Sunday, March 27, 2011


This.Is.Africa. A few weeks ago I re-watched the movie "Blood Diamond". If you haven't seen it, make an effort to watch it. The movie itself is amazing. Anyway, there is a line that they use frequently and it is "TIA" or "this is Africa". I personally love it and now use it a lot in my daily life. I want to share with all of you some of the more memorable "TIA" moments.

Transportation. One of the most confusing and sometimes irritating thing that you have to deal with on a daily basis. Let's say you go to the bus station (or bus stop) and know that a bus is supposed to leave at 11:00. When you get there you find out there is no bus at 11:00 and the next one is at 3:30. You wait around until 3:30 and still no bus. You ask again if the bus is coming. You're told yes the bus is coming but is late. You wait and wait and wait and finally the bus shows up at 5:00 but it takes an hour long break so the driver can eat dinner and drink tea before finally leaving at 6:00. Then you get on the bus to find out that there are some chickens a few seats in front of you. As you're about to pull away from the bus station (or bus stop) a man runs up with 3 sheep and you watch as he and the bus driver put them in the luggage compartment under the bus. This time you successfully leave the bus station (or bus stop) and along the way to your destination you make frequent stops picking people up at random spots along the road and dropping people off in what seems like the middle of nowhere. The entire time you think to yourself "TIA".

In Morocco, grand taxis are another common form of transportation. A grand taxi is an old Mercedes Benz so you think, "Ok, I'll be traveling with 4 other people." This logic is wrong. A grand taxi will leave when there are two people sitting in the front (with the driver) and 4 people in the back. This can be fine when the 4 people in the back are nice and small and don't have hips to speak of. However, usually you will be in the back with three other large and very hippy Berber women. When it's a short taxi ride it's kinda nice to be squished in the back but on the longer taxi rides it becomes very uncomfortable. When in the front, if you are next to the driver you also have to deal with the stick every time he shifts. No matter what the case is when you bump along with the grand taxi, you would be right to think, "TIA".

Culture. This is where "TIA" can be used in the best possible meaning. When you are invited to someone's house and you are served the biggest meatiest piece of meat. You'll be offered the best seat and you will not be required to lift a finger. Do you need a refill on your tea? No problem, you can drink as much tea as you like. Take more bread! Eat, eat, eat!! As a visitor you will be pampered and treated with more respect then you ever think you will get. TIA.

Many countries in Africa have a very relaxed and what Americans would consider a slow-paced culture. If you ask for directions somewhere, they will probably know where you need to go but wouldn't you first like to drink some tea?? You may have a business meeting and before you start, drink some tea together and talk about your families. After your business is finished, have some more tea. Workers in the fields have to work under a very hot sun so it's common to see they laying under a nice big tree at midday. Class may start at 5 and go until 7. You may finally start class around 5:30 and when you finish your students will stick around to chat or they will ask you to keep teaching. Time is a guideline but not a code. Things will start when they start and end when they end. TIA.

Landscape. It's amazing how many different landscapes you can drive through in one day. If you start in the lush mountainous region by the afternoon you can be in the flat desert. Or you may continue on through the flat desert and come upon a hilly desert filled with small oasises. Maybe as your driving along you will notice a change in the animals you see as well. In the mountains you will see more sheep and goats whereas in the desert you will see goats and camels. For awhile you may think you're hallucinating but no, there really are goats in the trees! Keep your eyes open or you'll miss the change from one region to the next. TIA.

Food. When you go to the market and buy all your vegetables for a week for less than $5 you may think you calculated wrong but no, you really did only spend $4. When you want to buy a chicken you go to the butcher. The butcher then proceeds to grad an alive chicken and cuts its head off and then hands it to you in a plastic bag. Another normal thing to see daily is the hanging bodies of several different types of animals along with heads, feet and *cough* other body parts at the butcher counter. The eggs you buy will have bird poop on them and maybe some feathers. You know it's all fresh at least. TIA.

There are so many things that I see or watch happen that I can't do anything but think to myself "TIA". It is my new mantra and for those of you who are also in Africa, I encourage you to use it. Not only does it make me remember where I am but it makes me grateful for this experience. TIA people, TIA.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Would You Do If....

