Sunday, May 30, 2010

Morocco in the News: May 24th - 31st

Doctors, Dentists Provide Medical Care in Morocco.
By Staff Sergeant Brock Jones  / Utah National Guard
AGADIR, Morocco, 
May 24, 2010 — Moroccan medical personnel and their U.S. counterparts from the Utah Air National Guard's 151st Expeditionary Medical Group began the medical portion of humanitarian civil assistance missions of Exercise African Lion 2010 in the southern Moroccan town of Manizla, May 18, 2010.

Men, women and children of the village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains waited in the courtyard of the Mohamed El-Alem School for their turn to be examined and treated by Moroccan and U.S. medical personnel who had set up temporary medical clinics in the surrounding school rooms.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Al Mazar

Think Peace Corps. Think small mountain village. Think a worn soccer ball rolling across red African dust. Think of kids in sandals, their clothes a patchwork of old Americans fashions.

Now forget all that.

For three hours on Sunday I was not in my little mountain village. I was not leading my sandal-clad feet across the red dust of Africa. I was not surrounded by the worn clothes an America gone by. I was somewhere quite different.

Think Ikea. Think Virgin Megastore. Think Wal-Mart…

 Now you have got a better idea of where I was.

This weekend I went to the brand new Al Mazar mall in Marrakech. And I could not believe it. The nicest, fanciest mall I have ever been to in my life is in Africa. On the bottom floor was Carrefore, basically Wal-Mart but bigger. My entire village could have fit into its cavernous depths. On the next level there is the Viennese version of Starbucks complete with Frapachinos for three dollars, wildly beyond the sixty cents most coffee in Morocco costs. There were also two United Colors of Bennington, a small kitchen and dinning version of Ikea, and a version of Clair’s accessories. On the top level, shoppers can access the nicest restaurants that Marrakech has to offer. TGI Friday’s coming soon. And to top it off a Virgin Megastore with electronics, music and dvds, and a bookstore which even had an English section.

Of course I could not afford more then just lunch, but even so, real New York style pizza, in Morocco. The only difference… the salami was Halal.

I wish America had malls this nice.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Word of the Week: May 25th - 31st

Nesrani – (n)
Moroccan Arabic
  1. Someone from another land. Foreigner.
  2. One who is a Christian. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Morocco in the News: May 18th - 23rd

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to certify Morocco a malaria-free country.
    The certification of Morocco's eradication of the disease, signed by the WHO Director-General, was submitted, on Tuesday morning at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, to Moroccan Health Minister Yasmina Baddou on the occasion of the 63rd session of the World Health Assembly.
   "On the basis of conclusions regarding the situation of malaria in Morocco, drawn by the WHO assessment groups in 2008 and 2009 … the WHO has decided to put Morocco on the list of countries having succeeded in eradicating malaria," the document said.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On My Hometown High School Paper

My hometown high school paper recently asked me for some information about myself for an article they are going to publish. This is roughly what I had to say:

My name is Brendan Moroso and I am currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Morocco.

I Attended Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California from ’99 – ’03. I was active in the drama department, I played Badminton all four years and I graduated with honors in June ’03. What I am most proud of from my time at Terra Nova was founding the water polo team my sophomore year along with eight others.

I am also an Eagle Scout from Troop 264.

After high school I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz. During my undergrad I spent a quarter in Washington DC where I interned for the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee, Subcommittee for Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations. I did my junior year abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I spent a quarter studying in Freiburg, Germany and I graduated early in March ‘07 with a BA in History.

Following that I earned an MA in War Studies from King’s College London.

During my summers I worked at Camp Unalayee in the Trinity Alps near Mount Shasta.

Following two months of Pre Service Training I swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) November 12th, 2009. I am in the Youth Development sector, which means I work with Moroccan Youth as well as Moroccan Youth service providers to create more opportunities for the youth in my community, province, region and country. Some examples of this are an English Language Spring Emersion Camp I worked at in Marrakech in March 2010. What I am most proud of in this area of my work is the pen pal program I set up between Al farabi High School and my alma matter Terra Nova High School through the Coverdell World Wide Schools program. I am looking forward to improving and expanding this program during the ’10 –’11 school year as well as organizing my province’s first ever spring camp right here in my little town.

Apart from my work in this sector I also serve as a cultural bridge between the people of Morocco and the people of America. It is a great honor to represent Pacifica, California and America to the people I meet here. It is also good fun to tell stories about my adventures here to my friends, family and readers back home.

On the whole I feel like Peace Corps service is one of those experiences where you have a lot of rough days but when you take a moment you look back and think “Eight months ago I did not even know that this language, this valley, or these people existed, and now here I am, one of them.” And that’s an exciting feeling.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Word of the Week: May 18th - 25th

Romei – (n)
1.     One who comes from another land. Foreigner. Esp., a Roman.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Morocco in the News: May 1st - 17th

Morocco 2nd in Arab world for internet users
Morocco ranked second in the Arab world for the growth rate of internet users in 2009, MAP reported on Tuesday (May 4th), citing a Google survey. Egypt was first with a growth rate of 20%, Morocco had 18% and Saudi Arabia was third with 17%. The number of internet users in the Arab world increased from 16 million in 2004 to 56 million in 2010, MAP noted.

