08 November 2009

Well-Trained, Well-Fed, Well-Slept.


My friend Whitney and I at the Earth Cafe


So I just finished a week of training in Marrakech, which was incredibly interesting. Every stage (training group) meets up at the six month point (which means, omg, I have been a volunteer for six months now!) to talk about their sites, their projects current and future, their problems, and to connect with other volunteers for work and for sanity. This week was particularly action packed, and here are some highlights:

1. On Monday, had very interesting class sessions, and Monday night went out to get Afro-Caribbean food with a big group of friends at a place called Mama Africa. Highly recommended, best seafood I've had in awhile.

2. On Tuesday, we got to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in town for a conference promoting democracy in the Middle East. I felt bad for her, because she was running late and I knew she must have been a bit stressed being shuttled from place to place (it took her 45 minutes to walk down the hallway), but she was incredibly gracious and of good cheer, and greeted us and thanked us for our work. I got to shake her hand, which was very soft. She also had bling like you wouldn't believe on her left hand, ladies.

3. On Wednesday, had a very interesting workshop on Project Design Management which basically gave us all the tools on how to implement a project from planning all the way through. I have a lot of new ideas for things to do in my site, including a cross-sector summer camp for next June and a training for Traditional Birth Attendants to follow up on a similar project done by the volunteer I replaced. I'm also working on some things for World AIDS Week next month, and for Earth Day in April. I'm really, really excited about work now.

4. Wednesday afternoon, we broke into small groups and went to different Associations in Marrakech to learn about the work they do and to give us an idea of how NGOs and Associations work. My group went to Association Al Karam, which is an organization that takes care of children threatened by violence, poverty, and exploitation. They take care of hundreds of children in Marrakech by providing them with education, tutoring, games, medical care, and love, and at the center we visited there were about ten boys from 4-18 who lived their full time. We got to spend some time with the children and it was really great to see how engaged they were, and how much the staff loved them. The woman who was in charge told me of a similar organization near me, so hopefully I will be able to work with them a little.

5. Thursday evening, I went out to a really amazing Thai food/sushi place that was horribly expensive but soooooo worth it. That evening I was out with other PCVs, a German volunteer who worked at Al Karam, and his two Japanese friends. The lingua franca between me, the German, and the Japanese guy was French. Go figure.

Now I'm back home, and getting ready to implement all these projects I have floating around in my head. Next weekend I'm hosting a party for all the new volunteers in my province, which should be exciting. We're getting SEVEN, which is amazing.

26 October 2009

Photos!



a slideshow of some random, lovely things. more to come tomorrow!

23 October 2009

this one goes out to all my homies in med school.

So the other day I was showering and someone knocked on my front door. Since I was mid-shampoo, I didn't answer it. It's weird enough getting the door in a towel at home, but in Morocco it's completely unacceptable (obviously). I didn't think anything of it until all of the sudden my water turned off completely. With a head full of shampoo.

Frustrated, I went to the other taps in the house and saw that they too weren't working. With no other option, I had to rinse my hair out with the dirty water from my laundry bucket before I could go outside to see what was wrong.

It turns out that someone had shut off my water main, which is accessible to the general public right outside the door.

Yesterday my landlady came to visit to get the money for my electricity, and we got to talking. She told me that apparently one of her friends (who I didn't know) had stopped by to see me and heard the water going. When I didn't answer the door, she assumed that I had left my water on and thought turning it off at the main would be helpful.

THIS IS HOW WEIRD IT IS TO PEOPLE THAT I LIVE ALONE. IT LITERALLY DOES NOT CROSS THEIR MIND THAT I COULD BE HOME AND HAVE A REASON FOR NOT ANSWERING THE DOOR.

Needless to say, it was a frustrating situation that ended up being funny. Sort of.

01 October 2009

She Was(n't really) a Showgirl

Her name is Lola. She doesn't have yellow flowers in her hair (or a dress cut down to there.)

She's my cat, and she finally has a name after a month of living with me in name-less limbo.

She's useful for a lot of reasons, one being that she makes me feel less alone in my big house than the tv did. Secondly, she allows me an easy out when people express complete disbelief that I live alone in said house. "WHADUDKUM?" they ask, baffled that I live by myseld. "Ohoy, dari moosh." I say, reassuring them that I have a cat with me. That at least gets a laugh, if not real comprehension.

The concept of living alone here is totally alien, especially as a single young lady. Whenever anyone asks me where I live, even people from my town, whether or not I'm there alone is their next query, and they are uniformly unable to believe it. Their next words are usually "musquina," which essentially means "poor thing." Because living alone is the epitome of misery in this communal culture.

