Do’s and Don’ts

–by Tamara

It is an important time in lives of high school seniors — many are getting answers from universities from all over the world, others are yet to send their documents to those universities.

As someone who has already sent her documents into the UK and got some answers, I’d like to give some advice to others who are only planning to do that next year, or years after.

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My Favorite Cities

–by Hamza

As you may know from the “About Us” section on the blog, I love traveling! I’ve seen many beautiful places in the world and I would like to share with you some of my favorite cities, and the cities I’d like to visit in the future. Hope you enjoy! Leave a
comment below and let me know what are some of your favorite cities/places. ^_^

Rome, Italy

(I’ll upload pictures of me in Rome once I fix my old computer)

The first time I went to Italy was Summer 2010, and I only saw the Northern regions such as Milan, Venice, and Treviso etc. I really liked these places; however, I did not fall in love with Italy until I visited Rome in 2012. I’ve never tasted pasta that good in my life! I guess the rumors about Italian food in Italy being different are true after all. There is this shopping area downtown where you would feel like you are back in the Roman civilization era while in the 21st century thanks to the ancient architecture.

Budva, Montenegro

Montenegro <3

Montenegro ❤

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Deliberate Life Project

–by Hamza

A couple of months ago, my teacher introduced to my AP English peers and me a very unordinary type of assignment she called the Deliberate Life Project. It was based on romanticism and transcendentalism found in the works of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as in a movie Dead Poets Society, we studied. You would think in English class, assignments would be reading books or writing essays, but this one was building up our minds, characters, and bodies. We had the liberty to do whatever we wanted as long as it was legal and with parents’ permission, highly challenging and forced us out of our comfort zones. I believe this project was heavily inspired by Thoreau, who went off to live in the woods for two years by himself with very limited resources. Frankly, I did not like the project in the beginning because I thought it would be a waste of time, and I thought to myself that I had better things to do. I was wrong. Some of the things my teacher pushed me to do became part of my life routine, such as signing up for a gym membership. I was never athletic and I always struggled with sports, so I completely gave up on any type of physical exercise for years. That changed when I decided to go ahead and try again. I’m not going to lie, it was overwhelming in the beginning, but after motivation and determination, I stuck to it and I enjoy working out now.

Lamia and me at the GYM.

Lamia and me at the GYM.

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Christmas and New Year’s Day in Russia

–by Tamara

--by Hamza. This is my (fake) christmas tree at home. My family's not christian, but we like to be in a festive mood at this time of the year. ^_^

–by Hamza.
This is my (fake) christmas tree at home. My family’s not christian, but we like to be in a festive mood at this time of the year. ^_^

As the holiday season approaches, people are already in a rush to buy presents for their loved ones. Christmas and New Year’s Day approach, entitling celebrations, joy and quality family-time.

These holidays are celebrated all over the world, with all kinds of traditions original to different places. Even in countries where Christianity is not the main religion, such as Morocco, Christmas is celebrated just for people to have fun and spend extra time together without the religious background.

Russia is, mostly, Christian — Orthodox, to be precise. Of course not everyone practices Christian religion, so many people do not celebrate Christmas; for instance, my family is Muslim, so we are among those who do not. We still celebrate New Year’s the same way though.

Christmas is not as much of a big holiday in Russia today. It is celebrated on the 7 th of January (Orthodox, remember?) and is purely religious; there is no festive mood like in the western countries; people don’t buy presents. In fact, there are no “traditions” for Christmas today – people spend it how they please; some still do it according to old, historic traditions.

It was a very important holiday before, and it would take up longer than a week. It would all start on the 6th of January – on “Svyatki” – a day that celebrated the dead, with people disguising themselves, most importantly – wearing masks, going around houses singing festive songs and getting food or presents, much like Halloween but without the scary undertone. The Svyatki would last until the 19th of January – “Kryashenie”, the day known as Epiphany. On that day, people would dive into ice-holes, with water in these ice-holes previously consecrated by the clergy. That was believed to cure illnesses and purify from evil. It is actually a pagan tradition; but many pagan traditions were transported into Orthodox Christianity. Believe it or not, while Svyatki are not widespread today, there still are people who dive into ice-holes.

