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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Back in Rabat last week, I went through what PC calls the Mid-service Medical. I discovered my blood pressure has lowered, I dropped to 155 pounds (thanks to atrophy/inactivity), and I have some cavities. I also had to get my ears medically cleaned- thanks sandstorms.

Due to continuing gastro-intestinal issues which I have, perhaps, over-shared on this site, I chose to get tested for parasites. This entails walking across town to the testing center, with a brown paper bag containing your 'sample'. And then doing the same thing again the next day. Following this, I met with the doctor who told me "good news, come into my office".
me: "what's the good news?"
doctor: "you have a parasite!"
me: "oh"
I guess it actually is good news because now I know the something-that-was-wrong has a cause, it was never dangerous, and I can probably kill it.

So now I am in the process of killing my parasite. Man v. Parasite... stay tuned.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Back home again after 24 days on the road with a bag of clothes about the size of two soccer balls. And for the most part, it feels good. I feel pretty good about the places I've added to my Morocco travel map, hitting the area around Tangier and Tetouan.  Shortly after my last post, I made it to Rabat for a 5-day session, what the Peace Corps calls a Training of Trainers. I brought along the director of the more well-to-do youth center to run through how to teach a 53-class "life skills" curriculum. The classes cover everything from identifying emotions and conflict resolution to sexual harassment and proper workplace comportment.

Before Peace Corps, I would say that a number of the topics covered were totally inane. How could teenagers need to be coached (and willingly accept teaching) on the "6 steps to making a decision?" But those types of things are exactly what's missing here.  Young people are unable to find jobs because they lack the most basic soft skills. The schooling system is totally broken- and people realize this. So they jump at the chance. At least, that's the hope. I'm aiming to get this program going in October.

Yesterday I had a 9 hour train ride followed by an hour's grand taxi ride, during which I read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles and The Oblivion Seekers by Isabelle Eberhardt. Paul Bowles is the most famous American expat writer who lived in Morocco. He was also deeply interested in local music and traveled around the country some 50 years ago, collecting something like 300 samples of different types of Berber music. These tapes currently reside in the Library of Congress, although there is a small exhibit in the American Legation in Tangier.

(Side note: The American Legation in Tangier is amazing. It is the oldest international diplomatic holding of the US government and acts as a small museum of American-Moroccan relations. It sits just inside one of the doors to the old city and boasts dozens of great, old maps. For an American, definitely the best thing to see in Tangier)

Bowles' book was about 3 Americans who travel to the Sahara. Spoiler Alert!: One dies of typhoid, another gets repeatedly raped by traveling nomads, and one is a-ok. I would recommend the book although parts (read the previous sentence) made me cringe. Bowles is clearly obsessed with the emptiness of the desert. Although set in the desert, I saw those same themes of american individualism confronting the apparent infinitude of the western frontier.

The second book, by Eberhardt, was strange. It's a collection of short stories written by an early-to-die Islamic convert, illegitimate daughter of a swiss nihilist. The most striking anecdote from her youth is when, mourning her mother's death, Eberhardt told her father she wanted to die. True to his principles, the father offered her his pistol, but she declined the offer. The book is striking. It includes weird political platitudes such as: "Crime, particularly among the poor and downtrodden, is often a last gesture of liberty". In one strongly anti-semitic story, a Jewish woman is raped (and later murdered) and told "A ripe pomegranate on the ground. Whoever picks you up an have you. What a man finds is a gift from Allah". The one overriding message of the book is that everything in the world is pre-written (thanks to Islam). In this world, what people do is kind of morally irrelevant- people are trapped in their situations, and however unexpected their circumstances may turn out to be, they were predetermined and unavoidable. Ironically, the author died in a flash flood in the desert.

This post has turned into a book report. Now that I'm back in town, I'll try to get back into the habit of writing. For now, here's some pictures from the travels:
Tetouan spring camp, at Azla village

Krista and I and our Bro. We pretended to be married during this camp, otherwise I couldn't touch her.

Tanneries in Tetouan old city

us and our coworker on a farm near Wad Lau. The white v-neck makes its first appearance of the season. For the next 5 months, expect me to be wearing this shirt.

eating onion out of the ground

obligatory shot of chefchaouen 


asila mural

old jewish cemetery by the sea, asila

ocean off of larache

main pedestrian street, known as the street of gold

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I've been on the road for the past two weeks with about another week to go. And in two days I will hit the exact half-way point of my time in Morocco. I've been out of touch for a while, so I'll just put up a couple short scenes from the past two weeks here:

Krista and I arrived at the Tetouan spring camp, held in a 'welcome center' belonging to the ministry of youth and sports. The students were sitting around, looking visibly embarrassed and not talking very much. I sat next to a man who turned out to be the father of one of the advanced girls. I was not prepared for the conversation- as normally I'm gathering myself for inappropriate comments on Jews and Islamic proselytizing. Instead, he told me that the biggest lie ever told to the people was religion. He said it is used to control people, make them submit, and keep them from rising up. Moreover, he also explained how all of human society is like a virus on the earth and it would be better off without us. I didn't know that it was possible to even say things like that in the Arabic language. But apparently you can and I was blown away. I knew right there that the camp would be with a different cohort of kids than I'd seen before.

