Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Project Framework

Ok, so I think that some of you are starting to think that this is all "Pizza and Pepsi" over here as an old teacher of mine, Mr. Lines, used to say. First of all, there isn't any pizza and we all know the Cocacola company rules the world. So in order to counteract that growing opinion and to give you an idea of what I'm supposed to be doing here, I thought I would let you in on our project framework.

Goal 1:

Community members (men, women, and children) will actively pareticipate in activities that promote personal and environmental health and reinforce appropriate health behaviors.

This is the health lesson portion where we are focusing on everything from health care issues such as the extremely successful Moroccan vaccination program, AIDS/HIV awareness and reproductive health (by far the most incindiary of our tasks, nutrition, and general personal hygiene and preventative health. The other big chunk of this program is dedicated to water purification and solid waste disposal. This one is particularly huge in my area since there is no applicable infastructure.

Goal 2:

Targeted professional and non-professional health workers will have enhanced capacity to deliver effective preventive health education throughout rural communities.

Here we're trying to focus on training basically anyone involved in the birthing process outside of a health care facility whether it is a medically trained midwife or Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA).

Goal 3:

Community-based organizations and institutions will have increased capacity to reinforce healthy lifestyles through environmental and social change.

In my humble opinion this is where everything is going to happen. The first two goals are great but I as an outsider learning the language is not the person best suited to try and change longstanding practices. I believe most of my work is going to be helping get associations formed or assisting current associations in their work. Advising them on better data collection techniques and connecting them across regional boundaries. I've spent the last couple of days meeting with the various leaders of several associations in my area trying to get a sense of what they are doing. I would love to talk specifics, but I don't believe I'm allowed to.

So right now I'm laying the groundwork for the more project oriented existence that is sure to come later on in my service. At the moment though, it is all meeting people and talking as well as trying to learn the language.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Time for a Story

Ok, so I thought it was time for a funny story, but first I need to introduce you all to my life. Wherever I go I usually meet someone I know or who knows someone I know, etc. So I took my first weekend off and met some friends in Beni Millal. There really isn't anything extremely interesting there, but it was just a central point where we could meet up. It was a much needed break. So we are wandering around the city and meet this Moroccan who lives in the States and is back visiting. Now when you meet someone who shares some sort of connection the only course of action available is to invite them to a party, which he did. It was a blast. He had hired Moroccan musicians and dancers, we ate and had a grand old time. Later in the evening we are outside at his ranch getting some fresh air and I'm talking with his brother and he is telling me about his travels and mentions in passing that "when he was in Romania...", well of course my ears shot up and I probed further. He went to university in Constanta and spoke Romanian, so we ended up having this extremely excited conversation in Romanian for about an hour, neither one believing that the other had also lived in the country. We'd also been there about the same time span from '94 - '00... and apparently there is a whole community of Moroccans in Beni Millal who studied in Romania. CRAZY!!

Now onto the funny story. I will warn you in advance though, if your are especially worried about my safety don't read on it will only make you more nervous. :)

So I got chased by a pack of wolves. For those of you who don't know, there are roaming packs of wolves in the hills around my valley who come out at night. Needless to say, no one goes out at night. Well this particular night I had too because I don't have cell phone reception in my house, I have to go up on a hill near my house. One of my friends in Morocco was having a bit of a rough time so I wanted to talk with her, so I left my house with my flashlight and climbed my little hill. After about ten minutes of talking though I heard this growl from behind me and immediately knew that whatever I was going to find when I turned around, it wasn't going to be good. Sure enough a pack of about six wolves had just crested the hill and was eyeing me hungrily.

So I calmly excused myself on the phone, hung up and in a completly composed manner took of running for my life down the hill tripping over rocks I couldn't see as I went. The rabid dogs on my farm started barking at them though which gave me enough of a diversion to make it back with all limbs in tact. Well they were really barking at all of us because they're rabid... what else are they going to do?

So there's my funny little story. I'm alive, I'm safe and learned an important lesson... well, no I didn't, I'll probably go up to the hill again at night when I want to talk on the phone. What can I say? I need people. :) I'll take a stick or something next time, although with all the Chuck Norris videos they watch here... I could probably just roundhouse kick the wolves and I'd be ok.

By the way everyone here knows that Arnold Schwarzenager or however you spell his name... the star of countless crappy action movies as well as classics such as Kidergarten Cop and Twins... is the governor of an American state. That's right... be embarassed. When they ask me how that happened, I just shake my head and with a look of resignation on my face say we don't understand it either.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Daily Substance III

Ok, so this is an artist some of my fellow PCVs introduced me to. This particular song makes me think of home... whatever that means. It's strange, it makes me miss someplace I don't even know. I don't know... it just makes me feel like there is a home out there that no matter how far I wander, I can always come back to. I think it has little to do with the actualy lyrics and more with the feel of the song, but there you have it.

