Monday, December 21, 2009

On Mustaches

I tried growing a mustache last month. It didn’t work. The reason I decided to spend a month with blond bristles on my upper lip is that mustaches are a big deal here. In fact, all facial hair is a big deal here. It is a status symbol, an indicator of a person’s position in life. For instance a full beard indicates adherence to a strict, non-Moroccan interpretation of Islam. It is a very unusual site, seen only in big cities where foreign Arabs live. Because a beard is generally disapproved of, the only way of showing true manhood, of letting the world know that you are the big cheese, a head honcho not to be trifled with, is to have a mustache. Of course, my inability to grow a solid mustache does not really jeopardize my position as the only foreigner for a hundred miles. That is a rather distinct status that facial hair does not bare upon. And in fact it is common for the younger generation, razed on American TV and G-Star Raw, to sport no facial hair at all. Thus I sleep easy knowing, mustache or no, I’ve got more status then every other American in my valley. (all told there is one including myself.)

On Sunday Morning Cartoons

Sunday Morning Cartoons are a tradition respected by kids everywhere. Some might expect that in deepest reaches of the Berber’s Atlas Mountains, up a muddy track, past the donkeys and sheep, that the TV might be silent on a Sunday morning. But they would be wrong. The flickering lights of Pokémon and Power Ball still illuminate the rain soaked walls, the bread and olive oil breakfast, and the young eyes of children. Sunday Morning Cartoons, it seems, is an international institution, unrivaled by any other.  

On 'Daba?'

First of all ‘daba’ is an Arabic word that means ‘now.’ Why is this word worth writing about? Well when you don’t understand most of the language circling your head, ‘daba’ is an important word to be able to hear and pick out in a conversation. Along with the question words: Skun? Snu? Fin? Fuqash? Alash? Kifash? and ‘Wesh?’ (in English: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? and ‘Is it the case that?’) Daba is important because it means you might either understand the sentence it is in, or promptly be required to do something.
Most of your life in a new language is lived in uncertainty. This is because you have no way of knowing when some says something like, ‘Ana gadi nhsd zitun mn bed 3id’ that they are telling you they will harvest their olives after the holiday. You are not going to be able to connect this sentence with something that happens two weeks from now. Daba is so important because it is THE context word. Other sentences can be ignored knowing that they won’t make sense. However ‘daba’ sentences come with the context of the moment so if someone says, ‘Ana gadi nhsd zitun daba.’ And then walks into a field and starts hitting an olive tree with a stick until the olives fall, you can safely presume that his sentence meant something like ‘I am going to go hit that olive tree over there with a stick until the olives fall now.’

On Things That Are Blatantly Untrue

Exaggeration is a part of any culture. But there are some that can take it to a level that in all probably requires a new word.  For instance a local might say something like, “Aït Dwar’s olive oil is the best in the world. If the Marines were eating olive oil from Aït Dwar they would have won the war in Afghanistan a long time ago.” Some people might find reason to doubt the veracity of such a statement. But to do so openly would be to insult the speaker. A better choice would be simply to embrace it. After all, “Didn’t you know? The Marines ARE eating olive oil from Aït Dwar. The problem is, so are the Taliban.”

On The Night Sky

When I was a child learning about the Greeks and Romans mapping the stars I used to wonder, ‘who the heck would bother doing that?’ Now I realize. There are parts of the world, away from bright lights and busy nights. And in these places, you don’t keep track of the stars intentionally. You keep track of them without even realizing that you are doing so. They are always there and before you realize you are noticing the differences between one day and the next, one hour and the next. Out on the great dark tracts of Africa, you can’t help following their great play. Watching the characters, the stars, leave their blaze across the sky.

On Language Guilt

Part of the Peace Corps process includes spending large stretches of time with other Peace Corps Volunteers. This can lead to feelings of guilt that you are able to communicate so easily. After weeks surrounded by people who have no idea what you are trying to communicate most of the time the sudden ability to express yourself is stunning and makes you think, ‘this is wrong, I shouldn’t be able to do this.’

