Sunday, May 14, 2006

1000 Apologies

I know, I know, I know, I know! It’s been a really long time since I’ve written in here. Actually, it’s been 3 days shy of 3 months. Please believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t even realized that 3 months had gone by already. I guess time just goes on by when you’re having fun…and keeping busy. Thanks for all the emails and phone calls to remind me to blog. I especially liked the emails that just had “Blog”, “Bloggers” and “Bloggin” in the subject line but nothing else in the body of the email. You know, when it takes me 10-15 minutes sometimes to actually open an email and then realize that it’s blank, well, let’s just say that it puts a damper on the rest of my internet day. (That’s for you, lil sis!) It finally occurred to me that I should actually write when I was in Rabat with Aura, a volunteer that was going home, and her mother called. Aura told her mom that I was with her and she said, “oh, tell that girl that she needs to update her blog!” Aura’s mother lives outside of Seattle and I have never met nor spoken to her before. Somehow, she must keep a tally of all volunteers with blogs and that is how my reprimand came about. So, here it is. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last 3 months…

Ok, I’ll start with the M’hamid International Nomad Festival. Uh hmmm. M’hamid. If ever you stumble across a map of Morocco and feel so inclined to look up where M’hamid actually is, you will find that it is a hop, skip and a jump away from Algeria. That is correct. Algeria. Closed borders and all. My artisan and I, along with several other volunteers and their artisans, ventured down a long, dusty and isolated road and ended up in the middle of nowhere, literally. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the festival were actually organized. However, as some things are in this country, it was all over the place. We were collaborating with a non-government organization (NGO) called Aid to Artisans (ATA). ATA didn’t even want us to go to this festival because 1.) It was so far away from everything and 2.) There were other well-known festivals that our artisans could profit from attending. However, the director of the festival went to ATA personally and asked them to help bring artisans to this festival because he felt that it would be beneficial to everyone. He even offered to help support the volunteers and their artisans by supplying food and accommodations. ATA took the risk and invited the Peace Corps volunteers to attend. Declaring this a mistake would be an understatement. Well, I shouldn’t be so harsh. There were some good aspects to the trip but they were few and far between. After arriving in M’hamid, we realized that the accommodations that were provided for us had no electricity or water. This was obviously a challenge. ATA did manage to find us a place to stay. It was a campsite facility where we all slept in Berber style tents. Actually, most of us slept in these half adobe, half tent rooms. That wasn’t so bad.

Nomad tents for some people in our group to sleep in. All I have to say is, Andy, you're a trooper!
Half adobe/half tent "rooms" that we stayed in. Trust me, it was VERY hard to keep the bugs out! Also, these morning doves, which we first thought were owls, were quite obnoxious in the wee hours of the morning.

After getting that all sorted out, we then realized that the tents that were supposed to also be provided for us by this oh so infamous “director” were also nowhere to be found. We eventually got the tents the following day and that’s when we helped our artisans set-up all their products. So, at this point we’re thinking that the worst is over. We have a place to stay, we have our tents, our artisans are set up and ready to sell their products…but wait, there are no tourists anywhere to be found. There was nobody actually there to buy the products. Another thing that this director promised was tons of tourists, bus loads in fact, that were being shipped in from the bigger towns surrounding, which were going to be there for the sole reason of buying products. No, no my friend, that didn’t happen. In fact, nothing happened. Instead of being engulfed with a myriad of tourists, we were bombarded with all the local children that apparently had nothing better to do than constantly harass us and throw the occasional rock our way. At one point I actually snapped and asked these kids where the local gendarmes (police) were so that I may scare them into leaving us alone but they were more than happy to oblige and show me the way. When I got to a fork in the road, half the children said that the office was one way and the other half insisted that it was the other way. Irreverent.

Apparently, I didn't get the memo that day to wear white. Some of the girls trying to stay out of the heat.
My host mom/artisan Ouardia at her table with products. The women in the organization weave rugs and traditional jalaba material.
Assu, treasurer at the handicap association in Tinghir with some products. The members of the association make handmade candles and jewlery.

