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27,676 Pages Read and Counting

Everyone tells you that you’ll have a lot of free time in the Peace Corps. They tell you that you’ll stay up to “all hours of the night, reading novels that never interested you before.”

They’re not wrong. Total pages read: 27,676. (full list after recommendations)

Thankfully, I have always loved reading and can never have too much reading time. I typically read multiple books at once and often listen to a different audio book (I know you’re supposedly not supposed to do this, but it works for me). In Morocco, I have set up a system. I try to read four books at once: one book about Morocco and/or the Amazigh people, a book about philosophy or theology, another non-fiction book, and a fiction book. While I switch between these in my free time, I also listen to an audiobook while I cook, clean, or travel. Below I have included my five recommended books with small descriptions. At the bottom, I included a full list of all the books I have read since joining the Peace Corps.

My top five picks:

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Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi 

This beautifully written work of fiction tells the story of a girl growing up in a harem in Fez, Morocco. It allows a rare glimpse into an way of life quickly disappearing. Told by accomplished sociologist Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass does not fail to educate while it simultaneously entertains. The writing is witty and the world built by the author vivid and lively.

The Weight of Glory by C.S Lewis

51H6r+JzN3L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Weight of Glory is not a book by C.S. Lewis but rather a collection of some of his shorter writings, radio presentations, and lectures.  The book covers questions of pacifism, materialism, the pursuit of education, and, of course, theology. I was surprised when reading it how many of the quotes I recognized. While it is certainly difficult to choose any work by C.S. Lewis as superior to others, The Weight of Glory is probably now my favorite work, or collection works, by Lewis.

 

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

One Writing should be, in my opinion, required reading for any creative composition class. The book not only serves as a memoir, but also as a book of advice and encouragement to aspiring writers. King is frank about the hardships of a career in writing while also being honest about personal failures–most notably, his struggles with substance abuse. Part memoir, part textbook, part self-help book. I highly recommend this book even for people not interesting in writing or King’s works.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch51zmCO7cP7L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a band of charming swindlers–led by the clever, sarcastic, and arrogant Locke Lamora–in a fantastical, Venice-inspired city as they con nobility and scoundrels alike. I have never laughed out loud reading a novel as much as I did reading Lynch’s masterpiece. The book is incredibly quotable and balances its humor with plenty of action and drama. Recommended for fantasy fans and non-fans alike. The book has already spawned two sequels (with four more planned) and Warner Bros purchased the rights to make a film.

 

BOOKS READ SINCE JOINING THE PEACE CORPS:

Books about Morocco:

Rebels in the Rif: Abd El Krim and the Rif Rebellion by David S. Woolman (231 pages)

The Ait ‘Atta of Southern Morocco: Daily Life and Recent History by David Hart (203 pages)

We Share Walls: Language, Land, and Gender in Berber Morocco by Katherine E. Hoffman (235 pages)

Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity by Cynthia J. Becker (194 pages)

Morocco Since 1830: A History by C. R. Pennell (391 pages)

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi (342 pages)

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir (289 pages)

 

Theology/Philosophy:

Either/Or: A Fragment of Life by Soren Kierkegaard (609 pages)

The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis (192 pages)

A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers (542 pages)

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (251 pages)

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (151 pages)

Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard (147 pages)

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Normal L. Geisler and Frank Turek (388 pages)

Confessions by Saint Augustine (305 pages)

 

Other Nonfiction:

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam rendered into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald (189 pages)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (291 pages)

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (105 pages)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (272 pages)

Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey (285 pages)

Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey (341 pages)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley (544 pages)

 

Fiction:

Memories of Ice (Book 3: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1200 pages)

House of Chains (Book 4: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1040 pages)

Midnight Tides (Book 5: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (960 pages)

The Bonehunters (Book 6: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1232 pages)

Reaper’s Gale (Book 7: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1280 pages)

Toll the Hounds (Book 8: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1296 pages)

Dust of Dreams (Book 9: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1280 pages)

The Crippled God (Book 10: Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erickson (1200 pages)

The Lion of Cairo by Scott Oden (369 pages)

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (543 pages)

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov (191 pages)

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Book 1: The Gentlemen Bastards) by Scott Lynch (752 pages)

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Book 2: The Gentlemen Bastards) by Scott Lynch (578 pages)

The Republic of Thieves (Book 3: The Gentlemen Bastards) by Scott Lynch (704 pages)

