Monday, May 7, 2012
As I write this blog post I am sitting at the airport in Germany- going back to America. My two years have come and gone. Now it’s time to go home. But really- where is home? I just spent 2 years in Morocco- I had a house, dog, friends and family in Morocco. In America have friends, family and a doggie in route, but no house (yet). But I don’t know if it’s going to feel like home for a while- which is weird because this last month I’ve been dreaming about going back to America. I guess I’m just in some sort of limbo.
To be honest, the last month I spent in site SUCKED. It’s such a shame, because I loved the people in my site and I loved my site but I was still an outsider. An outsider that had a lot of furniture the community knew I needed to get rid of. So that last month meant I couldn’t sit inside or go outside my house without someone coming over to ask for something- a bed, my fridge, clothes, pens, candy-you name it. I ended up selling half my things to my landlords family and selling the other half to Jamilas. Obviously, this was fine with the two of them, but everyone else wanted to know why they weren’t getting anything. That got old fast- trust me. And it really doesn't help people don't ASK for things in Morocco- their way of asking literally translates to: Give me ____. And every time I would translate that in my bed I cringe. Whatever though- I’m not going to let that last annoying month ruin my memories of my two years of service.
I said most of my goodbyes last week, before I went to Rabat to check out. There were a lot of tears and reminiscing. Everyone agreed the 2 years went by very fast and we had some good laughs about how terrible my language was at the beginning. A lot of people in America have asked me how I feel about leaving- I’ve thought about it a lot but it’s still such a hard question to answer. So forgive my future random ramblings while I try to put it into words.
One of the hardest things for me is that I know I’ll be moving onto new and bigger things. I’m so blessed that I have a job, friends and family in Colorado. I have a future ahead of me and lots of other adventures- inchallah. But these families I just spent 2 years with don’t. They will be talking about the crazy foreigner with a dog for years to come. And when I make it back in a few years most of those people will still be there, doing the same ol’ thing. I’ve told a lot of people that I’m ready for the next chapter in my life- and I am. But I just wish the people in my community had another chapter to look forward to, also.
Monday, April 2, 2012
I've now been in Morocco for over 2 years. I can barely believe it. Over these last two years there have obviously been a lot of awkward situations. I’ve learned more than I could even possibly express in this blog but one of my favorite things about living and working in a new country/culture has been all the unique situations I’ve been put it. In this blog I want to write about the different situations that in America would be incredibly rude, but here in Morocco- not so much. However, after 2 years I often find myself doing these things without even thinking twice. Enjoy the crazy stories that have been my last two years!
- Burping loudly (in public or after a meal). This is actually a compliment to the person who just prepared the meal. And people do it- often. A simple ‘l-hmdullah’ (thanks to god) after a good long, loud burp is all that’s needed.
- Asking someone how much they paid for something (and then telling them they paid too much). Volunteers experience this A LOT in the beginning. People want to know how much I paid for my fridge, bed, pants, anything. It’s such an awkward question because you know you’re probably going to get yelled at for paying too much. I usually lie and say the item was a gift, my organization (Peace Corps) paid for it or I forgot how much I paid. That seems to work- most of the time.
- Inviting a person to a meeting, your home, friend’s home and then leaving them alone in a room for hours. This happens ALL THE TIME. In the beginning I hated it but now I carry a book around with me all the time and usually take this time to nap.
- Telling a person they don’t know anything. “Or tsnt waloo” I wrote a whole blog about this one a while back. It’s usually in regards to language. Now I just agree, because let’s be honest- Tashlheet is hard. And I don’t know anything. This usually makes them feel pretty awkward and they take it back.
- Showing up minutes, hours or days late for a meeting (if they even show up at all). Again, drove me crazy when I first got here, but now I don’t even leave my house until the time we’re supposed to meet and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to souk. It’s been a nice leisurely two years, but I’m ready to get back to my schedule and getting work done when it’s supposed to be done.
- Breastfeeding in a taxi, van or just in public. In a country where I can’t show my knees or
wear tank tops this one was pretty weird to get used to. Honestly, it’s still
- Asking someone how much money they make, how much they pay for rent, pretty much anything about money is a-ok.
