Thursday, January 27, 2011

Places Around Town

Looking at one of the neighborhoods up on the hill through an unfinished wall.

Looking back at some storm clouds.

Fun tree to sit under.

That donkey was totally looking down at me.

Looking back at town.

I can see the ocean!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meat Lover Living in Vegetarian Heaven

So many PCV's face a very difficult situation when transitioning from life in the states to their country of service. It's one that not many of them think about or they do think about it and say, "No, that won't be a problem for me." Well, sometimes it just happens and they don't even realize it until one day they are thinking about making a meal and they can't find the meat. That's right. I'm talking about meat lovers becoming vegetarians.

In America, I would never pass up on a piece of meat. Give me sausages, hamburgers, steak or chicken any day and I will gladly eat it. I'm not saying I would go out of my way to make sure that I had meat, I'm just saying I enjoyed eating it when it was around. I enjoyed my fair share of pasta dishes and breakfast entrees that did not include any meat at all. During my homestay with two different Moroccan families, I was never denied meat. In fact, I usually was given more than anyone else as a sign of respect. My first host mom catered weddings and would always bring home a few chickens and any extra meat. My second host mom would always push her portion of meat into my triangle of the tajine. I didn't really think about what would happen when I moved into my own apartment and started cooking for myself again.

For the past 3 weeks, I have been living off of pasta, rice, eggs and vegetables. Everyday I eat a huge salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper and onions. It is absolutely delicious and filling! I can't go a day without eating eggs. Since I have soy sauce, I enjoy eating rice with stir fried green peppers and zucchini. I've made vegetable soup a few times with chick peas or rice, and its enough to last me a few days. Finish the meal with a little bit of bread on the side, mmmmmmmmmm, so good!

I have yet to go to a butcher in my site. Partly because I'm scared and partly because I don't really miss meat. I've seen one butcher that I might be tempted to try but all the other ones are home to a severe lack of hygiene. I know that I won't die (most likely) from eating meat from any of them but still, it grosses me out slightly. I haven't had a day yet where I'm like, "Beef, it's what's for dinner." The day most likely will come but for now I am enjoying my veggies. So with that said, if anyone has good vegetarian recipes, send them my way!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Co-Founder of Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver Dies

Back in 1960, a young Sargent Shriver was talking to a Senator from Massachusetts about an idea. An idea to have Americans serve their country by helping those in under developed nations. This idea of an army of peace was first publicly announced at the University of Michigan on October 14th, 1960, during a presidential campaign speech. The Senator was of course, John F. Kennedy who became the 35th President. The Peace Corps was established on March 1st, 1961 and authorized by Congress on September 22nd, 1961. Sargent Shriver served as the first director from 1961 to 1966.

This past Tuesday, Sargent Shriver died at the age of 95. The following is the article published in The New York Times.

R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95
R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, a United States ambassador to France and the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 95.

His family announced his death in a statement.

Mr. Shriver was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and on Sunday was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he died. He had been in hospice care in recent months after his estate in Potomac, Md., was sold last year.

White-haired and elegantly attired, he attended the inauguration of his son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Republican governor of California in the fall of 2003. Mr. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a former NBC News correspondent.

But in recent years, as his condition deteriorated, Mr. Shriver was seldom seen in public. He emerged in one instance to attend the funeral of his wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of John F. Kennedy; she died in 2009 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 88.

As a Kennedy brother-in-law, Mr. Shriver was bound inextricably to one of the nation’s most powerful political dynasties. It was an association with enormous advantages, thrusting him to prominence in a series of seemingly altruistic missions. But it came with handicaps, relegating him to the political background and to a subordinate role in the family history.

“Shriver’s relationship with the Kennedys was complex,” Scott Stossel wrote in “Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver,” a 2004 biography. “They buoyed him up to heights and achievements he would never otherwise have attained — and they held him back, thwarting his political advancement.”

The book, as well as reports in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications, suggested that Mr. Shriver’s hopes to run for governor of Illinois in 1960 and vice president in 1964 and 1968 were abandoned to help promote, or at least not compete with, Kennedy aspirations. Mr. Shriver’s vice-presidential race in 1972, on a ticket with Senator George S. McGovern, and a brief primary run for president in 1976 were crushed by the voters.

