Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Painting a Mural

This is all happening in Mara's (my region mate/best friend) site.

Mara teaching a lesson about "Hlaqm" or as we know it... strep throat.

Me teaching about hypertension and healthy eating habits.

The girls I taught and painted with.

Mara and I were the only veterans, the rest are newly sworn in PCVs. From left to right... Duncan, Jed, Erin, Moyra, Mara, Casey and Bryan (SBD volunteer). Oh, and I'm in the front squatting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Camel Spider

It just killed a scorpion... can I come home?

I'm not Happy

So I figured out what it is... it's a Camel Spider. I thought these were just in the south of Morocco, but apparently I'm not that lucky.

They are arachnids but not spiders so my statement that I left my fear of spiders behind remains accurate. So I ended the last blog with a statement about non-violence... I think I might have to be a hypocrite. Don't tell on me, ok?


On my way back to my site I stopped off at a friend’s house for a get together. I could tell you about the amazing food, it being good to see friends, sleeping under the stars, or any number of other good things, but I’m going to talk about bugs.

My friend Madeleine’s kitchen has strings hanging from wall to wall. If it were a porch and the strings were thicker I would say they would be for hanging clothes, but they aren’t, so I won’t. Their function is irrelevant… what is relevant is that both strings were entirely covered in flies. I don’t know what they were munching on, but they seemed quite content. I’d completely forgotten that last summer the stagnant heat brought out all of the creepy crawlies.

We’ve all had plenty of stories relating to varmints. Josh has his mouse who has chewed a hole in every article of clothing he owns. Mara has her cockroach infestation where she was killing around 30 or 40 a night (the situation has improved… she’s down to only a few a night). Big Aaron apparently has a necklace made of legs from his Camel Spider kills. I, sadly, have not been able to contribute much to the conversation. I mean I have some huge ants that come out of a hole in the wall and march in procession across my floor and out the door, but they don’t bother anyone. There’s a beetle the size of my palm that wanders my kitchen floor at night, but the only thing he’s ever done is to secrete some smelly substance onto Barry’s hand when he picked him up. Oh, and there was the jumping spider, but it was too small to make any sort of a splash in a "one-upping" conversation about bugs and I’ve left my fear of spiders behind long ago.

Tonight I think I might have something. I don’t think it’s going to win any prizes, but I could possibly be able to join in the conversation. The thing is I don’t really know what I saw. It has eight legs… I think. The front two legs never really touched the ground and looked as if they were operating more like feelers. I couldn’t see any eyes and it was a yellowish color. The remarkable thing about this creature was the fact that it was about the size of my fist. Now when I say remarkable what I really mean is that it was fast, aggressive and didn’t so much scare me in the moment as it made me afraid to fall asleep. I couldn’t find my camera so I held up my laptop’s webcam and snapped a picture. If any of you have any idea what I’m looking at, give me the heads up, especially if it’s poisonous. I know we have a few of those around here; I’m just not sure if this is one of them.

Oh, and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. So I got a broom and as it was crawling up the wall I swept it away. For some odd reason though I swept in an upward motion, the end result of which is that it flew up into the air, hung suspended for a moment and then when it hit the floor it scurried away. The moment of suspension was quite comical I have to admit. It had this look almost like Wiley Coyote just before he realizes that he’s walked off a cliff and is about to plummet hundreds of feet.

Why didn’t I kill it you may ask? Well, I know this may sound strange considering it is a threatening looking insect and all, but lately I’ve become loathe to take a life simply because I’m being annoyed. It’s a small thing, but in my mind I link it to a much bigger problem. I’m not the only one trying to live here so I work around it. Now I’m not saying that killing bugs is a morally bankrupt enterprise, so please don’t read that into this. I am just trying to live as intentionally as possible and I believe that there are lessons to be found in the seemingly most insignificant of places. I figure that if I don't just go around killing bugs at random, I won't be as quick to sweep my fellow human beings aside for self-interested pursuits.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And We're Back

So I have finally arrived back in country. After 26 hours of airports, a lost bag, a Shinerbock exploding in another, 2 hours of trains and lugging 50 lbs worth of books and clothes (mostly books :) ) around... I made it to the capitol city. Not quite the Morocco I know, but when I stepped out of the train station there was a protest going on where people were blocking traffic and chanting about unemployment and I felt a little at home.

