Lauren in Morocco

This Blog has no direct association with the Peace Corps.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

This week, September 11th-15th a Traditional Birth Attendant training was held at my site. I was fortunate in the fact that I didn’t have to apply for any sort of funding or grants and this project was organized by the delegate. The training was held mainly for women in the area who have already attended a TBA training or for those looking to obtain the information. I d attended the session, so that I could meet the women involved and follow up on their progress, as well as involve myself in health lessons. Fifteen women were scheduled to attend, however only 9-10 attended the first day and the number gradually increased throughout the week, along with myself and two other American volunteers, who work in the Oarzazate province.
The training was held in a mixture of Arabic and Tamazirt, the leaders of the training all work in the Oarzazate region. In attendance was the Medicine Chef of Kelaa Mgouna, one nurse from the sbitar in Kelaa Mgouna, a Stage-fem, and one worker from Bio-diversity. Four volunteers that are from the previous stage od 2005 are planning on hosting TBA trainings at their sites and the trainings will be held in the same format. The volunteers are not actually conducting the lessons, they will have nurses and doctors from their larger sbitars hold the lessons. The women who attended the session were given lunch and a small stipend. The men did conduct most of the sessions, however for the hand-on type sessions, the stage-fem and the female from bio-diversity conducted the sessions and the men left the room. In many of the lessons the volunteers (myself, Christie, and Dana) were allowed to give lessons and we viewed as leaders to the women. For certain TBA trainings, finding women to attend is difficult because of fear of interacting with men and talking about such private topics. One day the lesson also ventured toward health lessons and we discussed washing of hands and brushing of teeth, this was beneficial because the volunteers were able to give a quasi-health lesson. On Wednesday, the birthing process was discussed and following this lesson family planning was a major lesson. Family planning is one topic I would like to talk to women about so I was glad we were able to speak in this lesson. Many women don’t understand birth-control pills or IUDs and have five or more children. Of the women in the room, most had between 4-8 children and all reported at least one child dead, but the average number for children the women had lost was around 3. One woman in the room had eleven children, but 5 had died during child-birth or during the first year of life. In general women in very rural, developing nations have no notion of family planning. The spacing of children and the number of desired children was discussed. The women were also taught that birth control should be taken everyday, because most women feel that they only have to take it from time to time and this is solely because of lack of education. The most popular form of birth-control is the form taken while breast-feeding, because typically only married women ask for birth control at the sbitar, anyone not married normally wouldn’t ask for birth-control because it would be considered “hshuma.”
I feel that the TBA trainings are a necessity because of the obvious lack of knowledge and information available for these women. One woman commented that a woman is normally pregnant for around 11 months to a year and this woman had no idea that the actual estimated time for a pregnancy is 9 months. All of the women involved were oblivious to the fact that going to the hospital for birthing is free. The training included prenatal as well as post natal care and all sessions were accompanied by some sort of visual aid or flip chart. Most of the women involved never attended college or school past five years, so the sessions were all about an hour and fifteen minutes long, with a tea break or lunch in between. This was to maximize the amount of time the women listened and to get the full attention span of all attending women.

Sent to Volunteers on my Gender and Development meeting
GAD minutes
During the GAD session in Rabat, the primary focus was the compilation of a new resource book and added information for the GLOW book. We feel that not enough resources are available to volunteers, and gender and development is a major issue in Morocco. Quoting an attendant of a previous leadership conference “Morocco is becoming an example to the entire Arab world concerning women and development.” New elections were held and there is a new position for a person to compose the GAD resource manual. The Global Rights group was visited and new information was gathered for the book. This will be an on-going process, but any suggestions as to resources about gender in Morocco, are welcome. Statistics are one subject of research, because we feel this a common request from volunteers. If any information is needed contact GAD or the library in Rabat for GLOW camp information, the current resource manual, or current copies of the Moudawana.
IST as well as PST trainings were discussed.

My peace corps experience in numbers
7 is the number of months I’ve been in country, 4 months since swear in. 25 volunteers started out in our health stage and now 2 our gone. 24 started in the 2005 health stage and now 9 remain. 2 is the number of host families I’ve had in country with 9 children in total.
3 projects have been completed, 2 health lessons, with 4 major project ideas.
21 is our youngest volunteer and 69 is our oldest volunteer. 4 other health volunteers are in my region and 4 our female. My closest health volunteer is 3 hours away and my post office is 2 hours away. I’ve seen 10 cities since I’ve been in country and lived in two. I’ve lived with a host family for 5 months and its been 5 months since I’ve slept on a bed. I’ve watched 2 hrs of TV in this country and read 57 books. I’ve climbed 3 mountains ranging from 2000 meters to 3000 meters. I’ve had 5 taxis break down and I’ve had 4 people get car sick…on me. The second highest mountain in Morocco is 4000 meters and it is a 20 minute walk from my site. I’ve visited 20 of my 50 villages and lived in 2. I’ve had 4 cases of Giardia and lost 15 pounds in the process. I consumed 4 chesses burgers to regain the weight and I’ve eaten at Mcdonalds 4 times in country. I can speak 2 languages native to Morocco, moderately well and I am learning a third…French. I’ve had one GAD meeting and attended one SIDA training. I’ve had scabies 1 time and I currently have 15 mosquito bites and 10 flea bites on my feet. I’ve eaten goat brain 3 times….and couscous, bread, and tajine over 100 times. 3 is the number of cups of tea/coffee I drink a day and 9 is the max. I’ve been to 3 weddings, one funeral, and 3 village celebrations. I have IST in 2 months and will have been in country one year in about 5 months. I see other volunteers once or twice a month, but it is difficult as my closest volunteer is over 2 hours away. I left 1 amazing family in American and several Amazing friends from my 1 university. My first friend from college is getting married next week and my younger brother is in his second year of college. I will experience Moroccan/Islamic holiday number 3 starting tomorrow.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

