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.