Day 39 in Peace Corps Morocco

I went without decent internet for more than a month here in Morocco.  Now that I have a steady connection, I’m going to try to update on a daily process.  I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Fes (a pretty big tourist city) for training.  We got back yesterday evening.  Today, I went back to studying.  Our teacher decided to step things up in class because we now have only four weeks of training left before going to our final site.  After the first hour, all five of us were thinking the same thing: Oh shit.  It’s not like we don’t know the language…it’s that every question or phrase can be worded so many different ways…and it’s difficult to recognize what is being asked sometimes.

I decided to make it one of my personal goals to get to an advanced or better speaking level during my two years here.  I know that means a tutor later.  But right now, that means an hour or two of studying each night.  Since we do 4-6 hours of class, the amount of content we cover requires that of me.  I learn a bit differently than how I am taught…although the classes do give me a good overview of how the language works, I need to drill in order to memorize verbs and nouns and adjectives and everything else.  It is difficult, but I am getting there.  I want to prove myself in these four weeks before we get sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers.

In other news, having the internet is a strange change.  My relationships with everyone back home are changing now.  I can talk to my girl whenever we are both awake–which is difficult but great.  The distance is hard but I didn’t expect any less.  With regards to friends, it is much easier to keep in contact with several people.  I like being able to talk to everyone rather that figure out who I can talk to in my precious small amount of time on the internet.  One of the best parts about having the Internet has turned to out to be staying in contact with family.  With aging grandparents  parents who are nearing retirement, and a sister with three girls in school, I miss a lot if I’m out of touch for just a weeks.  It’s nice to be back in the loops.

Now that I’m in the Peace Corps, I’m going to alternate between uploading old writings and Peace Corps writing.  I’m starting with some old writing because I used most of today studying Moroccan Arabic.  Today’s update was an assignment from 11th grade.  We had to write a horror story that followed a few steps for the genre.  I really like what came out.  I don’t know if I’ll ever write more than short stories in this category, but it is fun.

Isabel’s Ballroom

 

Halfway through Peace Corps Training

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I know I’ve been uploading mainly pictures.  So here’s a real writing update.  Today marks five weeks in Morocco.  Only 109 weeks to go =).  It’s strange thinking that this much time has already passed.  Like the rest of humanity, I’ve been fascinated by the passage of time since I was a teenager.  But this is the first period since high school that time has felt extremely fluid.  Like high school, each day is jam-packed with class, social interaction, frustrations, and excitement.  Unlike high school, each day is a massive cultural experience.  That’s not even mentioning the speech barrier.

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Despite these busy days, these five weeks have passed by in a snap.  At times I can’t believe that I’ve been in Africa for five weeks.  Other times, it feels like I’ve been here a year.  That’s why I’ve always been so fascinated with time.  It is going by so quickly and so slowly at the same time.  I’m quickly realizing what is difficult to be away from and what is easy to be away from.  Being away from my girl makes it feel like years have passed.  Being away from the entertainment world of America makes it feel like no time has passed at all.

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I was certain I was going to Early Terminate in the first two weeks of training.  It was a strange mixture of circumstances that brought me to that conclusion.  I even told my father I might be able to watch some Broncos games with him next season.  Then we started taking a little time out of our language lessons to start teaching English to the children in our community.  That changed a lot for me.  Being able to genuinely help students was exactly what I needed.  Then, during a free weekend, I had a long conversation with a close Peace Corps friend.  Now I have a hard time seeing what would make me go home.

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It doesn’t feel like an emotional roller coaster…but that is because the days stretch on for vast amounts of time.  The truth is I experience multiple ups and downs in a day.  I have overall amazing days and overall sucky days.  In the end, in the past two weeks, little has brought me down for a long period of time.  Once I got settled into the idea of spending two years here, I started making plans.  I know what my plans are for my Peace Corps service—but there are going to be long periods where I need to just fill time (like during the summer when it’s 120+ degrees outside).  For that, I made a list of personal goals.  This includes many writing goals—including finishing a film script I started working on last week.  Having a set of personal goals was exactly what I needed.

