The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Atypical day

As I noted in the last post, ever since arriving in my final site, I don't have the slightest clue what's going to happen when I wake up.  I think I'm going to meet the gendarmes or the commissariat and I end up at the beach. I think I'm going to teach English and I end up at a university ninety minutes away where I swear to God I saw Muammar Qaddafi.  It was him.

This morning I decided to fight the trend and take control.  So I woke up, put on some running stuff and headed for the hills.  Past the Mosque and over the dirt track by the construction site, through some piles of trash, scaring away the chickens.  Unfortunately, I went up into the woods and promptly got lost.  Wandered around the woods, fell down a few times, managed to lose the entire city before retracing my steps and going to the top of another hill.  I found my way after about a half hour and cruised past some sheep on the way home.

Next up I thought we were going to meet the mudira (boss) of my dar shabab (place of work/ youth house).  But she wasn't there.  I did, however, see a woman helping her little, butt-naked daughter, pee in the street.  It's about a forty five minute walk.  Next, tried to go to the commissariat (again), ended up at some sort of center of public health perusing horrific anti-smoking pictures.  Then found myself in a coffee-shop with a guy who's basically in charge of 'culture'.  Not clear what exactly that means.  He told us (me, my host brother, krista, and her host sister) to go to the battered women's center for food. The center is awesome, so hopefully more on that later.  As usual, everybody assumes that I know french because I'm white and I guess they think french is important (is it?).  Next up, heard some music coming out of a sort of trade-school so had to check it out.  Hundreds of college-age students were standing around listening to russian techno and watching a group of little kids do music-coordinated tae kwon doe.  Obviously.  Next up was a parkour group.  It's unclear why this was going on.  Then came a few soccer games.  Then we went to a stadium for a basketball game.

Apparently in this town, instead of pumping people up with presidential-styrofoam-headed races, they watch little kids and not so little kids do tumbling and rhythmic gymnastics.  This was hilarious.  The crowd, mostly really loud teenage dudes would applause supportively if anybody made a mistake, and the youngest and smallest usually got the loudest applaud.  Some of them looked to be about four years old.  They put a blonde girl in the middle spot of honor.  As far as I could tell, this was due to the fact that she was blonde.  She definitely wasn't any better than the others.  Next up came a Moroccan drum troupe accompanied by a sort of two-horned shofar type thing. 

I am not exaggerating at all.  The warm-up for this game was an hour long.  Some sort of huge face-off between here and Hoceima.  I learned that people play basketball here.  Supposedly one of the players was American, although I doubt it.  When the other team had the ball, everybody in the stadium (and it was packed because it's free) would whistle as loud as possible and through streamers onto the court.  Naturally, the home team went up 27-10 in the first quarter.  People went crazy. And by people, I mean guys.  There were maybe half a dozen women in the stadium of several thousand.  Because Krista and I look foreign, we were granted spots in the VIP section and allowed to simply walk around the court during play.

Then I came home.  Getting my energy up for tomorrow.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More pictures and algeria

I woke up this morning with absolutely no idea of what would happen today.  Turns out we went to the beach all day. Then came back and drove bumper cars again.  I wonder about tomorrow.

Saw Algeria today.  Was witness to a motorcycle sale, conducted by yelling across a river that separates the two countries.  My host brother told me the motorcycle was one thousand times more expensive in Algeria.  How they're going to get the bike over there, I do not know.  I think they were also yelling about soccer.
best friend in sefrou.

mohamed, mul hanut. damn i miss him.

very excited for the next step (in sefrou)

