Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Significant Work progress-or lack thereof

So what have I been doing since my last blog post in July:

-Summer Camp: 2 weeks in a beach town and brought 4 of my students from my town. My students had a blast at camp, 1 had never seen the ocean before. It was also a good experience for them to meet kids from all over Morocco.
-The screen of my computer broke (got it fixed while I was in the states). I borrowed a screen to use for a few months.


-Fought, successfully this time, for the Dar Chebab to stay open after six, in order to accommodate BAC students who don't finish school until 6pm!
-Started English classes four days a week for Seniors at the high school (referred to as BAC students)
-Created an art club that meets on Saturday afternoons of youth from 6-20. At first it began with all girls but many boys have joined the group.


-Went to Mid-Service Medicals in Rabat. Completely healthy!


-English classes stopped. Various reasons including no space to hold it, loss of interest by certain students, demanding school schedules and tests.
-Went home to America for a two week vacation! I had an amazing time visiting with my family and friends in the states. Went with my mom, aunt, and grandmother to see Wicked in NYC and visit the tree in Rockefeller Center. It was great to be in a country that observed Christmas. Went to my brother's house for Christmas and got to meet his girlfriend that he started dating while I had been in Morocco. My original flight back to Morocco was cancelled due to all the snow in NJ so I got to spend an extra few days with my family while the snow melted.


- BAC English classes began again but with a different group of students.
- Started an Exercise/ Dance club with girls at my Dar Chebab (no boys allowed). While two of these girls attended Summer camp where boys and girls could dance in Morocco, in our town it is not appropriate for girls to dance when boys can see them.

Upcoming projects:
-With the first week of April brings the spring break for students and English Spring Camps all over Morocco. I will be coordinating the Spring Camp in Marrakech this year.
-April 22: Earth Day

It's Raining!

I'm very excited about the rain! The "winter" in my town this year was warm and with only one day of rain. Last year it was raining all the time and by this time I could look out my window where the once dusty landscape was covered with greenery. Now it's been raining for over a week, it's cold, my roof is leaking, and I can see my breath indoors and it makes me happy. It gives me an extra excuse to put off my laundry, stay snuggled under my covers and read, and bake in order to warm up my kitchen. It also means the "river" will return to my town if only for a few days.

Some Moroccan Humor:
A man wants to commit suicide but rethinks it, decides that he wants to attempt suicide and not die so that people in town will think of him as strong and unable to die. From the roof he wants to jump from is 10 meters high so he goes to the hanut and asks for 9 meters of rope. The shopkeeper gives him the rope and the man goes to the top of the building ties the rope around his waist and jumps. Seconds later he is dead on the ground, as the police are investigating they go to the shopkeeper and ask him about the rope. The shopkeeper says, the man asked for 9 meters of rope but I gave him 12 because I know his father. (told to me in Darija by a Moroccan man and then translated into English)

The reason I share this joke, despite its grave outcome is to highlight Moroccan shopkeepers. While you bargain for almost everything, things like meat, vegetables, and most food items are a set price. When you bargain the starting price and even the final price depend on who you are and how the shopkeeper knows you. For example a foreigner will almost always pay more than a local, and a local will always pay more than a friend. However for things with set prices, if the shopkeeper knows you he will throw in the extra meat he cut that puts the scale over the edge by a few grams, the veggie guy will throw in an extra veggie to make the scale balance instead of shorting you a few grams. It's all in who you know.

On Running in Morocco

This past month my counterpart and I started an exercise club on Saturday mornings. After a rocky start: problems with bureaucracy, constantly finding the Dar Chebab closed at the scheduled time, and certain objections from the male "in charge, we finally got the club off the ground. The first 3 weekends we taught all the dances I've known since middle school including: The Electric Slide, The Macarana, Cotten Eye Joe, The Chicken Dance, Boot Scootin' Boogie, and Achy Breaky Heart. The fourth weekend we found the Dar Chebab closed, again, and this time everyone with keys was out of town so there was no chance of getting into the Dar Chebab anytime soon. Although my spirit was broken my counterpart had a more positive attitude. She suggested we run to one of the douars (a small neighborhood) about 3 kilometers away although we have no where to put our bags down and many of the girls had just finished morning classes. Well we ran (mostly), did deep lunges for a while and speed walked (something my girls had never seen before). Once we made it to the douar we were all thirsty. Since we are in Morocco, what do we do? We go knock on a random door and ask for water. The nice woman who appeared brought us water and chatted with us for a few minutes before we were back on our way to town.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summertime Blues

This summer has been a whirlwind of boredom and adventure.

