Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sugar Cookie Baking/New House fun

So my plans of baking sugar cookies with the family never happened, :(. They finally have an oven, but everytime I said I wanted to use it, nothing ever happened. They never hooked it up for me. So finally on Saturday I made a last minute decision to visit a volunteer in the Riche area for the weekend so I could finally bake sugar cookies. I know it sounds silly, but it's something I always bake during the holiday season. It turned out to be a very nice weekend, :). It was very cold, but I got to bake and watch movies and hang out with another American during the holiday season. I also felt very guilty for leaving site again so soon after returning from Rabat 2 days earlier. I had also had to say no to a trip to reunite with others from my CBT stage because of lack of funds, :(.

Otherwise got back to site yesterday. I went to go check to see what cleaning items the previous pcv had left for me. There was a slight problem...the door wouldn't open. Somehow the "fixed" lock was still broken. Basically there are two parts to the lock, the deadbolt and the regular opening contraption used by door knobs. Well, apparently the key was not opening this latter portion. I wanted to just kick down the door and spent 5 minutes trying to explain there was no other way to enter the house. Finally the larger guy helping me finally kicked open the door. Then after shutting the door and having the same scenerio happen, I made it so the second locking portion of the door couldn't open. So now I have a semi-functioning lock and will be buying a new one.

Good news though is that Mina was able to check my house on Christmas day and approved it! So excited, :). And I have set utilities now, so the electric oven and heater are actually plausible now!

This week I will try to meet with coop women in the afternoons as they are harvesting olives now and work on cleaning and prepping my house in the morning. Then this weekend I hope to buy paint and tile and start working on tiling the floor of the bathroom and painting the walls, :). So excited!

Entry Written on December 25

It’s been a long time since I updated this. Let’s see… Not too much happened the weekend after L’3id. I baked some cookies and hung out. Then Monday I had to visit the Gendarmes again to sign more papers and hand the file of carte de sejour documents to the police. Then Tuesday I had my tutoring lesson and then met up with friends in town, it was nice. I had lunch then went back to site. Wednesday and Thursday I played the good volunteer and visited with a few people in my community including my counterpart and made a hammam trip. It was so nice, J.

Then Friday I had to go to Rabat again to have my ear checked as it still has a pain in it and my hearing seems off. So I went up a day early in case there were any travel delays as the road between Azrou and Midelt had been closed all week. I managed to make it through with no problems, J. I travelled with 2 girls from the Riche area and I had so much fun. It was really nice to hang out with some girls. Then after we got to Rabat we ate out way too much and shopped too much, but it was so nice and so worth it, J. I got to eat at TGIFridays and have a BACON cheeseburger! Then the other night we went to the German Institute and I had an awesome pizza and salad. We went to Marjane as well which is the Moroccan version on Wal-Mart and I found a really awesome purse that I can fit EVERYTHING in which is great when travelling around Morocco. Also bought some hard to find cooking supplies, etc. I also bought a really cool new hat from another store in Rabat. I definitely stayed up way too late everynight, but it was so nice.

Then Monday I had my ear appointment. Good news: No Surgery! I just have to take 3 more medications for 2 months and return for a check up in 2 months. I’ve regained the majority of my hearing but still have a slight hearing loss and the pain. Then on the way back from Rabat I got to have lunch with one friend from my CBT group and dinner with another.

Now I am just recouperating and not leaving my village for awhile. I’m putting myself under village arrest, haha. Working on getting my house approved, inch a’llah, I’ll be able to have it approved by this weekend. That would be awesome because then I could start painting, tiling, etc. I’m way too excited about fixing up my house, haha. It’ll be my weekend/free time project for the next couple months. Otherwise next month I am going to start working on daily schedules with my artisans, starting to learn what they all know how to do and where they want to go. There are 28 of them and they only meet once or sometimes twice a week, so it’ll be a process, but I have the time. It’ll be good for me to practice my language and get to know the women. Once I move into my house I plan to start hosting computer lessons and English lessons as well. You all know me, I don’t deal well without a ton on my plate! Haha.

Spending Christmas today with the host family. I’m hoping to buy a few things and make sugar cookies. I think it would be so much fun and then I can share a little bit about my American culture with them, J. It’s not Christmas without sugar cookies. It was always a family tradition every year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

You Haven't Experienced Morocco Until...

