I’ve been back in the US for 2 months now and I feel it necessary to make a final post to this blog. My lack of explanation has led to assumptions that I would like to correct.

My decision to leave Peace Corps, Morocco and the incredible friends I made there did not come lightly. Moroccans are probably the most generous and warm people you could ever hope to meet. With few exceptions, I was treated extremely well and with respect.  Some of the cultural and lifestyle differences proved to be challenging in ways that, in the end, I could not/would not live with without the support that I assumed came with Peace Corps. It could be a flawed system, it may have been a bad match, and I may just be a volunteer who isn’t up for 27 months of Peace Corps or all of the above. It was never about the way I was treated by Moroccans!

smH li xuya, wesh ymkn lik t-3awni? I asked this question, of a complete stranger, at least once a day. Every single time, the Moroccan responded by going out of his way to help me. I’ve asked for directions and been walked miles across town to my destination. I asked for information on housing rentals and I was taken door to door in search, for hours at a time. I was treated as family in every home I entered- always offered food, tea and blankets or extra clothing when it was cold. The children (who knew me) greeted me with kisses and love whenever they saw me, sometimes running blocks to reach me. The sincerity and hospitality of Moroccans is admirable and I truly hope to be a better person for the many lessons of kindness that I learned there.

I appreciate all of the support from friends and family. This completes this experiment.


going home

December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas to everyone out there celebrating Christmas!

I am definitely not having ham today.

I am thinking of trying to figure out the “oven” situation today. Maybe, play with some sweet stuff. There is plenty of flour and sugar available. I was thinking that I would spend the day at Melanie’s apartment since I am still without my own home. Maybe play some holiday music on i tunes and bake.

For a present to myself I am downloading some episodes of weeds and the office on itunes. I wonder if anyone could explain to me why a 30 min. episode takes 4 hours to download. As always, I need help with technology. Feel free  to email, FB, or skype me answers asap. You know, like a Christmas present.

Oh, and more presents……I’d love lists of must reads, must see movies and if there is something must see on television; I’ll take that too. If anyone wants to send things like this in the mail…Eliza has the address. Thank you for my latest book-The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society. I am almost finished with it. Thumbs up for this one.

Well, enjoy the day.  oxoxoxox to all of my friends and family. I am thinking of everyone today, especially.

I guess I’ve been in a bit of a funk, as they say.  Or…I’ve been in a bit of funk, hmmm.   Will I ever grow up? It isn’t likely at this point. I can finally laugh at some of my situation again. It has been a while, I’ll say. DEPRESSION! Seriously, I haven’t been that down and conscience ever. I don’t want to do it again either. Wow.

I am optimistic again although I am not sure why. Nothing as changed. Except that:  I read an article yesterday on this research done about being down and gaining clarity or some bullshit like that. BBC-check it out. Maybe it was the power of suggestion or maybe it was that lovely blue pill. Maybe it was the cleaning spree I had.  In any case; my eyes are fresh, my motivation is renewed, and ass and thighs haven’t been this toned in years. Let’s hear it for squat toilets and just plain squats.

Now, if only I could drop my mat to the floor for some pilates and yoga. That will not happen until I have my own place. I have lightened up a lot with my little germophobia business but for realsies- I need cleaner than any of this to relax enough to do some good work.

My own place. Doesn’t that sound good? Me too.

I hope it happens soon. I am fully aware of my need for a clean, peaceful, safe space to live in. It has been a very long time since I have been at peace with my living situation. It really is dragging me down. I hope that in overcoming some of these living/lifestyle challenges I am gaining some deep something bullshitty besides the infection, scars from the infected areas and who knows what is going on inside of my body. Good god man!

This leads me to start throwing feelers out there. Or… feeling something out there. Jesus, I am immature. I think it is getting worse in Africa. You’d think all of this sobriety would help but no! Anyhoo, back to feelers.

I really, really, really want to have some secondary projects going on here. Things that I know nothing about and need the help of my friends. All of my wonderful, loving, smart, socially, medically and environmentally aware friends and family.

#1… Clean up the environment. There is no trash service/removal here. The trash (extremely minimal by comparison) is thrown in the streets to blow about the country. Or it is burned creating toxic fumes for all the beautiful children to breathe.  I know nothing about getting a program started or where to look for help so please send all suggestions.

