Peace Corps Adventures

Friday, November 17, 2006

hapy birthday

there are ups and there are downs in every situation in life.
today is an up.
i am in azrou right now, and today is my 26th birthday, and there is another volunteer who shares the same birthday as me. gosh what a fun day it has been. training is almost over as well, so there is an added excitement in the air as of late. we are, provided that we pass the language test (which i am confident i will) will be official peace corps members on this friday.

today i also received 3 packages in the mail. my first mail since in morocco, i was so excited. except for the fact that one of the packages had mail that wasn't mine in it, i was a little surprised, but my boss hopefully will figure it out in rabat. the package had all sorts of other peoples mail in it, like post cards from cancun, etc...super weird.

lots to catch up on, but basically i am happy, and look forward to serving for 2 years, inshalala.

shokran kulshi,
u nshufk mn bEd.

bslama.

imagine a cake with frosting that was partially coming off on the box, and it said hapy birthday....super fabulous.
we also had 4 cakes total today. LOVE LIFE bzaf.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Marocoween

Every time I journal I find it difficult to recap all that has happened, because everyday is filled with new adventures.

Two days ago we learned where we will live for the next 2 years. I will be leaving tomorrow morning for 7 days to Amizmiz (also spelled Amezmiz). It is a city 55k south of Marrakesh. Basically an hour away from Marrekech (this is the proper way to spell it). Still find it hilarious that my blog name correlates so well with where I will live the next two years.

To be honest, I was really upset when I got my assignment. Not because of the location or the size of the city...but rather it was the fact that I had specifically asked to not work with ceramics...as I had come to love working with the embrodiery co-op in Khemisset, and would like to work with women artisans in weaving or embroidery.

My only requirement was to be placed where I would be the most useful to the community I will work with. And apparently ceramics is it. It isn't that I don't love ceramics anymore...and I already had known that that was what I was most qualified for (I suppose). It was just that I had had my heart set on something else for the last month and a half, and I just needed to readjust back into thinking about ceramics and what I have to give to the people I will work with.

The location of Amizmiz is amazing, right by the High Atlas Mountains. Close to Safi, Agadir, Timdit (where the silver is at), and then down towards the desert. I look forward to traveling alot, and with how they dispersed us, I have many options of places to visit just based on where my fellow volunteers will live.

Amizmiz is a city of 16,000, and has 4 NGO's within the city. I also tend to believe that this city is going to be great visually. With the huge backdrop of the mountains in the background. I look forward to meeting up again with the YD volunteers that we met so long ago in Philadelphia. Which seems decades ago by now.

Today is our last day in Azrou for a week. We had a Halloween dance (Maroc-o-ween) last night, and pumpkin carving for the LCF's and volunteers. Dancing for a couple of hours is all I need to not be so stressed. It has been pretty stressful as of late, with all the thoughts of transition and getting prepared for language profiency testing, and just all the stress that everyone else gives in this small space of the l-auberge.

I leave tomorrow at 6am to get to Meknes by grand taxi with 5 other volunteers. From there 5 of the 6 of us will take the train down to Marrekech. This little adventure will take 8 hours. I get to Marrekech around 245pm...and then will head down to Amizmiz..yipes. I am really excited though for something new. Even though I really like my family in Khemisset, I am ready to just start working towards understanding my community I am going to work with.

In about a month from now, I will be a volunteer officially. Pretty unreal, and I will also be 26 years old. Never would I have dreamed that I would celebrate my next 3 birthdays in Morocco. Life is really awesome right now. My site has internet access luckily, so I will write again soon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

family in khemisset



back in azrou this week. nothing much to say at the moment, but here are some pictures so far.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

stepping over broken tiles

back in azrou this week, but only for 4 days. beginning to start to have a great comfort level here, and the darija is slowly coming along each and everyday. so many things that i have never experienced before, like for instance I had never had a date (the food) before coming here. very tasty. the fruits and vegetables are so amazing. esp. the avocados, which are very reasonably priced, but many things are. super duper poor, but i am pretty used to that. we have been getting about 270 dirhams, which is like 50 or so dollars. the conversion rate today is 8.7 dirhams to one dollar, so very much in our advantage. for instance, a phone call to the US from a payphone is three dirhams to start, and a five minute conversation is like 10 dh. mail is probably the most expensive thing, so sending packages will be at a minimum for me.



