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, June 20, 2013

last event of the year

Yesterday we celebrated the first birthday of the Dar Chebab with a couple presentations (including one on the importance of English), a song, and honored the local winners of a national creative writing competition which occurred months ago. It was a classic Moroccan event- plenty of tea and sweets, lots of certificates, and endless photos. I'm hoping to help expand the creative writing competition next year to include a few creative writing workshops in English, Arabic, and French, rather than limit it to English like this past year.

After the event somebody came up to me while I was helping a student with an English poem and, without introducing himself, started to complain about the US actions regarding the Sahara. What a jerk.

One of my counterparts, an English teacher named Nora, who helped me with the spelling bee and creative writing competition told me she'd be happy to help with anything I ever want to do. So that was a feel good moment. Purpose of the first year: Accomplished.

not my idea

close-talking bros

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

only a page

"the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page" - st. Augustine

This past week I rode the train for 28 hours. I hung out in Qenitra and Rabat on the way to Marrakesh. The train can be traumatizing for several reasons. Firstly, it is horrendously boring. I will never understand how old people can stare into space for 10 hours at a time. Secondly, it's about 110 degrees in the summer, so it stinks like hell. I pass 5 hours of desert before hitting Fes. Lastly, it feels as though you've stepped into a painfully slow time portal. Qenitra, Rabat, and Marrakesh are all about 50 years ahead of my town, 100 years ahead of the neighborhoods on the edge of my town, and 200-500 years ahead of the tiny villages in Morocco. It's mind blowing.

All these hours give me a lot of time to read. This trip I covered The Unwinding, a new book about how the social structures, which enabled the middle class in America to exist, have disintegrated over the last 40 years. I also read Colorblind, a book by my friend. The book is, at least in part, about elitism, apathy, and the ivy league-finance funnel. Then I made it through half of Franzen's Freedom. I really need an ipod.

On the way back, I watched the police beat up some smelly dudes near Rabat who didn't pay for tickets (I'd like to note here that they were smelly because they were wearing fancy sweaters and leather jackets in the hot, packed-solid train, not smelly because they live on the street). Why do people make such sacrifices in the name of fashion?

I'd almost made it back home- for the final hour I take a 'grand taxi' over the mountains. As per usual, the driver was blasting Koranic readings the entire time. Then we passed a car that had crashed into a tree. The others in the cab argued for a bit but eventually agreed that the person must have died. Then our 'chauffeur' started driving like a maniac. Passing huge trucks on total blind mountain turns and going absurd speeds up and down the crappy roads. I guess he was in a hurry to get into Heaven. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Anyway, why the hell did I go all the way to Marrakesh? I went to recruit some people from the newest group of volunteers to help out with a group that will focus on how to better integrate youth with special needs into our work in youth centers. The group will also do work in community health. Found some great people, so I think it was worth it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Jungle

Usually I walk through my city without paying much attention to my surroundings. You could call that equanimity or assimilation or just self absorption. Whatever it is though, it's my normal now. But sometimes, I have a few seconds where I snap out of it.

Yesterday I was walking my usual route and saw a crew of girls with a crew of boys stalking them 20 meters back. Then I saw an old truck from the 60s with 17 day-laborers dressed in filth standing in the bed, immediately followed by a BMW. And I thought, this place is a goddamn jungle.


Speaking of damning god- the other day I was at the beach and asked somebody where I could go get some water.

Guy on the beach: You speak arabic, you must be Muslim.
Me: not yet, some day, godwilling
Guy: Oh so you're Christian
Me: Sure
Guy: Haha, you think Jesus is God's son. But that's not true, we're all God's children (laughing in my face)
Me: Yeah sure, thanks for the directions. goodbye.

Now I don't really give a damn, due to my own close-to-nonexistent religious beliefs. But if that guy went to America, and somebody told him Mohamed was not the prophet of god, he was wrong, and laughed in his face, how would he have reacted?

Homogeneity sucks.

Then again, if he went to America, plenty of people would probably think he was a terrorist. I haven't had that problem thus far.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anticipated Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I will be vacationing in a couple of weeks. But in the meantime, actual work has been happening. And other things as well.

A few days ago I went to this little town with Krista to attend an event through the village's womens' center. It had everything Moroccans love- certificates, traditional dances, bad comedy, and lots of pictures. The commune purchased an almond husker, saving millions of labor-hours for all of the women and freeing them to do an incredible variety of personal training and valuable self-enrichment stuff. Thanks, president of the local commune. At the end of this 4-hour event, we piled in the school bus intending to be dropped off about 6 miles away at another mountain town where we were expected to do an event.

Because we are oh-so-white and therefore oh-so-helpless-and-stupid, nobody felt like telling us the bus wasn't actually going back to our city quite yet. A high-schooler had left his copybook with all his notes for the biggest test of his life on the bus. During those four hours, the driver had helped out the kids in the town by giving them rides home. One of those kids took the book (maybe). So we bused over broken roads to every single little, stone house in the region so the high-schooler could accuse every single little boy of being a thief. Two hours later we returned to the women's center before finally heading back. It had been a long time since I'd had so much of my time wasted. Apparently it still frustrates me.

We made it to the second mountain town late and taught there until well after dark. We were test-running a soft-skills, 6-month program on the children of the Dar Talib, which is sort of like a boarding school/orphanage where rural students live during the school year. We could do this thanks to my Mudir, Zakaria and his friend Mohamed. It went well, so it seems we'll be running the whole program in the fall. Which is excellent news. On the ride back Zakaria asked me why we do stuff like this. He said there's a portion of the Quran that calls for helping people like that,... but why the hell do we non-muslims do good stuff? I started in on Nicomachean ethics and the importance of practice in forming yourself into a good person. Although at this point of night my Arabic was seriously flagging, I think they got the idea, however poorly articulated. Which again, was nice.


Then, today, we had another success with Zakaria and Mohamed and four more volunteers we'd recruited. We got 100 kids to read for about 25 minutes. That may not seem like much, but the average Moroccan spends 6 minutes a year reading things that aren't the newspaper. It was just freakin' incredible. I have never felt that satisfied from an event I worked on. Building a culture of reading and, further down the line, critical thinking is going to be a long, uphill battle. But I felt like we took an important first step today. And I needed to learn a few new skills to pull it off- primarily puppetry and drawing. Did I mention we did an hour of puppet shows before those 25 minutes of reading?


One other thing- I'll spare you the details as this post is running too long, especially with all the pictures to follow.  A few nights ago I laughed with some local Moroccans. I laughed totally openly because something was hilarious. The peace corps makes us fill out these forms every 6 months, and one of the questions is "how adjusted are you?" - Thanks to that night - I think I've adjusted just a bit more than before.

bigwigs of Rislan

second mountain town post-class

Mohamed and some bzaouz

my puppet

this is a kid reading

celebrating post-event

Rislan traditional dance


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.