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, November 24, 2013


I just returned from Paris and visiting my parents, which was amazing. I want to live there and read important books and drink coffee and eat cheese. Now I'm back in country and headed into the final stretch.

If the Peace Corps were college, I just started my senior year. After the two month training, K and I were sent to our site. We've finished 18 months of peace corps service, and we have 6 months to go. I'm not sure how I feel about it. My goals are still evolving.

Even a few months ago, I envisioned myself trying to build large, physical things. Doing projects that require sweat- digging holes and building churches and stuff. Just kidding about the churches. I thought, now that I've found a few good partners for development work, I can finally construct something 'real'. That may have been foolish.

Many people apply for grants at some point during their service. I don't really expect to do so. Using money almost seems like cheating to me, at times. Why should this town or this group of people get an injection of capital, but those others not get anything? Randomness. Living itself is to rage against randomness. Why work in development? Why put efforts towards any end?..

If I were to raise money from home, and then use it to create a physical thing, where does that leave me? People might thank me, but in many ways, I would just be increasing their sense of dependence upon financial help from others, and possibly exacerbating the feeling of victimhood/helplessness that comes with living in a developing country that has easy access to information. Building things with money from abroad, in a sense, simply extends and strengthens the same instruments that are responsible for the randomness that has left Morocco poor and America rich. Connections to wealth create more wealth. Connection to my randomly being dropped in this town, would lead to an injection of wealth, however small.

I am probably overly-rationalizing my own failure to identify a good school that could use some new toilets dug out. But what I really think I'm doing is coming to grips with the fact that it's perfectly okay to 'develop people', rather than build objects. That kind of 'aid' seems less capitalistic and insidious.

Over the last 18 months, the thing I am most proud of, isn't a thing at all. We have inspired a few people to help others. There are people volunteering in this town, leading workshops in middle schools, cleaning and looking after the youth center, and teaching English, who had never reached out and helped their community before. They are doing so because of us. I can only hope that they continue to do so once we've gone.

I don't dream anymore of digging the foundation for a new center for social enterprise in town. Instead, I think about leveraging the people in my classes to volunteer themselves and their time.

Newest idea: Add an hour of English a week for the adult beginners at the youth center. However, do so only on the condition that each pledges an hour of teaching, whatever their area of knowledge may be.

Apologies for any pretension - and no offense intended towards volunteers who are building toilets and computer rooms and so forth. Any improvement in health, freedom, and access to information is a net positive, in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

god and death and stuff

I've started teaching a 52-hour life skills curriculum with two groups of 16-28 year olds. The classes are in fancy Arabic and K and I have been leading the classes along with two or three local counterparts. One of whom is the director of my youth center, the second is the president of an association that helps out street kids, and the third is some guy named Mbark. We just had the first two over to our apartment, to eat dinner and to prepare for some upcoming lessons. We served up some fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and cornbread. Told them it was southern food. While it was all damn good, I fried myself when some air got trapped under the chicken liver and the oil exploded onto my wrist.

Worth it.

Anyway, just like last time they came over, they managed to direct conversation towards a favorite topic: Allah. Let me be clear, they are not aggressively pressuring us to convert; it's more like they're curious about what the hell we think is happening with the whole universe/life/death thing. The director of my youth center, Z, asked me a sneaky question first off (we were talking about how insane climate change is now and how he can't remembered any November as warm as this*). He asked the old "what do you think happens when you die? You just become soil or something?" As usual, I didn't want to get too involved in the topic, as I'd prefer not to think about the end of myself, but I went along with it, telling him "it's impossible for me to imagine what I am after I die." So then he took off on descriptions of heaven and hell and how Muslims have various levels of the two and you can move up levels and everything in the afterlife is operating on a different dimension, one that isn't necessarily physical, and so on. Oh and he pointed out how our cat is very well-designed, and something that could create our cat can probably create some pretty crazy higher-dimension stuff. Our cat seems to mostly be made out of fat, so I told him it doesn't seem too complicated. In the end, he extended an invitation to convert which we turned down.

I'm not sure what I would be converting from. How do you explain to somebody that Islam, Judaism, Christianity, I see them all as slight variations of the same story-- the only reason why I don't get much religious harassment is because everyone assumes I am Christian. I'm not even sure what I am, maybe I'll leave that for another post. But how do I explain, without insulting Z, that I think it's more than a little bit insane to let a possible afterlife be the primary factor in all currentlife decisions. How do I explain that evolution gives a damn convincing answer to the question: why are cats so complex? Above all, I think it's borderline solipsistic to think a greater being has the slightest interest in what I do with my day.

And the fact that 99.99 percent of people in this country all share the same religion makes it even less compelling for me. Talk about unoriginal.

*As a side note, every high-school educated person in Morocco seems to know and understand (somewhat) about global warming. Why is it that every high-school educated person in America doesn't know or understand?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Environmental Club in Action

While the first half of the week was cancelled, due to the Islamic New Year and the celebration of something called "The Green March", the second half is turning out to be fairly productive in terms of work output. Yesterday the new environmental club at the run-down dar chebab kept the momentum going and pulled-off another event. The adults got a pretty good workout, tearing out all the crap that's accumulated in the garden over the past 5 months, while the kids helped out with sowing some seeds in used yogurt cups, to be transplanted once they sprout. Then the small ones created wallets out of used juice containers. After that, they picked up some trash, while the adults finished with planting some bigger trees. The last move of the day was a simple mural and the obligatory cookies and soda. Today I've got 4 straight hours of teaching, including class #6 for the IYF program, which I will describe in an upcoming post. While I'm doing that, Krista will be running a Halloween party at the old dar chebab; hopefully she has enough candy.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

visiting friends

Krista and I went to another volunteer's site this weekend. As usual, leaving our city and seeing somebody else's setup was both refreshing, and good exercise perspective shifting. She lives in a tiny town which is connected to two other tiny towns along the river, all of which are collectively known as Gafait. Her town had maybe 300-500 residents. The surrounding hills and mesas are strongly reminiscent of the south, and the town's fields look incredible when juxtaposed with the stones around.

It took about 3-3.5 hours to ride out there, although it's really not that far away. Getting into the minibus for the last leg of the trip, it seemed as if everybody already knew everybody else. We told the driver to drop us off at Yahiya's store. We spent a lot of time walking around the hills and fields and were woken up by livestock in the morning. It was great. 

I would love to spend more time visiting other sites, but I'm not sure when/if I'll have the opportunity. 

People here love to take glamour shots. here's mine.

overlooking town

some fields


town again. mosque just recently had its loudspeaker installed


new friend

very, very, very old walls

Incredible pomegranates. 


again with the pomegranates. I probably ate a kilo of these things over the course of a day

her town


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.