- Greeting someone and then immediately asking if they are married. If not married (me), asking why. Then mentioning that you have a family member, friend or offering yourself for marriage. This happens AT LEAST a few times a day. Sometimes I like to bargain for my hand in marriage (how many camels, will you cook for me, will you clean the house…) Depending on the person this could be fun or really creepy- gotta feel it out first.
- It’s also not uncommon for people to ask me to help them get a visa, passport, etc to bring them back to America with me. This is when I tell them they can come back to America with me as long as they fit in the crate with Lily.
- Eating with your hands. Your right one, specifically. This one I’m totally used to and actually don’t mind. Meals are always community style so you eat only the triangle space of food directly in front of you. First everyone eats the juices and vegetables, then the meat last. The meat is usually divided by the female head of the house and your section of meat is placed on a piece of bread in front of you. And it’s ok to loudly chew or suck on the bones. Yum.
- Also with regards to eating its expected to put the pits of olives, bones you don’t eat or skin of fruits on the table. Not on a plate on the table, directly on the table. For someone else to clean up.
- Not covering your mouth when you cough. This one still gets to me and I’m usually the first to yell at someone to cover their mouths. This often turns into a mini health lesson about germs and how I don’t want to get sick. They all think I’m crazy for constantly talking about germs (before we eat, when they cough or sneeze….. I’ve got pretty good at turning almost any situation into a mini health lesson)
- Yelling at someone (in public) for not eating or sleeping at their home. I eat at people’s homes quite often, but sometimes I just want to eat at my house. It’s actually rude to say ‘no’ when someone invites you over for tea or a meal but its ok to say “inchallah” (god willing) or “adoor ayadni” (another time). These are just polite nos. But sometimes people want me to eat at their homes which are kilometers away. And unless I really like you or I’m in the area that’s not gonna happen. So people yell at me: in public and loudly. Also, after I eat meals (usually dinner) at friends’ homes, they always want me to spend the night. ALWAYS. Even when they are my neighbors. They just can’t understand why I would possibly want to go to my own house, wear my own pjs and sleep in my own bed. Weird, right?
- Knocking on someone’s door and then asking them to give you water. Even if you live right next door. THIS ONE STILL DRIVES ME CRAZY. The kids do it all the time, passing women do it all the time. It’s fine if you’re coming back from the fields and still have a long walk ahead of you. I have no problem with that. However, when I can SEE your house and I KNOW you have water- absolutely not. If I know you live in the village I’ll tell you to go home and get water at your own house (which is probably rude, but oh well. I have to have some boundaries, right?)
As these 2 years have come to a close I’ve started to notice a lot of the small things that make Morocco and America so different. I hope you enjoyed this silly list- it was fun writing it and thinking about all the craziness that I’ve encountered over the last two years.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Why hello dear friends and family of mine. It’s been a while since I’ve updated here- so I just wanted to let you all know I’m alive and well. The last few months have gone by quickly and have been pretty busy! December was a quick month since I went on vacation to visit my fabulous dad and step-mom for the Christmas holiday. Being in a Muslim country there is NO Christmas spirit and I was a bit overwhelmed at the Frankfurt airport with all the lights and trees (alright, I admit it- I almost cried) and then getting to be in a warm house, with a tree, my Italian pets, a super amazing, warm, soft bed and Christmas cookies was amazing. After a fabulous week and a half of luxury I went to visit some friends in Spain. I knew I wanted to go when I heard my old college roomie Colby and his girlfriend Tara would be visiting but decided it would be fun to make it a surprise. So I filled my friend Karin in on my travel plans and surprised both Colby and Logan in Barcelona. Another volunteer friend of mine, Jackie, decided she wanted to spend the New Year with us and we had a blast in Barcelona. The trip was WAY too short but it was so fun to be around friends from home.
In the last few months I’ve just been working with an association in another village trying to finalize a grant for a grain storage renovation. We finally got the money and all the supplies have been purchased but it’s been too cold and windy to work. They keep telling me it will only take a month once they start building but it still makes me nervous since my time here is running out. So keep your fingers crossed that it warms up soon and we can get started on that!