Even people who know I'm alone, like my neighbors and friends of mine, still have trouble processing this information. If no one answers my door and they ask why later, replying that I was in the shower or otherwise indisposed takes a minute to sit right with them. In their houses, if someone was napping or in the shower, there would always be someone else to answer the door. This is and always has been the way of things, and my aberration is so against "the way things are" that even people who know it have to remind themselves to believe it.

So now I have a cat named Lola, and I am not necessarily whadudkum. If that doesn't make it more acceptable in other peoples eyes, maybe I'll have to train her to answer the door when I'm napping. Then I'll stick to the status quo.

23 September 2009

To French or Not to French,That Is The Question.

I have a confession to make of a (not-so-clandestine) affinity of mine: I am a francophile.

I know it's an odd thing for an American to be, but I have always had a huge crush on the nation of France. The French Revolution was totally kick-ass and world changing, the language is beautiful and fun to learn and speak, and the people are exactly my shade of snooty and ironic. I went to France for the first time in college and studied there twice, learning the language and turning my crush into a full-on love affair.

Loving France is part of the reason why I wrote my thesis on Morocco and Algeria...I'm interested in the francophone world, and I'm interested in the Middle East, so it only seemed natural to study the countries where the two things collided.

Now that I'm actually IN Morocco, though, my relationship with French has become a little, in Facebook parlance, complicated. French here is the language of education, the badge of honor to prove that you went to school for a number of years, and a good indicator of professionalism. It's also the language of tourism, the language that I get yelled at in souq and by little kids in the street.

It's useful as a PCV who speaks Berber for her job to speak French, as it is usually my lingua franca (ha) with Moroccans who don't speak Berber. It is also the language I use with the Ministry of Health and with my counterpart, as I am much better able to express abstract ideas in French than in Tashleheet. But it is difficult as well, because I like to avoid speaking French with ordinary Moroccans.

For one thing, I feel like French is the language of tourists, and that if I speak it with someone it labels me a tourist. They hustle me more, and I get tourist prices on things, and it's much harder to bargain.

For another, I feel like there is an automatic pyschological barrier to speaking French with someone...it's also the language of colonialism, and I can still feel the ghost of that resentment with working-class people if I speak French with them.

Then again, it's the language of sophistication, and all the chic city Moroccans I've met speak it almost exclusively.

So, like I said, it's complicated. I don't think I'll ever stop loving French, but maybe for the next year and a half it will have to be a liason dangereuse.

15 September 2009

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

You know what time I'm talking about--INCENSE SEASON!

Or not.

The thing about Morocco is that everything here is pretty much seasonal. The only things you can count on being in market all year 'round are potatos, tomatos, and carrots. Since there are a lot of travelling vendors in the city who wheel their goods around on carts, their wares tend to change depending on the season--when I first arrived, there were tons and tons of watermelons everywhere, then later in the summer it was prickly pears, and now it seems like non-Hass avocados are in abundance. The strange thing is, today when I came into town, I saw for the first time a stand selling incense in varying forms. Then I saw another. Then I saw about a dozen more.

Does that mean the incense harvest has begun?

I didn't know that potpurri is seasonal, or if people just buy it a lot this time of year. Maybe it has something to do with the end of Ramadan and the big feast that comes with it, but incense seems like an odd accompaniment to eating every single part of a slaughtered sheep. This is definiately a question for a more experience volunteer.

12 September 2009

Ready to Listen (Actively.)

Last weekend I went up to Essouria province for a four-day training session for the Volunteer Support Network, which is a group of volunteers who voluntarily volunteer to be peer counselors to other volunteers (is that redundant?). It was a fantastic weekened of active listening, elliciting emotions, formulating action plans, and eating carb-y delicious food. I learnd a lot about how to help my fellow volunteers thruogh the tough times, and I also learned the important skills of how to make brownies from scratch and how to fit nine people in a sedan. The former was more enjoyable to experience than the latter.

After the weekend we made our way to Agadir to celebrate my friend Muriel's 85th (85th!) birthday. I can't believe this woman is 85 and volunteering--I think she's living proof that getting old is 80% mental, and I keep encouraging her to go on tours of retirement homes and making people get up and do things. She's totally awesome, and I love having her around--it's really hard to complain about things when she takes everything with a smile.

In other news, I got my TV set up, so now I can waste time watching CSI, NCIS, the OC, and Criminal Minds. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes being here is just like being at home.

One final note, the newest training group arrived in country two days ago, which means I've now been in country for six months. It's so weird that my group is no longer the newbies--I just hope this doesn't mean I have to be like, mature and wise now. Because I'm definitely not yet.