Saturday, April 10, 2010


I am writing this blog because some events have happened that I think you all should know about and it has been a long time since I have written to you. This past week I was working at an English immersion camp for Moroccan kids in high school. It all started on March 26th when I took a bus from Essaouira to Boulmane. The entire trip from my house to Boulmane was 18 hours long. By the time I arrived at my friend Natalie’s house I was surprising feeling good and ready to start camp the following day. In Natalie’s site I picked up my rug and one of my dad’s rugs, which are both amazing and beautiful. From there we went to Boulmane and got settled into the volunteers house that was in charge of the camp, Anthony. This day I was a little flustered because by this point we had no direction or orders of what was to come the following week. This kind of pressure makes me crazy. I was forced to learn how to just relax and go with it, once again.
The next day the kids arrived, I was surprised at the amount of stuff they brought for one week and they all were clean and dressed so nice. This is uncommon in Imi N Tlit. The other volunteers and I tested the kids based on the Peace Corps system. Throughout the week we learned how flawed this system really is because some of those that excelled at the test were horrible at English but good at testing, and some of those that were nervous during the test should have been in different classes than those they were placed in. We also learned we all score differently. To learn this it made me feel good about myself because I have been testing below my level for the past two years because I freak out when it comes to language tests.
My friend Natalie and I were in charge of teaching the advanced English class and had to teach these kids grammar. Natalie and I realized that we don’t know English that well. The kids asked to learn about things like passive voice, present continuous, and conditional. I still am a little confused about what all these words mean but we taught it and learned as we went along with the students. Since Natalie is a wiz at languages and knows four of them I taught American culture portion and made videos with the kids. I was happy with this and will show you the videos when I get home, they are hilarious.
During camp we also had to teach club activities, I taught a theater club where we performed a play about taking care of trees and the environment, then a health club where we made organ t-shirts and learned about the importance of each of the organs. This was my favorite club because for a couple of days Natalie and I had been wearing our organ shirts and everyone was a little confused, this gave us a chance to explain ourselves. The last day I did a henna club, which is a plant that they use to paint designs on their hands and feet. Traditionally, this is done before any holiday, party, or wedding.
The kids at the camp were great. It was so fun to hang out with educated boys and girls that are interested in other cultures and the world around them. Typically, in our small villages no one thinks outside of their small surroundings. Also, I realized why boys and girls need to hang out at a young age. They learned how to communicate with each other and be respectful to each other. In my site boys and girls are totally separated except for in school. Anytime they are in the same room outside of the classroom both genders act like total idiots and don’t know what to say. The girls are shy and the boys are obnoxious. Throughout the week little love affairs went on, which is totally healthy. There is so much sexual harassment in this country and I believe that part of the reason for this is because neither party has any idea what to do with the other until they are married for years. It was also a time for the American volunteers to prove this to the Moroccans. All week us American men and women worked together and displayed our friendships that are cordial, respectful, fun, and platonic.
I was given the opportunity to teach one of the Moroccan staff who goes to school in Fes for English. When we were at henna club one of the 14-year-old girls ran up to the 20 year old Moroccan, Alal, and kicked him. Alal’s response was to run after this girl and try to beat her with a shoe. I got in the middle and asked Alal what in the hell he was doing, he quickly responded with “Fatima Zahara kicked me.” Alal was one of the staff not students and was going to hit her back that is something we would get in trouble for in kindergarten and arrested for doing at the age of 20. I told Alal that you never hit women no matter what! Alal said, “even if she kicked me first.” Me: “Yes, even if she kicked you first.” Alal: “Where is the democracy in that?” I walked away laughing telling him that I didn’t know but never hit a lady.
The last night we had a talent show which I performed my one hit Knocking on Heavens Door, it was my first talent show. Even though I messed up a couple of times it went great. I still laugh at the fact that a human being can play the same song for two years and not get bored. I read a meditation book and it said all meditation was is concentrating on the same thing over and over; Knockin on Heaven’s Door is my meditation song. I am so happy that I have gained the confidence to sing infront of people. For the first 24 years of my life I was a closet singer because I was told in fourth grade that I was bad at singing by Mrs. Schaffer. This killed my self esteem and makes me hate the American system that you can only do something your really good at. How are you supposed to get good at anything without being given the opportunity to practice?
After a long week of smelly boys, great food, English, and camp games, the last day came. I was so sick all week and had been coughing my lungs out and was ready for some sleep. Our days went from 7 AM to 11 PM. The good byes were tramadic, when the kids were saying good-bye to each other they were all crying and acting like they lived light years from each other and in all actuality they all live within twenty kilometers of one another. I took this opportunity to teach them about sleep over’s and that they should all get together some weekend at someone’s house. I hope they do this.
The sleep I was hoping for was a long way from reality because on the last day of camp I went to my friend Moira’s house and met up with some Peace Corps friends. It was great we made great meals and talked into the wee hours of the night for three nights and two days. I got slaughtered by bed bugs and got really sick from the water. The illness didn’t come until I arrived in Marrakesh after a 14-hour bus ride. I then proceeded to puke my guts out all night while sleeping in a room with three other volunteers one of which snored so loud I was about to punch her in the face. My family can attest that I hate snoring so much and when I am tired and sick you better watch out if you are sleeping in the same room with me. I kept my cool though and rushed home the next morning. I was forced to ride a four-hour bus to Essaouira and then a taxi for another hour and a half. I was miserable but that is life and there was no other option, I don’t own a helicopter.
Once I got home I spent the day washing all of my bed bug clothing making sure they didn’t have any time to multiply. I washed the clothes on my back naked because I didn’t want to risk getting any of my other clothes contaminated. After three days in the sun I finally have taken those clothes off the line and trust they are bug free.
Yesterday, was circumcision day in my site, my host brother Hussein got “fixed” or izal in Tashelheet. I felt so sorry for him Hussein was such a mess yesterday; I have never seen him so quiet. As Hyatt my host sister said yesterday “Hussein got circumcised and then he became quiet.” To our surprise today Hussein is not quiet anymore he is back in full force and as loud as ever again. It is amazing to me how quickly he bounced back.
Life is good here in Imi N Tlit. I have been having tea galore and spending lots of time with my peeps. I love it here but I can feel that it is time for a change. I am ready for a new adventure; I am getting far to comfortable here and stir crazy. Emmy can't stay in one place for too long, this is the longest I have stayed put since I left Bemidji in 2002. Bring it on Austin or where ever I end up in Texas, I am ready for an adventure.
Next week I am going to Rabat for medicals to make sure I am in tiptop shape before they put me on the boat back to America. I have been in site for three days then I am off again. I am ready to not travel anymore on buses with hot breath and no leg room for ten hours at a time; but that time will come and I will miss these days so I am trying to enjoy everyday, one day at a time.
Love you