Although most of the artisans didn’t sell any products, if any, and the desert sun was scorching us all, the artisans did get an opportunity to see what other products were being made outside their region. This, I believe, gave them an idea on how to improve on their products and to perhaps collaborate with other artisans in the future.

Sign to Tombouctou (Mali). It's a 50 day journey by camel from where we were in M'hamid. Think I might cross the Sahara one day on that journey. I can't seem to find anyone else that would do it with me. How bad could 50 days on a camel across the vast desert be?
My favorite thing in M'hamid was this camel. It was just chilling behind our tents for a while.
Had to take a picture with him and no, he didn't spit on me!
Anne having a heart-to-heart with the donkey and feeding him a fig.

So, that was M’hamid. I’m still trying to recover from that experience. Heavens! Next up is the Prophet Mohamed’s birthday, which is a 2-day Moroccan holiday. Cha-ching! Vacation time. A few of my friends and I, whom are all located in the southern region of Morocco, opted for a change of scenery and decided to head north for the holiday. Our expedition began in Cabo Negro; a quaint beach town nestled on the Mediterranean Sea. This town primarily consists of really nice beach houses owned by wealthy Moroccans. There are a few hotels, one of which we stayed at, that ordinarily we would not be able to afford, especially on a Peace Corps salary. However, because we were there in the off-season, we were able to negotiate (actually, Andy and Brian did the negotiations while Victoria and I waited in the taxi) with the hotel manager and get a price that we’re able to afford. There was one other room in the hotel that was being occupied so we got a really good deal on oceanfront rooms!

View of Cabo Negro. Most of those are private condos but our hotel is at the far right, along the cliff.
It was such a change to be surrounded by water. All I did was stare at it. I couldn't help it. I MISS THE WATER!!
I just couldn't leave this place. I wanted to sit there all day and just look at the water.

We spent the day walking up and down the beach and enjoying not being in the desert. It was a bit chilly to get in the water but that didn’t stop us. Oh no! We did it anyway. Though cold, it was quite the experience.

Walking on the beach. It was hard to believe that we were still in Morocco.
Andy's first time ever being in the Mediterranean.
Victoria and me. Like I said, we eventually didn't care about the cold water and got all the way in.

After frolicking in the Med for a bit, we realized that we were hungry and it was time to eat. Hmm, swiya mushkil (little problem.) Because we were there in the off-season, there were no places open for us to eat, no grocery stores, nothing! We sucked it up and went down to the little hanut (7-11 type of store) and bought some cheese and crackers and a little deli meat. Thank goodness for the hanut. We would have gone hungry for the night if it wasn’t open. The next morning, we decided to walk 4 kilometers along the beach to the nearest town of Martil and we had breakfast there.

After Cabo Negro, we ventured across to Chefchaouen. Now, this place, this place, this place! It’s an amazing little town snuggled in the Rif Mountains. The name Chefchaouen actually means “look at the peaks.” It’s so close to the border of Spain that most the Moroccans there spoke Spanish as a second language. It was certainly a nice change from all the French that I’ve been hearing in my region. In my region I get harassed in French all the time. It’s constantly “ca va, gazelle” or “bonjour ma’dam” everytime I walk past a group of guys but hearing “hola seniorita”, instead, was almost music to my ears. I know that it doesn’t make sense and that harassment is harassment, but, I liked the change in language.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I know that it may not seem like that took 3 months but in between excursions I did have some regional meetings with my programming manager, meetings with my delegate and the president of the chamber of artisans and some medical meetings that I had to go to in Rabat (don’t worry, nothing serious.) If it’s one thing that I’ve learned by living in Morocco is that things definitely take time! The winds have been picking up latlely so that means that we've had plenty of dry, nasty sand storms. Also, I haven't had running water in my house for over 2 months now. I was in a bit of a crisis the first couple of weeks, not knowing how to adjust, constantly trying to turn on the faucet. However, now I think I have my system worked out. I get water from my landlord. They have a well so they always have water. In fact, they've been supplying what seems like half the community with water. Anyhow, I go to them every other day and I fill up a big jug of water that I use for everything; washing my face in the morning, brushing my teeth, doing dishes, bathroom water, and yes, even drinking water. It's even gotten warm enough that I've been able to bucket bathe in my house. Also another fun experience! I boil the water for everything except to use in the bathroom. Even though this system is time consuming, it's what I have to do. I'd say you get used to it but I still forget and try and turn on the tap every now and then. I guess it's just a habit I'm having a hard time letting go of. However, my many years of hurricane experiences have trained me well for this, and hey, at least I still have electricity!