Novy God, which means “New Year” in Russian, is a holiday celebrated by everyone – or by, at least, 90% of the population, – unlike Russian Christmas. It has a long history in my country, but the way it is spent nowadays is not the way people met the newcoming year hundreds of years ago. Actually, Russians would celebrate it in March until 1492, and in September until 1700; and it is only in 1700 that we started to meet the year like everyone – in January.

However, most of the traditions common today were not there until USSR; it is only then that New Year’s became the holiday the Russians know today.

As the Party prohibited celebrating Christmas (due to its highly atheist mentality), people transported their favorite traditions to New Year’s. That way, the Christmas tree became the New Year Tree. They also kept the children’s traditions. Thus, “Ded Moroz” – Granfather Frost was born. Despite the fact that Ded Moroz actually originates from Slavic mythology, today he is basically an analogy of the western Santa Claus – a cheerful elderly man that brings presents to children, with several small differences – he brings presents on the New Year’s Day, not on Christmas; he does not have a sleigh, deers, or elves; and he is usually accompanied by his granddaughter, “Snegurochka” – The Snow Maiden.

There are, of course, other traditions. Throughout the day, people rush to get the tables ready – there are different dishes that are considered a must-have on the table. These include champagne, mandarines, the Olivier salad, also known as the Russian salad, and dressed herring. For the whole day, there are different music or humoristic shows on most of the channels; all of them are festive and merry. Five minutes before midnight, people gather around the tables and on most of the TV-channels, presidential speech is transmitted, in which the president summarizes the yearly events and wishes everyone the best in the upcoming year. After his speech, the striking clock – or the Kremlin clock – strikes twelve times, the twelfth time signifying that it is midnight; you are supposed to make a wish before the clock finishes striking.

Those who do not wish to stay at home go to the Red Square – and there they can eat, dance and have fun. After midnight, the New Year’s Eve is over; the New Year’s Day comes. People eat, drink, get out on the streets, let off fireworks and party.

Morocco and the USA

–by Hamza

I find it amusing how many people in the world automatically think of nomads in djellabas crossing the hot desert on camels when they hear the word “Morocco”. Even funnier are those who ask if it’s a country in Europe. Even those who know Morocco is in Africa do not always realize we are not only African but also Arab-Berber. Actually this Arab-Berber and African nation has many similarities with the US and other western countries; and obviously there are many differences.

1. Geography/Climate

The United States is the 4th largest country in the world, and Morocco is just slightly larger than the state of California. Although we are a much smaller country, we offer climate as diverse as those found in America. The two countries both have deserts (US: Arizona/Nevada, Morocco: Sahara); they both have snowy regions (US: Maine/Minnesota, Morocco: Ifrane); they both have hot humid areas (US: Florida, Morocco: Agadir); they even share an ocean, the Atlantic ocean! Although Morocco seems exotic to many people, it really is not that much different from the US.

2. Food-life

One of the major differences between the two countries is food! Most average Moroccans have four meals per day. They usually have mint tea with bread and traditional olive oil for breakfast, a big tajine with vegetables and some sort of meat for lunch, a snack that consists of mint tea, coffee, and some bread, and for dinner some more meat. But beyond tradition, Morocco, especially touristic cities like Marrakech, offers fast food places, different types of restaurants, such as Italian or Vietnamese, though you can’t find them in every corner like in the United States.

