Saturday, December 3, 2011

Success and Failure in Rural Morocco

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?  FAIL.

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!!

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