One of my favorite blue doors in Chefchaouen
Blue alley of houses. Everything was blue and white in this town. So beautiful.
We took a hike to this really old, falling down mosque. It was really tiny so the stairs in it were super steep. I felt like I was going to fall.
Along the path of our hike, there was this random door that was locked. The funny thing is that if anybody wanted to get through, they could just hop the fence or even the door itself. It may have not been efficient but it was really pretty, and come on, isn't that what really matters!?!
Blue, Blue Blue!!! Such a calming color. I think we should paint all our towns blue and white.

I just want to say HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to the world’s best mom. I love you and I miss you. I wish that I could have been home to celebrate today with you but please know that I’m always thinking about you and that I couldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you. Your phone calls, emails, letters and care packages make it all easier for me to be here, so far away from home. Lots of love and kisses!!! M’wah.

There is a gorgeous river that goes through the town in Chefchaouen. Have I mentioned that I did not want to leave this place? Must be the water. Gets me everytime.
Houses on the hill that made it seem like we were in Italy and not Morocco.
The main river being put to use to do laundry.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Home Sweet Home

This is the front of my host family's house after too much rain caused the dirt wall to fall.

My host mom Ouardia on the left and her niece Aicha on the right, after the shock of the fallen wall.

My mom asked me once what happens to my adobe house when it rains. I didn't know then but boy do I know now. This is my host family's house. It had been raining for about four days and one morning we looked outside and saw that half of the front wall of the house had fallen. Not only was the entrance to the house now exposed but the wall had fallen on the well and the bathroom. This meant no water or facilities. Fortunately for me, but not so much for my host family, I was moving into my own house that day. It has taken over two weeks but the wall has been completely rebuilt. I would go over to the house and watch my host grandfather and his sons rebuilding the wall. They basically used the mud and rocks that had fallen and repacked them to make a new wall and used bamboo to rebuild part of the roof. A little water, a little mud, some bamboo and lots of hard work and there's a beautiful, new wall! So, now every time I go to my host family's house I ask, "how's the wall today?" and they reply with, "well, it's still there."

What remains of the bit lma (bathroom). My host family had to squat elsewhere for two weeks.

My host Grandpa working on rebuilding the wall. Doesn't he look so cute in his work clothes?

As for my new house, it's great. I felt really bad moving out of my host family's house and into mine just as they were experiencing this dilemma. I offered to help in rebuilding the wall but they told me that it was a mans job. Hmm, a mans job. I tried hard to repress my thoughts on that subject. Good thing they don't understand any English. I did help pick up the bamboo shoots once they were cut. They had no problem with me doing that. I guess picking up after a man is a woman's job. Please don't get me started! Regardless, I don't have to worry every time it rains because it's not an adobe house. It's actually built out of concrete. It's also not in my community but in the community attached to mine. Even though it's a different community, it only takes me 10 minutes to walk from my house to the women's cooperative, which is where I'll be working for the rest of my service. Because my site is so small, the housing was very limited. The houses that were available were not approved by Peace Corps for this or that reason. One of the places that I was shown as a potential living space was an actual hanut (store) that still had bags of sugar and empty bottles of Coke in it. I don't know about you but I've always dreamed of living in a 7-11! That "house" also wasn't approved. After much work, I'm starting to settle into my house. I am pleased to say that I do have water everyday! There's a chateau at my landlords house that supplies water to them, me and my neighbor. A volunteer from a bigger city came to my house and asked me how I got hot water and I just looked at him with that sarcastic look that I'm sure you all know very well and said, "well, sometimes if the sun hits the chateau just right and it stays there long enough then I might get some lukewarm or tepid water." (J-Lo, I used the word "tepid" just for you!) You have to understand that some volunteers have more amenities than others. This particular volunteer has a hot water heater, a shower and a western toilet! Other volunteers even have ceiling fans, something I'm going to wish I had when the summer heat kicks in. Even though I don't have hot water, a shower or a western toilet, I am very thankful that I have running water everyday.