another adventure that i had right before leaving khemisset, was going to the hammam for the first time. and i must say unfortunately the last time. i knew that i should not have gone because of my eczema (very very dry skin), but i just wanted to go to make sure that it was bad.... my host sister charifa went with me, and we went to the part of khemisset that is much nicer and newer than my area. that area is called mouna...and is like a 5 minute walk from my part of town...taddart. the hammam has three parts, the cool, the warm, and the hella hot, and for whatever reason, my host sister took us to the hottest part. we then began the long process of scrubbing off dead skin, and cleansing, which might i add, took 2 hrs of hanging out there...which for some is very early. many women, since there are not many places where they can go and socialize here in morocco, go to the hammam and chat it up. to me it is a little odd, because you are just chillin, while naked and cleaning yourself. there are boundaries that are crossed here that would never happen in the states. it felt really great, but man o man did my skin hate me in the following days. thankfully the peace corps is able to provide me with my over the counter medicine though for eczema. seriously, thank god for that.

women here walk down the street linking arms or holding hands, and so i am getting very used to that, and actually it is very nice, because when walking in the streets linked with another, you are less likely to be harrassed.

my family in khemisset walks me to and from school each day, but i am really okay with this, in the fact that i know that they are worried about me and my safety, so there are worse things to worry about. ramadan has made for difficulties in my eatin habits. i did fast for 2 days straight, however, it does affect my learning abilities in the classroom. so i will not fully fast until next ramadan...which i hear will be in the summer time or the end of the summer, which will make it even more hard because it will be very hot here, and you are not to eat or drink water even until around 630 pm or so.

i am really appreciative of how humble my family is and gracious with everything.

khemisset is a town that has a lot of promise, and though it is not as esthetically pleasing at first glance, there are jems along the way. i have really enjoyed just observing the country so far, and can't believe that 26 months are going to go by so quickly. also, i know that i will have the opportunity to grow and learn from this experience. we have a library at hand through the peace corps, so i can order whatever books i want or desire for hte most part. i am going to read as much as possible, and hopefully even pick up french, even though i terribly dislike this language for the fact that i like the way that spanish and italian sound, but that is my own preference. however, being in morocco where the second language is french, i really think it is vital in many ways. especially in the business world. so we shall see.

already in my head i have a list of places i long to go visit, which include: Marrakech, Fes, Chefchaouen, Meknes, Volubilus (roman ruins nearby to Meknes), Sale, Rabat again, Safi, and maybe Agadir. many places to go see, and hopefully as many places that are not on the beaten path as well. I am already dreaming of when I am finished as well, because we can travel to our hearts content, and I think upon completion in the Peace Corps, I would like to travel a lot before coming back to the states...Germany, EGYPT for sure, then maybe Japan, Spain, Norway or Finland...Czec republic, Austria, so many places to see, England would be nice, Ireland too...but Egypt is the first and foremost place to visit. But that is dreaming a little too far in advance...step by step , every day little by little, bswiya, bswiya.

I love learning, and although there are many privileges and freedoms that i do not have here in Morocco, being a female first and foremost, I am okay with it, and am excited to be able to live in a Muslim country and learn a whole new perspective.

more updates tomorrow, before heading back to khemisset for another 6 days. really i need to kick it into gear though, and focus on my language for the next month, as it is going to pick up quickly now that we are getting into my favorite part of learning new languages: VERBS and tenses of verbs.

hope everyone back in the states is doing well, and know that i miss you all terribly. hope to hear from you all soon, and want to hear everything that is going on. i am well and sound in mind, and am motivated and positive at the opportunites that are front of me each day...!!!

bslama f deba.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

life in khemmisett

not much time to update properly.

finally adjusting to life in morocco, or should i say my stomache is. there are so many new experiences that happen every day. i am now in khemmisett; where i will live for the next 10 weeks as well as the city of azrou; which is a two hr drive away. khemmisett is a city of 100 thousand people and azrou a city of 50 thousand located in a mountain basin. azrou is beautiful and quite modern for a middle atlas city, which makes the prices for everything a little higher than other places.