There have been several large events in the world as of late that have grabbed the world's attention. Even so, I doubt that many people really can understand the impact that these events have had on millions of people's lives. For most people in America, you cannot imagine what would become of your daily life if all of a sudden every time you walked out on the street there was a deadly protest going on. With the exception of California, can you even begin to think about the aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake? What about a nuclear explosion? Even with these large events at the top of every major media publication, there are so many other things that happen on a daily basis to a large number of people that I doubt many people would be prepared for. With that said I would like to question what you would do given a certain circumstance.

Circumstance #1
You are fisherman in a small village in Africa. To your name you have, a small hut, a small boat, a fish net, a sharp knife and your health. Now imagine that one day your net is torn by a neighbor's hungry goat. That net is your livelihood. Without the net you cannot fish and without fish you do not eat nor do you earn any money. What would you do???

Circumstance #2
You are a farmer in a small mountainous town in Eastern Europe. In your possession you have, a house, a donkey, two chickens, 1/2 acre of land, a shovel, a spade and a wheelbarrow. What would you do if one summer there is no rain?? The closest water source is a well a mile away. You do not have an advanced irrigation system to use. All you have are your tools and yourself. How will you ensure that your crop survives enabling you to eat for another year??

Circumstance #3
You are a scavenger in a small impoverished nation. The more you can collect means more food for you and your family. Currently your system of collecting means gathering as much as you can in your arms, transporting it to your house and then going out again. One day, another scavenger comes along and has a donkey cart. He starts collecting four times as much as you do in a day and you see your profits slowly dwindle. How will you change your system so that you can still provide for your family??

Circumstance #4
You are a teenager in America. One day the power goes out you cannot watch t.v., call your friends, or check your email. What would you do all day???

One reason why I wanted to join PC was to gain a new perspective in life. My life in Chicago was hectic and even though I thrived on that pace there was never time to just relax. So many Americans don't appreciate the little things in life. For example, a readily available public and national transportation system. When you need to go from city to city, you know what type of transportation you can take, when it is available and what the cost is. If something runs 10 minutes late, it's the end of the world! Try living in a country where you never know what type of transportation you will need to take to get to your destination, waiting around all day for it to leave because there is no set time table and paying a different price every time. This is life for numerous residents in third world countries.

The first goal of PC is to train men and women in interested countries. I believe that part of this training is awareness. Awareness is a two-way street. If so many people are looking at ways to change and improve their cultures then why can't America take a look at other cultures and see the possibilities?? So these are my questions to you. Take a minute and think about the above scenarios. Would you be ready to handle any one of those situations?? What would you do if one of them happened to you??

Friday, March 18, 2011

Girl Power and Wisdom

Well this past week has been another one of those weeks. Good days, productive days, painful days and lounging around days. Just a typical week in the life of a PCV.

This past weekend in Agadir I attended a Women's Wellness Conference hosted by several second year health volunteers. Even though I wasn't able to bring any women from my site this time because of time conflicts, I feel as though I learned a lot. I feel as though the women really gained a lot of useful information and skills over the 2 days. Some of the sessions included leadership, health, community planning and beauty. The event itself was a training of trainers. Now, hopefully, the women will take everything they learned back to their communities. In a few months, we will try to bring everyone together to discuss what they were able to do in their communities. Through the event I have also learned of an amazing organization in Agadir who I hope to work with in the future.

On Sunday I stayed in Agadir for a night of fun with a few other volunteers before heading up to Rabat to have my last wisdom tooth removed. Of course it started to rain like crazy on Saturday so traveling was not easy. My bus to Marrakech was delayed so I only had time to pick up a few snacks for the train to Rabat. Luckily the rain stopped long enough for me to walk from the train station in Rabat to the hotel. Tuesday morning I walked over to the dentist (in the rain) and waited for my name to be called. Now for those of you who know me, you know what happened when I had the other 3 wisdom teeth removed. A quick note for those of you who do not, they were removed in Thailand under local anesthesia and it wasn't pretty. Back to this tooth. The dentist gave me more local anesthesia and after only about 5 minutes picked up the scalpel to which I screamed and said, "WAIT! I can still feel everything!" He assured me it would be fine. He began the procedure and he was right. I didn't feel anything. I could hear everything though which was worse. For those of you who don't know what bone crunching sounds like, be thankful. It took about 35 minutes for him to pry my tooth out. It wasn't so bad but I was in tears none-the-less. He stitched me up and sent me on my way.