My new tdart (house). The big double doors go into my landlords house. My door is the little one on the right and my house is connected to another house just like mine. The white line in the middle is the seperation of my house and my neighbors house.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Aid Al Kabir

In preparation for Aid, I did henna for some of the neighborhood girls.

All dressed up in new clothes. My kaftan, borrowed from my host family, wasn't new. It was a few sizes too big.

Last week, or sorry, two weeks ago (time constantly slips away) Aid Al Kabir took place. A major Islamic celebration, Aid Al Kabir (translation: big holiday) represents the time when Allah (God) asked Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Isaac to test his loyalty. Ibrahim showed his loyalty to Allah by offering Isaac at the alter but before he could slay his son, Allah sent a sheep to be slaughtered instead. From that day on, the followers of Islam have slaughtered a sheep on the day of Aid Al Kabir to represent their loyalty and dedication to Allah. The story is the same in both the Koran (Islamic holy book) and the Bible but I don't recall there being a big Christian celebration in which sheep are slaughtered. I guess Thanksgiving comes the closest, but then again, that's a pagan holiday.

Preparations for the holiday begin days and even weeks in advance. Women spend endless hours making cookies and cakes, shopping for new kaftans (traditional celebration garb) and getting henna dyed on their hands and feet. Men also buy new jalabas (their traditional garb) and go to the souq and bargain for a sheep. When the day finally arrives, everyone is dressed in their finest and is really excited. Everyone, that is, except for the sheep.

The sheep. The poor sheep. I almost felt sorry for them but then I recalled the night before the Aid where they kept me up all night with all their baa baa's. Because there are very few places to stow a sheep if you were not a shepherd, my neighbors and my host family alike kept their future meal in the front yard, on the roof, in the kitchen, wherever they had a place for it. Being as how adobe style houses usually connect to other houses, I had an entire medley of sheep singing to me that night. I do have to admit that visions of lamb chops pranced in my head as I tried to fall asleep.

Anyhow, it finally came time for the slaughtering and I was ready, front and center. First, a man with a very big knife, placed the sheep on the threshold of the house. With my host family's house, it was the dirt alleyway outside the wooden door. From there, either the man spoke sweet, gentle nothings into the ear of the sheep or a quick prayer was said. I prefer to be a romantic and believe the first. With the words said, the wool was pushed aside at the neck and a long, swift slice was made. The man with the big knife then stood back and let the sheep squirt its blood until it's last breath was exhausted. This sometimes took a while and the sheep would kick and move with it's head half severed. While this was an amusing site, it left blood splattered everywhere.

The slaughtering begins. I think I saw a total of 5 sheep being slaughtered that day. I'd say that's enough for a lifetime.

The river of blood draining from the sheep.

As soon as it was evident that the sheep was dead, the head was completely cut off. What happened next kind of disgusted me. The men working on the sheep made little incisions on the legs and began to blow into them. Quickly, the sheep expanded and began to look like a pinata. As if the imagery wasn't enough, one of the men had a big stick and began to beat the sheep as it WAS a pinata. Everything expanded, and I mean EVERYTHING (please use your imagination.) I gathered that the blowing of air and the beating of the sheep was to separate the meat from the skin. I think it worked. The men then started to slice away the sheep skin. Eventually the sheep was hung so that the rest of the skin could be separated. I was amused at the fact that the men left a little ball of wool at the tip of the tail. Decoration, I presumed. After that, the innards, guts, stomach, and whatever the sheep had for eaten and not yet digested were all taken out and saved for later.

