Meet Kandrisa in Morocco!

booooI’m a college graduate of St. John’s University, wearer of cute accessories, semi-decent speller, member of the Peace Corps, perfume enthusiast, budding feminist, Beyonce fan, proud owner of nothing because materialism is wack, art history lover, someone who is always trying to lose five pounds, a sister as well as a Sister as well as a sista, and to my utmost delight a black girl in the world.

1. What made you move to where you are today? Job? School? Adventure?        When I was young and even more naive than what I am now, I dreamed of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was fixated on the idea of being a world traveler and as I am now, completely aware of how broke I am. I knew that I would need help “getting out there” (there being some place beyond Wal-mart) and so I made a pact with myself that I would join the Peace Corps. In those days, the volunteerism was secondary. In this day in age were I am continuously confronted with social inequality and discriminatory acts of all sorts, I am humbled by my decision to join the Peace Corps and I only hope to continue my advocacy for change.

walk2. How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? Etc.?

I totally did not prepare for moving to Morocco. I mean I brought a mini-skirt. My ideas about living in a Muslim country were completely unintelligible and ridiculously uninformed. I remember looking at the CIA’s country factbook twice and being overwhelmed by all the information both there and in the “Lonely Planet’s Guidebook for Morocco.” Still, I had made a mental–and contractual–commitment to serve the nation of Morocco and that’s what helps me power through.

As far as settling down for these twenty-seven months, I originally lived with a host family in Sefrou, Morocco. I stayed there for three months in which I did a dismal job of learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic). It was just so cold! And sometimes learning isn’t on my agenda. Afterwards, I moved to my final site, a medium sized village on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There I lived with another host family who drove me up the wall. It was all I could do to find my lovely one bedroom apartment with newish tile and the water closet outside the front door. That’s a longer story, but in summation, I’m in my first ever own home and as cheesy as this may sound, I think its really special that the address is in Morocco.

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3. Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!                                        Wow! This question is this question. I’ll just start with the easy stuff. To know me is to know that my hair is a mess. Plaits all day, every day. I had embarrassing amounts of stereotypical racism to work through when I first arrived in-country. I held a monolithic viewpoint in which the only countries that stood out were the ones that I had connection to on a personal level. Plus, I just made the very ethno-centric, neocolonist (I do not give myself any leeway for practicing racism) assumption that all black people were the same. We aren’t and its our diversity that makes all of humanity beautiful. So what I really struggled with is developing a multiplicity in my understanding of what it means to be black in general and especially outside of the American racial binary. In Morocco, yes there is colorism, yes there are people who question the authenticity of my American heritage because I’m black, yes there are super ignorant comments about “Morocco not being in Africa,” but there is also a trend to recognize the indigenous tribal culture, ShelHa, a greater cultural connection to the Middle East, and other influences that make being black something different here than what I experienced in America.

4. On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
Can I be sentimental? I love the personal growth that I’ve undergone. I love the way my mind deliberates over issues. I love knowing that my family is growing and become amazing people without me. I love the people that I’ve met and the stories that they share with me. I love it because it was my dream.

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5. How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?                           I know some very complex people. Their responses have been all over the emotional wellness map. Originally, my family was very angry with me for leaving. These days, sure they want me to come home, but they want me to succeed more. My grandmother is immaculately invested in my happiness. My friends can’t wait for 2015 so we can party together again. The loves of my life are proud. In there own way, everyone I know is rooting for me and I am incredibly grateful to have an amazing network of friends and family.

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6. Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
I’m that girl with a ten year plan. I am so excited for the next countries in my life! Recently, my dad suggested that I take year off and live in Japan with he and his family. Maybe I’ll go there and be a live-in babysitter and/or meet a super handsome Japanese man and errr…live happily ever after. All jokes aside, I have always wanted a doctoral degree. My plans include going back to university and being an adult student. I hope to pursue a degree museum studies and in’shallah (God Willing) do public relations for a fancy museum. Promotion of the arts is a career I feel like I can commit to for the rest of my life. If not there’s always another term in the Peace Corps or maybe an extended vacation in an exotic land some place south beyond the border. And if not that either than I guess I’ll become a cat lady.
Follow Kandrisa’s adventures at www.Kandrisa.blogspot.com 🙂