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.