Sheep being blown up to allow air to separate the
skin from the meat. Host relative beating the sheep with a stick as if it were a pinata. Unfortunately, no candy or prizes fell out.

With all the sheep slaughtered, there was nothing to do but start eating. Boy did we eat. It was meat day in and day out. Meat for breakfast, meat for lunch, meat for dinner. I got so sick of just eating meat. At one point I snuck in an orange and I swear it tasted like meat. It wasn't bad at the beginning because we ate the "good" meat. For the first few nights, we had a lot of brochettes (kabobs if you will.) Those were pretty tasty. After the "good" meat was all gone, however, my host family began to prepare the not so good parts of the animal. This mainly consisted of the stomach, intestines and just plain old sheep fat. Folks, I've eaten a lot of strange things since I've been here (camel, sheep brains, eyeballs, stomach, bull heart, chicken liver, cinnamon ... you name it, I've probably eaten it) but I just wasn't up for anymore body parts. I finally drew the line when my host family served me sheep testicles for lunch. There was just no way those things were going in my mouth. I just smiled and respectfully declined. It's now been, umm, let me count... 13 days since my host family slaughtered the sheep and we're still eating from it. Here's a thought for you to ponder: my host family doesn't have a refrigerator. The first few days, the sheep was hanging outside next to the bathroom (more like an outhouse) and after that, they brought it inside and kept it in the room where we all eat, hang out and where the entire family goes to sleep. I had no clue where they had been keeping it since then until I went into a small, vacant room the other day and found meat curing from the ceiling.

Hopefully, the meat supply will be depleted soon. If not, I'm happy to say that I will be moving into my house in a few days and have no intention of cooking meat, at least not for the first few months anyway.

I decided that the day just wouldn't be complete unless I picked up the sheep head. Not very pretty. I got blood all over my hands.

The sheep cadaver that was hanging outside bathroom.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tinghir

How many Moroccan men does it take to change a flat tire?

Sarah and Mamma Fatima. Nobody was injured in the making of this photograph.