Mr. Shriver was never elected to any national office. To political insiders, his calls for public service in the 1960s seemed quixotic at a time when America was caught up in a war in Vietnam, a cold war with the Soviet Union and civil rights struggles and urban riots at home. But when the fogs of war and chaos cleared years later, he was remembered by many as a last vestige of Kennedy-era idealism.

“Sarge came to embody the idea of public service,” President Obama said in a statement.

Mr. Shriver’s impact on American life was significant. On the stage of social change for decades, he brought President Kennedy’s proposal for the Peace Corps to fruition in 1961 and served as the organization’s director until 1966. He tapped into a spirit of volunteerism, and within a few years thousands of young Americans were teaching and working on public health and development projects in poorer countries around the world.

After the president’s assassination in 1963, Mr. Shriver’s decision to remain in the Johnson administration alienated many of the Kennedys, especially Robert, who remained as the United States attorney general for months but whose animus toward his brother’s successor was profound. Mr. Shriver’s responsibilities deepened, however. In 1964, Johnson persuaded him to take on the administration’s war on poverty, a campaign embodied in a vast new bureaucracy, the Office of Economic Opportunity.

From 1965 to 1968, Mr. Shriver, who disdained bureaucracies as wasteful and inefficient, was director of that agency, a post he held simultaneously with his Peace Corps job until 1966. The agency created antipoverty programs like Head Start, the Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America, the Community Action Program and Legal Services for the Poor. (The Office of Economic Opportunity was dismantled in 1973, but many of its programs survived in other agencies.)

In 1968, Johnson named Mr. Shriver ambassador to France. It was a time of strained relations. President Charles de Gaulle had recognized Communist China, withdrawn French forces from NATO’s integrated military command and denounced American involvement in Indochina. But Mr. Shriver established a working rapport with de Gaulle and was credited with helping to improve relations.

Mr. Shriver returned to the United States in 1970 to work for Democrats in the midterm elections and to reassess his own political prospects. His long-awaited break came two years later when Senator McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee, picked him as his running mate. Mr. McGovern’s first choice, Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, was dropped after revelations that he had received electroshock therapy for depression.

The McGovern-Shriver ticket lost in a landslide to the incumbent Republicans, Richard M. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew. Four years later, Mr. Shriver ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, pledging a renewal of ethics after the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from the White House. But Mr. Shriver was knocked out in the primaries and ended his political career.

In later years, he was a rainmaker for an international law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, retiring in 1986. He was also active in the Special Olympics, founded by his wife for mentally disabled athletes, and he continued his work with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, an advocacy organization he founded in Chicago in 1967 as the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Shriver the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ten years earlier, President Ronald Reagan conferred the same award on Eunice Shriver. They were the only husband and wife to win the nation’s highest civilian honor individually.

In 2008, PBS broadcast a documentary, “American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver.” A children’s book by Maria Shriver, “What’s Happening to Grandpa?,” was published in 2004, explaining the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. In May 2009, HBO presented a four-part documentary on Alzheimer’s. Ms. Shriver was the executive producer of one segment, “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?”

Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., known as Sarge from childhood, was born in Westminster, Md., on Nov. 9, 1915, the son of his namesake, a banker, and Hilda Shriver. His forebears, called Schreiber, immigrated from Germany in 1721. One ancestor, David Shriver, was a signer of Maryland’s 1776 Constitution. The Shrivers, like the Kennedys, were Roman Catholics and socially prominent, but not especially affluent.

On scholarships, he attended Canterbury, a Catholic boarding prep school in New Milford, Conn. — John F. Kennedy was briefly a schoolmate — and Yale University, graduating with honors in 1938. He earned a Yale law degree in 1941 and joined the Navy shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming an officer on battleships and submarines in the Atlantic and the Pacific and winning a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained at Guadalcanal.

After the war, he joined Newsweek as an editor. He met Eunice Kennedy at a dinner party, and she introduced him to her father, Joseph P. Kennedy. In 1946, Joseph Kennedy hired him to help manage his recently acquired Merchandise Mart in Chicago, then the world’s largest commercial building. In Chicago, Mr. Shriver not only turned a profit for the mart but also plunged into Democratic politics.