Morocco’s economy saved itself from crisis, says IMF
May 13th, 2010 | By Desmond Shephard
RABAT: Morocco has suffered little from the global economic crisis due to an economy that is diversified and the rising information technology sector in the country, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Wednesday.
“Countries with diversified economies, such as Morocco, have better resisted (the global financial crisis) and

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Deodorant

Somewhere in the distant historical past of mankind, the American Experiment took a path unique from those of its brethren countries, forever changing itself and the world.

 It chose stick deodorant.

Perhaps it was in the heady days of the postwar boom, perhaps it was after the truth about CFCs and the Ozone Layer came out. Whenever this fateful event came to pass has been lost to history, however the reality remains today and that is this: In America the shelves of grocery stores and pharmacies are lined with brand after brand, option after option of stick deodorant, in Europe and Morocco it is spray.

In my travels I have searched both far and wide in the search for stick deodorant outside America. When abroad my familiarity with and trust of stick deodorant has even led me to request friends and family to send deodorant from America to me overseas. On this, my sojourn to Morocco, I even packed multiple sticks of deodorant. They lasted me eight months.

Thus I recently made a fateful choice. Being in Morocco and knowing the closest place I could definitely purchase stick deodorant was at:

105 The Strand

(Not to be confused with the Boots at 5 The Strand. WC2N, which does not carry stick deodorant) I decided.

I switched to spray deodorant.

I am not ashamed to admit this. It was a choice of necessity. And while I wished for the security of that Boots, just down from the corner of Waterloo Bridge where, amongst their vast array of spray deodorants they carry a single, glorious stick option made by Adidas, I had no such luxury. I now use spray deodorant. I have broken with those members of the American Experiment and their faithfulness to stick deodorant. All I say in my defense is this, it was 102˚F (39˚C), I really needed deodorant… I was starting to smell.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Six Months!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 marks six months I have spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Which means I am now a Sophomore!

Only one year and six months to go…

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Word of the Week: May 11th - 18th

Hajera –
Moroccan Arabic and Tamazight
1.     (n) Rock
2.     (n) Battery. Especially AA batteries.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On Time

Time is relative Einstein tells us. Morocco is no exception to this fact. Stores open when the proprietor feels like they should open and close under the same conditions. Setting a time to meet someone is more of a general guideline rather then a specific time. And of course, said meeting will only happen, ‘inshallha’ (if god wills it.) This is changing, slowly. With more clocks, cell phones and watches around, the relativity of time is beginning to diminish. But still it remains a fact that just because the store was open every day this week until 7pm does not mean it will be open until 7pm today.

And then this week happened...

To fully explain, here is a bit of backstory. In the 1970s the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco made the decision to stop using daylight savings time as it had been doing and instead chose to keep their clocks unchanged as the summer approached. They chose to stay on what is called Universal Coordinated Time or GMT Zulu.

For those that do not know, many governments choose to organize themselves and their citizenry to set their clocks an hour forward in the spring time so as to consolidate daylight during work and active hours and thereby save electricity, or so the theory goes.

Morocco, along with many other parts of the world decided not to take part in this ritual for almost forty years, there being, after all, a ridiculous megalomania in thinking one can control time. Changing the time by governmental decree is disruptive, confusing and ineffective in the many places where people don’t have clocks. Moreover, the Islamic world observes the movements of the moon above those of the sun.

For the last two years however, Morocco has begun re-observing daylight savings time in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and to remain in the same time zone as its European trading partners. What this means for a person in a berber village in the atlas mountains is a choice, the choice to observe Old Time (aka Greenwich Mean Time Zulu) or New Time (aka Western Europe Savings Time). That choice happened this week. 

On May 1st the clock of Morocco 'spring forward'... Sort of. Now have of Morocco is on New Time and half is on Old Time. This complicates things. Meeting someone at a particular time must be specified whether Old or New time. Buses and transportation must be clarified. The whole thing is rather confusing and not necessarily effective. After all, shops still open when the owner arrives, things get done when it is light but not too hot out, and you go home when the sun goes down. Whether that is 7pm or 6pm is relative. Despite improvements, it seems Einstein's theory of relativity still applies. 

Still, where else can you get away with showing up to a date an hour late and saying, “Oh, I thought you meant the other 6pm.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On ‘I’m Foreign and I approve this message”

No matter how much a person studies Moroccan Arabic, following a conversation in which you are not participating and which is not directed at you is difficult. Ad into the mix less then six month of experience with the language and it becomes just about impossible. Which is why attending the meetings of Moroccan associations can be boring, confusing and depressing. It is however, one of the great places where PCVs contribute immensely to the development of their community. Just by going to the meeting with a friend or host family member you are saying, “I am foreign and I agree with whatever this guy is saying.” So often, that nonverbal message is all that is needed to break through the deadlock of local politics to get everyone working toward the same goal. Without it, associations just talk, drink tea, agree to disagree and talk about it more next month. But with it they resolve, “well, if the foreigner approves of this plan, it must be a good one. Lets do it.” Who knew sitting and looking around confused could accomplish so much?