Y a otra cosa mariposa... !!

Noah Heil
November 13, 2017

Every time I post on this blog, I feel like so much has happened that I need to cover since the last time I posted!! I want to go on and on about all of these things that I share with you, but of course it would take hours of writing to fit in everything I have experienced. So I’m going to try and highlight some of my favorite moments from the past few weeks for you, and hopefully not go on too many tangents :^)

Being outside the U.S. for so long has put into perspective for me how much my home country has had (and continues to have) an influence on other countries, which was particularly evident in my visit to Morocco two weeks ago. I went with my entire program (70 students), and our travels led us from Tangier, where we landed by boat after leaving Spain and crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, to Asilah, Rabat, a mountain village outside of Ouazzane, and then to the “blue city” *Chefchaouen. Overall the trip was único; unique and enriching and humbling and unlike anything I have ever experienced. Every city we saw was a little different than the one before it, and I feel like I learned so much about a whole other world which exists right next to what I have become familiar with in Spain. I was thoroughly both surprised and swayed by the university students and volunteers who we met with in Tangier and Rabat to talk about cultural differences and international relations. Their level of English was impressive, as well as their knowledge of politics and current events in the U.S. In Tangier, we met with an NGO called DARNA which is a relief organization funded by the Moroccan government that aims to help women in need of work, housing, or support. The women we spoke with while there were personable and very receptive to our questions. My group had a stimulating conversation with them about cultural differences in gender expression, family expectations, education, and various other topics between Morocco, Spain, and the United States. In Rabat, my group and I spent the evening walking around the city with three university students who left such an impact on me, even though we only spent about an hour and a half together. They were friendly, charming, and abierto, really open to talking about whatever we wanted to know and share with them. It was heart-warming to meet and spend time with them.

Also in Rabat, we met with an organization called AMIDI whose aim is to provide support and assistance to immigrants in Morocco escaping difficult situations, specifically from countries in northern Africa. The people we spoke with (through our program director, translating between English and French) at this organization are exceptionally passionate about what they do, volunteering days, weeks, months of their lives literally just to help others get by. Whether being provided shelter or helped with the process of obtaining documentation, many of those who are supported by AMIDI are separated from their families and struggle to find work in order to to send money back home, as well as survive themselves. If you want to learn more about this organization or provide any means of assistance, you can reach them on their website or on Facebook.

Even though we were in Morocco for a little less than a week, each day was an eye-opening experience. For two nights, we stayed with host families in Rabat who were interested in hosting American students and were willing to cook for us. Moroccan tagine and couscous is AMAZING. The family I stayed with spoke no English apart from “hello, good night, goodbye,” just Arabic and French. Unfortunately, my one year of French in seventh grade did not help me at all. One other student and I stayed with this family, and we only had a translator (who understood decently, but still struggled with English) for 1 of the 6 meals we shared together in Rabat. We communicated mostly through hand signals or just didn’t talk at all, only smiled in understanding at one another. This was honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip, being able to understand basically the warm invitations and hospitality of our hosts without even speaking. We stayed in the “old city,” the center of Rabat were the houses are basically built into the corners of old buildings. We even partook in the Hammam, the arab bathhouses where Moroccans in Rabat regularly bathe. That was an experience to remember. From what I saw, Morocco has a different idea of privacy than what I am used to – almost everywhere is a shared space, even the family we stayed with all slept in one bedroom while my friend and I shared another. I feel thankful to have been able to go and do all that we did at this day in age, as Morocco is changing so rapidly and even twelve years ago when my study abroad program started it was a different place to visit.


Y a otra cosa mariposa, moving right along, this past weekend I visited my friends Sydney and Elizabeth in Madrid. We all met up and stayed in a hostel from our various places of study, Biz is in Sevilla and Syd is in Aix en Provence, in southern France. It was amazing, I was so happy to see them!<3 We were in Madrid for two days, which were mostly spent visiting museums; el Museo Nacional del Prado (12th - 19th century artworks) and el Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (mostly 20th century works). I saw Las Meninas by Velázquez, some of Las Pinturas Negras by Goya, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, and la Guernica by Picasso all in person which was an INCREDIBLE experience. It is one thing to read about these famous paintings in books and to see little images, but seeing the grandeur and the scale of these works with my own two eyes was magnificently impressive, better than I could have even imagined.



Okay I was going to be done talking about my trip to Morocco but I realized that I don’t want to leave out the city FULL of street art we visited, Asilah. Apparently every year during the summer, there is a two week festival where artists from all over the world come and paint the walls of this place full of beautiful colors and symbols. The striking part is that every year, they paint over the works from the previous year and start anew, creating a cycle of different paintings that make appearances every time the festival is held. I was struck by this unique idea – all the artists are aware that their pieces have an expiration date when they are created, which I think requires an open and determined attitude that I really respect when making art. The paintings we saw were of course extraordinarias; below I’ve included photos of some of my favorites and a nice sunset pic from Asilah.






Okay well that’s all for now, como siempre I hope you enjoyed reading and I look forward to telling you about my “Thanksgiving” experience here in Granada in my next post (;


Un abrazo,



*PD: The painting I did for this post is of Chefchaouen, the “blue city” in Morocco.

Noah Heil

<p>Hello! I am the type of person who always likes to keep busy and having fun. I am a Minnesota native and go to school about a 45 minute drive from where I grew up. Recently, my summers have been spent traveling around in the United States; for the last two years, I have spent the entire summer in Vermont working as a camp counselor and as an art teacher. I love being surrounded by wilderness and natural beauty, with quick and easy access to more 'urban' life and culture nearby. I love working with and mentoring kids, particularly having the opportunity to get them interested and invested in visual arts. Aside from these recent happenings in my life, I like dancing and singing in the shower, meeting new people, and making things!</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Macalester College
Northfield, MN
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