Sunday, February 27, 2011


Every Peace Corps experience is different. No two volunteers will do the same things or take back the same experiences or feeling of their host country. Even one volunteer who does two services will have two completely different experiences. There is no way to determine how your experience will go but there are things that can influence how good of a service it will be. This past week at post pre-service training (PPST) I though about several of the factors that influenced my first service and are now shaping my second.

Language. One of my biggest fears when I arrived in Albania was language. PC puts all its volunteers through extensive language training. At the end of PST in Albania I was confident with where my language skills were. At site, not many people spoke English so most work was done in Albanian. My friends and I talked in Albanian and they are the ones who taught me slang and different dialects. At the end of my service in Albania, I was close to fluent.

Here in Morocco, I also had extensive language training. It is different here though because they teach us in transliteration. Meaning, I was only taught how to speak in Darija. I was not taught how to read and write Arabic script. This is also because Darija is a spoken language. When Moroccans write they use Fussah or classical Arabic. At the end of training however, I again felt fairly confident with my language skills. I have almost been in country for 6 months now and I feel as though my Darija has improved slightly but the main problem is that most people in my site speak another language; Tashalheet. Tashalheet is a Berber language. I have started to learn it but I am not even conversational yet. It will take time and I have high hopes that my language will be just as good at the end of my service here as it was in Albania.

There is a saying that I like to say to myself sometimes as a motivator; speak to a man in your language and touch his head. Speak to a man in his language and touch his heart. I truly believe that in order for me to make a positive impact on my community I should speak to them in Tashalheet. Tashalheet and Darija are much more difficult than Albanian but I have full confidence that in another six months I will be having full length conversations with people in taxis and on the bus. I am really looking forward to it.

Another key factor in how your service in PC goes. In Albania, I was able to blend in as an Albanian. When I was able to speak the language well, that also helped. Many people would start conversations with me in Albania and would not know that I was American until I asked them to repeat a word I didn't understand. Being able to blend into my community also lowered the amount of harassment I received. After the first few weeks in site, everyone knew who I was and what I was doing in their town. The joke was that I was the celebrity of Lezha.

Here in Morocco, there is not a chance that I will ever be mistaken for Moroccan. My skin is too light and my eyes are too green. Even if I wrapped my head or wore a lizar, people would know by looking at my freckles and green eyes that I do not come from around here. At this point, my language isn't good enough for me to pretend that I am from here either. For this reason, I get a lot of unwanted attention. Boys love to yell out "bonjour!" or blow kisses to me as I walk by. I would love to say it is because I am the most beautiful girl they have ever seen but the truth is that that is how they act around foreign women. In my town it is not as common. People are starting to get to know me and I have a tutor who likes to confront people who give me any problems. While traveling this past week, I was reminded of the fact that I am an outsider. Morocco is not my home even though my site is starting to feel like it.

Flexibility. One of the most useful characteristics for a volunteer to have is flexibility. Plans change fast for volunteers whether it is a project they are working on, cultural differences or just the weather. In Albania, it took me awhile to adjust to 'Albanian time'. Here in Morocco, people run on 'Moroccan time' which is very similar to 'Albanian time'. I have seen how hard it has been to adjust for some of my fellow volunteers and it reminds me of the trouble I had in Albania. I remember several times going to a meeting at a cafe on time and waiting for 30 minutes for the other person, or people, to arrive. I am going to start a new rule with my students, if you're 10 minutes late, you're not coming to class. I'll let you know how it goes.

Cultural differences are huge between American culture and most countries where PCV's serve. Some differences that are the most challenging are, waiting until the last minute to finish a project or not finishing a project until after the due date. Due dates are always being moved around. The new d.c. in my site has been finished for a year and a half and it sits unused. Just today, I found out it is finally going to open this week. Only a year and a half behind schedule, whoo hoo!! Things like this are the norm here and being able to 'just go with the flow' has been an incredibly valuable skill to have. In Albania, I was at the end of my string several times because of deadlines not being met or due dates being moved back. I'm not sure how I'll handle re-integrating into the American workplace but I'll worry about that later.

