Peace Corps Part deux: Moroccan Nights

Mandatory Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or people, the Mauritanian government or people, or the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Forgetting melons

I’m in the middle of my training in Morocco and so far it is going well. The training is a little repetitive from last year’s training but I realize that without the training it would be impossible for me to learn Moroccan Arabic. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks learning a different dialect of a language I already speak. Many of the words are the same but also many words are different so for example I can say sentences like, “the most important thing about politics in my country is…” but I couldn’t say “I want to eat bread.” Also most but not all of the numbers are the same so I could say that I want an appointment form “4:48” but not “2:00.”

Morocco is a great place to live. It might just be the honeymoon effect or maybe coming from Mauritania makes living anywhere seem great but so far I am finding that at least my training site of Imouzzer has a lot of the benefits of a developing country: interesting and diverse cultures, unique cuisine, friendliness, openness and great hospitality without many of the problems: extreme poverty, garbage everywhere and lack of reliable public services.

It doesn’t hurt my perception that for the training period I am living with a part time pastry chef. The cuisine in Morocco is delicious. Most of the foods I have eaten so far are eaten out of a communal pot. Everyone has a piece of bread which they use to reach into the pot and dip into the meat or fish that is mixed with vegetables and the always mouth-wateringly appetizing sauce. Dinner is usually followed by melons. My host family quizzes my nightly on the word in Darija ( Moroccan Arabic) for melon and I disappoint them nightly by forgetting the name. Living in this mountainous region with its temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s Fahrenheit has not stopped my from enjoying the ice cream that tastes better than anything I have ever had in the States and costs about 75 cents for three huge scoops.

My Darija teacher speaks excellent English but it is still learning new words. Peace Corps has it’s own unique set of vocabulary that would be foreign to even most native English speakers. One word that is commonly used is “site,” as in “my site (the city where a volunteer lives and works),” or “final site ( the place where a trainee will move after training for his/her actual service).” Peace Corps vocabulary has seeped into my teacher’s regular vocabulary so this gem slipped out during a session on gender roles in Morocco, “After marriage a Moroccan woman will leave her family and move to her final site with her husband’s family.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Déjà vu

This is my second night in Morocco and the overwhelming sense I am getting is that I have already seen all of this before. After serving in a malaria endemic country you have to continue taking your preventative malaria medication for a month after leaving said country. I haven't even finished my Mauritanian malaria medication and already I have Peace Corps sessions that are eerily similar to the ones I had last June.

It has also been exciting to meet this new class of volunteers. It seems like a good group of people. The one major difference is that there are a lot more “experienced” volunteers in this class than in my Mauritanian group. Note that “experienced” is a euphemism for old.

Another difference is that the medical kit that they give us is a lot smaller than the one they gave us in Mauritania. I’m not sure if that’s because they assume that are luxurious houses in Mauritania have more room or if there are fewer diseases and medical problems in Morocco but I’m hoping it’s the latter. To give credit where credit is due this observation came from Kat who is a fellow Mauritanian Peace Corps refugee, also making the jump to Morocco. She is also responsible for many of the better pictures in the preceding entry. The rest of the photos are "borrowed" from my other Tagant Region mates as my camera was unable to survive even two months in the sands of the Sahara.

We haven’t started language training yet but unofficially I have been listening to Peace Corps staff speaking to each other (eavesdropping). The Moroccan language Darija is similar to the Hassaniya that I was speaking in Mauritania as they are both dialects of Arabic. This should make learning the new dialect easier although it has already caused me some problems. When a word is close but not exactly the same in the two languages it is really difficult to modify the words I have been saying for a year.

On the plane ride over I taught an Arabic newbie her first Arabic word: Mushkile. For the uninitiated it means problem. It is used in the context of “there is no tea: problem.” Or in this case, they keep turning on and off the cabin lights for the whole plane for no apparent reason: “mushkile.”

For the first few days in Morocco we are staying in a hotel on the beach doing brief introductions. Today we played a game of ultimate Frisbee on the beach with some Peace Corps staff and a few of my fellow trainees. While Mauritians could never catch anything, too much time playing soccer and not enough baseball in my opinion, this group of Moroccans could certainly catch a Frisbee and took to the game quickly despite it being played just before sundown on a hot day during Ramadaan.

I had a great trip home this past month with one regret that I didn’t have a chance to get in any ultimate so I’m glad I was able to rectify that problem. I also had missed the Super Bowl last year and the night before I left while I was in Philly, Steelers vs. Cardinals in the Super Bowl XLIII happened to be on TV and I was finally able to watch Ben Roethlisberger’s throw that game-winning touchdown. Also worth noting is that when I signed into Facebook from my computer at home in New City it said, "You are signing in from an unfamiliar address please enter the following information..."

Also Mauritania seems to be getting the short end of the deboos (stick) lately. Major flooding has happened in Rosso where I had my Pre-service training learning about Peace Corps policies last June.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


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