I would like to take a little time and explain the transportation system in Morocco. There are several ways in which a Peace Corps volunteer, not permitted to drive a car, can get around in this country: taxi, bus, transit, bicycle (with a helmet) or, in rare cases, donkey or camel. I have yet to travel via donkey or camel but I'm sure my day will come. Larger cities have petite taxis, small taxis that can carry up to three people, and can take you to your destination within that city. Grand taxis, taxis carrying 6 people, travel from city to city. How can one taxi carry 6 people, not including the driver? That's simple. They shove 4 people in the back seat of the taxi and 2 people in the front seat. It is the most uncomfortable traveling experience and to my astonishment, not illegal. I think the only person that is comfortable during the ride is the taxi driver because he gets his own seat. Buses aren't that bad to travel in, though it might take forever to get anywhere because of the constant stops. If you're lucky enough to travel in a nice bus, the trip can be rather enjoyable. However, if you aren't so fortunate and must travel in a souq bus, well, now that's a different story. Traveling on a souq bus is like being on Ol' McDonald's Farm. You could quite possibly be sitting next to a sheep or a chicken for the duration of the trip. Transits, small vans, are used to transport people to and from villages. Generally, transits are built to carry 12-15 people. The most people in one transit I've counted so far is 24. Although not my chosen mode of transportation, this is what I have to use on a regular basis.
Two days a week, I catch a transit out of my site to take me to Tinghir. Tinghir, population 36,000, is where I do all my shopping, use the internet and where I spend 7 dirhams to take a really long, hot shower at the public "douche". My ride to Tinghir takes approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on how many times the driver stops and picks up other passengers. I say approximately because I never really know what's going to happen. In fact, just last week, not on one of the days but on BOTH of the days I was coming into Tinghir, my transits got flat tires. I couldn't believe it. The first time it happened, all the passengers got out of the transit and waited patiently until the men changed the tire. I, also patiently waiting, sat on the side of the road and read my book. The second time it happened, just two days after the first incident, I got out of the transit and could do nothing but shake my head and start laughing. Those around me couldn't quite pinpoint what was so funny but I knew this was going to be one of many transportation incidents during my stay in Morocco. I mean, what else could I do but laugh?
As far as bicycles go, each Peace Corps volunteer is issued one upon swearing in. Well, it's actually not that simple. We don't hold up our right hand, swear to uphold all the Peace Corps stuff that we have to uphold and then they say "here's your bike." After swearing in, we go to our final site and then at some point within the next few months, Peace Corps stops by and gives you your bike. Sarah, a volunteer near my site, and I were fortunate enough to get our bikes a couple of weeks ago. The first day I had my bike, I decided to ride to the post office and check my mail. My site has no paved roads and it had been raining all week so my bike was covered in mud by the time I returned to my host family. Upon returning, I set my bicycle inside of the house and went across the street to have dinner at the neighbors house. When I came back to my host family's house, I found my host Grandmother standing in the doorway with mud all over her face and hands. I was taken aback because I didn't know why she was covered in mud. I thought that because my host Grandmother is religious woman, that it had something to do with a Muslim ritual I was unaware of. Not questioning it, I, along with my host cousin, continued talking to my host Grandmother. That is, until curiosity got to me and I just had to ask why she had mud all over her. Well, come to realize, my host Grandmother, who I must mention is also almost completely blind, was rummaging around the house and came to an unidentifiable object. At that point, she felt around the object to try and identify it. She pressed her hands and, yes, her face to this object and finally realized that someone had left a bicycle in the house. The mud on her hands and face was a result of me leaving my newly issued Peace Corps bicycle in the house and not telling her that I had put it there. No harm done though. She got a kick out of the whole thing but still asks me everyday where I left my bicycle.
Sarah's host mom also had a run in with her newly issued Peace Corps bicycle. I was with Sarah when she got her bike. We had the bike propped up on its kickstand while we were trying to figure out how the safety lock worked and while Sarah was trying on her new helmet. Next thing we know, we turn around and Sarah's host mom is climbing on the bike. We don't know whether it was the anticipation or the sheer excitement of getting on a new bike but Sarah's host mom just started laughing. She laughed so hard that she and the bike both fell to the ground. At first, Sarah and I were worried that she was hurt but after seeing that she was still laughing, we started laughing too. Once again, what else can you do but laugh.
As for the donkey and the camel ... Inshalla, yan wes ... God willing, one day.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

Sarah, Jonathan and I at restaurant in Marrakesh for New Years

Sarah getting coal placed on her eyes in preparation for s'sbae

At s'sbae with women. Incidentally, the baby I'm holding is not the baby that the s'sbae was being held for.

