Moroccan Youth Explores New Culture, Beach And Music

Jessica Goolsby
Wednesday - March 24, 2010
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One of Zakaria Rami’s favorite discoveries during his year abroad so far? Hawaiian music. Photo from Zakaria Rami.

Zakaria Rami is a lot of things - a junior at Kapolei High, a wrestler, a fluent speaker of Arabic, French and English ... and he’s also halfway across the world from his family and friends.

Rami, 15, is here in the Islands as part of the Youth Exchange and Study Program and lives with host parent Doug Brown in Kapolei.

“It’s been really enjoyable,” Brown said of his time so far with Rami. “He’s given me some insight into his culture and his life. He comes from a small desert town, and Hawaii’s such a drastic change for him. It’s been truly fascinating.”

Rami has been in Hawaii since August 2009 and will return to Morocco May 8. As part of the YES program, students are required to get involved in some sort of government during their stay,and Rami was selected as an intern for a day Jan. 22 under state Sen. Mike Gabbard.


“While there, he said it was like watching ‘slow machinery at work’putting bills forward,” Brown joked, “and he saw that there were a lot of meetings, phone calls and e-mails that go on. He was kind of impressed by the amount of communication coming and going all day.”

But his trip hasn’t been all work and no play.

“He loves the beach and Ala Moana Center, and he’s really good at guitar,” Brown said.

For Rami, this is his first-ever experience living in a foreign country.

“The hardest part for me personally was to make friends - not just to have classmates, but real friends,“Rami said.“It’s hard because some people stereotype Islamic people, so I just want people here in the U.S. to realize that we’re not terrorists. We’re not all like those who attacked the U.S. and continue to fight against it today. Those people are psychos, and I just want to apologize to the U.S. because we’re not all like that, and those people are not representative of what the Muslim religion stand for.

“Our people are about peace.We love all cultures,and it’s all about treating your neighbors as brothers and sisters. I want to leave Hawaii knowing that I made that clear to at least some people.”

Fortunately, Rami hasn’t had any trouble in the states personally so far.

“All in all, the people here are really nice and friendly,and the culture is so interesting,” Rami said. “I really like Hawaiian music, and I go to the beach a lot.

“Ever since I was young I wanted to come to the United States - I’d watch shows on TV about it and it looked so amazing. So getting to come here has been a dream come true for me.”

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