A Moroccan Perspective on America

“It is shocking for me to see how the father and mother in America kick their own children out when they become eighteen years of age. The most surprising thing about it all is that the young people do not seem to mind or think it is too cruel to be thrown out of their own family but accept it as the natural and normal way of behaving.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Marrakech

Marrakech is a divine heartland of sunny timelessness. It is all that you could want, the cure for every ill. It is smiles and full bellies and stress free nights. Long may it reign!

On Picking Olives

Olive picking is probably one of the most perfect activities for young men ever devised. One gets to climb up in trees with a big long stick and just whack away at every branch in sight until it releases its load of olives. What could be more perfect then climbing, using a weapon, and hitting things?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On Tables

Moroccan tables are tough. Other tables are scared nerds adorned in pocket protectors, glasses and suspenders by comparison. This is because Moroccans don’t use plates. There is the serving dish and that is it. The table is your plate. This is of course a brilliant idea because it means less dishes to wash at the end of a meal. In fact you will get so used to it that you will begin to find having individual plates off putting. After two months of eating from the community dish, you’ll go to a fancy restaurant and be perturbed, annoyed by the plates. You’ll think to yourself, ‘what is this damn thing getting in the way between my bread and the table? I just want to set my bread down, why can’t I put my bread down? Why is there this circular white thing in the way?’ And you’ll pick up the…plate … and set it on the floor, out of the way. Now you can eat in peace.

On Table Manners

Hand and hand with the idea of no plates is the idea of triangle etiquette. Since everyone eats from the same community dish there are rules governing what food belongs in whose territory. Everyone has their triangle of the dish, which is theirs from the moment the dish is set upon the table. To eat from another person’s triangle, with or without their permission, is taboo.

An example:
At the dinner table the woman sets down the meal. ‘In the name of God’ everyone says and begins to dig in following their host. Though there is meat in your triangle, you know not to touch it until your host has touched his. So you eat, and eat, and eat. And pretty soon the host has made a grab for the chicken, its meat time. And at this point he generously pulls off the best pieces and places them in your triangle. And you realize no matter how much you eat, your triangle will never be empty. You begin to push food from your triangle in to your neighbors. Others see the guest’s triangle begin to dwindle and plop food from their triangle into yours. It becomes a battle, how much food can you sneak out of your triangle versus how much food can they demonstrate their generosity by putting into your triangle. On and on it goes. Saying, ‘O, no thank you I am full’ is like pouring sand into the desert. It becomes a war. You cross your arms across your chest, ‘I’m full.’ Really you are beyond full. You’ve lost and they’ve won. You have eaten much, much more then you wanted to in your desire to be polite and not waste food. Its past polite time. To heck with slyness, time for the endgame.  You clear your triangle into your neighbors and say ‘thanks be to God’ before anyone can retaliate. Its over. And you roll yourself to somewhere where you hope that your engorged belly will feel more comfortable and less full.

On Indistinct Sounds

If you ever suddenly find yourself dropped in the middle of a language that you did not even know existed two months previously you will quickly prefect the art of always being able to say something that means just about nothing. When being talked to in a language that you completely don’t understand you get very good very quickly at making just the right kind of indistinct sound to fit the conversational moment. Your arsenal quickly moves beyond the ‘uh’ ‘huh’ and ‘um’s that you used to be able to rely upon. Suddenly you have added ‘hmm’ ‘mm’ ‘mma’ ‘iea’ ‘Ha’ ‘heh’ and of course the nasal snort: ‘!’. More then that you are now able to place them in exactly the right spot to give the impression you are following the conversation. For instance if someone says something like, ‘blah blah blah blah blahblahblah BLAH!’ you know, as if by instinct, that a good solid ‘!’ will let everyone know what you think of that. Saving you the need of trying to respond in a language you can barely manage to a comment you didn’t understand in the first place.
Of course you have to watch out for the tricksters. Those sarcastic few whose manner of speech places their questions in propinquity with mere comments.  They keep you on your toes because they say things like ‘blah blah blahblah’ and it is not until after you drop an, ‘mm’ and receive an odd look, that you realize they were asking you a direct question. Now you just appear like you weren’t paying them any attention at all. Oh those tricksters, well at least you seem pensive…

On Food Poisoning

The symptoms of food poisoning are abdominal pain followed shortly thereafter by multiple bouts of vomiting. Symptoms also usually included diarrhea and malaise. An elevated temperature can also accompany these symptoms and may last from one to two days. The recommended treatment for food poisoning starts with a BRATT diet, BRATT standing for: bananas, rice, apples, tea and toast. Febrile patients may also take acetaminophen. Medical officers also recommend taking oral rehydration salts, however most patients agree that, while sound in theory, oral rehydration salts should generally be avoided as they taste so foul that their consumption can lead to vomiting, thereby negating any medicinal aspects.

