Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Officially a Peace Corps Volunteer Now!

Wow, it's been a month since my last post! Lots of things have happened since then and I'm sorry I haven't updated you all. Let's see if I can remember everything....

On Oct. 30th we all got our final site assignments (I'm in the Azilal province, in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, but per PC guidelines I can't tell you specifically where - email me if you want to know). On Halloween, we all each traveled to our sites to stay for 5 days with our new host families and meet our new counterparts/the people we'll be working with. I was GREATLY relieved to learn that I will have a sitemate (named Juan - he does Youth Development). I also am replacing someone so the local folks are semi familiar with PC and why we're there. Rebecca, my predeccessor, and sometimes Juan as well, took me around and introduced me to everyone. I am going to work with 5 cooperatives of women weavers. They make this really expensive material out of combos of wool, silk & cotton. The material is then sold to people who make jillabas out of it. It's very thin and takes around a month to weave so it's super expensive and exclusive (the King & government ministers wear it). My job is to see if they can branch out and make some products that will reach a wider audience. Like making scarves that American or European or other tourists would buy. There's been a recent push by the Minister of Artisana to get back to natural dyeing in Morocco so that will be something else I will work on with them. Rebecca has already gotten these things started there so I will continue her work. I will also work with an association that focuses on things like health, sports and the environment in the community. It will be nice to have a few things going on - hopefully will keep me busy!

The site visit was interesting (read: traumatizing!) and it left me with a weird feeling I can't put my finger on. I live with a nice family. Actually, nice lady - I only have 1 other "family" member as my host mom's husband is deceased. She does have 2 grown and married daughters who live very close to us. One has 1 daughter and 2 sons and the other has 4 sons. I only met "my sisters" (we'll call them for convenience sake) and the husband and 2 sons of one of them and (their daughter goes to school in Tangier). I'm sure I'll meet the other kids in due time. The house is set up fairly strange - the bathroom is an outhouse outside of the front door (opposite where the chickens mostly hang out - yes we have chickens). Not such a fan of this feature (I'll explain even more later - but I'm sure you can imagine why it sucks not having your bathroom INSIDE of the house). Anyways, after you come in the gate and pass the bathroom on your right and the chickens' home (not an enclosed, which is why I won't call it a coop - they have free range pretty much) on your left, you enter the front door. On your immediate left is a cold water faucet (oh yeah, the only one in the house, and there's no hot water) over a bucket and then just past that is a kitchen. On your right is a salon, or living room area lined with "ponges" or the Moroccan equivalent of a couch/bed. They're basically long couch-like cushions that some people put on wooden bases. If you come in the front door and don't turn one or the other, but just head a little to the left, you come to an doorway (missing the door) that is sometimes covered with a curtain. If you walk out, you'll be in courtyard. If you cross the courtyard to the right, there is another kitchen (don't start getting ideas this is luxurious - I can't figure out why there are 2 kitchens when neither is anything to write home about. Oh wait.) Anyways, if you cross said courtyard to the left there is my bedroom. The small double doors are missing some pieces and it's only secured with a slidy lock (oh and nothing on the inside to secure them, hmmm). My bedroom has a window, except that there are 2 tvs stacked on top of each other in front of it (neither appear to have worked in some years) so it's pretty much blocked. Fortunately I don't like to wake up to brightness so this should be okay. In the courtyard in a upside-down, beehive-like object. Inside there was a bucket. So I asked what it was. Oh that's right, it's our shower. Oh good. Guess we boil water and stick it in there. And wrap the "mini-hammam" with plastic tarp and blankets to keep the heat in. I now fully understand why Peace Corps Volunteers do not shower on a regular basis. It's not because we're all dirty hippies (because there are surprisingly few that actually are), but because showering is such a freaking hassle it's just easier not to do it. And it's not as if we're in a place where b.o. is given a second thought, but... Back to the house, let's see, the roosters start crowing at 10:10pm and there are 2 - one seems to be "special" because his crow is pretty weird but he tries to compete with the other one. Yay. So the distance between my room, the fact that my host mom was sleeping in the salon in the "main" part of the house & there's no door to close it off, the darkness, the loudness of the metal front door with its squeeking lock and the fact that I often wasn't ready to start my day off as early I woke up, meant that I got very little sleep because I needed to go the bathroom more than once at night, but I refused. I'm sure I'll have to get over all of those issues because I won't be able to live like that for 3 weeks, but we'll see.

