l'aventure africaine

our travel journal

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A List

It has been a while since you all heard from me. It’s just ‘cause we don’t get to the internet café too often and we really don’t pull out the computer that often. In honor of my friend and cousin-in-law Ben, who is starting his residency, because he enjoys a good list way more than the average person, here is my first list. My first list is, of course, a list of firsts.
Since being in Morocco and moving to our permanent site I have:
- become neighbors with my first 107 camels and another 122 after the first batch disappeared by way of front end loader and large truck due to their being sick. Unfortunately none of this fine camel meat could be eaten, but instead was taken out to the desert and buried. This was a fantastic shame for all our townspeople who would have loved a succulent chunk of camel. I hear it is truly delicious, very little fat, a little watery but that’s to be expected, okay, just kidding about it being watery. I, in fact, had a plan to take a picture and include it in this post but as you can see there is no picture. There may be very few pictures coming since taking a picture involves unlocking the suitcase, unpacking some of our other locked valuables and digging out the camera, taking the pictures as inconspicuously as possible so as not to appear like the tourists who continue to propagate the notion that all white people are tourists, and as tourists we carry around ginormous backpacks full of pens which we indelibly want to, or possibly even need to hand out to any and all children whom ask. In our village there are only a few children who consistently ask for them despite the fact that most children here appear to go to school and would potentially use a new pen.
It appears my list is not so much of a list as a dull report in list form. Nonetheless I shall carry on. I have additionally:
- witnessed my first fainting. Well not so much witnessed the person fainting as seen the aftermath that ensued. Unfortunately the person was Jana, but thankfully there was no harm done except maybe to her self-esteem since it was our first day of visiting the sbitar, the local clinic, where we will be going regularly for the next few months. As she was leaving the office we were in she collapsed and a nice lady sitting in the waiting room evidently tried to catch her but all I really saw was the lady toppling over Jana and then scurrying to get up so as not to be improper. Then, of course, because I had never seen Jana faint, I freaked out a bit. All was okay and we returned to observing the nurse hard at work.
- become a volunteer in the peace corps. Yeah, there was sitting in air conditioning, swimming, and overall a feeling of excitement, exhaustion, and something that felt like quiet confidence because really unless there was something I couldn’t control I knew we would make it at least that far.
- used the door of my room to improve or rather obtain one bar of rizo (aka reception) on my cell phone. Of course this does us very little good if someone calls because if we take it off the door, we lose our bar but we do get some text messages via the special door rizo process however.
There have been other firsts for us but these are the ones that stick out for us at this time.
As we have become more familiar with Tata the town, we have made a few friends around town. Just today I met a butcher who had hosted a previous volunteer during her home stay and welcomed us to his village any time. There are still the few odd folks who like to think we’re French tourist but we usually just say hello and keep walking. We’ve been walking around trying to find out what kinds of things are offered. For example, cheese is available but Oreos are not. However, as we have been perusing the shelves one thing we have noticed is the huge selection of colognes they have. Maybe some info first. For any big occasion and sometimes for visitors it is tradition to have massive bottles of cologne that you use to douse all attendees. Sometimes if we are lucky they have two and do both at the same time, or at the very least, come around a second time to make sure the late comers get the special spray also. So carrying on, some of the flavors we have noticed are your traditional Hugo Boss’s and your less familiar Carlos Moya’s, who to my best guess is a Spanish tennis player who thinks he smells pretty good. But as you explore the deep recesses, you see some slightly less familiar brands. A couple of our favorites include One Man Show and Jet Ski For Women. When you are about to head out on the town there is nothing you want more than to have the subtle tang of jet ski fumes engulfing you, am I right ladies? As of today we remain vigilant in our search for Jet Ski For Men because I don’t think we guys should be left out when it comes to smellin’ like a jet ski. Well here is the deal. If you have seen any others that are comparable, or if you have some ideas of your own that you think would be good competition for the likes of these, go ahead and put em’ up on the blog for all to enjoy, alright?
One last thing. I was dancin’ around on Chelsea’s blog mainly because I hadn’t seen any pictures of the little bundle of new Rustad (Norah) and saw that Olivia and I share a little something. Well not so much share something, as are opposites with regard to shadows. While she was discovering shadows and actually going out of her way to avoid them, I was finding that shadows are an excellent way to keep cool when it is really, really hot. As Jana can attest, every day we walk past a building at about 9 am and every time I say, “Ah, the best 5 seconds of my day.” Well, that’s about all. Almost 2 whole pages from me. Too much I know. Oh yeah, too bad, USA aren’t as good as they thought in soccer, out of the World Cup in the first round, but yeah Ghana, on to the second round on the first try.