After a seven-year courtship, Mr. Shriver and Ms. Kennedy were married by Cardinal Francis Spellman at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1953.

In addition to his daughter, Maria, Mr. Shriver’s survivors include four sons, Robert Sargent Shriver III of Santa Monica, Calif.; Timothy, of Chevy Chase, Md.; Mark, of Bethesda, Md.; and Anthony, of Miami; and 19 grandchildren.

Mr. Shriver’s relationships with the Kennedys were widely analyzed by the news media, not least because of his own political potential. He looked like a movie star, with a flashing smile, dark hair going gray and the kind of muscled, breezy athleticism that went with tennis courts and sailboats. Like the Kennedys, he was charming but not self-revealing, a quick study but not reflective. Associates said he could be imperious, but his knightly public image became indelible.

He took root in Chicago. In 1954, he was appointed to the city’s Board of Education, and a year later became its president. In 1955, he also became president of the Catholic Interracial Council, which fought discrimination in housing, education and other aspects of city life. By 1959, he had become so prominent in civic affairs that he was being touted as a Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois in 1960.

Mr. Shriver did nothing to discourage reports that he was considering a run. But with the rest of the Kennedy clan, he joined John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. As he and other family members acknowledged later, the patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, had told him that a separate Shriver race that year would be a distraction. So he resigned from the Chicago school board and became a campaign coordinator in Wisconsin and West Virginia and a principal contact with minorities.

As the election approached, the campaign learned that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been sentenced in Georgia to four months of hard labor for what amounted to a minor traffic violation. Mr. Shriver suggested that Senator Kennedy call a distraught Coretta Scott King, who was terrified that her husband might be killed in prison. His reassuring call, and another by Robert F. Kennedy to a judge in Georgia that led to Dr. King’s release, helped produce a windfall of black support for Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy broached the idea for a volunteer corps in a speech at the University of Michigan and crystallized it as the Peace Corps in an appearance in San Francisco. Mr. Shriver, who as a young man had guided American students on work-and-learn programs in Europe, seemed a natural to initiate it.

After the inauguration, Mr. Shriver, who scouted talent for the incoming administration — people who came to be known as “the best and the brightest” — was assigned to the task of designing the Peace Corps, which was established by executive order in March 1961.

As director, he laid the foundations for what arguably became the most lasting accomplishment of the Kennedy presidency. As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary this year, more than 200,000 Americans have served as corps volunteers in 139 countries.

Break mirrors, Mr. Shriver advised graduating students at Yale in 1994. “Yes, indeed,” he said. “Shatter the glass. In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Peace Corps is my Security Blanket

When we're little, we sometimes have something that we don't go anywhere without. A stuffed animal or a blanket. These things help us get through those scary moments. Like when we're going to bed and we're not sure if mom and dad got all the monsters out from under our bed. Well, I'm a little too old to carry either around with me at all times but I don't go anywhere without my cell. PC is always just a phone call away so I guess that makes them my security blanket now. I haven't had to call them to check for monsters under my bed but I guess I'll keep them on speed dial, just in case anything monster like shows up.

There have been several news pieces recently released about the safety of volunteers in the Peace Corps. I have not been able to see all of them since I have limited internet access but I have heard enough about them to know that family and friends may now be concerned for me. This blog will let you know a bit more about how the safety and security department of PC works and how my safety has been during my time with PC. If any of you worry about my safety while I'm serving as a volunteer, hopefully this blog post will put those fears away.

Peace Corps number one concern is for the safety and security of its volunteers. So far in my 2+ years with PC, I have seen that supported with many different activities. In Albania, I was the warden of my region. The warden and alternative warden act as a liaison between PC staff and PCV's in case of an emergency. As a warden, I was called several time to check on the status of events happening in my town or surrounding area. When there were protests in my site, I was called to see if they were peaceful or turning into riots. They would also check to see if any roads were closed because of them or if they were impacting any part of my daily life. Thankfully, the protests never became riots but PC always called to check and make sure that I was safe.

