakech", so named for its similar red sandstone walls and its status as a market town. It's very cute and far less touristy than many of the places I've been visiting thus far, which made for a nice change. I found some fantastic handmade leather flip-flops in the souk and we found some adorable residential streets to wander for a very different 'vibe' than in the more city-like Agadir.
One of the more fun aspects of our day was my first Grand Taxi experience. We got a 1.5 hour ride in a taxi for incredibly cheap...via the 'public transit' system in Morocco that squeezes at least seven people into 5-person cars. Quite the way to travel for long periods of time, especially at checkpoints when the authorities glance into your car and take no issue whatsoever with the number of folks crammed in and lack of seatbelts going on.

Sheep, donkeys, and goats grazing roadside are not an uncommon sight in Morocco. The large camel herd we found en route to Taroudant is a slightly rarer, but very much delightful, version.

The fun of finding residential streets is that occasionally you stumble upon very cool public service announcement murals! We found a series of ones encouraging people to put rubbish in bins, to plant trees, and to exercise, among others.

You can get anything at a souk. Anything.

There was obviously some kind of football match happening yesterday afternoon; we sat down at one restaurant and didn't even manage to get served because the staff were so busy with match-watchers/watching themselves. We passed a couple of boys desperately peering through the cracks on this gate to see a cafe's television; later, we saw a huge crowd of teenage boys pouring out of the municipal stadium, where they'd clearly been screening whatever it was. 

Pots. Lots and lots of pots.

This country honestly has some amazingly beautiful doorways. I've got a whole series of photos like this because I can't seem to stop taking pictures of them.

And one should always take time to stop and smell the flowers. Especially on beautifully sunny days in market towns, because there's something magical about quiet alleys and blue skies. :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Marrakesh Day Trip

Yesterday, some of my research partners from Dar Si Hmad attended a meeting in Marrakesh with MEPI, the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative, who fund one of the organisation's youth empowerment projects.

I did not attend the meeting; however, one of my housemates and I took the opportunity to see another part of the country, driving up with the crew to Morocco's fourth-largest city. The "Red City" has walls of red sandstone that are around 900 years old; the city itself is nearly one thousand. Its central square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, has a claim to the busiest square in Africa and it is truly bustling with snake charmers, henna artists, Berber youth acrobats, monkeys on leads, juice stands, and virtually every souvenir you could possibly imagine, want, or need. The city's streets and souks (outdoor markets) are likewise full with a dizzying array of silks, jewelry, lamps, kitchenware, scarves, art, decorative name it. We had a lovely day exploring a palace from the 1500s, a working Jewish synagogue, and some of the more residential streets.

Fountain in the center of Marrakesh's synagogue

Oops. I seem to have found a tree to climb. Like a dangling monkey.

The direct collision of old and new transport mechanisms.

Not only in London are the busses red, double decker, and touristy

Fezzes are cool. Also silly and fun.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

World Science Day for Peace and Development

It's World Science Day for Peace and Development!

From the UN:
"Science will be essential to reach many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and, thus, to ensure a sustainable future. The UNESCO Science Report is one of the tools that countries can use to monitor progress towards the goals of Agenda 2030...
"The purpose of the World Science Day for Peace and Development is to renew the national, as well as the international commitment to science for peace and development and to stress the responsible use of science for the benefit of society. The World Science Day for Peace and Development also aims at raising public awareness of the importance of science and to bridge the gap between science and societies."

In light of this lovely Tenth of November, a shout-out to Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture, my Moroccan research partner. Dar Si Hmad is a non-governmental organisation in Agadir, Morocco working to promote local culture and empower sustainable livelihoods through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity.

Dar Si Hmad skillfully and valuably combines scientific advancement with recognition of local values and traditions in its programming, defining knowledge as "facts, skills, traditional lore, and modern science and technology".

The organisation operates one of the world's biggest fog-harvesting systems, complete with solar panel energy and state-of-the-art engineering. The system is providing potable water to hundreds of villagers in Morocco's southwestern mountains.

Amazigh women are able to manage their water systems using their mobile phones via SMS messages.

And furthering scientific knowledge and capacity in the country, a mobile education caravan works each summer in the mountainous communities to bring people together around water and use a summer Water School as a remedial school through which rural children can learn not only about water, but also about the natural world and discover the planet in a different way.

 Organised in rural schools of Aït Baamrane in partnership with the Provincial Delegation of Education, Dar Si Hmad's Water School teaches children about the hydro cycle, the importance of water in their world, how they can utilise untapped water resources, water sustainability, and wider ecological issues.

Science is cool, my friends!! And involving communities in the co-creation of scientific knowledge and making sure technical advances benefit everyone in sustainable ways is even cooler.

First Day of Work!

Yesterday I went to 'work' for the first time in Morocco. A bit of a shift from the lazy days of beach and mountain walking.
During my fieldwork, I'm occupying a bizarre space between student, staff, and researcher at Dar Si Hmad. Dar Si Hmad for Development.
Education, and Cultre is a non-governmental organisation in southwestern Morocco that contributes to rural and urban livelihoods, gender equality, cultural heritage, and environmental sustainability with a variety of educational, vocational, and water projects. I'll be spending six weeks in their office, helping with projects as they arrive and my skills/experiences will be of use. During that time, I will also be conducting one-on-one interviews with the staff about their time with the group and their views on environmental peacebuilding and facilitating a full-staff stakeholder analysis, asking them to identify who and what has power over the work that they do.
There are always a multitude of projects winding down and starting up around here; I've been impressed in just a day and a half with how many things various staff have come in to talk about.
After years of being a spoiled student without a real schedule, it's a bit strange to be in an office from 9am-6pm...but probably quite good for me! Things have gone very well thus far; I am hoping I'll be useful to them in some respects, and certainly they're going to be useful to my PhD.

For more stories from Americans in Morocco, check out the blog of my housemate Zeke, who is teaching in Agadir as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant: