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.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A short poem

The heat continues, although it seems to be abating slightly, now down to the high/mid 90s during the day.  A think a drank some old milk and have been revisited by the 'ol stomach funride.  However, moments of beauty sometimes catch me unprepared and restore me to my senses.  And so, in honor of that, and for my own, easily-won enjoyment, I wrote a stupid poem.

All day I sweat and all night too,
Upon the tiled floor,
And when I stumble to the loo,
It trickles down the more.

Here in my town it’s been real hot,
With never any rain,
Sometimes I think it’s all for naught,
I might just go insane.

So here I sit, no work to do,
With sweaty palms to boot,
And upset stomach (have to poo),
I need to clear the chute.

But now I’m back from the old squat,
Still dripping on the ground,
When through the bars my gaze is caught,
Gold sunset, joy is found.

It looks like regular work will start in early October, AlHumdilallah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The End of Ramadan

Very little happens during Ramadan.  And now, it is over.  It's all over, and I am very grateful.  The hope is that work will begin before too long, although I can't get my hopes up too much.

Krista and I went to our Dar Chebab this morning to meet with our boss.  We thought we were going to meet her yesterday but she wasn't there.  And we thought we were going to meet with her about 6 days ago, but she wasn't there then either.  So, we go to our meeting, and, what do you know, our local post-Ramadan summer camp has been cancelled.  But it's okay- because we didn't really have our hopes up, and yet we were prepared.  We had a rough outline of the daily program, and an announcement in Arabic advertising the camp.  And it feels good to be prepared, although, in this case, also fairly sisyphean.  The problem, you see, is that nobody signed up.  The possibility of a free language camp apparently doesn't fire-up any 18-25 yr. old youths. This whole development thing may be a bit harder than I thought.  Not that I'm entirely convinced English classes should be considered development.  French classes would probably be more useful.

Anyway, I'm not too worried. It looks like regular English classes will start in early October and I'll be teaching Tue, Thurs, Sat.  This is what my boss told me.

What boss?
Yes, I have a boss. My original job description had led me to believe I would work with counterparts on development work of my own design.  However, recently the Peace Corps and the local Ministry have changed their working relationship.  I sometimes forget that the PC only goes to countries that they're invited to.  I suppose that means, if they'd like to stay, they sometimes have to suck it up.  Unfortunately, when somebody is your 'boss' in a country that has a king, it means a wee bit more than it may mean in the United States.
When my newly-crowned boss tells me that I will teach three days a week, it means I'll teach three days a week, and I have to ask permission to go teach health classes at the orphanage on the other days.  I'll see how this thing works out.

People say you can't really anticipate what pc is going to be like; what the real challenges are going to be.  For example, I thought I'd be facing the prospect of living in a tiny village, but instead end up with a whole new array of issues in a rapidly-expanding urban center. I thought it would be difficult to stay aware of the important news in the world, instead, I have wireless internet and face the very real problem of being overwhelmed by articles about this asshole Paul Ryan.  But mostly, I thought the challenge would be creating work- starting something on my own. I did not expect to face the hurdle of being placed inside a hierarchy and having to ask permission to do the work I want to do.  I will not know how to respond if that permission is denied.

Anyway, this reminds me of a wonderful Emerson quote, "Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare.  Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."  This is why I don't like this change.

Another great Emerson quote which I need to remember when I start to lose my cool due to being stared at and yelled at and told to convert to Islam: "The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity.  No man can come near me but through my act."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

fire in the souk

We've had a string of 110 degree days. It rarely rains here, and you can often smell the piles of burning trash.  This is a very nice recipe for accidental fires.  Was witness to one a couple days ago, walking to the countryside outside of my town- a hillside of grass/hay was burning and a number of men were using jackets and what looked like burlap sacks to try and put it out.  Today, there was a much bigger one in the souk a block away.  Luckily the wind was moving in the opposite direction.  This first picture is totally unrelated to that.

evening sky

Fire in the Souk!

Few hours later, smoky skies

large, unhelpful audience

Friday, August 10, 2012

missing home

This is the longest time I’ve ever been away from home.  By home, I mean America, all of it. I love it. I miss it.  I miss green things outside.  I miss trash being in trashcans.  I miss English.  I miss being able to buy something without being asked why.  I miss saying hello to somebody without them thinking I’m French.  I miss things working.  I miss people working.  I miss having running water all the time, I miss electricity always working, I miss not having a landlord who unapologetically is always trying to screw me over.  I miss having furniture. I miss having a toilet. I miss ice cream, I miss beer, I miss cheese, I miss green vegetables.  I miss people, family, friends.  Most of all, I miss the culture.

I miss individualism, personal choice, being left alone, responsibility, and the protestant work ethic.

I picked up a book from the peace corps library called ‘Humor and Moroccan Culture’.  It’s by Matthew Helmke, an American who’s been living in Morocco for some time.  He noticed, as I have, that he could understand every word in a joke, but he couldn’t understand why it was funny.  It’s the difference between fhm and tfhhm in Arabic.  For the benefit of any other pcvs who might be reading this, here’s a joke from the book in transcribed darija:

Wahid nhar ja ‘3nd Joha SHabu u Tlb yaslfu Hmar.  Gal Joha, “Hmar diyali makaynsh.”  Fnfs lwaqt alHmar diyal Joha bda yaghuwet bSut ‘3lay.  U sm’3u SaHbu, “Gltni bli huwa makaynsh”.  Jawb Joha, “shkun ktiq wash ana willa Hmar?”