June, entering my 5th month in Morocco

First of all, let me just say I am sorry I haven't updated my blog in about a month. I sometimes prefer emailing the whole group because I can say anything I am thinking. I've officially been a volunteer for one month, but I've been in country for 4 months. During June I lived with my second host family and worked in the sbitar. A normal day for me is: waking up around 5:30 because that is when the roosters start or the sheep run through the middle of the house, I normally pretend to sleep until about 7, because waking up at 5:30 makes for a long day, I eat a breakfast consisting of bread and tea with my host family, I go to the sbitar from 8-12, I eat lunch around 2. Let me pause here and mention that lunch is the longest and most important meal of the day in Morocco, so we normally start the process around 12:30 by drinking tea and sit until the food comes around 2 and then sit more and drink more tea. By this point I've had about 4 hours of sitting with my host family understanding part of what's going on, so around 4 everyday I need to get out of the house and go for a walk to different duars (villages), then from 6-dark I run because I am training for the half marathon in Marakesh next year. After dark it's the same sitting and eating routine as lunch, plus reading. I think I finally have a grasp on the language, well when I am at the sites of other volunteers I do. Most other volunteers are replacing volunteers so their families understand that you are not going to understand every single thing at first and their families tell me I am doing very well with the language. No one in my host family seems to understand that I've only been learning the language for 3 months and I am told almost everyday that I know nothing. That is quite alright, when I return to America I will have an extremely above average confidence level. The other day my host grandmother was standing outside of my room saying all kinds of crazy things and I just said I don't understand, I don't understand. She was trying to tell me the lighter didn't work, now if she would have just said lighter and does not work..I would have understood. Instead she was using the Arabic word for stick and the Arabic word for lighter...well A. I never learned Arabic and B. I don't think I know the work for stick in Tamazirt either. I would say I know about 90 verbs..Which is enough for any day to describe what I am doing and all nouns concerning people, clothes, houses, the sbitar, water, food, the outdoors, and traveling...All of which should suffice, but my host family likes to switch it up. One morning this week I exited my room around 7 and there were about 30 people in my house, my host mother said they had already eaten breakfast because today was special day and gave me some dates. I asked her if it was a holiday and she said no, but did the harvesting motion...So I used the verb to harvest and the word for field and the answer was still no. She said we work very hard all day and eat breakfast, then rice at 10, the couscous, and finally tajine. From what I could gather no one was working, so from what I could gather from language..I think this was a day maybe to celebrate the end of harvest and hard work. One man from each family in our duar came to our house and ate, the older men in one room and the younger in another. Then around 4 all the women from town came to our house and we all ate. I will never really be sure what the event was for that day, other volunteers live relatively close to tutors or mentors who may be able to answer this question, but I live 2 or 3 hours from anything of the sort. That night the women in my town tried to teach me how to make bread and when I said I didn't know, she said you will never learn our language. Maybe it's just me, but I see no correlation between learning a language and making bread..ahah. I had a lunch meeting with all of the teachers in town this week, before they went on summer vacation, about potential health lessons and projects and that was very productive. They also told me if in September, when they returned, I wanted to play soccer...Then we would start a community soccer league. I also went and found our town association (the government of our town) and had a meeting solely in Tamazirt about potential projects and duars in the area with no water. I have a scheduled meeting with the Rice (the leader of my area) in two weeks, which I am looking forward to. I have also found a house, so in August I will be able to move. My conversations with teachers were also good because the teachers are very educated and I was able to receive varied viewpoints on cultural issues which I will write more about later.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Swearing In Ceremony

Today we had our swearing-in ceremony and we are finally volunteers. You have to go through 2 1/2 months of training to swear-in and we just completed our training. We have been in a really large, extremely modern city and have been able to swim in the hotel pool and have a little free time. There were a few of us with the highest scores in language and we just decided to draw names out of the four of us and my name wasn't drawn out of the hat so I didn't get to give the speech. I am however, the Gender and Development Representative for our staging group. There is one elected each time a group swears in, so there are 6 in-country that represent about 150 volunteers. I will be able to travel to Rabat three or 4 times a year to work on gender camps and have meetings with administration and maybe the US ambassador. I will also work with the other 5 volunteers to create GLOW camps (girls leading our world or guys.) I leave for my site tomorrow, wish me luck.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

