Lauren in Morocco

This Blog has no direct association with the Peace Corps.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Field Trip!

Over the past week I have been on a field trip with a current volunteer and another trainee. Normally this field trip occurs part of the way through training, but this year they decided to move the trip to the beginning of training so that we could see what volunteers actually do and live with a host family so that we see how important language really is. We left Sunday for Oarzerzate, which is a province in the quasi-desert. Eight of us were able to stay the night in town as part of our travel and we were able to see the other half of our staging group (the people in the environment sector.) Monday we left on the ever-crowded taxi and went with our volunteer to her site...which was two hours farther into the desert. She was to give us cross-cultural assignments and show us what she does as a volunteer so we could have some idea of what we would be doing. For the first two weeks in country, I have been studying Darija, a form of Arabic. Last week the day before we left on our trip we found out our language groups, as aforementioned in the previous blog. This means that we have had VERY little language training before going to our volunteer's site. Our first assignment was to go out alone and purchase all vegetables that we would need for week. Well not knowing the Tamazite word for any vegetable (since I had only 2 hrs of language training) and not knowing the standard price made this task slightly difficult. However, all is well and I survived my first task. One interesting thing I learned about my volunteer is how much she cooks from scratch. Life in Morocco moves at a slightly different pace than the fast-paced life of America and she said while she was working on many projects, she still had more free time alone, than she had ever had in her life. Normally you may have a site mate in another sector (i.e Small Business development) or another health volunteer is normally about 30 minutes away...so you still get to see others. Apparently the amount of free time that most volunteers have allows them to become amazing cooks and I actually cooked a whole meal from scratch with fresh vegetables (I know amazing right.) What I like about most rural areas of Morocco is that you eat nothing with preservatives, everything is fresh. Fresh bread from the oven, vegetables grown in that town, meat from the butcher..etc. My volunteer works with the Maternal Peace Corps program so much of her work deals with family planning, infant vacinations, money allocations for things needed at her sbitar, etc. A problem in Morocco is that many women believe in the "inshalla" idea, which means that they believe they will continue to have as many children as God will allow. Which is fine, but many of these poorer families end up with 7 or 8 children and there is no monetary support for the children. Also, the sbitar is very small and many women still believe in having the child at home so they lack pre and post-natal care provided by staff that is trained. Also, in the area where my volunteer was, racism was previlant and only women of darker color used the sbitar so that is also obviously a major problem. Other trainees stayed with Health and hygience volunteers and one volunteer actually brought running water to his town over his two years here, which is an absolutely amazing project. The second night in Taghzoute (where my volunteer lived) I had to stay with a host-family, which would have been amazing if I would have had at least a week training in Tamazite, but I had so little that it was quite difficult to communicate. The family was amazing and I would really like to go back and visit with them once my language skills have improved. They bought chocolate, yogurt, and dates for me, which was amazingly kind. They spoke not a word of english and I had 2 hours training in Tamazite. Therefor my night was spent pointing to cats, tables, body parts, etc so I could learn the words. The two children also played soccer which was something to do to pass the time since our verbal communication was lacking. I had couscous with the family and mint tea, which are both amazing by the way. We stayed with the host family for two nights and my family was in a very rural area. My host father turned on Euro-news each night (which was in English) and this was an amazing break for me. However, the family obviously didn't know what was going on in English, so that brought the focus back towards me, the random American staying with them. Following my field trip the 8 who intially left for Oarzerzate met in Marrakesh, which a pretty amazing city. It's a city for tourists so the other Peace Corps volunteers say its nice to visit when you want to just an average person and not a Peace Corps volunteer. Friday night we had Pizza and looked around the market. At about 10 that night we stopped and one of the many tea stands and we spoke our darija mixed with Tamazite and the owner thought it was so amazing that had actually learned the langauge that he gave us everything for free. The following day I bought some amazing silver ear-rings and a huge silver cuff (like the one I have with elephants on it I bought in the states.) I did an amazing job bargaining and purchased both for the equivilant of 10 US dollars. We arrived back in town last night and will do language training until thursday when we leave for CBT. Its good to be back, only because I have friends who are locals in the city and I missed our nightly soccer games. Tonight we find out our CBT groups and where we will be going for CBT. I can't wait and in one month we find out our area for our final site.

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