I left the dentist office and thankfully it had stopped raining again. I made it back to the hotel and after sending my parents a quick email telling them I was still alive, crashed for the day. I was able to get down some ice cream in the evening but that was about it. I had to wait about 6 hours for PC to get me my meds so the one dose of codeine I had wasn't enough. I was in so much pain by the time my meds got to me. PC called the hotel and told them to bring me some ice (twice) but I never got any. The next morning I woke up and my face was more swollen then after the procedure. The pain was a bit better though. In the afternoon I made it to the PC office to fill out paperwork and schedule to have my stitches taken out. They also graciously gave me ice to bring the swelling down a little.

On Thursday, a full 42 hours after my tooth was pulled, I was on the road back to my site. The full day of travel was not great but it could have been much much much worse. I left Rabat about 9 in the morning and finally walked in my door at about 8:15pm. Needless to say, I crashed again last night. The swelling has gone down and the pain is getting better little by little. I will head up to Rabat next Tuesday to have the stitches taken out.

Another memorable week in my PC service. I am going to try my hardest to forget the sound of the dentist breaking into my jaw to get my tooth out but other than that, not too bad. Here's hoping I'm all healed by the middle of next week! Oh and I guess my 6 month anniversary of arriving in Morocco came and went but all the same, Congrats to everyone in my staaj for making it 6 months!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

One of Those PCV Moments

Every so often as a PCV, you experience a moment that makes you proud to be a PCV. Sometimes that moment is an activity that you've worked on for months and sometimes its a student finally showing he/she understands something you taught him/her. These moments can be frequent or far and few between. When you have one of these moments, you can't help but smile and think of how happy you are that you joined PC. I had a moment that did just that yesterday.

My site-mate, Beth, had been planning a trip to the beach with her D.C. Since we are trying to get our D.C's to do things together, she invited me and my kids. After class on Saturday I told them that if they wanted to come to the beach that they were welcome to go with me. Six of my kids were very excited and said that they would love to go. Sunday morning I woke excited for a day at the beach and a chance to get to know a few of my kids better.

Around 7:40, my kids and I met up at the taxi stand to drive over to Beth's D.C. Now even though we decided to leave at 8, we left at about 8:30 (within Moroccan time standards). The walk to the beach is fairly long, approximately 7 km. We only took one break once we reached the bird park. About 10:30 we arrived at the beach and the fun began. A few kids started to play soccer right away and a few sat down to rest a bit after our long walk. Being one of the ones who sat down first, we were talking and as we looked around the beach realized the high tide washed up a lot of trash. My tutor, being the amazing motivated person he is, said "hey why don't we clean up the trash?" I wanted to cry I was so happy.

We went around telling all the kids we were going to clean up the beach and without telling them they had to help, they all joined us! We cleaned a good section of beach. Maybe about half a mile. The two men who had been initially cleaning the trash were very happy with our help. Cleaning up all that trash at the recommendation of a Moroccan, with the help of Moroccan youth, without them being told to, was one of those moments where I stopped and thought, "These kids are going to do great things". At the same time, I thought about how happy I am that I can help them in any way. It was a moment that made me truly happy to be here working with youth.

The beach clean-up lasted for about 45 minutes and then it was time for more fun. We played soccer, ultimate frisbee and volleyball. In true competition style, we had a Beth's D.C. vs. Leslie's D.C. volleyball game and ultimate frisbee game. Now I stick to the fact that we lost because we only had 6 players next to Beth's 15. Next time Beth!! It was great to interact with the kids in an informal setting and see their true personalities come out. Two of my shy boys really took charge during the games. I look forward to going to the beach with them again.

Yesterday was a day that reminds me of why I'm here and why I wanted to do PC a second time. Somedays are really tough. You question what impact you can have on your community and what skills you can pass on to others. Then there are days like yesterday, when you remember why you're here and can't imagine leaving. Days like yesterday can't be planned. They are spontaneous and happen when someone you know decides to surprise you. The longer I am a PCV, the more frequently they seem to come. Inshallah this means that my last year they will happen everyday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

2 Years in 2 Bags: PC Morocco Packing List

It's hard to believe that in about 2 weeks a new group of bright eyed and energetic volunteers will arrive in Morocco. Just about six months ago I was sitting in my room thinking, "Hmm, maybe I should pack." I waited until the last minute to get stuff together for PC Morocco and I know that's not how many of the new volunteers are preparing so here is a packing list that will have you prepared for the next two years. Just to keep in mind as you read this list, I am a female volunteer living in the south of Morocco in a small conservative town. Also, a big shout out to Beth Cuddy who made the original list!!!

