Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The holidays and more!...

Sorry about the delay and I'll put up some much more recent post soon!


So! I’ve experienced another interesting cultural event in the past few weeks! It’s called L3id Inqurrum and it is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year. It is a lot like Yom Kippur except for the fact that they do still slaughter a sheep. The way it works here in Morocco, families watch TV and when the king slaughters his sheep in one swoop that is the signal for everyone to do the same. Right after the sheep is cleaned, organ kabobs are made and a stew of braided intestines with stomach is started for later. For me I was spared the sight of my family’s sheep being slaughtered but I still saw reruns of the king slaughtering his on the news which was enough to make me a little more than grossed out. It overall was a fun day though filled with my family’s extended family and delicious lamb cous-cous later on once the traditional organs dishes were already eaten.

Since l3id was on Thanksgiving we had travel restrictions so the girls and I in my province decided to celebrate it the weekend after l3id. We had a lot of fun mostly eating, listening to Christmas music, and playing games. We cooked almost all the traditional dishes except for cranberry sauce since cranberries aren’t a cooking option here in the desert but none the less it was an amazing meal which was a nice bit of Americana during a difficult time filled with homesickness for a lot of us.

Since Thanksgiving I have been mostly working on a trash project and planning lessons to present to the principles of the schools in my town so I can start teaching. This past weekend was my birthday though so the girls from my province got together again at my place this time and we had a little Christmas/Birthday get together which included Thai food, four cakes (one less dessert than Thanksgiving, as you can tell we take our baking here in Tiznit pretty seriously.), and movies. It was my first birthday away from home but the girls did a great job making it a very special and memorable one. Now it’s back to work again though until Thursday and then I’ll be heading to Tata where another volunteer is going to host Christmas for the volunteers in Southern Morocco.

Take care and I’ll write again soon! Happy Holidays!


Alright! I apologize it’s been so long since my last post but I’m back! There’s been a lot too that’s happened so let me bring you up to speed. My first trip to Rabat was a success! Besides the SIDA Committee meeting going well, there were about 20 other volunteers in Rabat to take their GREs which was fun, and then the new Ambassador to Morocco, Salomon Kaplan, and his wife Silvia made their first official visit to the Peace Corps Office…pretty exciting, and they seem to be a very nice couple. I came back from Rabat and then I had to leave for IST (In-service Training) in Marrakesh. The first night we were there we had another meeting with the Ambassador and his wife since they happened to be in Marrakesh as well. This time I actually got to shake his and Silvia’s hand and to have a have a few words with them. They were supper sweet and very supportive of us…they’re older so almost grandparent like. The main reason he happened to be in town though was obviously not because of us, but since the Secretary of State happened to be in Marrakesh as well for a conference. There were rumors about us getting to see her so we started training out a little on the anxious and unfocused side but the first day we managed to get through some training sessions and free time to work on our site presentations. Most of us never gave our presentations though since Tuesday morning we got a last minute invite to come hear Secretary Clinton speak instead. They chartered buses for us and off we went! When we got to the conference center we waited outside the building before secret service escorted us threw. The waiting would be a theme for the rest of the day and the parade through the building was pretty entertaining. Here come all these little scruffy Peace Corps volunteers marching through a sea of very nicely dressed business people and politicians. Needless to say we got a lot of stares, but on the other hand all of the American Embassy staff was extremely nice! They were very welcoming and had an almost proud glow to them since many of them started out as Peace Corps Volunteers themselves before they began working for the State Department. The guy who briefed us before the Secretary came actually told us he was extremely proud to have Peace Corps present since he himself was a returned PCV which was pretty neat. We waited for awhile and then finally the Secretary came and spoke to us and Embassy staff. She basically did thank yous to various embassy staff for helping with her visit, talked some about what’s going on with the US’s relationship with Morocco, and then she finally gave us a shot out (specifically, Muriel, the oldest serving volunteer right now who is 85 and amazing). It was a little on the short side and anti-climatic considering all the waiting we did but exciting and a great experience. One of the most impressive things I noticed about the Secretary was her hair. It was HUGE with perfectly blended highlights, and it didn’t move! But besides her hair she was an speaker and holds herself very well… luckily though, and somewhat to our embarrassment, we think she was out of ear shot when after she left one of the other volunteers yelled “Way to go Hill-dog!” ahhh…lol

After all the excitement and being detained in the basement of the conference center for a little bit we headed back to the hotel where we were having our training and got back to our sessions. The rest of training was definitely productive and a nice opportunity to catch up with others from our original training group of 60. After training it was back to Tiznit but not for long since I went to help a friend who is a nearby volunteer with an art project at her school and then I was off again to facilitate a training in Essaouria on sustainable SIDA(HIV/AIDS) education. It was nice to go back to Essa and I really enjoyed that training but now that I’m back in my site again, It’s GOOD to be back! No more traveling for awhile and I’m looking forward to spending a solid chunk of time just focusing on things in my community.

