Summer Camp Experiences: Sanou Niapégué

Great things happen rarely but are talked about frequently when they occur. The Olive Writers Summer Camp 2019 was, for me, one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Despite my being foreign student, a Malian, among Moroccans, I remained fully included; I did not feel any foreignness or otherness. During the Camp, I witnessed in practice the sense and spirit of full equality of people.

Great things happen rarely but are talked about frequently when they occur. The Olive Writers Summer Camp 2019 was, for me, one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Despite my being foreign student,a Malian, among Moroccans, I remained fully included ; I did not feel any foreignness or otherness. As a matter of fact I felt a family life in the Camp : the lecturers or instructors, providing us with helpful, golden tips during workshops, were our fathers and mothers; my mate participants and the staff were my brothers. Simply put in other words,  the activities, the people, the food, the hotel, the restaurants,  the ALC, and all the visited  places were so nice and compatible  that they surely seemed to be indescribable. In fact,  during the Camp, from its very beginning to the end, I witnessed in practice what I read and was told in theory.  I read of inclusivity and equality on the engagement paper and I witnessed full equality on the field.  Certainly, people were diverse, coming from different horizons and having different backgrounds, yet they still remained inclusively equal anytime and anywhere during the whole Camp.

Throughout the Camp, had not been because of introductions and badges, I was unable to distinguish between workshop-instructors, guest speakers, participants and staff because all seemed to be the same, which was equality. The instructors were, indeed, in words and in thought, very learned, experienced and yet very amiable and humble though they were in fact  our superiors as we inherited from them a lot of knowledge. For instance, Achraf Mansouri Kabbouri, an instructor, cinematographer and multi-skilled person, was the first instructor to lead a workshop on the Iceberg Systems Thinking. He was so funny and yet so understandable, thanks to his art of pedagogy, that no one us felt bored during his workshops. In like manner was his second workshop on Critical Thinking. Both of those workshops lasted two hours which seemed twenty minutes for us, as we were so interested that an hour was like a dozen of minutes. He incarcerated himself in us and was therefore sympathetic, empathetic and equal to us. In like manner was Ben Bush, an instructor and American creative writer, during his workshops on creative writing. Though he was not as funny as Achraf, there was no boredom during his workshops. In fact he had the faculty of rendering the abstract very easy and the theory very practical. This was illustrated by some of his workshops when we went out on the field to practically write about what we learned from him, which remained for me an unforgettable experience. Ben Bush was also so open to us that he had a friendly conversation with quite all the participants -an attitude that illustrated how he was one of us. Another workshop on literary translation was led by Hodna Nuernberg, a literary translator. No one of us can forget her and therefore no one of us can forget what she taught us. She convincingly dissected to us what literary translation was and why we should yearn for it, for every  literary translator should be a best literary  reader, and every  successful writer must also be a great reader, which was the golden aim of the Olive Writers. Above all,  Hodna Nuernberg was very interesting : she would start her day with a smile and end it with a smile and would meet everyone with the same smiley face, which can turn the pessimistic person into being  optimistic. Everyone of us benefited from her tips on various things and particularly on opportunities to study abroad. She was always kind-hearted, happy, inclusive, making  no distinction between  races, origins, tribes, sex, religions…. Indeed, the way she behaves teaches everyone automatically to be positive : her exceptional attitude can turn a the bad person into an acceptable one, that acceptable into very good, and that good into the best. I personally inwardly  took the decision to imitate her in kindness. Besides, all our guest speakers were also amazing in fruitful ideas and kindness to share whatever we wanted from them. In the very same case, we cannot forget the staff. They paid attention to every single one us as a mother to her baby. As results the Olive Writers Summer Camp was a real success.

I was particularly impressed with the the way no one seemed marginalized. As put above, I am a Malian, studying in Morocco, a black-skinned African amidst brown-skinned or white-skinned Africans, the Moroccans. When a friend of mine, a very kind  Moroccan knowing that I was interested in writing, told me about the Olive Writers Summer Camp, I was first reluctant, thinking that I might be rejected on the spot of applying for it because of my not being a Moroccan. However, I dared apply and then tried to contact the programme director, Mohammed El Wahhabi, an exceptional, inspiring, humble  young  man of about 23 or 24 years old, always dressed in Jellaba with a cap crowning head, who told me that the selection process was not based on races, gender, origins, or any other  orientation. He then told me that the selection was rather merit-based, and that the Camp organizers were and are always doing the best to include non-Moroccans in the Program, in a way that no one will be excluded because of cultural boundaries. I felt comfortable with Mohammed’s words and was accepted afterwards when the results were published, based on my merit as the criterion. During the Camp, just as I was told by Mohammed, I witnessed in practice the sense and spirit of full equality of people. I was treated just as any Moroccan. I was even given a special care, which was the expression of Moroccaness as I read and heard that Moroccans, since immemorial times, were and are known for their hospitality. Everyone respected me and so did I.  Everyone expressed their admiration for me and I for them. At a certain time I was even shy because of being so gratified to an extent beyond my expectation. Actually, words are missing to describe how hospitable and how welcoming the Camp people were. In addition to this special case of race equality, gender equality vividly drew my attention. Girls or women were-with all the meaning the adjective can carry-equal to boys or men. Girl collaborated with boys during all the Camp. We would eat together, conversed together and made the famous culture trip in the heart of Casablanca, hand-in-hand. Eventually, the Camp showed us that equality is the law of nature, that non-Moroccan can do what Moroccan can, as it was my case; and that girls can do what men do, which I personally witnessed to be very true since, honestly speaking, girls were more excellent than boys during the Camp.

To cut a long story short, the Olive Writers Summer Camp was a golden experience for me as a writer. The workshops and guest speakers tips empowered me. The atmosphere was impeccable, thanks to the mutual respect between all the people and above all thanks to the absence of a periphery and  a center, which simply put, means that all the people were equally  important irrespective of anything.

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