l'aventure africaine

our travel journal

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mike and Jana - Peace Corps Volunteers!!

We did it! We signed in this morning as Peace Corps Volunteers! The ceremony and reception were nice. We'll post some pictures soon, but for now they are still on the camera. It is nice to be done with training and on to what it is we came here to do...but a little scary too!

But I'm getting ahead of myself -- last week we finished up our training in the Azilal province up in the mountains and headed off to meet up with the environmental sector that arrived with us and has been doing their training in a different area of the country. Before we left we visited the Cascades d'Ouzoud -- a beautiful waterfall in the area where we were training.

There is the falls and us at the falls (obviously) :) and Mike waving hello to everyone at home. The last one was a mill, grinding grain, that was powered by the waterfall.

One last picture. There are monkeys at the waterfall. I don't remember why...but they are so not shy, so here is a really close picture. It was as close as it seems, and after I took the picture it started walking towards me and looking at me like it wanted something I had -- I took off!

Oh, but even before that I had a couple of pictures from our trip back from our site visit. We stopped on our way home in Marrakesh. It is all about tourists, which has its pro's and con's. There are a lot of people trying to sell a lot of things, and we get just as much attention as any tourists. It is a lot of fun though to wander the covered markets of Djemaa el Fna and take in clothes and spices and pottery and huge old wooden doors that you'll never buy but are beautiful. There are juice stalls in the square and we had some fresh orange and grapefruit juice and ate breakfast at a cafe on the square. It's a giant transportation hub, so pretty much all PCV's will visit at some point, but it was still fun to experience for the first time! A couple of pictures...

So, that's what we've been up to the past couple of weeks! We leave tomorrow to start heading to our sites and begin the process of language improvement and getting to know our community. The first months are going to be quiter because our primary jobs are the ones I mentioned above. Doing that will allow us to see what the needs in our community are, get to know who the interested people are that we can partner with when we begin more structured projects, and build trust within the community because once we have that, we'll be able to talk to people about personal concerns like health and hygiene. Peace Corps doesn't have us do any projects that require funding until 6 months, when we will have "In-service Training" and learn about grants, etc. I believe part of it is that the first months really are to focus on relationship building and language, and also because our jobs really are about education and capacity-building -- helping the community members learn how to accomplish the things they feel are important -- not about being deliverers of project money. Although that can happen too if the community is interested in providing a certain percentage of the project money or work and partnering to apply for a grant.

It will be quieter as well because things are just quieter in the summer months! People cope with the heat by taking it easy during the warmest parts of the day. We've gotten some coping tips from current PCV's -- sleeping with wet hair or clothes or sheets...especially if you have a fan you can turn on the wet sheets. :) I'm sure we'll devise some of our own strategies too and we'll keep you posted!

Next time we write we'll have moved to our final site and be settling in for the long haul...well, at our host family's house for a 2 month stay and then we'll search for our own housing but -- we finally are going to live somewhere permanently! It's been fun to see a bunch of the country, but it will be nice to retire the suitcases. We'll try and post again soon!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A sore man's perspective

Well, it has been a while and I thought that rather than send out an email to all I would try this again and see how it goes. First I shall say, I am sore as can be from having played soccer three days in a row and not stretching pre or post game and I am just getting too old for all this running around. Nonetheless, it remains fun and a way to meet and talk with some of the local teens and practice my language. I just came from having a somewhat rough 15 minute conversation in a language i didn't know 2 months ago, which thankfully is getting easier and easier. Only sometimes do people look directly at me and laugh. Other volunteers have had it much worse. One for example has been told numerous times that she knows walu which means nothing. That might get discouraging after a while.

Anyways, on to the trip to Tata. As Jana mentioned, it was overall an incredible trip. We spent our first night in Agadir which is quite a tourist town. From our training site it took us pretty much all day, so we had the evening for walking around. Jana had been before but for me it was all new. That will most likely be our relaxation town when we need a break. The next day we took the long bus to our site. Silly us, it took 10 hrs whereas the direct bus will only take about 4 to 4.5 if all goes well. Of course part of the ten hrs were the one hour lunch taken by the driver and the other two 25 or so minute breaks for no real reason but to try and drum up more people to travel to the wonderful region of Tata. Slowly we are learning flexibility and adaptability. Key words in PC.