Prince of Thorns (Book 1: The Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence (389 pages)

King of Thorns (Book 2: The Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence (458 pages)

Emperor of Thorns (Book 3: The Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence (449 pages)

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (709 pages)

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (211 pages)

The Barrow by Mark Smylie (587 pages)

 

Audio:

The Way of Kings (Book 1: The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson (1280 pages)

Words of Radiance (Book 2: The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson (1328 pages)

Oathbringer (Book 3: The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson (1220 pages)

The Gunslinger (Book I: The Dark Tower) by Stephen King (224 pages)

The Drawing of the Three (Book II: The Dark Tower) by Stephen King (400 pages)

The Wastelands (Book III: The Dark Tower) by Stephen King (512 pages)

Wizard and Glass (Book IV: The Dark Tower) by Stephen King (787 pages)

 

TOTAL PAGES: 27,676 pages

 

Currently reading:

Lords of the Atlas: Adventure, Mystery, and Intrigue in Morocco 1893-1956 by Gavin Maxwell (233 pages)

The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton (276 pages)

Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by John Man (272 pages)

Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz (228 pages)

 

 

 

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PCV Life 2016-2018

Meet the Roommates!

Despite appearances that appear to the contrary, I do not live alone. I live with many roommates, a lot of whom seem to have issues with the boundaries I have attempted to establish in my household. I have decided to introduce my housemates to my wide readership, along with their names in English, Moroccan Arabic [Darija], and the indigenous language spoken in my region [Tamazight].

 

Mouse

Darija: lfar

Tamazight: aghrda

Count: 1

Weapon(s) of Choice: poisoned bread

*bonus points for startling me in the bathroom

 

Scorpion

Darija: aqrab

Tamazight: tghrdmnt (yes, Tamazight hates vowels)

Count: 6

Weapon(s) of Choice: soy sauce bottle, broom, slipper

*bonus points for startling me in the bathroom

 

Camel Spider or Wind Scorpion

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This is just a baby. One of them, the one I was too panicked to take a picture of, was bigger than my hand!

Darija: busiH

Tamazight: busiH

Count: 3

Weapon(s) of Choice: broom, nutella jar

 

Cockroach

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Darija: sraq zzit [literally “the oil thief”]

Tamazight: zqlil

Count: 100

Weapon(s) of Choice: hiking boot

*bonus points for startling me in the bathroom

 

Spider

Darija: ankabut

Tamazight: abakha, takalt

Count: 1,000

Weapon(s) of Choice: hiking boot, broom

*bonus points for startling me in the bathroom

 

Fly

Darija: dban

Tamazight: izi

Count: 1,000,000,000

Weapon(s) of Choice: slipper, dog

 

Dog

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Darija: klb

Tamazight: igdi

Count: 1

Weapons(s) of Choice: ear scratches, harmonica

PCV Life 2016-2018

Peace Corps Cribs: Welcome to Our Home

Every great hall in history has been bestowed a grand title by its builders or their predecessors, grand labels to communicate the majesty of these marvels of architecture, these pinnacles of civilization, these seats of the great kings and emperors of the world. The names of these wondrous constructions travel far and wide on the tongues of the awe-struck. They become household names and enter the annals of history as the great wonders of the world. Names serve to preserve and honor these glorious and beautiful structures.

I have so named my house, my home, my royal palace. I thought long and deep on the innumerable merits of my dwelling place, my manor, my alcazar. One cannot easily communicate the countless hours spent, both conscious and sleeping, in the home. The home is where one formulates their schemes to change the world, to pursue their dreams. I want to reveal my home in this blog post for those who are unfamiliar with the illustriousness, the nobility, and the glory of my domicile so that on every tongue it shall be spake with awe and wonder, accompanied by tears of joy.

It has been aptly named:

The Wormhole. 

I have received a lot of questions pertaining to the conditions in which I live. I cannot assure you I bear all burdens with joys, my friends. I include some of the common ones for your convenience and knowledge:

  1. Do you have running water?
  2. Do you have electricity?
  3. Do you have a toilet?
  4. Does your door lock?
  5. Do you have a kitchen?
  6. Do you have wifi?

Well, let me answer these for you, quickly and succinctly:

  1. Not this month due to a faulty faucet, but I have had it.
  2. Most of the time.
  3. Kinda.
  4. Yes, and my yard’s door, and my bedroom door.
  5. Yes.
  6. I have data on my phone, but am unable to purchase wifi for my home as this requires my town to have phone lines. Surpise! My town does not have phone lines.