Okayyy..I’ll end here for now hope everyone had a very happy and delicious Thanksgiving, and as always, take care!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life after L'3id


Alrightttt…So l’3id (Fukar el-Leaid) was good! I spent it with my host family and some of their extended family. We ate lots of great food, including cous couse which I haven’t had since before Ramadan, and just hung out. I guess in a lot of ways it was the Moroccan version of Thanksgiving. Things finally got back to normal the Wednesday after l’3id. It was so exciting going to Tiznit and seeing people in the cafés again! I also met the new moudir (principle at the high school) last week. He is very nice and eager to collaborate it seemed like so that was good. Mostly I’ve been continuing to make contacts, work on language, and plan but I think I’m almost to the point where I am ready to put planning into action and start working on some projects. Besides life going back to normal post Ramdan the other exciting bit of news is that Marj’s parents are visiting from North Carolina! We went to Agadir last weekend to pick them up which was a lot of fun. Sean and Amber from our CBT family came, unfortunately Nicole couldn’t make it though. Within 15 minutes of being with her parents I heard a y’all, then later on we got Krispy Kremes, smuggled broccoli, and M&Ms. All this made me very happy but very homesick at the same time. It was definitely a fun weekend which even included a Michael Jackson themes Carnival parade and some late night shwarma (gyros)! It came time though for us to get back though and overall I’ve had a good week of meetings with people and community analysis research. This Friday we have a meeting with the ministry of health and then I’m off to Marrakesh for the weekend with Marj and her Parents. We’ll meet up with her Uncles who will also be visiting and then Sunday we’ll be visiting our CBT host families. Take care and I’ll let you know how the visit to Kesh/CBT goes after I hopefully get a chance to post next week! :)


So after a three hour meeting with the ministry of health on the 2nd I took off for a much needed break in Marrakesh. Marj, her parents, and did a little exploring of Marrakesh and then we had a really nice visit our with our host families from training again since Marrakesh is close. We also met up with three other girls from Tiznit and two of Marj’s uncles who were also visiting while we were there which was nice. After a long weekend of browsing the markets, visiting with my host family, and yes, even KFC (we caved), it was time for me to get back to Tiznit. Since getting back to Tiznit I have had some discussions with some of the women in town about starting a women’s association. My counterpart has also been talking about working on a sanitation project and a training for the traditional birth attendants so since being back I’ve been busy with the planning stage of these projects. I also have a trip to Rabat for a SIDA committee meeting and then in-service training the week after in Marrakesh so things aren’t really going to slow down at least for a couple weeks. I’ll keep you updated though a long the way and let you know how it all goes! :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Training and life during Ramadan...


I’m back! Sorry it’s taken me so long to post but I’m finally catching up! I just made it back from training and I’m adjusting back into life again in my site. Training was great. We received a lot technical information to help prepare us for launching projects. It was also good to catch up with all the other PCVs in my stage (training group). Also during the training I ran for a chance to represent my stage on the AIDS/HIV committee (SIDA) and won! I’ll be going to Rabat three times a year for committee meetings in addition to working on resources, organizing events, and working with related organizations to help with the Peace Corps Morocco’s goals regarding AIDS/HIV awareness in between meetings. Besides the SIDA election though we spent most of our time in sessions except for a weekend in between the two weeks of training during which several of us went hiking and to a Berber craft fair. The hike we did was an all day hike through a beautiful cedar forest and the craft fair we went to the next day turned out to be more of a music festival we were a little too early for but was still fun. Overall the training was enjoyable and informative but definitely exhausting so by the end of two weeks most of us were ready to get back to our sites. I actually took a detour though on the way back with Marj, Sean, and Amber to see our families from CBT again! It was a lot of fun and definitely worth the extra travel. I think it meant a lot that we came back. It worked out perfectly too because Hssna was visiting again with Dunia and Selma. We spent a lot of time visiting with our host families and reconnecting with others in the community that we knew. We only spent a night but it was time to get back to site after being gone for almost two and half weeks and hopefully we’ll be back again. So after a good visit in Ait Majdn I finally made it back to my site. Right away I was invited to a wedding so much for easing back in! It ‘s wedding season though and it turned out to be a lot of fun so I’m glad I went.