There were a few scattered riot police who were trying to disperse the crowd which was mostly just comical. A group of 25 would block a side street coming out of a traffic circle and one lone man in uniform would go chasing after them with a billy club. All the while the crowd keeps moving back and forth along a continuum of either agrieved chanting all the way to laughing hystericaly at the attempts made to disperse them. I had a slight chuckle and proceeded to my hotel.

I have a doctor's appointment later today and then hopefully I'll be headed back to my site tomorrow and so begins the last 10 months of service.


Quick recap of the States:

Brother's bachelor party... Hanging out with old friends and family in for the wedding... Brother's wedding... Hanging in Austin with friends... Making beautiful music in Austin once again with an old friend... Getting books from wise friends... Hanging out in the pool with family... Packing... Hopping on a plane

Sunday, May 25, 2008

hope and the triumph of imagination

Once again I have lapsed on blog entries. Seeing a pattern? So I’m not a consistent writer… I’ve never been consistent at much of anything so no big surprise there. Let me get you updated on recent developments

The Commune finally came through and bought the pump and piping to get water into the water tower and they are installing all of it as I’m writing this. Hopefully by the middle of next week there will be water flowing in the center of town. It’s still a long way to walk for a lot of people though so I’ve combined forces with an association here to both bring water into individual homes and to make sure that the water being pumped in is clean. The end result down the road is to hopefully install latrines in people’s homes. If we installed them now, they would most likely not be used because collecting water to flush it would be too much of a strain on the women who collect water hence extending water access is Phase 1. At the moment, I’m working on writing a grant to assist in the acquisition of a water treatment system and the community is coming up with the funds to lay the piping and connect the houses. I’m actually quite impressed at the initiative taken by the president of the association Sliman. Part of what I’m supposed to do here is to help associations instill a mentality for sustainable projects and there was almost no need for that with him. He was neither looking for someone to do the work for him nor waiting for the funds… quite the opposite; he has assumed many of the costs out of his own pocket and has mobilized several members of the community in moving the work along.

Hopefully I’ll have this grant written sometime this week once we nail out the final budget and if you would like to contribute I will provide a link to it when it is posted on the Peace Corps website.

In other news, I’m getting closer to coming home for Lee’s (my brother) wedding. I can’t express just how excited I am about seeing friends and family after over a year. I’ve got a lot planned for the time I’ll be home. The vast majority of which will consist in soaking up as much of those people I love as I possibly can, eating some spectacular food (Mexican of course), and enjoying access to running water… maybe stocking up on new reading for the year I will have left. I’m flying home on the 19th of June and heading back on the 8th of July. Some of that time will be in Austin, some in Waco, some in Dallas, some in Henrietta and possibly some in Florida.

Let’s see what else… oh, my new site mate just arrived for her two months of home stay before she moves off on her own. I now have another American living about 2 km from my house which feels a little weird. Her name is Tory from Michigan and she’ll be working with the Water and Forestry. I’m not entirely sure what she’ll be doing, but my guess is that she doesn’t really know yet either. I don’t envy her next two months. Home stay is difficult on everyone and she has the added complication of the fact that I moved here after becoming well acquainted with the language so people here didn’t have to see me struggle through the beginning. The people here can be unforgiving in their judgments of ability and pull no punches in assessing someone’s ability in anything. The language we learn is also pretty much devoid of nuance so you either know everything or nothing. It can break down your confidence after a while. If she makes it through this though, she should be fine.