After the site visit we went back to our CBTs to finish up training. Things got a little crazy because on the 13th the brother of my host mom passed away in Rabat so my host family took off unexpectedly without really saying goodbye (they called my LCF and told him they were leaving and that my house key was with the Gendarme - basically the Police - Chief and his family. This turned into a bit of a mess but was worked out with Joe's help. Oh the joys of a language barrier. Anyways, I ended up staying at Zena's house with her and her family for the remaining days in TimHdit. They were very welcoming and so nice to take me in!

The Following Semi-Graphically Talks About Killing Sheep - Consider Yourself Warned...
L'Eid Kbir (The Big Feast) was on the 17th. During this holiday every family slaughters at least 1 sheep. The kids (and adults) get as excited as we do about Santa coming. They love to tell you all about it and never fail to do the finger slicing across the neck motion to show you what's going to happen to the sheep (my final site 8 year old host "nephew" went through the entire process by acting it out - pretty funny actually). It's quite a sight, to walk through the streets and seeing blood running everywhere, sheepskins hanging off of roofs and look into garages at just the moment a super sharp knife slices across a neck. I watched at least 3. The most disturbing part to me is watching the poor guy try to get up and run and basically convulse even when it's brain dead. After it bleeds out, the cut a spot in the leg so they can blow in it (yes, they but their mouth to it) so they can puff it up which evidently makes the skinning easier. Once the skinning is complete, it's time to hang that sucker up by its crossed feet, slit it down the middle and remove its innerds. At some point they remove the head (and then stick 'er on the grill to burn away the hair so it can be eaten - blech - the whole town smells like burning hair and blood). Let's get to the eating part. They eat the whole dang thing. Then they start right away cutting up the liver into bite-sized pieces and then wrapping it in fat, putting it on a kabob and then grilling it. They also pushed the intestines inside out and grilled that too. Oh and by the way, the grilling is often done in the kitchen or garage so it gets pretty rough inside. They eat the head & feet that night (including eye balls and sucking on even the teeth - I ate some cheek, or so I think it was, but they were nice enough to cook me some "meat" - yes, by name they realize that these other parts are not what one would consider meat). Then there's basically meat for every meal from there on out until we left town that weekend - and they were definitely not even close to done when we left. I helped cut up some of the body so I did my part (oh and I took pictures which they couldn't get enough of looking at). I'd love for any of you to experience this holiday next year so feel free to come then - I'll let you know what the date will be as the time gets closer, although you may have to book a ticket to be here for the timeframe in which the correct moon might be sighted since religious holidays are based on that and it can change last minute or not be on the same day in every place. Don't ask.

The weekend after L'Eid we went back to Mehidia, the beach town where we spent our first days in country. It was nice to have the entire group back together for a few days. We took our Language Proficiency Interview (exam) and I scored Intermediate Low - a level above the minimum which I was quite frankly shocked about. Maybe my teacher paid of the interviewer or maybe she was just tired because I went midday, but either way, that was way better than I expected to do. And I barely studied thank you very much. We'll get tested again in February or March so we'll see if in the meantime I can find a tutor and then improve my score.

We spent the Thanksgiving Eve Day in Rabat for Swearing-in which means there are 63 new official Peace Corps Volunteers (and yes I'm one of them). The Ambassador did the official ceremony, along with our outgoing Country Director (we'll miss you David!) and the Minister of Youth & Sports and the Director of the Artisana. It was a nice enough ceremony with a small reception to follow. Then we went back to the Peace Corps headquarters for a "Thanksgiving" meal. Let's use the word Thanksgiving very loosely here as the only thing that related it to the holiday was the fact that they served turkey. It's nice that they tried though... That night we went to the American Club and I had my first alcoholic beverage since I was in Philly before we left the U.S. Mmm, beer. We had french fries and onion rings as well. Then we went out to a Thai restaurant. Good times. On Thanksgiving we all started the journey to our sites. I took the train with some people to Marrakech. Getting on the train was a freaking nightmare. I had my 2 huge rolling duffel bags, plus my backpack, a smaller duffel, my purse and another bag. Thank god one guy was nice enough to help me out by lifting the bags into the train for me, but from there it got messy. I was too wide to fit down the hallway, so finding a seat was a huge pain and then people would just step over us/our things to get by. Could you just wait until I move, please? Oh no, oh okay, just knock my bag over so it falls to the side and becomes even more unmanagable. Appreciate it. The rest of the ride was okay and then our stay in kesh was nice. It was great being in Rabat and Marrakech - big cities - where no one really cares you're there because it's not the first time in their whole life that they've seen a non-Moroccan person. People still stare a little, but it's nothing like in the small towns. Plus it's nice to be in what feels like civilization - showers with water overhead! Western toilets! Hot & cold water in the faucet/sink! In kech we went to a pizza place for Thanksgiving dinner. Not exactly ideal but good to be with friends eating good food. We wandered through the medina and just hung out. We went to a vegetarian restaurant that had really good food (and they love PCVs so they give us a discount and free bread). Then I went to Azilal for our Welcome to the Province Party. It was fun to meet some of the Health and Environment Volunteers.

