Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A little bit about Azrou. We’re on the outskirts of town, about a mile down the main street from the center of town. There’s a lot of new construction around us – Moroccans who have moved buy condos in which they spend the month of August, for example. The main street heads towards the mountains; a big mosque dominates the view at the top of the hill. Along the main street are a lot of cafes, all frequented by men (and only men). There are some small shops (pharmacie, convenience-store-like shops, tile, household goods), the post office and some banks. On the other side of the mosque is the old medina, the shopping district. There are all sorts of stalls – clothing, food, spices, miscellaneous. Yesterday I bought another notebook (I am taking notes like a madwoman), a towel to use in the Turkish toilet (more on that in comment section when I get a chance – for those who want to know more details), some flip-flops (also for the Turkish toilet) and a chocolate Napoleon at a patisserie as good as any in France, I saw a yarn store and am tempted to get knitting lessons from one of the volunteers who knits, but I just can’t add anything to my bag until I get to my site! We got another book today – Peace Corps Approach to Development. It includes things like appreciative inquiry – finding what works and building on that, as opposed to looking for problems to fix. I had first learned about that in one of my non-profit classes earlier this year!

Ramadan starts this weekend. I would advise anyone thinking of visiting not to visit during Ramadan, which next year will be mid-September to mid-October and next year most of September (i.e it is getting earlier and the days are longer so it will get harder). Muslims have no food, water or sex from dawn to sunset. Then there’s a break-fast and later, a feast. We will be encouraged by our families to join in but whether we dc or not, we cannot eat in public and should not eat in front of fasting people. I talked to one of the volunteers and he said, “no Moroccan ever saw me eat/” I said that was like, “I never failed a drug test;” a very good answer! I am willing to give it a try but if I already feel dehydrated I am not sure I will be able to do it – more to the point, able to do it and learn effectively in my classes.

We were interviewed as to what we were looking for – I said I was really open, both in language and location and in creature comforts – I want to be put where I can be most effective. One of the questions on our site questionnaire was what was one thing we couldn’t live without. Other trainees I talked to said electricity, their contact lenses, clean water, the internet, books – I said contact with other people.

We’ve had more shots – more of the rabies series, typhoid, hep A. My arm hurts now. We also had sessions on common illnesses and how to treat – it all started well and good with cuts and scrapes, but by the time they got to scabies and scorpion bites I was wondering what we were doing here instead of putting all foreign aid money (and defense budget money) into clean water, sanitation and eradicating disease. We also had a session on water and food health. All you have to do is boil water for three minutes and then it’s safe to drink. Food-wise there are a lot of good options here – fresh meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits (anything that needs to be peeled is safe right when you peel it – and clementines are about to be in season here – my favorite!).

And we’ve transitioned into having some sessions that regard our actual jobs. Our first six months will be spent integrating into the community before we start an actual project – finding and building relationships with people, asking questions, listening, observing. The approach uses the latest management techniques. Peace Corps differs from other development organizations in its grass-roots approach – people-to-people. Rather than giving people money, it goes for capacity-building and sustainability. It’s the “teach a man to fish” philosophy. I have been really impressed with the presentations on this topic. We leave for small-group community-based training on Friday. At the sites, we’ll do more language and culture but also do a site analysis – interview artisans about their routines and do a SWOT analysis (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats – I did a lot of those while consulting at Paterno last year!).

Last night I played Scrabble – I decided not to bring it but am glad someone else did!

We were invited to list our skills and interests – I listed proofreading/editing as a skill and have already helped someone with something she is working on on her own. I also offered to help the trainers here correct their typos – I had a hard time thinking of my skills but that certainly is one! A note about typos here – in the interest of time, because my use of other people’s computers and/or internet cafe is limited, I am not being as careful as I usually am. I’d rather type more and answer e-mails than proofread. I have a friend who has offered to be (or agreed to be – I forget which) my typo-corrector – so any typos on this site just mean he hasn’t gotten to it yet!

More on the Turkish toilet - for those interested...I'll see if I can post a picture of the demonstration when I figure out how to post pictures. You have to squat; you know that by now. There's a faucet nearby and you wash yourself afterwards - no paper. Then you fill a bucket and flush everything down. You can air dry or buy yourself a little towel to dry yourself with (I chose that option). Note - so far I have used the one here, just for "number one," (hasak - that's the word you say after you mention something unmentionable) - and used paper here in the hotel - but we were told no paper at the host family house lest we clog up the plumbing. I asked how mothers potty-train babies and was told that they sit on a stool and hold the baby on their calves above the hole - in other words, the mother's legs function as the potty. You all know to use the left hand...the left-handed people in my group are nervous that they will use their left hand for something else inadventently and insult someone. Moroccan children who show tendencies to be left-handed are trained out of it. More (maybe) when I really have to do it....or not...that might be enough....
glad to hear from you again...really missed the updates these last few days!

sounds incredible and hopefully will continue to be...
If you don't like it remember you can always come home. For goodness sakes tell them some creature comforts are important to you!!!
I really did not realize how difficult it would be. Just remember you can come back anytime!!!
I have more faith in our 'Roon than that! Yes, it's rough, it's not what any of us are used to. But she's gonna come back with amazing stories that will dazzle and enthrall. Oh yeah, and she'll make a huge difference in a lot of people's lives. But it's mostly about the Turkish toilet stories. :)

"I never failed a drug test" -- *puff* Hmm, I'm gonna say Acapulco Gold, am I right? Yeah! A+ for me!

Now now, don't bite the scorpions. It isn't nice.
Ugh. Oh, not the Turkish toilets -- the SWOT analysis! (I guess I've been to too many strategic planning sessions with SWOT analyses but without any clear line between SWOT and the decisions being made.)

Glad to hear from you -- and to hear all your great stories!
To Debbie - it's going to be hard to go nine days without posting! Here I thought I might post ever other week. So much is happening though! As I said to someone at dinner, this is what longhand is for....

To PK - I really haven't had a second thought yet, though it has occurred to me that I had a pretty good life back in Chicago and didn't need to do this. But maybe I did! I think this is a great experience and I am glad I was available to take advantage of it. Also note - I may change my cell phone to a number here - people text each other all the time and I don't want fellow volunteers to have to text the U.S. in order to reach me. I was going to get an entirely different phone but I think I can just change the SIM card inside it (don't ask me to explain more than that though).

To Jon - I asked what we were supposed to do if we found a scorpion - how to pick it up to get rid of it - and people yelled at me , "Kill it!" Oh, that makes sense!

To Edie - I actually like SWOT, but I agree, in my experience there is a gap between action plan and action. Still, I am quite impressed that Peace Corps, which in some ways seems so bureaucratic, also has the latest management techniques. Also, your comment made me laugh out loud so I had to read it to the rest of the folks in Laptop Lane!
OOPs sorry. I did not mean to post under anonymous. I am Sharon's sister and I just do not want her to suffer or to be in a place where she is not happy.
However, she called and she is happy.
go 'roon! What fun to stay informed this way. News here: found the camera under Noah's bed. . .Phillies were for 24 hours tied for the wild-card; they're now 1/2 game back. No HR's for Ryan the last couple of games either.
Thanks for keeping everybody updated on your adventures. OK with a plug on our favorite website? It's your call.
Mike - glad you found the camera. I was going to ask. How many HRs did he end up with? I could look, but want to check e-mail next so I may never get to it (that's why I need my own computer...and internet access).

Van - well, this is now my favorite web site, but yes, OK to plug it on the class web site too! I actually said it was OK before I left but now that I am posting with some regularity - at least for now - I second that.
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