Sunday, September 30, 2012

So the Journey Continues... in America.

I made it through the last few days of my PC service and arrived safely home.  For the past two months, I've been trying to catch up with friends and family, eat all sorts of delicious food, learn about American culture and get my life in order.  It's not always easy.  Somedays I really miss PC and my life overseas. Other days I'm overwhelmed by America and astounded by how easy life is here.  Here's just a few of the adjustments I've been going through over the past two months:

-Speaking English all the time....  no random Darija or Albanian because people look at like I'm crazy when I throw out a 'zwin', 'mskin', 'bzaf', 'mire', 's'ka gja' or 'ckemi'.
-Being on time, or early.  My days of getting there when I get there are over.
-Not haggling over prices.  Apparently most people want the price that is listed.  Darn.
-Separating my trash.  Hurray for recycling!
-Paying for gas.  No more grand taxis, buses or furgons for this girl.
-Laundry only takes about an hour to finish.  No more sore hands after laundry or doing laundry around the weather.  Laundry is now a piece of cake.
-FOOD!  There are so many different varieties of food everywhere.  I can get whatever I want, usually whenever I want and in most cases delivered direct to me.  Something America always does right.
-Household chores.  Dishes are also a piece of cake now thanks to the dish washer.  Dusting is required less often now that I don't live in a land of dust and sand.
-Less animals inside.  No more bug killing sprees and no surprise bugs crawling out of my shoes, bed, books, bathroom or sink.  Fabulous.
-Internet is super fast.  No more waiting a full day for a 3 minute YouTube clip to download.
-Phone service is almost always available.  Can't use that excuse anymore when someone I don't want to have my number does and constantly calls.
-Guys have boundaries.  It's no longer a world of 'Hey!  I just met you, and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe".  Thank goodness!  There are decent men out there ladies!!
-Stranger Danger.  And not just with children.  Apparently not every person I walk by wants to talk to me.  Fine, be like that.
-Prices.  Did you know that a can of soda in America is almost always at least a dollar?  And clothes are usually more than a dollar.  And rent is more than a hundred dollars??  Talk about sticker shock.
-Driving.  It feels so good to drive again but apparently there are rules about how we should drive and you can't just drive wherever you want or however fast you would like.
-Technology.  Yes I've upgraded to a Mac Air and an iphone since being home but I still don't understand them very well.  I'm learning though.
-Marital Status.  It's so nice to not be judged anymore when I tell people I'm 25 and not married and I don't have kids yet.  I tell people that here and they tell me, "You're young!  You have plenty of time."  Thank goodness.
-Media.  News is kinda sad.  And politicians play dirty.  But at least you can find out both sides if you want to.
-Downloading.  Note to self: no more downloading!!  Wait for it to come on Netflix or watch it on tv when it airs.
-Life after the sun goes down.  Not everything closes when the sun sets.  Quite a bit of activity starts with the sunset.  The nights still young at 10 pm!
-Clothes.  So many pretty clothes.  So many skanky clothes.  So much skin to show.  So little time.
-Work.  My job is now 9-5.  Who came up with these hours and when's nap time???!!!

It's been an interesting few months.  I have many awkward moments.  I've laughed at myself to many times to count and I've been laughed at just as much.  I've accidentally started speaking in Darija and Albanian several times.  I've tried to haggle down prices without success.  Small children have had to show me how to operate my phone and other technology.  Every minute of it has been a blast.  I miss my life with PC but I'm slowly starting to re-build my life here.  It's not always easy but I end up spending most of my days laughing so I count that as success.

Stamping out of PC Morocco!

To my fellow PCV's who are about to come home; don't worry, don't stress out and have fun!  Enjoy your remaining time in your communities and try to say good-bye to as many people as you can.  Don't worry about packing.  If you leave it there, you can buy it in America!  It's not going to be a walk in the park to feel normal again once you get here, but you're going to have so many great stories to tell.  People will be interested in what you have experienced but don't be surprised if they get sick of hearing "This one time in Morocco....".  So, take pictures, drink some mint tea and dance your heart out.  Leaving country doesn't mean you're done being a PCV.  Once you're a PCV, you're a PCV for life.

RPCV Morocco 2010 - 2012

RPCV Albania 2008 - 2010

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Congratulations! You're a Peace Corps photo contest winner!

The above was the subject line in an email I opened up this morning.  When I opened it and read it I couldn't have pictured a more perfect way to end the Acting Out Awareness project.

