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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A sad local story

One of my very best students came on Wednesday for English class. Nobody else showed up, so we did what we sometimes do, which is tackle the Arabic-language version of "The Little Prince"- translating it into English. However, before we got going, she told me that a schoolmate and friend had killed herself the day before. Doing such a thing is unfathomably shameful here, as Islam forbids it. Of course, this being a not-so-big town, the story circulated and I heard different permutations of it from others.

Based entirely on hearsay, the story is as follows: The girl (high schooler, probably about 16) was three months pregnant. Her boyfriend had said, at the beginning of her pregnancy, that he was prepared to marry her. Later, he changed his mind and told her he'd have nothing to do with her and she would be on her own. Sometime shortly after an argument with her mother, the girl committed suicide.

Given the associated shame for the family involved, I don't think there are any statistics kept here about how common this kind of thing is. However, I do know that this person is but one among many teenage girls who end up doing this because of what they see as an inescapable, life-time prison waiting for them. Over the last couple of years, two girls who were forced by their families to marry the men who had raped them have opted to do the same thing.

Women here do not have options, particularly if they are single and have children. The local girl who decided to end her life was probably aware of what was waiting for her. What could somebody have told her? "It'll get better, you don't know what the future will hold, maybe things will improve"? I'm not sure that you could honestly say that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Things are going pretty well at the Dar Chebab. I teach English a few times a week, to little kids and adults. I do an art class, and I teach a life-skills program four hours a week. I went to a number of schools today to talk to administrators about sending some of their best English students to participate in our annual spelling bee, which is on Saturday. Most of them were helpful.

At one school, I walked right in, asked a random person if there were any English teachers around, and was directed a a guy I'd met last year. He's a good teacher and had helped me before. But he told me I needed to get off the school property quickly, because the administration doesn't allow foreigners inside. 

Although it's strange, I can understand that rule.


in general, the bureaucracy here is awful. Absolutely terrible. Every tiny, meaningless government post seems to be staffed by a blowhard, self-important ass. And, as a basic rule, the higher you go up in the chain of command, the less people do. The boss of my boss, for example, regularly goes on vacation for weeks at a time. Most recently, she took three weeks off to go to a circumcision party for a family member.

My youth center director and I have been petitioning to teach the same life skills course we do in our town at a tiny little mountain village about 30 km away. We want to do it at a boarding house for children from even more remote villages who stay there in order to attend school. We are volunteering our time and have been approved by the local government person and the administration of the boarding house. But it took three months to get a stamp from the 'Qaid'. You may recognize that word as a dubiously acceptable Scrabble entry. It comes from the verb Qad, which is 'to drive'. This guy sits in his office, the only heated office in the whole town, and does nothing. 

The director of the youth center, the director of the boarding house, and myself went to his office last week. We went to talk to him, and right before my eyes, I saw the two directors turn into elementary-school children at the principal's office. They were terrified of him. They whispered to each other about what to say. He spoke down to them. 

I've noticed that empty-headed bureaucrats here always employ some sort of verbal tic, which is used to keep others in their place. One director I know uses 'fahemtni, fahemtni, fahemtni?' constantly. It means, 'did you understand me'. This guy in the tiny village used a sort of 'huhh,' with a slight rise at the end, as if to say, 'right?', 'am I right?' He demanded photocopies of our national cards, my passport, our birthdates, and an exact plan of everything we were going to do. None of this stuff will be read by anybody, but this guy, like so many others, uses the power of his stamp and holds it like a guillotine over everybody else in town. 

Anyway, we were supposed to start on Tuesday evening. We had planned on bringing the passport photocopy and other information with us to the class. But the director of the boarding house called my director and said that the Qaid wouldn't permit us to work until he had the passport stuff. The Qaid also said that his office closes at 3 pm. Absolutely ridiculous. 

But this is standard in small towns. It makes me realize how lucky I am to be in Berkane, where there are so many work opportunities. If somebody is super slow or not a good worker, I can just go someplace else. But whole communities are often stranded due to basic bureaucratic incompetence and malaise. If the guy in charge doesn't want something to happen because it's new, or because he doesn't like it, or because he doesn't want anything that might mean a minuscule increase in his work load, it will not happen.

Hopefully we can start next week.

So you're thinking about joining the Peace Corps

I wrote an article for my friend's blog about what it's like to be in the Peace Corps. You can find it here. 

This is how it starts:

Gao×wri   (noun)Definition of gaowri1: a foreigner, especially a white person 2: a person who appears to be from Europe plural — guu×wur
Have you ever felt out of place? Have you ever felt out of place for 27 months in a row? This is, perhaps, the most salient, ever-present fact of existence for Peace Corps Volunteers. We are foreigners. We are unusual. We are the ones everybody in town vaguely knows about. We are the weirdos. Do you remember that person in high school who would walk around barefoot and rub mud in their hair? That’s us.


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.