Hello everyone and Happy New Year! As it is now 2013 and it seems that the world did not end, I thought it was time for me to do a quick recap of my service thus far (for those of you still confused as to what I’ve actually been doing over these past 10 months) as well as to make a few New Year’s resolutions for how I’d like my service, and my life here in Morocco, to change in 2013. And toward the end I’ll give ya’ll a sneak peek as to what I’ve got coming in the next few months.
March 21st, 2012: arrived in Morocco. I had about one week of training in Rabat (the capital) before leaving for my two month home-stay.
April-May 2012: I lived in Ifrane, a small resort-town located in the Middle Atlas mountains. While here I lived with the Alaoui-Soussi family (dad: Nourredine, mom: Touria, siblings: Salahhdin, Hind, and Aya) and went to class for 8 hours a day with 5 other volunteers to learn to speak Darija (Moroccan-Arabic).
May 23rd, 2012: I was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer (before I was just a Trainee) at a formal ceremony in Rabat that was also attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco.
May 24th, 2012: I boarded a train and headed off to El Borouj, the city where I would serve and live for the remainder of my time in Morocco. Two other volunteers named Liz and Shannon were already living here. As soon as I arrived Liz took me to meet my second host family, the Baldi’s (dad: Rachid, mom: Fouzzia, daughters: Sofia, Assiya, Oumaima, and Salma). During the next two weeks I lived with them while Liz took me around town to look for an apartment of my own as well as to introduce me to people around town.
Early June: With Liz’s help I was able to successfully find a lovely apartment near the dar chebab (youth center) and moved in. Liz moved in with me so she could give me all of her furniture and would remain living with me until she finished her service in October.
First two weeks of July: I worked at an English Immersion Camp in the beach-town of El Jadida. I worked as a camp counselor along with 13 other PCVs and led a “Leadership Games” club. These were two of my favorite weeks in Morocco thus far.
August 2012: For the entire month of August I went back to El Jadida, but this time to work at an orphanage called the SOS Village (SOS is an international non-profit that runs orphanages all over the world). I taught English classes, took kids to the beach, and also taught computer classes. At the end of the month I was selected to be the PCV coordinator of the village for the following summer.
September 17-23, 2012: I went to Marrakesh for one week to attend a Peace Corps In Service Training. Peace Corps put us up at a really nice hotel for the week while we attended all-day long seminars and trainings. This was also the last time that all 100 of us volunteers who arrived together in March would be together until our Close of Service conference in February of 2014. Right after this training, I started dating another volunteer named Jared who works in a town about 11 hours away from Borouj.
September-December 2012: With the exception of a few trainings here and there, I stayed in Borouj and taught classes at the dar chebab. I taught Beginner English, Beginner French, Intermediate English and Intermediate French for 4 days a week as well as leading a women’s aerobics class 3 days a week. I also found a Darija tutor so that I could continue to learn the language after my official Peace Corps training was finished.
Early October, 2012: Liz finished her two years of service and returned to the US. At the same time the other volunteer in town, Shannon, decided to terminate his service early, leaving me as the only volunteer in Borouj.
Mid-October to mid-November: I hosted my friends Anne and Brenda from the states. This was a wonderful opportunity to show my first visitors what life has been like for me.
November 17th, 2012: I hosted the INJAZ Entrepreneurship Masterclass at the dar chebab for 45 students. Earlier in the year, I had been selected by PC to pilot a new partnership program with an organization called INJAZ that is located in Casablanca and does Junior Achievement programs. The Masterclass was a huge success and was just the beginning of the partnership between PC and INJAZ.
December 7th-10th: I went to a city called Errachidia on the eastern side of the Atlas mountains (about 12 hours away from me) to work at an English Teacher’s Conference hosted by the PCVs that live there. I led a session on teaching students with different learning styles.
December 18th, 2012- January 2nd, 2013: I returned home to the United States to see friends and family and celebrate the holidays. Oh, and I might have gotten a tattoo. . . . 😉
January 3rd, 2013: I had a meeting with INJAZ in Casablanca to discuss the next steps in our partnership. It was decided that as soon as we are able to get the materials, I am going to implement the next program, “It’s My Business” at the dar chebab in El Borouj. We also discussed possibly hosting a training in March for other PCVs who are interested in doing INJAZ programs at their dar chebabs.
January 8th, 2013: I began teaching at the dar chebab again. This time I moved the schedule around a little bit in order to accommodate more students and more activities. I added a Current Events Club and an Environment Club as well as recruiting my Darija tutor to teach Arabic classes. I am also still teaching aerobics but only twice a week now.
