Friday, September 15, 2006


I’m on the road to Azrou now – using someone else’s laptop. We said goodbye this morning to the Youth Development Sector people – in less than a week I bonded with some of them and will miss them. There were a few I especially enjoyed talking with and I hope we keep in touch or perhaps even end up in the same region. Of course, there are very interesting people in the Small Business Development Sector too. More on that later – have been meaning to write some other things first.

Thanks to those of you who have made comments. I do plan to address all of them. We haven’t hada lot of downtime yet, and when we have, I’ve wanted to go for walks. We went past the main mosque to the Royal Palace yesterday but it was closed; I do think I’ll get back to Rabat though so that’s okay.

We got a bunchof books and handouts – policies and procedures, healthhandbook,administrative, Intro to Moroccan culture, Moroccan Arabicworkbook,Culture Matters, Where There is No Doctor – so now I am glad once again for the expandable luggage. I think they should have given us Peace Corps bookbags – or maybe just told us to leave room or bring one? I actually did bring one,so I’m happy about that. We also got medical kits –I won’t list everything in there but it does cover a lot of possibilities- and mosquito nets to use in the summer (no malaria here – just for bites).

There are a couple of people I spoke to who didn’t know about the Morocco Welcome Book that was downloadable from theweb. It had background and lots of information and the packing list. So they had to pack from their own sensibility! I wonder what I would have done differently had I not had the packing list – probably not the sheets and towels. I think this might be a fun list to make one day when I am lonely. One of the people I reallylike had been to Chad, and they decided to tell people to bring ice cream scoopers,so most of the people in the nextclass brought ice cream scoopers!

There are also people who didn’t know the Arabic lessons were available on the web site. I can’t say I’m ahead because I listened a couple of times (all I retained was the word for chocolate) but I am glad I listened to the sounds. Arabic starts tomorrow if not this afternoon. We were the first class with Arabic lessons available ahead of time. First class with some of the booklets mentioned above, too – I’mglad to have all of this! I know I will be on my own soon enough so I am soaking it all in! One of the books mentioned special issues for senior learners –describing senior as 50. Not there yet!

And speaking of that – I called my sister from JFK just before I left on Monday. She had read “On the Home Front” and she told me she hadno ideait would be so hard. I said,”because I could be depressed the entire first year?” and she said she didn’t realize that I would be the only person in my village and that I would really need mail. So she is going to send me articles. It took until I was about to get on the plane, but I am glad she has an idea now that it might be hard! That’s not a hint (there were enough of thosein my change-of-address letter, right?).

What looked brown and flat before now looks Mediterreanean – like California or Cape Town. It’s a very pretty that we’re going through at the moment.

One of the policies that the Country Director mentioned was the blog policy. Insensitive comments have gotten people kicked out of countries and countried kicked out of Peace Corps. I’m not planning on making any, but I may look into making some sort of password-protected site. I really intend this for my friends, not for the world at large. On the other hand, my Rabat roommate had found my blog and found my packing list interesting, and there might be others in the group too – so I guess if this helps future volunteers or people thinking about the Peace Corps that’s cool (I still don’t know why the world at large would be interested but I suppose there are lots of people who stumble across things).

There are five peoplewho aren’t traveling today – the’re too sick – and several others who aren’t doing well. The doctors said it is probably something airborne which means we may all come down with it. Fever, chills,etc. I hope they’re better soon. We got more shots yesterday – meningitis and Hepatitis B. I told the doctor that I saw a blood drive on the Penn Campus on September 11 and was going to give but decided not to just before coming here – and hetold me they won’ttake my blood here. That makes sense, but it’s too bad! I’ll have to give in other ways.

There are volunteer opportunities here – helping edit the Morocco “PeaceWorks”newsletter and being on various committees – and of course I am hoping to do some of that. The volunteer’s volunteer! I really want to make the most of the experience. I should probably refain from volunteeting on the newsletter until I get better at the French keyboard though – those who received e-mails from Rabat had quitea challenge deciphering them!