At our site we had a bit of trouble finding our family becuase our family was moving to a bigger house that day. No problem, (another key mike phrase) we eventually found them and met the whole family. there are only four, so only two children. Mohammed, who is 3 or so though, is quite a musharib, (trouble maker) so he kind of makes up for the lack of children. Elias is 10 and you hardly know he is there.
The entire village is way more friendly than I could have ever imagined. We met both our association president and the commune president that same night and both offered many times that if we needed anything they were ready and willing to help. We met with our sbitar (clinic) nurse who is our official counterpart and he seems very knowledgeable and hard working. We were able to visit our souq which is pretty close. That is the market where we will buy most of our food for the week. Oh, I nearly forgot, we will it appears have both electricity and running water in our house when we get our own place. I don't think hot showers will be an issue. There are rumors of the water in the piping being so hot during summer sometimes that you can't even touch it. I have not validated that yet. I do know it get to about 130 -140 F at times which basically sounds terrible.

Our douar (village) is just one in the commune. I believe there are 6 or so but am not sure yet. It is an oasis town with a natural spring. There are many palm trees and lizards that are about as big as my arm below my elbow, and we eat them. well, i haven't yet but i imagine i will at some point and i will like it. I imagine it is better than intestines wrapped in a thin sheet of fat. however, I have had neither yet, but there is still time.

Tata, the nearest large town seems to have all the things we would ever really need, just not some of the stuff we may want. So far, we haven't had any major cravings so those wanting to send stuff, just wait, your time will undoubtedly come. Well, this is turning into quite an entry but the last thing i wanted to write about was the tea experience. So first off, it takes about 30 minutes to have 2 3oz glasses of tea becuase it is made in a small tea pot with a very special method. first the water is heated in a kettle, then the tea is rinsed with warm water. about a cups worth of water for that. Then the water is added to the tea pot, and the tea is boiled for 5 or so minutes, then sugar is added, usually a lot of sugar, then tea is poured into everyone's cup if it is a small enough group. becuase tea in the south is super bubbly, one needs to pour from far above the glass to accomplish this. The final piece to the tea puzzle for us was my host father yelling atay saharaweed, meaning tea of the sahara. And this was every time, I started yelling it back becuase I thought maybe he thought I didn't know it but it didn't matter. We just ended up yelling it back and forth for a few times and then would laugh, 2-3 times a day. I made it once and the first batch was a little sweet. They thought it was funny to call it honey, but the second batch had mint in it and it was delicious, if i do say so myself.
well, i written quite a bit and said quite a little but in case you couldn't tell, we love our town and can't wait to get started. I know, punctuation and capitalization go much worse towards the end, the shift is a bit sticky and my energy is low, poor me, poor me.

Silly pics continued...and pics of our new home!

We made it back from Tata and we LOVED it! Hooray!

But first...finishing up pics from last time...

Here's a picture of Mike up close, to balance out that picture of me really close.

Here's the promised dress picture, along with me are my host sister and brother.

And you know when somebody looks all fancy you've got to get pics with everyone... :)

Okay! So here our some pictures of our site. Driving from green mountains to dusty desert was a little scary at first. We thought the terrain might be a little...empty. The bus we were in kept getting warmer and warmer the further south we got...but when we pulled into our site and looked around -- it's really pretty!

There is a palm tree oasis, we think watered by a spring, in our site, and so that is what the green stuff coming out of the earth is here is the tops of some of the trees. Walking around inside it was cool and shady and just plain cool.

Within minutes of arriving at our site we met some of the big people in town and the next day visited the school and clinic and the village association where the local women make carpets. Everyone seemed really enthusiastic about us being there so we were excited. We just need to find out what they are so excited about and what some of the health topics the community is interested in learning about are...and get better at our language -- we're ready to get sworn in and get started!

We have only about one more week at our health only training site, and then we meet back up with the environment volunteers for a last couple days of training. We'll swear in, assuming we pass our language tests (coming up this Monday!!!), on May 22 and then head out to be real Peace Corp volunteers on the 23rd!

We're off to CBT tomorrow to finish language learning and practice, and I think from here on out time will fly even more than it already has! We'll post more info about our site in the near future!