Monthly Archives: March 2012

Salamu alaykum!

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So much to say about my first four days in Morocco! Where to begin?

As some of you may have heard I had a minor  freak out at the Detroit airport the morning I flew to Philly. In the previous days (and weeks, and months) I was saying goodbye to all of you, and I was being ever the stoic Martha, not shedding a tear. To be completely honest, the reason I wasn’t crying was because I was trying desperately to emotionally remove myself when saying goodbye. I know it sounds cruel, but sometimes, it’s the only way one can get through moments of great sadness like this. Anyway, after saying my very last goodbyes at the airport I made my way through security, sat down at the gate and suddenly burst into tears. No I wasn’t scared, no I wasn’t regretting my decision to join the Peace Corps, I think it just took me finally being physically alone to realize how much I was going to miss my friends and family.

Once my plane arrived in Philly, I met a few other PCVs (that’s short for Peace Corps Volunteer) and we took a shuttle to our hotel. The whole day was filled with team building exercises and really vague descriptions about what our service would really be like. While this part of the training was not particularly interesting, I did meet a lot of really nice people and continued to be amazed by how driven and outgoing everyone was. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been. We’re PCVs after all. These very well may be some of the most outgoing people I ever meet in my life.

The next morning we boarded a bus to JFK and six hours later we were on the plane to Morocco.  The flight was only six hours long and went surprisingly well despite Air Maroc’s decision to play a really stupid Disney movie twice. The exciting part of the flight was when I got my first Moroccan man’s contact info to boot!! Yes I am that popular with the gentlemen (like you didn’t know that already 😉  ) Turns out, he was actually a professional runner and competed  in the Olympics for Morocco and won the Boston Marathon! Cool right?! After the plane landed, all 113 of us slowly made our way through security and were met at the gate by the Peace Corps staff. We boarded a bus and began the 1 1/2 hour ride to Rabat. I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open for very long but what I did notice was that Morocco seemed to be a land of extremes. Beautiful new condos would be built right next to crumbling farms. Billboards advertised a brand new shopping mall in Casablanca with an American Eagle (weird right?) while right below farmers rode donkeys to their homes.

We pulled up to the Oscar Hotel on Rue Hassan II around 9am, unloaded our bags and then most of us headed up to our rooms for naps. Without going into every single about the next 4 days, I will say this: they were some of the busiest, most educational, and overwhelming days ever, yet somehow I managed to love every day and make a ton of new friends. Each day we wake up around 6:45, eat breakfast at 7:15 and then begin our first session at 8:30. We have sessions all the way until noon with a small fifteen minute break, then we eat lunch and begin the afternoon sessions again at 2. Sessions again go until about 5:30 and then we have two hours to hang out with other PCVs, explore Rabat, and try (and fail. . .) to get internet access. Dinner starts at 7:30 and after that people will usually hang around for a while and talk and then go to bed. We’ve all been so exhausted from all day information sessions that most of us are too tired to even consider trying to find a bar here.

Our day sessions have ranged from Introduction to Islam to Youth Development to How to Lesson Plan to Monitoring and Evaluation, Transportation Safety, Health, and 7 Tips to Being an Effective PCV. And for a special session the US Ambassador to Morocco, Ambassador Kaplan came to speak to us! We have also begun to learn Darija which is the official name for Moroccan Arabic and also the official language of Morocco. So I know many of you have been wondering if I would be speaking any French at all (I was also wondering this) and the answer I can give to that question right now is sometimes. While I can confidently say that most Moroccans speak French (albeit conversational French), no one actually uses it unless they are a shopkeeper trying to sell things to tourists, government officials conducting official business, or students learning it in school. I was a little sad to hear this, especially because I’ve been so anxious to speak French but on the other hand I think my Darija will get better so much faster!

Already after being here for 3 days I know how to say “hello, how are you?” (salamu alaykum. Ki dayr?), “what is your name?” (snu smitk?), “my name is” (smiti), “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good day,” and “goodbye” (sbah l-xir, msa l-xir, nadar said, and bslama). I can also say many things like book (kteb), cellphone (portable–like the French!), pen (stilu–also like the French), bus (lkar), camel (jmel), donkey (hmar), station (lmahta), teacher (ustad), student (tilmid), bread (xobz) and money (flooz). I am starting to learn how to use prepositions, how to say “I have” and “I don’t have” and how to give commands.  I have to admit that it’s a lot to take in, and I’m trying desperately to study in my little free time so I can keep up, but I really do love learning a new language again. It reminds me of when I was learning French for the first time and how even putting together a simple sentence can be a huge accomplishment.

