Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Color Explosion

So I’ve finally slept in my house. The most colorfully painted/tiled/decorated house you could imagine. I will try to take pictures and post them because I can hardly describe the tackiness that is this house. The hallway, living room and dining room have brownish-red and cream tiles from the floor to partway up the wall. (This part isn’t so bad, although there are two different patterns going on. It’s when you add in what they’ve done to the rest of the place.) In the living room the wall above it is teal with an odd pattern that looks like something you might see under a microscope. The ceiling is another color (black and grayish) with another pattern. The wall above the til in the hallway and dining room is gray with the scientific pattern Then in each of those rooms (that are open to each other) there is a lovely floral border across the top. Each one has been painted in a different color scheme: hot pink, yellow, brown, orange, blue, etc. On the ceiling there are decorative elements that have also been hideously ruined with bizarre, totally nonmatching colors, including gold. In the hallway on the ceiling there are several wood beams that are alternately painted blue and pink. There are a couple of archways, under which is brown (with gold accents of course). The floors are all tiled, mostly in semi-coordinating colors with the tiles on the wall, except in the living room there are 2 patches of grey. The kitchen is fully tiled in a couple shades of pink and of yellow/orange. On a couple of tiles there are Greek-related items (columns, vase) and then one has a basket of flowers. My bedroom has been painted gold, but the best part is that Moroccans seem to have a real affection for glitter (you see it fairly often on the outside of houses) – I got lucky and they painted my bedroom wall with it. My spare room has all pink walls. The walls of the shower and the toilet rooms (I did get lucky and they’re separate – nice not to have to clean yourself over the hole where you relieve yourself…) are tiled in the living/dining room tiles, with a few blue ones thrown in for good measure I guess. I got fortunate with windows. There are 3 in the living room plus the door has glass on the top half – and it opens – and there is 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the spare room. I decided to use the room that’s my bedroom because it doesn’t have an outside window (it does have one that opens to the dining area though) since I like to sleep/wake up with it nice and dark. The house is pretty open and the rooms are good size and the ceilings are high. It just could not be any gaudier. Oh and the furniture. I got couch cushions, called ponges (they rarely buy actual couches), from my sitemate (thanks Juan!) and they’re TU blue and yellow. There’s also a plastic floor mat in coordinating blue and yellow, and then a rug that goes on top of that in blue, brown and cream that doesn’t exactly match, but god bless Juan for finding something that at least was blue! I also got from him another plastic mat that’s brown and a rug that’s darker red with a nice pattern in a few colors that are in my bedroom. It’s definitely a site to see. I’ve still got to buy quite a few things, but with what I have and my sleeping bag (and a borrowed pillow from Juan), I can at least start staying there. I also got a fridge, small table and a few plates, silverware and glasses from the girl I replaced so that’s super helpful.

My language skills have taken a nosedive since we stopped going to class. I didn’t speak enough with my host family and community members and practice like I should. But it really gets old having people just laugh and rarely understand you whenever you talk. It was definitely a lot more comfortable (a lot being a relative term) talking with my first host family and community in my training site. I’m sure it helped that my first host father spoke pretty good English so we could use that when we needed to (which was really often). They also made a lot of effort with me in simple ways – like taking me to the kitchen and saying the names of items. My second host mom will just go on and on and on even when I ask her to slow down and repeat a little at a time. Super frustrating. In the last few days I was getting more and more tempted to just start rattling on in English just so she could maybe understand how I was feeling. I didn’t, I just kept nodding, laughing sometimes just because (usually when she did) and then making a confused face when it seemed she was actually asking me something or wanted some sort of response. It was painful. It is nice to be out of the situation. The family is nice, don’t get me wrong, just overwhelming, especially when you haven’t spent a single night by yourself in over 4 months. Just needed some space. Moroccans don’t really have a concept of privacy or why anyone would want it. Families often all sleep in the living area together. And there are always at least two of them together, talking away. It’s sort of funny (irritating) when you try to explain that you have lived alone. ‘In America, I lived by myself before I came here.’ ‘Oh, so just you and your parents?’ ‘No, alone, by myself, just me.’ ‘So your mom and dad lived with you, no one else?’ ‘Sure.’

I’m also happy to be able to start cooking what I want to eat. We ate the same meal for lunch and dinner every day and I was definitely over it. A long time ago. A lot of the food is way over spiced and overcooked (they also serve rice and pasta still sitting in the water – it’s just mushy and not pleasant!).

The weather in my town has been unusually warm. We were expecting tons of rain like they got last year and haven’t seen any of it. It was also cooler last year and this year it’s pretty hot in the sun during the day. Nights are chilly but not bad. Often it’s cooler in the house than outside – there’s that disbelieve in central air shining through. Summers are already miserable (120 degrees) so I’m really scared to see what this summer is going to bring. I plan to travel a lot, even if it’s just to other people’s sites that are not too far away, but at high elevation and therefore much cooler.

At the end of next month we have training/meetings for a week. I’m really looking forward to our whole group (all 63 of the people I came in with – called our staj) being together again. It will be fun to see everyone and catch up. One of the girls is having a Chinese New Year Celebration the weekend before and cooking a bunch of Chinese food (she’s even having ingredients sent from the US). Pretty sure I’m going to have to make my way there. No way am I passing up a Chinese feast.