Let’s see here…my last entry detailed my doctor adventures to Rabat and back. I finally made it safely back into site before dark that Saturday. I had left the auberge in hopes of catching the 8am bus to Errachidia…haha. There was only one bus out and that was at 12pm. I managed to muscle my way on and into a seat and arrived in Errachidia in the normal 5 hours. I then went back to my site and greeted my family. I understand why people avoid traveling during l’3id, it’s crazy!

Sunday was spent relaxing and recovering from the long trip. It is very exhausting to travel by bus in Morocco and due to my southern location I had a 2 day trip back. I woke up late and went to hammam with the family to get cleaned up before the big day. It was crazy! The entire hammam was packed and it was so warm that I felt dizzy after awhile. But it was nice to get clean and it was a beautiful day. I’ve decided maybe for the next couple l’3ids I’ll just avoid hammam until afterwards. I then picked up my finished jallaba, J. Very excited, it’s very pretty, below is a photo or two of me in my l’3id dress. I felt like a dress up doll, haha. I also managed to solidify a tutor in the process of getting my jallaba. They speak words differently down here and often times in riddles. There are days where I kind of understand what they are saying, but then they completely change the subject on me and I get very very confused.

Monday, I attempted to make fudge. I really should stick to things I’ve actually made before while in Morocco. It started out well, but then I decreased the heat too much and should have added the chocolate more slowly, hence to say it was a very failed attempt. Otherwise I hung out near the stove most of the day, it was so cold! I thought they were kidding about cold winters in the dessert, haha. If they had heated buildings it wouldn’t be so bad, but the buildings were created to withstand the high heat of summer, not the cold of winter. So often times it is much warmer outside. Then that afternoon they “bear pawed” my hands and feet. That is to say they completely covered my palms and feet bottoms with henna. It looks pretty scary, haha. I wasn’t able to do anything with my hands or feet for several hours.

Then Tuesday was the big day, L’3id Kbir. Wow. It was a very long day. Had breakfast at 8am, then spent the morning greeting people in the village, this was a several hours process. After drinking lots and lots of very sugared tea and cookies, I was able to witness the killing of the sheep. This is quite the spectacle. I won’t go into details for any of you with a weak stomach, but the smell got to me so much I actually had to go lie down for awhile, haha. Never thought I had a weak stomach until that day. After they slit the sheep’s throat they felt I needed a group family photo with the dead animal, it was quite the family bonding experience, ;). All in the life in Morocco. They then had all of us women take turns holding the two babies and posing for photos. In my family of 12 there are two married couples, each with a child around 3-4 months old now. It’s very interesting to experience all of this first hand. After they finished preparing the sheep, they grilled the sheep’s head and legs…still waiting to see it turn up for dinner. I think I missed that part though, I never did see the head again. Generally the eating of the sheep is a good 2-3 day process. That night we ate the heart, liver and intestines. Then after lunch I went with my two single host sisters to a nearby village to visit family and friends, it was very beautiful. That was about an hour hike there and back, but it was nice. I was exhausted by the time I finished dinner of many many marinated beef kababs and sheep liver, heart and intestine kababs.

Wednesday, I slept in late as a result of the big day on Tuesday. I also had massive acid reflux due to the herbs they marinated the beef kababs in. They were so good though! I also ate many of these awesome carrot sugar cookies. Hopefully my host sister will teach me the recipe someday. Otherwise I spent the morning eating breakfast of sugar tea with bread and oil, then I took a walk through the nearby gaba (forest) where they have their farm lands. It was very nice and beautiful. It was a very gorgeous sunny day albeit with a cold wind.

I’ve taken many photos during the last week, I hope you enjoy them!

One of my host sisters and I at Meski

One of my host sisters and I at Meski

Me posing in Meskiin my new jallaba!

My host mom.

Me and the famales of my host fam plus an extra child or two.

They wanted me to pose with the two babies.

Family photo with the dead sheep on l'3id.

I'm the new moroccan dress up doll.

Me in my new jallaba and headscarf, :).

Me and my host mom.

Gotta love the red hands and feet from henna!

Me and some of the fam.

Me waiting for the henna to dry.

My street.

My street.


And another.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12 Hours Later...