Also as a warden, I was responsible for executing what is known as a communications and consolidation test. The communications test was to ensure that all PCV's in my region had access to a phone line. Not just a cell phone, as we were all issued one when we arrived in country but a landline as well. The consolidation test was to make sure that all PCV's in my region knew the best route to get from their site to mine. When volunteers first move to their site, they are required to fill out a form called the site locator. On this form, PCV's must write down the contact information for the nearest health center, police, a community member who would be able to contact you if for some reason PC can't and the number of someone with a personal car who would be able to drive you somewhere in case of an emergency. PC keeps all these on file and PCV's are required to update them when any information changes. Also on this form, PCV's must draw a map of how to get to their house in case PC ever needed to come and pick you up. This proved useful as in January of 2010 I was consolidated to Tirana because of flooding.

I remember the 2nd of January because I was at a wedding and I kept getting all of these texts from other PCV's asking me if I was staying dry. At first I thought it was just because it had been raining for what seemed like 2 months straight. Later I got a text from another PCV saying he saw the flooding in my site on the news and it looked bad. I didn't think too much about it until the next day. My safety and security manager called me to ask about the situation in my site. I hadn't been outside yet so I looked out my window and told her what I saw. She told me it looked like the flooding was starting to recede based on the reports from the US embassy but to be prepared just in case they decided to pull me out of site. About 4 hours later, my country director called me to tell me they were on their way to get me, to pack a bag and be ready to leave. I called the other PCV's that needed to be ready and we packed our bags and were picked up an hour later by PC land cruisers. The flooding ended up not affecting my site much more that a flooded river but the PCV's to the north of me were lucky they got out when they did. PC made the decision to pull us out because they found out the dam gates had not been tested since the 80's and they weren't sure they would be able to open them. The next day, they opened the dam gates, and the flooding began to recede. We stayed in the capitol for 5 days before returning to site.

As volunteers, we are taken out of our comfort zone and put into situations that not everyone can handle. The most basic example is this; being a foreigner in a small conservative town. In Albania I did not stand out. In fact, most people thought I was Albanian. Here in Morocco, I am definitely different. It doesn't matter how well I learn the language, I will never pass for Moroccan. In my site, people know I am foreign. Everyday I get "bonjour!" or other sayings in French. I also get whistled at and sometimes they will say say sexual things to me. I don't worry about my safety though. That behavior is guys being guys. There are enough people in my site that know who I am and will protect me if anything ever does go wrong. There was a man in my town that I would pass daily and we would have the basic "how are you", "I'm good thanks, how's your family?" conversation. One day he tells me he knows a guy that would be perfect for me. I tell him no thanks, I'm here to work not to find a husband. He brings it up everyday for about a week and goes to the point of telling the guy to wait for me on the street because he know's I'll walk by on my way to work. I tell my tutor about it and 2 minutes later, the entire staff of the dar chbab has him surrounded and is telling him that he is to never talk to me about men again. I've seen him one time since and he didn't go past the basic polite "how are you", "I'm fine thanks, how's your family?". So I might not like all the attention I get in my site but I do not worry about it becoming a problem.

Sometimes volunteers are in places where the unwanted attention becomes too much. They feel threatened and they no longer feel as though it is an issue that can be solved. I know of volunteers who were in a situation like that and PC moved them. Took a little time to get all the logistics worked out but those volunteers were moved as soon as possible to a better site. There are also volunteers who do not want to leave their site. Or they are at a point in their service where moving sites would not be beneficial for them or their future communities. Those volunteers are given the option to leave with the full support of PC staff. When it becomes a matter of safety, PC does not fool around.

I have never in my time with PC felt unsafe. I have had issues for sure, all volunteers do. Never has an issue gone beyond something that I, with help from my friends in community or PC staff have not been able to resolve. When I started having problems with my neighbors at my house in Albania, they helped me to move into a better location. When I was sick beyond the point of being able to get myself to a medical facility, they came and got me. When I needed help in the beginning to explain why I wasn't able to do something that I was being pressured to do, PC stepped in and explained the situation. The first few days in Morocco, we had a huge team of police watching us as we explored the city we were staying in. As of now, I haven't had any issues in Morocco (except the one guy trying to set me up but that was taken care of quickly). I know that if anything does happen, PC will be there to help me. I do not worry for my safety and I will not start worrying for my safety. PC will look out for me. My time with them has done nothing but prove that statement.