I have to quickly mention that I cannot believe how many people are engaged or pregnant right now (only one is both, love you Mols!). And several close friends at that. With all the happenings, including the death I mentioned in the last post, and a BFF with a cancer scare, it makes me wonder if this is really the time I should be away from home. Not thinking of doing anything irrational like leaving, but it definitely has me thinking (and hoping I can get home for at least one of the occasions).

I should also probably mention the 20/20 program. In hindsight I should never had told you to watch it. I see that it scared a lot of you and I’m sorry. I just had no idea what it was going to be and our Country Director (head of the Peace Corps Morocco) texted us that morning saying it was going to be on. I feel safe here and take all precautions I can. I’m already pretty paranoid and therefore very aware, I think. Things can always happen, but they can also happen in the US just as easily. I’m never alone outside at night (which is weird and sometimes frustrating because it’s totally different from the US and I feel like I’ve given up a freedom I’m quite accustomed to). I keep my door and windows locked and watch out for weird things and people. Everyone in town knows about the Americans so there are many eyes and ears watching us (which is good and bad I suppose). Anyways, bottom line – don’t worry. Morocco was one of the first PC countries and we have a strong relationship here. It’s a stable country despite the weirdness and drama that seems to be occurring in other North African countries. And the PC is always monitoring things going on in the country and world and they take our Safety & Security very seriously.

I’m looking forward to the travel that’s coming up (maybe even every weekend until March – whoa). I like getting things on the calendar to look forward to. I plan to eat sparingly when in site so that I can save as much money to put towards travel. Seeing people reenergizes me and reminds me that I can do this!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Have My Own House!

So I totally skipped posting in December. Fail. Oh well, no point in worrying about it now. Time to catch you up. And thanks to those that have been posting comments - they're fun to read!

So I've now been in my site for about a month. Last time I left off it was just before Marche Maroc Marrakech, our Peace Corps artisan craft fair, that was the first weekend of December. Basically any artisan working with a PCV can come to the fair. It's a good opportunity for them to sell things and meet other artisans. We have workshops for them to learn various business-related things and time for them to see to tourists. There was a lot of walking involved for some of us as we were putting up posters and handing out flyers all over town. A good way to see the city but exhausting! It was also fun to meet some other PCVs from various places and of course see the PCVs that I already know. This is an event that I will probably take on some planning role in this year because I'm pretty close to Kech. We also have these fairs in Fez and Rabat so those will be fun to go to this year.

After the fair I went back to site to settle in with my new host family. Things have been fairly uneventful at site. My language has taken a nosedive since not being in class all day and not feeling super comfortable speaking that much. It's much different living in a house with no other English speaker around and trying to gesture and fumble around for basic conversation. I'm sure they think I'm this quiet, timid person who doesn't say much. Which is true in Darija. If only they knew me ;) I haven't been able to find a tutor so I've been trying to do a little studying on my own, although that doesn't happen as often as it should.

December was honestly a tough month. On Friday, Dec. 17th Sammy Hesselberg had a brain aneurysm and never returned to us. For those of you who don't know him he was 17 and I've known him that whole time. He and his brothers went to Ruth Washburn (our preschool). His brother Matt is a year behind me, his brother Brad is a year behind Jackson and Sammy is a year behind Anna. Our moms worked together at Ruth Washburn and I have memories of Matty and I babysitting him (with his big head and blond hair!), Anna and all the kids of the teachers during work days. More recently my mom and his dad were working in the same school and for several years his family has lived 2 doors down from my best friend Lilly's family. My fondest memory is every time I went to Lilly's, he would see me coming and take off, often to the confusion of whichever friend he was with. Running, biking, whatever transportation he had at hand, he would use to escape while screaming and laughing. I don't know why this ever started in the first place (probably because when he was little enough I liked grabbing him and tickling him) but it went until literally the last 2 or so years (the first time he didn't take off was quite sad for me, I'll admit - I guess since he was finally taller than me and quite the athlete, he had to start looking cooler ;) or maybe just face his fear). Anyways, he was one of the best kids you could ever meet, with a smile that could get him in trouble, and his funeral was attended by around 1,500 people, including many rival hockey players from schools around town - a true testament to him and his family. His funeral was on my birthday (the 22nd) and it was tough not being there. It still doesn't feel real and I know I'll expect to see him when I get back to town. We'll always love you, Sammy.

My birthday also sucked for a couple of other reasons. a. It was the same day as the Debutante Ball, and my sister was a Deb and I missed out on going. b. They don't celebrate birthdays here so I didn't bother even telling my host family. It was just weird walking around and the day being no different than any other day here aside from the multiple facebook postings and emails telling me happy birthday (thanks by the way!).

Moving on from being Debbie Downer... Christmas was weird but good. I went to a site about 4-5 hours away where there are 2 PCVs. It's a bigger town so it was nice to be in more of a city setting for a few days. There were about 20 of us and we cooked amazing food (Zena, my CBT mate and our host for the weekend, owned a catering company before coming here so the food was one of the best parts of the weekend!) and had a white elephant gift exchange (although all the gifts were basically things we all need for our houses). It was great to see other Americans, although it still doesn't really feel like Christmas ever happened having not been in the hustle and bustle or seeing decorations and hearing xmas music.

It's still quite hot around here during the day. The nights are cool, but we haven't gotten rain aside for a couple of days. The plants seem to think it's spring and are flowering. If it's this hot now, I'm pretty sure the summer will be unbearable. Will definitely be traveling as much as possible then.

It's dinnertime (fried sardines - ick) and my computer is going to die so I will post this and try to add some more later tonight!