It’s strange to think that her arrival marks exactly a year in my site (I yr 3mo in country). A year ago at this time Mara and I were arriving in Khenifra for a week of meetings with the Ministry of Health, hanging out with Matt (who is now finished with his service and on his way home via Egypt… Godspeed). When I post this I’ll be in Khenifra translating for the two new Health volunteers in our province as they start their service. It’s interesting to see their reactions to things and wonder if mine were similar when I arrived. It was only a year ago, but so much has transpired since then… battles won and lost, friends come and gone, and up until now a consistent string of victories over the loss of idealism although it has morphed but I believe matured. I hope…

Hope has a lot to do with why I’m still here… hope that the vision that brought me from across the ocean is one that I won’t lose sight of in spite of the constant struggle of the day to day much less of trying to accomplish what it is we are here to do. Hope that strength will be found at the moment where I feel like I have no more to give. Hope that somehow what I am doing will be of some service to those formerly faceless and abstract people who were the subjects of my ideas about the event of Justice and it’s possibility and necessity in every corner of our globe. Hope…

One of my friends sent me this in the mail a few weeks ago. This person seems to always find those words or gifts that reach into whatever pit I’m wallowing in feeling trapped and pull me out reminding me to keep my eyes on the horizon. Bethany, thank you. I’ll leave you with those words…

“In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination… & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


So this is the picture of my new water source at the Chinese construction site and the walk to it from my house. Well at least the road going in the direction. You can't actually see where the water is because it's a LONG way down that road.

Shifting Gears

Gears have shifted a bit. I was revving up to get a latrine building project going, but due to the water situation everything has been put on hold. I’m going with my nurse and a president of an association here to meet with the president of the Commune to see what we can do to move the process of buying a pump along. That should be interesting. I had a 2 hour conversation with several individuals in the community the other day. Actually I should say I was present for the conversation. I tried to keep up but everyone was speaking faster than I could process the words and by the time I understood the word they had moved on and the meaning escaped me. I caught things here and there; suffice it to say that tensions were high. I got my input in there a bit and actually think I communicated quite well what I wanted to say. The gist is this…

I’m here for public hygiene and am not interested in who gets the credit for building the chateau. Right now there is no water and I’m going to work with whoever can help us get water.

I’m going to attempt something tomorrow which could throw everything off though. I’m not the most resilient multi-tasker on the face of the planet and I’m going to try and start setting up the latrine building project with the assumption that the chateau is going to get finished. It’s a risky move I know but a necessary one if I am going to make some headway before I go back to the States for Lee’s wedding and finish both projects by the time my service is finished next May. I’m going to a friend’s house about 3 km down the road where my new site mate will be hosted in a month. He doesn’t have a latrine and is having to build one, as Peace Corps policy won’t allow for volunteers to be in homes that don’t have latrines. I’m going to get his building schedule and try to track how this thing goes up, how much the materials cost and various other logistical details so that when the time comes to start this project, I won’t be completely taken off guard.

On a random note, I couldn’t think of the English word for “piping” when I was talking to my programming staff earlier today. I could only think of the French and Arabic words. It’s starting to get bad… the languages are all mixed up in there.

All Wet

Something happened today that has happened to just about everyone else in my training group… I lost my phone.

I remember laughing at all those before me who lost their phones because most of them dropped them in their toilets and then the water messed them up. Why you would drop your phone in the toilet, I don’t know? My situation wasn’t quite as comical, it was closer to tragic. I was enjoying a lovely afternoon reading Plutarch in the warmth of the sun while my legs dangled in the river and I got a call from my program manager Mostafa and then another Peace Corps employee LHacen. We worked some stuff out and talked about future projects, it was a good day. Then I put my phone in the breast pocket of my shirt along with my little notebook, identification card, money and pen that I carry around wherever I go.

I usually keep my phone on vibrate and the breast pocket surprisingly isn’t a great place to feel your phone ringing. I missed two calls which I saw when I checked the time so after calling the person back I decided to put the phone in my lap which was a bad idea because I immediately forgot that it was there. About 20 minutes later I was starting to get uncomfortable on the rock I was sitting so I started to scoot myself further up and in doing so dropped the phone and watched it slide down the rock into the water. I have fairly good reflexes and almost caught it, but in the process of thrusting myself to prevent it from disappearing in to Oum Rbie out flew my pen and notebook from my breast pocket. Now I wasn’t laughing, but the two evil 12 year old boys that had been staring at me and asking for money for the last little bit thought it was hilarious.

I jumped in and recovered all of them, but the damage had been done. My phone no longer works.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visit from the King

The king came to Mrirt today. Sadly I don’t have pictures though. When I pulled out my camera I got a stern rebuke from the skinny waif of a gendarme standing on my section of the line. Incidentally he was here to inspect an association with which my souq town volunteer Anna works. Sadly she couldn’t be in the building at the time of inspection for even though she had a pass, the authorities were being jumpy and the presence of some random foreigner doesn’t really calm them down much. So she and I watched the procession from the road.