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sachel and Kari's Trip

Sachel and Kari just came to visit for a week and the trip could not have gone better. They arrive on a Wednesday where I picked them up from the airport, where Sachel was sporting as much BSU gear that can be worn at one time and they had matching old school back packing packs. We then took the bus to Marrakesh center where I introduced them to the chaos and they got to meet Doug for the first time. We started the night by eating at my favorite pizza place.
Our second day was spent in the market bartering and buying so much stuff. Doug helped me bargain and become friends with all of the shopkeepers. Marrakesh is a really busy city with lots of markets and lots of people going in every direction besides with the crowd. Sachel and Kari did great and really seemed to enjoy this madness. That evening I took them to a restaurant that I claimed was similar to Alice in Wonderland, but no one agrees with me on this. I will take their word for it because I am the only who has not seen the movie. It was a great meal and to my surprise it was insanely expensive. Sachel will never let me live this down, but when I am rich I owe him and Kari a really expensive meal that actually has an Alice and Wonderland theme.
The next day we were off to Essaouira, which Doug and I were excited about because we were totally worn out from Marrakesh. Essa is a laid-back beach town with a lot less tourists and less scooters darting at you from all different directions. Once we got settled into our apartment, that I had rented, Sachel and Kari took a long nap. They claimed that Marrakesh was great and easy to handle but this nap proved them wrong. We spent the evening playing games and I lost at a ruthless game of Jenga. Grandma you would be happy, after our Jenga game we played a traditional game of Scrabble, which Kari won. There was a wedding right outside of our window; Sachel and Kari got to see what that is like from the distance of our window.
It was back to the shops the second day. After we bought some paintings Doug got us stuck in a jewelry shop where we proceeded to sit down and have tea. At this point I knew we were done for and would be forced to buy something. But I went with it and the man continued to show us horrible jewelry and we continued to tell him how great his shit was. Then the time came to leave and he asked us what we wanted and we fished for something to buy so we could get the hell out of there. Kari and I found a pair of earrings that the man tried to sell to us for an outrageous price. We talked him down to a price we were willing to pay and ran. It was a really interesting monumental experience in Kari and Sachel’s trip.
We walked around in the wind some more where Sachel found a great Indian Chief ring and Kari found a great pink stone ring, and then finished the day with a nice Italian dinner. That night we stayed up late talking about life and Morocco. Kari started not feeling well this night and went to bed early and then started the next day feeling like someone was hammering on her joints. We tried to take it easy this day. We saw all of the fish markets and sat at the beach for a while. Then it was off to Imi N Tlit (my village).
In my village we made great meals and tried to regain some strength in our tired bodies. The first full day Kari and Sachel were in my site Kari was really sick but she was a trooper and went to my host families for lunch. After the first extremely awkward half hour my host sisters then warmed up to Kari and my host brother Hussein was a terror and started hitting people like he always does. We had a great tajine (a traditional Moroccan dish). While we were eating lunch my host mom scolded my host dad, her son that he did not fix us tea, so after lunch we had to stay for tea. The room was filled with my neighbors because they wanted to check out Kari and Sachel. With curious eyes burning into them Sachel and Kari did great and got along well with everyone. After tea we had to take a group photo, which became a ridiculous event because everyone had to change their clothes and they couldn’t decide where to have this picture. Naturally, they decided to take it by the cow in the back yard. We were really confused by this but followed.
After lunch with the host family we went to the neddy. This was great because all my neddy girls attacked me like they always do with hundreds of questions about Kari mostly. It was so happy to get to share this time with Sachel, Kari, and Doug because they got to truly see what I do when I am in my site.
We had one last morning in my site and we had planned on going to the clinic but found that it was closed because my nurse decided not to show up to work. That is life here in Morocco. We accepted this and moved on to the argan cooperative. Sachel and Kari and I got the opportunity to break open argan shells. Sachel was not a natural at this but as we know he never gives up. Kari was a natural after she figured it out. The women love it when I bring people there so they really enjoyed this. We got to see the oil processing room that my host sister runs and we learned that it takes two kilos of argan nuts to make a liter and a half of oil. I have no idea what that means but my guess is that it is a lot of nuts for not very much oil.
We then proceeded to make our way back to Marrakesh so Sachel and Kari could make it to the airport the next day. We returned to our same hotel tired and ragged, me especially. Sachel and Kari have already mastered the skill of sleeping on the bus, which I can’t do because I am so worried about missing something.
We spent the evening in the market to look at everything one last time. We also got a birds eye view of the market for some great pictures. We had our final meal together at my favorite pizza place where we had our first meal. By this point in the trip Kari was so tired of pizza she decided to eat McDonalds! The next morning I woke up with Sachel and Kari and took them to the airport where they headed off to London.
Sachel and Kari’s trip really helped me realize that no matter how many blogs I write, or pictures I show you, or videos I send home no one will ever really understand my life here until they see it in person. I am so grateful for someone from my family to see what I do here and what my life is truly like. This will help when I get home and you all have questions, Sachel and Kari can help you understand from their perspective. I had such a great time with them and I hope you get to see all of their pictures.
I love you both so much and thank you for everything. Doug thought you both were great and funny.
Until Next Time