my assignment before swearing in; in sha allah; is in a city that is the biggest of the cities that the small business developers have assigned: some are in small villages; so i am very lucky to have electricity water and only a fifteen minute walk to school each day.

school is six days a week in the classroom, but basically every minute of the day is school, as i live with a family that is very supportive for my language training. i am very happy that i do not know enough french to converse much, because it forces me to focus on the essentials of learning moroccan arabic, called darija. i am picking it up slowly each day and already i am able to understand the television programs that are on after the fasting ends for the day.

i started pre service training a couple of days before ramadan started. today i fasted for the first time, which received great praise from my family and was seen as a great accomplishment.

we are working with a artisan co op in khemmisett, working at the moment with skilled wood carvers and also the women in the neddi; which is the sewing and embroidery co op. both groups are so skilled. being a women though here provides to be difficult at time, especially when i explain that i work with wood and ceramics in the states, because these are skills that only men are allowed to do in morocco.

i have so much more to explain, and so little time to express all that i go through each day. yesterday though; i took a horse and buggy to school. every corner here in khemmisett provides surprises. donkeys and bicycles with children too small for the bicycle, wild animals everywhere. my family has pigeons as pets on the roof, and people eat pigeons here as well. which makes me want to vomit; but to each his own.

i will blog more extensively in a couple of days when i get back to azrou on tuesday.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

female issues

being a female here is going to be challenging.

one is not allowed to go to cafe's because that is where men go. females cannot smoke cigarettes, go out at nighttime (unless you have an escort).

the biggest problem for me is when i have my period, the man of the house is not allowed to know that you are on your period, because it means basically if you use tampons that you are not a virgin anymore, as the act itself is enough. in order to dispose of the tampon, you must put it into a bag that can be thrown away in the garbage can later.

i am sure that i will have a whole blog just about the turkish style toilets. nothing like squatting into a whole. ugh.

more later as it comes up.

sick as a dog

as i sit in the hotel that we are to stay at for the next 3 months on and off in azrou, morocco, it is still daunting to think that i am in morocco.

there are so many things to learn and everything is new and exciting. all except, what is known as the Big D, aka diahhrea. it took me out hard core. feels like my insides are everywhere. but it is nice to know that 60 percent of the group has also had it. some more than others, but i woke up yesterday with a fever of 101, and tried to make it all day, as it was the first day of language lessons. i made it until 4pm (sleeping at lunch time as well). i slept until today at 7pm...aka 27 hrs straight. felt good to sleep, but not much sleep, as i had to go to the bathroom constantly at nighttime.

if you have ever had the big d in the states, it is about 10 times worse here.

otherwise, i am liking it so far. it will be very hard i think, though that is to be expected. in the background, i can hear donkeys in the road, and it gets quite chilly because of the mountain cooling. already i would say it is in the 40's, and where we are at is in the middle atlas mountains, so snow will be here before we know it.

i am trying to save my money, as best i can, because i have never been good with that, and so it is a good goal to have.

the people here are so kind, and patient. we have already learned basic script of modern standard arabic, and darija (which is the moroccan arabic that is spoken) it will be difficult, but hopefully i will be quite proficient. there are 6 language teachers, and all of them are very patient.

i have ventured into the city once, yesterday, to get a basic start to knowing where things are in the city. there are 50,000 residents in azrou, and it is located on the base of a mountain. azrou means the great rock.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

arrival

i am safe and sound in rabat in morocco. we arrived today at the international airport in casablanca. still a little surreal to be here. there are 56 members total and even one girl from norfolk nebraska. small world indeed. very diverse group though and everyone is really excited to get started though it will be intense as the expectations are high. we are staying in rabat the capital city until friday and then we are on our way to the next place for intense arabic or berber language lessons.


here we are getting ready for our first walk around rabat, as we have been stuck inside the hotel for way too long.
this computer that i am typing at though is miserable having lost already a couple of emails.

will write more tomorrow.

must say that traveling on 9-11 was a very strange experience.