Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GRE, Medical and Rabat

This month has only recently begun and yet so much seems to have happened. I was in site a few days and then I traveled up to Rabat via Azrou and Khemisset for the GRE. I studied as much as I could these past 2 weeks and hoped for the best. I was supposed to room and meet up with a friend and then she decided to cancel taking the GRE. The travel up was good though and ended up rooming with another friend so it all worked out. I stopped in Azrou on Wednesday night after a crazy morning of getting everything ready. I was able to meet many of the new business and youth development volunteers that just came in about 6 months ago. It was a good time and great to meet new people and see ones I’ve already met. It was very rainy though so all my clothes got damp. Then I stayed in Khemisset with a friend of mine the next night, always good to see CBT mates. Ate yummy pasta for dinner and pancakes for breakfast. Then I came up to Rabat on Friday and hung out with fellow volunteers also taking the test. Went to bed around 11pm, had planned to go to sleep earlier but you all know me and my night owl ways. Then woke up very early at 6am, took a shower and made my way to the test center. We then had to change locations due to construction or something. The first 2 writing sections I thought went well but then the verbal and math were more difficult than I thought they would be after all the pretests. I really hope that I did ok. That night was crazy, we celebrated and went to the German Institute, really good pizza. Unfortunately I wasn't able to eat and enjoy myself.

Then Sunday I just relaxed. I went to Marjane to get some desired items and just hung out downtown. Ate at a cheap burger place for lunch and had soup for dinner. Just a relaxing destress day.

Yesterday I had my asthma testing appointment and learned that I really do have asthma. It was interesting to breathe into the machine and took about 2 hours. Was a bit crazed. Went to Peace Corps headquarters in the morning to get all the info and was late in leaving for my appointment, then I ate a quick lunch at McDonalds before rushing back to headquarters to use internet and get reimbursed for my last medical trip and this one. Was very low on cash. With our new monthly payment system it is very difficult for me to afford to come up to Rabat now. Later that night I met up with some volunteers and ate at the German Institute, it was so yummy. Overall a good night. After dinner we all walked down to the beach and on the pier and watched the waves crash against it. Was so beautiful and nice to be near the ocean for a bit of time.

Woke up early this morning to have my lung xrays deciphered. All good, just need to be put on an inhaler. Only minor asthma. At least it wasn't my imagination, haha. They also think it may help with decreasing the ear pain, inchallah. So I had lunch at McDonalds again because it was quick then made my way back to headquarters.

Currently there is a transportation strike going on, so was glad to be able to get a ride to Azrou from a staff member. Going to check the bus schedule in the morning but really hope I am able to get back to my site tomorrow. So tired and just want to spend a few days recouperating back at home.

This weekend I will be cooking many chinese dishes to celebrate Chinese New Year, very excited, :). Then there is my cheese making workshop later this month and inchallah the 300km bike trip the final weekend. Another busy month ahead of me, but good. Haven't given up on trying to get my women their own building yet, still looking for ways to get funding.

Otherwise life is good, :).

January Update

And January:

This month I began going on long bike rides with a few volunteers from around the area. Our first trek was 3 of us and we biked from Errachidia to Boudnib. 90km total. Was only 85km from my site. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed myself. There was a late start, but still made it before dark. The trek was mostly flat with some hills, then there was this great downhill. The last 15km were torture. This was the longest bike ride I have ever done and hadn’t biked very much beforehand. A great experience though. The ride got many of us motivated to do a long 3-4 day bike ride from Errachidia to Ouarzazate at the end of February.

Then the following week I went to Rabat with another volunteer for ear issues. They looked at my ear and even took cat scans but they can’t figure out what is wrong with it or what is causing the pain. So I’ll just have to deal with it for another 9 months and have it looked at again when I return back home to the states. Overall a really good trip. Was about 4 hours for me straight biking, about 6 hours with breaks. At least the pain isn't daily. I still think it is from elevation changes, who knows.

Then the Sunday after that 4 of us took a 60km bike ride to Erfoud. It was a beautiful day as well and the trek was beautiful. We passed the Ziz Gorge and stopped at the lookout there for a bit. Then we stopped in Aufouss and had an amazing lunch. One of the bikers had made yummy wheat bread that he then put turkey and cheese on with mayo and mustard. Seems normal, but abnormal here in Morocco. It took us about 3 hours straight biking, about 5 hours total with breaks. Overall lots of downhill and much easier than Boudnib.

Then the next weekend me and another volunteer rode to Tinjdad from Errachidia, me from my site. Errachidia to Tinjdad is about 80km. This trek was harder than Boudnib, lots of gradual hills. There was one that I thought would never end, haha. Took me and my friend about 4.5 hours straight biking, about 6 total with breaks. Was a bit chilly, but a nice and sunny day. Was wiped out after we arrived. So glad my Tinjdad friend had a shower, :).

