Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So I'm a real volunteer... now what?

Since last post I said goodbye to my wonderful host family in Tazentoute, officially swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, got my papers from the Ministry of Health that I’m indeed a health educator in Morocco and returned to Tidili with half of my baggage.

The last two weeks have been crazy because we went from having complete structure in our days to absolutely nothing. We are now responsible for furthering our language, meeting people in the community and integrating ourselves into our communities. To do this I plan on learning 5 new words a day, 2 new verbs a day, 2 new helpful phrases a day, have tea with 4 new families a week, visit 1 new dowar a week (quite unrealistic, but hey, I’ll try) and do 30 minutes of yoga, stretching or something a day to keep myself sane. I created this ‘agenda’ for myself in the first day of complete boredom and I’m following it shwiya (sort of). It's more of a plan B if I feel unproductive for the day.

The last few days have given me a lot of time to think about this experience of living in a new place with new people and a new culture. And one thing I think about a lot is how fortunate we are to be Americans and how blessed I am to be an American FEMALE. I have never seen people work as hard of the woman do in rural Morocco. These woman wake up at about 7 am to work the fields until 10 when they return home to clean (without vacuums and with lots of dirt blowing), prepare lunch at about 2 then nap for a little if they are lucky then go out to work the fields again. The women in Morocco are very strong people and I am constantly amazed at their strength.

The idea of alone time here in Morocco is also very interesting. Being here as a single female the people automatically assume I’m lonely since I have no husband or family beside me and are always trying to sit very close to me, in my room or hold my hand. This was great for the first day when I was scared out of my mind and it reassured me but it’s gotten old-fast. The idea of sitting alone and reading or listening to music is unknown to them. I’ve learned to treasure and appreciate whenever I can sneak away to my room to be alone for a little bit.

Oh yes, and phone boyfriends. Quite an interesting thing- since the idea of dating, touching, kissing, holding hands is hashuma (shamefull) here in Morocco the youth have found another way to have boyfriends/girlfriends. These would be phone boyfriends. Let me explain this to you, males dial random cell phone numbers hoping for a young female voice. If they hear a young female on the other end they speak for a little bit and then become phone lovers. What does this consist of you ask? Well text messages and beeping of course. (Beeping= calling and hanging up before the other person answers.) This can mean a range of things from “where the hell are you” to “I miss you” to “thinking of you” to “call me back”- I have yet to decipher the codes of this beeping but I’ll keep you posted as I learn more

Another glory of Morocco I would like to share with you- public transportation. Since we are paid close to nothing as volunteers we take public transportation to get from place to place. There are several types here in Morocco:
  • Petite taxis: small taxis that travel within cities;
  • Grand taxis: these are old Mercedes cars, usually with a broken speedometer, crushed velvet seats and no window rollers in the back seats. These taxis fit no less than 6 persons, 7 including the driver. The driver and two passengers up front (the seat near the shifter is really uncomfortable as a female when the male driver is shifting into 4th), and 4 in the back. As I said earlier, most of these don’t have the rollers in the back seats so you practically cook in them. And most of the time, females don’t travel, so the taxi is full of men. Little ol me and 6 men…. Quite an adventure;
  • Souk buses: these are buses that travel between towns, if you get a seat on one they are quite nice. If you don’t get a seat, they suck. Animals (like chickens, turkeys) also travel on souk buses so it can turn into quite the zoo sometimes. The windows don’t usually go down in these either because a lot of Moroccans believe they will get sick from the air outside. Combine the closed windows with very hot weather and people who don’t wear deodorant and It's a pleasant ride to say the least. Oh yeah, and the little fact I gave you earlier (females don’t usually travel)- combine THAT with windy roads and no air and you get….well I think you can guess what happens;
  • CTM buses: I have yet to ride these but if I plan on traveling anywhere more than an hour away this will be my form of transport, you are assigned a seat. And that alone is worth the price.


  1. angelica! thanks for sharing...its fascinating to read about your adventures (or lack thereof), i wish you good health and great experiences. miss you here at the COB!

  2. Neat! These are the kind of observations that are really fun to hear about... Once the initial wonder of a new home has worn off, and you've started to notice (and understand.... and emulate...) the really different little aspects of daily life. They're really easy to miss at first when you're busy looking at all the different landscapes and buildings, but it's these little things that really give a better understanding of what it means to be a member of a different culture.

    Sorry, I'm getting all "global awareness" nerdy on you. I'll give you one guess who I get that from! Thanks for posting as always, it's getting more and more fun to read as time goes on. Good luck working into a routine, and congrats on making it to the point where you're really independent in what you do on your own site!

  3. Great descriptions of the various forms of transport. The assigned seats sound worth every penny!