One of the photos I submitted from the play won 2nd place in the third category titled ending discrimination and stigma.  The winning photos were selected by Alicia Keys and will be posted today on her twitter page and  It will also be on display at Peace Corps headquaters in D.C. and at Carnegie Library in D.C.  The title of the photo is 'AIDS is strong but We are stronger'.  Just in case you can't wait to see my winning photo, here it is!

AIDS is strong but We are stronger

I was able to tell my mudir and one of the students from the play today.  When I told him Alicia Keys picked the photo, his smile was so big!  Now they all will be famous in our little corner of Morocco.  Talk about a claim to fame for some small town boys!  Couldn't be happier for them and all the hard work they've put into the project.  Just another little bit of icing on my Peace Corps service :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There's nothing like a good surprise and the other days my friends got me real good.  Since we've had an English day camp at the dar chabab for the past few days, we've been trying to figure out when to have my good bye party.  My closest friend in site, Ahmed, had been telling me that some people from Rabat might be coming to Massa because we've been having issues with our delegue.  I believed him when he told me Hassan (my director at the dar chabab) might call me that night because they had finally come.  

I got the call from Hassan and pulled myself together as quickly as possible.  As I was on my way out the door I called Tania (the new PCV) to tell her that I was heading up to the dar chabab to meet with them and that she should come too.  She told me she had run into our host mom on the street and would be up shortly.  I got up to the dar chabab and didn't see a car which made me wonder if people from Rabat had really come.  I walked into Hassan's office and he told me that they left but would be back in a few minutes.  He walked me over to the door to one of the side rooms and knocked.  Again, suspicious.  He opened the door and I walked in and yelled.  All of my favorite people were lined up against the wall.  They got me :)

I was so touched by the small gesture that I had to keep myself together from starting to hug Hassan (very inappropriate in this culture) or crying.  The girls had made some cakes and they had brought soda.  I couldn't believe it when Hassan started bringing in the gifts one by one.  He gave me a box topped with sunflowers to remember the dar chabab.  He gave me a painting of one of the neighborhoods here in Massa that he had done himself to remember Massa.  He gave me a medal from the ministry to remember my time with Peace Corps at the dar chabab in Massa.  I couldn't believe it.  I started hugging him like crazy (in my head so it was ok).  

We turned on the music and had a little dance party.  Since it was hot we only kept it going for half an hour or so.  When we were all danced out and sweaty, we sat down and Ahmed starting telling Tania about the first time he met me at the old dar chabab.  He told her how much I've done for the dar chabab and for Massa.  I know that he was telling the truth and it was so sweet I had to kept it together again or I would have started to cry.  Hassan had said some of the same things earlier as he was giving me my gifts and I just couldn't believe how much they appreciated the things I've done here.  I feel like my projects were so small but now as I'm getting ready to leave, I see how big of an impact they have had on the community.  

We left the dar chabab when the sun was almost down.  It was such a great surprise and a great start to my final week in Massa.  I can't believe how little time I have left here and how many people I still need to say good bye to.  This week is going to be so very bittersweet......

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wait...What Now??!!

It's been a long time since I've had mail sent to an American address.  I can't tell you the last time I watched t.v.  I have no clue how to operate an ipad.  I don't know what's happening in the presidential race for 2012.  There's a lot of things that I have missed over the past four years while serving with PC.  As a fun way to document just how long I've been a PCV, I've created the following list.  It includes technological advances, political changes, pop culture references etc that have all happened/taken place while I've been a PCV.  So when I come home and I don't know who the new boy band is that everyone is listening to, don't laugh.  Ignorance is bliss right?

Technological Advances
-ipad created
-itouch created
-Mac air created
-e-readers came out
-electric cigarettes
-Twitter (not sure if  this should go here or in pop culture but....)
-Smart phones (what makes it so smart?  I don't know)
-Cars can now parallel park themselves (where was that when I was learning to drive?)
-Students now have tablets in schools to take notes, borrow books etc...