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We’ve talked to a lot of current volunteers.  All of them have advice.  All of their advice is simple.  But there’s this strange feeling when I am around them.  It’s like walking into a movie at the theater and seeing other people walking out.  You know that they just experienced what you are about to experience.  You want to know, but you don’t.  I have this strange sensation that I have important questions to ask the current volunteers….but I can never figure out what to ask.  It’s rather amusing.

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I am continuously reminded of something I wrote while in Tacoma with my girl.  It was about home.  It was then that I realize I did not have a home.  It isn’t with my parents.  It isn’t Tacoma.  It isn’t my grandmother’s old condo.  It isn’t my host family.  It won’t be my final site.  What I realize back then is that home isn’t a place—it’s people.  No matter how I look at it, I feel the tether to those I love.  I know where my home is.  Although I love this country and I’m dedicated to spending two years here, I know my home is safe in Tacoma.

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My first month in the Peace Corps

I will continue to have extremely spotty internet connection until I am sworn in in late March and (cross you finger) placed in a site that actually has internet.  Until then, we will have to do with these long updates.  Luckily they come with lots of awesome pictures.

1. On warm days, my host dad spends hours basket weaving:

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2. The finished product is incredible:

 

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3. The view from the view reminds me of home.  I miss Colorado:

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4. Me with my host parents:

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5. The gang on a walk to “the lake” (It’s kinda just a river…but their language doesn’t differentiate)

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6. Kids playing by the river to the Darisha version of “Ring Around the Rosy.”  Their version involves brushing your teeth rather than mass death by plague.

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7. Art looking at the beautiful Mid-Atlas Mountains:

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8. People ride donkeys (hamal hashak) here all the time:

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9. A beautiful view from the town over:

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10. When it rains, it gets mighty cold.  No indoor heating means its 10 degrees colder inside.  We’ve already had several nights where we can see our breath as we go to sleep:

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11. A quick view of my small town:

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12. A view that makes this area seem not so poor:

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13. A beautiful sunset over my city:

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14. The Mosque in my town is easily the biggest building around:

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15. My host mother presenting couscous.  It’s a Friday special:

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It’s been a good couple of weeks since my last update.  It may be cold, but I am getting used to the routine that the cold creates.  As for being disconnected…it’s kinda nice to get away for a while.  I got my second shower of homestay today—which was nice.  We get one a week it seems.  The time is kind of flying.  In five weeks, it’ll be my 24th birthday and I will get my final destination—where I’ll spend my entire service.

I’ve been writing sooooo much.  I write at least one letter to America each day.  I’ve gotten to know the postmaster of this town quite well.  His name is Ali and he is intent on getting me to marry a Moroccan Woman (not gonna happen).  I also write in my leather-bound journal once or twice a day (thank you Sofia).  In the first four weeks here, I have covered more than 40 pages.  I honestly think I may fill up this entire (rather large) journal before I reach six month.  It is great writing practice.

I’ll update again the next time I have internet.

~Richard

 

A Week into PCT

Blog Update for Fes Training One (January 29th)

So my training site has zero internet.  Period.  Even with an internet stick, it would take about an hour to load Google.  So my updates will be few and long until late March when training ends and we are sworn in—finally changing from Peace Corps Trainees to Peace Corps Volunteers.  We have to two months until then.  That time with be jam-packed with Darisha (Moroccan Arabic) lessons, culture lessons, working with kids at the Dalshabob, and the like.

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Our adventure truly started when we left Oscar Hotel in Rabat.  After a week of training, we were truly on our way.  Three bushes took us from Rabat to Fes.  This two hour drive included a 20 minute break in which I got to experience Moroccan candy and impatient Bus drivers who wanted to leave even though there were people going to the bathroom (lucky for us, Peace Corps facilitators are amazing).

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The drive was beautiful.  I became very close with Carrie and Amanda during the drive.  We spent most of our time talking about TV shows (Doctor Who and Breaking Bad).  We frequently stopped to ohh and ahh at the changing scenery.

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We got to the Dalshabob in Fes in the afternoon.  We went out for a nice lunch (I got cheeseburger).  Then we all went back and started saying our goodbyes.  There are so many Peace Corps volunteers in our group that we won’t see a lot of people that we got close too until we are sworn in two months from now.  Our group was the last to leave because it’s hard to get a Taxi on Mohammed’s anniversary—especially when you are going to the middle of nowhere.

