Monday, May 14, 2012

Monkeys in Ifrane!!!!

Hi Everyone!

This weekend I had the chance to go to Ifrane with my family and we went to this park and were able to feed some monkeys. It was really odd seeing them take the bread out of my hand and drink out of a water bottle!  I was really impressed by how expressive their eyes were and how they interacted like tiny people.  I know that many people back home, especially Nicki (my cousin), would have loved to have this experience.  Apparently the area in between Azrou and Ifrane is where most of them live.  While we were driving to the park area we also stopped and saw a bunch of monkeys in the forest right next to the street.  The monkeys really just crawl up next to the car.  

I also had the opportunity to go to a fish farm in Ifrane.  It was really cool to be able to see this type of open facility and see the different types of fish they are raising.  I found one sign (in French) showing the layout of the facility, but am still a little unsure if it was an aquarium just meant for tourists or if the fish are being raised to become food.  Maybe it is a mixture of the two and the extra fish are used for food?  Because we had been walking around with a gendarme (the royal police here) we were able to actually feed the fish as well.  When we threw food on top of the water the fish aggressively jumped to the surface.  Some of them looked more like little sharks with little fins on their backs.  The gendarme was really nice, besides the fact that we had met him when he gave us a ticket earlier in the day.  We had more people in the car than seats and because we were in a personal automobile that was not okay.  He gave us a 300 dirham ticket (about 40 US dollars, which is a decent amount here) and then asked for our phone number so that he could join us on our picnic.  He ended up coming to the picnic with us and then staying the whole day.  I also posted a picture of our picnic.  My family basically brought their whole kitchen with them including a small butagas tank.  We peeled, sliced and fried french fries in the park in addition to the rest of our meal.  I found it pretty funny that we did pack a simple, precooked meal to go on a picnic.  The other thing that struck me was the desire by my family to be out of the sun and off of the ground.  Even though I had put sun block on earlier in the morning, they found that it was important for me to stay out of the sun basically the whole day because it was too hot.  We also sat on two blankets and most of my family sat on top of pillows as well.  There is a common understanding here that if you sit on the ground, cold will come up you and make you infertile.  I like to sit on the floor sometimes in the house or outside which usually sparks a lot of confusing.  Even if it is hot outside (it has been in the 90's this week) most Moroccans would still sit on a pillow to protect themselves from the cold. 

Then for dinner, the gendarme took us out to a restaurant for soup (Herrara) and bread.  Herrara is a very common Moroccan dish and consists of chick peas, little noodles, spices and a tomato base.  Most cafes have it and the one in Ifrane has definately been the best so far.  It is also pretty cheap and can usually be found for about 5-10 dirhams (about a dollar).  This concludes my events for Sunday.  Happy Mother's Day for all those who are in the states!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farewell CBT

Hi Everyone!

I only have about one more week left of CBT and am very excited to be moving to my new city soon.  I am anxious to find out if it is rural or urban, hot or modern, if the dar chebab has established programs or if it is just starting, plus a million other questions!  I am not going to find out until Saturday the 19th when I am in Rabat.  After that, I leave on the 24th to go to my site for two years.  Luckily I will be living with my 2nd host family for the first two weeks and hopefully they will help me find an apartment and get settled in the community.  My darija skills are limited to saying things like "I want to sit in that chair" and "I will live in Morocco for two years".   Haggling and negotiating everything associated with renting an apartment for two years is going to be pretty interesting!

This week and last week we have worked a little bit at the dar chebab.  Its a really great opportunity for me to work with teens and develop my skills as a teacher while helping them with their english.  Some of them are almost fluent and others have no English at all.  It has been great to just be able to sit and talk to them about questions they have about America or global environmental issues or even problems they are having with friends or family.  I can't wait to be able to work with the same students consistently for two years and be able to see them regularly.  Right now it is hard knowing that I am leaving in a week and might never see these teens again.

I am also eager to begin assessing the needs of my future community and seeing what organizations might be there that I could work with.  I hope to work with other organizations in addition to my dar chebab.  Sometimes there are places for women to meet, or those who are impoverished and can't go to school regularly.