Daily Substance II

Ok, so Colm Wilkerson is the standard when it comes to Jean Valjean, but this was just spectacular. I could listen to him sing all day.

Daly Substance

So I wanted to share some of the things that have been getting me through rough times. www.youtube.com is absolutely spectacular. If you want to hear music, you just type in what you want and invariably someone has uploaded a video of it so here are some of the videos that I have listened to over and over again when I come to my internet town and need some encouragement...

I'll Tell You What I was Thinking

I was thinking that there was more to life than what I was living. I was thinking that I had fallen into a bit of a rut that was making me forget that we don't live in a perfect world and that there are things that I can do. I was thinking that I knew well in advance that I was going to have a rough time and I decided as well well in advance that I was going to meet that head on... ADAPT AND OVERCOME!

So now that we know what I was thinking let's look at the problems presenting themselves at the moment and of course I'm fielding suggestions on overcoming them. Now I may have no earthly idea what I'm doing right now, but let's be honest... when you all started out on whatever you started out on, you didn't either and if you say you did... well, you're lying and we all know that's a bad thing right? To quote Pope Julius III "Do you not know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?" Scary and encouraging at the same time. :)

Problem 1...

... I'm in a farming community that is very dispersed. There are groups of houses that are scattered all over the hills. It takes me about a 30 to 45 min walk to get to the next grouping of houses. There is no central place in town except for the school and only some of the children go there. My job is community health education and it's hard to do that when you have to go door to door... especially when you don't exactly have a "door to door" personality. This I think is going to be my biggest challenge over the next two years to doing meaningful work here. Unlike a lot of other volunteers, I don't have any associations to work with, whatever I do, I'm going to have to figure it out.

Problem 2...

... Finding housing. Inshallah this will only be a problem for another month. It's all farms so it's not like I can just rent an apartment. I'm going to have to either keep living with my host family which presents obvious difficulties or rent a part of someone's house. The other option available is to move in to the house they built for the teacher by the school. That has two other problems though... well three. The first two are minor compared to the third. One is that the house is trashed. There are no windows, the door is broken and there are holes in the walls, not to mention there is trash everywhere. I could clean it up though... if one of my friends here can build a house, I can clean one up. Two is that I would have to get permission from the Ministry of Education. That's just paperwork and all that fun stuff though... doable. The biggest problem with that I forsee is that it is on the school property which means I would be dealing with kids ALL THE TIME! I don't know if I can handle that on a day to day basis.

Problem 3...

... Language. That's going to come. I'm figuring that one out as we go.

Now let's talk about the Awesome parts of my valley... I'm going to go ahead and say that the night sky is themost spectacular thing I've seen in my life. No one has electricity so there are no lights anywhere at night except the onces shining down from lightyears away. I went out last night with my guitar after having a particularly rough day and sang for hours until of course a pack of wolves started howling at me from the field across the way and I didn't wait around to see if my music would tame them.

I had my first health talk yesterday in the Berber language and of all the major health problems affecting this area... typhoid, malaria, and so on... I spent a half hour explaining to my host brother that what was on his face was not chicken pox, but acne and that he needed to start washing his face/hair, blah blah blah. Comical right? The funny part was trying to explain the hormones of a teenage kid in a language that calls the entire arm, wrist, hand, etc. by one word, "afus".

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Officially a PCV... what was i thinking?

Ok, so I can't write all that long today because the way transportation works, if I miss it, then I'm stuck and let's be honest... getting stuck is never fun for anyone involved.

So I've been at my site now for... well, a while... and this is going to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. The language score, well, it was decieving. My valley speaks a whole new language and don't really understand what they're saying when they do isolate words. It's a farming community so meeting people isn't a guarantee which means I have to get out and make a concernted effort to be visible and by conerted effort I mean at least a 2 k hike to the next house. I can see most of them, but they are up on hills, across fields and such. Oh, and did I mention that I'm in Africa and it's hot? It's hot. Not "I'm in the desert dying of thirst" hot, but still "hard to sleep at night because I'm sweating" hot.

Now don't get me wrong, thoughts of quitting have crossed my mind as they have almost all of our minds. Don't read despair into that last paragraph though, it's more of a dark amusment at my "plight". I had a great conversation with another new volunteer last night and we both, althogh struggling, left the conversation smiling because let's face it. We're in Morroco working. We could be going to class or even worse working 9-5 in an office so let's keep things in perspective people.

I'll be back sometime. I never know when I'm hitting an internet town, but since i don't have electricity and have to come in to charge my phone every couple of days, I'll definitely be back because I think I would go crazy if I didn't have any communication.

I hope this entry finds all of you well.

Oh, and I really need a shower, it's been a week... yes, i know I smell. Deal with it!