Let’s see here…I left Peace Corps headquarters at 10:30am to catch a train to Meknes. I bought my ticket for the 11:17am train, but it was 30 minutes late, so I arrived in Meknes around 2pm instead of 1pm. I was going to taxi it the rest of the way to Midelt and stay with a volunteer there, but all the taxis wanted to me to buy the whole taxi and not just a seat. So I made my way to the bus station. I got a ticket for a 3pm bus, it didn’t leave till 4pm and then halfway between Azrou and Meknes it broke down. Sat in the bus for about an hour before they deemed it too broken down to continue. So I then waited on the side of the road for a taxi to drive by, didn’t have to wait too long. So by 7pm I was in Azrou. I am currently in the hostel we used for training here. The plan is to head back to my site tomorrow and arrive by the afternoon. Inch a’llah.

They say you aren’t a true volunteer until you have been in a suq bus that breaks down. Haha. I seem to have covered everything over these last 2 weeks. I moved to my site, went to a village near Oarzazate for Thanksgiving, then on Tuesday was instructed to go to Rabat for medical exams for my ear. I am now an expert at finding the commonly used hotel in Rabat by PCVs, finding Peace Corps Headquarters and beginning to learn a lot about traveling. I’ve spent way too much money, but was reimbursed the majority. I have to mail in another reimbursement form after this escapade. We have that whole rule of not traveling at night, but we also have a travel restriction ban in effect starting tomorrow and ending the 14th. I’m apparently one of those unique circumstance cases, but we all knew that, haha.

So I should be back in site tomorrow and plan to pick up my jallaba. I’m very excited to see how it turned out. As for medical update. These meds make me tired and a little out of it. Hence why I’m probably not crazy right now after today, but that’s also just how Morocco is. I am taking 5 different medications and hoping they work.

Well, going to meet up with a fellow PCV and hang out for a bit, catch up and swap stories. I thought my suq bus rides had been going much too smoothly, my luck had to run out sometime. At least I meet very nice helpful people along the way. Very tired, I think I am going to sleep the entire Sunday away. I’ve been trying to keep my host family informed. I will agree with the Moroccans, traveling during l’3id kbir is crazy! I can’t wait to just hide in my house!

I know I hear volunteers who get rocks thrown at them occasionally, well, I had a snowball thrown at me tonight, haha. I was peeved when it happened, but better snow than rocks, J.

Hope everyone is well back home. It’s just one adventure after another here in Morocco.
Well, here are a few pics from our swearing in:
Me and one of the buddies I really miss.

Beautiful view of Fes from the hotel.

Me and my two girls, :).

Me and our awesome homestay coordinator.

Me and my awesome LCF!

One of the pcvs near me.

Photos of my village:

Inside of future house, :)

Time Flies

Sorry it has been so long since my last update. Things have been so crazy for me. I spent last weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with a few others near Oarzazate. We had amazing food and it was great to catch up and meet a new fellow or two. Then I return to my site that Sunday and spent the next day visiting with my family, locating a coop member's home as well as the home of my counterpart. The week before was spent working on Carte de Sejour, I have to go in yet again once I return to sign something. Very frustrating process.

Sorry this entry will be short as I have limited time to express the vastness of my last week. Tuesday I went into Errachidia and bought fabric to have a tailer make me an awesome new jallaba, :). It is a darker pink and very pretty with gold lines through it. I can't wait to see the finished product tomorrow, inch a'llah. Then I had lunch with a fellow pcv and her host family before returning home. During this day I heard back from Peace Corps about my ear and was told to come to Rabat the next day, so crazy. So I took an 8am bus from Errachidia to Rabat, a very long 11 hours. The roads around the middle atlas were snowy, so travel took an extra hour or two. I managed to find the hotel I was to stay at with the help of a volunteer intown for medical servcices. It was a very nice hotel compared to what I was expecting, haha. I had a single room with a shower/western toilet in my room, :). I then went out to eat and met a bunch of now 2nd year pcvs. Then Thursday I woke up and wandered to the old medina to shop a bit. I found a beautiful gold silk headscarf to match my new jallaba for l'3id, no shoes yet. Also bought some shampoo/conditioner and a toiletry bag for hammam. I like hammam, lots of warm water in a warm area. It is getting very cold down south, it's much warmer here in Rabat to be honest. Errachidia is warm during the day, but once the sun goes down it's freezing.

