Crammed into the back of a grand taxi, Liz and I began the 1 hour ride to Borouj. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but dust and empty fields and occasionally a small house. At one point we passed a small town known as a dewar and Liz jokingly said, “here we are!” You’ve gotta be kidding me right???!!! Thankfully she was only joking. Finally out of the dust I began to see buildings rise up. The town seemed to be spread out over a decent amount of space and I thought, maybe this won’t be so bad. A lot of PCVs live in small towns and most of them prefer their town to the big city because they feel more a sense of community. We got out of the taxi and looking around I could see palm trees and streets lined with relatively big buildings. There were banks, a post office, vegetable sellers and lots of hanoots (that means store in Darija). This definitely wasn’t Ifrane, but it didn’t look that bad either. Slowly, my hopes began to rise and I thought, I can totally do this. I’ve got this. BRING IT ON.
Liz’s Moroccan counterpart Simo met us at the taxi stand and helped us carry my bags to my new host family’s house. Their house was very nice and it seemed that the family was pretty wealthy as they have a huge flat screen TV and a humongous American-sized refrigerator (which I had yet to see here in Morocco). My host father, Rachid owns a pharmacy here in Borouj as well as a gym, which to be honest, is a bit of a novelty in these parts. My host mother, Fouzzia, is a house wife and I have four host sisters: Sofia 19, Assiya 17, Oumema 14 and Salma 11. Everyone was super nice and welcoming to me. After lunch Liz took me to the aerobics class that she teaches. It was so cool to see women come in dressed in their jellabas and head scarves and then change into what you or I would wear to the gym. I don’t want to call it freeing, because maybe it’s not freeing to them, maybe they feel more comfortable when they are covered up. That’s not for me to decide. But nonetheless, it was neat to see the women in a different way.
After the gym we went to the dar chebab to meet the mudir. Unlike most dar chebabs which have been built within the past 10 years by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, our dar chebab has been around since 1975 and the mudir, Hicham, has been working there for 17 years. I don’t know how many PCVs have been there before me but I know that there have been at least three from 2009 till now. Looking at the dar chebab, you can tell that it’s a bit run down. It desperately needs to be repainted and the courtyard in the middle is in need of some serious weeding. But you can also tell that a lot of work had already been done. My predecessors had worked really hard to paint a number of murals on the walls, many of which represented Moroccan-American friendship. There was even a map of the United States where PCVs can paint the state they are from and then draw in their city.
I sat down and had a long talk with Hicham about what kinds of projects I was interested in doing, mostly around the unemployment problem here in Morocco, and he seemed really interested in what I was proposing and said he’d do anything he could to help. Obviously I was really happy to hear this because often times, PCVs have mudirs that are not supportive of their work. Sadly because it is almost June, the dar chebab is pretty slow right now because most students are finishing up school and older kids are preparing for the dreaded BAC test, which is essentially the equivalent of the SAT or ACT in America but is actually based on knowledge learned in school instead of on using critical thinking.
Frankly, I’m a little nervous for summer time here because it will get to be in the 120s, maybe even hotter, and most of the associations where I would normally work will be closed down. I’ll most likely work at a PC sponsored summer camp for a few weeks but I’ll still have a lot of time when I’m here in Borouj with not much to do. PC says this is when we are supposed to focus on integrating into our community so that when everyone comes back in the fall I can begin my work, but Liz also says a lot of the town clears out during this time of year, so I’m not sure how much integrating I’ll actually be able to do. Ramadan will also be coming at the end of July, which is a whole different ball game that I’ll talk more about in a future post. So for now, I’m anxious to see what the summer will bring. At the very least, I’ll hopefully get to do a lot of reading (and sweating) and maybe finally teach myself Arabic script! Inch’allah.