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

Photos of Last Hike

8 More Days of CBT Phase II

Hello everyone,

So I have one week to complete my CBT project. I have begun creating a grant proposal writing manual to be used by the women of Ain Leuh. I am currently researching one grant opportunity they would like to apply for and am creating the manual in English/French/Darija Tranduction/Darija written in Script. I have nearly completed both the English and French portions and will be starting on the darija tranduction this evening. As many of you know when I worked as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, it was my job to create written manuals and documents to preserve the way things were done in the agency and to increase business efficiency. So I am very excited about this current project of mine. Two women in the coop can read basic script and they have a current translator they use when communicating with foreigners, so I feel they will actually be able to use this document. Other members of my group are working on other small scale projects as well to increase marketing opportunities as well as assistance in creating a budget plan and better business track keeping methods.

Other than that, things have been quiet in the home. My host sister had a friend visiting for a few days from Azrou and now my host sister is currently staying in Azrou visiting her friend there. Language lessons are going along steadily. One of our program people will be here Thursday to discuss possible site placements and to get a better idea of where to place us. I am excited to be learning where I will be in about a week, but also nervous for training to be over soon. Our swearing in ceremony will be on November 20th, then it's off to a new place and new adventures and a sad good-bye to close friends. Once in my site I won't be able to visit them very often and I will officially be on my own.

There has been a website just recently developed and still being fine tuned for the cooperative I am currently assisting in Ain Leuh, it is:

I've been creating a list of things I would love if anyone desires to send a care package my way, ;). Right now I can receive small packets at the Rabat address, but no boxes until I get my official site placement mailing address. So far the list includes:

- Pretzels
- Reeces peanut butter cups
- Precise V5 or V7 pens of any color
- College ruled notebooks (small or big)
- Plastic ziplock bags (any size)
- folders
- cross stitch kits

It's a small list at the moment, but I will think of more items I'm sure!

Otherwise things are good so far and I will try posting pics in a new blog, not having too much luck this evening!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back in Ain LeuH

S-salamu Ealaykum,

Back in Ain LeuH for round 2 of community based training. I would go over the pronounciation, but the ع sound is a bit difficult to's kind of like a throaty voiced H, which the sound H is pronounced as if you were putting voice into breathing air against a mirror. Yeah...arabic sounds are fun, ;). A link with more information on pronounciation and the language in general is:

But yeah, back to life for me. I left Azrou on Saturday morning and returned to Ain LeuH to finish my community based training via taxi. This time we had to return to our site without the assistance of our LCF, we managed to successfully navigate our way back to Ain LeuH using our limited darija!!! I returned with the other two girls in our group and one of the guys. We were very proud of ourselves, :). I also learned some very sad news an hour before we left, :(. My mom called to tell me that my grandmother had passed away early saturday morning before I'd had a chance to speak with her. I wasn't able to see her one last time before I left and she didn't get the chance to call me, :(. I will always remember her and am sad she is gone, but I know she is in a better place now.

So, due to the above, I managed to forget a few vital things...I'm in for a fun month!

So far training has been good. It was odd returning to the host family as the mother was gone the first couple days and the schedule is different now that Ramadan is over. My host mother is now home again, :). We also now begin classes at 8:30am and end aroundf 6pm. We study language in the morning and technical training in the afternoon. I am working on an independent project that will assist the women in the coop with applying for grants and loans to build equipment capacity. I am excited, :). Everyone has different projects they are working to implement. The goal is to create something small that the women will be able to further utilize and implement themselves. Peace Corps tries to implement capacity building projects so that when we volunteers leave, the project doesn't die with us.

Thursday will be our first time this cbt phase to speak with the women Tomorrow we are learning how to navigate the souk and buy needed food items. I'm excited! It is on the schedule to cook for our host families on Sunday.

Sundays are always our self-directed learning days, aka, free days. This last Sunday I went hiking with 4 of the other 5 members of my training group. It was a lot of fun, we explored the nearby national park a little.

