Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 57: Ibn Rushd Univ. Psychiatric Center

As I write we are pulling out of our final port on the way home.  I have to say, today was a pretty typical SAS day and a good way to spend the final hours in port.  The "typical SAS" part comes in as we departed for the Psych Hospital an hour early so the whole "flexibility is key" motto came into play as we made a quick detour to the Hassan II Mosque for a visit.  There was no reason other than to kill time.  It was actually kind of nice because I got a chance to see a bit more of the interior since a different door was open. 

After arriving at the Hospital we were led through some rather daunting looking gates onto the campus and eventually to a conference room with mint tea waiting (a sign of Moroccan hospitality).  The professor/psychiatrist, Driss Moussaoui, gave a short talk on the history of mental healthcare in Morocco and there was active discussion for a good two hours.  It was an incredibly interesting visit.  Upon his arrival in 1979, there were only 2 psychiatrists in Morocco and he essentially built the "public" mental healthcare system from nothing.  The reason "public" is in quotes is because there has been such little financial support from the Moroccan government and the facilities are almost all built with private donations.  His story is very intriguing and one that is still continuing.  Under his lead the system has come a long way but is still far from sufficient (there are only 1000 psych beds for a population of 32 million).  Despite a bit of arrogance (which is probably deserved considering what he's accomplished), Moussaoui is definitely one that has devoted his life to "fighting the good fight." 

The institutionalized patients themselves are usually very severe and since there is really no support staff (the nurse to patient ration is 1:40) there's a heavy dependance on family.  Many times the family cooks meals and buys medication to bring into the hospital.  I could go on and on about the discussion; it was a great experience.  Afterwards we had a chance to do a quick walk around the facilities which were in surprisingly good condition.  There was so much information presented it's hard to soak it all in (even with my 8 pages of notes).  We left the hospital in the early afternoon and my extended family mother, who was also on the trip, offered to treat me and a few others to lunch.  We walked to a cafe close by and had a fun little lunch with some pretty heavy discussion about healthcare policy and the role religion should play.  Yes, this day has been very philosophical.

After lunch I realized I had over 40 Dirham in coins left (coins are unexchangeable) so I swung by a shop on the way to the ship.  The past few days I had been comparing prices for a Guenbri; an Arabic string instrument.  I handed the storekeeper all my coins trying to indicate that this was my last day and I needed to get rid of them and he smiled and let have the Guenbri, so that was pretty cool.  It's probably not the most authentic but still has rather decent tonality.  I got back to the ship in time to beat the final port rush.

It's hard to believe we're departing our last port.  Morocco was a lot of fun and an interesting place; I don't think I would describe it as that tourist friendly and it definitely presented the most difficult language situation of any port we visited (my pathetic French has improved a bit).  As I look around the ship I think most people feel the same: we're tired and ready for home.  It might just be the insane heat here or the "last port" mentality but the ubiquitous exhaustion is pretty evident.  Thankfully tomorrow is a "study day" which will offer some opportunity for rest.  That's all for now, I'm off to the the post-port reflection.

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