So yeah, I also bought a gift to send my parents for Christmas, made it Morocco, ;). I then with several calls to the medical doctor found my way to PC HQ where I had one medical appointment and then went downtown to find the other place for my ear. I've been having ear issues, hence the sudden trip to Rabat. You know how when you cup your ear you have limited hearing, it's like that plus a ringing and dull ache. So I got slightly lost trying to find the place and none of the police knew where the street was, haha. I managed to wander in the right direction and found it and met with the specialist. Wow he had some high tech gadgets. So the diagnosis suggested I needed a hearing test as well to access the extent of the issue. Basically there is something wrong with my ear drum, like when your ear pops due to elevation changes. At the end of the examination I was given 5 different medication to take over the next week. If my ear has not improved in 3 weeks, I am to come back to Rabat for possible ear surgery. Eep! Hoping the meds work.

So I have been at site for 2 weeks and 1/2 of one of those was spent in Rabat for medical reasons. I'm getting the crash course pcv education, haha. Managed to find my way to Rabat and now as I had to get reimbursed (about 1800dh), I missed the 7am suq back, so stopping to stay the night with a pcv on the way back and taking a train partway. Pretty excited for that, :). I'm just traveling everywhere it seems, haha.

I'll post more photos once I have the chance, perhaps after l'3id kbir. For the necxt week or two my family will be celebrating with final supper by slaughtering a sheep and celebrating over the next week or two. I'm excited because I will get to visit a few more nearby villages and family in the process, :). Morocco has been great so far. Still in disbelief it's December already and I have two more years ahead of me. At least I have an awesome community and great pcvs around me and all-throughout Morocco. I will definitely travel as much as I am able and very excited to be doing something so perfect for me and so worthwhile, :).


Monday, November 24, 2008

First Impressions

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I don’t have daily internet access in my new site, but I do have internet access one or two times per week depending on how often I need to go to my souk town.

As I had previously written, my village is small, but not as small as others within my training group, and health and environment volunteers have smaller, more remote sites than me. I am lucky to be so close to a major city. Once I have my Peace Corps issued bike, I’ll be able to bike into town once a week. The number of people living in my village is yet to be determined. I live within a family of 12 (one is away for the military) while there are several houses with 5 or less. My guess is there are under 600 people living on my village which makes up a set of three with village lines distinguishable only by where each Mosque begins. The nedi I will be assisting is located in the village next to me and there is a teleboutique in the village next to that one. There are between 2-3 hanuts in my village, one of which is owned by one of my new brothers. Moroccan families tend to be quite large compared to American families. The haja of my family has around 5-7 children (still unsure), one of the wives of a son has about 7 siblings, etc. I now currently have family of some sort located all throughout Morocco between my current family and my CBT family which is really cool.

Thursday we had our official swearing in ceremony in Fes. We got on a bus around 8:30am and drove the nearly 2 hours to Fes where we listened to speeches given by the ambassador of Morocco, some delegates, our country director and two members from our training group. At 11:30am I was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer with the US Government. It’s weird to think of myself as now currently working for the US Government. We had our swearing in ceremony in a beautiful hotel in Fes and had an interesting buffet dinner with members from our CBT sites. I was very happy that my older host sister was able to come, J. We had 4 other women from our host families there as well as our cook and friend. It was so nice to see everyone again. Then after fighting through the buffet line Moroccan style (no such think as a line here), we chatted, took photos, said good-byes and then left to return to Azrou where I finished packing, ran a few last minute errands and prepared to leave. It was very sad leaving everyone and everything that had become familiar to me in Azrou. I still miss my first host family very much, they had become my second family here in Morocco and we had been matched very well.

Friday morning I caught the 8am bus to Errachidia with a few other SBD volunteers and several YD (youth development) volunteers. We then ate lunch before heading to our final sites, a few were staying the night in Errachidia. I arrived in my village around 2pm and had lots of fun carting my luggage through the mud. Apparently it had been raining for two days and there are no paved roads in my village, haha. Lucky for me as I was struggling along, a brother-in-law of the family saw me and offered assistance for which I was thankful. I then spent the rest of the day unpacking, etc.

Saturday I woke up around 10am and attempted to speak with the muldar (landlord) of the departing volunteer’s home to discuss renting it in her place and seeing if I could put a hold on it for the two months I am staying with my host family. Alas, he was not home. I then went to Errachidia with the help of another brother-in-law to get my large suitcase from the CTM station. Yay for host family members. He showed me the day souk of Errachidia, very large. And I hear the Sunday weekly souk is even larger. Crazy! Got my other bag successfully, then taxied it back to my host family’s house before heading over to visit with his and his family. I then attempted to speak with the muldar again with no luck and had dinner with the brother-in-law and his family. They are very sweet.

