Volunteer Profile: Christian Galiza

Volunteer Christian Galiza in Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 2012.
Shangri La volunteer Christian Galiza in Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 2012.

In this blog entry, we are pleased to introduce Christian Galiza, our stellar summer volunteer, who will be a senior at Campbell High School this fall. At Campbell, Christian studies Arabic language through the OneWorld Now! program. He and his classmates have visited Shangri La several times, and last summer they travelled to Morocco to study Arabic for three weeks.

While volunteering with us, Christian rehoused collections photographs, scanned archival materials, transcribed guide questions, and even did some work with calligraphic cartouches. We can’t thank him enough for his excellent work and pleasant (and funny!) company. Before he left for China (on another study trip with OneWorld Now!), Christian took a moment to tell us a little about his studies and his trip to Morocco last year:

Some of the subjects many of my friends study include Spanish, French, and Japanese. There are more people in the world who speak Arabic than Japanese and French combined. So where is Arabic in the curriculum? Most high schools almost never offer Arabic language in their language departments. In fact, less than 1% of high school students in the United States study Arabic language. One of the ideas behind the OneWorld Now! program is to break down the barriers between Americans and the world by creating leaders that will learn foreign languages and then apply their leadership skills while traveling abroad. I think that if we do this, then the world would stop abiding by their stereotypes and unite with one another.

Although the desire for studying Arabic hadn’t even passed my mind when I came to high school, my attention to this language and leadership program helps me want to take a more unique approach to my high school career. I think of Arabic as a very interesting and enjoyable language to learn. Arabic dialects are different in each Arabic-speaking country, so the language is paired with a culture that is unique in its own way, honoring traditions that date back thousands of years.

Although it was just three weeks, my trip to Morocco was definitely a life changing experience. The main purpose of my trip was to study Moroccan Arabic. Although most days we studied in the classroom for three hours, we would be cut loose after the scheduled activities. We had to find ways to get to school, and do our own shopping without much supervision. To make it an even more authentic experience, we lived alongside host families so we could see the day in the life of a Moroccan.

Two other high school students from Seattle were living with me, along with eight host family members: parents, two twin sisters, another sister, and three brothers in one huge home. I got along with them extremely well and felt that I lucked out from the rest of my group, many of whom stayed in smaller, compact, old flats just above the noise of the markets in an area in the medina that never sleeps. In my family, the sisters had iPhones. Despite our language barriers, we bonded through sharing pictures and playing wireless multiplayer games from the App Store. These bonding times happened at around midnight, after dinner which was usually served at around 11:15 pm. Moroccans refuse to let people go on anything less than a full stomach, and go hours and hours exchanging stories through gestures and laughing at each other.

Some of my favorite traditions were couscous Fridays, during which a large dish was served with couscous, loads of vegetables, and some chicken or lamb. These were called tagines. These dishes can be expensive and time-consuming to prepare, but are specially made and served to guests regardless of how little or how much they made that week. Hot mint tea with 60% sugar was served daily, many servings coming from people whom I didn’t know at all and were excited to meet a foreigner.

Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, was bustling with the noises and smells of the medina and the sounds of rush hour in the downtown area just outside of my school. During specific times during the days and nights, extremely loud speakers would announce the prayer call from the mosques on every block. Despite the seemingly inconvenient times, all business would suddenly freeze. People would pull out their rugs in direction of Mecca or rush to the mosque and start praying. This routine got extremely strict during Ramadan, when everyone was fasting.

Morocco is a very modern place that refuses to let go of its original roots. It’s been very Westernised by the Europeans. French is an official business language and so it is spoken all the time. McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken sit alongside a Chinese restaurant whose owners are Moroccan. These restaurants sit next door to older parts of the city. There is a mix of people who have a great sense of Western popular fashion, but some dress conservatively. And everybody seemed totally fine with that.

Arabic Studies students enjoy “A Taste of Morocco”


Painted cedar ceiling (64.3) and colored glass windows (46.1.1-82) in the foyer at Shangri La, both of which were commissioned from a Moroccan workshop in 1937. Also visible is a c. 1900 Egyptian or Syrian hanging lamp (54.6.1-4) © 2003, David Franzen.

Students enrolled in an innovative Arabic language studies program at O‘ahu’s Campbell High School came to Shangri La on May 12 for A Taste of Morocco, an event co-hosted by Shangri La, OneWorldNow!  and the Pacific Asian Affairs Council. The students toured Shangri La, then enjoyed an afternoon of traditional Moroccan music, dance and food. They were especially interested in the colorful, intricately painted wooden ceilings in Shangri La’s foyer and living room, which were crafted in 1937 by artisans in Rabat, Morocco.

Adly Mirza, Arabic instructor at Campbell High School

In fact, some of the students will be traveling to Rabat this July for intensive Arabic language and leadership training.  While in Morocco, they’ll live with host families, continue their Arabic language studies, learn about Moroccan art and culture and participate in community service projects with Moroccan youth. For many of these students, the summer program will be their first experience abroad, so we were especially pleased to be able to introduce them to some of the elements of traditional Moroccan culture they’ll experience this summer.

Student speaker Nick Troup at Shangri La

Campbell High School junior Nick Troup, a two-year veteran of the Arabic Studies program, spoke at the event.  He traveled to Qatar as part of the summer program in 2011, and the experience was life-changing. “Going to Qatar totally smudged out any preconceptions I had at the time. I learned really quickly that people are pretty similar regardless of where you are in the world. There are several things that are universal—for example, music. I connected in ways I didn’t expect,” he said, reflecting on his trip.

The travel–study program is organized by OneWorldNow!, an award-winning global leadership program for underserved high school students. The Seattle-based organization expanded to O‘ahu in 2010 through a partnership with the Pacific Asian Affairs Council and support from Qatar Foundation International.  In addition to the program at Campbell High, OneWorldNow! is organizing an intensive two-week (June 17–29, 2012) Arabic language camp for high school students at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Kirstin Hayden (second from left), executive director of OneWorld Now! and Campbell High Students enrolled in the 2012 Arabic Studies program