I am pretty nervous to be leaving the safety net of CBT, but know that I will still have some resources around.  Right now I am living a very structured life and see 5 other Americans every day.  I am also surrounded by people that can speak some English.  All of that is going to change and it is going to be up to me to find work, make a schedule and live completely immersed without any other Americans to share it with besides on our cellphones.  (Luckily Morocco has a great cell phone grid and I am able to call other PCVs in Morocco on their cell phones for free!)

I have only been in Morocco for about six weeks but have already learned so much.  I can tell you which mul-Henuits (shop keepers) in my town have the most diverse groceries and that if you want to eat chicken (luckily I don't) all you have to do is pick out the one you want and the chicken butcher will kill it, pluck out the feathers and have it ready in about ten minutes.  I can also tell you that lack of privacy and lack of independence are the two hardest things for most PCTs to endure during CBT.  I can also tell you that I miss things from America just because they are familiar and am excited to see a heinz ketchup bottle or a hear a word like Tide pronounced like teed and used to describe all laundry detergent.  Slowly things here are becoming normal and it doesn't seem abnormal to shower from a bucket or eat warm yogurt.  I know that I have only started to integrate and over the next two years I will learn so much more about Morocco and about myself.

Once I actually get to my site I will have lots of free time and will be able to give much more consistent updates on things here.  If anyone has questions feel free to ask!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Random things I've seen

Hi Everyone!!!

I have compiled a few pictures as a representation of what I have been up to recently.  It is hard to explain all of the things that I have been doing and seeing so I just decided to show you!!!  

As an update, I am in this town for another three weeks, then I move to my final site.  There, I will be with a second host family for two weeks and hopefully will be able to find my own apt in that time!!! Exciting!!  I know that once I get there I will have too much time on my hands and promise to give more information about different cultural and linguistic details. 

Right now my days consist of about six hours of language and cultural classes with my Moroccan teacher and my evenings are filled with eating and talking with my host family.  I feel like I am becoming integrated slowly and getting a better sense of how things work here.  I will explain more when I actually have time to type! 

Please feel free to ask any questions you have about what I've seen so far!!


Last weekend I went to Immouzer to see a presentation put on by a current PCV. The PCV was working with Youth in the Small Business sector and had managed to network with an association in the states that gave loans to youth that wanted to become entrepreneurs.  The loans were distributed to the students in the form of supplies for their projects and goal of the loans was to create businesses that would grow and employ more youth in the future.  The PCTs were invited to the event and about 30 or 40 of us (out of 115) went.  It was great to meet up with people that I haven't seen in the last month!  That is because all of us are split up into three groups and only have biweekly meetings with people in our group.  It was really great to see the goals of a volunteer realized and celebrated.  Most of the loans were given to people with Berber heritage and some traditional drum playing and decor was part of the event!

On the way back from Immouzer we stopped at an area that was near a lake and I just had to take a picture because the scenery was so gorgeous!  Also its a good reminder that the landscapes in Morocco are extremely diverse and not everything looks like the Sahara.  With that being said, I wonder what my final site will look like.  Will I be in the north? or south?  Or somewhere in between?  I am exciting at the idea of traveling throughout the next two years and seeing how diverse Morocco truly is. 
This group of pictures are also scenes in El Hajeb.  The other day a few of us decided  to go for a walk by the big hill near one of our host families and the scenery was amazing!!!  Its great to be high up and see the whole city before you!
The following pictures are also from our walk around the countryside of El Hajeb.  I am lucky to be in such a beautiful town!

Here is a picture of me and two of my CBTmates.  
I also had one of the neighbors come over this week and do henna on me, my host sister and my host mom.  The Henna happened very quickly, then we let it dry for about an hour and a half and then scrapped off the dried dye with a knife.  It was a very interesting process and will supposedly take about a week to come off.  The only bad thing is that when I get my hands wet, it seems to come off a little bit so I unable to wear contacts or cook at the moment!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


View from my hotel room in Rabat
Picture of shoes at the market in Rabat.  30 Dirhams is about four dollars 
Me in front of a fountain in Ifrane
Me in front of a waterfall in Ifrane.  Sorry about the brown shirt lol

Driving on the way to Azrou.  This is basically what the road looks like between towns where I am right now

Sheep!!!  You also see many of these between towns with their shephards.

My Town!!

My town!!!!

My town again!

