our travel journal
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Home Sweet Hotel...
Hey! We’re back!
First, the news. Before we left, we learned we’ll be learning Moroccan Arabic, or Darija, as opposed to one of two regional Berber dialects. There are pros and cons to all of the language assignments, but we’re excited about learning the language that is spoken throughout Morocco (along with French in more urban areas). Many times when people learn a Berber dialect, they also learn some Darija to assist in travelling, etc. so they get the benefit of picking up a couple of languages! We’re excited about our assignment though and ready to get to intense language learning.
We found out about our language assignments, and based on our languages, went to visit a current health volunteer who worked in a site utilizing that language. We left Sunday and got back this past Saturday. It was great to see more of Morocco! They broke us into pairs to travel, and Michael and I went to see different volunteers (which we were open to to get the advantage of two perspectives). I ended up heading to a site south of Agadir, and Michael went to a site near Essaouira….so we both spent the night on Sunday night in beach towns before travelling on. My group waded in the ocean and watched the sun go down and I remember saying, “Wow…this Peace Corps gig is rough!” But, the next day it was on to reality. ;)
My pair spent the week with our volunteer and she introduced us to resources around town at the health clinic, local government, school, and more and helped us to get a feel for what the structure was like and who we could potentially help or look to for information and assistance. It was VERY valuable! We also spent two nights with host families in the area and boy, oh boy was that nerve-wracking. We have so little language yet and here we were going to spend multiple hours with a family – let alone worrying about making a cultural mistake and offending someone. Our worries were groundless because our families were so kind and very generous. My travelling partner and I had different experiences in terms of activities, but we both really enjoyed the family’s willingness to share their language and daily lives with us. I experienced some Moroccan dancing lessons, my first real family meals, where they think you are being shy about eating, so if you stop they encourage you with choruses of “Kuli! Kuli!” (Eat! Eat!), and being dressed up in the traditional women’s dress of the area.
We were escorted down by Peace Corps staff and our volunteer, and once our week was over we were to travel back alone --- help! We were a little nervous, but we got good instructions from our volunteer and it was very empowering to make it! To realize what you can do and communicate, even with just a little language was cool, and we know it will only get easier from here the more we learn! It was a confidence builder for sure and just plain fun to have an adventure.
Here’s some pictures from the week…
Our first ever camel head...
Cacti were EVERYWHERE in the site we visited. So much so that Oxfam came and set up a cooperative for the women to make jam from the fruit, as well as pickled cactus leaves and date jam.
We were lucky enough to have henna done by one of the host families. Here is a picture of them hard at work!
This computer is only choosing to upload some of my pictures, so just one more. This is the traditional dress of the women in the village we visited!
Okay, so now I've tried two computers and it still isn't working!! I'll try and stop back at the internet cafe before we take off on Thursday and put up the last couple of pictures...
This week we are learning some technical aspects of our jobs here, and Thursday afternoon we’re off again! We are going to our Community Based Training sites, where there are 5 or 6 of us in a small town, and we live with separate families in the evenings and overnight, and meet together during the day for language training and with our Language and Cultural Facilitator. We also do some survival training and learn more about community life and how we’ll go about working with people to do our health projects. We found out some info about our host family yesterday, and in addition to the Mom and Dad, there is a 25 year old daughter, a 10 year old son, and a grandmother. Word on the street is that they are a really nice family, and we’re pretty excited (though a little nervous!). We sort of bop back and forth for much of the rest of training between here (our seminar site where we are all together) and CBT, until, I think the last couple of weeks where we’ll meet up with the environment kids and do some last training before we swear-in as real volunteers!!
One more thing, a HUGE congratulations to Stephanie and Chad King, who got married on the 18th. Woo hoo!
Well hello hello all,
First the important stuff. I am in mourning for my Golden Gopher Men’s hockey team who plummeted out of the NCAA tournament and my favourite Liverpool Football Club who failed to repeat as Champions of European football’s top championship. Probably about 2 people care who may be reading this but oh well, it is my blog, and you don’t have to read it.
Nonetheless, we were gone the past week and I also had a “site seeing” experience on the ocean. It was lovely. The toughest part was definitely tearing the little heads off the shrimp that we had to eat when we got to Essa. There were three PCT’s and our Volunteer so we were a good crew, filling up grand taxis quickly and bringing the fun with us wherever we went. We had a makeup session, guys included, well, except for me cause I’m a coward and didn’t want a little coal stick jabbed in my eyes but my pal houman did and I think he looks pretty good, don’t you,
We did all the work stuff but that isn’t too fun but we did teach a lesson IN DARIJA!!! We weren’t that great but the nice nurse helped explain and translate for us. Hey I’m pretty proud that we even tried after 1.5 days of official language training. My lesson was on the D’s and the importance of clean water and hand washing for preventing said D’s.
I spent a night with a “family” that turned out to be a single dude of 26 and his cousin who was helping him with building on to his house. We ate 2 meals of bread and argon which is pretty special here but isn’t my favorite yet. In the A.M I did get up early and assist in taking the donkey’s out to pasture if you will. (Jana thought this meant I killed him, which I by no means did) Then I got recruited for a couple of wheelbarrow loads of sand moving for their project. It was okay but I haven’t worked so hard in ohh, like 4 weeks. All I’ve been doing here is getting up, eating breakfast then class then eating snack, then class, then lunch, then class, then snack, then class, then personal reading time or football then eating. I can’t complain since it is totally sweet food but it’s probably not healthy for my heart.
Like jana said we are going to be going to a great house with HOT showers we can use like 2 times a week!!! I really don’t mind cold bucket showers since it is nice and toasty in the middle of the day when I try to take them but warm showers are totally worth bragging about to the other people in my group since none of the rest of them have them. HA!
