sbitar, friends, wedding

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on May 26, 2010

7:15am: up and prep for day

8:00am: breakfast

8:30-10:30am: immunization day at sbitar. People are resourceful – I saw a baby wearing a diaper made out of a plastic bag and (what I could only assume as) cloth underneath it. Turns out my afrmli is also a veterinarian, swiya. He “cleared up” a constipated baby sheep that someone brought in. People continue to ponder my “origin” (as they like to call it here). Frequently, they’ll whisper to each other in Tashleheit, unaware or uncertain of whether I understand and can hear them. If it’s loud enough for me to hear, I’ll pipe up and clarify that I am American; sometimes I’ll elaborate and say my parents grew up in China but met in America, which is where they had me. I wonder, if I go there enough times, particularly on immunization days, will the questions stop? Will I start to see repeat visitors enough that they remember who I am/where I come from?

10:30am: visit commune/association and asked the khalifa a few questions about the community. Also saw a house for rent.

11:15am-2:30pm: lunch at the dar taliba.

I met so many girls. Walking into the dining room was overwhelming too. I heard them chanting and banging on tables before I entered the room. Lo and behold, the girls were singing and dancing – just like Moroccans do when they perform traditional dance and song, just like their mothers and sisters do! They kept at it for at least 15-20 minutes before the food came out. It was really cool to observe – 14-16 year old girls taking over a dining hall. The boys were peeping into the windows, trying to see what all the noise was.

More whispering from the students about the “Chinoi.” Again I pipe in and clarify. A comment about my eyes, too. Patience and a sense of humor are my best friends during these moments.

The staff insisted I wait to have lunch with them, but I decided to eat with the students first. I had fun being one of them. Afterwards, I ate with the staff. Lunch consisted of fish and veggies with fruit to finish it off.

As I was walking away from the college, a couple boys approached me and in broken some language other than Tashleheit asked if was from France or Japan. I responded, in Tashleheit, “I don’t understand.” That threw them off but a moment later, they asked me in the native tongue. “American,” I said, and walked away as they were, once again, caught off guard by my response.

2:45-3:30pm: help my host grandmother with argon nuts. She cracked the shells while I sorted the nuts from shells.

3:30-5:45pm: Great (and much needed) NAP! The past few days, I’ve waken up early, kept busy all day, and slept late (because dinner’s always around 10:30pm). I tried napping the past two days but my mind was always buzzing with language, observations, and ideas. I felt so rested after my nap!

6:00-9:00pm: Afternoon tea, visited friends (who missed me while I was gone this weekend! J), hung out with host family a bit. I learned that my friends stopped going to school after “college” (which is the name for junior high/middle school) here. That bothers me so much because they are smart and curious and hungry to learn. Each time I hang out with them, they teach me Tashleheit while I teach them English. They seem to be really good kids too.

10:00pm-12:00am: first Moroccan wedding! I didn’t know the bride or groom, but I went with my host grandmother. The first room we entered was the bride’s room. Her new clothes were hung around the walls. The bride wore a long red wig adorned with a gold link, white dress, and her hands and feet were covered with henna. More whispering about the Chinoi, I pipe in and provide a quick clarification again.

The women sat in that room for a while before we went into a second room where we were served dinner. Dinner consisted of tea and cookies (appetizers?), a meat stew dish, then couscous. I wonder if all Moroccan celebrations consist of the same food. I ate the exact same food at the baby shower.

As I prepared to leave the wedding reception with my host family, again I hear people talking about me. I clarify again.

Here’s the thing: I know I can’t exactly be conspicuous and hide in a crowd of Moroccans. That’s a given fact and I’m not trying to deny it. Rather, my objective is to approach these situations as opportunities to educate and inform. My best teaching tools: patience and humor. After all, this falls into one of the three PC objectives: to teach people from other countries about America and Americans.

It’s 1:30am. Tomorrow will be an awesome day, inshallah. J


espanol, a breath of fresh air

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on May 25, 2010

6:30am: wake up and prepare for my day

7:45am: bolt out the door, literally run and eat my breakfast (half a round of bread and oil/butter). Host parents didn’t quite understand the need for me to eat before 7:30am (so that I wouldn’t make someone late) or they were too preoccupied with final preparations for their weeklong trip.

7:55am: arrive at school, finish off breakfast. Butter ran down my sleeve on the way to school. I was planning on doing laundry this week already, lHamdullah. I will, inshallah. Greet the groundskeeper.

8:00-9:00am: sit in on Arabic class

9:00-10:00am: sit in on Spanish class. Good teacher. Sitting in that class and hearing the language made me miss it SO much! I want to keep learning Spanish so that I can speak it fluently, of course, this will be after my two years here. Seriously, though, I was drinking in the espanol. I tried talking to the teacher afterwards but I kept interchanging/combining Tashleheit, Spanish, and English. Yes, my fluency in any single language has declined. Or is on the decline. Haha.

10:00am-12:30pm: pulled into tea at dar taliba (girls’ dorms), tour of dar talib (boys’ dorms), chat some more. Dar taliba is funded by the commune whereas dar talib is funded by private donor. Disparity is definitely tangible – the boys have it so much better! It’s easy to feel bitter and sympathize with the girls on the unfairness of it BUT if I want to be effective, I’ll need to include both genders in the improvement process. It’s no good if only the girls continue to advance – what will happen to the guys who get left behind? Become bitter and further perpetuate the status quo? Negative. At least the dar taliba finally has running water!!

12:45pm: talk to mudir at lmdrasa to arrange sit-in. He was in the office, lHamdullah!