Alright…so that’s basically an overview of the last few weeks in a nut shell. There’s a health booth Meredith( another PCV friend about an hour away) is doing next week during a festival in her site which I’ll be helping out with and Ramadan starts on Friday so I’ll have lots to fill you on soon I’m sure - Take care and I’ll keep you posted! :)


After an eventful week or so I am back in site for a little bit until I’m off again for another training. So last week’s Moussum (festival) for Sidi Ahmed (the patron saint of Acrobates since most of the country’s acrobats come from the area, Tazerwalt, where the moussem takes place) was a success! The day I helped with the health booth we had over 400 people stop by for informational brochures and basic hygiene lessons! Later on after we finished with the booth we discovered candy covered chica peas (which are amazing!), camel tagine, and the clothing area where some of us found some cute Moroccan tops. After a couple nights at Meredith’s and a hard days work at the moussum I came back to my site but not for long. It was a Moroccan national holiday the day after I came back so several us met up in Agadir to celebrate. We stayed only a night since we’ve been out of site a lot lately but still needed a much needed break by beach. We even managed to find some Mexican food which was no exactly authentic but definitely tasty! After Agadir I made it back just in time to start Ramadan! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ramadan it’s a month long period of fasting for Muslims so from four in the morning until sunset no food or water is allowed. It’s also a very social time where people invite others over for breaking fast at sunset. Then usually after the initial breaking of the fast at sunset (l’fdoor) there is another meal before bed (l’iminsen), and then the one last around three or so in the morning (l’shoor). In the bigger cities there’s a siren that goes off the let you know its time to get up and eat. So far I’ve been to a new family’s house every night except for my host family who I’ve broken fast with I guess twice now. It’s a little exhausted but it’s fun and has been a great way to meet some new people in town.

Alright…that’s all for now but I’ll keep you updated on my Ramadan experience and then next week I’ll be leaving for a three day volunteer support network training in Essaouira so I’ll let you know how that goes! Until then tahala gis (take care)! :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weekend in Kesh!

So I finally got to Marakesh this past weekend! I met up with my family for a wedding and got to see lots of he city too afterwords since the wedding was only the first night. I also got some beautiful hena done for the wedding by one of the neighbors right before I left. So I only saw the last night of the wedding on Friday and it was winding down so it was nice but very low key. I did get to wear my traditional Moroccan dress which was fun. I got lots of stares and “look at the tarameet (foreigner) in the Kaftan!” Once the wedding was over and we made into the actual city of Marakesh I got a tour, did some shopping, and just walked around since there are always things to see; whether it’s a snake charmer, a street performer, or just the architecture and the city itself. I made it back Sunday but I have a week before I leave for a training up in Azrou (by Fez) for two weeks. It's up north in the mountains so it'll be nice to get away from the heat here in Tiznit at least for a little bit.

Alright, take care and I’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Apartment...Hamdillilah! :)

After a relaxing weekend in a bungalow on the beach in Sidi Ifni with four other girls from the Tiznit convent (there are literally no boys placed in Tiznit province since it’s too conservative), my batteries have been recharged. We lied on the beach, ate some really good fresh fish, and played cards. There was also some wifi so that was a HUGE treat! Already though, it’s been a busy week. I meet with my counterpart at the local clinic and then I had a site visit with my assistant program manager Rachid. Both went well. Rachid is always hilarious and full of good info so it was a fun and productive site visit. He also brought me my mountain bike which I’m really really excited about! Since I’m in a valley surrounded by mountains it’s flat and perfect for biking. Alright… well this is all the exciting news I have for now but I move into my apartment next Wednesday and I’m doing some furniture/appliance shopping tomorrow so I’ll keep you updated on how all that goes.

So it’s been quite an ordeal getting moved into the apartment but things are in place and I have finally moved in. Things came together last minute since we had some delays. The main delay was a last minute congratulations on getting elected party for Jamila which was planned during when we had already planned to go into Tiznit together to do some apartment shopping. This is typical life here in Morocco though…plan on being patient and flexible because Moroccan time is definitely very different than American time.
Besides moving though, Nicole came and got to see my site which was fun! There was no down time when we arrived at my site since there was a end of the school year party in full swing for the preschool my family runs below the house. Once things died down though we hung out with my host family for a bit and then went on a tour of my town (during which she got to experience first hand my town’s scream to prayer …yes it’s not a call, but a scream done but a Iman probably in his 90s). It was definitely a good time and just nice just to hang out since we hadn’t seen each other in a while. The day after Nicole came though was my first official day in my own apartment. Hallelujah! ...what a relief! I love my host family but after four months of staying with a host families I was ready. So far I’ve been enjoying having some privacy and once I get a chance to catch up on posting pixs I’ll post some of the apartment.