-Barack Obama elected president
-Sudan broke into Sudan and South Sudan
-Kosovo was recognized as a country
-Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa
-New government was created in Tunisia
-Gadafi was killed leading to....
-New government in Libya
-New government in Egypt
-New government in Bahrain
-New government in Lebanon
-Occupy Wall Street Movement
-Tea Party became popular
-Wisconsin elected a republican governor (WTF??!!!)
-Russia invaded Georgia (the country, not the state for my non-geographically inclined friends)
-Gay marriage became legal in several states
-US troops left Iraq
-Greek national debt leading to riots and protests
-Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed
-Illegal immigration laws causing controversy mainly in the south
-Birth Control and Viagra controversy
-EU economic crisis
-Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces
-London riots
-Russia elections where Putin declares himself the winner....again
-Internet Piracy Act controversy
-Moroccan constitutional reform
-the hijab became illegal in France
-Co'up in Mali
-North Korea doing nuclear missals test
-Mynammar ends military rule
-Chinese activist Chen escapes house arrest in China
-President Obama supports gay marriage
-Syria revolt
-John Edwards going on trial
-Congresswomen's use of the word 'vagina' controversy
-Sarah Palin resigned as Governor of Alaska
-Bangkok protests/riots
-Kim Jung Soon died leaving North Korea in his son's hands
-Auto industry bailout in America
-Chief of IMF scandal

Pop Culture
-Will and Kate married
-Prince Albert of Monaco married
-Crown Princess of Sweden married
-Glee swept the nation
-Community was cancelled and came back
-Modern Family started airing
-Vampire fever hit with things such as Twilight and True Blood
-Harry Potter saga ended
-Harry Potter amusement park was created
-Michael Jackson died
-Whitney Houston died
-Patrick Swayze died
-Farrah Faucet died
-Brittany Murphy died
-Elizabeth Taylor died
-Steve Jobs died
-Amy Winehouse died
-Kim Kardashian married and divorced in 72 days
-Oprah, Law and Order, Desperate Housewives and House all ended
-Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo series
-The Hunger Games series
-Justin Bieber
-Justin Bieber accused of fathering a child
-Lindsay Lohan spirals out of control and lands in rehab.... more than once
-Kony 2012 campaign
-Jon and Kate divorced
-Chris Brown beat Rihanna but now they're back together
-Brad and Angelina are finally engaged!
-Teen Mom makes teenage pregnancy 'glamorous' but one teen Mom lands in jail.... more than once
-Octomom became Octomom and is now thinking about doing porn to earn money
-Facebook went public
-The Duggards had baby 18, 19 and 20 who they sadly lost
-Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce
-Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife divorce
-John Travolta is accused of being gay
-Lady Gaga cancels her concert in Indonesia because she is accused of being a devil worshiper
-Casey Anthony not guilty of killing her daughter
-Amanda Know acquitted in the killing of her British roommate
-10 year anniversary of 9/11
-Trayvon Martin case
-Paula Deen has diabetes

-2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
-Michael Phelps wins 8 medals at Beijing Olympics
-Brett Favre retires, comes out of retirement and retires again
-Brett Favre leaves the Packers, goes to the Jets and is the worst traitor in history by then going to the Vikings
-2010 Winter Olympics in Torino
-World Cup 2010 where Spain beats the Netherlands for the win
-Packers won the 2011 superbowl
-NBA lockout
-Penn State basketball coach abuse scandal

Natural Disasters
-hurricane in Haiti
-tsunami in Japan
-volcano eruption in Iceland
-Global Warming on the rise
-tornadoes in the Midwest in 2010 and 2012
-drought and famine in East Africa

Man Created Disasters
-Gulf of Mexico oil spill
-Bombing in Marrakech
-shooting spree in Norway
-London subway bombings

Miscellaneous Events
-Cash for Clunkers program
-Ketchup becomes an official vegetable
-Stamps are now over 40 cents each
-Robert Morris College became Robert Morris University
-My 5 year high school reunion came and went
-New scoring system for the SAT
-Italian cruise ship sank
-Swine Flu
-Mad Cow disease in California
-Girl Scouts controversy

The list is long and it doesn't even come close to covering everything that's happened but its a good start.  So if we meet up when I'm back in America, give me some prep time if you want to have a deep, meaningful discussion on the upcoming elections.  Otherwise, it's going to be 'so nice weather we're having today'. To watch the morning news again and to read an actual newspaper is going to be magical.   It's going to be so nice to be in the know once again!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Time Again for Good-byes

It's beginning again.  It's the beginning of my 'last time I'll do this' and 'last time I'll see you here'.  It's the countdown to the end of my time with PC and my time in Morocco.  There's only 20 days left until I finish this chapter of my life and move on to new experiences back in America.

It's hard to believe that I've spent the past 52 months as a PCV.  My first 30 months in Albania flew by and were so memorable that I can't help but think about my time there and smile.  Now as I'm finishing up my 22 month in Morocco, I can't even seem to figure out where the time went.  When I came to Morocco, I thought that I may have made the wrong choice deciding to do PC again.  It took me a long time to feel comfortable here while I had to deal with extreme cultural differences and learn to hide parts of who I am.  Now as I get ready to leave, I'm sad to say good-bye to all the people that I've come to know and the town that I've started to call home.