Let's start with the basics. PC allots you two bags which is also what the airline will allow. Do not worry about dimensions but do keep in mind weight. Neither piece of luggage should weigh more than 50 pounds. If it does, YOU will be required to pay the airline fee. Here in PC Morocco, you are only allowed to take one bag to your host family during PST. The other bag will be kept at your HUB site (don't worry it will be in a locked room and it will be safe). You will be able to access the 2nd bag when you are at HUB (every 2 weeks or so) but as you pack try to get what you will need for the first 3 months into one bag. Here are my suggestions:
-Large suitcase with wheels. This is where you should put most of your heavier or bulkier items. I suggest packing this to the whole 50 pound limit. I would also recommend packing this bag to be the one you leave at HUB. Things that you are bringing that you will not need right away should be packed into this bag.
-Hiking backpack. If you don't have one, it is worth the investment. Not only is it easier to travel with a hiking backpack (not all roads are paved!) it will prevent you from packing too much. Even though it can weigh up to 50 pounds, remember you will have to carry it across the country so don't over pack it.
-Regular backpack. This will work as your carry-on on the plane and will be useful for one to two night trips in country. Also extremely useful when carrying things back and forth between your CBT and HUB.
-Shoulder bag/Laptop Bag/Briefcase. For us girls, a larger "mom" type purse is great. Not only are you able to stuff it full of travel essentials, you can practically live out of it for a day or two if you need to. I recommend a purse with a lot of pockets and zippers. Pockets to keep everything organized and zippers to prevent theft. The Laptop bag can also work great during your time in Morocco. You'll take your computer most places and if you have a nicer laptop bag, you can fit misc. other items into it. Guys, a briefcase also will help you out during your 2 years here. Just make sure that it has a top closure in case of rain and to prevent theft.

Clothing is the hardest thing to pack. You are not sure whether you will end up in the cold mountains or the hot desert. Will you be in a liberal or a conservative town? There are many variables that determine the type of clothing you should pack but as PC does not tell you all these things until you're several weeks in country, let me give you some hints. First off, PC stresses business casual on their packing list but if you ask any serving PCV's, leave it at home! Also, keep in mind you will most likely be hand washing so bring heavy duty clothes that will be able to take the wear and tear. The Moroccan sun is going to fade the colors fast so don't bring any red shirts that you won't wear once they turn pink. Also, ladies, as a general rule, you want your shirts to cover your shoulders, back and butt. I can't stress enough how wonderful the vacuum seal bags are! Make sure to invest in the ones you roll instead of the ones you need a vacuum for. Be careful if you use them to not get carried away. Just because you can fit more stuff in your suitcase when using them doesn't mean you should. For more specific tips, keep reading.
-Business casual. Don't bring too many business casual clothes. Most people work in jeans and t-shirts. Bring a nice outfit for when you arrive in country and something for swearing-in. This outfit will only be worn for the few and far between "special" occasions you have. Remember that what you bring you will be washing by hand (most likely).
-Jackets. Morocco is extremely cold in some areas. I recommend packing a heavy one and also a lighter one. I brought a Columbia with a zipper out fleece. Fleece is perfect for the cold desert nights.
-Sweaters. Keep in mind you don't know if you will spend the next two years in the mountains or the desert so I would recommend bringing at least one sweater. You'll wear it no matter where you end up.
-Lightweight cardigans. Ladies, these are crucial!! I only brought one lightweight cardigan and I live in it! Many women end up in conservative towns where they need to cover their arms and back. For those who end up in the hot south in a conservative town, they will save you in the summer. I recommend at least two basic cardigans that you can wear with just about any shirt you bring. The longer the better.
-Long sleeved shirts. These are great. Bring a few that are heavy and a few light ones. Just keep in mind the length. Make sure they cover your back when you sit down.
-Short-sleeved shirts. Not only are these great to sleep in and work out in, but they are great to layer with a cardigan or a long sleeved shirt. Don't bring anything too fancy as you will most likely will be hand washing and the strong Moroccan sun will fade the colors quickly.
-Tank top. Perfect for layering in the winter or great to pair with a cardigan in the summer. You will also live in them when you are alone in your house.
-Dressy Tops. Just because you're a PCV doesn't mean you won't want to look cute when you travel or when you meet up with other PCV's in one of the larger cities.
-Pants. Jeans are the best followed by khakis. Bring good quality ones because you will be walking a lot and, again, hand washing really takes its toll on clothes after a few months. PCV's also go through weight loss and weight gain every few months.
-Leggings. Bring a pair or two to wear around the house or under a skirt that is a little too short to be appropriate.
-Skirts. Be very careful about the skirts you pack. Shorter ones you will not be able to wear often but will be great when you travel. Longer loose skirts are great for those hot summer days when the thought of wearing jeans makes you sweat more.
-Dresses. Same advice as for skirts. Bring longer, flowy dresses. Don't forget a fun dress that you can wear when you're in one of the larger cities or traveling.
-Lounge wear. Bring a pair of sweatpants for in the winter and some shorts to wear around the house. Girls, you will most likely not be able to wear shorts outside but you will still want to bring at least one pair.
-Bathing suit. Remember you are coming to a conservative Muslim country but you will have the opportunity to go swimming both in country and when you travel. Ladies, you will most likely need to wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit when you go swimming in Morocco.
-Belt. One that you can wear with anything. Ladies, weight will change on a weekly basis. Guys tend to lose weight during the first few months and girls tend to gain during the first few months. Keep that in mind when you're packing pants as well.
-Underwear/Bras. Ladies, leave the lacy underthings at home. They won't last long if you end up needed to hand wash or if you have a washing machine. Everyone will also see your underwear when you hang them out to dry so try to keep it PG.
-Socks. You will want some normal pairs and a pair or two of thick ones for the cold nights.
-Scarves. A great way to keep your neck warm. Many women end up in sights where they need to wear their hair up and a scarf will ensure your neck stays warm if your hair can't. Also a great way to cover your chest if one of your shirts is a little revealing.
-Gloves. One fingerless pair will be your best friend on those cold nights when you're trying to type up a report or a lesson. They also are handy while cooking.
-Hats. Morocco has a lot of sun. If you sunburn easily, make sure to bring one. There will be many opportunities for hikes and long walks and unless you want to keep applying sunscreen, a hat will save your face from everyday sunburn. A heavy winter hat will also come in handy for the cold winter nights. My advice, bring a winter hat that you can sleep in comfortably.

