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, October 27, 2013

Memorable Wedding

Have you ever been to one of those Moroccan weddings where the groom's brother generously sprays some sort of poison gas everywhere during a brawl outside of the tent? Probably not. Neither had I until last night.

I spent about 2 weeks dreading this wedding. After attending more weddings here than in America, I can unequivocally say that I like American ones more. The deafening music until sunrise, brutal heat/accompanying body odors, and unchanging, limited stock of appropriate dance moves get old real fast. I found myself hoping that I come down with another severe stomach problem, or maybe get hit by a car, anything that would allow me to avoid it. While I wasn't able to avoid it entirely, it did end much earlier than expected. Be careful what you wish for.

After maybe two hours of fairly enjoyable dancing, with the least-abusive music I've heard yet, the party was broken up in a big way. Suddenly I saw everybody in the tent covering their noses and mouths, while one person frantically signalled for everybody to leave while another signalled the opposite. There was a stampede for the entrance to the door as a couple of young "men"(read: idiot children) fought it out.  As panic spread, a 200-year-old berber lady with face tattoos who was sitting next to me got this terrified look across her face as she inhaled the gas and her very first move was to hit the floor in the full, prostrate-prayer position. I'd seen her limited mobility earlier and so I did a probably not very islamic thing and, along with another woman, grabbed her up from the ground and helped to haul her out of the tent and into the house.

While I wasn't hit hard by the gas, just an itchy, irritated nose, many were retching and throwing up. One guy who got it particularly bad was on the ground sucking air, fighting to breathe, for several minutes. I have no idea what the stuff was. The only thing I suffered was the loss of my favorite sweatshirt, as I didn't think to grab it when trying to get the old lady out of the tent.

 After the gas cleared a bit, the ratio of men to women in the tent was no longer as inviting, and it seemed as though the remainder of the wedding was rushed, as it ended at around 3:30 AM (or 2:30 if you're on old time, which is now new time, or maybe not, I don't know). The bride, my host sister, broke down and cried at the end, and I don't know if this was because of what had happened, or just because the whole thing is a huge change in her lifestyle. Anyway, I got home and was asleep soon after, alHumdullilah.

I'm gonna try to avoid all remaining weddings.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Eid part deux:: holidays moroccan and american

I really should write in this thing so that I can look at it post peace corps and convince myself that this stuff actually happened. Things have been fairly busy- last week was the biggest holiday of the islamic year. Reasonably enough, it's called "the big holiday" in arabic. Every family that can afford it buys a sheep and sacrifices it and then feasts on innards and meat for about 2 weeks. Our sheep refused to die, but I'd rather not remember that so I won't write more. You can see in one of the pictures below the aftermath of Krista's host brother wrestling with the sheep as it was in its death throes. 

It seemed like the entire population of our town gathered together on top of the tallest hill in town, separated women and men, and prayed in the morning. I have a few pictures of that below. I felt very foreign walking through this, but still took some pictures because what the hell, I can't stand out any more than I already do.

After a week of moving from house to house and eating lots of sheep guts (intestines, heart, lungs, stomach, etc.) we went to Oujda, the big city, for an american style holiday. A number of volunteers in the group ahead of us are done with their service so we had to send them out in style. This week has been brutal workwise, and will be even worse tomorrow. It's been rough but one program in particular is taking off which I'm really excited about: IYF. I'll talk about this in another post soon, if I can pull it together. Another wedding. I swear to god this is the last wedding I will go to in morocco. Tomorrow night, I expect to stay up until the sun rises.

hill prayer. good move by the lady with the chair

good looking sheep

sacrifice time. The holiday celebrates when god gave abraham a sheep to kill instead of the original request: his first-born son Isaac

abdelaali: 1, sheep: 0
on a side note: I had a lengthly conversation with abdelaali as we were watching tv. It was a channel I'd never seen before, the state-run syrian station. Lots of videos of heroic looking soldiers shooting stuff, almost pornagraphically violent, with proud music and lots of flag waving (including one flag which essentially means destroy israel), and so forth. abdelaali then told me about how much he likes Assad and how there was no proof chemical weapons were because of him and that it was a set-up and so on. It would be impossible to overstate the influence television has on people's opinions here.

sure, i'll eat some raw sheep heart


cleaning poop out of the intestines

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Some things are happening now- classes and such- and it's good to be busy. But for some reason I've been aching to get out again, already. Despite the fact that I was basically just abroad- in Italy in July, a mere 3 months ago, I would like to leave again. This is not a good thing.