When you come close to finishing your service you go to a COS conference (close of service).  I will not be attending my COS conference in Morocco as it is the week after my first grad school classes.  However, I remember my COS conference from Albania.  They told us something that I think helps make the transition home easier.  They said "don't think of it as a close of service but a continuation of service".  That's how I'm thinking of these last few days here in Morocco.  Not the end, but a transition to a new type of service.  Going home and telling all my friends and family about my time here.  Goal number three.

It's time to get out there and shake hands and drink tea and kiss cheeks.  Time to enjoy the last few days here.  Time to make some memories to take home with me.  It's time to start saying good-bye and packing up my suitcases.  It's the toughest part of the job but everyone must do it.  Time to enjoy my last 20 days in Morocco.  Time to enjoy my last 20 days as a PCV..... for now :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Moroccan How To #6: Couscous

Alright, the blog post that so many of you have been waiting for.  How to make Moroccan couscous.  For many of you, the only couscous you know is the boxed kind that you add water to and let boil for 20 minutes and then eat.  Well that is not Moroccan couscous.  Moroccan couscous is a time consuming meal to make. You should allow 2 hours to prepare it correctly.  Moroccan couscous is by no means an exact science and you should play with the recipe to find what tastes best to you.  Saying that, here are the instructions to make traditional meat and vegetable couscous.

1: Buy plain couscous (approximately 1 pound for six people), meat of your preference (beef or chicken works best), and vegetables.  Suggestions for vegetables are carrots, turnips, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and potatoes.

2: First cook the meat.  This should be done in the bottom half of a steamer pot.  See picture below.

This is the pot you need

3: Add vegetables that take longer to soften as boiled; turnips, carrots, potatoes, green peppers, zucchini.  Pour enough water into pot so that all vegetables are submerged.

Veggies are ready to cook!

4: Pour couscous onto a large plate or into a pan with raised edges.  Using your hands, mix the couscous so that there are no clumps.

Couscous straight from the package

5: Pour about one cup of water into the couscous, little by little, so that couscous is moist.

My host mom used her hand to splash a little bit of the water on the couscous at a time

6: Next you will take the top part of the steamer pot and put the couscous into it.

7: Allow about 10-15 minutes to steam.

8: Dump the couscous back into large plate or pan and mix it again so that there are no clumps.

9: Add another cup of water to the couscous, little by little, so that couscous becomes moist again.

10: Sprinkle a 3 to 4 tablespoons salt over couscous and mix again.

Can you tell what's salt and what's couscous?

11: Pour 1/4 cup olive oil over couscous and mix well.

Just a little bit of olive oil

12: Ensure that the vegetables in the bottom of the steamer pot are still covered in water and if not add more.

13: Add remaining vegetables into bottom of steamer pot; squash, pumpkin, tomatoes etc.

14: Put couscous back into top part of steamer pot and allow another 20 to 25 minutes to steam.

15: After couscous has cooked again, dump back into large plate or pan and mix again so that there are no clumps.

16: Mix in another cup of water so that couscous is fluffy.

17: Transfer couscous onto large serving plate and spread out evenly.

18: Check on vegetables and see if they are done.  If not, continue boiling until they are soft.

19: Season vegetables and meat to taste with bullion cube, salt, pepper etc..

20: Ladle the vegetables and meat into the center of the plate.

The finished product..... YUM!

21: Pour the remaining juices into a bowl for people to use as they like.

22: Moroccans like to eat couscous with buttermilk.  If you're a fan of buttermilk, try it.

23: Eat with a spoon or try the Moroccan way, with your right hand.

24: Enjoy!  Bismillah!

And that's how its done ladies and gentlemen.  I hope you've enjoyed this Moroccan how to and look forward to the next one!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tell Me a Story Dad!

When I was growing up, I loved it when my Dad used to tell me stories.  He wouldn't just read the books but he would have voices for all the characters.  I remember when he used to come to my school to read books to my class.  Always a crowd pleaser.  As Father's Day just passed, I feel as though it is my time to tell a story about my Dad.

One of my favorite stories about my Dad is from when I was about six years old.  My family and I were at a mall and we wandered into a book store.  I walked over to the children's section and picked out a Goosebumps book (very popular at the time).  Deciding that it would be easier to get my Dad to buy the book for me than my Mom, I found him and put on the cutest puppy dog face I could muster at six.  My Dad handled the situation very diplomatically and said, "if you can read the first page, I'll buy it for you".  Well I sat down right there on the floor and opened the book up and I read that first page and after the last word, looked up at my Dad and said "shall I continue??"  It was the first of many bets that my Dad lost to me.