Now Mrirt has been decked out for four or five days with the anticipation of the coming king. By decked out I mean that Moroccan flags were posted every 30 or so meters along the road, the fountain in the center of town was on for the first time since I’ve been here, and the streets were actually cleaned. This morning people were already crowding the roads at 7 even though he wouldn’t pass until 5 or 6 hours later. I arrived around 1230 from my site and we had to take a sketchy back road… I laugh because all the roads to my site are back roads, so the fact that I’m calling this road a back road should say something… and I got dropped off a ways from town. Since the next day was souq and I usually am out of food at this point in the week, I was hungry and all I wanted to do was to go get something to eat, but all the food was on the other side of the road and although the king wouldn’t pass for another hour or so, the gendarmes would let me cross. The road was packed on all sides with people holding little Moroccan flags, pictures of the king, and little children chanting something I only partially understood. It was quite the festive atmosphere.

It took him about 15 seconds to pass my point in the road and almost immediately the crowd dissipated. Some of the kids went running after the convoy, but most of the people around me went their separate ways to discuss their particular angle of vision and interpretations of the minutest details. Anna and I proceeded to the association building he had just visited where we were scolded for not being present during the inspection. Let’s be honest though, I don’t have any clothes in this country appropriate for meeting any kind of monarch and this association isn’t my work. Anna probably should have been there, but her association has it together and neither she nor I want to steal their thunder. Her association is a group of handicapped artisans who make rugs and various other products for sell. Handicapped people have it quite difficult here… there are no wheelchair ramp laws to say the least… and this is a group of resilient people who deal with some pretty powerful cultural stigmas.

We sat and chatted with everyone for a while and then headed home…

… don’t worry, I got some food. I know you were concerned that I didn’t eat. I did. ; )

Old Crow Medicine Show - I Hear Them All

What I was listening to while I was drinking the coffee right before the frenzied rush to fill water containers with irrigation water.


Alright so let’s get you guys caught up on life in Morocco…

I am infinitely grateful for the site change. Things seem to be moving with much more purpose here, people are more to the point where dissatisfaction with one’s situation has been built up to the extent that spurs action. The events of the last week have also served to push that even further to critical mass.

So here is out water situation. As long as people can remember, they have gotten their water from the river Oum Rbie that flows through the village. Then a couple of years ago along came the French, Chinese, and Taiwanese construction companies with their bid to build a series of dams, tunnels, and reservoirs from here to my old site in order to generate hydroelectricity. Now electricity is a good thing, but it is coming at the cost of this village’s drinking water. The company solved this problem for their workers by building wells. The community, however, doesn’t have the resources to get to the water 80m below the surface so for a while the company has been letting them occasionally take water from the well. All of that changed last weekend while I was waiting in line to get water from the well.

Apparently the company decided they were tired of sharing their water so they shut the pump off from general consumption. Now at the time everyone was telling me that they had shut it off for good and I was nervous because that was my only source of relatively clean water. I ended up washing my dishes, clothes, and cooking with “segia” water (muddy water from the irrigation ditch) for a couple of days until the pump magically came back on. Now I’ve gotten used to hyperbole being used in every day conversation, but when it came to something as necessary as water I jumped right in on the fear bandwagon.

When they went back to letting people use the well a few days later I felt like a bit of an idiot for freaking out, but then I thought further on the matter and realized that this is the very real fear and uncertainty in which this community constantly lives. They no longer have a clean source of water that they can control and so their access to the most precious resource is dependent on the whims of a foreign construction company. Imagine this… you’re sitting in your home and are thirsty so you think to yourself that you’ll go get a drink of water. When you turn on the faucet, nothing comes out. No biggie, you’ll check again later. Three days later still nothing. You find out that the company building something in your area was mixing a lot of cement and needed the water and that after all it is their water. They’ll let you use it when they no longer need it. In the mean time you’ve gone three days without a drink. How does that make you feel?

