Sunday, September 03, 2006

Last month I went to a meeting of the Sister Cities Souq (I've also seen it spelled Souk) committee - the Souk (sic) will be in the Chicago Cultural Center in December - those of you in Chicago should go! The person I had met at the Sister Cities festival invited me. Very interesting group of women (the whole Sister Cities committee is co-ed but this subcommittee happens to be all women - at least the ones at this meeting were). I would like to get more involved if I come back to Chicago! I happened to sit next to someone who had also gone to Morocco for the Peace Corps - not only that, but she graduated from Princeton! I met her for coffee a couple of weeks ago. She went from 95-97, so she's the person I've spoken to with the most recent experience, though that was still a long time ago in terms of things like internet.

She was a maternity and child-care trainer, in the south of the country near the Sahara. I asked her a bunch of questions - will recount what I remember. She had electricity but not running water - she got her water from the town pump. She had parasites almost the entire time - didn't get fully resolved until she came back to the U.S. (the nurse asked her if she could tough it out and she said yes). She said she couldn't impress upon me enough to wash my hands with soap every chance I got. She could boil water and take the precautions that the Peace Corps trains you for, but accepting hospitality is part of the job and you just have to eat and drink what your hosts give you.

I asked her how helpful the French was, and she said it's the language people learn in high school and there wasn't a high school in her town. She had studied Arabic in Princeton, but said the dialect was so different that that didn't help. But didn't it help with written, I asked? She said everyone in her village was illiterate so there wasn't much written!

I asked her how often she bathed and she said it depends on what you mean by bathe -- she did bucket baths and then every so often went to the town bath (I told her a bucket bath counts as a bath - meantime, as an aside, I am having trouble with the hot water here in my sister's guest shower - I realize that in a little over a week it could be a while before I get a hot shower, but at least I want a last few!). She did get around the country a lot and recommended I visit other volunteers, to see their villages too, not just the tourist spots. She also said she thought I would be great, that I have a great attitude and excitement about going - that was nice to hear! Actually, that coffee was a chance to spend an hour thinking about Morocco and the Peace Corps as opposed to packing and storage! I did ask her if there was anything she packed that she ended up not needing - she said she brought a lot of books (I am bringing several), that a short-wave radio was key (I have one that I "found" in the Barton closet years ago), that she used her sleeping bag (I asked specifically about that one since it takes up a lot of space!).

I did manage to get everything into my 107 inches plus a carry-on (plus a big tote bag - hope that's allowed). Not the weight limit (all those books!) but if all I have to do is pay extra and schlep a heavy bag, it's worth it to bring what I have in there (more on that if time allows or if other stories don't get in the way). I do have a person designated to send me books, extra toiletries and extra winter clothes, and in order to fit everything into my bag without too much of a bulge I had to take out some more toiletries, a food stash (goji berries and Starbucks mints) and some socks, but those will get sent to me at my site...

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