To further elaborate on these accommodations I have been afforded by my small mountain village, I will give you the grand tour of my wondrous abode, my shining jewel of the High Atlas. I am quite happy with my living arrangements, and like my days spent reading in bed, frying eggplant in the kitchen, or doing laundry in giant bins in my yard.

I share this home with a very special Moroccan street dog named Kika, which means “cake” in Moroccan Arabic. She calls it home as much as I do.

Welcome to our home.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Wormhole.

Let us begin the tour with the view from the street.

 

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It is lovely, is it not? The fence is constructed with bamboo, clay, straw, and stones.

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The house itself is constructed with clay, small stones, and straw. The door and bars on the windows are metal. Fun fact: many homes in Morocco are constructed of cement, so but cement does not regulate temperature as well as mud, so these homes are warmer in summer and colder in winter.

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The view from the front porch is to die for.

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My yard was a mess, but when my family came to visit, my father and my brother Nick were incredibly helpful. The constructed a fence for a rubbish pile, a small fire pit for burning my trash (there is no trash pickup), and a small pit for compost.

 

The first thing you will notice when you enter is my main hallway. It has been bedecked in flags honoring Morocco and the Amazigh people.

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Now, feel welcome to the bedroom, where Kika makes her home most of the time. I enjoy such activities as: reading, watching shows, and writing lesson plans
Kika enjoys such activities as: getting caught in the mosquito net, barking at strange noises in the yard, and standing in front of my screen, demanding attention.

I do sleep under a mosquito net at night, and my bed is a collection of flat ponges and blankets under a sheet.

 

 

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Kika and I enjoy an evening of shelling peas and watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 

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Let us move onto the spare room, where I store clothes and extra stuff belonging to Kika. You can also see my yoga mat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, moving onto the kitchen:

 

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I have a giant propane tank (a butagaz) that I hook up to a portable stove to cook.
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I am proud of my array of spices.
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Notice the haphazard construction of the spice rack. Watch the nails!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, lastly, onward to the bathroom.

I do not have what you most likely think of as a toilet. What I have is oftentimes called the “Turkish toilet.” It is a hole in the ground flushed using water from a bucket at the side. Squatting has become a way of life. Truly healthier for you, according to all the experts.

 

That is the final stop on our tour of Kelly’s wondrous village home. I have no more rooms to show you, but I hope you have gained an appreciation of the little mud brick I call home. Truly a great place to live

As a final treat, here are pictures of me burning trash in our yard:

 

PCV Life 2016-2018

This isn’t your grandmother’s Christmas party

“This isn’t your grandmother’s Christmas party. Unless, of course, she’s from Morocco, in which case it’s very accurate.” –The Office

Yes, I know it’s a little late to be posting about Christmas.

Four months late, in fact.

Better late than never, right? I would like to continue to use this blog to inform my friends and family and whoever else might stumble upon it about my Peace Corps experience.

One of the questions I get asked the most is what I did for Christmas. We swore into Peace Corps at the beginning of December, and so were unable to leave the country. Some friends and I decided to get together to celebrate the holiday not really recognized in Morocco. A PCV from the staj before us who had her own apartment was kinda enough to let four of us stay at her place while she traveled for the holiday.

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Starting off: it was cold. Internal heating isn’t really a thing here in Morocco. That combined with cement buildings with cement floors and poor insulation leads to a very freezing experience. I spent the entire three days sitting/laying/bouncing around in my sleeping bag. I particularly remember wishing I had brought more than two pairs of socks because they were were not warm enough for me despite the fact that I was wearing both of them at the same time.

We did not really do much for Christmas. It was mostly an excuse to see each other (we are encouraged not to leave site a lot during the first three months), spend some time speaking English, and binge watch Netflix (we had internet!) without interruption. I spent most of the time blowing through two entire seasons of Black Sails on my own. There was one day where I did not watch anything/play any games with the other PCVs – just enjoyed my introvert time. We also watched all the Christmas episodes of The Office, played some board games, and cooked American food (PCVs should understand the sacredness of these rituals).

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We got a little creative. Props to Matt for the Egg Nog!
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Cooking the Christmas feast
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Mashed potatoes, guacamole, fried eggplant, quiche, and Nutella. A veritable feast complete with tea candles.

