Since no typed words will truly describe the goings on in Fez and the Fondouk, I can only recommend that anyone who gets the chance try and visit Morocco. Be forewarned that the culture is very different in all respects, and as an American you are a source of income for the people here. Moroccans can get pretty creative about getting tourists' money. There are a number of good travel references available, but the best situation is like the one I had at the Fondouk, where I lived with locals who could show me around and explain all of the ins and outs of functioning in this country, including how not to get ripped off. Speaking French was a tremendous advantage as well. Mohammed described it best today when he said "Morocco is always an adventure that starts the second you step off the plane." If you do decide to visit Fez, be sure to stop by the Fondouk and say "hi" to Dr. Frappier and meet the staff. The doors are open to the public weekdays from 7:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Spending just an hour or two observing what goes on in the Fondouk is guaranteed to be an eye-opener.
While the working animals in Morocco have it hard, many of the people are suffering as well.
The political plight at the Fondouk seems direr every day. The depot of supplies and drugs are still sitting at the airport. Now the airport has been calling the Fondouk and threatening to return the shipment to the U.S. if the Fondouk does not pick it up. With no sign that Morocco is going to budge and grant the proper customs authorization for Dr. Frappier to pick up the supplies, the life blood of the Fondouk is trickling away. This is indescribably frustrating and has recently been a source of constant stress for the Fondouk's employees.
As a near-future equine veterinarian (assuming that pesky board exam goes alright later this year), my time in Morocco has renewed my passion for veterinary medicine and offered me a totally new perspective of the role of the veterinarian in society. I could barely communicate with the rural Moroccan farmers, yet I constantly felt displeasure in observing some of their practices. Regardless of how I feel things should be done, or the political battle between the Moroccan government and the American Fondouk, the bottom line is that these animals never asked to be thrown into their current situation. They just need people who will devote themselves now to alleviating animal suffering and try to educate the horse owners, even though the latter makes pulling wolf teeth seem a piece of cake. The work at the Fondouk must never stop.
Working at the Fondouk is as much an emotional journey as one of veterinary science. After just a month here, I would easily stay and continue to work tirelessly for these animals, without thought about my student loans, salary, or what kind of truck I want to drive. Now I understand why Dr. Frappier has stayed here all these years with no plans on leaving.
Thanks again to everyone who followed the blog and many thanks to The Horse for bringing this situation to the attention of horse enthusiasts everywhere. To learn more about the American Fondouk and/or to make a donation, you can find their Web site at http://www.americanfondouk.org/.
I have been forever changed by this experience.