Note from Jana: I have NO IDEA why I fainted…how embarrassing… :) I think it was a combination of a warm room, long sleeves, and the tension/nervousness of our first day working with our new counterpart (the nurse) and meeting a lot of community members. Crazy. Luckily, so far, it has been an isolated incident!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bye Grandpa

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My (Jana) Grandpa passed away last week. It’s been tough to try and say goodbye from far away, and I’m missing family big time. Just want to say I love you Grandpa – we love you – and we’ll miss you.

I promised interpretive dance...I'm not trying to lead you on, but the download process is a little more intense than I thought. I will get it up as soon as I can.

Here are some pictures from swearing in:

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingYour very own new Peace Corps Volunteers. :)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingHere's some fellow new volunteers getting some quality time in the day we took off to our final sites and went our separate ways!

Let’s see, I said I’d say a little about our daily lives. Most homes here are built around a courtyard and there are several rooms that come off that courtyard, but aren’t connected to each other. The rooms heat up during the day and stay warm, so we usually sleep in the courtyard at night. Most homes offer mats and blankets and pillows for sitting in their living roomish areas, and they are pretty mobile, so we can sit outside or in the large entryway or wherever it is cool!

I think I may have talked about food before, but here’s some more info. For breakfast we drink tea (strong green tea with plenty of sugar), and have bread with butter or apricot preserves or cheese or olive oil and olives. Lunch is usually a local dish with potato, onion, carrots, paprika, cilantro and some other ingredients I probably don’t know about. :) Dinner can be pasta or omelette or a rice dish… Fresh fruit is the typical dessert we’ve experienced so far in Morocco, both where we trained further north, and down here in the south. Watermelons are in season and we’ve been eating TONS of it! :) Breakfast is early, lunch around 1:30 and dinner around 10 or so, so there is usually a snack sometime in the late afternoon. Tea and bread are typical fare for that.

We have settled into a routine here. Weekdays we spend the morning at the local clinic. We get to observe what sorts of things people come in for and practice our language and just see and be seen and become associated with the clinic. We’ve spent the last couple of days doing a short interview with patients as they’re being seen which has been great language practice, and we’re learning more about local health habits (teeth brushing, hand washing, etc.) We come home and eat lunch, and then usually nap a little – it’s crazy how quickly your energy gets zapped navigating in a different language and culture. After napping :) we spend some time with language or reading through and planning some of our health and technical things. Evenings in our douar are visiting time, so some evenings we’ll go with our host mom and visit others, and often others will drop by our home and sit and talk for a while. Once it starts to get dark we spend some time journaling or reading or whatever and then it’s time for dinner. Since dinner is later, usually we head to sleep right afterward. So, that’s it – our life!

We are working on getting a new address. The post office in our town is getting remodeled right now, and so we can't get a post office box...yet. The word is it will be done around the 25th of this month, but at that time we have to hope they have open boxes! Mail sent to the address above will reach us eventually -- it goes to the PC office and a staff person will bring it with them when they come by...sometime. :) We'll keep you posted... no pun intended. :)

We send lots of love to (everyone. always. but especially right now) Mom and Dad and Jevan and Garth, Mary, Ben and Krista, Tim, and Jean, Arnie, Melissa and Stephen, Dustin. We miss you and wish we could have been at what sounds like a wonderful service. (But what's this about Niagra? Troublemakers...) :) Our thoughts and prayers are also with Corny and Mervin, Frank and Lois, and Shirley and Dave.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Settling In

I don't have any pictures today unfortunately. Next time, I hope, along with, if I can figure out to do it, video of our own Mike Huffman doing interpretive dance. Yup, you heard me -- you have to see it to believe it!

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. We moved to our new home. Let me tell you, that is a crazy feeling. We've been moving between our group training site to our language community based training and gone to visit other volunteers and visited our sites, but none of that travel compared, for me, to that last taxi ride where we strapped everything we owned on top, and drove in to our community to stay!

We've been there two weeks now and things are going well. This is the awkward stage where conversations are simple and there is a lot of smiling and "I'm sorry, I don't understand" ing. We are both more tired than usual, probably a combination of heat and cultural adjustment. We were well prepared for this time by previous volunteers and our trainers, and it is doable and exciting because we know that it's worth it! We will, through this, get better, little by little, at our language, get to know who is who in our community so we can figure out what the assets are we can encourage and build upon in our work. For example, there is a group of women who gather and make beautiful rugs by hand. When they need money for supplies, they work together and cook for special events in town. This is the kind of organization, as well as some of the neighborhood association's in our area that are working on delivering trash pick-up to the area, that we want to come along side of and see where we can pitch in.

We still have so much to learn and lots of people to get to know and get to know better, but things are off to a good start. Our host family has been great at taking good care of us, from good food to introducing us to everyone they know! An important part of the culture in our village is just conversation time. People will visit family, friends, or neighbors in the late afternoon and evening and sit and have tea and talk. About what yet we are not entirely sure. :) It'll come...we hope. :)

We'll try and let you know more about daily life around us, stuff we start to take for granted, but is different than life at home. Let us know though if you have any questions!