On Cultural Sensitivity

There are a lot of assumptions that go into making everyday life work. When you are immersed in another culture, you try to be sensitive to that which is going on around you. So for instance when you come back from a trip to your village to find candles lit on every store counter and get home to find a dark house lit by candles, you try to be culturally sensitive. ‘O you think, this must be something to do with the religious holiday coming up.’ But when you ask you don’t understand the response. ‘Well,’ you think, ‘there must be a good reason why we are sitting around in the dark. Maybe it’s a local custom, to do with the birthday of their local saint Ben-Moullay Idris, that might make sense.’
So you spend all this time being sensitive culturally, just accepting the fact that you’ve got to sit in the dark. Even in your own room, you don’t reach for the light switch for fear of being offensive. Your sisters make sure you get a candle. You spend all this time trying to be culturally sensitive, and just going along with whatever is happening.
Of course what you are not being is conscious of the possibility that you are sitting in the dark because power went out….

The obvious can make you feel so stupid sometimes.

On Orientating

When you spend all your life next to the ocean, it becomes a part of your thinking. You orient yourself by it. You think, ‘well the ocean is that way, I can’t see it but its there, just out of site…. So that makes that way West. Therefore North is there, ish.’ And that is how you navigate, be it cities or suburbs. But when you find yourself living in a new place, hundreds of miles from the ocean, it remains part of your thinking. You think, ‘Oh the ocean is that way, I can’t see it but its over there, just out of site,… or a ways out of site I guess… so that way, wait what? No that doesn’t work. Um, well Mecca is that way ish, and… Oh! The North Star is right there at night so therefore North is there.’ Nonetheless, you still expect that the ocean is out of sight, just beyond that set of hills, over there…somewhere.


I celebrated Thanksgiving today (Sunday, November 22). Not the first time I have done it in a foreign land by any means, but the first time I was responsible for actually cooking part of the meal. The stuffing. I went to the nearest town from my Dwar (about an hour and a half ride by grand taxi) and stayed with the PCVs there and we three made a thanksgiving meal to be proud of! It even had sparkling apple cider.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Teeth

Whoever said that Britons have bad teeth clearly had never journeyed to Morocco. For whatever reason, be it a diet with a high sugar content, or the sensibility not to blow tones of money and waste years of smiles on orthodontia, there is a noticeably high percentage of crooked, decaying or missing teeth. It serves as a reminder of that cute poster in your stateside dentist’s office, ‘you don’t have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.’   


The flipside to having a public ‘manland’ is that there is a ‘womanland’ that exists behind closed doors. This makes Morocco actually seem like a woman’s country. Men’s lives are lived in a flash, a blur of interaction under the sun, and then they are over. There are a lot more ways to die young when your days are not spent mostly in the home. So while men die younger, their women live on. They maintain the households, carry on the job of raising the children and do what is necessary to keep life going. So while the public day to day is mostly the man’s land, the continuity, the private year to year, is woman’s land.


Manland is the term for nearly all public places in the non-metropolitan areas of Morocco. Manland is the impression one gets when walking through town that of all the people you see, drinking coffee at a café, or talking to friends in the street not one of them is female. Except it is more then impression, it is fact. It makes you think that an entire village is comprised totally of men and they have somehow learned how to procreate in what appears to be the total absence of women.
Of course there are women, they are just not publicly visible. Their lives are much more private.

The Souq

A Souq is a weekly market held in nearly every town with more then a thousand people in which all the accoutrements necessary for Moroccan life are on sale, from tomatoes to ducks and from skis to TVs. The Souq is the all-purpose mall of Morocco.

