Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am officaly now a Peace Corps Volunteer. Sixty of us swore in yesterday in Fez and then scattered to the wind early the next morning. I am currently in my Region Capitol with my region mate Mara preparing for a meeting we have with the Regional Ministry of Health Delegue tomorrow morning.

Goodbyes were somewhat emotional as all of us came to the realization this morning that we are no longer in the "summer camp" that is our Pre Service Training. We now have to go out and make this work. I don't have a schedule anymore, from here on out I do the work I find to do... a daunting task.

I want to share a little it about the swearing in ceremony with you. So I found out several days ago that I scored the highest of all of our language groups on our language test and so I was bestowed the honor/stress of giving a speech in my language (Tamazight)at the swear-in ceremony. Needless to say I was excited about scoring so high, but the downside was that the last couple of days were spent preparing a speech in a language that I had only started learning two months ago instead of cherishing those last few days with newly made friends before we were separated for God knows how long. I was so nervous the day of swear-in leading all the way up to the speech and even after. It went really well though. I had a couple of people come up to me and complement me on my language ability, which was encouraging.

After the ceremony, the stress didn't end. Moroccan television wanted to interview me both in French and in Tamazight. I did the interview in French, but I wasn't about to go on television speaking Tamazight, so I passed that one off to my roommate Alex. We were both on TV that night which is always a little morale boost.

Here are some pictures of swear in...

I think I was talking about my reasons for coming to Peace Corps at this point in the speech... "If my brother is sick, I too am sick..."

This was me telling a funny story from my host family. I had quite a few goofy faces during this speech, but cross cultural communication is always a little goofy.

This is me giving a TV interview in French.

This is me and Ann right before the festivities began. Ann was tied for the person to give the speech in Tashelheit, but passed it off to one of our friends named Aaron.

This is me and Anna Wadsworth after the Swear-In ceremony being good little representatives of the United States. ;)

This is Sean, Mara, Ann, Lacy, and myself after Swear-In. This is a quality group of people if I do say so myself.

And this is me with my LCF Fatoume who was an amazing language teacher

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cascades D'Ouzoude

So this is our last day in our training city before we head out for swear-in and we took a day trip to some amazing falls down the road... here are some pictures.

This is me, my roommate Alex, and Sean.

This is the falls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coming Fast

We leave day after tomorrow.

We're heading out to meet up with the Environment Volunteer Training Group further north (and not too far from my site) and then we swear in on the 21st after that...

So I took my final/official language test today. I don't have the results yet, but I feel pretty confident. I wasn't all that worried because I know I'm above passing. There is a little bit of that competative thing in there though that I would like to do better than everyone else, but that's merely fleeting. Mostly I'm still just having this random isolated freak outs about the intensity of my job for the next two years and not so much worrying about the lack of amenities, but more so whether or not I have the force of personality and self-initiation to do the work well.

Ok so let me describe a little bit of the last couple of weeks. We just got back the other day from our final CBT session. It was emotional, as all of our host families were crying and most of the volunteers were as well. It wasn't emotional for my family though. I think I was the only one who didn't cry, and I think that is because I was already mentally at my next site and was ready to move on. It was kind of weird though that I wasn't as affected as everyone else. Moments like that make me wonder whether constantly leaving places for other places has built up a resistance to settling. I don't know... thoughts for another day.

We've been in the hotel now for a couple of days getting ready for the test and finishing up all of the last minute packing and stuff that we have left to do. The atmosphere is a little tense simply because all of us are stressed out and really want to vent in some way, but there is no way to get alone and there is no outlet for utter craziness that we would have in the States. The lamentable result of all of this is that some people have been taking that stress out on others. It's a natural human response and we should all be at the point where we would understand that and react accordingly, but we are all human. None of this is extreme, we just are all ready to begin the work we've been prepping for mentally, for some of us, up to 2 years.

The blog so far has been scattered thoughts put through the filter of a frustratingly sanitized training environment. I have the distinct feeling that when the isolation comes (ever so quickly) that these observations will become much more profound, potentially borne out of desperation. I don't know if I'm really communicating what I want to say, but I feel like I'm seeing things and feeling things with a certain immaturity that is going to be violently stripped away... potentially to quick for my comfort, but I guess it never is comfortable.

Several of the trainiees that I'm with and I have all remarked that the volunteers we meet that have been in country for a while all look so much older, but it's more than that. They look as if they've aged in ways that I don't understand. I haven't quite yet identified what I think that is so i don't really know how to explain it. It is strange to think that whatever it was that brought them to where they are will soon be a part of my experience as well. That's all future stuff though, it's just coming really fast.