Today I slept in till noon after a semi-late evening. I was awoken twice by family members. They didn’t understand that I just like to sleep. Spent 5 minutes explaining that I was not sick, just tired. After waking up I went to check out the last volunteer’s house. Wow, very messy/dirty. I can see why she has had scorpions in her house. I spent about an hour cleaning parts of it which will need to be better cleaned using tide. They use tide for everything here. But before I do too much work, I want to have it cleared with Peace Corps. It needs a few repairs, nothing major. Then after doing some cleaning I came back to the house and learned how to weave a shag carpet. Pretty simple. I can already think of a few things to advise later on about improving the quality of the carpet. It’s nice living with two members of the cooperative. After some attempted weaving, tried speaking to the muldar again, again, not there. So ended up having tea with a really nice family of whom I am still uncertain of any names, etc. Everyone knows me, so rarely does anyone actually introduce themselves.

So that is my current update. Quite a bit has been happening these last few days. Tomorrow I am to experience the hmmam in town with one of my host sisters before making a day trip to Errachidia. Goal is to visit the gendarmes tomorrow to start my carte de sejour (residence permit) process, check out the post office, and visit the souk. Tomorrow is my first official day of work, but due to the nature of my community, I feel I had already begun doing that a bit. My host sisters and several others in the village have been working on the rug and I have watched my host sisters doing some crochet work, etc. I’ll start asking questions and such once I get a better handle on the language. First things first.

I am learning that it is almost at times a whole new language down south. Accents are different and some vocabulary is even different. I am slowly learning bit by bit, day by day. Some days are better than others of course. I spend much time saying “Shnu” and “Eawd” and “Mafhmtsh”. Which are: “what”, “again” and “I don’t understand.” I am trying and they are being very patient and trying as well. Very few speak any English or French, so I believe I will learn the language very quickly if I am ever to communicate anything, haha.

I am beginning to like village life. Everyone knows me and soon I will know everyone, it is very peaceful and calm and no tourists. I’m rarely greeted with bonjour or hola here in the village which is very nice.

24 November 2008

Today I woke up at 9am, then after being told the gendarmes close in the afternoon, I left at 10am. It took awhile to get a taxi, I then arrived in Errachidia around 11am and started at the police station who directed me to the gendarmes who had very little idea of what they were doing. After two hours of confusion we went back to the police station who told the gendarmes I didn't need further documentation. They thought I needed extra paperwork. Then the gendarme went with me to get notarized copies of everything which took nearly 2 more hours. All in all I have all my neccessary paperwork now and will return tomorrow to drop it all off. It is quite the process here and even more interesting when they don't even know where your village is located. But all in all they were all very nice and helpful.

I was unable to check my mail as I forgot my keys and too tired for the souk. So I grabbed some coke, pringles and awesome cream filled cookies and a banana for lunch. Now that I have updated this I will return to my village and massive family for more darija learning! Maybe some hammam, today took much longer than planned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moroccan Culture

Thought I would write a blog on some of the some of the culture I have witnessed and will be partaking in. Morocco is more conservative than the united states, but it isn't as strict as many may believe. Some women veil their faces, more so in the south, while others veil only their hair or in the larger towns/cities and more liberal villages many go unveiled. While in Ain Leuh my family went unveiled while in my new village everyone is veiled. Although, not to the same extent as other places. Many women simply cover their hair. There are two sides to covering one's hair. Many do so for religious beliefs where in the Koran it states that one must cover their head, but this is not mandatory. While others cover their head for cultural reasons and many others for logical reasons. In the south it can get very windy and women cover their hair to protect it from sand/dust as well as from the sun. The head scarf is an interesting subject here in Morocco. In my village I have not worn a headscarf yet, but I am toying with the idea for the mere fact of protecting my hair from the elements as well as to blend in and I just think they can be very beautiful.

Also, it is respectful to cover your arms, legs, butt and collar bone. My village is not so conservative that I can't show my wrists, ankles or neck, but generally my pants and shirts cover my wrists and ankles anyway. It is not required that I cover my head or wear a jallaba, but I would like to invest in one just because they are so practical and beautiful. As for covering one's butt, that means shirts that cover your butt over whatever skirt or jeans you may be wearing. In my village many women wear bedsheets or large veils of fabric over their clothes. Generally it is of a thin nature and they wrap it around themselves much like a headscarf/jallaba mixture. I am unsure of the proper name of the attire at this time, but it is very neat.