The 113 of us have been divided into three groups of about 40 each and will be traveling to a different “hub” site where we will spend the next two months living with a host family and learning Darija. I was put into the Azrou group. Within the group of 40, we have been divided further into groups of 6 which is called our CBT group or Community Based Training group (are you catching on that PC loves to use acronyms??). With these six people we will report to the same language teacher every day to have Darija lessons 6 days a week for about 8 hours a day. While my hub site is Azrou, I will actually be living with a family in a town called Ifrane. And boy am I excited! From what my guidebook says, Ifrane is the Alpine ski destination of Morocco’s rich. Yes, you heard me right, SKI DESTINATION. Sadly there will not be snow when I get there but the town is said to resemble France’s Chamonix complete with Swiss-like chalets, tree-lined boulevards and scenic drives. Ifrane is also the home of one of Morocco’s best universities, Al-Akhawayn University which was built by Morocco’s King Hassan II and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd. Needless to say, I can’t wait to get there. I do not think it will look at all like what I thought Morocco to look like.

As for my fellow PCVs–as I mentioned before, everyone is incredibly nice, outgoing, and passionate about being here. I have already met some people who I know will be my friends for the next two years. While we all come from different parts of the country (I’m the only U of M person here though about 1 of 4 Michiganders), have different backgrounds, different majors, different ages, and different levels of career experience we all have one thing in common: we are all really passionate about making a difference in the world. Already in my first week I can tell that most people here are incredibly hard-working, dedicated (it’s amazing how much Darija some people know already–and can write too!), and passionate about helping youth.

Alright I think that’s it for now. Sorry for posting this a bit late–it has been surprisingly difficult to get internet access. . . .

Layla Saida! (good night!)

Here’s to Never Saying Goodbye

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T-11 days: Hello all! As promised, here is my new blog where you will be able to follow all of my adventures in Morocco. While I can’t make any promises about the frequency at which I will contribute to the blog (apologies for those of you that followed my France blog–or, should I say, the lack of my France blog. . . .) I do promise to keep you updated on major events, random happenings and little tidbits that I find interesting (first tidbit I’d like to know: how much does a camel really cost? what could one barter for a camel? why do I find dromedaries so interesting??)

As a reader of my blog, I would like to forewarn you that I was not an English major in college and therefore I will excessively use ellipses and parentheses to express my point. Hopefully this will neither surprise or upset the true Strunk and White within you (bought the book,  never actually opened it). Also, as many of you know, humor and sarcasm are two of my favorite ways of expressing myself (just ask my mother) so I sincerely hope that reading about my many adventures, misadventures, fortunes, and misfortunes will bring tears of laughter to your eyes and have you thinking, “did she really just say that?” (to which the answer is almost always a resounding “yes”). And let’s be real here, along with considering myself to be a true comedienne, I also like to think that my head is full of profound thoughts and delightful little insights which I feel necessary to share with all of you regardless of whether or not you actually care to hear them. And finally, many of you may not know this about me, but I am a collector of quotes–profound things I’ve heard people say and have written down, favorite lines of books and poems, and hilarious things said on The Office–so get ready to be inundated with what I consider to be others’ infinite knowledge and absurd hilarity.

Alright, enough with the formalities. As part of my first blog post, I wanted to try to convey to all of you what I’m feeling before I leave my homeland for two years and how I’m preparing to go. To be completely honest, I’ve been really excited to leave for a long time now and while I can confidently say that I’ll probably be shitting my pants when I finally get on the airplane, for now at least, I’m just going through my usual routine, taking care of the little odds and ends that need to be done before one leaves the country for two years, and spending my last days enjoying the company of friends and family. I think that’s all one really can do before taking such an extended leave of absence.

Many of you keep asking me where I will be living while I’m there (which I don’t know), what exactly I’ll be doing (not really sure about that either) and whether or not I’ll have internet and electricity (again, no cigar). The next question that usually follows is, “doesn’t it worry you that you have no clue what you’re getting into????” And my response to that is no. No it doesn’t worry me. Frankly speaking, if it did worry me then I probably wouldn’t make a very good candidate for the Peace Corps. If there is one thing I am 100% confident in, it’s that I haven’t the slightest clue as to what will happen to me when I’m there. What I do know about the next two years, is that I don’t really know anything about the next two years. And in some strange, kind of twisted way, I’m ok with that.

Now remember earlier when I mentioned that I’m obsessed with quotes and collect them? Well here’s one quote that I hate: you know in movies when the main character is about to go off and do something incredibly large and profound and meaningful with their life and someone says, “this is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well I hate that. Life has already begun, hasn’t it? Haven’t I been living my life for the past 22 years? This is not the first day of the rest of my life–this is the next step. This is day 8,165 of my life and when I leave for Morocco it will be day 8,176 of my life. Which leads me to another quick point: people always think that when you go abroad like this that you’re leaving your life at home and will return to it when you get back. The only thing I can say to those people is how wrong you are. Life is you and everything surrounding you and happening to you. You cannot leave it behind.

So enough with the deep thoughts. To end, I’d like to make a toast (which may be quite à propos considering I might not be drinking much in Morocco . . . ): Here’s to continuation. Here’s to the next step of my life. And here’s to never saying goodbye.