1:15pm: hop into taxi, headed for Essa

2:00pm: lunch (chicken, fries, bread)

2:30pm: explore housing options for upcoming Gnaoua festivals. Always fun to check out the riads.

3:30-5:45pm: meeting at ALCS.

6:00pm: taxi back to site.

8:00pm: tea time – coffee and leftover veggies from lunch.

8:30pm: hang out with neighbors, try to relax but mind is too full to nap

11:18pm (now): bedtime!

Tomorrow will be another early day. hooray for a busy week. J

are you from Africa?

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on May 24, 2010

“Is she from Africa?”

–       Moroccan woman asking another PCV about me

I might’ve been the first foreigner a few Moroccans have ever seen. That’s an interesting idea. It’s also interesting that, in some ways, my features are adaptable (i.e., my skin tans when I’m exposed to sunlight constantly over a period of time, which I am here). I like that people have asked if I’m another than Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Thai/Indian. It shows that people are the same, that skin is really only skin deep. It’s a protective organ, different colors.

I wonder how it would feel/think if I was someone who had only lived one place my entire life and, for the first time ever, saw people who looked different than what I’ve known my entire life.

There were three of us today – one Egyptian-American, one Caucasian American, and one Asian-American – walking through a PCV’s village, town, and surrounding fields, and talking to people. When asked, we replied we’re all Americans.

Sometimes, Americans take it for granted that people look different. It’s so ridiculous. Some people will say they befriend others who are different but will only help those who look like themselves.

Anyway, I surprised two women (probably others too) with my language during a taxi ride. The novelty of people realizing I speak their language hasn’t worn off yet. If nothing else, it encourages me to learn more because then I can speak to them more. I got to tell them swiya about my work and even through in a few health tips.

My host family – parents and two youngest siblings – are going on a family trip, woohoo! I’ll be home with host grandmother, her daughter/host father’s sister, and oldest host sister for a week. Nice!

Schedule’s filling up. Busy work week ahead, inshallah!

Mouarid / Korimat

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on May 23, 2010

First legitimate (read: healthy) breakfast: fresh plain slightly sweeten yogurt with muesli mixed in plus a glass of orange juice. All for 9 dirhams (dhs), slightly over US$1.

Checking out of the hotel, myself and the other PCVs from my province (and staaj) wandered around the medina before making (finding) our way to the bus station. After 3 hours on the soq bus, I arrived in Hensen. From there, I stopped at the gendarmes, which had a holding cell  – first one I’ve seen here in Morocco! – and started walking towards Korimat. A taxi ride later, I got to Mouarid. Myself and the other newbie PCVs are taking it upon ourselves to visit each others’ site.

This bled (rural) village and douar is much different than mine:

  • Welcome to the bled-bled. A lot of land. Wheat is the large crop currently being harvested; houses are away from the main village, about a 45-minute walk. Village is small. “Centre” consists of a small strip of tahanuts (shops).
  • Very traditional gender roles: women are not seen in the streets. Myself and the other visiting PCV were the only females out walking.
  • Very traditional family: daughter-in-law does al the cooking, cleaning, and domestic duties.
  • I walked 3kms from village centre to the PCV’s host family’s house

I was mistaken as a “Mexican” – frankly, it was refreshing (haha!) in the sense that this was another mislabeled identity and this was a new mislabeled identity. I didn’t get the Asian eyes comment or the Japanese bow. People thought I was Mexican because I’ve acquired a tan – albeit uneven – since arriving here. PV uneven tans are quite the norm considering the clothes and accessories we wear and they’re lengths: collars, sleeves, pants, sandals, sunglasses, watches, bracelets, etc.

I held a long conversation with the PCV’s host mother. I made her laugh! Yay! The daughter-in-law is super nice and wonderful. I’m so happy I made them laugh. Also, hooray for speaking in Tash!

Real estate hunting for the PCV in site was insane, which is why we – myself and the other female PCV – went to visit his site. A foreign man with two foreign women, probably the first foreigners that many of these people have ever seen in person. Village officials are ridiculous. In much of Morocco, friendships between men and women don’t exist. As such, seeing the three of us was such a novelty. Little did they know, nor would Moroccans in general accept, the male PCV is not interested in either one of us females.

Anyway, we saw a few places. One place that stood out was

On bus, a deaf group of Moroccans

Marjane, transit, and sunset in Kesh

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on May 22, 2010

After a good (and cheap!) breakfast of fried “pancake” and orange juice, a few PCVs and I made our way to…


Yes, this place deserves to be in all caps. How do I describe this magical place…it’s a combination of Target + Best Buy + Walmart even. Upon approaching the entrance, I walked through a big parking lot with many cars. The place sells groceries, clothing, and appliances. There are a deli and bakery. It sells furniture. People stand in lines for the cashier. Slightly reminded me of the big super market/store near my university while studying abroad in Shanghai.

Quite a surreal experience. I felt like I was steps away from America.

Modes of transportation I rode on during this trip to/in Kesh:

  • soq bus
  • petit taxi
  • city bus
  • grand taxi
  • my own two feet and legs

Woot, woot!

I saw the sunset at the Menara Gardens. It was pretty (but not as ifulki as the sunsets in Essa). I met other PCVs during this trip, which is always a plus.

Dinner was at a local fried fish joint. I had fried eggplant with my fried fish. My entire meal cost 9 dirhams (roughly equivalent to $1). I treated myself to ice cream – mixed berry sorbet, coconut + chocolate chip. Delicious!

I’m off to bed. Tomorrow’s a travel-heavy day.