Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Language Mistakes

A conversation between a Peace Corps Volunteer and their Moroccan host family:

PCV: So, I have this neighbor in my house, running around in my kitchen, eating all my food. And I have tried to catch him so many times and put out drugs to kill him, but he keeps hiding and I can't catch him.

Moroccans: ?

PCV: ... did you guys under... wait, oh no, not neighbor (jeeran). Mouse (feeran). I have a mouse in my house.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On Finishing Your Plate

Children raised in American culture have always been taught “finish the food on your plate, don’t you know there are children starving in China.” It is a conditioning deeply imprinted at a young age. It is not easy to remove. Thus a well-mannered American always tried to finish the food before him and not waste any. As a guest in Morocco, finishing the food on one’s plate means “I am still hungry, give me more food” and will almost always be met with the addition of more food.

It is easy to see how the collision of these two cultural norms can lead to some pretty hilarious situations. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, the day calculated by scientists to be the worst day of the year, a day when the long nights of winter intersect with the rising tide of bills and debt while the warm memories of the Holidays have faded. If you make it through today, the rest of the days of the year should be a breeze! Good luck, and remember, we're all in this together. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

On this time Last year

This time last year I had been in my village for a month and a half. I came to this region from the wet oak forests of the Mid Atlas. Compared to that lushness, the olive and almond foothills of the High Atlas seemed desiccated and dead. It was quite a change.

I had just moved into my own house. It was empty and cold, the bare stones echoing. I didn’t have two sticks of furniture… and it was raining.

Now as I sip a cup of tea and write this from my blanket-bedecked bed, my heater humming in the corner I think of how differently I see things. It is impressive how time changes perspective; how I could never see my valley the way I saw it back then.

Having lived here for over a year, I know that, despite the fierce sun, this place will be lush in it’s own time as the almond trees bloom and the wheat gets green and tall. While my house is still cold and echoes, it now has a working kitchen, plastic rugs that I picked out on every floor, and most importantly, a bedroom that I call my own.

So as time changes perspective changes. I have 300 days left of service. I wonder what new perspectives wait among them.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Peace Corps in the News

Peace Corps Press Clips: January 19, 2011


USA Today

(Editor’s Note: The following are excerpts.)

“After helping JFK win election in 1960, Shriver was named the first director of the Peace Corps, a post he held until 1966. The organization had been conceived during the campaign, partially in response to the Cold War conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Since its creation, the Peace Corps has placed more than 200,000 volunteers in 139 countries.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy New Year!

Last Thursday marked the beginning of the year 2961 according to the Berber calendar. Happy New Year!

For those keeping track, this is the third New Years celebrated in the last two months.

To clarify the current year is:
1432 – Islamic
2011 – Western
2961 - Amazigh

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Bulgaria

I spent Christmas in Bulgaria and I would just like to say… IT WAS GREAT! It was my first time there and I LOVED IT. What a great country! It was cozy and accessible, unique but not too different, refreshing and inexpensive. I was able to see old classmates and friends and make new friends through my Peace Corps and Couchsurfing networks.
In Sofia I was amazed to find a city and church founded almost two thousand years ago by Emperor Constantine. Lets keep in mind, this guy was the Emperor of Rome, was first crowned in England and still found time to visit Bulgaria, all 1500 years before the steam engine. I think that is pretty cool.
I had a brief moment of panic when I got on the wrong train. I swear the sign said Софиа - Пазарджик but since it was Cyrillic, well you can see, it isn’t easy to read for someone on their first day alone in Bulgaria.
When that was sorted I ended up in Varna for four wonderful days by the Black Sea. I had an even better time here then in Sofia. Christmas Eve was magical and Christmas day had even better things in store.
When I got back to Sofia it had snowed and the capitol’s parks were picturesk.

Blago Daria, Bulgaria!

Ruins of the Roman city with St. George’s church in the middle of the offices of the president.

The train station where I went awry.