During the time the water was shut off, my neighbor came banging on my door in the morning while I was enjoying a cup of coffee (I decided to have an emergency supply of bottled water in my house) and listening to some Old Crow Medicine Show to get the day started. Frantically she told me to go get my water containers; that the water was flowing in the irrigation ditch. At first I thought to myself that there was no way that I was going to use that nasty water, and then I remembered that I no longer had any idea where else I was going to get it. I found myself crouched down by this little canal with all the women filling bottles with brown water and washing clothes and dishes all the while not knowing how long it would last or when it would be back.

I talked to my landlord later that week about the irrigation. He teaches middle school Arabic in Mrirt, but owns a lot of the olive groves in my area. He informed me that there is an “amghar” about 8 kilometers up the road who controls the water. Now I’ve always understood the word “amghar” to mean an old man, but apparently that’s just common usage today and it used to be a title for a man in a position that is no longer in use throughout most of the country. It is the Arabic equivalent of “lamin” which from his explanation I understood as a sort of adjudicator who mediates disputes and dispenses resources considered public. My Moroccan Arabic dictionary says it’s either a “guild master” or a “hired water carrier”. Much of that role is now taken care of by the government, but I live in an area where the government isn’t quite omnipresent so we are still under the “amghar’s” regime. All of this is to say that the “amghar” assigns the times when various communities/farms will receive their allotment of water and the landowners know their times, but the people in my area are mostly not landowners. The ones who actually own the fields live in France, Spain, Rabat, Casablanca, etc. The people who live here have no idea when the water comes; they just have to be on the lookout and ready to take advantage when it does come.

Now this year… just in January… they finished building a water tower in the middle of town. It has several water taps centrally located so that everyone can partake of the water, the only problem is that there is no water yet. The only thing it is lacking is a pump to bring the water up to the filter and into the tower. I’m still trying to find out how to move that process along and have a meeting on Thursday at the Commune with the president. What I have gathered thus far is that the money they collected for the pump when into paving the road from Mrirt, but that because there are so many large trucks constantly on the road because of the construction they can’t finish until the dam building project is finished. So no pump until there’s a road, and no road until there’s a dam… the dam is 6 months behind schedule and counting. The beautiful, finished water tower is just sitting there in the center mocking everyone… at least that’s how it seems to me, and old ladies sit around telling me they are tired of carrying their 60 year old bodies the long distances to the river or the irrigation ditch to collect water and then haul it back home, and the old men continue to feel the anger of broken promises.

I’m 23 years old with very little to say for myself and almost no health experience. My very presence here, however, brings with it an immediate respect and with that great expectations. I live with a fear that I won’t be able to accomplish anything of note to justify the access I have been granted simply for being a foreigner invited by the King. My constant prayer is that somehow I will be able to help out in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Partying All Night Long

So having been in country a year I have quite a deficiency of family functions to my name. My region mate Mara seems to be at weddings, engagement parties, and baby dedications every other day but I’ve only seemed to manage one engagement party which I had to leave early because of a meeting the next morning. This weekend all of that changed. My landlord’s daughter just recently got engaged and myself and the two new volunteers in my souq town (Anna and Ian, you’ll be hearing more about them in the future) were invited.

So in Arabic we call this shin-dig a “khoutouba” (the ‘KH’ is pronounced like you’re trying to dislodge something caught in your throat) and in Tamazight it’s called a “thuthra” and it’s a two day celebration. The basic idea of which is that the heads of the families of the soon-to-be happy couple get together to negotiate the wedding, the dowry and all such important matters while all the extended family parties. The downside of all of this, as far as I can see, is that the soon-to-be happy couple isn’t invited so while everyone in their respective families are having a blast; they get to stay at home.

Ian and I didn’t go the first day because it was reserved for the ladies. Saturday, however I met my landlord’s son Asherraf in the middle of town around 6 in the evening where there was a large crowd gathered around some musicians beating drums, singing and blowing on horns. The horns looked like the ones people in funny outfits blow right before the town crier reads a proclamation of the king or something. Anyway, it was quite the long procession from the center of town all the way to the house. The women were grouped in the front and were dancing and throwing their hair around (you just have to see it) and to be honest it did my heart good to see the women letting loose some.