What is most interesting about the Souq is that it is a storyland. Whereas the American consumer can surmise that they are the first person to own a product and before they bought it from wherever, it was on a container ship from China where it was made, the Moroccan merchandise gives no such sterile story. You wander from mountain to mountain wondering how these jackets came to be here and what country these brand names are from. It seems as though once a week, a magical American landfill, not used since the 80’s is unearthed and put on display, enticing customers with dusty GameBoys, Plastation 2’s, faux impressionist paintings, random car parts and mountains of clothes waiting to be dug through before unearthing their discount treasures, dusty jellaba and ten matching red laCoste sweat suits.

It is important to note that everything on sale and some foreigners who have only been studying the language for one month may have made some incorrect comments, which may have given the wrong impression that, rather then liking FC Barcelona, led one vendor in particular to think that we wanted to buy the shirt off his back… At least he quoted a good price on account of it being sweaty.

That brings us to another subject, which is that all Souq items must be bargained for. It is a truly foolish person who agrees to pay either the first or second price quoted, or who believes a vendor when they declare, ‘But I bought it for Dh 9.50, if I sell it for less then Dh 10 I’ll lose money’ about a Dh 2 bar of soap.

Bargaining, it seems, is no small skill to master.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quick Note on Arabic Script

I am amazed at how beautiful, easy to learn, and fun to write Script is. It is basically the same sounds with different symbols. It is by far the easiest part of learning this language. Learning a new name for nouns and verbs that you have been calling ‘tomato’ or ‘running’ all your life, less easy. Script, easy.


Riding in the back of a taxi as it speeds across the rutted Moroccan landscape, one thought crosses the mind, ‘Rocks!?’ Really, it is the most notable thing, there are just bezzaf rocks. The soil here looks to be 50% rocks. How can there be an agricultural boom when the only thing growing in the fields is rocks? There they are, all perfectly and evenly distributed, billions upon billions of fist sized rocks. What geological forces could even make so many rocks and blanket everywhere with them? It truly is like they grow on the spot, like crunchy little squashes, or maybe once there was a giant sprinkler that sprayed rocks instead of water and it worked its way across the land with its methodical ‘tisht, tisht, thish.’ Was New England once like this and they all became rock walls? I doubt it. There are just too many rocks. It can not be believed.


10/11/09 9:00 PM

Today I got married! Kinda, Sorta, Not really. But it was still fun. In probably the best and most cultural experience in Morocco so far group of PCTs hiked two hours outside of Sefrou to a small Berber village when on the way, passing a single house in the middle of nowhere, a young girls runs down to greet us with figs and invites us up. Low and behold when we get to the house there is a wedding party happening. Colored rugs and pillows are lying in the shade with fifty smiling faces waiting to greet us. So, long story short, to demonstrate their customs I got make married to another PCT named Sarah. I wore a Jellaba and mini turban and sat next to Sarah while everyone danced in a harmonious cacophony around us and when it was done, all the PCTs got a henna dot on our palm. I have to say, these were some of the nicest people in the world, and we barely had a word in common! So it really was a wonderful experience.

A Note on Transportation

When riding a grand taxi today between cities I turned to my friend and said, “Any one who comes and visits me, I will tell them, ‘when riding by grand taxi, prepare your soul for its final journey, just incase.’”
Transportation, when not on foot or by bus, is largely based on the grand taxi system. Grand taxis, if the reader is unaware, are 1980s Mercdies-Benze with a driver, six passengers and no seatbelts. It is impressive how normal hurling along a rutted road at 40 KPH over the speed limit toward on coming traffic in a dying Mercedies with no shocks and a stranger sitting half on your lap can become. But it doesn’t start out that way. Which is why getting from point A to point B is one of the more harrowing experiences a visitor to Morocco can have.
More over the process of getting a grand taxi is not smooth as cream. These miracles of maintenance only move when here are six fair paying passengers, which means unless you are willing to pay for your seat plus five more, you aren’t going anywhere unless five other strangers want to go there too.
Suffice to say, ‘Mom, Dad, I have a new appreciation of the 1983 Nissan maxima you let me drive.’