#2…Hygiene. This goes from washing hands with soap( you almost never see soap and when you do-you need to clean it before using it) to brushing teeth with toothbrushes/paste (I’ve witnessed twigs on several occasions) to cleaning lightswitches (gag, you would too) to teaching people that they get no points for getting close to the hole in the “bathroom”.  My personal mission is to develop some understanding of cleaning dishes with clean rags. There is always 1 very old 2-inch square thing sitting in a soup of (gag) whatever liquid the last several months have yielded. Remember, there is no hot water. It is horrifying to imagine my body handling the bacteria going into it without the benefit of a little alcohol.

That is it for now. I don’t want to do all of my feeling up at once.  After all, the only thing I’m asking for at Christmas is some help making the world a better place. I’ll be back in the next few days with more requests for help and pictures to show the need.

The king is coming!

December 9, 2009

The big news in Bouarfa is that the king is coming. This is huge! The king doesn’t come here. No one does. 

He has been rumored to arrive from the middle of the month (the day I arrived–some say I am good luck) to next week. tic toc. I am especially impatient with his arrival as there are no houses here for me to live in. Because this is such a big deal…people have actually relocated here to see the king. All housing is full!  The dar shebob has been filled with people sleeping there as well as my office in the artisanat.  This means no house, no English lessons and no work for me. I am bored silly!!! Only it isn’t the giggly fun silly, it is the poke shit in your eyes silly.  

The good news is that this town is a huge festival. There are huge numbers of people who have moved their tents (nomads, herders-tent dwellers who live outside of the towns…the Bled) into town and decorated them with pictures of the king. Performances of all kinds are happening here. I am lucky to be experiencing all sorts of traditions and cultural treats I would have probably never known.  I’ll keep photos and video coming as I can. I’ll try and catch that elusive king too! woo hoo. Aren’t we lucky?

No Photos

November 30, 2009

I decided not to post the photos yet. I think they are too much. I’ll send them out upon request. It was an incredible experience to be part of but definitely difficult to see.

l-3id kbir Warning: graphic

November 30, 2009

The annual sacrificial feast celebrated in the Islamic world, l-3id kbir (the great feast) was yesterday. This is not like l-3id sgrir, which immediately follows Ramadan, and fasting ends with a lot of treats and visits. No, this was much different…Allah a3wni (God, help me).

This is the central feast in Islam derived from the feast of atonement; Abrahams substitute sacrifice, for the remission of sins. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and before he killed his son God presented a sheep in Isaac’s place. Every year each family celebrates with the sacrifice of a sheep. The feel is a bit like Christmas in that everyone is celebrating and families come together to share in the celebration.

At the appropriate time (in Morocco- I think this is after the king has slaughtered his sheep) each family sacrifices their sheep. If you have a roof, like we do, this is the site. We sacrificed three sheep yesterday on our roof. One for us and two for Mbarka’s (my host mother) sons and their families. These 3 sheep arrived about a week ago and have lived in our basement until yesterday. At about 9 am the sheep were led to the roof. I took an Adavan and tried to be an adult. This holiday is the holiest to Muslims and it was an honor to share in it despite the fact that every one of my sensibilities was challenged.

The first sheep was slaughtered as I remained with the family but stood back a little. Naima (my host sister) asked for help holding one of the other sheep quiet. Melanie (my site mate and 1 year experienced with l’3id kbir) jumped in and grabbed hold while Naima explained that “no, the sheep arent’t frightened. It is good luck for them to be slaughtered for l’3id kbir, it is what they want”. Phew, I feel better. I think Melanie does too.
As the next sheep was led over to the spot near the roof drain, I was patting myself on the back for my mature behavior. I looked over to where the first sheep lay and saw that he wasn’t dead yet. That was it for me, I cried like a baby. I had to go to my room.
I pulled myself together knowing the importance of my participation. I went into the “bathroom” to splash water on my face and found a bloodbath. The roof drains here.
My participation: I threw bucket after bucket of water from ceiling to “toilet” trying to contain the blood and wash it away. It did not stop for a long time.