I'm looking forward to seeing the SBD Volunteers again on Wednesday for a craft fair - we'll be together until Monday. But then the real life in my site begins so stay posted...

I now know my permanent address (I'm sharing with Juan) so when you want to send packages and Christmas & Birthday cards, message me and I'll give it to you! Or look on facebook - it's posted there too.

P.s. I'm too lazy to proof this so my apologies as always for typos - I hate them but more than I hate them, I want to get this posted!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shiny and Soft

Two Sundays ago we went hiking in Zouia d'Ifrane. We hired two drivers/cars to take us there as it's about 70km from our village. They have pretty waterfalls so we spent the day hiking up to the top of them and having a picnic and then up further. It was a pretty cool, rainy day - maybe this is what fall is like here (wet!) or maybe we're skipping straight to winter (it's supposed to be cold and wet - miserable - this year). We're planning for snow before we leave here for our permanent sites on Thanksgiving. Definitely going to appreciate the stack of blankets at my house that is literally taller than me - I will try to take a picture of it. Joe, our Moroccan teacher, didn't believe me about how many blankets they have so I had to show him when everyone came over for kaskrut (the coffee/tea/snack break at 6:30ish). He was shocked to see so many (and scared to think about what winter is going to bring)!

Last Saturday we went to Ait Hamza, a village of 300 people, that’s just a short taxi ride away from us. We went to visit another group of trainees there. Some people from two of the other groups came as well. We were able to be away from our site overnight so 19 of us stayed at the home of a current PCV that lives there. She made Mexican food, but unfortunately I was too sick to take even a bite. I was puking and ______. So pleasant – I spent the evening lying on Emily’s bed, but it was fun to see everyone and have such a big group. The next day the group was going hiking but I was not up to it and Zena (from my group) wanted to go back and study so she and I got a cab to the next town where we then got another cab back to our town.

We find out our permanent sites this Friday and we're all pretty excited/nervous to find out where we'll be spending the next two years. We talked to the program director last weekend to let him know if we had any requests or information for him regarding our site, but from everything we've heard, no matter what we say, they put you where they need you, SO - who knows and why bother!

Yesterday the 3 other girls in my group, our cook and I went to the hammam, which is the public bath. I liked the after result – silky smooth skin, but sitting there in only my underwear – no top on – with a bunch of other women was totally awkward. There are basically 3 rooms and a changing “lobby” in the place. You go in, strip down and then go in to the next room and then the next. The first room is cool, then the middle room is warm and then the last room, depending on the number of people, is hotter. There are faucets around the room and you fill a bucket and wet-down and then put this argon oil soap on, wash it off and then start scrubbing with this weird mitt thing. After awhile your skin starts coming off in small spaghetti-like strands. Talk about gross. Oh, and since you can’t really scrub your own back to death, someone does it for you. And lucky me, before I knew what was happening, the lady that works there had me thrown on the ground and twisted in all sorts of weird positions and was scrubbing the s*** out of me. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to pay her, but I only took enough money to get in (since your clothes and shoes just hang out in an open room). I think my host mom wants me to go pay her tomorrow but due to the language barrier, I’m not totally sure. I didn’t want this “service” in the first place – I thought the lady was just asking about my host mom and telling me there was hot water over there – ugh. She had a couple of mats I laid on – gross – and they smelled like a barnyard. Many thanks to my “friends” who didn’t save me!! Anyways, once you’re done scrubbing (which goes on for quite some time) you rinse off and wash with real soap and shampoo and then rinse off and then leave. Some people stay for hours, especially the men who evidently in addition to scrubbing each other also assist each other in stretching. I’m sure it’s nice in the winter since they don’t believe in actually heating their houses, but then the cold reminder that you have to go outside will set in and yikes that will be rough. I’m sure I’ll go from time to time but will try to avoid being pinned to the ground. That night 3 of us made our own kaskrut (the evening coffee break, but ours consisted of Coke, chocolate pudding, french bread and some soft cheese stuff - we get it how we can. Then we had a girls movie night (watched Fargo on Jamila's computer) - we huddled together on Nora's bed to keep warm. It was relaxing and quiet with no one talking (i.e. yelling because they talk so loud) in arabic.

