Sunday, April 13, 2008

And then I found five dirham...

“Oh my god, its Easter.”
“What, really? No way.”
“Dude, its totally Easter.”
“How did we not know this?”
“Did none of us know?”
“Oh my god we missed St. Patrick’s Day!”

And this is why I haven’t really had time to check in.

Hello! How are you? Things are good?

My third fourth fifth (oh my god) sixth week in Morocco is about to start, and it definitely feels like I’ve been here a lot longer than that (though in a good way). I’ve already traveled across the country; I’ve touched the Atlantic, baked in the desert, scrambled up the highest mountain (or at least a tiny piece of it), even crossed the perilous(!) Tichka pass. Three times. The third time I brought Dramamine.

But first! To recap the story so far: we flew in to Casablanca early in the morning. We were met by local PC staff and bussed to Rabat, which served as base camp for our first three days in country. In Rabat we began our first round of shots (typhoid, rabies….Oregon Trail jokes abound), attended sessions on basic safety and security, survival Moroccan Arabic, the PC mission and strategies, and diarhhea (an hour alone on diarhhea). We wandered around the city a bit and found the Kasbah, the old medina, and the ville nouvelle. We also had an amazing view of the Grand Mosque from the top of our hotel.

Then we caught another bus south, to the small city we’ve called home since. I’m not allowed to give names, but give me a call (on my Moroccan cell phone!) if you want all the details. It was an 8 hour trip, and the landscape changed dramatically. We started in lush green plains, then we hit the mountains. These are some serious mountains. We quickly gained altitude, winding our way up switchbacks and through narrow passes. The moment we crossed into the southern side the green was gone, and by the time we left the peaks we were on Tatooine.

After a week spent getting to know our new hometown, attending classes on Morocco’s environment and legislative structure, and playing crazy amounts of Frisbee with small children in the square outside our hotel, we began to our first CBT phase.

CBT stands for Community Based Training, and is a tactic Peace Corps uses to help volunteers learn their new language and culture. I’m learning Tashelheet (other groups are learning Moroccan Arabic or Tamazight), a Berber dialect spoken in the southern half of the Atlas Mountains, so my group and I were placed in a Tash speaking village for the week. We stayed with host families, spent every day in language and culture classes with our LCF (Language and Cultural Facilitator), interviewed people in town, and ate bzzef cake. The evenings we spent with our host families, which was a blast (though often very awkward).

After CBT week we were split into new groups for field trip. Another trainee and I went back over the mountains to visit with a volunteer for a few days to see what they’re up to and how they’ve integrated into their community. It was great to spend so much one on one time with someone who just last year was in our shoes came through with amazing success. I got to spend some transit time in Marrakesh (which: hot, also: awesome), saw a beautiful area of Morocco, and oh my goodness you would not believe the olive oil we bought. It tastes like an olive. In oil form.

After another few days back at the seminar site we returned to CBT, where we worked on learning more about our communities, improving our language, and chilling with our host families.

So that’s the super fast version of the past few weeks. Other happenings:

Playing Frisbee with the kids in the courtyard (and hearing ‘Maggie! Maggie!’ every evening when I step out to play)
Mastering the Turkish toilet
Not really mastering the bucket bath
Bargaining in the souk
Eating couscous by hand (not so good at that)
Eating tagine with bread as utensil (I’m awesome at that)
Buying a Moroccan cell phone (and getting it to work! Take that, Maroc Telecom!)
Learning three languages at once, and using all of them to talk with small children
Washing clothes by hand on the roof of the hotel
Getting messed with by the CTM ticket man
Tourist spotting on the terrace
X-Files parties

That’s the basic wrap up – it’s been a crazy few weeks here, but things are going really well, and I love it. Unfortunately there’s a stigma attached to taking pictures of people round these parts, so I haven’t got many street level shots, but here are some landscapes for your enjoyment:

Please send this month’s Vogue.


Anonymous Krista said...

Wow... beautiful!! I'm happy to hear you are having a good time (and getting your X-Files fix) :D
<3 <3 <3

April 13, 2008 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Great to hear you're doing well! Nice pictures. Been thinking of you. Can't wait to hear more.


April 13, 2008 at 7:54 PM  

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