We made it to the house where the entire procession moved onto the roof where, as the music and dancing continued, we sacrificed a ram. I ended up having a conversation later on with someone later that evening who asked me if we could do that in the States. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that there is some kind of code, or law, or something that would prevent you from sacrificing a ram on your roof. I don’t know why, I just get that feeling. If there is, it’s a shame. After being here for a year now, I’m quite partial to sacrificing a ram/sheep for major family events. So we sacrificed the ram and three hours later were eating it.

After the sacrifice the whole thing calmed down for a while as the patriarchs went to go do their thing. Ian and I got escorted to the equivalent of the singles table although it wasn’t a table, it was a different house. We were there with about twenty other Moroccan men in their 20s and from about 7 until midnight we sat there being grilled on everything from our opinions of Morocco, the Berber language, student politics at the University of Meknes, American divorce law, the Democratic Primary, secret girlfriends, and on the list goes. For the record, everyone here loves Hillary because apparently a member of her family married a Berber and she’s visited here twice. I don’t know about the accuracy of the visits, but that’s what they tell me. It probably goes without saying that covering such diverse topics and being the center of attention for 5 hours stretches one’s language ability. Anyone who has lived abroad knows that some days your mind just clicks and it all makes sense and then other days it seems like you don’t understand a thing. I was lucky and having a good language day.

The food took quite a while to come out, but when it did we had three courses. The first was a chicken seasoned with, among other things, saffron and olives, the second was the lamb meat cooked with prunes which was excellent, and finally we ended with fruit. Of course all of this was eaten with the hands and bread. Now when we had finished, Ian and I gave each other that look any ex-pat knows that says “alright, now let’s start the process of getting out of here.” I use the word ‘process’ intentionally because it is most definitely that. After about 45 minutes of goodbyes and “no don’t go yet”s we were finally on our way back at around midnight. We hit a snag though and ran into some people who had left and were on their way back for the all night dancing and they were a bit more persuasive (read “physically grabbed us and dragged us back”) and so we ended up right back on the roof. At the time I was a little frustrated, but mostly just exhausted. I am so glad that we stayed though.

Once we got back the “alun” (drums) were pulled out and we started the dancing. Now two things here… one, the dancing is pretty much just standing shoulder to shoulder and bouncing up and down… two, it is now 1230 and they were just then bringing down the food for the women to eat which is why female Volunteers hate going to these things. So we got to dancing, just the guys and were having a blast. They handed me the drum to play along, but I can never seem to keep the rhythm of the music here. They eventually asked me to sing a song from America and the unanimous request was Bryan Adams’ “Everything I do, I do it for you”. It’s OK to let out a chuckle right here. So I sang and they sang right along. These guys couldn’t speak English, but that didn’t stop them from knowing all the words to a Bryan Adams song.

We stuck around for another hour or so, but that was about all we could handle. We walked home and I passed out.

Now I don’t have any pictures because I don’t feel comfortable going to a family function and acting like a tourist, but the son of the landlord was taking pictures so I’m hoping to steal his and pass them on so I’ll do that when I can.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

New Site...

Well the deed is done. Friday night was my first night in the new site.

Let me catch you all up on the craziness of the last couple of months. The story goes something like this… The area I was working in was so spread out that effective work was extremely difficult. I was hiking around the hills talking with random farmers and shepherds whose paths I would cross and that was about it. There were no associations with which to work and no potential for projects onto which I could stick a “sustainable” label so the Ministry of Health and Peace Corps finally decided to take me up on my proposal to change to an area where I had contacts and potential for work.

So below are pictures of the new house. I’m definitely taking a step down in amenities. I still have electricity and although I didn’t have running water at my last site, there was a source of treated water only 50m from my house. Now I’m about 800m from a source of drinkable water which is actually probably going to be the crux of my work over the course of this next year. I’m also a bit more isolated, but I’m in a gorgeous area. The Middle Atlas Region is one of the most spectacular areas I’ve ever lived in which is saying a lot since some of those places include the Black Forest, East Tennessee, Central Texas Hill Country, and northern Quebec. I went on a hike with some friends a couple of days ago and discovered lush cedar forests, breathtaking waterfalls, and some near extinct wildlife. Those pictures will have to wait for another time. Of the five of us on the hike, no one brought their cameras… go figure.