So I’ve been in the apartment for two weeks now and it continues to be great! I’ve also had some visitors. Whitney, another Health volunteer down south in Tata was the first. Then Marj and Nicole came. I went to Marj’s for the 4th and that was fun. We found some real hot dogs, got some watermelon, and had our selves a cookout Moroccan style since we had to cook the hot dogs in a Tagine hahha. It was a nice low key fourth. After the fourth Whitney came, I went to Agadir for a little house shopping, and then Nicole and Marj came since we all had a meeting with the Ministry of health last Friday. Unfortunately the meeting was pretty counterproductive since it was basically the ministry coming down on the older volunteers for silly reasons but we worked thru it. After the meeting we were all a little tense so we went to Sidi Ifni again and Goulmine for the weekend. Both were nice and relaxating. Goulmine is supposed to be the gate to the Sahara so that was neat.
That’s really all the excitement for now, but I’ll post more soon!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Life the last couple wks...

Not much to mention but my apartment is finally on its way to being ready for me to move into which is exciting! Also I had my first tea with a group of male leaders in the community at a café on the main road in Bounaamane on Wednesday so that was exciting! It’s really nice automatically being gender neutral as an American here. The last big highlight from this past week was having the Moroccan version of Chef Boyerdee. It was amazing! Imagine chef boyardee without the chemicals and with lentals done well. That’s what it was!..a more exotic form I guess. Alright…on that note I’ll stop but tomorrow I’m going to Sidi Ifni for the weekend so I’m sure I’ll have more to write soon!
After a relaxing weekend in a bungalow on the beach in Sidi Ifni with four other girls from the Tiznit convent (there are literally no boys placed in Tiznit province since it’s too conservative), my batteries have been recharged. We lied on the beach, ate some really good fresh fish, and played cards. There was also some wifi so that was a HUGE treat! Already though, it’s been a busy week. I meet with my counterpart at the local clinic and then I had a site visit with my assistant program manager Rachid. Both went well. Rachid is always hilarious and full of good info so it was a fun but productive site visit. He also brought me my mountain bike which I’m really really excited about! Since I’m in a valley surrounded by mountains it’s flat and perfect for biking. Alright….well this is all the exciting news I have for now but I move into my apartment next Wednesday and I’m doing some furniture/appliance shopping tomorrow so I’ll keep you updated on how all that goes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dresses, kittens, and elections...


It’s been a productive week! This is surprising since it also hit over 100 degrees in the shade and usually nothing gets done when it’s that hot. The main highlights were going to Agadir to go shopping for wedding outfits for Jamila’s wedding, getting my kitten, and the elections.

I’ll start with Agadir on Wednesday. Marj and I were going to go originally so I could get cat stuff and so Marj could pick up a Banjo for her Berber Banjo lessons but I found out my host dad gave Jamila and my host mom the ok to go to Agadir only on Wednesday to do shopping for wedding stuff. So, Marj and I went ahead and went without them in the morning and got our stuff done. After that we went to the soq and met up with my host mom, Jamila, and a host cousin. We found my dress pretty quick and painlessly. Mine is a lavender color and has three layers. The 1st is a satin and then there’s a layer on op of that that is lacey with silver accents. The final layer is a shear shall which even has a hood which makes me look like something out of Star Wars. The man selling the dress was from our town so we got a better deal on it so that was nice. After dress shopping we got lunch and walked around some more. The soq basically is a giant Moroccan version of a Mall so it provides a lot of entertainment. It’s comprised of little cubby hole shops under a giant plastic and tin roof. Everything you would ever want or need is there from furniture and clothes to bootleg DVDs and antiques. It’s quite the experience going and at first a little overwhelming but lots of fun once you get a feel for it.

Now, on to my kitten! My friend Whitney brought her on a bus all the way from the Tata region further south on Thursday. She is 7 weeks old and really really tiny with black and grey stripes. She didn’t really appreciate the bus ride but she made it. After much dispute her name is Raja. My host family didn’t like it because it’s the name of Casablanca’s soccer team and a Moroccan name but she’s definitely a Raja so the name stayed. My host family also took her brother (Tommy) so she has a playmate. The only problem is that my host family has lots of fabric and curtains in the house so it’s not very kitten proof and I think it’s only a matter of time before things start to get shredded. We’ll see….

And lastly, we had local elections here on Friday. This doesn’t sound too exciting except for the fact that Jamila was running for a position and won. This is significant because she is the first women in the region to hold any type of elected office. She ran along with four other women for various positions and was the only successful one. She also ran under her own party that she created and which was named after the group that kicked the French out. She really didn’t know if she had a chance or not especially since campaigning is only allowed for the week before the elections. The night before the elections there were all kinds of rallies and parades around town for the various parties. We went on the roof and since we live in the center of town and watched everything that was going on. She found out that she won around midnight along with two other family members in different areas. It was exciting but a long night followed by a day packed with visitors. It was fun though and I got to meet a lot of neat people. One of the other winners in town was a guy named Obama so when he came over to congratulate Jamila we had a good laugh about that. It was funny too because I heard people chanting his name on election night and I was really confused but then my family explained to me there was also an Moroccan Obama too hahah.

Alright I’ll end here until the next post, take care!