واحد نهار جى عند جحا صحابو و طلب يسلفو حمار.  قال جحا، "حمار ديالي ماكاينش." فهذه الوقت الحمار ديال جحا بدا يغوت بصوت علاي. و سمعو صاحبو، "ققلتني بلي هو ماكيانش." جوب جحا، "شكون كتيق واش انا ولا حمار؟

 (Moroccan Arabic isn't written, so the spelling here is variable and this is written with the pronunciation one would hear in Fes. I never learned the standardized transcription of Darija, if that exists, so I did my best with the section above.) 

One day, Joha’s friend came to his house and asked to borrow Joha’s donkey.  Joha said “My donkey isn’t here.” At the same time the donkey began braying loudly.  Joha’s friend heard it and said, “I thought you said the donkey isn’t here.”  Joha replied, “Who are you going to believe, me or a donkey?”.  

I think this is kind of a funny joke.  Mostly because it seems that Joha is a witty jerk.  However, and the author explains this in depth, Moroccans do not think it's funny because of that.  They think it's funny that Joha wouldn't share his donkey.  People here will blast music from an mp3 player or out of their window, thinking that they're "sharing" it with everybody else, not "pissing everybody off".  This kind of communalism is absurd to me.  I prefer sitting in a subway full of people wearing headphones.  Here, if you can't acquiesce to somebody's request, you don't say "sorry I can't", you say, "god-willing".  There is no directness. There are no clear boundaries drawn between people and their possessions.  

In an effort to keep America alive and well in my heart and soul, I started reading a monstrously lengthy collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  And one line in particular jumped out at me: "A man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work."  This is America.

Anyway, enough whining. I don't feel as if I'm in a rough stretch- I'm just bored.  I am hot and bored.  It was 112 degrees today and I'm waiting for the water to come on.  America, I will see you in 21 and a half months. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good-
On two consecutive nights, Krista and I were invited to break the fast with Moroccan families.  I've been making a sort of half-assed attempt at fasting in order to empathize and understand why everybody starts fighting in the street in the late afternoon.  I did four or five days of fake-fasting (drinking water, but not eating during daylight hours), and Krista did a straight week in a row.  So, anyway, breaking the fast with somebody is a very nice thing- you've both been suffering all day, and it's finally time to enjoy a few calories.  At both houses, we sat down to tables heaping with different kinds of food- fish, soup, juice, salads, dates, sweets, meats, bread, tea, and so on.  The mother or oldest daughter of the household had spent all day putting together this awesome spread- while they're fasting all the while.  I can't imagine preparing food in a hot kitchen all day long without any water at all.  Being a good host is important in Islam, and especially important during Ramadan.  People who serve food to foreigners/children or prepare food get extra, bonus-points in the Muslim calculator.  The second night in particular, I gorged myself and have never felt so full in my life- I wallowed around like a beached walrus or elephant seal for an hour and a half before stumbling home to my turkish toilet.

The bad-
On the second night, after breaking the fast, we were treated to a one-sided theological discussion.  Apparently, there is only one God because if there were more than one, they would fight. One would want sun and the other would want rain.  That's why it doesn't make any sense that Jesus would be the son of God.  I remain skeptical.  I have seen zero critical analysis in religious discussions while here.  This kind of weak argumentation is all there is.  It's no good analyzing the Quran because it is supposed to have come directly from God, by divine revelation, or something like that.  It's impossible to have any sort of religious conversation with somebody who is unmoved by reasoning.

 We were given the family tree of humankind- generation by generation from Adam.  Since it says so in the Book, it can't be any other way.  There is no point whatsoever to any and all religious discussions, and, consequently, it's best to avoid them whenever possible.  Unfortunately, they are often shoved in your face, in this case, while the wife, who had labored to prepare all the food, squirmed uncomfortably.  Intolerance is a bitch.  And I'm still wondering what tolerance of the intolerant would look like.

The ugly-here are some ugly pictures from summer camp in Midelt

center of town, all the campers

excited volunteers

typical small street
my team. The kid holding the flag is the one who liked torturing the guy with downsyndrome.
apples and storks
sleeping it off
kids on horses
smallest mul-hamar ever (donkey owner); and girl adjusting her pants
kid is like four, doesn't stop the campers from bothering him
krista and others on horses
pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic dance recital
same as above

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

three days in three short instruction manuals

Day One:

How to kill a cockroach

Corner it in your bathroom, be prepared in case it uses it's wings
Pick up your squeegee
hold the squeegee with one end towards the floor
smash the shit out of the bastard
use a bucket of water to sweep the remains down the turkish toilet
try to ignore the head/antennae flopping around

Day Two:

How to get free tomatoes
Tell the vegetable seller you're going to give free english lessons
Say that you're fasting (you aren't really, I mean, you may not be eating, but you're definitely drinking water all the time it's like a billion degrees outside)
He will start getting really worked up
He really wants you to become a muslim
He asks that you say the shahada
You tell him you'd rather not
He says you'll probably go to hell after you die
You tell him you hear this a lot, one kilo please
He says it'll be okay, just become a muslim, you have to after all, if you want to be Moroccan
You tell him you don't have any change
He gives you the tomatoes for free

Day Three:

How to sweat
1. Go outside
2. Stay inside
3. Wear clothes
4. Don't wear clothes
5. Sit around
6. Lie Around
7. Walk around
8. Do errands
9. Make food
10. Eat food
11. Use the bathroom
12. Use the bathroom again
13. Read

It is ten thirty pm and I am dripping on my keyboard


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.