The Hamman

I do not remember if I have written about the Hammam yet. It is certainly an experience worth writing about. That being said, I am not sure words can really cover it. After all, I read about it before I came to Morocco and what I read in no way conveyed the experience. It is just something you have to see for yourself. So, if any of you are ever in Morocco, I highly suggest a trip to the Hammam, preferably with a friend of the same sex, especially one who has been before. It is Different!
To give an idea, the Hammam is closest in understanding to a three room sauna, all wood fire heated, with hot and cold running water and a culture all its own. My first impression was that it was very homoerotic, a dozen men lying on the hot tile floor, rhythmically rocking as they are scrubbed down until their skin peels off in little rolls. Talk about exfoliation! When I went a second time my impression was more along the lines of male gorillas, all taking immense time to groom one another’s fir and make sure it is bug free. In a society where it is less common to bond with members of the opposite sex, the Hammam shows how much closer same sex friendships are. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Literally.

Peeling Paint and Showing Money

One of the first things to strike you about Morocco is that EVERYTHING is under construction. While the world economy is shrinking, Morocco’s GDP will grow by more then 5% this year (so the acting ambassador tells me.) Morocco is a country on the make and it shows.
So what is odd is that any building more then two years old looks derelict, with peeling paint, cracked windows and broken roof tiles. And so I ask myself ‘Why build new buildings when you don’t take care of the ones you already have?’ Well I think the answer is cultural. For all the money a family may have, the thought of spending it on something that is outwardly visible is distasteful. And since here your house does not equal your mortgage, you are probably better off spending money on something not so tacking as a new paint job. This is why, the windows may be broken but inside there is a computer, a flash water heater and one of those new fangled American style toilets.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Funny Story

My mom is about the only family with a long distance telephone hook up. So when 15 year old Ashraf wants to talk to his ‘girlfriend’ 35 miles away in Fez, he has to do it here in our house, with four other people in the room making fun of him the entire time, demanding to speak with this girl to see if she is real and warn her off in turn.

A Brief Note on Turkish Toilets

From Saturday 19/9/09 (Ramadan, 45 minuets til Breakthefast)
I just took my first bucket shower in Morocco… In a toilet. Well, not really a toilet as you think of per se, but a Turkish toilet. First off let me say that Turkish toilets seem, to me at least, to work by magic. There is no flush and yet some how, they flush… most of the time.  And, as I found out today, they are the shower drain. A clever space saving dual use device, but one not so compatible with toilet paper (which is why the left hand is used for one thing, and one thing only.) So my host family has hot running water (when there is a propane tank connected) but no shower heads and no drains. Some things you would think go together like a faucet and a drain, but I guess not. Why have a drain when you have a toilet.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Host Family

4 Am Wednesday Morning 9/16/09
The Call for morning prayer has just sounded. I am in my room in my host family’s house listening to the sounds of my belly gurgle from the new high meat-content diet. I wish I had eaten some yogurt, but its too late now. Fifteen hours to go until Iftur.
I am very pleased with my family. My brother took me out with his friends to see the town after Iftur last night and then we all played PES (Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 for those not initiated to playstation lingo.) I also taught him and his friends Egyptian War, which they really like. My deck of cards has been a big asset.
My family does not speak English well but their friends and cousins do so I actually spoke a lot of English last night. My host brother Marwan is easily the biggest social asset for not just myself but all of the PCTs here. His house is the center of social activity for the neighborhood. My host mom is the matron of the community. Everyone I have met is very friendly and so far I have only twice been asked ‘Why do American’s hate Islam?’