And let me tell you, my butt was sore after each and every ride. Definitely need to create a seat cover for my bike, haha. Overall it's been really great exercise and loads of fun.

Otherwise my village was harvesting olives the majority of the month. I had a site visit at the beginning from my program assistant, was a good experience. Much of the month was spent reviewing for the GRE when I could which didn’t seem to be very much. We also had to have our H1N1 shot. Good to see volunteers but I really hate needles. I survived, :). Really crazy month overall with all of the traveling. I also gave my friend back her cat.

Then at the end of the month I got a new haircut. My split ends were getting pretty bad. The original plan was to just get a trip as my hair was finally just getting long enough again, but of course I decided to do something a bit new...much shorter han planned but I like it, very cute.

L'3id Kbir

I celebrated l'3id kbir with the host family again this year. Was a good time and lots of good food. Felt a bit different from last year, a bit less festive, but my host sister has also moved away and I have been very busy the last couple of months. Below are a few photos:

December Update

Here is December:

December was also a very busy month. I started the month off by going to Rabat again, only this time for an entire week. My stage had our mid-service medicals. Was a crazy week but also really good. Was so great to see everyone. The medical stuff wasn’t so fun, but I’m all healthy. Ate very well as always. Went to a great pizza place and discovered a really great place to have juice, kind of like shakes here. There is a banana chocolate coffee mixture that I get.
I also finally spliced my buta hose myself, :). Was very proud of this feat. Now I can use my stove and oven at the same time!

After meds I went home. Spent much of the month staying in site and hanging out. My host sister that got married in June came back for about 5 days and I got to see her which was really nice.

I hosted Christmas in my site. Was so much fun. Made a yummy lasagna, dinner rolls, salad and pumpkin pie for dinner. We had Cajun tuna spread and crackers, popcorn, eggnog, hershey’s kisses and sugar cookies for snacks. Stayed up chatting and then after muffins in the morning everyone went home. Me and one of the girls took a walk to Meski, the nearby village to me, after everyone left. Was really nice, a beautiful day.

The highlight of the month I would have to say was New Year’s Eve in Merzouga. It was so crazy! Went down to Erfoud where everyone going met up and then we piled into a bunch of off-roading jeeps that we then took the “scenic route” to Merzouga. Basically we were racing each other off the main road in the more desertic area. Was so much fun. We then arrived in Merzouga and hung out until dinner. Several of us walked out into the sand dunes to watch the sunset. Was very sad I didn’t have my camera. Still being fixed. We had an awesome dinner and then hung out and partied until midnight and then some more until 3am. We then had to wake up at 6:45am to get on the camels for our morning excursion into the sand dunes. Was so cold! But beautiful. I then returned to site and that was how I rung in the New Year. Was amazing and my favorite thus far.
Unfortunately there are no photos for this month as my camera broke and took until the end of January to finally be fixed. Roads were bad and so it took awhile to receive the new part.
I was also taking care of a friend's cat during the month. I renamed her Shitaana which means the devil in darija. She could be really sweet but had a few issues such as not being able to learn not to do something and climbing all over everything.

November Update

Yes it is February, but I have finally had a chance to write updates for the last 3 months. Here is November:

Let’s see…it has been a very very long time since I have updated this. I celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving in a small site with fellow volunteers. It was amazing. We had 2 turkeys, one was cooked in the oven in the traditional manner and the other was deep fried. Quite the interesting spectacle to watch. Then we had green beans with French fried onions on top, regular green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, and carrots. Then for dessert we had several pies. We had 2 pumpkin, one pumpkin cheesecake, an apple pie and a cake. So yummy. Totally ate myself into a food coma. I was so full I was in pain, but the food was just so good. There were about 20 of us. Almost the whole region. Good times. We also had a night of Thanksgiving Trivia that our host and hostess created. One was definitely easier than the other but also so much fun. We even got to play Cranium, love that game. The following morning we had to get up way early to catch a 5am transit that actually left at 4am. But we were able to call and get another transit and all go back to our homes.

Moroccan taking advantage of comfy flour sacs in a transit to sleep
Everyone has to have a pumpkin with berber symbols for halloween

My friends' site
My friends' house

The dessert table, yummy.
The pumpkin pie I made from scratch. Yummier than it looks, ;)

And this is my awesome pumpkin cheesecake.

All the yummy food
My beautiful plate of food
The turkey's in the broiler
About to boil the turkey

We also unfortunately had a fellow volunteer pass away quite unexpectedly. Many of us went to her memorial service in Rabat in support of each other. She will always be missed.

Workwise not much to report. Women are doing well. I had hoped to help them get a building with a SPA grant, but was unable to attain it. Looking for other options at the moment and trying to work around not having their own building.