Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PCV Dictionary

So, for all of those out there reading this blog who are family members of my fellow volunteers here… this one’s for you. I’m going to give you all a little dictionary for words and phrases that might be trickling in to the conversations you are having. These are all either Arabic or Tamazight/Tashelheit words that we use ALL THE TIME! Here is how this is going to work… I’m going to put a word in italics and then give you the definition. After the definition, in parentheses, I’m going to tell what we probably mean when we’re using it or what the context is. The spelling on all of these is arbitrary transliteration so don’t judge me.

Insha’allah- “God willing” (this is probably used in every sentence and is the most used phrase. We use this whenever we say something about the present or future. For example, “I’m going to town today, insha’allah” or “I think I’ll eat nachos today, insha’allah.” Occasionally you’ll hear someone use it for the past tense which still doesn’t make sense to me, eg “I went to Mrirt yesterday, insha’allah.” If you have any insight on that one let me know. Now when talking to someone you have to pay attention to the inflection because it quite possibly could mean, “you are absolutely smoking something if you think that’s ever happening.”

Hmdullah- “thanks be to God” (this is probably our second most used phrase and pretty self-explanatory)

Shwiya- a little bit, marginal (if used as a noun, we’re probably saying it’s not that great)

Bzzef- A lot (On this word people can make some really funny inflections)

Zwina, iHla, izil, iغ uda, ifulki… - good, cool, awesome, amazing, fantastic, etc. (all of these are various regional Berber dialects, except the first is Arabic. There are more, but these are the main ones that I’ve run into)

Imkin- maybe

Souq- this is the weekly market that almost all of us go to in order to get vegetables and random other stuff. (It’s quite the event and depending on your mood could be really stressful or invigorating. It’s also a great place to get crazy used clothes)

Miskin- poor thing (so this is the nickname practically all of us go by. So whenever we answer questions about whether or not we are married, or how long we’re here for, or if we have to cook for ourselves, etc, the invariable response is “oh you poor thing.” We also use this to describe pathetic looking vegetables, animals, or really anything… eg. “Those are miskin looking carrots.”)

So these are some of the words that have become almost second nature to most of us and it pops in and out of our English conversations. There are quite a bit more, but this will get you started. I just thought I’d give you a reference so you can understand your loved ones. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Family Visit

Ok, so this has been a long absence and I’m sad to say that so much has happened between the last time I posted and now, that I don’t know if most of it is going to be told. The good news in all of this is that I have a computer now which means that I’ll be able to write when I feel like it instead of hoping that my desire to write and my presence at an internet café coincided.

So here is the general timeline. My granddad and my Uncle Sam came for a visit which was spectacular. Interestingly enough all three of our first names are Samuel, a fact that was repeated quite often in our travels. We hit Fes the first two nights and crammed the three of us into one room which was alright. I must say though that it was quite the orchestra of snorers. Good thing I’m a hard sleeper. :) The hotel used to be the English consulate way back when and Churchill used to smoke his cigars in the bar. The only site in Fes that we really saw was the old Qur’anic school built in the 11th century if my memory serves. The rest of the time we spent wandering through the maze of souqs.

From there we moved on towards Marrakesh. On the way we stopped for lunch in my souq town, Khenifra, and ate with my region mate Mara. I then got to show them my house. We didn’t stay there long though because we had to head on. We stopped that night in Beni Mellal where we once again crowded into one room.

Beni Mellal isn’t all that impressive; it was just a stopping point on our way down. The next day instead of heading directly south we took the road up the mountain towards Azilal. It’s a gorgeous mountain road that took us winding through the entrance to the High Atlas Mountains. I think Uncle Sam particularly enjoyed driving the switchbacks although I was in the back trying not to lose my lunch. We stopped at the Cascades Ouzoud to eat lunch and were fortunate enough not only to see the magnificent waterfall, but we also got to see some Barbary Apes jumping around in the trees.

When we got to Marrakesh things got a little crazy for a bit. The traffic was bad and we couldn’t find parking near the center of town. After a hard fought battle we finally did and there was a guy there (one of thousands) who offered to show us to a place to stay. Although the place we ended up at was not the one he showed us, he did point us in the right direction.

The Riad we did end up staying at was called Riad Zakaria and was an oasis in the middle of the chaos that is Marrakesh. I really didn’t know what to do with myself on this entire trip. I was taking a hot shower and eating three meals every day, it was quite the change of pace from my regular life here. The guy who owns the place, Zakaria, was quite the find. The man helped us out and hooked us up with anything we could have possibly wanted.

We wandered around in the Jemaa el Fna with all of the snake handlers, wandered through a lot of artisan shops, ate amazing food, visited the royal gardens, and basically just had a good time in Marrakesh. The owner of our riad was also kind enough to throw Papa a little birthday feast. Once again, the food was spectacular and there was a lot of it.

We spent three nights in Marrakesh and then headed off for the coast to Essouaira. Now is Essouaira we met a bunch of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who were on their way to our In Service Training in Agadir the next day.

For the record, Essouaira is now my favorite city in Morocco. Not only is it a beautiful little coastal town with a laid back, artsy feel, but we also had some pretty spectacular seafood there as well. There’s also a well entrenched little ex-pat community that vacationed there and never left. I don’t blame them. It was here that we parted ways and they headed back north while I continued south with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers to Agadir for our training.