This was a challenge for me as I'm a shoeaholic but in the long run you want to bring functional not fashionable. Remember that shoes take up a lot of room and can also add lots of extra pounds to your suitcase. Bring a few pairs that will get you through any situation and leave the cute heels at home.
-Tennis shoes. You will be walking a lot! Also great for when it's raining or you're going on a hike.
-Sandals. I recommend a pair of Keene's or Teva's. Also perfect for those long hikes you'll be taking. Also appropriate for those rainy days.
-Dress shoes. One pair is plenty. Morocco will destroy nice shoes fast so don't bring a pair you want to keep. You will only really need these for special occasions or when you're out on the town.
-Boots. They do take up room so my suggestion is to buy one pair of nice hiking boots to use as both tennis shoes and boots.
-Everyday shoes. Everyone has their own preference. I walk around everyday in a pair of Rainbow flip flops. Just remember that it is dusty here and white shoes do not do well.

Personal Items
Just about anything you want you will be able to buy in country. Many PCV's bring enough shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and toothpaste for 2 years but let me tell you, don't waste the luggage room! Bring some small travel sizes to get you through the first few days and leave the rest behind. You will have time to get anything you need and PC gives you money so you'll be able to buy anything you need. More details below!
-Shampoo, soap, Q-tips, lotion, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toothpaste etc. I suggest buying a travel size bottle of all these items. It will be enough to get you through the first few days and you can buy all these items in country. Many name brands you may like from America you can find here. Save yourself the room and just bring some small ones to start with.
-Razors. Bring one or two. You can buy razors here but if you have sensitive skin, I recommend bringing your own supply. Most of the ones you will find here are the cheap disposables.
-Face Wash. Not many brands are available here and its expensive. Also, most of them are for normal skin. If you have oily, or dry skin, you will want to make sure you come prepared!-Makeup. You won't wear it that often but it can be hard to find good quality makeup in country. If you have a favorite, bring it with you.
-SPF face lotion. Peace Corps will provide you with sunscreen but if you have fair skin or extremely sensitive skin, you may want to bring your own higher SPF face lotion.
-Hand sanitizer. This will save your life on a daily basis. I recommend the small bottles you can buy at Bath & Body Works. Also get the handy holder that you can attach to your purse or backpack.
-Tampons and Sanitary Pads. Everyone has their own preference again. You won't find tampons often in country but if you are ok with pads, just bring a few. Another option is the Diva cup but not everyone likes it so if you are going to bring it, make sure you try it at home first.
-Chapstick. Bring your favorite. Peace Corps will provide you with a stick of chapstick but after that you are on your own.
-Deodorant. The most common type in Morocco is roll-on so if you are ok with that only bring a stick. If you need a heavy duty deodorant make sure to bring a supply for 2 years because you won't find that here.
-Manicure/Pedicure tools. A small kit if you want them but you can buy them all here. Don't bother bringing polish as you can buy it here but you probably won't wear it too often.
-Towel. I recommend bringing a small camping microfiber towel. Not only will it be easier to pack but you can buy a regular towel in country. Also dries much faster so easier to use when traveling.