I also got terribly sick last month- thank you parasite that I’ve been living with for the last year but decided to act up now. After almost 9 days of being locked in my house (aka mud prison), sending multiple children to buy me medicine, amazing taxi drivers dropping off medicine from the big city and awesome site mates I’m finally better and have been out and about in the village. It’s so funny how word spreads in the community- everyone knew I was sick and was worried about me. I’m so lucky to have such awesome people around me. Everyone wanted to help the foreigner who lives alone- Jamilas family brought me fresh baked bread every day, Nzhas family brought me fruit and veggies and everyone sent their god phrases my way.
I’ve also FINALLY got Lily spayed, vaccinated and purchased her crate for our trip home. The whole spaying experience was a bit traumatizing, since I ended up having to leave her for about a week and a half to ensure she was ok after the surgery and the stiches could be taken out. But she’s once again home and back to her happy self. Since she’s spayed we’ve also been on a few walks and the kids are so happy to see her again (She wasn’t allowed outside until she got spayed because of all the stray dogs outside.) It’s amazing how the little children aren’t afraid of her, will go up and hug her, let her lick them and the parents won’t go near her because they are too scared.
I was a bit in a ‘want to go home-funk’ after my Italy/Spain vacation- ready to go home and tired of dealing with the everyday stresses that our lives here entail. But I’ve recently realized I have less than 3 months left and I’m really going to miss these people. So now I’m just trying to enjoy every day with these amazing people and beautiful place that I am lucky enough to call home.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
My Peace Corps service has been filled with ups and downs. When we first get to country we get lots of papers about our emotional health, physical health, work, resources, yada yada. But my favorite piece of paper is a roller coaster looking chart that explains our emotional wellbeing during these 2 years. Everyone laughs at this paper when we first get it, but after about 6 months we realize it’s pretty much spot on. Good days, bad days, happy days, sad days, depressed weeks, skipping through the field’s days…. I can literally experience every emotion I could think of in one day. Go from dreading leaving my house to go buy milk, to laughing with people in souk, to wanting to punch a child in the face outside my house, to being super happy talking to a friend on the phone to crying during the Justin Beiber movie (yes- this last one happened.) On top of the everyday stresses with language, being cold/hot, trying to understand what’s going on around me, etc. it’s easy to understand why this roller coaster could occur. Then you throw work on top of that- that’s the cherry on top of it all. Work here can be crazy, last minute, unorganized and everything in between… but it’s why I’m here. So I wanted to share a recent success and recent failure with you… just so you could get a taste :)
Let’s start with the failure and just get it out of the way. In June I was asked by my sbitar (local clinic) to represent the clinic at a meeting in Ouarzazate at the delegue (pretty much my Moroccan boss). I had no idea why I was going- I just knew I was going to a meeting and I needed to find a lady from a French Association (didn’t even know her name.) So I show up, am directed every which way in the building and finally find this lady, her translator, the delegue, my commune leader and another man from a village nearby. The whole meeting is done in French/Arabic so you can imagine I’m a bit/a lot lost. I learn that the French Association wants to bring doctors to my village for free exams in October. Great news, right? Fast forward to September. I’m summoned to another meeting, this time invited by a man from my village. We discuss the upcoming visit and hit a major road block. The Association wants to come November 8th. But that’s L3id (the big holiday in my last post) so the arguing back and forth begins. The French Association wins and they plan to come from the 5th, 6th, 7th, break for l3id, 9th, 10th . Great, right? Everyone agrees this will work, myself and the other volunteers in the region will help with translation and it all sounds like peachy dandy…. Now fast forward to November. About a week before l3id I go to the sbitar to make sure this is all still happening and am told that the Association was told not to even come because certain people in my community didn’t want to work so close to l3id. I’m (of course) super angry about this and trying to figure out whats going on. What could we do, could we still get the people to come, who made this decision… this is all running through my head in English while I’m trying to ask the questions in Tash. And let me tell you, when I get overly excited, sad, tired, hungry or angry my language just *poof* disappears!! Finally, I talk to some men that are pretty high up on the ‘power’ totem and they promise to make some phone calls and see what they can do. I finally hear back the day before l3id…. And am told the Association isn’t come. Sucks, right? Want to know what sucks even more?? I heard TWO WEEKS LATER that the doctors came. There was no one there for the free exams because no one was told about it and even if people would have shown up they would have had no one to translate. So that just goes to show what months of planning and meeting can accomplish- right?
