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.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Figuig Christmas

We took a couple days away from Berkane and headed for a desert Christmas. If you look at the map below, of places I've checked out in Morocco, Figuig is the most South-Easterly. It is surrounded on three sides by Algeria, maybe 400 km away from Berkane, most of which is an endless, perfectly straight road with nothing but broken rocks stretching out to either side as far as the eye can see. Maybe every 40 kilometers you can spot a nomadic herder. It's way out there. And absolutely worth the trip.

Figuig is an incredibly beautiful place. We stayed with friends who live in an 800-year old, mostly mud-brick neighborhood set in the middle of a date palm oasis. Paths wind between small plots of land, protected by high mud-brick walls, sometimes up to 10-12 feet. There are countless dark tunnels, with wooden crossbeams supporting houses above. I'll collect some photos from others who were there.

Christmas was celebrated in the right way, with eggnog, carols, cookies, good food, and good friends. Visiting a community so much smaller and more relaxed than my own makes me supremely jealous of other volunteers. I hope to go back there as soon as possible.

I'll need to step on it, as there's less than 5 months to go.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Every once in a very long while, for a couple of hours, I almost forget that I am in this weird place. Many things are weird about Morocco. Everybody stares at me. I see sexual harassment in the street at least once a day. It's 65 degrees in the middle of December. But the strangest thing, for me at least, is Islam.

And not just Islam, but the fact that 99.9999% of the people around me actually believe in the literal reading of the Quran. The stories are not parables; they are not lessons. They are iron-hard scientific facts and prescriptive rules. No interpretation necessary or allowed.

I don't mean to hate on Islam, (although I hate, hate, hate the sexual harassment and suffocating patriarchy which is, in a very real way, tied up with religion). I'm sure that I would feel out of place in any homogenous religious society.

Anyway, yesterday I was invited over to eat lunch with a local teacher who works very hard and who helped me a number of times last year. K and I went over there and we'd been speaking English for a couple of hours and I was starting to feel comfortable. Danger sign.

We were eating some pomegranates and talking about the word in various languages. In German, it's apfelgranate or granateapfel or something like that. Anyway, it has apfel in it (apple), and this reminded me of something I had learned.

Me: You know, many people think that, in the Adam and Eve story, it wasn't an apple-- it was a pomegranate.
the teacher: What?
Me: Well, there were no apples in the region where the story comes from, but there were pomegranates, and I think the words in the ancient language are the same, or very similar.
the teacher: what do you mean where the story comes from?
Me: What, I think it was in Syria or Iraq or something
K: Yeah, Syria, I think.
the teacher: No-- we don't know where it was- of course, they were in Heaven or some place like that, not here on Earth.
Me: Oh. okay...

Whoops. I managed to forget for a minute where I was.

Monday, December 9, 2013


On Thanksgiving, the entire PCV community congregated in Rabat for Turkey and flu shots. In some ways, it was a stereotypical Thanksgiving- some people in the extended family opted not to come, some made great food, some started drinking in the late morning, and some brought their decades-younger, locally-sourced wives/fiancees. It was great. It's always great to go to Rabat, which is starting to seem like a real city. As we travel West on the train, things start to get fancy. And when we travel East of Fes, it's like going back in time.

After the big celebration, we had a mini-thanksgiving at our apartment with 8 guests. The food was outrageous- lamb stew, roast chicken, cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, green beans, nutella cheesecake, pumpkin pie, cinnamon ice cream. We drank mulled wine and played classic Thansgiving games like pick-up-sticks.

While it has warmed back up since then, it was 43 degrees that day and raining. Since we had the oven and burners going, and 10 people's body heat inside our bathtub of a house, condensation was streaming down the walls. The next day we had puddles of water on the ground and everything in the house was damp. I'm hoping this doesn't mean we'll get another mold infestation like last year.

It's great to have people come visit. Everybody gets sucked into the problems and issues they have with their own towns, and seeing it through other volunteers' eyes can be refreshing and uplifting.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Round 2

eyum alshukr - Day of Thanks

I am thankful for family, and their unflagging support over the duration of this insane thing I'm doing.

I am thankful for visitors--old friends, uncle & aunt, dad & mom & grandmom, and other volunteers who make it to my town.

I am thankful for Krista, without her, I don't think I could have lasted this long.

I am thankful for having 6 months left-- it's enough.

I am thankful for America -- friends, bourbon, trash bins, traffic laws, green spaces, English speakers, diversity, religious tolerance, dish washers, washing machines, central heating, warm water, foreign food, sports, and higher education.

I am thankful for Morocco -- my work counterparts, my peace corps brethren, my local friends, cumin, coffee, my stove, cooking gas, the illegal food market, the contraband clothes souk, oscar pizza, my bike, the roof over my head, the abundance of sweaters, the peace corps library, my students, how I feel like what I'm doing is appreciated, hot tea, socks, long underwear, my phone plan, my internet connection, electricity, my fridge (and freezer!), the generosity of strangers, my food stipend, and Krista's cooking.


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.