Thursday September 17, 2009 1pm
I have now spent two nights living with my host family, and have had my first real Iftur. Fasting all day was not as bad as I thought it would be. It is pretty cold here, which means you do not really get thirsty, only hungry. I made the mistake of eating a ton at Iftur, and as a result I was so full I was nauseous for about two hours afterward. I invited my language teacher Fatima to Iftur with my host family since she is alone for Ramadan. I found it interesting that as a guest myself it was totally ok for me to bring someone home for dinner, without even giving advanced notice. I think that is one of the characteristics of Moroccan hospitality.
So an interesting cultural tidbit I think you will all enjoy. The movie ‘Titanic’ is Colossal here. Like, really, really, really big. The barber shop in my town is called Salon DiCaprio. I have seen at least three Café Titanics, in a town of maybe 5000 people! Its ridiculous. My teacher Fatima’s favorite singer is Celine Dion, and she is younger then me! Among the boys who hang out with my brother Avril Lavigne seems to be the superstar that everyone asks me if I like.
Right now I am in the Youth Development Pre Service Training (YD) (PST) hub site, where a lot of our luggage is stored, which means I have access to my computer. But when I go back to my village later today, I will be saying goodbye to Artex (my computer) for two weeks. Which means that my next post, inshallah, will be horribly spelled since I will have to use a French/Arabic keyboard. Of course, I probably spell terribly anyway considering that I am living and working in four languages. English (of course), Arabic transliterated into English (Moroccans use their cell phones a lot, but because the 9 button keypad phone is not in Arabic, they put their words into English letters ie: Sbah Lexir. Keif dayir?), Arabic (پرعندان آهرهسه), and French (the language of anything expensive (computers, phones).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Last Thoughts From The Shore

So it is Monday night here on the Moroccan coast and our hosts are sitting down to Iftur (Break the Fast, not to be confused with Breakfast). It is my last night before traveling to my Community Based Training site (CBT) up in the mountains east of Fez. I am really pleased about my location because it is supposed to be beautiful, beautiful but cold. It is really high up and we may see snow before our nine weeks of language training are over. So tomorrow all sixty-three Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) are splitting up into two groups: Youth Development and Small Business Development. From there we are splitting up even more into groups of six and a language teacher. All of the PCTs are living with a host family, which is really exciting. My family consists of a Mom, Son (15) and Daughter (13). Should be an adventure. I am really looking forward to fasting with them for the last five days of Ramadan.
            The highlight for me today was probably our language class. I must say when I took a quarter off to learn German in Germany I really thought I would be fluent and be able to read Harry Potter in Deutsch. Boy was I wrong. However, I never imagined that experience would be so helpful in learning Arabic three years latter. I know that I am doing way better now as the result of that then I would be doing otherwise. But what I was pleased about today is I had my language teacher write down everything we were learning IN Arabic, rather then just writing down the transliteration. Of course I have no idea how to write in Arabic, but lo, when I asked some staff members if they could read my completely unpracticed chicken scratch attempt at Arabic, turns out, it was totally legible. That was pleasing.
            So I am leaving tomorrow which means I don’t know the next time I will be able to have internet. It is going to be infrequent over the next two months but I hope I will be able to provide updates on how things are going.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day Two

Today, our second day in the country, we met the acting ambassador to Morocco, Rob Jackson. We also sat through hours upon hours of meetings about safety, security and diarrhea! And on top of that we all got jabbed with needles containing something to do with rabies. But we got to introduce the Moroccan staff to Ultimate Frisbee on the beach so that was nice. 
I went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I could not believe how wonderful it was. The water was so warm and blue, it was beautiful. I felt like I was in a surf movie. Only two more days left in this beautiful little seaside town, then we head up to the mountains and start living with our host families. That will be a real adventure! I don’t think I am going to take my computer with me, so my posts will be much less frequent. Mostly while I am there I will be doing language classes, I have already learned some fun terms. The Arabic word for 'please' is the easiest because its transliteration is simply: "AwFuck". I thought that was funny. I wonder if it frequently happens that English speakers curse and to Moroccans think they are being polite.
All for now