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Last Two Weeks

It has been a long time since I have updated you on my life, so I am going to take this time to tell you about my last two weeks of life because it has been a great one with lots of adventures. On February 14th I spent my Valentines Day in Imsuane, a cute beach town about 40 kilometers from my house. It was raining and the weather was not nice but I went swimming in the rain anyways. It had been a year since I had put my swimsuit and I have decided that it is a requirement as a human to put on your swimsuit at least once a year. After being in Morocco for two years now I have realized how great an adrenaline rush is. In the land of rollercoaster’s, ski hills, and wake boards to ride we don’t realize how lucky we are to stop thinking for a moment and just focus on trying not to die. It is so fun to ride down a ski hill and not think and just let your soul soar. When I was in the ocean all I could concentrate on was not getting knocked out by a huge wave or a surfer and it was so fun and gave me such a rush.
On Monday I took the journey to Marrakesh where I spent the night before heading up to Rabat for my closing of service conference. On Tuesday I finally got to see all of my Peace Corps friends, I love to see everyone so much!!!! I will tell you a little about some of my Peace Corps buddies because they are all so interesting. Starting with my friend Moira she is my best friend here, Miora’s dad is from Scotland and she is from Minnesota too. Chris Schallaci is an Italian Mexican American and yes he knows like six languages. Adam Campbell is from New Hampshire and is the sweetest asshole I have ever met. Casey Coes is also from New Hampshire and went to American University and is addicted to adrenaline, he reminds me a lot of my brother B.J. Natalie Cameron is a Mexican from California and she is the most laid back girl I have ever met. Audrey Huse is from Colorado and is the most independent hard-core women I have ever met, she reminds me a lot of my mom. Evan is from California and his parents are from Jamaica and Guyana, he is getting married in August to another Peace Corps volunteer. Then of course there is Doug, he is a total Midwest boy from Michigan and he loves music and is the most considerate person I know. These are my main crew of friends but of course there are more but I will get on with telling you about my life.
We started the conference on Wednesday and of course the night before we stayed up way too late, so getting to the conference at 8:30 was a struggle but we made it! The first day was centered around people talking about their feelings on Peace Corps. For the most part people were happy with their experience thus far but of course there are always those negative people that stayed but should have gone home months ago. I had a great time and really enjoyed the day, but most of the guys hated it because they are not down with talking about how they feel.
That evening a group of us went out dancing and my friend Erin got so into it she broke her ankle. It was a great time but once again we went to bed far too late. Thursday’s sessions were based on career development and thinking about life after Peace Corps. We had some Peace Corps graduates come speak to us and they all were so interesting and had such fun jobs. All of them live in Morocco working for Foreign Service, USAID or the FBI. We also had someone come talk to us about working at USAID and he was so great because he was so honest with us about the pluses and minuses of working for the government and living abroad.
On this day I decided what I am going to do with my life and that is such a relief. I have decided that I am going to get my masters in Education and hopefully teach while I am getting this degree. After I get my masters and teach for two years I want to get a teaching job in the Middle East so I can learn Arabic and teach at the same time. Once I know Arabic I will try to get a job working at USAID or some kind of development organization so I can work on education policy in Afghanistan or Iraq or somewhere? Of course, those of you who know me well know that my plans change and who knows what I will actually do but I have a plan!!!!
After a good night of rest we had our final day of the conference ahead of us. This is the day we learned about what we need to get done before we leave. Nothing notable happened but I am sure it was a good day. That evening I went to dinner with my good friends and then had a great conversation with my friend Evan about what it was like to be a black man. I learned I will never understand how it is different and that I can’t pretend like I do.
