Mary, how sweet!

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 30, 2012

Mary said to her husband Gerry, “That girl ahead looks beautiful…she could be Diana.” A second later, Mary realizes, “Hey – that girl IS Diana!”

Mary, another PCV and sometimes mother-figure of our Essa province.

How sweet!

bslama, Imi nTlit. congee imzeen g Essaouira. minibad s Rabat d Casablanca. Inshallah.

(translation: Goodbye, Imi nTlit. Small vacation in Essaouira. Later to Rabat and Casablanca. God willing.)

my last day in site: surprise party

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 29, 2012

I spent my last day hanging out with my most cherished ladies (and a handful of fellas in the process):

  • Lunch #1 with my host family: Fadma, Fatima, Khadija, Mina, Rkiya, Hayat, Hussain, the still untitled older woman who is generally in a sour mood but always sweet with me (and later Aicha at Tamounte). Fadma’s pregnant belly is getting bigger. I surprised them with a photo album filled with pictures I took of/with the family. In return, the girls gifted me a bottle of amlou.
  • Lunch #2 with Fabulous Fatima and her daughter. I learned from Fatima that she and Aicha Hussain (my host grandmother) are no longer on speaking terms. (Whaa?? They were such good friends when I was living with the host family!) Besides that piece of news, I learned more about Fatima’s family.
  • Tea with Spicy Aicha. I haven’t seen her in such a long time! I know, it’s largely my fault. I’m so happy I saw her today. I had just left Fabulous Fatima’s and was heading to my house when, having walked past the path up to her house, I turned around and made myself go to her house. Honestly, I am SO happy I did! I would’ve been really bummed if I hadn’t. I learned that her husband passed away about a month and a half ago. Her youngest granddaughter is so big now. Spicy Aicha…you have such a spirit about you. Aicha was dressed in white colors, indicative of a wife in mourning. Her husband had been ill for a long time. Since Aicha was still in the 4-month mourning period, I wasn’t able to get a picture with her. Instead, I took pictures with her granddaughters.
  • The women of Tamounte Cooperative – all the ladies (there are too many to list, so many that I don’t even know their names by heart!), girls (i.e., Latifa and Khadija), and, of course, Taarabt and Rachida. I spent some time chatting with Aicha, my host grandmother, helping the women sort argan, and a bit more time chatting with the girls, Taarabt and Rachida. I learned that there are new products – soap made with local herbs and natural scents! I also learned that the cooperative has a website up – that I want to check out! When I left, Rachida and Taarabt gifted me with three 30-ml bottles of cosmetic argan oil and a bar of argan soap. I’m excited about all of them. Honestly…I hope I can somehow continue doing business with them. Perhaps I can start a distribution “center” from the US. Hmm…
  • Mohammed, my hanut man. I returned an empty Fanta bottle and, in the process, said goodbye to him. In my two years here, he was always patient with me as I tried to remember the items I wanted to buy as well as the name of the items.
  • Dinner with Little Fatima and her family: grandmother Aicha, aunt Amina, aunt Fatima and brother Ahmed. For evening tea, Aunt Fatima surprised me with a chocolate chip cake! There were four lit candles on the cake as she brought the tray of helwa into the room! Too…wonderful. I actually had them restage the candles because I forgot my camera when I first went to their house; consequently, I ran home – lHamdullah it was so close! – fetched my camera, ran back into the house, and asked to get pictures taken with the cake. Super, super thoughtful!

By the time dinner came out, I was still stuffed from all the food (bread) that I ate earlier in the day. Even so, I was a sport and ate my part of dinner. Why? Because this was my last meal in the village!

I know I didn’t say goodbye to everyone here – that would’ve been impossible. Instead, I chose to say goodbye to those who, in one way or another, showed me kindness of an intangible kind. Who knows, maybe these people were so hospitable because they knew/thought I was coming from a more privileged background and would not take advantage of them and their kindness…but I want to believe that was not the case.

The wonderful people of Imi nTlit…you’ve kept my heart warm these past two years. As I told many people today, you have been my family for two years. Thank you.

if you were to do PC over again…

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 28, 2012

Funny story of the day: My PCV friend’s friend who is an American non-PCV male tried giving me a hug as he was leaving in my site. His movement made it closer to a hug than the Englishman’s did; even so, I managed to push/gentle nudge his enclosing arms away from me and stand firm about not hugging any males by sticking out my hand for a handshake.

Yesterday, as I sat around waiting for some type of transportation to drive through my village that would take me to Smimou, I thought about a couple questions that I anticipate being asked after I return to the US:

(1) Knowing what you know now, would you do Peace Corps again?

(2) Would you change anything about your Peace Corps service?