So here is the vew of the new house...

This is my bed. As you can see it's not actually a bed, it's just a couple of blankets on the floor. It's comfortable enough though.

This is looking the other direction in the room where I do my work very close to the floor.

And this is my kitchen... not much counter space I know...

There was quite a bit of trepidation about starting over this late in the game, but the past couple of days, I’ve actually been quite excited about hopefully getting some work done where I could potentially see some of the fruits of my labor.

So coming up this week is an exciting date. As of March 6, I will have been in country for a year. It is amazing how quickly the time has flown. I don’t have any plans as of yet to celebrate, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out… or not, I don’t know. I’ll probably just go on a long hike and maybe camp out somewhere, the stars have been spectacular as of late.

Monday, February 4, 2008

More Change

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I apologize the last month has been a little crazy. There’s been a lot going on so let me update you…

The most significant development is that I’m changing sites. The Ministry of Health, upon inspection of my site, decided that they wanted me in an area where I would be a bit more centralized and thus have access to more people with which to work. Although I can’t name the new place I can say that it isn’t far from where I am now and I will be working with one of the same macro tribal groups so the language is only slightly different. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks meeting with nurses, associations, and individuals from the area looking for work and housing. Today I have a meeting with the Ministry of Health to determine whether or not I will be permitted to use the nurses’ housing that was constructing with the Centre de Santé. In terms of housing I’ll probably be taking a bit of a step back in that I won’t have either electricity or running water although the electricity situation might be remedied.

The main issue in the area is access to potable water. There are several springs scattered throughout the hills with very good water, but they are inaccessible to most people most notably the town itself. They have recently built a chateau (water tower) to distribute running water, but it is not yet functional due to some conflict with the Commune I don’t quite understand.

One potential plus of this new site is that I might be getting a site mate who will be working with the Water and Forestry on ecotourism projects. That could go either way but it will be interesting having another American in my site. I’m going to hope for the best and will get someone who isn’t going to make me any crazier than I already am insha’allah. I’m hoping to be moved within the month, but you never know. It’s quite intimidating thinking about almost starting over in a new area, familiarizing myself with a new local politics, making new friends, learning a new dialect, and just generally forging myself a new home, but I think I’m up to the task. I fortunately have a spectacular support system of good volunteers around me.

Here are some pictures of the new site…

Other than that things have been going well this month. The weather has finally started to turn and spring is in the air. I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll go through one more cold spell before it stays warm and starts moving towards full on deadly heat but for now I’m typing on my roof with shorts on soaking up the sun. Work has been slow this month in terms of statistics the Ministry of Health would be interested in, but relationships building has been flourishing both with fellow PCVs and Moroccans. I’ve been to a couple of engagement parties and unfortunately don’t have pictures. Both times a friend would come to my house and say we’re going to go eat dinner, we’d hike for a really long time and when we arrived lo and behold there were about 70 people all celebrating an engagement. I need to just start carrying my camera everywhere I go.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Of Ishmael and Isaac

So the holiday season has passed and here is a photo journal of that trip... we begin with the Muslim holiday commemorating Abraham's test of faith.

This is me and Hicham right after slaughtering the sheep.

Here we're skinning it.

And of course gutting it.

And here's the mother of the house cooking it. The liver wrapped in the stomach lining was particularly delicious.

Shortly after this holiday I left to go celebrate Christmas with some friends... that was a long trip and I'll tell you about it later. For the moment, here are some pictures.

Our host's house.

Me decorating our makeshift tree.

Cooking the meal

Wrapping presents... then we changed a bit of scenery

It was nice and warm for once

And I got to play guitar both on the beach and in the ocean.

The sunsets were spectacular

Some of us surfed...

And others rode camels. Sounds like the Christmas everyone dreams of right?

I just thought I'd throw that one in for good measure... Mara my regionmate

There are better pictures of this part of the holidays, but they are not mine and I don't yet have my hands on them. To be continued...

Then New Years is also pictureless, but it was spectacular to be around people I now consider family. So for all of you worried parents out there who think your children are alone during the holidays... we do a good job of taking care of each other.

Happy New Year