I was able to Skype my family back in the States while all bundled up in my sleeping bag and wearing my Santa hat.

I hope you enjoy the pictures! There will be more posts to come now that I have access to a magical internet stick (aka USB modem) that gets acceptable reception on my porch at 11pm.

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We ate a lot of spaghetti. Go figure.
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“Why hasn’t someone wifed you up yet?” -Sarah at 8am after I brought her French toast
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My famous Moroccan French toast complete with honey and prized peanut butter
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“Bunch dummies trying to cook a Christmas feast” -Melissa
PCV Life 2016-2018

Where my final site is (and why I cannot tell you where it is)

So, tomorrow I swear in and move to my final site on Saturday. My final site is pretty baller, as you can tell from this wonderful picture. It is an oasis in the mountains around Errachidia, to the east near the Algerian border. It is about eight hours from Marrakech and seven from Meknes.

My site mostly consists of a town center surrounded by farms. Various duwars (neighborhoods) are spread out over the the fields and into the mountains. I live in a duwar about a thirty minute walk from the center. During this walk, I pass through farms and have to cross a river using stepping stones.

I cannot tell you exactly where I will be as it is a security concern. Sorry, folks.

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My duwar
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Another picture of my duwar
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The river I have to cross every day. See those stepping stones? Yep.
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That time my family put me on a donkey and sent me off on my own. I had no idea where I was going.

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Illiteracy is a major problem among the women in my site, and I look forward to helping create literacy problems. Interestingly enough, though, was my experience walking through the farms. Women often work alongside their husbands in the fields, hitching up their gelabas around their hips and pulling the mules through the mud.

One of the unique challenges of my site will be that Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is not the primarily spoken language. Tamazight, one of the only surviving indigenous languages of North Africa, is spoken predominantly in my town. While there are a lot of cognates between Tamazight and Darija, Tamazight is ultimately its own language with a different language and everything.

It also sounds quite…interesting when hear alongside Darija. For example, we’ll take how you say “no, we don’t have”:

Darija = la, m3 3ndnash

Tamazight = uhu, ur ghurngh

If you can read Arabic transliteration, the same system is used for Tamazight and you can hear in your head how difficult Tamazight can be to pronounce.

All in all, I look forward to moving to my new site and will keep you posted as often as possible!

PCV Life 2016-2018

Pre-Service Training: a primer

I guess it is time that I write for you about my training site and family.

Peace Corps Morocco divides its PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) into small groups of six for a period of training called CBT (Cultural-Based Training), also called PST (Pre-Service Training) for a period of about two and a half months. Each group is then assigned a CBT site that can range anywhere from a semi-urban neighborhood, a small farming town, a mountain village, etc. An LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator) is assigned to each CBT group, and they act in a professional capacity as a Darija (Moroccan Arabic Dialect) teacher, a cultural tutor, and a liaison between trainees, the local authorities in the CBT site, and other Peace Corps staff. In an unofficial capacity, LCFs can also act (and almost always do) as a sounding board for ambitious ideas, a counselor that can offer assistance in the integration process, and as a translator in dire misunderstandings (can you tell yet that I love my LCF?). Each PCT is placed in their site with their own family. Some families are big, some are small, some are rich, some are strapped for cash, some are religious, others not so much, etc. As you can probably already gather from my description, each trainee’s experience will differ significantly from the next. Even within CBT groups, there are a variety of different experiences and feelings regarding Pre-Service Training. My CBT experience has had its ups and downs, but I have really appreciated and come to love my site and family.

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Our LCF/Fearless leader/Ruthless language instructor

My site is a small farming town with a population of less than 2,000 located about 30 minutes outside of Meknes. It is a conservative town with a wide variety of ideas and practices. Some families are Arab and some are Amazigh. The town is warm in the summer and moderately cold in the winter. I say moderately cold, but what I mean is it gets down into the 20s and 30s and there is no internal heating. Moroccans are experts, however, at enduring bone-chilling winters without heat. I have learned a trick or two from them.

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This is a much more common occurrence than you would imagine.

I do have running water (no hot water) and electricity (unreliable as it is), which, compared to other Peace Corps countries, automatically labels Morocco as a “Posh Corps” country.