We’re just getting into the mountains – now it really looks like California. I guess Californians would call these hills. I haven’t taken many pictures yet – I’m trying to be low-key about itand culturally sensitive. Hard to resist my usual snap-happy nature but I hope to be this way again!

Lots of people here brought craft stuff – not just the artists (though they of course did) but several others. I am happy for the crochet kit in my bag but already am thinking about the needlepoint and knitting. I’ll wait until I have downtime though! In a way, I wish I had brought more jewelry too – I kept it to a minimum but have seen some nice pieces on some of the other women. Of course, I can buy some here.

I lost a lock already – a casualty of the flight. It was one of the last things I bought, too, since it was in one of the last e-mails I got. At staging the Country Desk Manager said she never locks her bags – so I’m not too worried – but the idea of buying it last and losing it first is pretty amusing.

We do seem to be hanging together a bit by age. It’s funny that the 27-year-old feel older – but I guess there’s a lot of difference between 27 and 22. Many of the 22-year-olds are in the Youth Development side; they have at least three of the 27-and-up and maybe more if I think about it. This group is more diverse – theolder(than I) women seem to be hanging out together and I find myself with the 40-50-year-olds.It really is interesting how people gather with people with whom they feel something in common. It is really interesting to think about the next two years then. I know that in this culture I will be spending more time with women than with men or with mixed groups. I’ve consciously tried to eat meals and take walks with different people to get to know others – and once it was on our name tags who was YD and who SBD (lots of acronyms here) I tried to spend more time with YD people I won’t see again for a while. I’m reluctant to get into particulars of other people since I feel the public nature of the blog, but I’ll think about how to illustrate the interesting backgrounds and interests of people.

We’re each going to get assigned a gendarme in our region or even in our village. This is on order of the king. There’s already an extensive policy to keep the PeaceCorps informed of where you are at all times and limit your travel and movement; this is just another layer. Some people find this restrictive – and the Peace Corps peopleare very sensitive about it (apparently in the past this was known as a free-spirit post…the ministry said the Peace Corps Volunteers were out of control, and at the same time Congress wanted the Peace Corps to increase security worldwide) but I don’t mind – it’s for my own safety. And if it’s explained up front, and you didn’t have freedom before that you are now losing, it’s easy to live with rules.

TV/Satellite dishes. I mentioned that they seemed ubitiquous in my first impressions. The Training Director mentioned that everyone has them – they’re cheap – everything is pirated- so we could actually get one with our settling-in allowance. With a short-wave radio my bag, it seems very un-Peace-Corps-like to have a TV – and if I can’t get ESPN I can’t say that I need one – but on the other hand, it might be a good way to practice language! I’m just glad to be here with internet and cell phones.

Did I mention early on (I don’t have the other entries to look at) that there’s another woman in her mid-40s who spent the last 20 years in consumer marketing and the Placement Officer called her right before she called me and she acceptedright away? Well,there’s nobody like that here! One of the younger guys was a big fan of Skol Vodka when he was in college, but that’s asclose as it seems to be getting. And now that I brought up Skol Vodka – yesterday they went over assessment tools – we have core compentencies to meet in language, culture, attitude etc.during training before wecan be sworn in as volunteers. It’s not a tool they use to weed out people (so far) but when I heard”exceeds expectations/meets expectations/action plan” I felt my heart rate go up ever so slightly.

I think you're an "exceeds expectations" kinda gal. :) (Oh no, how will you exceed those expectations?)

Good luck avoiding the airborne germs and adapting to exotic keyboards!
Hey 'roon. We just remembered that we could check the blog! It's great. Got info. to TP for you. MTNW
I think of myself as "Exceeds Expectations" too, but that wasn't how the people at the last job felt. But that's what led me here, so it's OK!

So far I'm not sick, Imshallah, as they say here (God willing), and I have been offered computer time by other trainees...

And Hi MTNW! I have been thinking of you a know what I mean.
I remember trying to use a French keyboard in an internet cafe in Paris -- I'm a pretty fast typist (except for numbers), so it drove me crazy!!

Loving the blog -- don't worry about talking a lot -- it is really interesting to hear about the whole experience and your perceptions of it.

Stay well! Maureen
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