Moroccans do eat with their hands here and use minimal eating utensils. Generally one slurps one's soup, or harira as all soup here is called. As for tajines, one grabs meat/vegatables with bread using one's right hand. The left hand is considered dirty and is not used to grab food or shake one's hand. Also, they generally only use one glass for water at meal time that is shared between everyone, but individual glasses for all other liquids. As what I can glean from our moroccan staff, they do not know the reason for the one water glass other than it is a cultural thing.

Many ask about my status as a woman here. Generally I do not walk alone when I can coherce someone to walk or travel with me, but I can travel alone as well. My future village is fairly safe in this respect. I do get much attention in larger towns/cities like Azrou, but generally minimal and nothing life threatening. Just young boys giving catcalls, etc. I am often mistaken for french as many moroccans are amazed when they meet an american, french are more popular as tourists. I have experienced amazing hospitality being an american peace corps volunteer and they marvel at the fact I am learning their local language of darija.

Hospitality is major here in Morocco. Never will you visit a Moroccan in their home and not be offered very sugary mint tea and cookies or sweets of some kind. On the street Moroccans tend to stay to their own space, but once in the home they are much more open and very friendly. The home is their safe space where they are free to be themselves. But they also have a high degree of saving face and can be very indirect if something displeases them. Or, they can be very boisterous in voicing their opinions. It really depends on the people, circumstances, subject, etc. Family is very important and very heirarchical. The parents or grandparents are always at the top of the chain with everyone filtering afterwards. Many Moroccans would never marry without the approval of their family it is so important to them.

Hmm...unsure of other cultural views at this time. I will definitely write more entries such as this over the next two years as I experience more culture. One of the goals of Peace Corps is to inform the natives in the country we are serving in of American culture and American ways, but another of the three goals is also to inform Americans of the culture of the people we are serving. I learn new things each and everyday and I enjoy sharing my experiences with those of you back in the states. It really is a different world here, but people are still people and still desire the same basic needs, :).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dance Party

We had our language exams on Saturday and I did much better than I thought, :). We were required to achieve novice high and I achieved intermediate low after only 2 months of language study! This was very good news for me. I was told my grammer is good and I have good pronounciation, :).

Then that night we had a dance party where we learned some moroccan dances and taught a few american dances, then just had freestyle dance between moroccan music and american music. I had a blast! The moroccan women keep asking me where I learned to dance, haha. Finally, a place where I know how to dance!

We have a talent show tomorrow night and I was planning on doing a performance, but we'll see. Out of the arabic music on my computer none are quite what I want. There was one during the dance party I liked, so maybe I can borrow it from someone. It will definitely be an improvisation, but I'm pretty good at that. Thanks Inna!

Otherwise been working on another cross stitch. I am learning that moroccans seem to have a high regard for this particular art which is really cool, especially since the women I will be working with do embroidery, :).

Well, 2 more days of classes and then the big day of swearing in before officially heading to my final site for two years. It's scary to think I'll be on my own soon, but I'm sure it'll be fine. These two years are going to fly. Today we learned about how to properly connect a buta gas tank to a stove and about buta gas safety.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Azrou Update

Salamu Ealaykoum,

Been in Azrou for about a week now, nothing too exciting to report. Been suffering from a head cold since Monday and started taking antibiotics yesterday (Thursday). Not sure what I have, something between a sinus infection and bronchitis. So been staying in and resting as much as possible between studying and classes. Movie nights are great. That's when we convert the third floor salon into a small movie theater, :).

I have my language proficiency exam tomorrow, hoping it goes well. The goal is to achieve novice high which is basically being able to create with language. I think I'm around that range, some days are better than others, but generally able to have decent conversations. We'll see, inch a'llah.

Going to do some shopping before I head back down south. They make these really nice flannel jallabas and I think one would be amazing for winter and traveling. I think jallabas are great, you can wear whatever you want underneath.