To the first question, my answer is: Yes, I would do my service again, my service being the one I am just about to complete. No*, I would not go on a second tour of Peace Corps service. (*at least in the foreseeable future. I mean, never say never, right?) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it because I did – read my PC blog, – rather, it’s because one of my goals was to join the Peace Corps.

To the second question, my answer is again two-fold. On the one hand, no – my time in Morocco was the way it was because that’s how I chose to shape my service. On the other hand, yes – there’s so much that could still be done. So much that, in hindsight, I see I could have done. Then again, it’s also in hindsight that you see how things could have been different, isn’t it?

Perspective…that’s one of the many things that Peace Corps has taught me to appreciate.

It’s my second-to-last night in site. I gave away my things to a PCV, her friend, and Little Fatima’s family today. Except for the items I plan to pack up, this house that I’ve rented for the past two years is barren of all things mine. Well, except for my two-year calendar. I’ve decided that my PC calendar will be the last thing that I take down. How do I feel about PC at this moment?


If you allow yourself to make it through these two years, through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and then allow yourself to build yourself up, this time on more secure footing than before, then you will come out of the experience on the other side.

I could go on and on about my experience and all that I’ve learned but, in the interest of keeping this short, I will say two final things:

(1) Peace Corps was/has/is a personal experience – that was my intent and that is what I achieved.

(2) Peace Corps…what an incredible journey.

nothing but sheets

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 27, 2012

Tonight, I removed all the blankets from my bed and slept only in my sheets.

It’s not even April yet…and the heat’s already starting to kick up. Yikes.

last full PCV-style week

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 26, 2012

Today begins my last full PCV-style work week.

Oddly enough, I’m not out at souk, the one weekly community event that I really enjoyed participating in during my service. I’m not visiting my usual vendors, the men who I’ve come to rely on for nishan prices in our transactions.

When I finally stepped out of my house this morning – hey, some mornings are more difficult than others for me to get moving – I went to see my local officials so that they could sign off on my checkout papers.

What did I learn?

The Xalifa is no longer here as in he no longer works in Imi nTlit. Who have I been sending my travel texts to then?

In addition, I was reminded that officials, or anyone with some official standing, love to apply stamps on top of their signatures. It’s their equivalent of notarizing something…or elevating their own importance on paper.

When I returned to my house, I was greeted by MS3aud, the friendly hanut man next door, and, surprise surprise, an Englishman! Apparently the lad, Andy, had come through Imi nTlit two years ago and was returning to visit his friend, MS3aud. I chatted with Andy for a while.

The most blatant health problem that he picked up on was dental hygiene/poor dental care. He talked about how he and his mother had paid for a Moroccan family to get their teeth cleaned and repaired. While sponsoring one family was an easy solution, Andy soon realized that it’d be impossible, both practically and financially, to do that for every Moroccan family he befriended. He asked me to ask MS3aud, who himself is missing several of his teeth, why people didn’t take better care of their teeth.

Wow…that was awkward. The directness of the question is a very Western concept. Moroccans pride themselves on being indirect in their questions and inquiries.

Talking to Andy reminded me of how naïve/quick I was to formulate opinions about Moroccan people early on. Coming in, I knew I wasn’t going to solve most of their problems but I was still optimistic about simple solutions. “Brushing their teeth is such an easy idea,” I thought, “It’s a long term investment in their teeth.” Here’s the thing: people here aren’t used to thinking about the big picture and long term. They worry about the day-to-day, i.e., feeding their family, tending the livestock, and working in the fields. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are seen as luxury items that come from having discretionary income. Either that or items of necessity only after someone in the immediate family is told by a fellow Moroccan who s/he can relate to the importance of dental hygiene. It’s a message that needs to be repeated over and over by Moroccans themselves. While the intent of outsiders, i.e., foreigners, are good, it doesn’t really play into the Moroccan mindset of healthcare.

I wish this mode of thinking were easier to explain. During one part of the conversation, I sensed that Andy was getting defensive about dental hygiene so I reassured him that I agreed with him on the topic. As an educated foreigner, I can see how it’s easy to come into a village, say what could be improved, and then leave; however, as an educated foreigner who’s lived in my village for two years, I can also tell you that talking about change is much easier than getting people to implement.

Beyond recognizing how my perspective of development has evolved over two years, I find humor in noticing how much of the culture has been ingrained in my social interactions. For instance, when we were saying goodbye, he moved in for what would have been a harmless one-arm hug while I stuck out my hand to prevent him from violating my personal space. I had to remind him that hugs, especially between a man and woman who just met, are culturally inappropriate. Haha.

In a week and a half, I will have completed my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Yikes.