Update on PST

Hi Everyone,

Wow, I can't believe that the last time I updated was from the airport in Philadelphia.  So, I've been in Morocco for about three weeks now and am finally getting a small grasp on what to expect from day to day.  Training in Rabat lasted for 9 days and was great.  I sat through a lot of powerpoint presentations about food, safety, culture, Peace Corps policies, had a few language classes and got a lot of shots.  Luckily I haven't gotten sick yet despite the lack of nutritious food or communal cups, plates, spoons.

Okay, so Morocco is a country of diversity.  One minute you will see a billboard for the new iphone and the next minute you will see a donkey cart pulling today's vegetables to the market.  The language is quite diverse as well.  Most people speak a dialect of Berber in the home, Moroccan Arabic (darija) in the street, learn Modern Standard Arabic and French in school and high schoolers learn English or Spanish as well.  Most people speak to me in French and are surprised when I utter a few mangled darija words back at them.  It's lots of fun trying to mime what I want and understand any of what is being said to me.  With that being said, I am currently able to form very short sentences and questions using my limited vocabulary, but have not idea what is being said back to me in response!  Its a fun process lol

One big change for me is the food.  As a vegetarian, I have been lucky enough to be able to eat around the meat with no issues.  With that being said, I have never eaten so much bread, sugar, mayonnaise or oil in my life.  I am starting to adjust to the carb overload and know that it could be a lot worse in another country.

I have done a little bit of traveling.  I have gone to Azrou, Fez, Meknes and Ifrane so far.  The bigger cities are very modern.  I am currently in a semi-urban one with about 20,000 people and almost anything that you would need is here.  I have had trouble finding a winter coat, but I am sure that I will spot one soon.

One of my favorite parts has been starting to teach English.  We taught for four days, three hours each and it was a wonderful opportunity.  My lesson planning skills still need a lot of attention, but the experience was extremely uplifting to be around teens that voluntarily came to english class and were eager to be around an American.

My typical day includes waking up, eating breakfast and going to language class for four hours.  Then I eat lunch, go back for three hours of cultural discussion/ community integration and come home for second lunch (lol).  Then I usually go with my host sister to the market or other local stores, sometimes we go to aerobics class or the Hammam (public bathhouse.  Basically a big sauna room with faucets around the room.  It was hot. I loved it!) and then we make dinner, eat dinner and watch Turkish or Mexican TV. Then I study darija for as long as I can before falling asleep.  Its and exhausting process but it has been great so far.

Sorry I haven't been updating lately.  I only get the internet twice a week and it usually takes about twenty minutes to check my email.  I will try to post again next week!

Thanks for reading!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sitting in the Airport

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to write to update everyone on my travels before I head out to Morocco.  I spent yesterday in Philidelphia and have officially completed staging! I am now heading out of NYC on a direct flight to Casablanca.  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of good-byes, lasts (food, movies, tv) and repacking my cumbersome luggage. I am excited to finally be starting this new experience and can't believe that it is actually here.  I know that I know very little about Morocco, Arabic or Youth Development, but should be developing a good foundation over the next 10 weeks.

Hopefully I will be able to update the blog regularly after arriving in Morocco.  We shall see how the internet connection is!  I will be in the capital for about a week and should be able to update at least once then.

Thank you for all of the support.  It means so much to me to have so many people loving me and thinking about me at this time.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Only Two Months Away.....

Wow!  I am going to be leaving to go to Morocco in only two months.  My staging date is March 19th!! I am getting very excited and have been going through my packing list over and over again to add things and buy things.  I really hope that I will have extra space (under the 80 lb. limit) to take extra games and art as youth center supplies!  I already feel myself getting nervous and excited about leaving and can only imaging what my emotions will be like as the date approaches.  I'm working on keeping my thoughts positive and setting goals so here's a list of why I'm excited about joining the Peace Corps:

  1. To travel to another country and experience the culture deeply and meaningfully
  2. To become fluent in another language and truly understand the value of understanding one another and be humbled by the experience of learning-on-the-go
  3. To become more secure as an individual despite my ever-changing surroundings
  4. To learn to live as I go and to embrace the unpredictability of a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) lifestyle
  5. To finally live in another country and embrace my passion for the global community
  6. To challenge myself to live each day with intention
It is strange to think of what my list of goals for the PC were when I began applying in 11/2010.  They would probably have been just as vague and lofty, but a little less real to me.