Sunday, September 17, 2006


I'm using yet another person's laptop - Hamdullah, thank God. See, I'm getting into it! We arrived in Azrou and had short introductions to everyone and then a talk/Q&A with a current volunteer serving in the area and then walks in small groups with the language/culture facilitators. That's the kind of day I was expecting on Monday, and I think I would have felt much better had that been the case (oops, I said I let it go, right?). In Rabat I was "picked last" and ended up in the only three-woman room (which turned out fine - nice roommates). Here we picked out of a bowl and I am in the only four-person room (we just got a fifth, a current volunteer who is helping with our training this week).

At night, the trucks went by - it was like staying at my sister's apartment on Madison Avenue way back when - as opposed to the white noise of Lake Shore Drive. When the trucks stopped, the dogs took over (justifying the rabies shot, I suppose) and eventually the roosters started crowing. And here I thought it would be too quiet for me! Not yet, anyway.
I have a game that I've played at every stop - it's called "guess what leaked." The new game that's sweeping the nation! In Philadelphia it was the hair gel. In Rabat it was the conditioner (though leakage was contained to the Ziploc it was in). Here it was the toothpaste (now in its own Ziploc).

We're in a hostel here - they're bringing us gradually into steps of less and less luxury. Already I am glad I brought my towel. Our "dorm room" is near the only Turkish toilet in the place, but with all my Reunions experience I am happy to go one or two flights to the nearest flush toilet (there's even toilet paper most of the time). I have used the TT a couple of times - but I didn't want to use it until we had instruction, which we did yesterday, and I'm glad we did - I hadn't been using enough water to flush all the paper down far enough (when we get to our families, there isn't any paper...they just wash, and either drip dry or use carry a towel to dry themselves. I plan to get a little towel before the end of the week...I think I'll stop it there for a while but an happy to elaborate for anyone interested. We have already determined that we are going to have few secrets from each other by the end of training - but that doesn't mean people reading this want to hear all the details.

The homestay coordinator is wearing a beautiful orange and black jellaba. Needless to say, I want one. Actually, I want a jellaba of perhaps a more low-key color too. I'm ramping up to consumer mode as I walk around the medinas, but for now the towel might be enough - there is just not room for anything else in my bag!

I feel dehydrated. I'm not getting enough water. In a way it's tough in class anyway - if I were drinking all I want I wouldn't make it through a two-hour training session without a break - but this is tough for me. Saturday night Ramadan begins. We're not expected to fast, but it's clear that our families and other people would appreciate it if we try. That means no food or water from sunrise to sunset. We can consume (in fact, they will give us lunch) but must be polite about not doing it in public. We go to our families on Friday.

Had couscous when we got here on Friday lunch - it is a Friday special dish. Here I thought I would have it all the time! The meals start with salads - shredded carrots, tuna and tomato and onion, eggplant, rice - three or four of those. Lunch adds a main dish, often a tagine (stew). Dinner is the salads and maybe soup. Breakfast is hard-boiled eggs and bread. I'm trying to minimize the bread and pastry (there's always some at teatime) and potatoes (see, I didn't even mention them as one of the salads). But - expectedly - the food is tasty and healthy, so I am happy about that.

Yesterday we had our first Arabic lesson - meeting and greeting. At night and today ("self-directed learning" day) we went around town and met and greeted people (some spoke a combination of French too, and even though I am trying to practice Arabic, I don't mind practicing French too). We also had an introduction to the Arabic alphabet. There are 28 letters - each letter has four forms (isolated, beginning, middle, end). We learned six in one two-hour session and another six or so in another session. Tried reading some signs last night too - we don't know enough letters yet, but it was good to try. My recruiter had said that the people who went to Hebrew School had an easier time with the Arabic. It occurred to me yesterday that the converse might be true - after learning Arabic, maybe I can learn Hebrew. Who knows, maybe I will even have a Bat Mitzvah. Of course, given my track record, nobody is obligated to attend (but I did tell the trainees who were nearby that I'd invite this whole group!).

