SIDA and Diversity Trainings

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on August 31, 2010

Busy day:

  • Staff Diversity Training
  • Breaking fast with LCFs and training staff

I gained valuable insight into Moroccan, LCF, and training staff perspectives/experiences with diversity among American PCVs.

SIDA Committee TOT

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on August 30, 2010
  • During my session of the training, I encouraged SIDA representatives think outside the box. How can SIDA activities happen across sectors? E.g., craft fairs, Health PCVs have the knowledge, SBD and YD have the venues and populations.
  • In recognition of the challenges that people face trying to even broach the topic of SIDA, much less in Morocco, I suggested finding ways to raise awareness of SIDA itself – what it is, SIDA hotline, etc. With this approach, PCVs can do a lot to decrease stigma through simply interactions. This will help lessen the “hsuma”ness of talking about it…inshallah.
  • After SIDA TOT ended today, I joined up with the 3 other PCVs to prepare for Staff Diversity Training.
  • Busy day indeed.

Welcome to Dar el Beida

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on August 29, 2010

Moroccans know Casablanca as “Dar el Beida.” Highlights from exploring Dar el Beida:

  • Mosquitos and the humidity kept me from sleeping. I walked out of the room onto the roof a couple times. The second time this happened, around 2:00am, I noticed a man at a table eating the early morning meal before fasting for the day. I was going to let him alone but he invited me to sit with him while he ate. Actually, he offered me some of his food but I declined as I had no intention of fasting that day.

We chat about Casa while he eats. He gives me some tips for exploring the city. After his meal, he brought out fruit. Cool, I dug that, eating healthy. For the next part, he did something that I can only credit as an only-in-Morocco moment: rolled some keef, Moroccan marijuana, to smoke. Oh, Morocco, how certain behaviors befuddle me here!

  • For the most part, I acquainted myself with Casa via walking tour.
  • Hassan II Mosque, one of less than a handful of mosques in which non-Muslims are allowed to enter. I don’t have my carte se jeour (identity card) yet but my Tashleheit served as my “proof” that I’m not just a tourist in Morocco. As such, I was allowed tp pay the discounted price for my admission ticket on the guided tour. Yippee!

Random memorable facts: floors are heated in the winter. Only men sit on the floor; women sit above/upstairs on the un-heated “balconies”. The roof opens up. Mosque built in 6 years. Turkish hammam will be open to the public, date TBD. It is so grand, majestic, and awe-inspiring.

Across several religions, I noticed there’s a common sense of tranquility in all houses of worship. It’s powerful. I love it.

  • Lunch at Rick’s Café, made famous in the movie “Casablanca.” Catch of the day and brownie…absolutely e-mimm (delicious).
  • Medina…I’m medina-ed out. Their goods might be slightly different, but medinas are similar enough to each other. Not to mention crowded.
  • More racial ignorance in the form of unwanted attention. Sometimes it’s easier to travel alone because I have developed my own strategies for this. On the other hand, traveling with others offers people a glimpse of what I go through on a regular basis while traversing this country (and, actually, anywhere I don’t look like the majority group, the States included). Thank goodness for friends who speak out on others’ behalf.
  • Discussion about affirmative action on the train ride from Casa to Rabat Ville.
  • In Rabat, meeting up with other PCVs and having dinner at TGI Friday.

Ramadan travel stories

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on August 28, 2010

I’m so glad you’re here…you’re personable, approachable. I’m comfortable talking to you. You know suggestions/opinions aren’t personal attacks.

– PCV Ayanna

From Moulay Bouzerktoun to Essa bus station:

  • Hail a taxi from the middle of the road.
  • Taxi drops us at the front entrance of the bus station. I hadn’t entered through here and I was really hoping I could get to the bus station unnoticed by the amicable drivers at the taxi stand next door – excellent!
  • As I approach the bus counter, a few of the staff recognize and greet me. The ticket man, who likes to overcharge foreigners/non-Moroccans, sees me approach and knows I’m aware of his game and I refuse to be overcharged. He reluctantly peels me a ticket as I slip him the fare, exactly 35dhs. That’s right, sir, I will pay what the locals pay.
  • Tashleheit-speaking bus guys direct me to my bus.
  • While waiting for the bus to fill, a youngish Moroccan man who’s sitting across the aisle from me asks if he could sit in the seat next to me. Not thinking much about it, I say sure and move my bag. He quickly tries to start talking to me, first by calling me “Espana” and then by saying “C-T-M” as a CTm bus pulls up. I respond to neither of those comments. As the creeper vibe quickly washes over me, I tell him to leave. (Ugh, creeper.) Being mistaken as a Spanish woman – hooray for my tan and chameleon tendencies! – I collect my laughs where I can and ignore him for the duration of the ride to Kech.

On souk bus, from Essa to Kech:

  • It is hot outside which means inside of the bus is even hotter.
  • Bus driver and attendant repeatedly douse themselves with water and gargle water and spit it out of a window on the bus. This is in lieu of drinking water, which Muslims are not allowed to do in addition to consuming food during the day.
  • Ramadan road rage:

The bus pulls over to let off a passenger. As it turns back on to the road, a small private vehicle swerves ahead of it. It appears that the vehicle cut off the bus. Bus driver starts honking at the vehicle to the point that it pulls over on the side of the road so that the bus can go ahead of it. As the bus drives past the vehicle, the attendant whips his water bottle out the window and splashes the vehicle. Need I mention that the window on the driver’s side is all the way down?