When I returned to the roof, the skinning and gutting was full on. Naima had 1 head on the top of the buta gas grilling similar to the way we roast red peppers on a gas burner. The 3 bodies were hanging and in varying states of undress. There were piles of organs, hides, heads, hooves, etc. There were pools of blood, sharp knives in the hands of men and women, arms deep into the bodies removing everything and women squeezing the waste from intestines. I photographed as much as I could stand.
Mbarka called to me from the grill where she was in charge of the organ kebobs. “Bring these to Naima”, she said pointing to the 2 remaining heads and hooves. I did what I was told. I breathed deep and returned to help hold organs taut so that they could be cut away.
After, I was invited to sit for tea being served near the grill. One of the men was wrapping the organs with fat to be skewered and grilled.
The whole process was orderly, efficient and as clean as it could be. All of the organs were cooked and brunch was served as the details were finished. I accepted and ate 1 piece of each of the organs handed to me.

After brunch, Melanie and I walked to her boss’s house to wish him a happy holiday. He, of course, insisted we eat to celebrate the holiday. While he grilled what looked like chicken, he asked us to wrap the kidneys, liver and heart in fat and skewer. Just like home. I kept my eye on the “chicken” planning my avoidance of more organs. When everything was served, I grabbed fresh bread and threw my “chicken” in.
I ate a testicle sandwich.
I walked home with Melanie thinking about dinner. As tradition goes, organs immediately, then heads for dinner and finally the meat of the bodies in the following days.
My family made me vegetables for dinner while they consumed the heads. It was the best l’3id gift of all. They appreciated my efforts and respect for their cultural and religious traditions.
I went to my room after dinner and climbed into my sleeping bag and promised myself that if I had to pee in the night, I would be so careful to remember the 3 bodies outside of my door and not trip on them. I woke this morning to find Mbarka carving away like a pro outside of my door. She sent me to the store for breakfast bread (she was too busy to make it) and when I returned she was serving up kebobs. Everyone is so happy.
Mbruk l’3id! Happy holiday!

Just the facts

November 30, 2009

I am not sure of how to post my new address without posting my address (PC safety policy). This is why the big arrow to my new city disappeared on the map, for those who noticed.
I may send a mass e-mail…hate to do it or post on FB, where only friends can view.

What to send… Good chocolate!!! Dark (almonds, raisins, walnuts)
penicillin…kidding! I’ll send a list as I figure it out. I will have my own place in
January, inshallah. Hurray for private Internet access, private bathroom situation-
Hashak, private everything!!! I am definitely getting furniture of sorts. I am too old
to eat and sleep and work on the floor. Seriously, it hurts.
Do not send…anything alcohol, drug, gay, naked, or generally hashak! Do not send anything
As soon as I have my place and private Internet, I’ll write and skype. I know, I have lots of questions to answer and lots of detail that I cannot publish. (PC policy) There is a lot of policy. What a surprise.

A beautiful city nowhere

November 20, 2009

I haven’t written in a while because I have been traveling forever, it seems. When I arrived here I experienced a bit of culture shock. No point getting into all that but 5 days here and I am now fully enjoying my new host family, my beautiful city, and the incredible singing Mosques.
I have a ways to go before I can say I am comfortable here but I can see it coming. I think this is a good sign.
There is a youth development volunteer here who has been here a year. She manages to thrive here and does so by jumping in and living it. She has been generous with her time, resources and language skills. She is my new BFF, though she doesn’t know it yet. shh!
I am at least 5 hours from anything bigger than my city/town except the Algerian border and a couple of days from what most people know to be Morocco. The long, dirty, ugly and stinky bus ride here had me thinking that it would be acceptable to quit now. The only thing that kept me from fully deciding was the idea that I’d have to take the ride again. I honestly wondered what kind of friends and family I had who would not have had an intervention. How could I be here? And then, I started to see color again and hills and then small mountains. It became beautiful before my eyes. My city! I think I like it!
I think that my work here will be busy. I have met with my 2 Moroccan counterparts here and my Delegate in Oujda. I do believe they would like to work my ass off! Different from everything I’ve heard about business development in Morocco being slow and seemingly impossible, this place seems to want my help!! I’ve also had many girls/women/children ask me to teach them English.
Apparently, the dar shabob, where my BFF teaches English is not appropriate for many conservative women/girls etc. Sad news!
I am teaching a class tonight for Melanie since she is away for the weekend. This should be a great icebreaker for me. I hope my Arabic takes me through this. I might as well jump in, I am here!
And, I might as well work my ass off because I don’t want to take that bus ride out of here.
I’ll keep you posted.
Address and pictures coming soon!