Today was the first day we didn’t go anywhere or do anything out of our site. I slept in (well didn’t sleep, but stayed in bed) and then did most of my homework before the family came in to tell me they were all going different places for awhile. It was nice to have the place to myself for a bit. When my host mom came back we did my laundry and then she showed me the unfinished apartment upstairs from ours where we hang clothes to dry. She was also drying seeds to make into bread (okay, they weren’t seeds, but my English these days is diminishing so I don’t know what to call them). Tonight for dinner I was really excited that we were going to have pizza. Until I learned that it was fish pizza. Can’t anything be the same?! Yesterday we made Chinese food and it was quite delicious. Actually tasted like Chinese food and unlike anything we eat here – we even left the cumin and turmeric out of it (they cook with an overabundance of those here and I’ve learned I don’t like them – not good!). Thanks to Jamila for whipping up chicken fried rice and stir-fried (well, steamed) veggies chicken and thanks to Zena for buying soy sauce when she had to make an unplanned trip to Rabat a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In a Mercedes Built for Five

Last week we finally met with the women weavers we’re supposed to be doing our project with during this first phase. They were the ones that wanted us here, yet the president was not responding to any of our calls or even visits to her house (here’s that patience thing coming into play again that is required from the moment you apply to the Peace Corps). We finally tracked down the president’s sister, who is conveniently the treasurer, and then managed to plan a meeting. We saw their rugs and other weaving work and it’s quite impressive. They make very nice, high quality things. It sounds like they are relying completely on us to sell their goods so we’re going to have to do a little “expectation management” and fix that! We’re here to help, not do it all! Flash forward: after 2 meetings with the weavers, it’s pretty shocking where the priorities lay. They had a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) here a few years ago and we’ve discovered that she basically sold their rugs to her family and friends in the States. She totally set them up for failure in not giving them any type of sustainable plan, but they see her as a hero as now pretty much they equate PCV with sales and international marketing. When we were discussing the things they need to be successful, they basically bypassed starting at the local level and attempting to get some of them literate (things that we definitely see as starting off points) and went straight for the aforementioned things. Oh boy…

On Saturday we cooked lamb kabobs and many veggies over the smallest grill you’ve ever seen. (Technically it was a brazier, but since we giggled so much when Joe*, our LCF - Language & Culture Facilitator - said the word, he had to call it something else. He of course didn’t understand our laughing like 12 year old boys at the word, so we had to explain it was another word for bra. Not that funny, but you gotta find the humor however you can I guess.) The food was yet again delicious and we had a ton of it. This time no animals were killed in front of us in order to prepare the meal (we did see a cow’s head, a goat’s head – under the foot of the butcher, mind you – and many chicken heads when purchasing the lamb). Jamila’s host sister was visiting for the weekend (she goes to school in Azrou) so she did henna for us that night. *He is Moroccan – his name is of course not Joe – but from here on out, the names will be changed to protect the guilty. Either from Moroccan to American or vice versa. We’ve all be given Moroccan names so those will be used. In case you’re wondering, mine is Dunya, which I guess is as close to Adrienne as they can come up with. It means “the life” or “the road” – guess it could be worse!