Once again I went to bed way way way too late and with only two hours of sleep Doug forced me to go to the train station to make our way to Azilal. I was a mess in the morning and could barely tie my own shoes. After waiting for a two hour delayed train I pulled it together and had one of my best days while in Peace Corps. I shared a car with Dan Driscol one of the most interesting people on the planet. He is the only person I know that is most likely to win a gold medal, become the president all while being modest. Dan just got back from Yemen where he spent 42 days learning Arabic. Dan is one of those people you have to meet to truly understand how great he is, but I am a fan!
When Dan, Doug, my friend Michelle and I were waiting for a taxi to go to Azilal we had the most interesting thing happen. From nowhere this crazy women started sweeping up trash around our feet with her bare hands. I was totally freaking out because I just had no idea what she was going to do next. I tried to relax and ignore her but I couldn’t. She sat next to Doug at the taxi stand and started throwing trash on him and grabbing him. This kept happening and she kept trying to touch all of us. In order to try to control this woman one of the taxi dudes went and got a rabid dog to sick it on her. I couldn’t take it anymore so I ran with my friend Michelle. The dog was not interested in biting the lady but she did eventually run off. It was the weirdest thing that is so hard to explain but I will tell you this would never happen in America. Morocco is such an adventure.
Doug and I spent three days in Azilal recuperating from the week of fun and intensity. We also spent this time to solidify our Italy plans. Then it was off to Ait Bouli, Doug’s village. I love this place so much and always get so sucked in when I arrive I always stayed longer than planned. Doug lives with his host family still and they are the greatest people ever. I have really formed a relationship with his host sister, Fatiha who is in middle school. We always crochet together and she is the sweetest girl ever. While in Bouli I spent my days watching movies, hiking, and starring at the snow capped mountains. It was a really great time.
My last day in BouIi was a really tough day because I was really feeling homesick. Three or four weeks had gone by since I have talked to my parents last and I really missed them. My dad did call but for some reason it wasn’t working and I was so upset about this. I was feeling like I was not apart of a family anymore because it had been so long since I have participated in mine. Thanks to Doug he brought everything back into perspective and was really great. I went to bed feeling a lot better.
After six days in Bouli it was time to start making the journey home. I took a detour to get some books from Dan, Ghost Wars and Horse Soldiers! I am really excited to read these books, if you know nothing about them you should go out and buy them now, every American should be required to read these books, they are about Afghanistan. Last week was spring break here because of Mohamed’s Birthday. This is why Fatiha was home from school, she goes to school in Bougamez, in the city Dan lives because there is only a primary school in Bouli. I got to sit up front with Fatiha and she put her arm around me and she made me love my life here in Morocco and made me feel apart of something when I was feeling so lonely. Fatiha got to show me off to all of her school friends and I felt like a trophy, it was great!!
After 12 hours of vans, taxis, and buses I finally made it back to Essaouira where I spent last night getting prepared to come back to site. I know I have said this before but it is always so hard to come back after being gone for two weeks. Now I am in my house and it is freezing and raining but I am so happy and content. Something interesting that happened to me today, because it has been raining so much here the streets of Essaouira were flooded and I got to forge a river in a wagon. I paid a guy ten cents to pull me across the flooded streets in a big wagon, it was a site to see and unforgettably funny.
I am done now.
Love Emmy
PS Sachel and Kari are coming to visit me next week and I couldn’t be more excited!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

