Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Exciting Things, Let Me Tell You

The past month has been a bit…well I can’t really say busy, but there’s been a lot going on. I discovered the reasons behind my extended illness, moved into my house (!), took my first trip/vacation, and got a chance to attend a couple local festivals. I also hid from the sun a lot, because ohmygodaugustishothere. I’ll try and wrap things into a tidy sort of package, but this will likely be a rather long entry. You’ll want to grab a coffee now.

So first in mid July it got hot. Like 120ºF in the shade hot. That’s not something I know how to handle very well, so there were a few days I just admitted defeat and tried not to overheat. I quite often wound up Florence Nightengaleing myself to sleep in front of the fan, but by the end of it all my body figured out how to function semi-normally. It’s still super hot, but comparatively rather lovely. I’d like to think that by next summer I’ll be a total pro, but I’ll probably just spend all my time concocting the perfect iced tea.

While all this was happening I was also starting to get sick again, which was frustrating for a number of reasons – most of all since I’d been supremely cautious about food and water since my last encounter with dysentery. But the mystery was solved when my host family had relatives visit for a week. When they learned I was sick they asked if I boiled my drinking water.

“Well, no. The village treats the water and no one here boils it. It should be fine.”
“Its fine, right?”
“If we don’t boil our water when we come here we get sick.”

Long story short, I now know that while treated, the water supply here is not exactly clean. I boil all my drinking water and I’ve been feeling pretty good, so with any luck I’ve discovered the smoking gun – I’ve actually heard from a lot of people in the village since then that their doctors have advised them not to drink the water without boiling or treatment. This may be something I can try and work on in my time here. (Raise your hand if you enjoy clean water!)

August is of course vacation month in Europe, and Morocco seems to be on the same schedule. Everyone in my village was either coming or going, and the vacation homes in the valley were suddenly full. There were a bunch of festivals that were fun to scope out. They also coincided with the arrival of ice cream bars(!) to local shops.

While all this was happening I also worked to complete my first site report for Peace Corps – basically a quick summery of what we’ve been up to in our sites and our plans for the next three months. This was my first report, so I also completed an environmental assessment. Since we got to our sites we’ve been taking note of local environmental practices/beliefs and the health of local ecosystems, as well as cultural norms and traditions. We synthesize this information into a single report on the environmental situation and begin to brainstorm what sorts of educational activities might be beneficial in our areas. I’ve been assigned two projects already – one a plant survey in my local protected area and the other assisting a local argan coop with marketing materials – that I also gave a quick write up.

Towards the end of the month I took advantage of two national holidays and a weekend to take an extended trip north to Essaouira, a seaside town midway up the Atlantic coast. It was the first time since swear-in that I’d been able to see other environment volunteers, and it was great, to say the very least. I would more likely say it was spectacular.

The city was beautiful and chill – though since its August the entire population of France was also there – and even kind of cold! Its kind of a café scene, and the old medina is full of cool places to check out. You know that Scene in Kingdom of Heaven when Orlando Bloom is looking out on the sea from the ramparts? That’s Essa. Orson Welles also filmed parts of Othello here (there’s an Orson Welles park near the beach).

I ate way too much pizza and ice cream (and crepes and Mexican food…and pastries) and spent an inordinate amount of time simply gazing at the ocean, and by the time I got back it was time to move into my new house! I’ll post pictures of the house separately, but it’s glorious. I like my host family, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to finally be own my own timetable for sleep, outings and meals. And I can cook! So far I’ve made mac n cheese, pancakes, ramen, spaghetti, iced coffee, vegetarian tuna, and spicy egg sandwiches. Next on the docket are tortillas.

And this is the first time in six months that I was finally able to unpack my duffel and just….spread out. Its amazing how much I’ve accumulated through care packages and general shopping, but I’ve also been here for six months, so I’d have to have picked up at least a bit.

I’ve unpacked and started to decorate (a prominent portrait of Anderson Cooper? I have one!), and now I’m set for Ramadan. My neighbors have been asking for weeks if I plan to fast, and so far I’ve said yes. I’ll give it a go, both out of respect and as a chance to bond a bit more with people. (Though on a super hot day I may have to cheat and take a swig of water….).

So that’s what’s up here.

….and do you also love watching field reporters try not to fall down in hurricane force winds? Rob Mariciano, I heart you.


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