On the road with the Friendship Force
In mid-September, I was privileged to attend a Friendship Force* World Conference in the Moslem Kingdom of Morocco—in the city of Marrakesh. Prior to the conference, a group met in Casablanca to do an 8-day drive through the country, enjoying its many interesting facets. When I departed, I knew no-one personally who would be participating. I travelled on my own since my partner, Bruce was unable to travel at that time. I regularly use two canes for mobility— a white cane for sensing the terrain and a walking cane for balance. From previous experience, everywhere I had gone, I have encountered wonderful people who frequently assist and who always are friendly. This time was no exception. Two vans, each holding 15 passengers wended their way through the countryside. Citizens from Taiwan, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. made up the delegation. These ambassadors and our Moroccan hosts were most hospitable. During the 8 days, each ambassador enjoyed the pleasure of a two-night home stay in a Moroccan home. We visited seaside resorts, beautiful mosques, a “monkey forest”, the Atlas Mountains, cultural museum, palaces, souks (Markets), tanneries, Roman ruins, waterfalls, Many tea shops, and the like. Imagine our surprise when we nearly froze in the cold temperatures of the Atlas Mountains. We learned that enough snow falls in the wintertime to support a ski resort there. Our congenial Moroccan host, Lotfi, invited us to his home for a sumptuous meal (Tajine-yummy clay pot meal.)
He showed us the rooms of their home set aside for beginning a school for handicapped children this fall. He and his wife’s had become keenly aware of difficulties handicapped children experience in school when their seventh child was born with Down Syndrome. His wife had resigned from her outside job to dedicate herself to teaching in the school. In addition, the couple had begun an organization for the parents of Down Syndrome children in the kingdom.
One afternoon during our trek, our van broke down. Our driver drove onto the shoulder of the road so as not to impede traffic. The other van driver drove several miles to the next village to obtain the necessary parts. In the meantime, a Moroccan woman living across the highway noted our dilemma, spoke with our Moroccan escort, and invited us to her house for tea! We willingly accepted her kind hospitality. Suddenly, her home was filled with 15 strangers from numerous countries.
She and the grandmother scurried about in the kitchen preparing goodies, coffee, and tea for the crowd.
Some of us seated ourselves on the beautiful rug around low tables in the living room, others lined up for a refreshing restroom stop, and still others entertained the four or five children in the yard with English children’s songs “Put Your Right-Hand In…”, “Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes…” Squeals of laughter filled the air. What fun the group had! All too quickly, the second van returned with the needed materials for repair. We reluctantly bad a fond farewell to our new Moroccan friends.
The Conference in magical Marrakesh proved to be a lovely gathering of friends from around the world. Featured speakers told of clubs, traditions, and projects in Morocco, Uganda, Ghana, and South Africa. A horse and carriage took us to the souk for a traditional Moroccan meal and belly-dancing entertainment. I met new friends and encountered several others I had met in the past. Although ambassadors from many locations attended, unfortunately, not all the 60 countries of Friendship Force were represented.
Morocco was a wonderful experience. I thank God for the beautiful people I encounters everywhere I go.
Certainly, Friendship Force’s slogan, “changing the way you see the world” was fulfilled in the lives of many through the World conference in Marrakesh. In addition, we all contributed to the idea that “a world of friends is a world of peace.”
Linda Hiebert Sekiguchi is a Minden resident and a member of The Friendship Force.