That said, I felt completely differently a couple of days ago. I felt fine- kind of enjoying biking to the youth center and back, the thrill of dodging cars and donkeys. I went running with some local friends down some streets I didn't know existed, which had trees and nice things like that. I was good and then, a few days later, not good. I often recognize what sets off these swings, but still can't control them.

Yesterday I biked across town, then found there was nothing to do at the youth center. Then I discovered that I forgot to bring the books to prepare for my afternoon class. Then I realized a bird had pooped on my. Then I ran into a guy who's annoyed me before- treating me like an idiot, asking for my 'american money', and so forth. Then I learned that he works for the education ministry and is actually kind of important. Then I started sweating heavily because it's still 85 degrees, despite it being mid October. Then I biked back and found that the cobbler was charging me 4 times as much as is typical. Then I discovered that the running water in my house is out again.

None of the above are terrible things, and I can take one or two in stride, no problem. I rallied in the afternoon and taught three hours, two of which were fairly successful. But when these small inconveniences just pile on top of one another, they deflate me and make me want to leave. I feel that I may have lost all perspective on this stuff- is it reasonable to get down after a morning like that and still be hungover from it the next day? Or am I still captive to the total emotional unpinning of peace corps life?

I've built up a little momentum but that is about to be broken by the holiday in which everybody sacrifices a sheep. Then things will start up again soon after. While I have something tomorrow, I'll have a few days "off in the middle of the week.

Keep on trucking.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

travel space-time friends

It's been awhile because I've been away and gotten lazy. I also went on a whirlwind trip through the south with chris coco, an old friend, and a new friend, Florian, we met in marrakesh who came along for the ride. You can check out how much more filled-in my morocco visiting map is with the link in the upper right of this page. I also have a ton of photos, some of which are below.

We went to ouarzazate, agdz, tinghrir, erfoud, the desert, fez, and back to our town. The south is different. The people are poorer, generally more open, kind, generous, and welcoming, and there is a heavy berber influence. Most people are very proud of their ethnicity as non-Arabs. In Agdz, the women were more conservative and I heard the most formal and religious of responses to salaam 3laykum I've ever heard. The desert was indescribable, particularly at night up on the sand dunes. Absolute quiet and immense darkness, reminding me of a passage from the Dharma Bums having to do with the "roaring silence" of the desert. We experienced an interesting variety of travel, in a single day we moved by camel, 4x4, grand taxi, souk bus, foot, and small taxi. We had to pay/hitchhike a couple of times and chris and florian got to experience some of the uncomfortableness. We slept outside twice in 3 days, and generally had a damn good time. It was like going to another country for me in terms of freshness. 

I am intensely aware of how easy is it to travel with all guys. I am never on edge- the worst thing somebody can do is cheat us of money and who really cares? (just kidding-- i get seriously pissed off when that happens). People may stare, but they don't leer menacingly. Maybe it had to do with traveling through a tourist corridor, where people in every town asked immediately if I was Peace Corps once they heard some Arabic. But traveling with dudes is low-stress. It didn't matter if we needed to hitch rides in packed cars. It didn't matter if maybe we had to stay in an unknown town or at seedy hotels, if we had to be packed in to taxis and souk buses with sweaty people. 

Once Coco and I returned to my town we were joined by another friend from college, Emily! We went to the beach and the mountains and generally relaxed. Relaxing would have been easier if we weren't battling a lice infestation and water outage in the house but it was still all good.

It was very strange to have these friends here with Krista and me, in our Peace Corps world. They are the only two outside friends to have visited, the only two who will have some idea of these years of my life. And they are the only two friends who I have seen- all other people have essentially been cut off from me- this time, and who they are during this time, is foreign to me. We existed together again for a brief period in a little space-time bubble. Very odd.

As for time, Morocco was supposed to do daylight savings time. Then, twelve hours before this was going to happen, the Ministry of Time (a real thing) decided to delay the change for another month. Why this couldn't have happened earlier, and what the Ministry of Time does during the rest of the year, I have no idea. But it meant that all the times for Emily's flights were simply wrong.

As for water, it was cut off because we never got our bill. I realized this, went to the office, and tried to pay. They office didn't allow me to pay, so I said fine, I'll do it next time. Then we got a notice in the mailbox saying in 8 days your water will be cut off unless you pay and pay a fine. But the 8 was scratched off and somebody had written 0 and simply turned off the water. So not only did the utilities company never deliver our bill, but they were also so late in warning us that we had no time to respond. Assholes. Maybe they were furloughed because of a government shutdown? oh wait that's america. 

Here are some awesome pictures... Click on a photo in order to enlarge and scroll through them.


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.