"pretend to be sad" -Saeed

another one from the train


host brother. not sure what we're doing with our arms

international motorcycle sale

finalizing the deal

how women do the beach.  sister, mother, and grandmother


triple deek

host brother kamal

road from saeedia to ras lma'

mountains, from car

me and host mother.  the bowl she's holding is full of cocoa puffs.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

pics and thoughts

The last couple pictures are from the train between Taza and oujda.
I started out on the right foot here by misunderstanding my new host brother over the phone- I got in a grand taxi for the ride between oujda and here.  Apparently he was telling me that his father would pick me up in oujda at the taxi stand, not at the taxi stand in town.  So I wasted about 2 hours of the father's time right off the bat.  But I suppose it's a good sign that they actually want me here with them.  It's a different situation from the first family.  I don't have any space of my own at all- just sort of an area of the main floor cordoned off.  This makes personal space very difficult to come by.  
My city is spread out, mostly brick-colored, and somewhat quieter than Sefrou.  Supposedly there are 80,000 people here but it seems like a good deal more.  It's a sort of agricultural city with some neighborhoods spread way out and up the hills.  From the hills you can catch the smell of the ocean if there's a breeze, which is nice.  The Dar shabab, my future place of work, is always busy.  There are twenty different associations at work on a regular basis basically creating activities for youths.  My host brother is heavily involved in one of them.  Running one of these associations is entirely unpaid, and it seems the majority of the people involved are in their twenties because they live with their parents.  
The language is similar to what I learned in Sefrou but there are minor differences.  Different choices of verbs, slightly different conjugations on some common expressions, and some words are different.  It's called Oujdiya or Sharqiya, or eastern dialect and is heavily influenced by algeria.  

It's unclear to me how I will be able to avoid politics entirely while here.  People who are involved with things like associations are necessarily civic-minded and aware or at the least have opinions on political situations.  I was witness to a heated discussion about the united nations not accepting the desert as part of morocco.  It will become more and more difficult to explain that I must remain neutral on such subjects.  Of course, most people here don't consider it a political question whatsoever.  The south IS part of morocco, that's not politics, which makes it even more difficult to explain that I cannot take any such side.  I explained to my host brother that the organization must not take sides with the left or with the right or it would never survive as it has for decades.  

Perhaps as a consequence of the language changes, I've been thinking more about the meanings of words.  Before leaving Sefrou, I was trying to explain to my host brother there at one point that I thought many people in the United States have an inaccurate view of what they "deserve".  I couldn't really explain this word/concept well, even in a roundabout way.  I was unable to get across the idea that you could deserve something good or something bad, nor whether I believed in the objectivity of 'just desserts' (ha, i just realized this section of morocco is 'just deserts').  It got me to thinking about whether I really know what the concept of "deserve" is, if I don't have a firm idea about the surrounding concepts.  My host brother here is encouraging me to plow right through sentences: "make your tongue light".  The hope is that, by plunging entirely into the language, I will bypass all those pesky meanings entirely and be able to speak without thought, as one should. 


awesome irrigation systems in the countryside.  Do not drink the water.  learned that the hard way.

There's a donkey on the hill.

Taken from the train.  you can open the door and stick your head out, which is pretty cool when rolling through the lexla (wasteland)

favorite shot of the day.  the writing means basically 'not for sale'

all these pictures are really big

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I have thought long and hard about whether this blog should accurately reflect real life or what I wish were real life.  Given my disclaimer, you can decide the status of the following story for yourself.  I will just say this:

Today I had an experience which puts me in the same camp as 90% of all peace corps volunteers.  I pooped in my pants.  I got food poisoning, perhaps a viral infection we don't see much of in the united states.  Yes, 90%.  It was not a pleasant experience, and one I hope not to repeat.  Unfortunately, this occurred immediately before stepping onto a train for a ten-hour ride to my final site with most of my stuff for the next two years.  This really put moving in and out of the old college dorm room into perspective.  It was not fun.  However, I am glad it was not a bus.  Apparently there are challenges to this whole experience.  This is one of them.  this is real.

And this would be embarrassing except that it happens to almost everybody.  It is a right of passage.  And an aspect of living in a country with different health standards, a fact that is often ignored.  Today I am not only a PCV in legal terms, but also in terms of the poo.  It's my 23rd birthday.  Tonight Oujda, tomorrow, my site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peace Corps Volunteer, a.k.a PCV

As of today I am sworn to protect the Constitution.  The Ambassador told us that "we are America".  I'm proud- hope we do good.