donkey Haul

So this is my first ever “blog” entry, and it's not even an authentic one as I'm just a one-time contributor to Emmys blog, but she asked me to write about the work I'm currently doing in my site so I shall do my best. My site is located in the geographic center of the country, deep in the High Atlas Mountains in a province called Azilal. My house is about 6,000 feet above sea level, and due the remote location of my village, I have spent my entire two years living with a host family. If you have seen her pictures then you know that Emmy lives in a surprisingly beautiful cement/tile house with an orange tree growing in the middle of it. I live in a three story mud house (affectionately referred to as the mud mansion) where I have a bedroom and a kitchen to myself, and the rest is shared space with the host family. While Emmy's site is quite dry, my site is a comparative water park, with rivers and natural springs in abundance, and it is because of this fact that I have had the opportunity to do some projects with potable water.

While volunteers do a number of different jobs over their two years of service, the main focus of my work has been the construction of two gravity-fed water chateaus. Essentially you find a natural spring above a village, construct a cover over it and run piping from the spring down to the village where you then construct a large cement receptacle (chateau) with a number of faucets for people to fill their water containers. Gravity does the work of a pump so the materials needed are basic and easy/inexpensive to replace if there are any problems. Using grant money that was secured through USAID, all that I had to purchase was cement, rebar, and plastic pipe. The total cost was around $3,200 and if all goes according to plan, these projects will provide clean water to over 800 people who have never had access to it before. Currently both of these villages get their water from the same rivers where they wash their clothes and let their animals graze. Needless to say that the incidence of waterborne illnesses is very high, as is the infant mortality rate. The local nurse estimates that one in every four children born in the area dies before age four (my host mother alone has lost seven children). The goal is that with clean water readily available, people will stop drinking from the river and these numbers will decrease. While this sounds pretty simple (and in theory is), there is far more work then you would think necessary involved in a project like this. In the next paragraph I will try to get a little more in depth about the process, while not being entirely self indulgent (we're the real heroes!), or boring the life out of you.