Speaking of food, I will take this opportunity to tell you that we have 3 meals a day, plus 3 coffee breaks that typically include some sort of snack. During all of these, food is shoved down our throats. Even if you are chewing, have food in your hand and on the table immediately in front of you, they are telling you to eat. Thanks for the hospitality, but I am full/eating at a normal pace. They pretty much laugh when you say you’re full and think you’re ridiculous. It does not go unnoticed, however, that during most of these times, they are not eating themselves. And sugar makes its way into basically everything. Including spaghetti. Yeah that’s right – Xena was having spaghetti and her host sister sprinkled something on top. She got really excited thinking cheese – finally! Nope, it was sugar. And for dinner or whatever meal it was a couple of nights ago, I had cake and orange Fanta. Ask us in a couple of years what we got out of the Peace Corps and we’re pretty sure we’re all going to say diabetes. Super.

On Sunday, 4 of my CBT (Community Based Training) group went to Azrou to meet up with someone from another CBT. We had coffee and tasty pastries at a café and then walked around and looked at the shops selling a huge variety of goods. We found places to have a jilaba (the long outfits they wear) custom made and/or buy shoes, gaudy jewelry and a whole bunch of other random stuff. We had lunch, walked around some more and then had another coffee break. Then we left.

Getting and riding in a grande taxi (the kind that take you from town to town vs. a petite taxi that only takes you around town) is quite a production. They take 6 passengers so unless you have 6 people in your group wanting to go to the same place, you have to wait until enough people show up wanting to go to the same destination as you (or you can pay for the empty spots yourself if you don’t want to wait). Normally our whole group of 6 goes places together but Tariq was going hiking with another one of the groups and Jamila has been sick so she stayed home. The waiting game can take awhile (the guy we were meeting had to wait for over 2 hours to fill his taxi to come meet us). Nothing like cramming 4 adults in the backseat and 3 in the front of a car designed for 5! It’s cozy to say the least. Oh, and somehow all of the handles are removed from the windows so you have to ask the driver to hand you the handle so you can roll down your window. What? Is it cheaper to buy that Mercedes (which they all are) without the handles? Pretty sure it isn’t. We’re quite curious where all of those handles go. Such a weird thing to remove.

On Wednesday we had a crazy rain storm that included giant hail coming down for quite some time and causing a river to form outside of the house we were visiting for a meeting. Massive amounts of rain in a town torn up for construction does not equal something good. We managed to cross a huge mud pit but were confused when we saw Tariq’s host dad was waiting for us with a car to take us across the street. Then we realized the sidewalk was a rushing waterfall/stream. Many of our houses had water coming in because they’re ground-level (I realized how lucky I am to live on the 2nd floor). The journey back to my house that night was quite a dark, muddy adventure to say the least.

On Friday (now) the whole business group (28 of us) are back in Azrou for our last rabies shot and some sessions on harassment and medical issues and to do presentations on our sites so far. It's great to be with the big group. We even went out for pizza and cheeseburgers for dinner. They definitely left a lot to be desired, but still, we had pizza! We met with the director of SBD (Small Business Development) today to discuss anything we wanted to share about our potential future sites. We all answered with a grain of salt knowing that no matter what you say, they are going to place you where they need you. We find out at the end of this month where we're going so we're all waiting anxiously for the news! Tomorrow we're doing more sessions on random stuff and then heading back to our sites. On Sunday we're doing a day trip somewhere so that should be fun.

Okay, much love, time to get back to the group! Oh and apologies for any and all spelling and grammar mistakes in all posts. And a shoutout to Alyssa for mentioning me in her blog and even posting a picture :) and to Natalie and my family for mailing cards - nothing beats getting stuff on mail delivery day!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Drop the Soap

So you probably think that only holds true in jail. Wrong. As you watch it slip out of your hands and slide around the toilet (turkish version - in the ground) and fall into the hole you discover you'd better get a much better grip on that puppy every time from here on out. After this happened (at my "house"), I just stood there and stared at it wondering what to do next and why was this my life. You can't just leave it there - the next person will come in and see it. (For those unfamiliar with this horrible version of a toilet, it's literally a hole in the ground. You fill a bucket when you're done so you can pour it down the hole and "flush" it. Most people literally don't use toilet paper so you steer clear of left hands. Don't worry, I buy my own and use it - not going down that road.) Anyways, so what to do. The soap is sitting there in the hole. What did I do? Tried not to gag and grabbed it and stuck it immediately under the faucet (yeah, there's one of those on the wall near the floor to fill the bucket and supposedly wash your hands. I say supposedly because that soap never appears to be used when anyone else comes out of the bathroom. Let's try not to focus on this). I washed my hands twice and then went for the sanitizer in my room. Fortunately, there is a "western" (normal) toilet at the LCF house (where we go to class and our teacher lives) so I try to do as business there as possible.

