Lauren in Morocco

This Blog has no direct association with the Peace Corps.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

CBT, host family, possible projects

Today we leave for our CBT training, during which we will stay with a host family every night of the week. Until now we've had training everyday that focuses more on the technical aspects of what we will be doing. My CBT family is "bizef" (large) and consists of 8 people, the youngest is 6 and the oldest being 95. I have the second largest host family out of everyone in our training group, the largest belongs to male who will have 10 members in his family. I make up for the two lacking people in the form of animals..as my family has a donkey, a cat, a sheep, a chicken, and a dog. They also have two girls around my age, which I'm excited about because it is necessary to have friends that are from your host country. Another random piece of information, as you all know I love the jellabahs, slippers, etc. Last night after soccer I went with Fatima and another PCV to have our very own jellabahs tailored. This costs about 30 dollars and you actually are able to choose the material you want and the style.
This week we also had several volunteers visits and possible projects we will be working on were discussed. With the PC health program we will be working directly with the ministry of health in Morocco and my counterpart will likely be someone who works at the local spitar or with the ministry of health. In Morocco 44% of the population is rural and accessibility to running water is the main problem in rural areas. In many rural areas if running water is avalible it is often not sanitary resulting in infant deaths in the first year of life. Out of the rural population 35-40% have access to running water, which leads to many projects in which the PC tries to establish methods for obtaining running water. I'll write more later, but basically several projects that current PC's are working on involve running water, safe drinking water, proper sanitation methods (disease is wide-spread in rural areas), the creation of wells and piping, health education, basic education, family planning, infant vaccinations, UN water projects, and several involving operation smile.

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.

General Information

Hello everyone and sorry it has taken so long for me to update my blog.
I finally found out my language and it is one of the berber dialects...we were to be placed in Darijia or one of the two Berber dialects. Our darija group only consists of 5 peoplem so the rest of us were split up. Some of my good friends from training are in the other Berber dialect so they won't be at CBT with me, but all of my soccer friends are in my language group. The only hard part is that we've been learning Darija for two weeks and now all of the sudden we have a new language to learn. The day after we found out what language we would be learning we left for a field trip to stay with a current volunteer for a week to see what she does and to stay with a host family. We were put with a host family that is in our new language group, which we don't know at all, only to teach us how important language really is. Prior to leaving for our field trip the locals that we play soccer with took us on a 2 hour tour of town which was really amazing. I'm sorry that I don't go to the internet as often as many people in my group do, but I've found that playing soccer everyday and really interacting with the locals has helped me learn more about the culture and the language. Some projects that the health group works with are projects with the UN, Operation Smile, basic projects for health educationm family planning, and projects to bring running water to villages. You would be amazed at how many people in this country are living without running water in rural areas. Most rural areas speak one of the two Berber dialects, which is obviously why most health volunteers are put into these language groups. Many sites that speak Tamazite (which is my dialect) are in the mountainous regions of the country, which is what I wanted because I find the landscape to be absolutely amazing and I deal with cooler weather better than alot of people in my group. I hope to learn more about potential projects, but obviously no project can be implemented until I am sworn in as a volunteer and my language skills are at par with my community.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Training and Morocco

Thus far I've been in Morocco about 9 days and all I have to say is I absolutely love the country. We've been through over a week of training and we are finally reaching something that pertains to our lives for the next two years. We started Arabic script yesterday and I was suprised at how quickly I picked it up and how there is actually a great deal of order to the whole process. We have class everyday from about 8 am until 6 pm and I normally run with three other girls at about 6am. My most amazing experience this week was the creation of a soccer league with some of the other volunteers and members of the town. On Sunday 5 volunteers went out to the dirt field across from where we are staying before our CBT and started a small soccer game. After about 30 minutes every single person from this town was watching us and we had created a tourn. of sorts. There were 3 guys and another girl and myself...so obviously we were the only two girls on the field. It was pretty amazing because we played for hours and communicated in a mixture of Arabic, french, and english...but somehow we all understood exactly what was going on. I feel that I can not really describe my experience here because there are no words to describe how open and amazing the people are. The food is also amazing and everyday life without less is really liberating. We started our cultural studies today and we will be leaving for other villages on Saturday for more training so I'll get in touch with everyone in a few weeks. A few of us still haven't purchased cell phones b/c we are always too busy with everyday life to go to the store. However, thursday we have no class and the market comes to town so I am very excited about buying some Moroccan slides. The view of the Mountains were we are will take your breath away and I can't imagine waking up to this everyday. It really puts life into perspective. We will be sworn in as official volunteers in May then we have another homestay in June and July and after that I will be living on my own.