The projects began when people from each of these villages approached me with the idea. It is important, and heavily stressed by our program staff, that project ideas are community generated and not just us thinking we know what's best for everyone (perfect opportunity for American foreign policy joke, but I'll move on). After I found out where the work was needed I had to go and measure the output of the springs a number of different times. The output levels vary depending on seasons, rain, snow, etc. so it was necessary to observe the water output a number of times over the course of a year. This wasn't the most enjoyable part of the project considering both of the villages are six hour round trip hikes from my house. Hiking three hours in 100 degree sun to do 2 minutes of work, then turn around isn't tons of fun... woe is me... but I digress. The point of this is to make sure the springs produce year round, we don't want to spend $1600 on a chateau that only collects water 4 months out of the year and leaves people drinking river water the other 8. After we were confident that the springs were consistent, the next step was measuring the distance from spring to village. For this I bought a 20 meter piece of rope and had a friend help me stretch it along the ground over and over until we had our measurement. One village needed 2300 meters (1.4 miles) of pipe, and the other needed 1200 meters (¾ mile). Throughout this process I had to keep emphasizing that I would help purchase the materials needed, but that the physical labor was their responsibility, and they would not be paid for it (except for one engineer in each village who knows how to make sure the chateaus can hold all of the water pressure). The hope with this approach is that the villagers are empowered and enthusiastic about developing their communities, but do not have the money to but the materials necessary to do so. Peace Corps provides the materials, but the actual chateau and the work involved is entirely community based. After the frustratingly tedious process of working the numbers over and over into the numerous budgets and reports that USAID requires, I sent my proposal in. Two weeks later it was approved and a month after that the money was in my bank account. I picked the money up at a bank in Marrakech (where I tried to stuff 24000 Moroccan dirhams into one of those tourist money belts on my waist in front of 30 people. When you put that many bills into one of those things the ensuing bulge on your hip is essentially an advertisement to pickpockets that says “rob me, not only am I rich, but I'm clearly an idiot as well”) and three days later paid the hardware store owner in a village 24 kilometers from my site for all of the materials needed. Two days after that the materials were delivered to the central market town in my site and three days after that people from the first village arrived to start transporting the materials out to their village. This was a hilarious scene as they brought 39 donkeys and mules to transport everything. Seeing these animals poked, prodded, and loaded down with hundreds of pounds of cement, all while maintaining that stoic dignity that only donkeys possess was quite something. The next day the second village picked up their materials and the hard part of my job was finished. This was a month ago and all of the big work is out of my hands now.

This past week I visited both villages on back to back days (which was terrible scheduling on my part and proved to me that being skinny doesn't mean that I'm in shape, but that I probably just don't eat enough) to see how the work was coming. One village was already well underway digging trenches for the pipe, while the other village was in need of some motivation so I lied and said that if the work wasn't finished before May that I would take the materials back ( a bluff that in hindsight seems absurd as it took them 39 donkeys to get the stuff out there and I don't even own one). I don't know if they believed me but they assured me they would start two days later, and since the engineer gets half of his payment now and half once the project is completed I am confident the work will get done.

So that is what I have been doing with my Peace Corps service. I can't stress how lucky I am that I have a sight with water readily available and to have had people in my community who wanted to work with me. This is not a common scenario in Morocco and my actual workload was minimal compared with volunteers who actually have to search for work, i.e. Emmy ( and I write this with complete honesty and sincerity, not just for brownie points). Peace Corps has been incredibly challenging, and I was handed a project. I can only imagine the difficulties of having had to find work on my own. Thanks for reading this, I hope it has been at least mildly informative and/or entertaining.

