Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Moroccan Easter

So today is Easter, which in Morocco means absolutely nothing. Not that I was really looking forward to celebrating this holiday, it's just weird. Today I woke up early, like always, and went on a two hour exploration of my host father's fields. He pointed out traditional ways of farming and some of the historical points of interest in town. We really had a good time, and frankly it was all I needed to feel good on this holiday. For a brief second I thought about trying to explain Easter to my host family, but then decided that trying to tell a Muslim family about the resurrection of Jesus and a bunny hiding eggs was a bit beyond my language skills.

I don't have much time to talk today, so I think I will just give a few little updates.

I went to some amazing waterfalls last weekend. We camped very cheap in this huge berber (local tribal) tent and had a fantastic time. Oh, I saw monkeys, yes monkeys, I am happy.

I find out where I will be working for the next two years on Friday, which is exciting and frightening. I'll keep you all posted on this.

Other than that, not much else is new. When I have more time I will give some more in depth info and possibly put up some pictures.

Hope everyone is doing well, I miss you all. Send me some emails, I enjoy updates.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The land of iss

Once again I'm typing on a French keyboard so expect some major typos.

Iss: Tashlheet for eat. Possibly the first verb any new Tashlheet speaker learns and the first word they are haunted by, is the word they hear day in and day out. In Morocco, you iss (pronounced eeesh) a lot. Yesterday was extremely busy, full of the type of learning no book or classroom could provide. I can think of no better word to summarize the day than iss. Let me explain.

The day started a little slow. I slept poorly the night before, and after I reluctantly rolled out of bed, attempted to exit toward school. I say attempted because as soon as I put one foot out of my door, my host father came walking up with breakfast. I had no time for this, but nevertheless was persuaded to sit down, drink some tea, and then fumble through an explaination of my tardiness. "iss" I was told "iss." I finally made the move after inhaling bread and soup, and arguing that in fact my teacher would not hold class just for me.

I began my traverse to class, a long walk over a rocky hill and across town, amidst heavy rain. When I came to the dry creek bed I cross every day, I was suprised to see that this old dry waterway had transformed into a nice little river. I rolled my pants up and attempted to ford the muddy channel. This worked as well as you can imagine, splashing mud all over my clothes. Oh well, on to class.

School was school. I interviewed in Tashlheet and was pleased to discover I'm not as incompetent as I thought. We made lunch, and by "we" I mean the three girls in our group cooked while the other male and I played with matchbox cars. Don't worry, the boys washed dishes. This culture has not rubbed off on me completely. Then it was time to travel to our neighboring town for much needed relaxation, supplies, and internet.

To begin our trip to town, we once again had to cross the river, this time with more success. We soon realized catching a cab would be near impossible. So with the briefly clear weather decided to walk. About halfway through our walk a car passing slammed to a hault and the driver motioned for us to get in. Without hesitation we jumped in and finished our journey by car. Our time in town was great. We checked emails, basketball scores, shopped for candy, and met up with another volunteer who showed us a waterfall. The sun began to set so we decided to travel by foot, which yielded the same result as our trip into town when another car pulled over and offered us a ride.

Now, the iss.

Morocco was playing Gabbon in soccer so some of the boys in town met up to watch the match. This involved tea, cookies, and a large dinner. Morocco unfortunatley lost and we were stuffed, so we made our way over to a wedding.

The wedding was incredible. We came to the house packed with well over one hundred people. The men were upstairs so we crammed ourselves into a room full of makes sitting on the floor and after much talking were served tea. After the tea came food.

Music began to rise from the rooms below and we were instructed to go downstairs and sit and listen to the band. We entered a larged room where women sat on the floor in the back clapping and singing to a phenomenal Moroccan band. The men sat in chairs in front lining a dance floor. Soon we were taken over by the music, clapping and laughing in rhythm. Men and women danced, separately of course, getting lost in the beats.

The music blew me away. Heavy, fast drumming behind swift violin and even wilder singing. The women danced wildly, almost uncontrollably, swinging their hair and shaking their hips. The whole room radiated powerful energy. The band took notice of the Americans pointing at me and inviting me to dance. This time I was able to dodge the embarassment, but would not be so lucky in the near future. The insanity was briefly put on pause when some of the men grabbed us to go upstairs, and you guessed it, iss. We force-fed ourselves with chicken and lamb until we could barely move, then returned to the music. After another hour of music we were served tea and sweets. The clock struck 2 am. After more music, more tea, and slipping into the madness that accompanies extreme tiredness, the party decided it was time to showcase the foreigners. We (well me and another American male) were brought in front of everyone and told to dance to the drums. We reluctantly obliged, grabbing other Americans in the process. The crowd cheered and clapped, and for the first time since arriving here I felt like part of the community. Our time in the spotlight was over, but the music continued until near 4 am. I walk home half asleep, exhausted, belly full, heqrt full, and smiling ear to ear.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Disclaimer: I am writing this on a French keyboard, which is just off enough to ensure spelling errors. For this I am sorry.

