If there is anything I can take away from my second month in Morocco, its simply that I’m apparently more resilient that I thought. This month has flown by, but not without its inherent struggles on a daily basis. The Peace Corps is a mental game – some days you’re thriving and feeling great about your integration into the community and some days you’re piled under five blankets in the fetal position questioning why the hell you’re living in a mountainous village in rural Morocco without WIFI. In most cases, there is an entirely different story panning out behind those stunning Instagram worthy photographs that we post to update the ones we love abroad. I can’t speak for all of my staj, but I fight every single day to keep my sanity at bay.
This month I found out where my permanent site is. In mid-December, I’ll be heading to a very small town about an hour away from the coveted seaside city of Essaouria. It’s a town of roughly 1200, that straddles the main road from Marrakech to Essaouria. Aesthetically speaking it’s an eye sore, but the location itself is its redeeming quality. It appears I’ll have ample work opportunities whether it’s in the nedi newsi (women’s center), dar talib/taliba (boarding schools), lycee (high school), and the sports complex. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sports complex opens soon and is receptive to any kind of help I can give them. My host sister is 35 and recently widowed. She has two sons (Teha 1.5 years old and Reda 8 years old) that are absolutely beautiful, but incredibly ornery. My sister appears to be a force to be reckoned with. She’s a preschool teacher, works in the nedi newsi, tutors girls in her house for several hours every night and is extremely respected in the community. They truly are a wonderful family, but it was easily the most exhausting three days I’ve experienced in a long time. For anyone who knows me, you know that I don’t work with children often. It doesn’t mean I don’t like them, I just honestly feel that my skillset works better with high school or college aged students. I was lucky enough to spend three solid days in a Moroccan preschool during my site visit (I use the term lucky extremely loosely). It was overwhelming and the set up contrasts significantly from what I’ve experienced in the United States, but I’ll save that for an entirely different post. The moral of the story is that (inshallah) I’ll be working more with the women and older kids than the preschool aged children in the community for the next two years.
Other than my site visit, I’ve spent most of my days in Ben Smim in language training with my CBT group. Darija is designated as a category four language which means it’s in the same group with Mandarin Chinese as one of the hardest languages to learn and its definitely proving to be just that. Peace Corps also dropped it on some of us that we get to simultaneously start learning another language depending on our site. So lucky me – I will also be learning an Amazight language called Tashlheet now. The language barrier is easily the most frustrating aspect of this whole experience. No matter how much I study every night, the language does not stick like Spanish did for me. I’ve actually taken a liking to learning script, which for most trainees is their least favorite aspect of language training. In truth, I think the language barrier facilitates part of my mental struggle. Try going almost three days without speaking but a few words – it takes a toll on you. Not only can I not express my feelings adequately in Darija, but I feel as if I can’t show anyone my true abilities without being able to communicate fully. At the end of the day, it motivates me to spend most of my nights curled up with my Darija book.
Aside from my life in Ben Smim, I look forward to going to “Hub” every few weeks in Meknes. Hub consists of all of the CBT groups in the Southern region meeting to train together for several days. It’s a breath of fresh air to stay in a beautiful hotel and have access to a normal shower. It also helps us keep our sanity in my opinion. While I enjoy my CBT group, it’s nice to interact with others in our region. We have around 54 trainees in the Southern region, so there is always an adequate number of people to interact with. The training itself isn’t the most riveting, but it does consist of vital information that we all need to absorb at some point. All in all, no one can complain about being in Meknes where we have access to a Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and a “candy store” (I think we can all figure out what that means).
I think by this point, my health has slowly started to deteriorate. I used to be proud that I didn’t consume hardly any sugar and I stuck to a rigorous training schedule, but this surely is not the case anymore. I think I’ve worked out MAYBE 5 times since I’ve been here. (I know I’m ashamed too) My biggest fear has been that I would not be able to stay healthy here due to being a strict vegetarian. While I literally never go hungry, I am constantly pumped full of bread, olive oil, honey, and mint tea. I have maybe one source of protein a day in the form of loubia (beans) or l3das (lentils). Unfortunately, I know this isn’t a sufficient intake of protein, but I’m also not in the position where I can cook for myself yet. I’m almost positive I’m anemic at the moment, so I’ll be putting in a phone call to the Peace Corps Medical Officer soon enough to confirm that. Eventually I know this will all get better once I’m on my own, but I still have a solid two and a half months before I’m living on my own. Until then, I’m afraid I’m going to feel sluggish and fatigued.
I know this wasn’t an exciting post by any means, but I wanted to give a quick update of some of the past month. I promise once I’m in my permanent site I’ll start updating more about my experiences. Like I’ve mentioned before, there is no Wi-Fi access in my village and the 3G network is useless most of the time. If you want a day to day account you’re more than welcome to follow my journey through my Instagram and Facebook page too.
Missing you all greatly,