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The taxi drive was very exciting.  Apparently the name of my town is the name of a neighborhood in a large town nearby.  The driver thought we were going to neighborhood.  When we got there, our facilitator told him we needed to go to the town.  They all got out of the car and argued for nearly ten minutes.  Lucky for us, our personal facilitator is amazing.  She made it so we weren’t left on the side of the road.  We got into town, divided, up, went with our families, and were shown to our rooms.

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The first few days in this town have been all over the place.  In the end, however, I have become very comfortable.  In just three days I went from feeling like a guest to feeling like a part of a family.  I still can’t speak with them very well (no one knows English).  I live in a house with a father (Hadima), a mother (Fatima), two sons (Sofian and Mstaffa), Mstaffa’s wife (Miriam), and their four month old child (Aness).

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I was not among the lucky PCTs who receives a Western toilet.  Luckily I stocked up on toilet paper in Rabat (I just can’t do the left hand thing…………I just can’t).

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We have language lessons every day at the Dalshabob (and anywhere else we go).  My brain in saturated with Darisha.  I am taking it a little at a time.  The sun even came out a bit the last two days…which allowed us to come out from our classroom for our Saturday lesson).

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On Sunday we explored the village and its surrounding area.  The snow-capped mountains were finally visible.  I honestly feel like I’m back in the Rocky Mountain.  There is no indoor heating, so that does mean these months will be cold.  But I came prepared.  I wear three layers days and night and sleep under four wool blankets.  It is worth it to be somewhere so beautiful.

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I am now 2% done with my Peace Corps service.  I hard to think I was still in America only two weeks ago.  This had already been the experience of a lifetime.  I will keep you—my faithful readers—updated as often as I can.  Make sure to subscribe so you can see every time I update.  If all goes well, there should be 26 months of experience ahead of me.

 

Video Blogging and Heading to Fes

Tomorrow we head off to Fes for the start of our Pre-Service Training.  From there, I will head to the Atlas mountains to start working with children in a building called the Dalshabob.  It should be amazing.  I am having plenty of up days and couple down days.  It is all culminating on tomorrow when we meet our host family.  Once I get through tomorrow, I think my worries will start to wane.  I’ve been told I will live in a home  owned by a Moroccan solider with two adult sons.

Today I will be uploading one of my most popular pieces from when I was a teenager.  I called it Imminent Death.  I used people I know in short skit crazed situations.  This was a way I got in touch with the side of me I didn’t realize I had until my first really close friends brought it out of me.  Here is the first one.  It is very short.  I am having problems uploading the other nine.  I will try to upload more the next time I am on (I have no idea when that will be).

Imminent Death: Problem With Furbies

 

Beautiful Rabat

Today has been a good turn around for me.  Yesterday got a bit stressful.  I was extremely tired and lost a vital plug.  Plus the language training was bogging me down.  Today was much better.  I realized I was doing great on the language (for having only three days of training, that is).  Then I went out with a few friends.  We went to a Café, practiced our language skills, and generally enjoyed ourselves.  I also bought a new vital plug.  It doesn’t work….but that doesn’t matter.  It only cost 5 Dirham—which is about 75 cents.  So I’ll try again tomorrow.  I may even shell out 10 or 15 dirham.

Tomorrow is our free day.  Plans include going to the Madid (the walled downtown that was the whole of Rabat before European Colonialization).  Then it sounds like we are off to the beach (Atlantic Ocean).  That sounds like a great way to spend the day.  A few people are even talking about going to an Internet café in the evening—Which sounds great considering how broken the connection is at the hotel.  I would love to check up on the news, work on the blog, talk to a few people, and so forth.

At this point, I must say I am seeing very little that makes me want to go home.  Language and overall anxiety were my biggest fears.  I have gotten past both.  Anxiety seems to fade with every day and every lesson.  With my amazing language instructor and lots of practicing, I do not fear the language.  My only major problem is being away from my girl.  We now have about four days until we go off to our training sites (mine is in the Atlas Mountains off of Fes).  I can’t wait to get there and meet my host family.  I will be there until March 26th with four other volunteers.

Bislama!