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My family consists of a young Amazigh couple (my host mom and dad), their two sons (6 and 3 years old), and the husband’s parents, my host grandparents. I truly love them. The grandparents are from the Rif region up north, near Nador, and they speak a dialect of Tamazight called Terefit. Their children were born and raised in the town itself, while my host mom was born in the mountains around the town. She speaks a dialect of Tamazight closer to that which is spoken in my final site and has been very excited to share her first language with me now that I know I will have to learn that in addition to Darija. She got married at 16 and never learned how to read, but she has been working on her alphabet recently and has started to be able to recognize words. My host dad encourages her in this endeavors, which is really great to see. The little boys can be a handful, but I have enjoyed being “sister.” My grandma is great too—she’s an absolute coffee fiend and loves to make it for our class. Turns out, her father was a Sufi holy man whose teachings were highly regarded and who committed much of his time and many of possessions to the poor. Through her side, my family can trace its lineage back to the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The family is incredibly hospitable, and not just to me. They have adopted my LCF as if she was a member of the family and it’s not unusual for them to ambush my CBT mates and force a meal upon them.

As far as gender roles go, the town is a conservative town, and most women stay at home. I am fortunate to be in a wonderful family where women are valued and cherished. My host mom and her sister-in-law go to the souk (weekly market) every week and buy food for their households. My host grandfather is very actively involved in the boys’ lives, walking them to school and assisting in discipline. My host dad is great with his kids and will sometimes make dinner (a very unusual thing in Morocco). He actually stopped me from washing the dishes yesterday because he wanted to do them himself!

Due to my previous experience with Arabic, I was placed in an advanced CBT group. While we certainly have learned quickly and feel we have accomplished a lot (conducting an employability workshop entirely in Arabic, teaching English classes, etc.), we know there is a long way to go and that in the Peace Corps, you never stop learning.

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Struggle bus: all day every day. Notice that our LCF is driving the bus.

In less than two weeks, I move onto my final, permanent site. While I am ready to begin my service as a PCV, I am will be sad to leave this little town. It has taught me a lot, and I truly do love my family. I’ll miss my CBT group as well. We will all be scattered across the country, and it truly is a bonding experience.

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PCV Life 2016-2018

Peace Corps Packing: The Best, the Worst, and What is Yet to be Seen

Note: If you are a visitor to my blog getting ready to pack for Peace Corps, congratulations! This is not a complete packing list, just some suggestions that I have found helpful during my CBT. Everyone is different and will want different items, so I suggest taking any list as loose suggestions. Particularly, be wary of any list that tells you what clothes you should bring. Bring country appropriate clothing that you will wear. Every list will tell you to bring two pairs of jeans – I didn’t bring any. You know why? Because I hate jeans. I would never wear them. If you hate jeans, don’t pack them. If you hate maxi skirts, don’t pack them. If you hate leggings, don’t pack them. If you love cardigans, pack as many as you want. 

Best:

Moroccan slippers – use them everyday. Moroccans wear shoes in the house and slip them off on the carpet. My classmates have taken to using mine when they have to leave the carpet temporarily.

Chacos – indestructible, comfortable, and easy to clean

Gloves – it gets cold here

Blanket scarf – ditto.

Go Pro – small with great pictures. Easily hidden.

Nalgene Water Bottle – virtually indestructible and easy to clean

A shower without water package – includes baby wipes, baby powder (or dry shampoo), a travel-sized deodorant, and body spray (indispensable when traveling)

Notecards – hard to come by and absolutely essential for language learning

Totebag – plastic bags are illegal in Morocco, so everyone uses totes for everything

Worst:

SO MANY BOOKS – not necessary with a Kindle

Yet to be seen:

Kelty Sleeping Bag

Classroom supplies

Things I wish I had brought:

More hair stuff (including a good hair brush) *maybe a little different now, since Micah chopped all my hair off.

Plastic bags – they are illegal here

Ziploc bags – hard to come by

More note cards

 

Feel free to make suggestions in the comments! I can edit the list to include things forgotten 🙂

 

PCV Life 2016-2018

First Couple Weeks in Morocco

To keep all my faithful readers updated, I have composed a post with little highlights from my first couple weeks in country. There are the normal struggles (learning Moroccan Arabic, aka Darija, trying not to make cultural missteps, and trying out fun and exciting new digestive patterns) and then the fun parts of living in Morocco.

The moment of horror.  

I had one of the most terrifying moments of my life the other day. My first evening with my host family, the staff member assigned to my CBT group sat down and had dinner with us. The family was eager to get to know me, so my instructor assisted in helping me answer some of their questions, albeit begrudgingly.