Another one of my favorite Dad stories is again from when I was little.  I had always asked my parents for a little sister because Charlie, my older brother, was no fun to play with at all.  Since my parents had made a deal that my Mom would have the first two kids and any after that would have to come from my Dad, we stayed a two child family.  That being the case I would instead use my Dad as a doll.  He would be sitting on the couch watching t.v. or reading and I would come sit next to him with all my hair ties and give him the most beautiful hair styles you've ever seen on a grown man.  There are pictures of this but unfortunately I do not have any to post here.  Now many a grown man would say definitely not.  "You're not putting barrettes in my hair!"  Not my Dad.  He was a great client and came back to my little salon quite often while I was little.

I'm one of the lucky ones to say that I know my Dad and have many memories with him.  I'm lucky to know that he's proud of me and will support me through anything.  I'm lucky that using my puppy dog face still works on him and he takes me to the movies, out to eat and shopping when I'm home.  I'm lucky to have him in my life and I'm even luckier that he's my Dad :)

Yup, that's my Dad

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three Day Weekend

A much needed three day break in Chefchaouen.  I read a book, sat outside at cafes, let my hair down and showed off some skin.  It was magical :)

A small mural 

Chefchaouen is known for the town being blue and white

Hello Kitty

A look at the side of the town

New favorite city in Morocco

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fez Success!

This post is a bit overdue but I've been having some computer troubles so here it is.  Better late than never.

Back in May, the Acting Out Awareness group and myself traveled up to Fez for a forum on AIDS.  Not only was this exciting because we were invited by the Ministry but it was the first time these kids were going to be traveling so far from home (15 hours).  Everyone was excited, the plans were all made and it was time for the kids to really show off their show.

We met at 4 at the dar chabab and got all the costumes, props and set all packed up and ready to go.  When I arrived, my mudir informed me that the ministry bought seven tickets.  That's one for him and six for the kids.  My travel would be out of my own pocket but I was determined to see this through so the 40 bucks it would take me to travel there and back didn't mean much.  We arranged for a grand taxi to pick us up at the dar chabab and once we got everything in the back (not a small task mind you), we were on our way.

Once in Inzegane, we had time to spare until our bus at 6:45.  The kids went to buy snacks for the road and the rest of us just chatted.  Surprisingly, the bus left on time.  Only one kid got a little bus sick, hamdullah.  After a short stop in Marrakech we continued north through the Atlas mountains.  Around 6 am, when the sun was rising, I woke up with a few of the other students.  We were in Azrou.  Azrou is the part of Morocco that many people refer to as 'the Switzerland of Africa'.  It is indeed a beautiful city and the kids saw it right away.  The looks on their faces made me see that they realized the vast differences between the south and the north.  When we reached Ifrane, a small town known for its ski resort, one of my kids turned to me and said 'There's no trash.'  I forget what it's like sometimes to travel to a place so far from home and see all the differences that are as clear as crystal laid out in front of you.

The rest of the travel went by and we arrived in Fez a little past 8am.  After sitting at a cafe across the street from the bus station and eating some breakfast we headed over to the dar chabab where the forum would take place.  We weren't the first to arrive.  I was told we had to take the overnight bus because we had to be there by 9am.  Nothing started the first day until 8pm.  Luckily, with the free time I was able to catch up with Haddou, my LCF from PST.  The ministry was also not paying for me to stay at the center with the kids so I arranged to go to Sefrou and stay with another PCV there.  20 dirhams to get there and back was going to be cheaper than paying 60 for a hostel in the medina.

A pivotal scene from the play

I came back into Fez the next day in time for breakfast.  I was informed that I shouldn't eat any of the food because the ministry had paid for a specific number of people to eat and I was not in that number.  Mashi mushkil Ministry, no problem at all.  The forum finally started around 10am.  I was surprised to see that the second in command from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Youness,  had come to Fez for the forum.  Youness does a lot with PC so I've met him before but was surprised when he recognized me.  He talked about the Ministry's new direction with the new minister and about new programs they would be starting with an AIDS focus.  He thanked all of us in attendance for our work on AIDS and wished us well as we continued.

Looks pretty dramatic with the lights

We breaked for kaskerut and Youness came up to me. He told me about his recent trip to America where he traveled around seeing different volunteer organizations in action. He told me how he hopes that one day Morocco will develop the same mentality. When we reached the table with the drinks and snacks on it, everyone was waiting for him to take something first before they began. Youness told me that I should be the one to start. If that's not recognition for the work I've been doing I'm not sure what is. Also, in your face people who told me I couldn't eat the food!

