A Day in Peace Corps Morocco

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I’ve come to realize that most of my writings revolve around specific events.  However, in order for you to understand those events in a larger context, you need to understand what daily life looks like in Morocco.  In order for you to understand, here is my average Wednesday—the strangest and fullest day in my week.

I wake up every morning around nine in the morning.  I may live on the edge of town, but it is busy enough to wake me up.  I live in an apartment complex over a builders’ supply store.  I often wake up to the owner negotiating with customers.  If his voice doesn’t wake me up, it will be the fishman.  Every two or three days, a man will walk up and down my street at eight in the morning, yelling, “Aji!  Hut!”  This means “Come! Fish!”  His voice has never failed to wake me up.  I often go out and watch him.  A lot of the wives in the neighborhood buy from him (my town is known for having fantastic fish).  I enjoy watching the feral cats try to steal the small leftovers.

I make a simple breakfast every morning—usually just eggs and cheese and olive oil.  Since everything is so expensive here, my only form of cooking is by turning on the equivalent of a propane tank which is hooked to a portable stovetop.  After I finish, I turn off the propane so as not to die a couple hours later.  I eat breakfast while watching a TV show (currently, I am watching Community).

When I’m done, I go to Souk.  Souk is the weekly market.  In Bhalil, it is Wednesday.  I walk down the tall hill by my house.  Overnight, the dirt field by the taxi stand turns into a massive market.  I squeeze to get into one of the two small entrances.  I go mainly for vegetables (a kilo of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, or oranges only cost 3 dH….with is about 30 cents).  Once I stockpile a week worth of vegetables and fruit, I trek back up the hill back to my apartment.

Lunch usually consists of a vegetable stir-fry.  I tend not to eat meat on my own because I don’t like buying meat here….I don’t like watching them kill the animal I intend on eating.  Plus it saves me money.  Anyway, I tend to watch a movie over lunch hour because I don’t have anywhere to be until the late afternoon.    After the movie is over, I gather up my things and head off to the Youth Center.

I got an apartment far away from the Youth Center so that I have to walk each day.  After lunch, I make the long trek to the other side of town.  I usually show up early so I can set up for my English Class.  Class starts at 4:00.  Students usually don’t show up, to be honest.  I’ve had a couple show up a couple times, but I’ve had a hard time getting these classes going.  I usually stop class by 5:45pm.

I get to the Cyber nearby by 6:00.  I have a regular class there.  This is my group of BACH students.  BACH is the program that all youth have to go through in their final two years of high school.  I help them build their English.  Usually the lesson evolves into more of a cultural exchange (because I am not really here to teach English…I’m here to encourage student to become active in their community).  This class usually ends around sunset—which is 7:30 right now.

I stick around the Cyber and talk to Adil (the owner) and some of his friends.  Meanwhile, I use his Wi-Fi to download movies.  We talk about everything t from movies to religion.  He’s become one of my closest friends in town.  After a while, I head back home and piece together dinner.  I watch a movie or a couple TV shows.  If I need to plan for classes or do any Peace Corps work, I do it.  If not, I read or relax.  I’m usually in bed around midnight every night.

That’s a busy day.  There are plenty of days that don’t have that much.  Those days usually involve a couple hours at the Cyber Café.  Some days I want to get away and I head up to Fes.  The one constant is that every day has strange complications that make it extremely difficult to define a “normal day.”  I hope this explanation helps you understand life here.

Preparing for the Slow Season

April 7, 2013

The past ten day have changed my attitude and approach to Peace Corps and living in Morocco.  As I adjust to living on my own, the changes are abundant.  The biggest change is my daily patronization of the local cyber café only a few blocks from my house. Suddenly, I am now seen and known by most of the men in this city.  This café is one of the biggest (and had great coffee and internet), so there are always a couple dozen men here (women who frequent cafes are regarded as prostitutes, so you will rarely see a woman at a nice café).

The thing is, coming to this café has changed my life in other ways.  The ability to access the internet has allowed me to access any movie or TV show that I want.  I am now slowly working on a Bucket List goal of seeing every single movie on “1001 Movies to See Before You Die.”  With about a movie a day and 680 days of Peace Corps left, I honestly think I can get through about half the list.  At the same time, I am also watching new TV shows (currently Joan of Arcadia, next is Community) and reading several new books (I’m finishing “The Good Earth” before reading the “Matched” series so I can talk with my mom about it).

These two simple changes in my life—plus a constant source of coffee—have made life so much better.  Before, my life was little more than “Time for Work” and “Free time.”  Now I have a better understanding of how to dedicate my free time.  Having constants in life is very important.  I realized that back in The States last year.  I’m glad I figured it out quickly here.

The only part of my daily schedule I haven’t quite figured out is work.  I made it to final site at the end of the semester.  I thought this meant that a lot of students would come to me to try to solidify their English skills.  It does not.  They need to prepare for the English Exam.  What I teach is not the same as what the schools teach.  Here, more importance is placed on “past perfect” or “Present participial.”  I have to admit, I couldn’t care less about the functions of language.  My focus is about getting the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and grammar straight so they can have meaningful conversations (or writings) in English.

So now I’m comfortable in site, with a strange feeling.  I will have little work to do over the next three months (aside from integrating into my community).  School is about to end and the summer kills most activities around here.  Since I am finally comfortable here, I am coming up with plenty of ideas about how to engage the youth.  The thing is, using these ideas now would be a waste.  I need to develop these ideas and put them in my back pocket for September—when everything picks back up.

In the meantime, we have trainings.  We just finished a three day training that took place at my house.  It was fantastic.  Going around with eight other volunteers in my site gave me much more confidence here.  I now know where to buy a few more items because others wanted to cook very specific meals.  At the same time, it is always relaxing to spend time “acting like an American”….meaning not being hyper-vigilant every moment in the day.

We have two more of these events in the month ahead—including a ten day training at a resort-like hotel in Marrakesh.  I’m excited to have these trainings as the slow season starts—but I can’t help but wonder what the rest of summer will look like.  I’m doing everything in my power to pack it with random events—like a trip to Spain and possibly a concert.  If I can make it through the summer of nothingness, I can make it through two years.