Next thing I know, the private vehicle is pulling ahead of the bus. Once the car’s in front of the bus, the car’s driver abruptly stops the car so that it is parked in the middle of the road. This, of course, means the bus must stop.

By the way, I’m sitting in the front row. I’m slightly intrigued by what’s about to unfold.

I see the car’s driver open the door and step out. Exaggeratedly, he removes his sunglasses and shakes off the water that got on them. Next second, the bus driver and attendant are stepping off the bus, prepared for a shouting match, followed out by a handful of male passengers.

I don’t understand what’s being said outside but I see men shouting, walking back and forth between the car and bus. Yell, yell, yell…roar, roar, roar. Who has more steam to let out?

In the end, this turns out to be only a shouting match. It’s male testosterone combined with easy irritability during Ramadan.

On train, from Kech to Casablanca:

Cars are completely deserted. Hardly anyone travels during Ramadan. PCV Ayanna, my travel companion, and I end up with a car to ourselves. Sweet! An hour or less into our travel, Ayanna decides she wants to get snacks so she heads out of the car we’re in and hops into another. Neither one of us expects her to be long.

It’s about 5:00pm. The sun is crawling its way down the sky.

7:30pm rolls around. The evening call to prayer, in which people break fast with, has arrived. The sun’s set behind a hill and the sky’s getting darker. There’s no Ayanna in sight but no problem…or is there?

By the way, I am traveling without my cell phone and her cell phone is sitting on the small table between our seats on the train.

Okay, it’s completely dark outside now. Where is she? I start peeking out the windows, which doesn’t really help since it’s black outside. All I see is my reflection in the window. I walk up and down the car. I check the exits. Great, only one door is open and it so happens to open onto the tracks; the other three are wire-wrapped shut. Slightly disturbed by trying to keep it cool.

At the next station, I peer out the window again. This time I hear a faint “Dianaaaa!!” as the train starts to peel away from the platform. “Ayanna!!!” I shout back but to no avail. “Okay, let’s not panic,” I tell myself, “what’s my contingency plan?”

I proceed to pack up both our backpacks and move seats so that I’m closest to the only open door. Two possible scenarios lay in my mind: (1) stay on this train until it reaches the final destination or (2) get off at Rabat Ville since that’s where PC/HQ is and we’re both destined there the next day.

Train arrives at the next stop. I try to unwrap the wire that’s keeping a door shut. lHamdullah, there are actually people getting on at this stop! They try to push open the door as I’m unwrapping the wire. “Open, open, open,” they shout. I shout back, “I can’t! It’s wired shut!! Look! The wire’s keeping the door closed!!” The passengers who are patiently enough to listen comprehend what I’m saying and move to, what do you know, the door at the other end of the train. It’s open! After about 10-15 people board, I hear and see Ayanna, lHamdullah! She successfully boards the car and I don’t need to implement either one of my contingency plans, lHamdulilah!

As we debrief on the past few hours, I learn she’s been on a sprinting spree. As it started getting darker, she tried to return to the car but couldn’t locate which one I was in because the light in some of the other cars were turning off during the ride. On top of that, the platform that usually sits between two cars was missing between the one I was sitting in and the car behind it. Yes, that would happen. Haha.


We finally arrive in Casa around 8:30pm. After getting an unplanned tour of the city – taxis and passenger pick up in Morocco are not the same as the US – we arrive at the youth hostel. We check out the digs. They’re okay. We go up the street to check out Hotel de Centre.

At Hotel de Centre, speaking Tashleheit quickly helps us negotiate the price for a night’s stay to half price: 400dhs for 2-person room to 200dhs, or 100dhs per person. The room is nice and there’s a shower/bathroom in it – score! It overlooks Casa’s port.

We treat ourselves to dinner at Luigi’s, a fabulously delicious Italian restaurant, and go a couple doors down to have dessert at Pomme de Pain.

Moulay Bouzerktoun

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on August 27, 2010

Shining star…you’ll go far in whatever organization you’re at.

– PCV Tim

I forget how this line came about but it came up during a conversation between dinner and a game of Bananagrams. A very nice thing to say. Inshallah this shapes true. 🙂

Happy birthday, Nina, my province- and CBT-mate!

A day spent on a deserted section of a windy beach with a wonderful group of people. At no point did the winds cease blowing sand into my face and body, belongings, or food but that didn’t stop me from splashing in the Atlantic Ocean!

Another sunset on the Atlantic Ocean. This time from a new spot.

I paid 10dhs to shower in a windsurf “shop” that had “douche” (shower, in French) advertised all over its entrance. Shower was absolutely worth the 10dhs.

I know how to play Bananagrams now – hooray!

CBT ladies + Essa family + LA/Cal girls + Moulay Bouzerktoun = priceless escape from the heat of Ramadan.