They got a standing ovation

After lunch the Acting Out Awareness group took the stage.  Another PCV joined me with a camera to film the performance.  It went very well.  The kids did great and the audience loved it.  A week later I got a message from PC telling me that they had heard great things about the performance from the ministry.  I couldn't be more proud.  

The whole group

The rest of the forum included discussions and networking opportunities.  The kids from my group were great ambassadors for the south of Morocco.  They handled themselves professionally and were attentive during every session.  I know we will be going to other forums in the future.  The Acting Out Awareness project has opened so many doors for these kids and I can't wait to see where they all will lead.  I know that they all have bright futures ahead of them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mamma Mia!

"Anyone can be a mother but it takes someone special to be a mommy".  My mom has a shirt with this on it.  It's true that any woman can become a mother.  It's even truer that it does take someone special to be a mommy.  Lucky for me, I have a mommy.

So today on Mother's Day, even though I cannot be with her, I want her to know that I'm thinking about her.  It's not just today though.  I think about her everyday.  Here's some of the reasons why:
  • Coffee.  We are a big coffee drinking family.  On mornings when she didn't work, we would sit at home sharing a pot of coffee or go out to breakfast and enjoy coffee together.  Sometimes she would forget her travel mug at home when she left for work early in the morning and I would have to bring it to her.
  • Popcorn.  When she would come from work, we would share a bowl of popcorn and some diet pepsi.  I can't get the diet pepsi here, but I do make popcorn on a daily basis.
  • My hair.  It's incredibly long now and I could use someone to french braid it.  Mom's the best french braider around.
  • Clothes.  Not only are several of the important pieces of clothing I have here in Morocco made by Mom, others have had to be patched up several times which always makes me wish Mom was around to do it for me.
  • My soap.  My aunt sent me a care package with Cotton Blossom shower gel from Bath and Body Works which makes me think of Mom because its her favorite scent.
  • Mamma Mia!  Not only is it one of my many nicknames for her, we also saw the musical in Toronto and went to go see the sing-a-long version of the movie.  There was one other person in the theater with us and I'm sure he's still sorry for staying while we belted out the tunes.  I still watch the movie frequently and sing the songs of Abba almost daily.
  • Little children.  Don't get me wrong most of them are adorable.  Every once in awhile though they get me to that point when I think in my head "you're on my last nerve buddy".  Just like when my brother and I were little causing trouble after Mom had worked all night and she would say that to us.  Like mother like daughter :)  Also, since she works with the little babies I think about all the little kids here who should be a lot bigger but they are not because of malnutrition and poor health.  
  • Sickness.  Morocco and my health system apparently are not good friends.  It seems that every week I have some sort of sickness going on which just makes me want my mommy.  Or I need her to confirm that I am not dying from cancer or a brain tumor.
  • Cleaning.  It seems that everything where I am is destined to be covered in dirt.  Every time I have to clean I think of my Mom always cleaning her glasses.  Every time she would clean them, put them on and say "that's better".  Just like how I feel after I've swept up the new inches of dirt covering my floors.
  • Flowers.  There are a few flowers that just make me think of her.  Sometimes it will be the smell of lilacs or it will be the colors that remind me of the flowers she used to buy every week to put on the dining room table.  
  • Pancakes.  My mom used to love making pancakes for dinner and so do I.
  • The song 'Mama' by Il Divo.  a) it's a beautiful song and b) it talks about love for their mother which I also have a lot of
  • Technology.  Not many people in Morocco can type very fast which yes, makes me think of my own mother slowly typing out the letters.
  • Women.  Not every women but the ones that I know who are strong, confident and loving mothers themselves.  
  • Blue and red.  The color most likely to be seen being worn by my mother.
  • Scrub pants.  She's a nurse and sent me some old scrubs.  They save my life in the heat of summer and make me think of her.
  • Wine.  Yes my mother is enjoying good quality wine while I'm stuck with the freshly squeezed bottles but I think about how I tease her for being an alcoholic when she might enjoy a glass of wine from time to time.
  • Books.  Mom's an avid reader and enjoys the benefits of working a few days at Barnes and Noble.  She was always a pro- let's buy a book instead of a toy kinda mom.
  • T.V. shows like 'House' and 'Revenge'.  She's the one who told me to start watching them and I'm hooked!
  • Germany, Italy, Albania and Canada.  Just a few of the places that Mom and I have traveled to together.
These are just a few of the things that always make me think about my Mom.  It's been hard to be away from her and the rest of my family these past years but her support was one of the reasons why I've been able to do this.  I look forward though to being able to go to breakfast with her again or have a spa day together.  I'm happy that soon I'll be able to talk to her everyday or at least way more often than now.  Soon I'll be able to spend holidays with her again.  It will be good to be home.  With that said, happy Mother's day Mom!  I love you.