Last summer we worked at the orphan camp where kids didn't have toothbrushes or soap and were regularly beaten by the staff. In Tetouan, I taught kids who had iPhones, Blackberrys, and I even saw an iPad. This was not the Morocco I know. Krista even saw the head of the camp poke fun at somebody else for praying. Totally different from every other work experience here. And because of that, it was awesome! Working with privileged kids is easy.

However, on one occasion during the week we were thrust back into real Morocco. We went on a field trip to a small village where the ministry was training future camp counselors. They were being trained to run camps more similar to our orphan camp than our iPad camp. Krista and I stuck close together for most of the day but near the end I drifted away from her for a minute or two, only to turn around and see a tight circle of male future-counselors pressing in on her. I wandered up to them only to hear myself being pointed out as her 'husband'. That is to say, they were trying to figure out if she was available. It is not appropriate to ask a Moroccan woman if she is married but apparently it's fair game to ask a white woman. The guy who had asked turned around and tried to offer me his hand, and I recognized him as the one who had been shouting the old 'ca-va, ca-va bien?' in the sickly-infantile-while-simultaneously-aggressive manner of the Moroccan street-harasser. So I didn't shake his hand. Then I was told that I should really be humble, we're all here together, blah blah blah and I asked why the hell everybody was circling around my wife (albeit my fake wife), which won one of the guys over to my side. Then the original asshole asked me if I wanted to go smoke hash in his apartment, tried to explain how wonderful Islam is, and then told me his father has three wives. As always, the conversation, if you can call it that, moved to Islam and how we must become Islamic and how sinful it is that Krista isn't pregnant yet because that's the whole point of marriage. They pushed and pushed and I eventually told them that I have read the Quran. Then I got a question from one of the young women: 'so, how did you feel? how did it make you feel when you read it, didn't you feel something special when you did?'. I said no and the interview was over shortly afterward.
There's a serious empathy-deficit going on here. A close-mindedness which is sometimes astonishing. They thought, how could somebody read it and not be instantly swayed over to Islam? There is zero, zero recognition that different people have different beliefs which they hold with just as much conviction. This is a serious problem with Morocco if it ever wants to exist comfortably in the modern world, and it's a major reason why I think, were there to be a revolution here similar to Egypts, and a popular government were to arise, it would be significantly more fundamentalist than the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

After that camp we headed up north to some of the Spanishy towns like Tangiers, Asilah, and Larache. (You can see my travel map at the top and right of this page). We spent a night in a volunteer's small village outside of Tangier. Once again, doing so put our site and service into perspective. She gets her water from a well, lives among sheep and cow fields, has to cross a stream to go to work, and is only given 3 or 4 hours a day of work at her youth center. Those hours are conveniently during the school day so no students can come. It is a tough site and fortunately she's being sent somewhere with more work opportunities, although it has taken the Peace Corps almost a year to acquiesce.

It was during this time that I heard about the Boston bombing. It is strange to watch the story unfold from afar. I don't know what else to say.

I arrived in Rabat/Qenitra and Krista headed back to site. We spent a day in Rabat and met somebody who's in the process of being 'medically separated' from the PC - his country had been Liberia. He was adamant that his service was oh sooo much more intense than ours and their lives down in Liberia are sooo difficult we aren't really in the Peace Corps. Kind of maddening. Every person has a different experience, every country is different, and they're all difficult for their own reasons.

Now I'm waiting for a training in Rabat to start on Monday. Then it'll be back to town. I apologize for the rambling, poorly-written post.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Internet!!

A few days ago I video-chatted with family thanks to my very good friend, the internet. While it certainly doesn't make leaving for 2+ years easy, it helps a great deal. Not only can I stay in touch with people I love, but I can also connect with people I don't know at all.

A few weeks ago, in one of my posts, I wrote, I believe: "Germans are insane".
Thanks to that post, unknown visitors from Latvia, Sweden, and Germany have tuned in. Actually, it seems that if you live in Sweden, then you are more likely to know about this blog than if you live in Morocco.
Also, in the past few days, I've had a number of readers from Kazakhstan and Armenia. I have no idea what comment prompted that.

But I am about to travel and, most likely, be without the internets for a few weeks- Rabat, Tetouan, Rabat, and back again. Now I have 15 minutes to pack for a 3 week trip. damn you, internet.


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.