Alright well that’s it for the reflections. Of course I didn’t write everything down but those are the highlights. And now for my resolutions for the New Year:
1. Spend more time with Moroccan friends. Ok, so I don’t really have very many Moroccan friends but I would like to make more friends and spend more time with the ones that I already have. Admittedly I spend way too much time alone in my apartment. Some days, this alone time is essential to my sanity (it can be difficult to sit in a room for hours when you don’t know what anyone is saying) but I need to make a better effort to get out. I’d hate to look back on my service and only remember sitting around in my apartment.
2. Work harder at working with Moroccan counterparts and finding community members to do activities at the dar chebab. I won’t explain too much about this because I wrote an entire blog post about it (see my last one entitled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: or, Between the Moroccan Way and my Way”) but in essence, I want to find more community members in Borouj to work at the dar chebab so I’m not the only one providing activities there.
3. Spend more time studying Darija. I do go to my Darija tutor twice a week but I’m not doing any studying on my own. We recently had a conversation about how I want her to give me homework and tests more often so that I force myself to study. I do want to learn to speak the language more fluently, but for some reason my resolve has lessened recently. Hopefully, I’ll be able to rekindle the excitement I once had for learning the language. By the end of my service, I’d love to be sitting in a room and understand every single word that is said to me and to respond back sounding like an intelligent and fluent adult, rather than sounding like a child who uses words incorrectly.
4. Make better use of my time at home. While I do want to get out of my home more often, the fact of the matter is, there aren’t really recreational things to do in El Borouj (especially for women) so even if I become more social I’ll probably still be spending a significant amount of time at my dar. Currently, I spend ridiculous amounts of time on the internet doing lord knows what and sometimes look back at my day wondering, what on earth did I do today?? No clue, really. I would like to spend more time reading—and not just reading articles online but reading actual books. I would also like to learn a new craft or hobby. And I want to try to work out at least 6 days a week. Which leads me to my next point. . .
5. Lose 10 pounds. I know, I know, the inevitable New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. Will I actually stick to it? Who knows. But do I want to try? Yes. No, I don’t think I’m fat and thanks to a wonderful boyfriend, I’m learning to really appreciate my curves but nonetheless I’d love to shed some weight. I have the time, so why not? I never want to have a day when I couldn’t wake up and run an entire mile without stopping.
6. Teach myself to cook more food. I’ve always wanted to be a good cook but never really had the time, or money, to explore the hobby. While I still don’t have a lot of money, I do have the time to finally work through some recipes. Hopefully this week I’m going to go out and buy that oven I’ve been meaning to get and I can finally start trying some of those recipes in the Peace Corps cookbook that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I’m tired of eating the same 6 meals over and over again!
7. Spend more time walking outside. Surprisingly this will be one of the hardest things to accomplish. Yes, the physical act of walking is easy, but when you’re in El Borouj and you don’t fit in, it is very rarely pleasurable. Sadly, despite having lived here for 7 months now, I still get cat-called and honked at whenever I leave the house. This has actually been one of the most difficult things about living in Morocco for me. I love walking and I love exploring, but here I love neither of those things. I want very much to change that but I’m still not exactly sure how. Yes, I can try my best to ignore the cat-calls, and most days I do, but some days it’s impossible to ignore and leads me to hate my life here and the people in my town for making me feel this way. As I said, this will be one of the hardest things to overcome.
8. Learn more about Moroccan history and Islam. This is something I’ve been meaning to do since I arrived but sadly it hasn’t pushed its way onto my daily agenda yet. Because I’m living in a Muslim country, I have the great fortune to be able to observe Islamic customs and traditions firsthand. However, I still don’t quite understand why people do certain things and not others or how this country came to be the way it is today; which I would very much like to know.
9. And for the last one, spend more time being positive and less time being negative. I know that’s incredibly vague but I mean it. I want to spend less time thinking about all the things that make life difficult here and think more about the things that I appreciate. After all, I’m still going to be living here for another 16 months so why not enjoy as much of it as I can.
Ok, I think that just about sums up my reflections and resolutions. I’ve got some really exciting things forecasted for 2013. Hopefully my computer lab grant will get funded shortly (don’t forget to donate!!!) so I’ll have that to work on and hopefully we’ll be beginning the second INJAZ program here in Borouj in just a few short weeks as well as working on making it so that other PCVs can also get trained in how to do the programs. I’m also looking forward to the visit of my mom and sister (and possibly some other family members) in May, Inch’allah and have plans in the works for a trip to Southeastern Europe in June with the boyfriend. Oh, and I also forgot to mention that I should be getting a new volunteer here in Borouj at the end of March! I’m hoping that this is someone I can get along with really well and will help me to plan more amazing activities at the dar chebab as well as having someone to hang out with and have “American” time. So much to look forward to!