The following is a list of everything else you may want to bring with you. The closer it is to the top, the more I recommend making room for it!
-Sleeping bag. You will definitely want to bring one! Great for when visiting other PCV's and for those extremely cold nights.
-Small Duffel. Pack an empty one into one of your bags. PC gives you tons of books during training and expects you to find room for them. The duffel will be the space you need.
-Camera. Make it clear from the beginning that no one is to use it without your permission! Also, make sure to insure it as camera damage is almost a guarantee and if you're traveling, theft is always possible.
-Laptop. This will be your best friend for the next two years. Make sure to install good anti-virus protection. If you have an extra battery for it, bring it. You never know how long the power will be out in some situations and batteries tend to go bad here.
-Flash drive and external hard drive. The flash drive is handy and the external you'll need to store movies and tv shows that you download to pass time. Make the investment if you don't already have one!
-iPod. You have many long trips ahead of you and you will want your music. Also great for those days you just don't want to talk to anybody when you're walking around.
-Water bottle. Bring a durable one because it will get beat up over your time here.
-Swiss Army Knife or similar product. Useful on a daily basis. I have the small keychain version which works very well. Just make sure to put it into your checked luggage when traveling or it will be taken away!
-Umbrella. A small sturdy one (Totes is a good brand). The ones you can buy here will break in a day.
-Luggage locks. Bring at least two. You will want to use one on your bag that you leave at HUB and you may want to use one on the bag you leave at your host family. Most people do not have any issues with their host family but just in case.
-Keychain flashlight. It will save your life on many occasions. Many streets are not lit so it makes walking home at night that much safer (look out for that hole!).
-Adapter. There are some bulky ones out there that are too heavy and fall out of the wall so spend the extra money and get a good one. You'll be thankful you did. DO NOT buy the Target brand one. It is the perfect example of big and bulky and will cause you more stress than help you.
-Favorite spices. I brought taco seasoning, cinnamon and Mrs. Dash. Other ones you want you can have shipped later.
-Flashlight. Power goes out every once in awhile so it comes in handy.
-Travel alarm clock. I usually just use the alarm on my phone but if you need the extra push to get up in the morning, I would bring a battery operated one.
-A durable folder or binder. You'll get a lot of papers during PST and you need someplace to put them all.
-Duct tape. You'll be glad you brought it. Moroccan tape is terrible so it really helps when hanging posters.
-Art Supplies. I brought some sharpies which are great when making posters and also some crayola markers. Other suggestions would be colored pencils and crayons.
-Jewelry and sunglasses. Nothing to flashy but some to keep you happy.
-Map of Morocco. Be careful if it shows the Sahara separately, Moroccans will get into a heated argument with you over it.
-Batteries. Easily purchased in Morocco but just a few to get you through the first few months.
-Pictures. Your host family will want to know about you and your family so pictures are a great way to break the ice on the first night. Ladies, be careful not to bring too many of you with many different boys. It is not common for girls to have multiple guy friends.
-Ziplock bags. Assorted sizes. They help when traveling with liquids and when trying to share your homemade American food with Moroccans.
-Playing cards. They are great to help pass time and you Moroccan youth will love to play too.
-Bananagrams. This is a great way to make sure you don't forget your English and its a fun game to play with Moroccan youth and other PCV's!
-Gifts for host families. Some ideas: postcards of your city in America, a calendar, coloring books, picture frames, table runner, American candy, bring something to cook for them, lotion, candles etc...