- Doug Phillips

Donkey hau


Monday, January 25, 2010

Big January Update

Hello everyone it has been a long time again. I have decided that tonight is the night that I must update you all on my life here in Morocco. Since last time I have spent my first Christmas away from home and it was an interesting one. I was in Assilah a beach town North of Rabat. It is a great place but it rained the entire time I was there with my boyfriend Doug. I really missed home but we spent the week of rain inside watching movies and listening to all the new music Doug downloaded. From there we went to our friend Natalie’s village in the mountains near Azrou. The sun finally decided to shine and we looked at rugs and built a mini raft and watched it rush down the river. Life in Morocco is full of simple days and pretending you’re a child again. After leaving Ait Hamza we traveled to the Sahara Desert for New Year’s. It was an amazing time spent with lots of Peace Corps volunteers. One of my greatest New Year’s to date. I have decided that I must spend every New Year’s in “the nature!” After New Year’s Doug and I traveled back to Marrakesh and spent our last days together before we ventured back to our own villages. This journey let me see the diversity Morocco has to offer from beaches to mountains to gorges to desert. It is truly an amazing place and I am very lucky to be doing Peace Corps here.
Once I got back to my site anxiety came rushing in with questions of what should I do for work, have I accomplished anything here, what am I going to do after Peace Corps. I have been struggling with these questions since I arrived in Morocco and sometimes the waves of anxiety hit me harder than I can handle. Last Monday this all came to a head when I totally lost it and had a horrible day of crying and wishing I had my mom to talk to. I ended up talking to Sachel and he put it all in perspective for me and now I am back on track.
After talking to Sachel I decided that I am going on sabbatical from work for the moment and going to focus on integrating back into my community. When I left for two weeks everyone thought I went back to America for good and was very sad that I never said good-bye. I don’t really understand why they thought this because they all know I am leaving in May. Here in Imi n Tlit months don’t really matter and nobody really has a grasp on what day of the week it is, nonetheless what month it is. Now that I am back and they realize that it is only January they all are ready to have tea with me.
I have a hard time booking my time here because everyone wants to have tea with me all at once and then I don’t know how to even begin choosing where to start with my tea times. This usually results in me just going to my host families and nobody else’s houses for a couple of weeks. Now I have started getting a schedule and I have to go to Rabat for a dentist appointment in three days. It seems like every time I get back into the groove of things there is some holiday, or school break, or I have to go to Rabat. I am just coming to the point where I am going to do the best I can and I need to stop pressuring myself with work and live in the now the best I can. I also need to take mini steps toward my future instead of just letting it overwhelm me.
Today when I was at the internet I got the best email from my mom with lots of wisdom part of the email said “None of us know what we are doing with our lives and we all hang on to and let go of people, places, and things as we go along. Security is an illusion and life is a journey not destiny.” I thought that was the perfect thing to say for how I have been feeling lately.
After I got back from my Internet session in Smimou today I ran into one of my neddy girls and she told me about some town drama that was happening and I became apart of the investigation. The lady that runs the neddy supposedly came back from Essaouira today with 57,000 durhams, which is like 7,000 dollars, which could not have been right. Regardless of the amount she lost a lot of money and started accusing the other girls at the neddy of stealing it so they all were forced to be strip searched to prove it wasn’t them. Then when I got back we started looking for this boy that probably stole the money that all of a sudden is no longer in town, kind of suspicious? Since, I am allowed to go anywhere in town and the girls aren’t I was told to go to all the cafĂ©’s and the middle school to see if he was seen today. No luck, my guess is that he fled to Casablanca and is getting on a plane to France right now.
This story has become the talk of the town and will be for years to come. It was kind of fun to listen to all the women speculate on who and how this happened. My real guess is that someone stole the money in a taxi or it was misplaced somewhere. Or since I don’t like the lady that runs the neddy I also speculated that she made all this up so she doesn’t have to pay the women at the neddy for their work. I was quite the investigator today and everyone thought all my ideas were the funniest because none of them dared say what I was saying. I will probably get in trouble for this tomorrow but I don’t care it reminded me of how fun it is to be from a small town sometimes and run around and talk about people. Yes I know gossip is a sin but we all like to relish in it from time to time.
Other stories that I need to tell you about that I don’t want to forget, the other day I was having trouble putting my propane tank on my oven so I asked the shop keeper next door to come help me. My propane tank was clearly leaking and he decided to test it with a lighter anyways, which started a huge fire. I started running because my basic instincts were that I am not going to get blown up because of this. He started laughing at me and put the fire out with his Jalaba, which is Moroccan clothing that is robe like. In the end he fixed the problem and nobody lost any skin to third degree burns.
Story three for you, every time I go to the post office to pick up a package I have to wait for a customs guy to come and make sure there aren’t any bombs in my packages. Every time he goes through my packages I have tons of food in them and he has started to notice. So mister package man looks at me seriously and tells me this isn’t Somalia we do have food in Morocco. Then I have to explain to him if he moved to America he would like it if his mom sent him Moroccan food. He did not buy this and still thinks I am crazy for getting Trader Joe’s sesame almonds sent to me, there are almonds here in Morocco but there so expensive and not sesame covered;)
Well that is all for now. Next week I am off to Rabat for a dentist appointment and a glasses appointment. I am looking forward to this because I will have time to do some applications for my future, do some paperwork that the beaucracy of Peace Corps is making me do, and to see Doug. I really don’t want to leave my site at this point because I am making progress on my reintegration. But, I will just have to work real hard when I get back. My plan for work in the future is to keep doing tooth-brushing lessons and paint some health murals on some schools but my main priority for the next four months is to be with my people of Imi n Tlit.
Can you believe that I only have four months left!!!!! This is bitter sweet and I am going to really enjoy my time I have left here and I will really miss the people and the simplicity of my life here.
Until next time love,