Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Beginning to Feel a lot like Africa (HOT)

First of all, congrats to Jessie and Jeff on baby Sloane's arrival yesterday - I'm so excited for you guys (and Grandma & Grandma Ketcham)!  It's been fun following their blog and seeing Jessie's tummy get huge over the months, especially since she's so tiny normally :)

I had to pull up my calendar to try and figure out what I've been doing.  Spring camp (I can't remember my last post, but did I mention it was in Oujda, which is essentially on the Algerian border, in the northern part of Morocco?) was definitely a good experience.  I was nervous going in because of stories I'd heard, but all ended well.  We of course had teenage drama, but that's to be expected when you get almost 60 12-17 year olds together for a week.  Little relationships began (that I've since heard have already ended), hearts were broken and friendships were formed.  The irony of it is that the first initial of the first names of us counselors spelled out DRAMA.  We had some good culture talks with the kids and I learned I don't know the first thing about how to teach.  It was embarrassing, but we stumbled through it (they definitely didn't leave knowing any more English than they came with, but what can you expect in 2-4 days?).  I will definitely do my best to do it again next year.

After spring camp I headed back to Sefrou for a night and then went to Fez the next day because my lovely friend Jess was visiting me from Denver!  She was my first visitor and it was so fun, but so weird, to see someone from home.  We spent the next day walking around the medina in Fez and it didn't take her much time to figure out how annoying the men and boys there are (and why I ignore them, which at first she thought was rude).  They are constantly bugging you and in your personal space and generally rude (some of them learn a short phrase or two in English, and rarely is it not something derogatory or cuss word filled, often sexual).  She was over it after about an hour or two, plus it was really hot, so we headed to a cafe owned by a British guy and had banana smoothies on the roof overlooking some of the medina.  The next day we both got on buses (she with her tour group and me on what we call a souk bus - I'll explain later) and headed to Marrakech.  It was a full day (around 11 hours) of travel - including a 45 minute breakdown that involved everyone filing out of the bus and crossing the street to the minimal amount of shade provided by a few trees and a large metal sign (where we then left five guys behind because they'd run to the store to buy drinks).  It was also hot as hades and I was sweating pretty much the entire journey.  The only air circulation was one pop-up thing in the roof (that got closed a couple of times - not okay - not sure how Moroccans can wear winter coats, 5 layers of clothing and hats when it's 90 degrees outside, but they most definitely do).  It was a miserable journey and it just wouldn't end - even when I finally got there, got in a cab, but then couldn't find my hotel because Jess's tour guide hadn't told me the full name of the hotel (he'd also given me the wrong hotel in Fez so it was par for the course!).  Eventually I made it to the swanky hotel we were staying at though, grabbed dinner and then we went and chilled in the room for the rest of the night.  The next day she went on the tour of the city with the group and I stayed at the hotel and hung by the pool.  It was so nice, although super hot!  That night we went to a little vegetarian restaurant in the medina and then walked around Jemaa Al Fna (the main square) - it's an experience at night with the food stalls and the "hosts" grabbing at you and telling you their food is the best (it's all the same) and all the street performers.  The next day we sadly parted ways - Jess heading to Rabat and Casablanca and then back to Spain and me hanging by the pool again until it was time to go to my friend Kelsea's site, about 1.5 hours away.  It was a bit of an adventure getting there (all travel in Morocco is), but I made it (although I had to race to the front and off of the bus with all of my stuff because I didn't realize we'd already made the loop through her town and were headed back to 'kech).  Saw Kelsea's town and then the next day we went back to 'kech to meet up with a few other PCVs.  The parents of one of my fellow trainees were in town so we went to dinner with them which was nice.  They left early the next morning, but the five of us PCVs hung out in 'kech and walked around.  We'd heard there was a delicious Vietnamese restaurant in town, so I decided to figure out where it was so we could go there for dinner.  We did end up finding it, but I will say the food was a bit disappointing - I'm not sure if our standards are much lowered than they used to be, or somehow higher, but I guess at least we got Asian (it was a mix of several kinds) food.  Then the next day we all headed back to our sites.

I was in site for a few days and then headed out for another getaway which I'll have to tell you about at a later date.  Suffice it to say it was delicious and beautiful.  After that, I went to my friend Annemarie's site (and I even passed through my old CBT town TimHdit - they've definitely done some improvements, at least to the sidewalks there) because she is half British and was therefore having a Royal Wedding (Watch) Party.  It was really fun - she made a few meals of yummy British food (oxymoron, I know) and we spent the day watching the wedding festivities.  I saw a lot of people on facebook whining about the wedding and how they don't care about it and shouldn't we and they be concerned about money issues, not spending an insane amount on a wedding right now, but come on - we need a little excitement and happiness in our lives people.  Take a break from reality for a minute and enjoy!  And you say you don't care about it, but you obviously care enough to make it your fb status, soooo...   Whatever, I had fun watching and am not ashamed to admit it!  It was beautiful :)

After the wedding weekend was over, I came to my friend Cheryl's site, about 30 minutes from Azrou (our old hub town, ahh memories) and that is where I am now.  We are part of a small group that is planning our next training session, IST, that is taking place in June.  Our last training was so bad that we decided we needed to step up and offer our input and help plan this next one.  Hopefully our staff will listen to and implement our input (we actually called and interviewed every SBD PCV in our staj - group - and got their feedback so they should listen up).  We'll see what happens with that.  We're meeting with them this weekend or early next week to hash it out.

I'm going to Rabat on Thursday for another craft fair we have happening at the American Club this weekend. It's a more exclusive fair (not everyone is allowed to come) so there will be a smaller group, but it will be fun to see the people that are there.  The Rose Festival is taking place down in the southern part of the country this weekend and I had hoped to go to that, but the craft fair is more important so, priorities!  Below is a picture of some of the scarves my artisan makes, and then a picture of her and I in Fez after the last craft fair. I've never added pics to the blog before, but I figured why not?!

I'm sure by now you've all heard about the bombing in Marrakech.  It was so weird because at first the PC office texted us and said there'd been a gas explosion at a cafe (that was the first report they got) and to check on any PCVs we knew that might be there.  Then later there were emails saying that they'd discovered it was actually a bombing.  We all had to report in right away to let them know we were safe.  There have been concerns that there could be anti-American sentiments, but I've been in small towns and only traveled once since it happened, so I haven't felt that, at least not yet.  It could be different in Rabat this weekend though.  Fortunately I'm staying at the home of one of the marines (who guards the Embassy) and his family and we'll be next to the marine house (where the rest of them live) all day, so we should feel pretty protected. As the PC always tells us - (we'll) stay vigilant!

Oh, and this whole bin Laden thing - what a surreal few days it's been.  (We're not allowed to publically comment on Osama, so I'll have to keep my feelings to myself on this one.)  I am proud to be an American though :)  Leaving your country (when it's the US and you go to a developing country, especially to live there) will definitely make you feel a bit patriotic I think.

And since I won't probably be posting on here again before this weekend, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!  Especially to my wonderful mom, but also to the many others of you out there - brand new or more seasoned!!

**A souk bus, if I haven't told you before, is a regular bus, but one that should have been retired about 30 years ago.  They rarely have temperature controls, only some have windows that open, the seats are sometimes missing in places and often very worn out and they sound like they should die at any moment (and many do).  But it's the cheapest and most common method of travel (aside from grande taxis for shorter distances).  I won't be using them this summer because I can't handle the heat (I'm already freaking out about the weather, although fortunately the last few days have been cold and rainy).  I'll take the government-run CTM buses because they (typically) have AC and more comfortable seats, plus they don't stop as often and aren't (at least so far) usually very full.