My parents and my amazing brother came to visit in June, then I went to Spain with them for a few days. The visit was awesome and I was so happy to introduce them to people in my village. Everyone is still talking about it, even people who didn't meet them but saw them from far away. My parents liked it to, they liked seeing how much everyone cares about me here. The visit had the added bonus of being a vacation for me, I got to go to Spain with them for a few days. I think my favorite part of Madrid was the museums I went to. Went to one huge art museum and it was so cool to see a bunch of the paintings I learned about in all the art history classes I took. I even got to impress my dad with my knowledge of the backgrounds of the paintings and painters. Best of all it was great to see them in person, skype is just not the same. Unfortunately my brother got Typhoid fever while in Spain so we didn't get to go clubbing like we planned, guess he's got to come back now :)

Summer here is pretty boring otherwise, way too much free time to kill since the Dar Chebab I work at is closed. I spend a lot of time visiting people and working on Goal 2 of Peace Corps (cultural exchange), so technically still working. I'm working summer camp next week so at least that will get me out of my site, even if I am bringing four kids from my site with me. They are sweet kids though and I'm hoping they will like it so I can encourage them to come regularly to my English classes when school starts again.

There has been a few things going on in Mejjat. I helped plan the first ever Watermelon Festival in Mejjat (July 8-10) which was fun. It was supposed to be 3 days but was only 2 and a half because of ANOTHER power outage. The first day was a parade, then an evening show (folk music, watermelon cutting contest, drama-I was in charge of music for, and some gift presentations). The morning of the second day there was a race, then that night Fantasia came. Fantasia are a group of men who ride horses back and fourth and shoot of guns. That was followed by more music. The third day there was a soccer tournament in the morning, then more Fantasia, then the power went out (typical).

I've been to 7 weddings so far this summer, went to 3 last week. It's the only thing to really do around here. They start at 8 or 9 at night and last until 4 in the morning. They are fun, lots of music and dancing. Also a lot of food. The typical wedding food here is fried chicken followed by a dish with beef and prunes, then a tray of watermelon and honeydew. After everyone is fed (shifts which can take forever depending on the amount of tables) they serve mint tea and cookies. Weddings are a 3 day event. One day at the women's house, one at the man's house. I usually go to the husband's wedding (day 3) but I got the chance to go to the women's wedding (day 2) and found out that that is a lot more fun. So, at the women's wedding there is a lot more dancing. The bride changes outfits a bunch of times, it's interesting. Although this wedding was of a 16 year old girl to a 35 year old man. It's something I can't get used to, the marrying of much much older men to younger girls.

Also been using my job skills from the UMW Help desk and removing viruses from computer's and USBs all around Mejjat. Most of all been working to stay cool. With the temperature over 100 and no's tough.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What I’ve been doing

It’s getting to be the end of the school year here. I spent many Friday and Saturday afternoons in May going to the local high school, middle school, and Dar Talib (Student House-dorms for kids who live out of town but attend the middle school). For the end of the year the school puts on a program to give out awards and the kids put on a show. Although I didn't understand half of it, (singing, comedy sketches, and short skits) it was still good. Last Friday I went to the program at the middle school, and as they were announcing the awards they called my host sister’s name. She had won a drawing contest for her non-smoking poster. I’m so proud of her.

At the high school, I finally convinced some new people to come to the Dar Chebab. At first, a bunch of the guys came and we had a ping pong tournament. Right now the high school kids are cramming for their BAC (kind of like the SAT) but they have to pass it in order to get their diploma. I've been helping out a group of boys with studying for their English exam. It's been a lot of fun, hopefully they will pass. Their test is a week away so I'll be working hard until then.

So, I don’t usually give out my phone number but kids get it one way or another. Most times I get text messages when I have been gone for a while asking me where I am. But once in a while I get text messages like this: “You already know how you plan for you I see only a few days your eyes are shadowed what happens is that in your life your silence will respect me I m –insert name here.” If you can make sense of it, then you are better than me. But for now I’ll remember that sometimes they probably think my Arabic makes as much sense as that text message.

Also, the mosquitoes are back! I'm thinking I may actually break out the mosquito net, my windows have screens but apparently aren't helping.

I finally have started to get things for my house, couches and a refrigerator in particular. I was finally motivated, since my parents are coming for a visit in two weeks!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Overdue Post

Okay. Okay. I’ve been slacking on my blog posts. The end of February and beginning of March brought a lot of rain and with it came a ton of power outages. I was lucky enough that my water worked the entire time.

