RABAT — When a reporter’s computer crashes, it totally alters how her work is done. How do I know? It happened to me.
Often, a reader may not think about what foreign correspondents do in order to get a story.
I am a student, but I am practicing “boots on the ground” journalism and I am learning about what it takes to be a foreign correspondent, and believe me, it takes more than good writing skills.
A computer issue like mine is one of many obstacles that journalists abroad encounter. Depending on the situation, a reporter may have to cope with internet unavailability, no electricity, dangerous conditions, illness, harassment, and the list goes on.
However, what a journalist does is incredibly rewarding and filled with adventure. Recently, I got to immerse myself in the cultures of southern Morocco, where I learned about the people, witnessed age old traditions, visited a women’s cooperative and more. My search for a new, undiscovered story and knowledge of the country was all without the World Wide Web.
For the first time, I felt like a real foreign correspondent, not because of the great story I was finding, but because of the struggles I was having. I did not have a functioning computer, something that I would have considered absolutely necessary before now.
What I learned was that while I need a computer to type out articles – I guess I could handwrite one – not having one available to me 24/7 actually helped me make the most of my experience.
Instead of typing relentlessly, I pulled my little blue notepad out of my backpack, got a pen, and dedicated a page for each day.
Day one: I visited Fes and saw the first university – ever. It was stunning, with intricate Arabic script carved into the walls and tiny colorful tiles meticulously placed to create mesmerizing mosaics. What’s more? It was founded by a woman.
Day two: I think I ate some bad fruit, maybe it wasn’t washed properly. This made me very sick. Food poisoning is not good on long journeys. We stopped at a very kind woman’s house in the High Atlas mountains. She let me use her restroom. I will never forget her.
Day four: I finally felt better and chose to come out and see the coastal city of Essouira. It was awesome. My colleagues and I found a little restaurant with a live band playing some mix of blues and traditional North African music. I might go back there. We met some locals who know a lot about the music tourism scene there.
This was my first time as a reporter abroad and it was much different than reporting in the United States. I felt as if I was without resources, without an easy alternative.
Without my laptop, I was not able to research what was going on around me every time I had a question or needed further information, something I normally do. If I have a question, I google it and read what has been written on it.
Instead, I was forced to pay more attention to real time things that were going on around me. I used my eyes to look for ideas, not Google.
When I had questions about the agriculture or politics of a region we were passing through, I asked Badrdine Boulaid, the program coordinator for the group I am with.
I talked to local people and made friends, like the guys at the restaurant, even when I did not need an interview.
I found my time traveling computer-less to be enlightening. However, I did learn that I do not want to be without one all the time. Shortly after my journey, I bought a replacement.