Now, lets rewind to Halloween. I’m in Ouarzazate to use internet, get money and attempt to get my permission from the ministry to be able to teach in the schools for the new school year. I’d been in to get this form once before but was told to return, so I was hoping this would be a quick trip. Yeah, right. The man in charge needed a form from Peace Corps so I called Peace Corps. After they talk in Arabic for a while I’m handed the phone back and asked by my Peace Corps boss if I’ll be helping with the health day this week. I had no idea what he was talking about so he filled me in. The ministry of Education was hosting a ‘health day’ in my site and wanted me help. So I hang up and being asking questions about this (in Tash). The man knows close to nothing and asking these questions is like pulling teeth. After about 2 hours of exhausting language I’m told they want me and the other 3 volunteers in my area to help with the event. There will be tooth brushing lessons (that we’ll do), eye exams (we’ll help with) and woman’s health information (that we’ll do too). Keep in mind this is Monday that I’m in the office trying to get these forms and the event is on Wednesday. So basically I had to organize the other 3 volunteers and myself to get this together, not really knowing what the heck we were signed up from. Would be have our own classrooms, were we doing small groups, would we be working together or separate, would we have help? No idea. So- we show up having ZERO expectations and find all the important people from the ministry’s in Ouarzazazte, all the village leaders and school principals there. Luckily, everything went as best as it could have. We successfully taught over 200 children about brushing their teeth, about 25 women about some basic health and helped those 200 kids get their eyes checked. And it all came together in a few days! I’d say that’s a success!!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Tomorrow is Eid al-Adha, الأضحى, Feast of Sacrifice, L3id Nufeska… any and all of the previous!
This will be my second L3id here in Morocco and I couldn’t be more excited. Some volunteers stock up and hide in their homes for the holiday, others try to travel to avoid the day but I have been counting down the days for about a month now (which isn’t easy since it’s a lunar holiday and I thought it was going to be on the 8th until about a week ago!). Last year the idea of L3id was a bit overwhelming since I had no idea what to expect, but this year I’m ready!
So—what is L3id, you ask? (Wow- who knew my blog would be so informative?)
Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th and the last Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (ذو الحجة) of the lunar Islamic calendar. Eid al-Adha celebrations start after the Hajj (Hajj= the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide) The date is approximately 70 days (2 Months & 10 days) after the end of the month of Ramadan. Wikipedia L3id Info
“Ibrahim, known as Abraham in the Christian and Jewish traditions, was commanded by God to sacrifice his adult son. He obeyed and took Ishmael (Ismail or Ismael) to Mount Moriah. Just as he was to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son. Some people dispute that the son of sacrifice was Isaac (Isḥāq). Regardless, these events are remembered and celebrated at Eid al-Adha. At Eid al-Adha, many Muslims make a special effort to pray and listen to a sermon at a mosque. They also wear new clothes, visit family members and friends and may symbolically sacrifice an animal in an act known as qurbani. This represents the animal that Ibrahim sacrificed in the place of his son. In some traditionally Muslim countries (Like Morocco) families or groups of families may purchase an animal known as udhiya, usually a goat or sheep, to sacrifice" L3id Information
Go to those links for more information… its really interesting stuff and I was tempted to just copy and paste the whole thing, but thought I’d lose some people. (Which might have happened anyway- but oh well!)
Here in Morocco families purchase a ram to sacrifice to symbolize these events. It’s a huge holiday (Think Christmas almost everywhere else in the world). Schools and all official buildings close for the week and family members all travel home to spend the holiday together. All the kids get new clothes to wear for the holiday and the meat from the animal is eaten throughout the week- every single part! I asked my friends what their favorite parts of the Ram were yesterday and their answers were the liver (Agree- DELISH!) the eyes and the head. Families that can afford it usually have multiple rams (my host family had 2 last year).