One of the associations that works with my dar chebab has been busy hosting all kinds of events since my last blog. There was a huge party for International Women’s Day (March 12…only a few days late). Some of the older youth I know helped my director plan it and it was a huge success. All the women from the Arabic class came and brought cake (there was a lot of cake). My director borrowed a tent so we could hold the event outside, they set up a stage and the older youth preformed skits about women and women's roles and how it was important for women to study. Then the music group preformed.

The association brought doctors from Fes to the Dar Chebab March 25 and 26 to check eyesight, blood pressure, and blood sugar. A lot of the villagers in my town showed up and were checked free of charge. About 150 people showed up each day. Town officials also came including the caid (one of the highest government appointed officials). I along with the doctors and association members were invited to lunch with the caid at the Dar Talib (student dorms).

The next day I left for Spring Camp in Marrakech. Spring Camp was a weeklong English Immersion Camp in over 22 cities. Our camp had 76 kids, 6 PCVs and Moroccan staff. I taught English for 2 hours every morning, then was in charge of Dance Club for 2 hours in the afternoon. It was hard work but a lot of fun. There was 2 talent shows during the week and during each a group did something I taught them. In the first, 3 girls from my beginner English class sang Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and in the second 3 girls (with me) danced Cotton-Eye Joe.

After Spring Camp, we met up with other volunteers in El Jadida for a night then went down to Essaouira for Sunday and Monday. Standing at the taxi stand in El Jadida I ran into my Dar Chebab Director, who was thrilled at the chance to meet a bunch of other volunteers. He helped us negotiate with the taxi drivers who were giving us a hard time. Essaouira was a beautiful city, we played soccer on the beach (some swam), ate ice-cream, and watched the sunset over the ocean. Sunday we even had a little Easter celebration. Donnielle bought 28 eggs, boiled them, then hid them around our enormous beach house. Half of us took part in the first egg hunt, then re-hid them for the next group (the prize…a bed to yourself). Then of course we ate the eggs for breakfast the next morning, Donnielle made awesome egg salad sandwiches. It was a relaxing end to the week.

Last Saturday I went to buy bread and ran into a French tourist at my bread stand. My bread guy looks at me, wanting me to help translate, the guy knew no Arabic and took bread from the “display not for eating.” My lack of French abilities stunned the tourist who was confused when I also started speaking Arabic. In the end, the guy got his bread and the bread guy and I shared a laugh over it. I actually felt successful, not being the one doing something wrong and able to share a laugh with a local over someone else’s mistake.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New House and PPST

Since my last blog post a lot has happened. January 28, the day that I will always remember. It is the day I finally moved into my house. My program manager came to visit me and made my day. First, he cleared everything up with my house and even took me to the nearby town to buy a mattress so I could move in that day. Not only did he settle everything with my house he also brought me 11 reams of paper, 2 Snicker’s bars, and my own Peace Corps bicycle (helmet included). As he was driving me back to my town he asked me who my best friend in Peace Corps was, I immediately answered it was him (he had made my day after all) and he laughed. It wasn’t until a few days later that I figured out what an impact that statement would make.

Two days later, I left for Post Pre-Service Training (PPST) up in the mountains. It was a long day taking a grand taxi, city bus, petit taxi, train, another petit taxi, and another grand taxi to finally arrive at the Auberge. I was so happy to finally get there and see everyone again. The first person I saw was our Country Director. He first greeted me and then asked me about my visit from my programming manager, telling me that I made his day by calling him my best friend. Yes, the story did go around the Peace Corps office.

Despite returning to a rigorous schedule again for two weeks, I can’t say that I didn’t have fun at PPST. Waking up to be at sessions at 8:30am was rough but it didn’t stop us from staying up all night playing various games. Ever seen 2 boys try to eat 21 eggs each-it happened at PPST. Ever watch the Super bowl in Italian with no commercials-it happened at PPST. Also included were dance parties, movie nights, singing camp songs, lots of icebreakers and swapping hard drives. We did a bunch of Peace Corps stuff too starting the week with an LPI (Language Proficiency Interview-which I improved my score from the last time I took it), setting goals, planning projects, tutoring, and learning about spring and summer camps.

After returning from PPST, I went to my Gendarms (like county sheriffs) just to check in and tell them I made it back to town safely. Guess what was waiting for me, my Moroccan identity card! I am now officially a resident of Morocco (well I was before but now I have the official card to prove it). After making a photocopy of my card and bringing it back to the Gendarms, I walked through town and realized how much I missed it. It really does feel like home. I went to my host families house to tell them I was back and was greeted with hugs and “I missed you’s”. Then I ran into some of my students on the street who were all glad to see me. It’s nice to be home.