Weather can be a big factor on how your PC experience goes. If you're from Wisconsin where you are used to frigid winters and mild summers, being sent to live in the desert for two years can be extremely challenging. Especially when you're required to be fully covered in the 120+ heat. Same goes for people who are used to hot weather and are placed in the mountains where it doesn't get much hotter than 70 on a good summer day. Another factor is rain. In America nothing closes because of a little rain. Only when we have floods are things interrupted. Outside America, a little rain can be devastating. Things might close because there isn't a full roof or the roof leaks or the power goes out when it rains. There are so many things that the weather can have an impact on and your PC experience is definitely one of them.

These are just three of the variables that I have found have made my two experiences different up to this point. There are many other reasons why they are different, politics, religion, culture, location just to name a few. Talking to my fellow PCV's at PPST reminded me of a lot of the reasons why everyone has such different experiences in PC. Another key factor is this, your PC experience is what YOU make it. If you want it to be a great experience that you will never forget, you will make sure that it is. PC has been great for me and I loved my experience in Albania and am now truly starting to appreciate my time here in Morocco. The YD program manager said this, "Don't look at challenges as a problem but instead as an opportunity." The variables I mentioned are just that, challenges that are waiting to be opportunities.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Morocco How To #1: Bucket Baths

Bucket baths can be very enjoyable if taken properly. As I was describing them to a friend back home, it became apparent that not everyone knows how to take a bucket bath let alone what a bucket bath is. I will now explain what a bucket bath is and how one should properly take one.

Introducing Layla's Moroccan How To!

Moroccan How to #1: Bucket Baths

What is is? A bucket bath is a system of cleaning ones self (or rinsing the first layer of dirt and grime off) when a shower is not present. It involves heating a kettle of water and pouring it over ones self.

Materials needed: Large bucket, small bucket(preferably one with a handle) or cup, small stool, kettle, water, shampoo, soap
Use as Needed: razor, washcloth, brush, conditioner, lotion, towel

Step 1: Heat a kettle of water. The amount of water you heat will depend on preference. For the extremely cold days, I recommend two kettles. For warmer days, one should be sufficient.

Step 2: Pour heated water into a large bucket.

Step 3: Fill rest of bucket with tap water (unheated) or well water (purified) until it reaches a comfortable temperature.

Step 4: Begin by sitting on small stool and using small bucket or cup to wet hair and body.

Step 5: Shampoo hair and soap body. This is where you may want to use the razor and washcloth. To reach all those hard to get spots, standing up will be necessary.

Step 6: Rinse using small bucket or cup.

Step 7: If needed, condition hair.

Step 8: Rinse using small bucket or cup.

Step 9: Remaining water in large bucket can be used at your discretion. I like to pour it over my head because then I feel like I'm taking a shower.

Step 10: Towel dry or if no towel is present, air dry. Use lotion and brush as necessary.

You're done!

I hope this 'how to' has clarified what a bucket bath is and how to enjoy one. Next time on Layla's Moroccan How to: how to wrap a lizar. If you've enjoyed this 'how to', let me know and stay tuned for more!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Not having a television and a meteorologist to tell me what weather would be like, I was unprepared for the weather I would be facing when I left my apartment the other day. I had heard from other people that the weather had become disastrous back home in America. Where I am, I knew that it wouldn't be the same as what my friends and family were preparing for but I had a feeling it would be bad. I prepared for the worst and I braced myself for whatever laid outside my door.

This is what I walked out into.......

No one could have prepared me for this type of bombardment of sun! If I had known I would have put on sunblock! I would have worn lighter clothes! Instead, I ended up walking around, picking up color every second, waiting for the breeze to cool me down just a little and wishing I had brought my water bottle. It was horrible. Where was the meteorologist to tell me that it would be this sunny?? Why didn't he warn me it would be this hot?? Meteorologists of the world, you have failed me. It has been like this now for a long time. I ask you, when will I get a reprieve?

This weather has been so bad that other people in my town have started referring to it as a sunpocalypse. It's the beginning of the end. I only hope that all of you, my friends and family, are doing well and are staying inside where you are safe from the pounding sun.