My family started to repeat one word over and over again and looking at me, waiting for me to answer. I turned to my instructor and asked her “What are they asking me?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “They are speaking Tamazight.”

Trying to differentiate Darija (what I am supposed to be learning) and Tamazight (a Moroccan language that changes drastically based on geography and I might have to learn eventually) can be a challenge. 

Americans are weird.

When you have traveled a bit and have had your share of cultural crash courses, sometimes you forget among the culture shock about how people from other cultures must view you. And let me tell you: Americans are weird.

I once had a RPVC tell me that when native Peace Corps staff members in Africa are describing cultural differences to their peers, it is often communicated that it is best not to hug, kiss, and touch the PCVs too much, because “Americans are weird like that.”

Everything in Morocco is shared, and when Moroccan families are told that Americans like their own space, things, and alone time, they are often confused. Accepting, but confused. When asked if we could lock out doors and spend time in our rooms alone, one Moroccan staff member told us that “they will not think this is rude, they will just wonder what you’re hiding.”

The water bottle.

Along the lines of Americans being weirdos, one of the habits I have noticed that intrigues my family is the use of my Nalgene water bottle. The Peace Corps Medical Officers told trainees that it is very easy and very dangerous for PCT/PCVs to become dehydrated. In order to counter that, a lot of us have developed a habit of keeping a water bottle with us at all times (a habit many Americans keep back in the States anyway).

I am told it is not rude to drink this in the house, especially if you offer some water to those near you, but it is odd. Every time I pull out my water bottle, someone makes a comment about Karima being thirsty or drinking a lot of water. My little host brothers (6 and 3) were intrigued enough to wrestle it from my hands my first night and run away with it. After that, my host dad filled up a used Fanta bottle with water and now the 3 year-old breaks it out whenever I have my bottle with me and offers to give me some of his water.

You’re muskina. I’m muskina. We’re all muskina.

The first word I learned from my host family was the delightful little descriptor of muskina. The only equivalent my class and I could come up with for the way it is used is the southern phrase “bless your heart.” This adjective is used similar to “poor thing,” but not as pitiful.

The PCTs in my site have all been described by their host families as muskina (or muskin for Philip). At random times during a meal or social setting, one family member will randomly bring up how much we must miss our families, our mothers, our friends. How we are all alone in a foreign country. “You are so muskina!”

Some of my favorite conversations have gone as such:

Mother: This is Karima. She’s American and studying Darija.

Random woman in hamam: Oh, muskina.

Grandma: Do you like your henna, Karima?

Me: Yes. It’s very beautiful.

Grandma: [smiles] Muskina.

Me: Good night, everyone. I am going to go to sleep.

Grandma [in another room, not visible]: Muskina.

The struggle is real.

Me [to host mother]: We saw a donkey today making noise. He was being very…Naima, what’s the word for loud?

Naima: Here, I am not your language instructor. Here, I am just Naima.

Me: The donkey was…HEEEE HAAAAAA HEEEEE HAAAAA

*my host mother enjoyed the acting*

PCV Life 2016-2018

So here I am answering all your questions. Again.

As I did the last time I traveled, I will put out a brief FAQ for those who have many questions as to what I am doing. Here they are for your enjoyment.

Do any of the views expressed in this blog reflect those of the Peace Corps or the United States government?

No.

What are you doing?

In January, I accepted an invitation to join the Peace Corps as a Secondary Education English Teacher and serve in Morocco.

What is the Peace Corps?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Corps

When did you leave?

I flew to Philadelphia on September 19th for a registration event called Staging and then flew to Morocco on the 20th, arriving the morning of the 21st. I have spent the past week near the capital of Rabat and will be leaving tomorrow, the 28th to stay with a host family in a small town for three months of training/

Where will you be stationed?

I do not know at this time where I will be placed permanently after my three months of training, but even then I will not be posting online where I am placed. If you want to email or message me personally, I will tell you when I find out.

Are you there will people you know?

110 people from all over the USA were invited and cleared to serve in Morocco. I did not know any of them previously, but I have made friends quickly. Peace Corps searches and screens for the best and brightest, and these people are interesting, talented, intelligent, and diverse. I am proud to serve with them.

How can I contact you?

Message me privately and I will figure something out with you.

Can I come visit you?

Message me privately.