I've never been one to talk about bathroom issues. Not a topic I like, but as you can tell from that first paragraph, this is a center of thought for me these days. So thus, welcome to my life, bathroom talk and all. It's pretty funny the amount of sharing that goes on between people who've only known each other for less than 2 weeks when they're thrown into this surreal situation. I look at these people, some I met as long as 17 days ago in Philadelphia and some as recently as maybe 10 days ago, and cannot believe it's only been that long.

I thought I'd already done a posting here, but realized a few days ago that I hadn't so I will try to catch you up on the highlights. Let's see. I first went to Philadelphia for a quick meet each other, sign some papers, hear about PC policies and visit Target several times in less than 2 days to pick up whatever random thing someone else suggested was a good idea to have that you hadn't thought of. Oh, and we even managed time for visit to the Liberty Bell. From Philly they bussed us to NYC, straight through Brooklyn and to JFK. We flew overnight to Casablanca and they picked us up and bussed us to Mediha, which is a small seaside town close to Rabat. We could walk a block to the water, but the best part were the police escorts. Everywhere we went. There's 2 types of cops here - gendarmes and police. Gendarmes are in more rural areas and have a direct line to the King. Police are in bigger cities and I guess have less power. Who knows, but we had both. 24 hours a day. Several of them sat outside the building where we stayed and anytime we'd go down to the beach, go for a run, go buy something at the little store or whatever, they'd follow at a short distance. I guess far enough away to make us feel independent, but close enough that there was no mistake who they were guarding. They also came with us to Kenitra, the next, bigger city, over, but in plain clothes. Oh no, the matching stiff, never worn, black caps you're all wearing don't give you away. We also picked up some additional plain clothes cops there. They had Lacoste caps and radios. Super secretive. But hey, one stopped a rapidly-moving bus from within inches so we could cross the street. And fed us huge acorns from a street vendor. It was fun to see them in action when a 1o or so year old boy was asking me for money and our cop picked him up and removed him. Good stuff. After 4 days there of more policy stuff, 5 or 6 shots, a turkish toilet lesson (they divided up the boys and girls for this one and actually drew one on paper and showed how to do it), bonding time, a quick a dirty darija lesson, meetings with the PCMO (medical officer) and assorted random other stuff, we were loaded into 2 separate busses (1 headed for the hub with the YD - Youth Development - group and other had the SBD - Small Business Development - my - group). We unloaded, ate (the other topic of constant conversation) and headed for our small group sites. My group of 6 plus our teacher are about 30 km/30 minutes from Azrou.

I am living with a small family in the Middle Atlas (yay for mountains and cooler weather!). Parents and a 3 year old boy. The father is a primary school teacher of French and Tamazight (a dialect of Berber). He speaks Darija, Tam., French, German, Spanish and pretty decent English. The mother is a stay at home mom who speaks Darija, Tam, French, Spanish and a bit of English. She went to university and got a degree in math. It's super helpful to have someone who knows English, but we still spend a good amount of time pointing and gesturing and laughing at the akwardness of it all. Privacy is pretty limited, but I do have my own room (just no door yet, ugh!). For the first week I was here the father's parents were in town. They only speak Berber so conversations when I was involved were pretty slow as everything was translated and translated again I think. Again, lots of smiling and nodding. I have learned 2 Berber words - the one is the command for eat and the other for I'm full. Not that saying I'm full gets them to stop pushing food, but hey, I try.

Okay, this is really long, but I said I was going to catch you up...

Last Friday we went to the hub (Azrou) for our 2nd round of rabies shots. It was fun to see a couple of the other small groups for at least a few short hours. However, on the way there, our cab ran out of gas and we had to push it uphill. Twice. The first time when we got to a downhill, the driver just kept going and we stood there wondering if were saying goodbye to our most important/expensive possessions (cameras, laptops, passports, money, etc.). Fortunately(?) he came to another hill so we were required to push again and this time we pretty much jumped in while it was moving. Then we got lucky and managed to coast a few kilometers into town and a gas station. Our teacher was in cab a little ways behind us. When he finally drove up (while we happened to be standing there wondering what the hell was going on the first time it died) our driver told his driver that everything was fine and they drove on and left us thinking we'd stopped to take pictures. Uh, no.