Well, those are my thoughts for the moment. I will be in Ain LeuH for the following alomost 3 weeks returning to Azrou in time for Halloween, at which point we will be sent on our own in different directions to view our final site placements, where we will be for the next 2 years. I'll know in a month where packages can be sent!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Back to Azrou

Salam Elaykoum world,

Back in Azrou after two weeks of training with my CBT group in our nice urban village. The rest of my week in our village went well. We put together our skit for our group presentation and started writing out CBT Phase 1 reports. Then on Saturday night, I went down to the beauty parlor with my host sister, cousin and aunt and hung out for a bit. It was fun. I had thankfully already packed my things together in preparation for my 8am departure back to Azrou on Sunday.

I met up with the other two females in our group and our female LCF at 8am at the taxi stand as the boys wanted to sleep in. We managed to squeeze the four of us into the back of a large very old mercedes. Taxis here also lack those safety features we know as seat belts. We had an uneventful ride back beyond the normal slightly crazy driving, then we took a petit taxi to the hostel. I then proceeded to do two weeks worth of laundry by hand...this was about a 2 hour procedure, but relaxing.

For lunch I went with several other volunteers and we had pizza! We went to a westernized restaurant near our hostel and had amazing thin crust pizza and cold cokes. The idea of anything cold can be rather foreign sometimes due to many not having refrigerators. You get used to room temperature, I know it's better for the system, but I still like cold beverages. I then proceeded to the local patisserie and had an amazing chocolate mousse/cake like item and a choco suisse (chocolate filled flakey croissant type french item). I then proceeded to wander and then settled down in a park and chatted with friends I hadn't seen in 2 weeks. Sunday was a very nice relaxing day.

Started training up again yesterday bright and early at 8:30am now that Ramadan is over. We discussed many topics and had several current volunteers give information on their experiences. I have loved having the chance to chat with current volunteers. We haven't had language class yet since our arrival in Azrou, but we did have the chance to practice what we have learned today. This morning we had conversations with the different LCFs, then in the afternoon we spent 2 hours labeling everything we could find in Darija or Tamazight dependent on which we were learning. It was so much fun.

I have also been very bad and have been drinking cola and eating snickers bars. I was successfull today in finally buying stamps to mail a letter to the USA. I spent way too much (about $2 per letter to mail to the USA), but I have enough for a little time. If you receive a letter, feel very very special, :). I am proud of this feat as I also managed to do the entire transaction in Darija, :).

Well, I hope you enjoy the following photos!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day after Leid

So yesterday marked the end of Ramadan, the end of fasting during the day. It was a grand day of celebration, I relate it to a mixture between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was lots of eating, napping and visiting family, and lots and lots of sugary mint tea and sweets.

I woke up around 9:30am and had a breakfast of a pasta with creamy sauce and sweets and mint tea, then slept and rested after visiting with an aunt and cousin. Then after a small lunch of beef and vegetables, rested some more before walking into the hills a bit to visit aunts of the dad and their berber grandmother who only spoke Tamazight, so I just sat and smiled and ate more sweets and drank more tea. We had gotten a ride from a friend to the house, then walked back to the house. Rested some more, had more sweets and mint tea when a relative came to visit, then rested some more before I took a walk with my sister and cousin. We came back and then had more sweets, nuts and tea with the aunt's family before a neighbor came over to do henna for my hands. The photos are below. It was quite the ordeal, but lots of fun. I sat chatting with all the women laughing and having a great time, even chatting a bit in Darija, :). Then they wrapped my hands in cotten and socks and helped me change and get ready for bed. Then I spent about 10 minutes in the morning scraping the dried portion off. They look beautiful though. Photos are below:

Otherwise training is going well. Nervous about being out on my own in a month, I hope I get a site where there is at least another American. Otherwise I am becoming more comfortable in the country and using the limited Darija I currently know. We discussed the small projects we will implement in our current town during our next 2-3 week stay, I'm excited, :). I am going to attempt to set in place a way or template for them to apply for grants, loans, etc. to use in order to grow their business.

I am starting to miss cheeseburgers and sliced deli meats though...;).