Well, that's my exciting update! Just eating, hanging out, studying and resting, :). Can't wait for my cold to go away!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Village Life

I made it back safely from my weeklong site visit. I left the bus station in Azrou at 8am on November 1st and arrived in Errachidia around 1pm where I had lunch and met the volunteer I will be replacing. Then we took the 15 minute taxi ride to my small village, still not sure on size, but under 1,000. There are 3 villages kind of running into one another. I then met my host family of 11 people. There is the mother, then two of her single daughters aged 22 and 30, then 2 married couples (one husband does not live at home as he is in the military) and then 6 children between the two coupples. There are two newborns (2-3 months old), then there are four children aged 4,5,10, and 11. It's pretty crazy between villagers and other relation visiting, but good. The house if huge. There is a date tree in the middle of the house which is an open space, then there are about 6 rooms surrounding the central space. They have a well in the house as well as tap water and electricity. They are building an amazing house across the street where they also store their animals. They have a cow, calf, some chickens, a turkey and a sheep or two. So I get fresh milk and eggs everyday, :). The new house is also gorgeous, all tiled on the inside.

The rest of the week was spent meeting women, visiting the nedi where the women work, etc. The women share the school that was built. They meet when school isn't in session and share half of the space. Otherwise they work in their homes the rest of the time and do a little bit of everything. They make knitted sweater pants outfits, crochet doilies among other items, embroider sheets, make beaded jewelry and a little rug weaving with natural wool and dyes. I'm excited to learn more about their projects. They also grow olives and have begun making books with paper made in a neighboring nedi that I think could have real potential.

Overall country life in the desert was a complete shock, but it's good. There are some awesome volunteers near me and it's a great area for bike riding. I don't have internet in the village, but I might be able to work something out, inch a'llah. My internet/souk town is Errachidia which is only about 15 km away. The plan is once I have a bike to bike it once a day for the workout. My village has a few hanuts with the basic needs, but no veggies or fruits or anything like that.

I went on a very nice hike on Monday with one of my host sisters and the volunteer I will be replacing to the nearby forest where the village does their farming. I will have delicious fresh olive oil soon enough, :). My new addiction is pomegranate and they have a few trees there.

Overall it is beautiful with oasis all around me, great biking terrain and warm! I won't like the summer I'm sure, haha. It's been in the 70's all week for me, but evenings are very cold, been sleeping with three blankets every night.

I do have two funny language barrier stories to share. The first one is when I was unable to shut the current volunteer's door to her house. I wasn't quite strong enough and couldn't get it bolted. So I went back to my host family's house and tried to tell them I needed help shutting the door. She kept asking me about a key and I kept trying to tell her it wasn't the key that was an issue, but actually physically shutting the door. After some miming the message was finally relayed. Then this morning when I was to leave for Azrou, they were trying to tell me they had spoke to the guy who had a grand taxi in the village who was to take me, but I didn't understand and wondered why they wouldn't just let me walk to the road and wait, but it all worked out, :).

I ended up catching the 8am bus back to Azrou alone as the other volunteers were having hotel check out issues. Passed with no problem, I did almost miss my stop though as I didn't recognize that part of Azrou. But all is kulshi bixir, :).

Now I am in Azrou until next Thursday at which point I will be swearing in as an official Peace Corps volunteer, inch a'llah. The ceremony will be in Fez, then the next day I travel back to my village for the next two years! So far the people have all been very nice and my conversational skills are improving drastically as everyone only speaks Darija. There is a really cool nomadic family living next door to my future home, inch a'llah. The 8 year old neighbor girl decided to name me Halima which means dreams in arabic, :). Many already recognize me, so I haven't been overcharged for anything yet and have connections in Errachidia already with a family who is currently hosting a volunteer.

Also: Obama won! I was able to watch the elections, so that was really cool, :).
Hope you enjoy the photos!
My village!

View from my village.
Street of my village.

This is the center of the house I stayed in for my site visit.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Site Placement

Dun Dun Dun...I finally got my site placement, :). I will be in a small village of less than 500 people near Er-Rachidia. I'm nervous, scared and excited. I will be replacing a current volunteer who currently works with a women's cooperative doing many things such as weaving and jewelry making.

I leave tomorrow morning and have about a 6 hour bus ride to Er-Rachidia, then a grand taxi the rest of the way and will be dropped off on the side of the road. There are no taxi stands where I'm going, haha. It'll be great.

Then tonight we held a Halloween party where several had great costumes and we bobbed for apples, it was a blast!