This is a picture of the first day we ever played soccer in Morocco, I am one of two girls on the field and I think we attracted half the crowd. I say this only because we are American and normally women do not play soccer. Since this day I've played soccer everyday that I've been in Azilal and the locals always play with us. I am amazed because normally the few girls that play are picked for teams before the American boys. The Moroccan's are obviously all amazing at soccer when we all play together and I can hardly keep up, one day...One day.
Rabat when we first arrived in Morocco (these pictures are obviously not appearing in my Blog in any sort of order, but I've just started uploading them.) Rabat is obviously an extremely large city and being a health volunteer I only work in extremely rural areas, although on vacation I will revisit Rabat and we have mid-term Medical exams in the city.
A Moroccan roof-top, this a place of great importance for Moroccan women because much of the laundry and down-time is spent on the roof.
View of Casablanca from the Plane window (over two months ago, this picture if obviously also out of order.)

This week I have my final LPI (language exam) and next week I swear in as a volunteer. Our group has not yet had one person ET and hopefully this trend will continue, inshallah (which translates to God-willing.) I can't really say more about previous groups that are in country, but I will mention the information in an email. Our swear-in site is in an undisclosed location in the desert, so I have to prepare myself for the heat this week. I just had my final day with my first host family in CBT and I have to say that I had an amazing time at my CBT site. My host family was amazing and I know that they have little, but they would always give me so much. I've noticed and mentioned to another volunteer, how little materialism there is, because of the lack of "things." In the more rural areas there is very little money, the average income of a Moroccan in any rural area is less than 3 dollars a day and 70% of Morccans live in rural areas. My family always cooked the most amazing food and tried to teach me something new everyday. We did actually have a TV and I was able to watch Middle Eastern Music videos. This doesn't seem important, but the videos were something that we could all understand and having two host sisters that are around my age, we always enjoyed the videos. During our final CBT I was able to give my host family a few gifts and I gave them candy from staging in Philadelphia and a tea set from Morocco. My host-family is so amazing because I expected nothing from them, because they have given me so much already and then they gave me an amazing gift. They gave me Moroccan slippers (they told me many times that I had axator feet, axator being big, so I guess they knew the size) and a wall decoration for my new house made of Barley. I mention the feet thing, only because, for some reason every Moroccan in my town is extremely small and I always tower over them. They also always try to give me slippers to wear when I enter the house and my size 10 1/2 foot only fits into half of any shoe ever given to me. My family told me they bought the largest pair they could find at the Market (haha) and I really appreciate their kindness. Our CBT group of five hosted a party for everyone in town yesterday and we had a vast array of cookies and cake. Tea is always served and the women taught us their dance moves, we were fortunate because we have one male in are group and sometimes women will not dance around men, but they all seem to view B.E as just a brother. A male in another CBT group was asked to leave the room during the party and he said he felt that he missed out, because being able to see the women interact so freely is a huge cross-cultural lesson.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What I've learned about the Peace Corps....Thus far.

I've only been in Morocco 2 month's and during this time period, I've learned a vast amount of things about the Peace Corps and Morocco. I've learned to never except anything because the Peace Corps is only a series of surprises. I've learned that while in Morocco you can be in one region where it is snowing and travel 6 hours and be in the desert. I've learned to never except your travel plans to work out or be extremely comfortable/safe. This is because you normally have to wait on a grand taxi until you have 6 people to fill up the taxi or you take a bus around the mountains and you feel as if the brakes will fail at any moment. I've learned that you will re-evaluate your definition of beauty over and over again, because you see all the layers of beauty in another country. You will never be clean or look put together in the "bled," but you realize that you don't care because you haven't seen a mirror in a month. You learn that donkeys can be an amazing form of transportation if you live in a small down. You realize that the landscape can be anything from extremely beautiful to extremely barren.
I've learned to eat solely with my hands, I've learned how to not overeat couscous, I've learned to drink 17 glasses of tea a day, and yes I've learned to cook bread. I've learned that for some reason everyone at my site thinks that the best well water has fish in it..? I've learned that no matter how well I did at language in comparison to others in my group, that some woman in the bled will always tell me I know nothing. Therefore I've learned how confident I really am and how your confidence plays a major role in your success as a volunteer. I've learned that it is possible to find an amazing friend in a language you don't even speak, because I have many Moroccan friends and my language is only now developing. I've learned the power of women in this society and the power of the woman in the household. I've learned that, like any country, there are going to be a variety of cultures, beliefs, personalities, and practices. There are people who are incredibly welcoming and those who are not, just as in America. I've learned how to properly make a well and how to find water sources in remote areas of Morocco. I've learned that I actually don't value electricity and I'm actually disappointed I have it in my site. A final note~ Congratulations to all of my friends that graduated this weekend and good luck.

Saturday, April 29, 2006