So, as you can hopefully all see, you do not need to worry about me. I have the best security blanket to keep me safe from all the scary things that I may see.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Place to Rest My Head

A look at my new apartment in Morocco. I don't know how I lucked out twice. I ended up in a very luxurious apartment in Albania and now here I am again in an amazing apartment. I must have done something very good earlier in my life :)

One half of my apartment.

Living room.



Hope you enjoyed the tour. I am ready for visitors so let me know when you're coming!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tales From a Party Bus

Sometimes you just know when you're going to have a good day. It can be because you wake up feeling refreshed or you have just enough milk to eat with your cereal or maybe you realize the shirt you want to wear isn't dirty. There are many reasons for people to just know that any particular day will be good. Today I knew it was going to be a good day when I was told to board a bus going up to the road where the king would be passing by. Not just any bus though, a party bus.

After about a week or so of people giving me different answers for when the King was going to come, where he was going to be and what exactly was the reason for his trip to the south, I woke up earlier than usual this morning to meet my host mom and her association to go to see the King. I was told to meet at her association at 9, so a few minutes after 9 I walked over. Knowing that there was no way they would leave at 9 I arrived seconds before the kids. Perfect timing, or so I thought. We then sat around for about 30 minutes while some of the kids got permission to miss the rest of the morning classes. Just before 10, we piled into a big van and drove over to the qaida (the building where the Kings' representation in Massa works). It seemed like most of the town was all gathered there. That's when I became very confused.

I knew the King wasn't coming to Mango but everyone was gathered and ready for him to pass by on the main road. I asked my host mom why everyone was there. She told me that everyone was meeting at the qaida and then we would all drive up the road together. I felt like I was back in high school going on a field trip with my entire school. Around 10:15, someone got on a blow horn and told everyone we were heading out. My host mom and I, got into a car to head back to El Kharij and meet our students. We see the van and pull over and at that exact moment, the van drives off. We get back into the same car and head back to the qaida. On the way, we saw my site mate and picked her up. At the qaida, we were directed towards a bus and I immediately became excited.

On the bus were 20 or so kids from my host mom's association with drums and cymbals. Oh yeah, it was the party bus! The entire trip we were singing and clapping and laughing. Moroccans really like to dance and they don't need much room to do it. We arrived at the corner where the King would be passing and after maneuvering the bus into a parking spot, we were directed by no less than 5 people as to where we should stand. We were put at the end of one of the barricades which was a great spot. There weren't too many people and there was a little shade for the kids who wanted to sit down. We ended up waiting for the King to pass for almost an hour. First, there was a fly over by a single helicopter, then there was a motorcade of police motorcycles and numerous shiny black cars before the King's limo and 2 more helicopters passed by.

All I can say is thank goodness this is January. We ended up waiting for the King to turn around and make pass number 2. From 12 - 2:15, we waited in the direct sun with our pictures of the King and Moroccan flags to cool us down. Luckily there were people looking out for myself and my site mate from the numerous boys and men starting at us and talking about us in French. I enjoy it when people I know give people staring at me a hard time. I wish I didn't need people to stand up for me but unfortunately in this society, staring is not rude and is just something I have to deal with. More and more people are becoming used to me in my site so its not as bad there but when I leave site it picks up. Anyways, the King made pass number two and I can safely say he was waving directly at me :D

Back to the party bus. After seeing the King pass by our corner twice, we filled back onto our party bus. The ride back to town was slightly eventful as my host dad ended up kicking a kid off the bus for inappropriate language. I was so happy to call him host dad at that moment. The rest of the trip was passed with more singing and dancing and laughing. It's always a good time on the party bus.

As for everything else, life here in Mango is going very well. I am all moved into my new apartment and am enjoying my independence. My classes are highly attended and I am seeing people on the street that I know more and more. Feels good to be back in the swing of things. My holidays were also very enjoyable and I hope that all of you had a great holiday season and that 2011 is treating you well. Look back soon for another update and more pictures!