Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Posted by Erin at 7:11 AM
Monday, May 26, 2008
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!
Posted by Erin at 8:35 AM
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Well today was the much-anticipated much-feared Language Proficiency Exam. Although we haven't received the results yet, I feel very confident about my Interview. This means.........less than 1 week until i swear-in as a real live Peace Corps Volunteer!!!!
Posted by Erin at 7:55 AM
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Posted by Erin at 4:18 AM
So I am staring at my computer with this blank look on my face……..where do I even begin to describe the past week of my life? I guess the blank look could also be attributed to my level of exhaustion. Tuesday morning, 5:45am, I am sleeping so peacefully in my room at my host family’s house……..and then I wake up to BANG BANG BANG “Iman!!!! Sbah lxir! Yella!” What!?!?!?!? (The town has taken to calling me Iman…closest thing to Erin) So I was cursing everything in sight as I rolled out of bed that incredibly early. SERIOUSLY!? I spent the day working in the fields with the women, and I guess they decided to leave a little earlier than planned. But I got to ride the mule to the fields so it wasn’t so bad.
So I visited my site! My brand new, all mine, super wonderful site…..where I will be working for the next 2 years! 2 YEARS! I am so excited…….I was on an emotional high all week. I am technically not allowed to divulge my exact site location, but it is stuck in between Tiznit (on the coast, South of Agadir) and Tafraoute. It is very hot, very conservative, and very gorgeous! Hot…as in probably will get to 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit this summer. Conservative, as in the women cover their faces with a sheet, only eyes showing. The men dress in djellabas and turbans (how do the turbans stay on their heads? I was thinking maybe double-sided tape…..a lot of them are bald…..) and the women all wear these long black skirts with little red pom poms on the bottom and a large white sheet wrapped around their heads and faces. Of course, all of this on top of three layers. Gorgeous, as in palm trees and cactus and rolling hills with mountains in the distance…….and 2 hours from the beach.
From our seminar site in Ouarzazate, it was 8 hours to Agadir, and 1 hour to Tiznit. All of the new Tiznit region volunteers (there are 5 of us) spent the night in Tiznit, and then ventured on to our sites the next morning.
Jasmine, a first-year Health PCV escorted me to my site, in order to help me settle in. We met my host dad in the town center, where he owns a cafe. My little 14-year old host brother, Omar, was there all nervous about meeting the Taromite (foreigner) who is coming to stay with him. That shyness lasted about 10 minutes.....he is not shy at all, its great!
Later on, I got to meet my host mom- the sweetest little thing! She is so cute I just cant describe it! They have 9 children, but only a few live in the village. Omar and Njma (26) live at home still, and I truly adore them. Njma is much quieter than her little brother, but makes a huge effort to communicate effectively with me. Fadma (24) lives down the street. She just got married 2 weeks ago, and misses her family a lot. I have a feeling she and I will get along very well.
So I stayed pretty busy all week....visited the Khalifa (local government official) the day I arrived. Khalifas are famous for being power-hungry jerks here, so I was pleasantly surprised at my Khalifa's friendliness! He even made me tea!
I also had to visit the gendarmes (local police). Mine are located about 40k from my site, so Meredith (whose site is 20k from mine) and I went together. Again, famous for being slightly unfriendly, our Chef was incredibly nice. These folks are important because the Ministry of Health puts them in charge of knowing exactly where we are at all times. If we make them angry...........they can make our lives miserable.
I opened a PO box at my post office, visited my sbitar (health clinic), and walked around quite a big, just saying hello to everyone I passed. Since my site is so big (technically 24,000 people, but 8,000 in one commune) I am looking forward to getting my bike and traveling to the various douars.
Like I said, I went into the fields one day with the women.....but you wouldnt even believe what "going to the fields" is for them. We have running water 1 hour a day, from approximately 4-5am, so the women get up and fill up lots of containers of water. Then, at around 6am they take the mule out about 3k to their fields. Currently they are harvesting the wheat, so they are bent over pulling wheat from the ground for 12-14 hours. There is a break for about 1 hour for lunch, and then they head out again until around 8. All the while, the sun is beating down in this desert terrain. I mean holy toledo! I worked with them last Tuesday, and my hamstring muscles are still incredibly sore.
Meanwhile, the men are doing.....um......nothing! I know this is a bit of a generalization, as I have only spent 1 week in site, but seriously! Sitting in cafes doing nothing, while the women are working their very hard.
Generally women do not venture down to the town center unless they need to go to the sbitar or travel somewhere, so I was quite the odd picture.....blond girl with braids prancing all about town. People are fascinated but seem accepting. Men hold foreign women and Moroccan women to different standards. Both the men and women are extremely friendly; consequently, I forsee little trouble communicating with community members.
I have a gorgeous 5k walk to my town center/sbitar from my host family's douar....which I enjoy immensely.
After a week, we headed up to Agadir, to enjoy a day of beach and relaxation. It was well deserved- we got McDonalds (mmmm...McFlurry) which is located right next to Pizza Hut, on the beach! Definitely thrilled to be so close to Agadir.....but slightly nervous about the temptation.
Now I am back in Ouarzazate for 2 days.....we leave for our last CBT on Tuesday....and then swear-in is May 19! I can't wait!
Posted by Erin at 3:16 AM