Just so I'm not confusing you all... I think I need to end this by saying that I love being here. This has already been pushing me in ways that I need to be pushed. I've met some amazing people, I'm having some amazing experiences, and I'm growing... oh and I get to do all of that in Morocco, so honestly... what's better?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Out Again

So I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow morning I'm going out of touch again for a couple of days. We have our last Community Based Training session. Today is a busy day, but I needed to come type something out for a presentation here at the Internet Cafe so I thought I would drop you all a line and say that things are going well and let you know I'll be away from communication again.

I feel like there is a lot to say, but my mind seems so full I don't really know where to start. I need to go finish working on my presentation, I just wanted to say that for some reason today a lot of you are on my mind and I don't really know how to express that... hence babbling blog entry.

Inshallah I'll talk to you in a couple of days.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I Don't Have Words

So I just spent a week out isolated from the world with the knowledge that this will be my home for two years. There are so many thoughts to process and so many emotions to try and understand I don't think I will full understand the significance of this week for quite some time. I'm lucky to have some good friends here with whom I can sit down and vent/process out loud.

This is Mara my region mate. I was really excited when I found out she was going to be near me. Ihave someone near me with whom I click well and we'll keep each other sane and working when this gets really rough.

This was a much needed impromptu dance party just to relieve all of the built up stress and nervousness about our sites.

And this was the inevitable pillow fight that ensued.

I'll try and tell you what I know...

Challenge #1... A WHOLE NEW LANGUAGE!!! I thought I was doing so well and then when I got there realized that simple words like the numbers "1, 2, and 3" were not the same, "good" is not the same, neither are "yes" and "no". "G" changes to "J", "M" changes to "SH", and most of the "K"s change to "SH" as well. Not to mention I'm in a farming community where no one really annunciates. It was so deflating to go there relatively confident in my language ability and to just be shot down by a nine year old telling me I really didn't speak any of his language. It was really tempting to retort "well how many languages do you speak!?" but of course that would have fallen on deaf ears because I can't say that to him yet in a language he understands.

Ok, so now I have that out of the way, my sight is GORGEOUS! I'm in a farming town in the valley surrounded on all sides by mountains. My work site is a two hour hike away across some mountains which is beautiful and would be perfect save the hundreds of evil dogs who want to bite your head off. For some stupid reason I didn't take pictures of that hike mostly because I'm an idiot, but what are you going to do... I was enjoying the moment.

My host family is really nice although it is kind of frustrating that the only time I see the women is when they bring me food. I told my host mom though that when I came back she was going to teach me to cook. Hopefully that will break the awkwardness. Although I think we might have awkwardness for a while... she walked in on me changing the other day and got a full frontal. She knocked but of course the words for "wait", "one" and "minute" are all different so she just came on in. I didn't see her the rest of the day... I love awkwardness.

I don't have any pictures of people because I didn't want to flash my camera, or any electronics for that matter. There is no running water or electricity in my site. Some of the homes have solar panels, but it is not, for example, enough power to charge my cell phone. It's alright, I don't really have reception in the valley anyway except for in pockets. This is a poor farming community and I don't want to be the guy that comes in with all the fancy stuff and, I don't even know. I have some good landscape shots for you though.

I set up a PO Box so you can start actually sending me things:

BP 9
Mrirt 54450

Yeah, that's it. Amazing how simple that was. I made good friends with the guy at the post office and hopefully that will mean that my packages will actually reach me intact but you never know. Oh and if you are ever thinking of something to send me and don't know... BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!! I've read so much already and am going to be going a whole lot more over the next couple of years.

So I'm scared. The reality of this as a job really hit me and a couple of other people really hard yesterday. All of us are trying to process the small glimpse we got of our life for the next to years, all of us are doing that unsuccessfully as everything will change once we're in it, but all the facades of self-assuredness have started to break down and you are really beginning to see the hint of fear that all of us have had all along. You start to question yourself... do I have to strength of personality to do this? Is this really what I want my life to be for two years? Am I going to psyche myself into not doing any work? and the questions just go on. Interestingly enough none of them has to do with missing home and not wanting to be here. I love my site, I love Morocco, I love living and working abroad... I'm just nervous about the work I'm supposed to be doing. It'll be alright though. Last night was a time for freaking out, and today is for putting that behind and trying to figure out the way forward.