Saturday, June 25, 2011

School's Out for the Summer!!

Summer.  As a kid, you long for the days of summer when you can sleep in, play outside all day, go to the beach, do all the things you can't do when you're stuck inside at school all day.  Summer time has arrived in Morocco and instead of me looking forward to travel plans and sleeping 14 hours a day, I have a busy schedule for the next 2 months.  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about it and happy that I won't spend my days sweating inside my house.  I'll be outside running after kids, teaching silly games and songs and sweating through every piece of clothing I own.

My first project is my VAST grant, Acting Out Awareness.  The theater group at my dar chbab and I will be traveling around to different dar chbab's presenting our AIDS awareness skit and then doing a wall mural at each as a long lasting reminder of what they learned.  The start date has been pushed back because of getting money late, exams for the kids and dar chbab's being closed but it will be done this summer!!  Now that the exams are done, the kids are back at rehearsals and getting geared up to get this show on the road!

My second project will be working at the Agadir SOS village.  For those of you who don't know what an SOS village is, it is an orphanage where kids live with a "mom".  These "mom's" come from the community and live with the kids.  They live in this family unit and do everything together.  They cook together, learn together, play together and live in the same house.  It's an amazing model and I'm really excited to work with them.  There will be several camps over the course of the summer but I will be working mainly as a coordinator between the SOS village and other volunteers.  I have a training this week and then will go and meet with the director and see what they need so I can start setting things up.

Another big plan for the summer is a month long day camp here in site.  There will be 100 kids who will meet at the dar chbab every morning at 8 for one whole month.  About 15 adults/older students will be in charge of leading them in games, arts and crafts, songs, lessons, day trips etc.  I'm slightly stressed about this one because it is EVERY DAY for a month from 8am until 6pm but I actually will only be there for the first 20 days because then I will leave for.....

SUMMER CAMP in El Jadida!!!  Along with about 17 other volunteers and approximately 80 kids, we will have a two week session with English lessons, going to the beach, games, sports etc.  I've heard many good things about summer camp in the past so I'm very excited about going.  The only problem I foresee is that our session has 5 days during Ramadan.  This means that we will sleep in until 11 or so and then stay at the beach without food or water until we break fast after the last call to prayer.  We will stay up until 1am or so after that playing sports.  Some people have said it works out well and others have said it's not too good.  We'll see how it goes.

As for Ramadan, I plan on trying to fast for the first week to see if I can do it.  If I can do it without dying, I will continue to do it.  I'm looking forward to breaking fast for the first time.  I'm not so excited about not being able to drink water.  If anything, I might bend the rules a little and sneak water during the day.  I'm sure it will be ok.  Muslims have been doing this for hundreds of years without too much difficulty so I should be able to do it for a few weeks right?   I'll let you all know how it goes.

Anyway, those are most of my plans for what's turning out to be a ridiculously hot summer.  I hope everyone reading this is enjoying their summer up to this point (especially those of you with a/c!).  Keep your eyes open for updates and pictures that will be coming soon!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Look at my Dad(s)

Most people spend their lives only knowing one father.  Some people will know two.  I am luckier than most because I have four.  This Father's Day I want to take a look at these four men who have made an impact on my life and thank them for all they have done for me.

My third day in Albania, I walked into a small apartment in the town of Cerrik and was welcomed by my host mother, Vushje.  Later that night I met my host father, Mesiti.  Mesiti had two sons who were around my age and I wasn't sure how he would feel about becoming a host dad to a 21 year old American girl.  To my luck, he greeted me with a big smile and a firm handshake.  Over the next three months, Mesiti became my protector, my teacher and my Albanian dad.  Even though I would pretend to be frustrated when he corrected all my grammar mistakes, I secretly loved that he pushed me to be better than I was.  We went for walks every night with my host mom and he would teach me vocabulary using our walks as a teaching tool.  I looked forward to those walks and showing him what I had learned that day in class or using words he had taught me the day before.  One night we visited a family friend and the man was asking Mesiti about his two sons.  Mesiti answered him, "My sons are doing well and my daughter is my pride."  At first I didn't understand what he had said but then he repeated it and I caught the last word.  It was then that I truly felt that Mesiti had accepted me as his daughter.  Those first few months were challenging and difficult but having Mesiti as my host dad made them much more enjoyable and I enjoyed visiting a few times during my service.  Happy Father's Day Mesiti!!!

My second unofficial host dad in Albania was a huge reason why I was so successful during my two years.  I saw Nikolla almost every day during my time in Lezhe.  Sometimes it would be for a coffee in the afternoon, usually we had lunch together and a few times it was just to warm up in front of his space heater at his pharmacy during the cold winter months.  As soon as I would see Nikolla, he would get a huge smile on his face which would make me smile.  Whenever I needed information or help, Nikolla would introduce me to the right person or help me himself if he could.  Nikolla also had two sons around my age as well and we always joked that I was his daughter with his American mistress.  People in town would refer to me as Nikolla's daughter.  Even his sons would call me "sis".  I loved being invited to all the family functions and being part of their life stories.  Nikolla helped show me real Albanian culture at it's finest and I in return liked introducing Nikolla to all my visitors.  We spent many afternoons teaching people to dance or showing people around town.  I still talk to Nikolla through his wife on Facebook some days and I'm anxious to go back and visit.  Happy Father's Day Nikolla!!!

Nikolla and me on my 23rd Birthday

My second host family in Morocco introduced me to L'Ichem.  I was intimidated at first by L'Ichem because he was a moqqadem or a local mayor.  My intimidation turned out to be unnecessary because L'Ichem already had three daughters and was more than willing to welcome a fourth into his house.  His eldest had already married and I guess I was a type of replacement.  Because of his job, L'Ichem wasn't home a lot.  He left early in the morning, came home for lunch, went back to work, came home for tea, then went out again until dinner.  The times when he was home he would always ask me how things were going and if he could help me with anything.  He was also patient and understood my baby Darija very well.  One day, the King was coming to a town nearby so everyone in my town traveled over by the bus load.  Everything went well on the way there and as we waited for the King to drive by.  On the bus on the way back, a boy was saying inappropriate things towards myself and another girl on the bus.  My host dad was so angry with him, he kicked him off the bus on the side of the street in the middle of nowhere!!  Needless to say he had my back.  It was nice to know he was just as protective of me as his was of his own daughters.  I still see L'Ichem a lot on the street and I've been back to the house for tea and he is still just as nice as ever.  Happy Father's Day L'Ichem!!!

As is tradition, I have saved the best for last.  My very own 100% biological father is my favorite Dad of all time.  He has been there for me over the past 24 years and has let me do many things that some dad's never would of.  Some of my favorite memories include, putting barrettes into his hair when I was little,  going to the beach in the summer, Girl Scout Father Daughter Dance in Elementary school, walking away embarrassed from him doing "I'm too sexy" in a public area, and going to Chicago for a day of fun, just to name a few.  I may be too big now to stand on your feet when we dance but I'll always be your little girl.  I love you so much and I can't wait to see you when I come home.  Happy Father's Day Dad!!!

Dad feeding me when I was just a itty bitty baby.

I may be grown up now but I'm still his little girl.

So for all of you still reading, I encourage you to pick up the phone and call your father's and let them know how important they are for you.  For those of you far away from your dad, send an email, get on skype, send a message somehow to let them know you're thinking about them.  Many of us wouldn't be who we are today if it wasn't for our dad's.