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 :)