A snowy park with frozen fountain. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Couch Surfers

Couchsurfing is a website I think every 20something should know about. It is a way for travelers to get a bit more insight then normal into places they visit. During my time in Morocco I have hosted six couch surfers from Slovakia and Germany. They were a pleasure to have and it was fun to get to show a bit of my world to them. I also recently went couchsurfing myself in Bulgaria and that was even more fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Morocco In the News: January 1 -10

Two-thirds of Morocco women face violence: study
RABAT — Nearly 63 percent of Moroccan women have been victims of violence recently and about a quarter of them have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lives, a government study said Monday.
Out of nine million women aged 18 to 64 years old, nearly six million were subjected to violent acts during the twelve months that preceded the study conducted between June 2009 and January 2010, the paper said.
According to the government survey of 8,300 women, "the most frequent and widespread form of violence was psychological."
The study defines psychological violence as "an act that consists of dominating or isolating a woman, as well as humiliating her or making her uncomfortable," and said it was inflicted on more than 48 percent of the women who were polled.
Psychological violence was most frequent among married women and those in the 18-24 age bracket, the study added.
The survey also indicated that 23 percent of women "have been sexually assaulted at one moment or another in their lives," adding that the number of victims were three times higher in urban areas than in rural regions.
Last year, the government pledged to introduce a bill in parliament "pinpointing all forms of marital violence," but it has not yet done so.
The proposed legislation would include "preventive measures", including immediately keeping the abused women away from their assailants, without waiting for the results of police and judicial investigations. Copyright © 2011 AFP.
Morocco plans new youth centres. By Naoufel Cherkaoui 05/01/11
A new programme in Morocco will see the construction of hundreds of training and recreation spaces for youth.
Morocco will build about 500 new youth centres throughout the country in the next two years, as part of a national plan to expand activities, training and other resources for young people.
"Since the beginning of 2010, we've been working on preparing for the Integrated Youth Strategy," Younes El Jouhari of the Youth and Sports Ministry said about the initiative announced December 24th.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Sarcasm

Sarcasm is not a big thing in Morocco. In fact, I don’t think there is even a word for it in Moroccan Arabic. The closest word I have found is a slang term used in Ifran, the affluent and intellectual winter resort town. They have the term ‘sbitar khl’ which means ‘black hospital’. It’s a word for someone, like me, who says sarcastic things a lot. For instance while waiting in line someone came up to me and asked, “hey brother, can I cut in front of you”. I replied “Friend, your totally welcome to go the back of the line and ask someone else. Its no problem.” He looked at me totally confused and then walked to the end of the line and asked someone there.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Morocco In the News: Dec 19 - 25

36 Hours in Marrakesh, Morocco.
IN 1939, George Orwell wrote of Westerners flocking to Marrakesh in search of “camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits.” Ever since, the city has been ravishing visitors with its teeming souks, ornate palaces and sybaritic night life. In recent years, a succession of high-end openings and restorations — most notably, the lavish reopening of the hotel La Mamounia — has transformed the city into an obligatory stop for jet-setters. Yet despite Marrakesh’s new cachet, the true treasures of the enigmatic city still hide down dusty side streets and behind sagging storefronts.
Read more here:
Morocco boosts anti-AIDS spending
Morocco will allocate 1.7m euros to the national Sidaction campaign in 2011, AFP reported on Wednesday (December 22nd). Moroccan Health Minister Yasmima Baddou told legislators that the funds will support public services for detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS. "Awareness programmes are going on in schools, universities, railway stations and even in mosques. This year, prevention programmes have involved almost 50,000 people," Baddou said.
'Sidaction 2010' spotlights AIDS victims' plight.
By Sarah Touahri  – 20/12/10
A Moroccan telethon collected over 13 million dirhams in a campaign to combat the AIDS epidemic.
Stories of hardship that inspired hope filled the evening show of Morocco's 2M television channel in an effort designed to give voice to AIDS/HIV victims. The December 17th programme was part of "Sidaction 2010", a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and collect funds for the fight against AIDS, which runs through December 31st.