Well, it's bed time for me now, long travel day tomorrow! I'll update in a week about my experiences with living with a family of 11 people in a small village.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Disaster in the Bit L-Ma / Photos

So yeah... we have this cement floored turkish toilet bathroom in our LCF house. There is a small step up to the toilet from the entry way. Well, the floor was wet after our cook/friend cleaned it and I was wearing my slippery black flats. You guessed it, I totally wiped out, or in darija, "tHt" = I fell. I did a pretty good wipe out. Feet slid out from under me and I managed to fall on my left shoulder and forearms while knocking over the bucket to flush the toilet in the process. I also happened to be wearing my long really flowy skirt. I have a pretty good scrape on my right forearm and some bruises, but otherwise well. Just bruised the bone a little I believe, but no cracked head, :).

The night before my cbt group carved a pumpkin and then we told ghost stories, it was so much fun. One of our group members' mom and brother came along with our cook and the neighbor lady. The Moroccans ended up taking over and telling some great stories, it was great. The neighbor lady really got into it.

The Pumpkin our group carved.

Otherwise, just finished packing to head back to Azrou tomorrow for two days to find out my new site for the next two years. Today we had a party for the women we had been working with at the taeawniya (coop) and all of our host families. It was a lot of fun. Us americans did some Cotten Eyed Joe dancing and the women taught us some Moroccan dancing. Then I got to belly dance a little, :). The Moroccan women thought this was amazing, lol. Then we finished assisting with the putting up of the new sign that was created for the coop.

I had some more henna done, minus the paint thickener this time! Very pretty glitter, :).

Our amazing cook and I, she is the one who did my henna, :).

My hands after I scraped the henna off.

Our party goods.

My older host sister and I, :).

I will miss my host family, they have been really great and the house is warm! I will miss "mmi" (my mom)'s cooking as well as our cook's for lunch and my 2 kaskrut (snacks) per day. The women at the taeawniya were amazing, so eager for our assistance and friendly. They were amazing to work with. So far I have found the majority of Moroccans to be very openening and kind. I may be seen as "franswaya" a lot, but as soon as I mention I'm american the arms open wide. This country is also very beautiful as can be seen through my posted photos, :).

I'm excited to learn my new placement, but I will miss class, it's nice to speak english. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with those extra 9 hours per day! haha. I'm sure I'll figure it out, it'll be an adventure, :). It's crazy to know I've been here nearly 2 months now. Still feels like a dream at times.

And some more photos from the past week:

Couscous Friday!!!
Beautiful couscous (antiqued version of above dish)
Beautiful Ain Leuh
Foggy day in Ain Leuh
Moseleum in old cemetary

On to the next leg of my journey!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Movie Night

Last night was my night to finally cook my family an americanized meal, and it was very successfull, :). I also made it into a group movie night. Someone had the idea to get together and watch a movie and I offered to host at my house after checking with my host mom as I had one of the largest areas (and warmest) to host.

I made a delicious pasta with butter, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper and tomato with spiral pasta. Then with the help of a couple friends, we successfully made dark chocolate brownies, :). I used some dark chocolate my mom sent (thanks mom!) and then guessed at ingredient amounts as measuring cups don't seem to exist here and guessed at baking time. The oven my family has is a small square heated by butagas and lacks any way to tell temperature. The cooking experience was an adventure (everything was butagas powered). But a successfull one, :).

Yesterday was also souk day, sadly I had forgotten my camera, :(, but I am sure I will be able to take photos of a souk someday in my two years here, ;). Basically souk is in the outskirts of town, so we take a very crowded bus from the town center to the souk along a narrow, bumpy road. We then jump out, find our items in the open market, then cram back into another souk bus and come back. At the souk you can find everything from clothing items, hardware and electrical appliances to meat, vegies and sweets. It's basically just an outdoor store.

As for photos, I did manage to finally take some photos of a meal. We had fried fish and french fries for lunch today. Not a fan of fried fish myself (too fishy for me), but if you like seafood you would love it. I'll try to be good and take photos of more things... Otherwise all is well, studying bzzaf, working bzzaf. I can form simple phrases and speak all three tenses now! Well, I've been taught all 3, haha. Darija is not an easy language to learn, but I am doing what I can to try to learn it as quickly as possible. bshwiya bshwiya, little by little.

Learning showering doesn't always happen daily here in Morocco, mashi mushkil. Currently developing a great cold as well, ;). At least medicare with the Peace Corps is pretty amazing. I have access to sinus meds, halls cough drops, pepto...:).

Well, it's sleepy time for me (10:30pm). 8:30am class comes too early some days. Putting in 6 days workweeks, but it's not bad. Lots and lots of training, :).

I'll leave you with a few food pics (the lunch was for 8 people):

Tuesday, October 21, 2008