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Thoughts

Thursday September 10, 2009
9:44 PM Greenwich Mean Time (currently 7 hours ahead of West Coast Time)
Well, I don’t know when I will connect up to the internet to post this, but I AM IN MOROCCO! It feels like I have been here for three days already, most likely because I have been up for 37 our of the last 37.5 hours. Some quick impressions:
Morocco is really close to America. I have this impression because we were at the west bank of the atlantick (I am leaving this spelled wrong to demonstrate how tired I am) looking east from New York and then later on the same day (I think) we were on the east bank in Morocco looking west.
My first thoughts when seeing Morocco was ‘huh, that looks a lot like America’. I was not the only one to feel that way. And then as the plane banked I got a picture of Paul Bowles famous ‘sheltering sky’
The big thing that strikes is the amount of garbage everywhere. There clearly is no ‘adopt a highway’ program like in the states. Everything seems to be either under construction, being built, or in a state of derelictness. So much earth has been moved, pushed one way or another with mighty land movers. Everyone here is unique, emphasizing that everything I learned about ‘Al Maghribians” before coming here were serious generalizations. 
I need to sleep now I ma going to totally fall to pieces. …
Salam Walaikum,
I have just woken up. It is 5am and lovely. The sky is dark and laden with the same slow moving rain clouds which rained down upon us yesterday. The moon is all but hidden behind them. I am sitting alone in these wee hours up on the roof looking out over a very warm Atlantic Ocean, listening to the crash of the waves and the chirp of many crickets. One sound that I am not hearing which I somewhat expected, the early morning call to prayer. It is after all Ramadan and I think many people awake in their homes having breakfast before going back to bed and attempting to sleep in as late as possible. I understand that it is only a 6 hour work day for everyone (except Peace Corps Morocco Staff) during the holy month.
I am very happy to be here and super excited about all the Peace Corps Trainees that I am here with and I am really looking forward to starting language classes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Goodbye Home, See you in a couple years!

 Monday September 7, 2009, 2:20 PM
Salaam Walaikum,
Well, I am currently cruising at 29,000 feet just south of Lake Tahoe. After a week of hubbub, a farewell party, a day of packing, a tear choked mother, an airport check-in (during which my carry on got checked in and my check in got carried on) I am out of California and on my way to my new job. It crossed my mind in the car this morning on the way to the airport, ‘I am crazy? What person would give up everything they know and spend years on the other side of the planet in a totally different world.” Well, the answer that came to mind was simple Ibn Battuta. For those readers who do not know who that is, I will be referencing him a bunch because he is the most famous Moroccan I’ve heard of. He became famous when, as a young man, he left his home in Tangir and traveled across the face of the known world all the way to China, 50 years before Marco Polo.
So am I crazy for doing this? Well, I am justifying my actions to my self my referencing someone who has been dead for 900 years, so probably, yes, I am crazy. Oh Well.
To everyone who I won’t see until 2012, good luck and it has been nice seeing you during this past year that I have been back from London. For everyone who plans to visit, I am looking forward to sharing a different world with you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Time to Departure: 4 Days 20 Hours 56 Minuets

Salaam Walaikum
Today I received a final briefing on what to expect on the other side of the Atlantic. I’ll be flying into Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport, and from there to Mehdya, a small beach town North of Rabat. From the gist of the email I got it sounds like they want to keep us new volunteers away from the big cities and crowds while they make sure we are all sane, sober and vaccinated, and while eating during daylight hours is punishable by law. That’s right, I’ll be landing during the holy season of Ramadan, which, I believe, celebrates the month it took the archangel Michael (or Gabriel) to dictate the Koran to the Prophet Mohammed. Apparently, and I bet one Wiki search could prove me wrong but, since Mohammed was so busy writing down the word of God during the day, he didn’t get a chance to eat, and so fasted from sunrise to sunset. Nowadays the Islamic world remembers this by spending the month of Ramadan sleeping all-day and partying all night, and punishing anyone caught flouting their lack of faith by having a slim frosted lemon muffin and Venti two-pump caramel macchiato on their way to work. (In actuality Starbucks, if it is in Morocco (and lets face it, it probably is because it is EVERYWHERE!) is not open and serving this month.)
So, the adventure awaits, and from the start it is going to be quite different from all the paper pushing jobs that I probably could not have gotten hired for anyway.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Before The Start

It is quite foggy at this particular moment. I am at my parents house in Pacifica, California creating my first Blog. I suppose it is going well. I have already got a web address and a format and a title: Al Maghrib. I quite like this title. It is a term used to refer to Morocco and means 'the Extreme West' or 'Where the Sun Sets'. Of course, I have lived most of my life in another al-Maghrib, California. So I guess the intended message is that this is a blog that will be all about my journey from one 'Place Where the Sun Sets' to another. I have eight days left before my flight, and now I have my first Blog post. Now to see what happens when I press this 'Publish Post' button...