If you’re a coffee person, then Morocco has much to offer, as the quality is superb and the prices are reasonable. Many Americans usually just have coffee and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and finally a big meal for dinner. Another difference is that US cuisine is more diverse, offering, for instance, Mexican restaurants and more Irish pubs. Another big difference between the two countries would be the time when people eat. Americans usually have lunch at around 12 pm and dinner at around 6 pm, and Moroccans have lunch at around 1-2 pm, and dinner at around 9-10pm.

3. Clothing

While Americans do wear a lot of jeans, they don’t really have traditional clothing, such as the kimono or kilt, they wear casual/business clothes or “European clothes”. Many Moroccans also wear Western and casual clothing; however many average Moroccans wear the customary djellaba. If you walk down the street, you can see a lot of people wearing the djellaba and the hijab. Moroccans usually dress as what they view conservatively; however, Americans here are much more free to dress as they please. While some Moroccans are traditional, many shop from very well known international brand stores, such as Zara, H&M, Adidas, Lacoste etc; and for the upper class, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Prada etc.

Moscow Moves to Marrakesh

–by Tamara

--by Hamza Dusk in Marrakech <3

–by Hamza
Dusk in Marrakech ❤

My name is Tamara. I am seventeen, and I am Russian. Not simply Russian nationality-wise; I am Russian mentally, too, which is visibly manifested in my habits, preferences, and behavior.

I, however, adjust to the surroundings I am put into with a fair amount of easiness, which has helped me enormously with all the moving around that my family has done. The starting point of my life was, of course, Russia, more specifically – Moscow. After that, I went on to live in Lausanne, Switzerland. Finally, my current place of residence is Marrakesh, Morocco. Despite my adaptability, there are, of course, still things that I find difficult or strange.

The first difference that I feel I should mention is climate; and, obviously, I couldn’t leave it out. While in Moscow the temperature is very varied, here it is incredibly hot for the largest part of the year. The temperature in Moscow can easily go from -30°C to +30°C throughout the year; in Marrakesh it goes up to +45~7°C in the hottest months of the summer, which are usually July and August, and spring and fall are around +30°C. It gets so hot in summer it really feels like your brain is actually getting cooked when under the sun. Getting used to this climate is hard. Especially so for someone who doesn’t like heat AT ALL. I’m still in the process.

People’s behavior in Morocco definitely stands out compared to the tranquility and even slowness of Europeans’ behavior. People are loud and expressive; they really are. I cannot even try to convey it through writing. I make it sound like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not – their liveliness actually makes you feel more energetic yourself. Of course, sometimes their talkativeness and loud laughter can become burdensome — especially, I think, for teachers at schools. But looking in retrospective, Swiss people, on the contrary, are really quiet, and my natural loudness would always seem out of place for them.

Another thing that I notice is people here are dead honest, which is something that reminds me of Russia. Their honesty manifests itself in many things, like no fake smiles and “How do you do?”-s in public places, and their capability of honestly telling you what many things you’re doing wrong. While it might feel intimidating for some, I think it’s just the best thing ever. And you can find it everywhere — even shop assistants will be ready to honestly tell you just how much a dress does not suit you, instead of pushing you to buy any garment you try on.

There are, surprisingly, many things that seem similar between the countries I’ve been to. Some little customs or habits that somehow coincide in the three — which amazes me, because the cultures of these countries are really far from each other. Such simple things as dinner time — Moroccans, who eat really late (at, approximately, nine or, even, ten PM) are closer in that to Russians, who eat at around seven or eight, than to Americans, for example, who eat at five or six.

Also, another similar thing is the youth. Youth is youth everywhere; it’s what people grow up into that shapes the country and its image — mostly, of course. But while the openness of and approach to the teens and young adults in all three countries might be different — which sometimes is the case, sometimes isn’t, — the interests all go together, which I find delightful, personally. That is one of the things that make moving less of a pain.

In conclusion, Morocco is an exceptional place. It is unique in how different some people are, making Morocco so diverse that it is sometimes hard to believe. It is different from any other country you will ever visit. Please, by the way, do visit Morocco. It’s amazing.