Mom and Me at my brothers wedding in 2008

Friday, May 11, 2012

Concept of Time

In America, when you say "Let's meet at 10", you show up a few minutes before 10.  If you show up at 10, you're late.  Here in Morocco, time is a much more obscure concept. Here you're more likely to hear, "let's meet after lunch" which could mean anything from 3 onward.   Several institutions are more likely to keep business hours such as the post office, banks and the dar chabab.  However, that means every time you have to go to the store to buy bread or try to get a taxi to go to another town or try to visit a friend, you never know if the store will be open, there will be taxis running or if you'll interrupt that friends meal and/or nap.

Most places in my town close for about two hours for lunch.  This means if its lunch time and you need something, you're out of luck until later in the afternoon.  It's happened to me several times where I needed just one thing to make lunch and I forgot to go get it before things closed.  I also had to learn the hard way about traveling out of my site during lunch time.  When I first got to site and tried to leave anytime between 12 and 2, I ended up waiting for at least an hour to actually get on the road.  Lesson learned.

Just when you think you have time all figured out in Morocco, they throw you a curve ball.  Daylight savings time.  Not everyone observes daylight savings time here.  Farmers work by the sun, not an actual time.  The only people who you know for sure follow it are those people who work in the post office and banks.  Not even all dar chababs are on new time which is confusing since the schools are.  This has now turned the conversation into something like this:
friend: Let's meet at 4.
me: ok, old time or new time?
friend: old time.
me: ok, so we're going to meet at 3.
friend: no, I said 4.
me: yes, but I am on new time.
friend: ok, well I'll see you at 4.
me: yes, 4 old time.
friend: inshallah.
me: inshallah.

Did you follow that?  So you can see the confusion this causes.  Most stores are still on old time.  The workers work with the sun and accordingly the call to prayer.  This means that now when I think it's lunch break, I still have an hour to go out and buy anything I need.  This also means that most things are still closed for lunch break when I am walking up to the dar chabab at four.  The best part about all this is that during Ramadan, everyone will go back to old time for the month and then spring forward again after Ramadan ends.  Are you confused yet??

Luckily, this concept of new time and old time is not new to me.  Even in Albania when there was daylight savings time, some people stayed on old time.  It's just like old leke and new leke or dirhams and ryals.  Not everyone uses the same unit of currency but after awhile you just know.  You learn who uses old time and who is on new time.  You plan accordingly.  If all else fails, you just blame it on old time.  "I'm an hour late?  No that can't be.  I'm on old time."

So you see, the concept of time in Morocco is quite different from America.  You get there when you get there.  An appointed time to meet is more of a time frame to meet.  Time is money in America.  In Morocco, time is uhm, well....... time is not going anywhere so don't worry about it!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moroccan Tile

There are so many colors found throughout Morocco.  The best example of this is through the tiles you find around the country.  There are so many different colors, patterns and designs.  They use them on everything from walls, to fountains, to gates.  I always love looking at the tile when I travel.  Here are a few different examples of Moroccan tile from around the country.  

Tile on a fountain in Agadir

Tile at a train station in Meknes

Tile in a house in Fez

Tile inside a hotel in Azrou

Tile inside a hotel in Azrou

Tile inside a hotel in Azrou

Tile outside a house in Azrou

Tile at a train station in Meknes

Tile outside the big mosque in Casablanca

Tile outside a park in Tiznit

Tile on the gate leading to the old city in Meknes

Tile in an outdoor fountain in Rabat
Which one is your favorite???

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Important Visit

It's not everyday that you see a wedding tent put up in the courtyard at a dar chabab.  When a wedding tent goes up, you know something important is happening.  Something very important happened at my dar chabab about two weeks ago when a delegation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports came to Massa.

We had known for about a month that a delegation would be coming to Massa.  It took weeks of planning and organizing all the youth to prepare for their arrival.  It didn't help matters any that they were coming on the first day of spring camp and I would have to leave spring camp for half a day to attend.  The students all had assigned tasks.  Some were told to clean others were to make new decorations and a few were preparing songs and dances.  The kids were excited and so was I.

