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.

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

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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.