Vanderbilt in Morocco


Vanderbilt in Morocco: Day 4

Women's tennis' Fernanda Contreras offers dispatch from North Africa

A select group of Vanderbilt student-athletes and staff ventured to Morocco earlier this month on a service trip in partnership with Soles4Souls. The Commodores spent 10 days in North Africa distributing shoes to local children and immersing themselves in Moroccan culture. Each day this week, will feature student-athlete blogs written during their time in Morocco, offering in-the-moment reflections on the opportunity abroad.

Fernanda Contreras
Senior, Women's Tennis

According to the ancient Greeks, getting to know oneself -- or rather, thyself -- is the most important thing we can learn. This week in Morocco, we had the opportunity to explore and combat our true potential. We were simultaneously challenged and humbled. Nothing in life comes free; everything must be earned. And the wait for the best things is often a long and arduous one. Thus, a 26-hour car ride to the Sahara was a solid bargain compared to the memories and accomplishments gained along the way. 

We began our Saharan adventure with a physical test of willpower. Staring out into the breathtaking Moroccan sands, a lone supreme dune overwhelmed the view. "So cool" and "amazing" were common phrases shared between the group. However, when our group learned that we would be climbing that very dune, our heart rates elevated. Little did we know how high they would actually escalate.

Worthwhile things in life must be earned through hard work, and this Merzougian Dune demanded payment. A variety of thoughts ran around my head: my legs are burning, my heart is pounding, my blood is racing... I can do this, I will reach this summit, I will not give up. And it was so worth it. No words can compare to the view and the effort that we showed. Being comfortable within uncomfortable situations is a pivotal lesson for anyone striving to discover their limits. So later on, when we mounted our camels, uncomfortable was a commonly mentioned word. And just like at the dunes, something special demanded a sacrifice -- in this case, it was our thighs. Camel-riding was something I could have only imagined, having seen it only on TV. Still, nothing compared to the real experience. The smells, the sounds, the views, the feeling -- it was an exhilarating experience for the senses. We raced through the dunes in ATVs as sand literally whipped around our faces. The camp, the music and a chance at stargazing were little things that made up such a phenomenal experience, one that will remain embedded in our memories. 

In the end, we must have cultivated good karma, because the most unforeseen and striking event occurred in the middle of our first camel ride: it rained. But it didn't just rain -- it poured. In the Sahara desert. While we were there. How amazing. How fantastic. We couldn't realize how truly blessed we are.

The most beautiful memories involve unplanned miracles that expand our hearts in intangible ways. So as Kurt Vonnegut said:

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.

Thank you for the memories, Morocco.
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