If There's Room Left,,,
These are things I would only worry about if you still have room left in your luggage (or can spare a few more pounds!). Don't worry if you don't get them in there, you can easily get these things or substitute items in country.
-Small sewing kit. Things will tear, buttons will fall off, just some essentials to keep your clothes in decent shape.
Plastic flip flops. You want these to shower in and they are great for around the house. You can purchase them in country for about $2 so don't worry if they don't fit.
-Slippers. You can get them here for cheap as well.
-Traveler's Guide to Morocco. You are here to work, but you're going to have time to play too!
-Screwdriver for glasses. You don't want to have to buy new ones every time yours fall apart.
-Reusable tote bags. Great for carrying around groceries. Also a great way to show Moroccans they don't need a plastic bag for every item they purchase. You can find them just about anywhere nowadays but I prefer the ones that fold up real small so that I can stick them in my purse until I need them.
-Journal. You're about to embark on an amazing journey. You're going to want to document.
-Frisbee. Great game to play with Moroccan kids.
-Oven mitt. You won't find them here and you don't want to keep replacing burnt hand towels.
-Measuring cups and spoons. If you plan on cooking over here, its all in metric and you won't find measuring cups and spoons easily. I brought collapsible silicon measuring cups and magnetic measuring spoons.
-Silicone muffin pan. I like cooking and muffin pans are as one Moroccan put it, "crazy technology".
-Address book. Or some type of thing to keep everyone's addresses so you can keep in touch.
-Loofah. You can buy an equivalent here but its nice to have one to get you started.
-Movies. If you have any favorites, bring them with. I suggest downloading them and bringing them on an external but if that's not possible, bring the DVD's.
-Cookbook. If you have any favorite recipes, I suggest typing them into a Word Doc to save yourself the room.

Leave at Home
If you have these things in your bags, take them out and put other things in!! You want to make sure you can pack the best things for your next 2 years!
-Dressy clothes. As I said earlier, you only need one or two dressy outfits. Everything else leave at home.
General medical supplies. Peace Corps will supply you with all the general supplies. Bring 3 months worth of your prescription drugs and then PC will supply you with those as well.
-Books. Don't bring too many as there is a PC library and PCV's share books. I recommend bringing a Kindle or a Nook. It's great to have hundreds of books at your fingertips and much easier to travel with.
-Kitchen tools. Except for the ones I mentioned above, leave them at home. You can buy almost everything else here. Including coffee presses and coffee makers.
-Cookbook. As I stated before, type up your favorites. PC will also give you a PCV cookbook which is great.
-Sleeping pad. You're in the Peace Corps!! We all have back problems but that's what massages are for.
-Dictionary. Peace Corps will give you one.
-Sheets. You can buy them here and you won't need them for awhile.
-CDs and DVDs. Put everything onto your computer or an external. You'll save tons of room.
-Hairdryer or straightener. Buy them here so you don't have to worry about power conversion.

Well I hope this helps all of you out there that are about to arrive in Morocco. Don't stress too much about packing. You'll pack things you don't need and you'll forget things that you wanted to bring. Care packages are always something to look forward too and the flat rate boxes can be sent to Morocco!! Just keep in mind, everything you bring you're going to have to carry around - a lot. It seems daunting to have to pack for 2 years in 2 bags but its not so bad. Soon enough you'll be used to wearing the same thing for three days and showering every other day or once a week. My advice, don't spend so much time packing. Spend your time with friends and family. You'll do just fine with whatever ends up making it into your bags.

See you guys in Morocco!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Anniversary Peace Corps!!

Check out the link below to see the Presidential Proclamation issued by President Obama. I am very honored that I have been able to be a part of this amazing organization. We ARE making a difference, even if we may not see it during our service.

There are several other milestones approaching in my Peace Corps service. On March 18th, it will mark 3 years since I first landed in Albania and began this whole adventure. March 16th marks 6 months for me in Morocco. I still remember when I first landed in Albania. As we were making our descent, I looked out the window and saw a donkey on the side of the runway. I remember thinking, "Where the heck am I?!" Little did I know little things like that were the reason I loved Albania so much. When we landed in Morocco I was blown away by how big the airport was. Next to Tirana, it was huge! Then there were the drives from the airports to the hub sites. I stayed awake for most of the drive in Albania but I fell asleep on the bus in Morocco. My beginnings seem like they were only yesterday and then I think about what it must have been like for the first group of PCV's to leave for their countries. So much has happened since PC was first started and there is still so much to do!

Congratulations to everyone who has served, is serving or will serve with PC. You have done/are doing/will do great things!!