For lunch last Saturday we decided to buy a live chicken and within 2 hours we were having said chicken for lunch. Yes, we killed and plucked it ourselves (okay, well the 3 guys did, but I stood there the whole time taking pictures). It was really tasty, but I couldn't eat much as my stomach was not a happy camper that day (oh, wait, it's been that way for a week). The next day we went to Ifrane, which is about 30km from our town. It's a pretty, clean, larger, more modern city. It was built by the French to resemble Switzerland. They even have an American English university (everything is taught in American English). Sign me up for a post there.

We went to the souk (like a flea market I guess, but they sell everything from fresh fruit and veggies to soap, mirrors, buckets and bleach to live animals) today and last Thursday. Our town is sorta the hub souk for 4 or 5 surrounding towns so this town of 2,507 gets much bigger on those days. We're buddies with the Chief of the Gendarmes and all the other officials of the town. We get stared at everywhere we go, but no surprise there. There's dead animals hanging all over the place. Today we bought lamb to make for lunch on Saturday and at the place we bought it there was a goat head under the butcher's foot and a cow head on the next counter and chicken heads all over the place. Not a pretty site. There's donkeys everywhere (people's modes of carrying their goods), as well as chickens and stray dogs and cats.

Okay, that is enough for now. Good job if you made it all the way through. Let me know if you have questions and wish me luck learning Darija :) And have fun watching those awful campaign commercials I'm so freaking happy I'm missing. Send emails, letters and pictures (like as in the printed version!) - it's nice to keep in touch and hear from everyone.

Miss you all!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In the Home Stretch

So I'm in the midst of packing madness. I have 2 bedrooms covered in stuff I'm trying to sort through and figure out if it fits in the 80 pounds I'm allowed to take (and make sure you subtract 15-20 pounds for the weight of the bags themselves). Anyways, this is a difficult task to say the least!

Brandy, Kara & Johann are having my going away party this Saturday the 11th (come if you're in Denver), and then I leave for Philly for Staging the next morning. We meet each other and do some basic orientation on Monday the 13th. On Tuesday morning, the bus comes to take us to JFK and our overnight flight to Casablanca (I really should watch that movie!). We get in bright and early on Wednesday and then the fun begins! Once everyone has cleared customs and luggage has been collected, we will make the 2.5-hour bus trip to the initial training orientation site in Mehdya, a small beach town just north of Rabat. On Sunday, September 19th, we will leave Mehdya, using public transportation, and travel to our assigned “hub” site, the Auberge du Derniere Lion de l'Atlas in Azrou. During a brief stop at the “hub” site we will have an opportunity to store any baggage we will not need while at your community based training (CBT) site. Together with our Language and Cross-cultural Facilitator (LCF) and fellow Trainees in my preassigned CBT training group we will then depart for our CBT site where we will live with a host-family for the duration of our training. I'm pretty sure this will all be a blur...

Here's my address during Pre-Service Training (PST)
(NO packages can be sent to this address, only letters!):
Adrienne Tuck
s/c Corps de la Paix
2, Rue Abou Marouane Essaadi
Agdal, Rabat 10100, MOROCCO

I'll probably buy a cell phone (sounds like (99% of volunteers there have them) so I'll let you know about that once I figure it out. I set up Skype so be sure to join if you're not already a member and we can communicate there (I think my username is aatuck).

If I successfully complete Pre-Service Training by meeting all qualifying requirements (dear god let's hope so!), I will be sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on November 24, 2010 (the day before Thanksgiving). The day following my swearing-in I will leave directly for my permanent work site.

Okay, that's enough for now. Got to get back to sorting and packing and the million other little things I need to take care of.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


This is the site I'm going to use to post updates while I'm living & working abroad. There's no guarantee how often I'll have internet access, but I'll try to do as much as possible. Most of you know I'm no writer, so don't expect anything fancy, just the latest! I'll keep you updated with my mailing addresses as they change so you can send letters and packages ;)