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.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

screaming pumpkins

Like any proper bureaucracy Peace Corps has its share of acronyms, jargon and words that nobody outside of the Peace Corps community could possibly understand. The one (often funnier) difference between Peace Corps and your average overly-bureaucratized organization is that PC works in many different countries that speak hundreds of different languages almost none of which have good translations for words such as, “counterpart, sustainable, or feedback.” Since there are no proper translations for these concepts Peace Corps staff who, in Morocco at least, speak both English and the local languages fluently usually just use the English words while they are speaking with each other. So if I hear two Peace Corps staff speaking too fast for me to understand it often sounds something like this, “skdjkqdklsj feedback erekkkjrke sustainability sdksjkdlsklj computer skills.”

Last week as part of my training I taught an English lesson at the local youth center to intermediate level English students. In preparation for Halloween I adapted this lesson on the past tense to incorporate some Halloween specific vocabulary with words such as scream howl, and carve. The lesson went well, the students appeared to understand and my demonstration of howling was a particularly big hit. The next day at the Halloween party at the youth center I was standing next to a Jack-o-Lantern and I made a carving motion and asked what I thought was one of the better students how the Jack-o-Lantern was made. She said, “you screamed it.” Well at least she got the past tense conjugation correct.

In preparation for the party a few of us went to the market to buy the aforementioned pumpkin that would one day be screamed into a Jack-o-lantern. In Imouzzer there is a “souk” twice a week. This means that farmers come into town from the country selling their produce for absurdly cheap prices. Pumpkins are one of the kinds of produce. Pumpkins are not a stable of the Moroccan diet like eggs, cous-cous or tomatoes, instead pumpkins are a supplement usually added to cous-cous or in combination with other vegetables. Thus pumpkins are usually sold by the kilo which means that the farmer will sell 1/8th or 1/16th of a kilo. When we explained that we in fact wanted an entire pumpkin he wasn’t quite sure what to do and thought he had misunderstand. We then restated that yes we did want the entire pumpkin. Finally he ended up weighing the pumpkin and so we paid 4 dollars for the 20 pound pumpkin. As we left the market carrying the entire pumpkins peoples looks of astonishment reminded me of the looks on people’s faces as my former Mauritanian sitemate carried his pet turtle through the Tidjikja town center.

Last Monday Peace Corps announced our permanent sites where we will be leaving in Morocco for the next two years. Up until now I have been living in a training site where I have been studying the local Arabic Dialect and doing other training activities. In two weeks I will move to Taroudant a city in southern Morocco. It seems like it will be an interesting place to spend the next two years as well as good place for a visit or a short vacation if anyone is thinking of planning a trip to Morocco. Before the staff made the site announcements everyone was feeling some combination of dread, anticipation, excitement and nervousness. In order to calm the nerves of this group of 20-something future professionals the staff gave out bags of American brand name candy in the same style as t-shirts are flung in the stands at B-level sporting events. The twix bars floating into the crowds distracted us enough that they were able to make the announcements to a relatively calm dread-free group very different from the anxious, panic-stricken group that existed a mere 10 minutes earlier.


Blogger Pablo (yo) said...

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Pablo from Argentina

November 3, 2009 at 11:51 PM  

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