I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around the reality of it all. I am at my site. Like for real, at my site. Like, not leaving to go back to our training site anytime soon, or ever again. It is weird feeling, a little bit of “holy toledo”, some “thank God I made it,” mixed with a lot of excitement and anticipation. I have only been here 4 days, but I can already feel myself adjusting to the routine that will be mine for the next two months while staying with my host family. I am starting to predict patterns of my host family’s daily actions. I even know when the weather (Al-taqs) will come on the news channel (al-Maghrebia) each night. It will be just as we are finishing dinner, and Najma, my host sister, is bringing out an abundance of delicious fruits for dessert.
Not to get too far ahead of myself, last Monday 59 of us swore in as Peace Corps Volunteers! It was a very surreal experience, heightened by the fact that I had to give a speech in TashlHit in front of volunteers, host families, US Embassy Deputy, Governor of Ouarzazate and the entire Peace Corps staff. With 2 photographers and a videographer in my face. Yikes! It went well overall, I even got a compliment from the Governor on my Tash. Our swear-in took place at the only 5 star hotel in the city, and it was quite a sight! We were able to stay after the ceremony and enjoy sometime in the large outdoor pool. It was a fabulous day of relaxation before we headed our our sites.
Speaking of which......
So far, I have met a lot of people in my douar (small community) and a neighboring douar. In fact, on Friday when I thought Najma and I were just going to stop by the next douar for tea, I was led to a weekly couscous luncheon. The women of the douar (about 20), some of the girls, and the schoolchildren all meet and share lunch. Three women each make a big plate of couscous, one woman brings tea makings, and one brings nuts for dessert. They all sit around share a meal, rotate couscous plates so everyone gets to try them all, and ultimately enjoy each other’s company. I can already see this as a perfect venue for health lessons in the future.
Yesterday I tried to keep track of how many cups of tea I drank throughout the day, but I lost count. I did a better job today………12 cups of tea. Oh yes, in one day. Instead of being concerned about the imminent rotting of my teeth from so much sugar, I take each cup as a sign of my slow integration into the community. Today’s tea break-down is as such:
8:00am: Breakfast- 2 cups of tea (I tried to say no to the second, but my host mom would not have it)
10:00am: Mid-morning snack- 2 cups of tea
12:00pm: Visit to neighbors’ house- 2 cups of tea (anytime to enter a house, they will offer tea)
1:30pm: Lunch- 2 cups of tea
6:00pm: Tea time! J - 2 cups of tea
9:00pm: Dinner- afterward, 2 cups of tea
I also have not had lunch at my host family’s house since I arrived. I have my wonderful host mom and sister to thank for this; they are doing a fabulous job of introducing me to people in the community. One of my favorite moments of each day so far, is after the afternoon tea. A group of girls from my douar (by group of girls I mean unmarried females who are no longer in school, so anywhere from 14 to 30ish), including Najma, hang out together outside. One day we went on a tour of the douar. The next, we went on a 2 ½ hour hike into the surrounding mountains. Again, I am so incredibly blessed to have an “in” with that particular group in the community.
Tomorrow I will go to Tiznit, put this on the internet, and prepare for my meetings on Tuesday. Meredith, Hanneke, and I will spend the day at the Ministry of Health, meeting our Delegue, who is basically our boss for the next two years.
Inshallah I will be able to update my blog 3-4 times a month, as I should have internet access in my souktown about once a week. Shukran!