Did laundry yesterday - washed with soap in one bucket, rinsed with water in another bucket, hung clothes on a clothesline. I grew up in an apartment so I've never used a clothesline before! Very exciting (though perhaps not an exotic first).
The current volunteer who's here for the week is now here hanging out as I type this. When I came downstairs on Friday night there were maybe eight people here, quiet as a library, on their computers, so I named this room "laptop lane." I'm not sure that's stuck, but my nickname for the upstairs small living room, "sick bay," seems to have. Anyway, I'm in and out of the conversation but I did hear the volunteer say that she had a really hard time with the winters at her post and almost quit - it was bitter cold, went right through you, and there was no heat. Allrighty...cold was one of the reasons Ukraine didn't sound so good...but it also depends on where you are. Lots seem to depend on where you are!

I wish I had more notepads. I gave away a ton of them and still have a lifetime supply in boxes at home. Then again, I really wouldn't have taken anything out of my suitcase to fit more in. But I dreamed about going home to get more notepads, and I couldn't find them, and my files were a mess. This the day after I dreamed that I was at work and wanted to go home for lunch to watch Jeopardy and when I got downstairs I realized I had left my shoes upstairs and was in only my socks and it was raining. My office in the dream was right where the Watertower Pumping Station is. Two nights in a row with dreams of home - was the last occupant of the bed homesick? I sage-incensed the bed and we'll see tonight.

As we were on the bus Friday, I started wondering about the geology of the area. We have a sign-up list of topics to have informal talks on, so I added that to the list. Other people had written music, dancing, dating - so geology kind of sticks out as an odd topic...but hey, I'm interested!

The head of training had asked me which I might be more interested in learning, Arabic or Berber (did I already tell this story? If so, someone with my password can edit it out). I told him that I thought Arabic would be more useful for traveling around the country but that there was an appeal to learning a language that's not related to other languages. Good non-answer in the Moroccan way! I really don't know what I'd prefer - or what kind of assignment. I did say one with electricity and running water and internet access and access to other places, but really I'm flexible. The volunteer here just now has running water an hour a day, no electricity, internet four hours away, and cell phone coverage and she loved her site - her job is good, the people in her village are good.

There's a poster in the lobby here for the Marrakesh Marathon. That might be fun to do! Though I don't think training would fit in with the Peace Corps lifestyle. maybe there's a Marrakesh 5K? I'll sign off for now (someone else wants to use this) and check that out! More when I can!

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Congratulations, you're already getting "blog spam"! (You probably want to delete the comment above this one. It's just some spammer trying to raise the ranking of his/her junky web site.)

Can you post photos? I'd love to see a Princeton jellaba!

Please stay hydrated -- if you're anything like me, you'll be miserable and sick if you don't drink enough water... What's it like during Ramadan? Is everyone a little lethargic, or are they used to it and just have plenty of midnight snacks?

Couscous is yummy!

I'm impressed with your "old school" laundry facilities!

Sounds like you're getting the fascinating and intense experience you expected. I hope you're enjoying it as much as we're enjoying reading about it!
I did delete the comment - thanks for the alert!

I can post photos (scroll below for the one I posted) but I haven't yet
a) taken a picture of the person with the O&B jellaba
b) figured out how I am going to get photos from my camera to the internet (maybe flickr? Advice appreciated...I may wait until I get my own computer, which I now think I will do if I have access to my site, rather than wait for someone to bring me one.

Apparently at Ramadan people do get weak and cranky by the end of the day - especially the smokers who are not smoking during the day - but it's also "Thanksgiving dinner every night." Some families eat just a light break-fast and a light breakfast, some eat a big dinner in between, and apparently they drink a ton of water after sunset and it makes up for not drinking all day. I hear that much of the discussion centers around how hard it is to fast...but I will let you know as I experience it!

Couscous is yummy - too bad it's only once a week! But I have had more frites in the past few days than I have had in the past six months. Yum!

The laundry was great. I heard that the official way to do it is one piece at a time, light to dark (I put everything in at once and self-agitated it) - I'll know next time!

It's fascinating and intense all right, but it's only been a week! I have always liked school and I like all of the lectures and sessions - but I sense other people who are tired of sitting in a room and eager to get out to the sites.

Thanks for the compliment! Keep 'em coming!
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