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|
|old jewish cemetery by the sea, asila|
|ocean off of larache|
|main pedestrian street, known as the street of gold|