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.