I, Michael Maruca, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
5 U.S.C. §3331

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Final site!

I have my final placement.
---edited------.  Charmingly described as "a dusty modern town" by lonely planet.  They go on to note that "it's most useful to travelers and gas smugglers as a transit point." Apparently it's a hub for pirated petrol from Algeria.  18 kilometers from the Algerian border and 25 km south of the mediterranean.  In three months we'll be permitted to travel, and it looks like I am a 100 km ride plus an 8 hour, 75$ round trip ferry ride from southern spain.  Is this peace corps? I did not expect this.  Friends are going all over, including the far far south and the mountains.  A couple is even being sent to Essouria.
Certain dreams have come to an end, such as traveling by donkey and running around mountains and learning Tashelheit.  The language in town is rumored to be pretty much normal Moroccan Arabic.  However, there are some local oddities which means I'll be speaking the rural west virginia english equivalent of darija.  That's assuming I learn it.  Surprisingly, the peace corps did listen to my request for a  site-mate, Krista, who will doubtless make frequent appearances on this blog.  Algeria here we come.  Swear-in is in three days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Heat etc.

Apparently it gets hot in Morocco.  While I assumed before arrival that the entire country was a sandbox and people dressed like they do on Tatooine in Star Wars Episode IV, I had amended that notion when I woke up to ice on the ground six weeks ago.  There is a city named Tetouan in the north, where Luke and his friends may or may not have regularly bulls-eyed womp rats in their T-16s.  

Anyway, it's real hot here.  I think 97 degrees.  Maybe I should switch to Celsius so it seems more reasonable.  I should have packed a duffel of gold bond for the summer.  I got my first sunburn of the season- the incident occurred between 8 and 9:15 am.  Gotta be careful about that in the future.  

On an entirely unrelated note, we had our LPI or Language Proficiency Inventory tests yesterday.  Apparently I am a high intermediate darija speaker.  It's unclear what metric they're using here.  It would be more accurate to say I have achieved basic competence when talking about food and health.  I know how to say that "I have dandruff" and "I was about to pee in my pants" but screwed up "what did you say" earlier today.  I may well go some place they speak something else and write in this script:
that's a lot of letters.

keep on truckin'

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

لخرا: translation- poop

So apparently drinking out of a spring/stream/pool of water on Sunday may have been a bad idea.  Or maybe the salad we ate, collected by my host mother from the picnic spot wasn't the way to go.

Moroccans have all sorts of great folk remedies and beliefs about illness.  Firstly, eating strawberries is really good for settling your stomach.  And when you can hear somebody having a great time in the bathroom (conveniently located across from the kitchen), you should serve them balls of fried fish simmered in oil with hot peppers and some oranges for dessert.  Another good one is raw meat should be rubbed down with salt and vinegar and left on the counter for a few days.  Or cold feet will lead to infertility.  Or heated milk is good for digestive disorders.  Anyway, I went against the grain and just had my usual plate of olive oil for breakfast and took 6 pills by 10 am.  Got me through the worst of it.  Fortunately my allergies have not abated so I can cruise through the day loaded up on antihistamines without feeling anything.  And I smell awesome.  Been searching for deodorant that's not 25% aluminum and bought some toothpaste with big black lettering on it notifying the consumer that it's manufactured by ALCA Chemical Corporation, Pakistan.    Other than the health, doing good.  Here's some more photos from the countryside

wheat. very exciting

i decided to make this picture really big

unknown town

attempts at art
park in sefrou

this is the occupy Sefrou movement.  not kidding.  not even a little bit.

Monday, May 14, 2012


 had a great trip to the countryside.  got charged by an irate cow. extended family laughed at me for trying to pick up the trash.  obviously pigs eat plastic bags. just pictures for now.

donkeys and reeboks

host sister contemplating the infinite 

host brother nourdine

brother and cousin 
host sister

mad nice mosques

sefrou in the distance.  and smoke from burning trash.  they think wild boars eat burnt plastic bags

yup, babies 

host mother's in front


The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.