So the last week has been absolutely insane. I moved in with my host family in a small village you can't even find on a map. The experiences have been incredible, including the wedding at our place that involved women singing and dancing until 2 am (a rare event where women really get to let loose, and something I can not explain as a male because I wasn't very involved). I would love to keep everyone updated on all my going on's, but I only get internet in a town that is about an hour walk from where I live. So, in order to give an example of my everyday life, I will copy down an entry in my journal that I wrote on Thursday.

Today was one of "those days." A day in some regards worth forgetting. A day where at many points I wanted to request a mulligan, or at least a fresh start. Fortunately, a simple moiment changed everything.

I woke this morning in that familiar haze of confusion. "Where am I?" "Morocco, small village, you don't speak the language. Remember?" I studied a bit before preparing to leave my house, then found I had lost my toothbrush and toothpaste. Great, here comes ass-mouth Steve. I hiked to the bus/ taxi stop to meet my co-workers. After some time we caught a taxi toward a larger town get shots and discuss medical things. Taxi rides in Morocco can be frightful events, and this ride proved it (don't worry mom I'm OK). After arriving safely (pheww) we headed to our meeting/ stab fest.

On our way back we decided to stop at a souk (market) to buy some food for the next few days. This is where the day goes from lacking in fun to just plain awful.

Break: On a side note, for those who may read this. I started writing this at about 10 pm. It is now 12:35 am. My host father walked in my room followed by my host mother with hot mint tea (a delicious drink and Moroccan custom). This was followed by an hour and a half language lesson. My host father is an extremely nice man and great teacher, but often forgets Americans can't handle caffeine and need sleep...but I digress.

The day became bad at the souk when after turning down several beggars asking for f'loose (money) we bought a chicken for lunch tomorrow. Buying the chicken meant pointing to a live bird then watching the owner of the market slit its throat and toss it in a bucket. Oh yeah, we're not in the states are we? At least I know the bird was fresh.

So I was a bit in shock, but that was nothing comared to the next event. We heard gunshots (don't worry mom guns are illegal in Morocco except for government use). Our language teacher said something about animal control. We then watched a dog being chased into a parking lot where its life was cut short by shotgun fire. I watched it happen. I was upset. I wanted to go back to our village. F@@@ this day.

We rode back in relative silence, absorbing what we had seen. We vowed no more death today. We felt like foreigners.

The final "kicker" if you will occured when the local government head informed us that the water we drink is no longer treated. Our stomaches simultaneously gurgled. All we could do is laugh. Of course we find this out today.

Then, something changed my mood. I walked to the ta-hanut (shop) my host father runs, muddled through some conversation with the local men, and started feeling better. The men know me now. I'm not just the giant white guy. Then my host brother (a very sharp and adorable 2nd grader) and other young kids piled around my lap to talk to me. We whistled, laughed, and communicated via pictures and sounds. The best part came when I gave them my trusty notebook (mainly used for writing words I don't know, so basically everything I hear) and told them to draw pictures for me. They loved the game and sat and drew, did math, and wrote in Arabic script for an hour. I couldn't stop smiling.

Children have amazing social abilities that adults loose over the years. They didn't care that I couldn't talk much with them. They just wanted to play. I was elated by this simple gesture of kindness. I will keep those pictures forever as a reminder that sometimes all you need is a little time to play and forget about the bad things. Sketches of sheep and people are much more fun. It just took some little kids to teach me this.

I am happy. I am blessed. I love my life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Morocco Day 1

We finally made it.

That was the simple phrase uttered by my roommate as we both looked out our balcony toward the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Finally, after what seemed a lifetime of paper work and frustrations, anticipation and anxiety, we had arrived in Morocco. The end of a long day brought more reflection and excitement, and of course the continued inability to sleep.

I would like to explain how today started off, but with all the time zone changes, subsequent jet lag, and hysteria that has been my entrance into Peace Corps, I'm not really sure when today began. We left JFK airport in NYC to Morocco at 7:00 pm Tuesday. After a six and a half hour flight we were in Casablanca. This of course was followed by a 4-hour drive to our hotel. Half in hysterics, we grabbed a quick lunch (Moroccan food is the best and now my favorite) and went into our intro classes. I won't bore you with the details, but the day had just began.

After class our language teachers took us on a walk around town. We toured the area for over two hours, our heads spinning. The reality of our limited language skills and the fact that we were now the foreigners took over. For a guy who had never left North America, it felt like a dream. This was followed by dinner and more language lessons on the fly.

I'm still in awe. Trying to comprehend exactly what is going on. I know there will be valleys, but right now I'm on a peak. I'm scared, excited, confused, and so tired I'm not sure where is up. I miss my friends and family greatly. I love you all very much.