I noticed I have been using a ton of exclamations and caps and that is not my style normally but it is me, just a little bit more exuberant than normal. My week apart from my lovely wife made me appreciate her more than I imagined and I am so glad to have someone here to share all this with. It will make it so many times easier I think in every aspect like integrating into the community because we will have access to both men and women where if we were single we would be limited by our gender. Obviously to have each other to lean on and bounce ideas off of will be pretty neat too. I know there will be tough times but I also know we’ll be okay.
Well this is a lot of writing for us and a ton of reading for all ya’ll. Thanks for checkin’ in.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Here’s update number two from our Pre-Service Training. Things are moving right along…we started learning Arabic script yesterday. It’s complicated, there are approximately 28 letters (depending on how you count), but letters have different forms for when they stand alone, when they are the initial letter, middle letter, or end letter in a word… here’s a little sample of some flashcards to see what it looks like.
Here are some pictures of the countryside during our drive the other day to our current location…
Loading them is a little slow, so I'm sorry there isn't more!
We also did our first load of laundry by hand. The women that are our fabulous, fabulous chefs for training were doing their laundry when we arrived. We were obviously newcomers to the whole affair, so they taught us, through demonstration rather than words because we don’t have too many words in common yet… They were VERY kind. They showed us how to use our soap and how much water to use, and then how to squish the clothes around and finally scrub them all up on the washboard. Here’s some pictures of Michael in action first rinsing and then presenting his newly clean clothes.
One last picture. This is the view of the mountains near us from one of the hills in town.
Two more days until we find out the language we’ll be learning and speaking for our service. We’re excited to get started with that. Then Friday or Saturday we take off for our “field trip” to visit a current health volunteer and see what life is like! All this to say we may have a little gap in blogging, but hopefully we’ll have lots to say when we get back!
Friday, March 10, 2006
We're in Morocco!
I don't even know where to start. Our flight to Casablanca, and short bus ride to Rabat were uneventful (which is good). We met with our Country Director and other staff, and got a chance to ask all sorts of country specific questions we'd been dying to ask at staging, but, understandably, they were unable to answer.
Following our initial day of general intros to the staff and program, we've been getting acquainted with the medical procedures and staff, learning Morocco specific and general safety techniques, learning about resources and procedures, etc. We had a visit from the U.S. Ambassador Riley and his wife Nancy as well on well, someday...they are sort of all jumbled up. :) They have been very respectful of our jet lag, etc. but there is still a lot to get done in our short training time -- so we are moving quickly!
This morning we separated from the 24 or so Environmental sector volunteers, and the 27 or so of us Health people drove to a smaller town that will be our training base for the next 11 weeks or so. The drive was amazing. We took some pictures, and will try to get them posted...but right now just figuring out the whole internet cafe and currency and language thing might be enough. There was just a huge variety of landscapes -- green prairies, cacti (is that right?), palm trees, beautiful mountains. So yeah, we drove up into the mountains and if you know me (Jana), I'm a little afraid of heights. Picture steep mountain roads and a nice tall bus....I just looked the other way. :)
This upcoming week will be, I think, lots of culture and beginning language training. We haven't found out yet if we'll be learning Moroccan Arabic, or one of the two local Berber languages, so we're eagerly anticipating that. The week after this we are going on a "field trip" to visit with a current Health volunteer and check out what life is really like. We're all looking forward to the chance to get a handle on what we'll be doing, how we'll be living, etc., although this will not be our site, just an example site.
I should get back and get ready for dinner. We had our first couscous dish this afternoon and it was WONDERFUL. So, we have lots to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, and the food for the next two years!
Take care! Jana
Monday, March 06, 2006
A little time to sleep in.
Its been a hectic two weeks of preparation and a final whirlwind goodbye tour of friends and family members culminating in a 3:00 wakeup on Saturday to catch our flight to Philadelphia. By Saturday evening we were exhausted to say the least. Listening and actually trying to absorb what is important in addition to making small talk with 50 other people wore me OUT! So for dinner on Saturday at 8:00 pm we finally went to an Indian restaurant that is just down the street from where we are staying. Sunday was another full day of training but after a good night's sleep the time didn't seem to drag on as much and we were out of there in no time.
Probably the most important part of training for myself was finding out that Jana and I will be staying together with a host family during our training and throughout the entire process. We found out that we will fly into Casa, spend 3 days in Rabat, then be shipped off on another 3.5 hour bus ride to our seminar site. Much better than the Environmental people's 7.5 hr bus ride.
We'll spend about a week in our seminar site with intensive language studies, and then we are split again into groups of 5 or so and sent to our training community where we have set goals and objectives that are supposed to help us understand what exactly we will be doing. Only then will we know which language we will be expected to know.
So today we finally get to relax a little. We slept in and don't have to check out till 11. We fly out from JFK at 6:40 tonight and have a 7 hr flight.
We've been told there are inexpensive internet cafes in Morocco, but it might take us a bit to find and use them -- but stay tuned!
Friday, March 03, 2006
See you later everyone! We love you!
It's about 11 pm and we are up early tomorrow to be at the airport at about 5:30 am...I hope we can fall asleep!
We wanted to take a minute though to say THANK YOU to all y'all. Seriously. These past few weeks and days have been wonderful and tough, but it is so meaningful to know that there is a darn cool group of people "sending" us to Morocco. We are blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people and well, it's hard not to miss wonderful people!
No goodbyes and all that, but thank you again, we love you very much, and please, please keep in touch.
mike and jana