 

Rabat 2014

Challenges of Living in Morocco

Darija

You probably know that the official language of Morocco is Arabic. What you probably did not know is that the language of tamazight is also an official language. You probably know that French is widely spoken in Morocco. What you probably did not know that Spanish is spoken in place of French in some areas of Morocco, mostly in pockets in the north and south.

You also probably didn’t know that while Modern Standard (MSA) Arabic is the official language of Morocco, spoken Arabic is incredibly different. And I don’t know mean different as in colloquial. I mean, as in no one calls it Arabic. It’s called “darija,” which means colloquial, but is so different that people who understand MSA and/or other, more mainstream dialects of Arabic cannot understand it (including my Arabic professor). Darija is truly a hybrid language – mostly influenced by Arabic, but it also borrows a lot of words from Tamazight and French. I knew I was in trouble when the first Moroccan student I met listed off the languages he spoke and listed “darija” and “Arabic” as different languages.

Here are a few of examples of the difference:

(english = MSA = darija)

good = jayyid = mizyan

very = jeddan = bizaf

go = thehub = mishee

 

 You stick out. Like, a lot.

Sure, Morocco is a lot more diverse than Palestine was, but walking down the street in downtown Rabat with my red hair and freckles attracts a lot of attention. Everywhere you go,  you are going to get stared at. When I ride the tram across town, I am usually the onl63749_10205326744953968_957002441893148263_ny obvious foreigner in the tram car and it turns into an awkward 10 minute ride of continuous stares.

I was actually mistaken for a Moroccan the other day, which was pretty shocking. It was the perfect storm for the misidentification. I went to the post office to pick up a package and was wearing a sweatshirt I had gotten in Chefchaouen, a city in the north of Morocco. I had also wrapped my hair in a scarf. You must understand that a lot of Moroccans from the north, particularly Chefchaouen, have light skin. I walked into the post office and sat down, waiting to get the counter and overheard one of the workers ask his manager if I was a foreigner. She said “No, she’s from Chefchaouen.” They realized I was a foreigner as soon as I opened my mouth. I thought the mistake was funny so I told my host mom later. She laughed so hard I started to wonder why she thought it was so funny. I guess she was surprised that there was an context in which I could be mistaken for a Moroccan.

 

Street Harassment

If I wanted to respond to all the harassment I get in the street, it would sound something like this:

“Yes, I know I’m beautiful.”

“I don’t need a welcome to Morocco so bad you take your eyes off the road and hang out the window.”

“No, I am not looking for a Berber husband. Are you?”

“It’s too cold to go swimming.”

“I do not have a phone number…nor a Facebook.”

While mostly unthreatening, the street harassment in Morocco is a huge issue, and being a foreigner makes me stand out more and be the target of more jokes. It usually only happens when I am alone, but also when I am with a group of girls. If I am with a guy, especially a Moroccan guy, it’s pretty rare.

 

Living with a Host Family

Okay, I absolutely love my host family. Let me make that clear. As we have observed, however, darija is completely different than MSA, and my family does not speak ANY English. On top of that, they speak very little French, so I am left only with the darija I have learned to communicate. Coming home after class is always awkward. I walk in the door, exchange pleasantries, and then stand there awkwardly because I know a conversation is expected. Because I feel obligated to interact with my family as well as practice my darija, I try to come up with a sentence or two. What you might usually share after coming home from school, like “we had a really good discussion in culture class today,” or “someone had a very interesting presentation in MSA class about verb forms” are subjects too complicated for my baby darija. The moments immediately following my entrance usually go something like this:

Me: Hello! How are you?

Host mommy: I’m good, praise God. Everything is good. How are you?

Me: I’m great. How was work?

Mommy: It was good, praise God.

Me: Good.

awkward silence and shuffling of the feet

Me (attempting something daring and new in darija): I had French class today.

Mommy: Good. Class was good?

Me: Class was very good. We learned about politics.

Mommy: Interesting. [lies!]

Me: Yeah it was very good.

more awkward silence

Me: Well, I have a lot of homework.

Then I usually retreat to my room and close the door. I will venture out for dinner later, but now is not that time. I will worry about that social interaction later.

Truth be told, a host family is a great experience, just a little awkward at times. Couscous fridays are great, teatime is fun, and the level of cultural and language learning that takes place in a host family’s home is irreplaceable.

1503269_10205529899475525_2828896373236762309_n
This isn’t my host family – just my program hanging out with our Moroccan friends for Thanksgiving