….And tomorrows the day!! I’ve promised my friend Jamila that I’d spend the slaughter (usually at about 930 am- after the king kills his ram) with her family. I took lots of pictures last year, but I want to get a video of the event this year so look for that (if you’ve got the stomach for it!). I’m going to make some chocolate no-bake cookies-they’re a hit here since they are so sweet- to bring over too. After Jamila’s I have 2 other families I promised I’d go see and walking between houses usually means having to stop, have tea, and make kababs (my favorite part of l3id) at various others homes. So- needless to say, tomorrow will be a long, exciting and VERY full of meat day :)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I have now been here in Morocco for 18 months, with only 7ish left. When I think about it like that I can’t believe it… the time has flown by. But then when I sit down and actually think about all the things that have happened over these 18 months… I feel like I’ve been here forever. This is home. People here always ask if I’m tmirt (settled). My new joke (jokes here are typically pretty lame… think grandpa jokes that everyone laughs at but no one thinks is funny) is that yes, I’m mirġ. I’m half Moroccan and half American- this is half of my home! People love it, but it’s kinda true. These people have welcomed me into their homes, their country and treated me like one of their own. And I’m so blessed to be able to have this experience.
Over the last 18 months I’ve realized there are many ways to tell time… for example, I can tell the time in weeks by the amount of henna that has grown out of my nails, I can usually tell the approximate time of day by the amount of sunlight out or the call to prayers, I can tell what month it is based on the crops growing in the fields, I can tell the day of the week based on the freshness of fruits/veggies at my vegetable guys store, or if its Sunday because its Souk, I can tell if it’s a week day (usually if there are no strikes) by seeing if the kids are playing outside my house or not…. I feel like we have these clues to the time of day, day of the week and month in America but do we ever stop to notice them?
I often tell people at home that I feel like I’ve learned more from my experience here or from my community than I ever think I could hope to teach them (cliché but true). One of the biggest things this country has taught me is patience and to stop and enjoy life. I remember having my schedule down to pretty much every minute of the day in America… and here if I have one small task to do in the day it’s gonna be a good day. I have the time to stop and have tea with women in the fields, its ok to have tea and basic conversation with the men I’m meeting with for a project before we even speak a word of work, it’s not uncommon for me to go to Souk to buy just milk and end up spending hours talking to all the store owners along the way (and forget to buy the milk), waiting for a taxi or bus for hours is just how it is, or having a counterpart show up an hour late for a meeting is just… that. When I first got here to Morocco things like this drove me crazy, I was in my America-get work done- mindset. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes I fall back into that and get a bit stir crazy waiting over an hour for people to show up and a taxi to leave, but Morocco has taught me to appreciate the moment. Like a good friend of mine once told me “I know it’s hard but really just try to enjoy your time there because it will be over. And then it’s over. Your home will always be here.” I don’t know if she knows how much that meant to me, but that quote has been with me since the day she sent it.
Also in relation to time, I feel like in the beginning months here in Morocco I sort of ‘wished my time away.’ It’s not that I wasn’t loving my time here, but it’s hard sometimes- I miss America, my friends, family, the food, my independence and freedom to do or say whatever I wanted. I still have moments like this- I don’t think I’ve ever been such rollercoaster of emotions as I am here. I will literally have to force myself to leave the house one day, dread speaking to people along the way and then somewhere in the walk a flip switches and I end up wanting to talk to anyone and everyone along the way- about the weather, about Lily, about life… and end up spending hours in Souk talking to men and walk home on clouds mystified that I live HERE- with the beautiful mountains in the background, walking through postcard like fields and rivers to get home to my crazy dog barking on the roof of my mud house. Now I have less than 7 months left and I’m grasping at time for dear life. Don’t get me wrong- I’m excited at the idea of going back to America but this whole experience- all the amazing people I’ve met along the way, all the work I’ve had the privilege of doing… the thought of leaving that really does make me sad.
Well dear readers of mine- my tummy just growled (another way to tell the time) so lunch must be made. Until next time….