The main reason for the visit was to see the activities we were doing on AIDS education.  The delegation spend two weeks in the Souss visiting dar chababs in Taourdant, Ikhourbane, Tiznit, Temsia, Kolea and Houara.  Through my mudir, they had heard about the AIDS skit that my Acting Out Awareness group had been traveling around the Souss area presenting.  Their play would be the grand finale of the event.

On the day of the visit, I rushed back to site after finishing English class in the morning at spring camp.  I arrived back in Massa right before lunch time and ran up to the dar chabab just before my mudir arrived to drop off some posters that needed to be hung.  We hung the posters and then my mudir invited me to his house for lunch with him and the delegation.  This was the first time he had invited me to his house and it was even more intimidating since the delegation would be there.  We arrived and after a short walk around his neighborhood we sat back to enjoy meat and prune tajine, fish couscous (a local speciality), dessert, tea and cookies.  It was so delicious and filling that we all had a hard time making it back to the dar chabab!

The welcoming committee

Already about an hour late, we arrived to the sound of drums, singing and traditional Tashalheet dancing.  There were two students outside the gate waiting to greet us and a table set up with traditional Tashalheet food and youth dressed up in traditional Tashalheet clothes.  After we shook hands, kissed everyone on the cheek and received our red ribbons we proceeded to walk through the dar chabab.  The ministry was impressed by all the English books I've managed to procure over the past few months and the new studio that the hip hop group built.  After the tour, youth and parents were invited to sit down for a short discussion with the delegation on the direction the new minister is taking.  There were well over 100 people crammed into our upstairs meeting room but I've never seen so many parents taking an interest in what was happening at the dar chabab!

The youth also created this banner for the Health Club

Next, the youth were divided into four groups to participate in Ministry led workshops about how to be ambassadors to their peers on AIDS education.  Each workshop focused on a different way of educating their peers.  One group watched a video and had a discussion, another made posters, another did games and the final one talked about creating health clubs.  It was very interesting to see the ministry's take on peer education.  I learned a few things myself.

Creating a poster on AIDS education

As the event was coming to a close, we all gathered again outside under the big tent.  Each group did a short presentation on what they had done during their workshop.  Next a group of youth from one of the associations that's active at the dar chabab did a short play on stereotypes about Berber people.  I didn't understand most of it but it was funny to watch.  Then it was finally time for the Acting Out Awareness group to take the stage.

It was perfect timing.  The sun was beginning to set and the shadows cast on our makeshift stage of tables only added to the drama.  The audience was silent and the actors were amazing in front of the 250 strong audience.  I couldn't have been more proud of their performance and all the hard work they had put into organizing the event.  I could tell by their faces during the standing ovation that they too were proud of their accomplishment.

I think doing the play outside as the sun was setting only made the play better

Before the delegation left, we had a small reception for them with the youth who are most active in the dar chabab.  I had to leave early to get back to camp but my mudir told me the delegation had nothing but good things to say about their visit.  I thought that that was the end of it but I was wrong.

When I returned from spring camp my mudir told me that delegation was so impressed by the Acting Out Awareness group that we have been invited to participate in an AIDS forum in Fez!  The kids couldn't be more excited.  For almost all of them, it will be their first time in Fez and their first time to be that far north.  We still do not know the dates of the forum but it will be in the next two months.  Right now we are working out logistics with the ministry.  It's just another thing that these kids can be proud about.

Acting Out Awareness Group receiving a standing ovation

Just another day in Peace Corps :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Hot! To the Beach!

Spring Camp Agadir 2012 in Pictures

My English Class the first week

Morning Aerobics!!
Looking good PCV's!

Halloween Night!
Contestants for the 'scariest' costume category 

Beach Olympics!

All the campers from Massa with me on the beach

Earth Day Activities
Planting flower crew

Moroccan Wedding Night!
Bjai representing as the Tashalheet mother of the groom

Human Knot!
Good way to keep the kids entertained for awhile

My team did not win this one....

Crazy Sport Relay Races

Crab walk relay races

Talent Show at the end of Week 1

Some of the campers and I at the end of week 1

RIP Beth and Leslie
So tired after 2nd week of camp ended

Overall, camp was a huge success.  The kids had a great time and we had some great activities.  We were able to celebrate Earth Day, we put on a scary haunted house for 'Halloween' night, we had a ton of talented kids wow us during two talent shows and we went to the beach everyday.  Another two weeks of camp under my belt here in Morocco.  Good times as always :)