I hope that everyone is happy and excited about starting a new year. I certainly know that I am. Thanks to all that wrote or called to wish me happy holidays. I believe it was the first Christmas I've spent away from home so it was great to hear a few familiar voices. I had a quiet Christmas with a few other volunteers. We borrowed a friends apartment that doesn't live very far away from us and ended up just hanging out and making dinner. Since all of us are still living with host families, it was nice to be able to get in the kitchen and make our own food. New years was a different story and not so quiet. Some friends and I went to Marrakesh for the weekend. What an amazing place! We had reservations at a restaurant in town that served us a 30 course meal, or at least it seemed like it. We had everything from sushi, shrimp and pate to grilled fish and filet mignon. They even served sorbet to cleans the palette. All this was topped with desert and a champagne toast at midnight. Now, I don't know about you but I certainly have not been accustomed to this kind of service or food over the last 4 months. On any given day I am served a tagine of carrots, potatoes and maybe a little meat on top of it. Sometimes I have cous cous and I get really excited if I'm given a spoon to eat with. So, needless to say, I was in heaven. We topped the night off with a live band (drummer from Philly and guitar player from Seattle) and lots of dancing.
Aside from Christmas and new years, the past few weeks have been filled with much excitement. Sarah, a volunteer that lives near my site, invited me to a s'sbae at her host family's house. A s'sbae is a party or celebration for the birth of a new baby. Sarah's host sister had just had a baby boy. The s'sbae usually lasts for a week or so. Different people come on different nights. I, of coarse, went on the day that all the women were invited. I got to the house before all the guests arrived so that I could help the family with all the preparations. Right before the women showed up, Sarah's host family decided to dress me up in the usual Moroccan attire. They had me in a full on jalaba with hair wrap to match. I guess they didn't think that my jeans and sweater were sufficient. The next thing I know, there were 80 women in the house; They came in, greeted everyone and sat in the large living room all along the wall. From there, Sarah and I took over. We went around and served tea and cookies to all the guests. I thought my waitressing days would be over when I came to Morocco but I guess I was wrong. Every now and then, the women would break out into songs. I wasn't quite sure what they were singing about but it was upbeat. They wanted Sarah and I to dance for them but we respectfully declined. We had drawn enough attention for ourselves just by being the only Americans in the room. From there on, the celebration continued but I had to get on a transit and go back to my site.

I want to say a great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jake Addy! I have no clue where you are in the world (are you still in Alaska?) but I hope you have an amazing 24. It is the 3rd, right? Not the 13th? Just kidding. Happy birthday.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's Official

With Ambassador Riley and Mrs. Riley in Fez. That's my bodygaurd on the right!

View from host family's roof

I know it's been a while so I thought I would write a quick update. I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). I was sworn-in on November 25 in Fez by US Ambassador Thomas Riley and Peace Corps Country Director Bruce Cohen. Training is over and now the fun begins. I am now in my final site, a small village of about 3000 people. It's in the south of Morocco located between Ouarzazate and Errachidia. My amenities are limited, no running water, but the location is absolutely beautiful. I'm surrounded by desert land filled with palm trees and am nestled between two mountain ranges. I'm also very close to the Todra gorge. There are no paved roads in my community and all the houses are made out of mud, sort of adobe style. It still gets very cold down here but it's not so bad during the day when the sun is shining. Right now, my priorities are to hire a tutor to teach me Tamazight/Teshlahit (Berber dialects spoken in my region) and to find a house. I'm finding both tasks to be very difficult. I have found a few teachers in the area that speak a little English but because they are from bigger cities such as Casablanca and Rabat, they don't speak Berber. Finding a Berber speaker that also speaks English will be a challege. I'm currently living with a host family until the end of January. After then, I will be able to have my own place. The problem with that is I live in a very small community where all family members live under the same roof. Housing is very limited. It's quite unheard of for someone to live on their own, especially a female living on her own. I'm still in the process of explaining the whole thing. In shalla (god willing) I will find a tutor and a house. I love a challenge.

Monday, November 21, 2005

What I've Learned So Far

*When it's cold outside, it's colder inside.

*4 AM feedings aren't just for drunk college kids.

*It doesn't matter which way you approach it, there's just no getting around not peeing on your left foot when using the turkish toilet.

*Never say "hey, I like this song" in a cyber cafe. You will hear it over and over and over. Nobody can handle that much Celine Dion.

*The National Pastime may be soccer but "rock throwing" comes in at a close second.

*Enough salt and cumin will make anything edible.

*Don't repeat anything you hear. You might end up converted or married and not know it.

*There's no such thing as privacy. There's no such thing as privacy.

*Don't yell out "where's my shotgun when I need it" when you see a wild turkey in front of your house.

*Bad Moroccan boy bands and soap operas DO exist.

*It's okay to wear your PJ's all day, everyday, day after day.

*Going to the "Big D" don't mean Dallas! Diarrhea becomes part of your everyday language and experience. Let me tell you, it ain't easy using the turk when you have the Big D. Nor is it recommended to have the Big D on a 9 hour bus ride.