Thursday, October 13, 2011
First of all-- I survived my second Ramadan! It’s now been over a month since it ended and boy am I glad it’s over. It was a great experience fasting with my community though- I got very mixed responses from people when I told them I was fasting. Some people were excited and gave me praise, told me to sit and rest or invited me to breakfast with their families, others called me a liar and made me prove to them I was fasting (which was ok sometimes, but when I was extra hungry/thirsty this response didn’t put me in a good mood) and others thought I was crazy for fasting when I didn’t have to. I ended up breaking my fast a few days early, since I had a friend come to visit and since he wasn’t fasting I didn’t want to continue. But I successfully fasted for 23 days!!
Lots has been going on here work-wise. Its weird going from almost a year of begging people for work to not being able to go to Souk without being bothered for a new project or idea. The desk project is ALMOST complete—yes, I know… I’ve been saying this for a WHILE. But that’s just how things goes around here. The blackboards are the last items that need to be delivered and I’ve been bothering the carpenter about them for weeks but INCHALLAH that will get done this week. (IT DID! I finally got the last receipts and its all DONEEEEE!) The project for the Sanitation System is coming along slowly… all the supplies were purchased over Ramadan and digging for the pipes and pits has begun. I hope to make it to the village soon to check in on things.
I have two new sitemates! Long story here that I won’t get into, but it’s great for the community since we will be the last volunteers in the area. So there are now 4 Americans roaming the dirt roads of Tidili- haha! Team Tidili!!! Here is a story about house-hunting for my new site mates…. Think about this next time you go on Craigslist or to a relator for a new place to rent :)
So we (myself, Alexa and Leighanne) heard there was a house available in a village about 8 K down the road and wanted to go check it out. We were told to go to Souk (the main center) at 4 oclock and assumed this meant that we would be getting a ride.
- 4:00 pm- SO we show up, talk talk talk, learn about another project that the people in the community, drink a little tea, yada yada.
- 5:00 pm- We are finally are shown to a transit with about 10 others. This must be the worlds S-L-O-W-E-S-T transit. A ride that should have taken us about 15 minutes probably took about 40. Along the way the driver is pointing out all the towns along the way… beautiful ride up though!
- 6:00 pm- We are dropped off at a café and ask if this is the village with the house to rent. We’re told its not and that we have to walk through another village to get to it-no biggie, right? An older man offers to walk us to the village but then hands us off to a kid about 5 minutes into the walk. The teenager is then instructed to bring us to the house that’s for rent.
- 6:30 pm- After climbing through a village we arrive, tired, to discover the man who is supposed to show us the house isn’t around. We are directed to the teenagers house instead.
- 7:00 pm- We decide we cant wait any longer, its getting dark and we need to get back. So we start walking- very quickly- to the main road to try and stop some sort of transit to take us home. Along the way, though, everyone keeps inviting us in for tea or to stay the night. We try to explain we need to get home but everyone tells us we’ll never find transport so we should just stay. We don’t want to… so we keep on keepin on.
- 7:30 pm- We reach the road and start waving down anything and everything that passes. It’s starting to get really cold by now, and we’re starting to get really worried… finally we hail down a truck and get thrown in with about 15 other men (literally, most of them were hanging off the truck, but since we were ladies we were able to sit in the bed). Oh yeah, and there are a few cows in the truck too…. I wish I took at a picture, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. During the car ride every single man asks me to marry him, and one of the guys even gives me an extra jacket he has to keep me warm. (I got to keep the jacket, so at least I got something outta it all!) I talk to the guys the whole 20 minutes ride home- quite an interesting conversation…. We discussed how (in my perspective) men in Morocco don’t have it as tough as the ladies, how far/big America is, how a lot of people in America go to college (even girls, like me!) but not many from my area will…. You get the jest.
- 8:00 pm- The truck finally arrives at a village about a kilometer from my house so after arguing about a price, we get out and start walking home with our phone flashlights to my house.
- 8:20 pm- We finally get home, laughing about the day. Alexa and Leighanne then decide to start making something for dinner. I have most of my food stashed in a bamboo dresser to keep the mice out, but recently they had got tricky so I had the dresser closed with rope to keep the creatures out….. but just as Leighanne opens the dresser a mouse LEAPS out at her. I hear screaming in the kitchen to find them both in the corner- the mice have chewed through the BACK of the dresser. Everything is now is thick plastic bins around my kitchen……..
….. Welcome to my life :)