I want to explain to all my friends and family what the heck I’ve been doing for this first two months while in Morocco! I’ve posted on facebook, for maybe even called you but this is meant to help every one understand what my general day looks like.
So, as anticipated, I have intensive Darija classes. (for all those longing to find out more about Darija, stay tuned! I am planning on posting about the language and my experience learning it) I wake up by 7:30 eat breakfast, and are in class by 8:30. I have class till noon, a two-hour break for lunch, and by 2:30 I start back up and I not home till about 5:30/6:00. In the beginning our afternoon classes were dedicated to learning the Arabic alphabet, but now we’ve finished with that we use the time to plan and implement lessons for the Dar Chebab (youth center). Our days are pretty full and they leave me exhausted, but in a good way.
Once 6 o’clock comes around I go back to visit and integrate with our host family. This can almost be as challenging as Darija class because of the lack of our language. I ever so much want to communicate and share things with our family but it hasn’t been until recently that I could do that fluently. I’ve learned a lot of verbs and how to conjugate in almost every way to we’re getting there. Shwi-uh b shwi-uh. (little by little) I have host sisters who know some English so they help us a lot. Other wise I have just the most patient and caring host parents. Our host father usually is the one to joke and our host mother gives us a loving hug and tells us we’ll make it. She calls me “bneetee” which means my daughter. It’s quite endearing.
We are so lucky in our training cite. We have a currently serving Peace Corps volunteer who is basically superwomen. She has helped us a lot in introducing us to our families, the youth of the community, and one of the possible experiences of a youth center. I say that because it has been stressed that not one of our experiences on our community will be the same as another’s. It is dangerous to compare. She has given a good experience with perceived challenges and successes. Also, our host family was her host family and so personally she has helped me to integrate within our house because she visits often.
So far in our cite I have taught an English class about shapes and patterns then the next day I did an art project making mosaics out of paper to help reinforce the shapes lesson. A lot of the younger children enjoyed the mosaics more than the older youth, who attended my lesson, but it was good to give them resources and a creative outlet. They were all so proud of their artwork. There doesn’t seem to be an outlet, like art class in school, for them to practice making things and subsequently showing them off.
Our training group also practiced a gender equality activity. Don’t get scared by that name, it’s a fancy way of saying an activity that helps empower girls but also keeps boys involved in the conversation. Let’s be real we can’t empower half of society while not including the other half. In our activity we asked a group of youth about 11 years and up what they wanted to do when they grew up. It was a great lesson to have the girls voice their career aspirations especially in front of the boys. In a village where there is no high school to hear from a group of girls that they wanted to be doctors, weather women, artists, and teachers was beautiful. The conversation was able to lead into what us volunteers studied or did in the states before we traveled here. The youth were able to ask us questions about how we got to where we are at in our lives. It was a good example of how diverse America is and how we can take many routes to have a career.
In regards to food, we eat a lot of bread. There is a word here “dih-rory” is means absolutely necessary, and it has been told to me over and over that bread definitely dih-rory at every meal. It is so important because bread is used as both a utensil and a conveyer for other food, such as olive oil, and honey.
Breakfast in our training site from our family usually contains hard boiled eggs and cumin to put on top, type of bread (be it a baguette, wheel of bread, or a thin almost crepe type called miliwheat) happy cow cheese triangles, oil cured black olives, olive oil, jelly, and honey. The bread is almost the main course then you tear off bits to use with the liquid foods. To drink we have coffee, hot milk (milk is usually hot here, even if it has been pasturized), and green tea. The tea comes with a side of fresh mint or wormwood, which is known as sheebuh here. These are additives to help flavor the tea, and it is told that the sheebuh gives you a warm feeling inside in the winter. I have not felt that when drinking it, it is quite bitter in my opinion.
For lunch we eat from a communal dish. This can be as simple as browned onions with seasoned grated cooked tomatoes and meatballs. The dish is set in the middle and with the bread you eat from our triangle of the plate. Or you eat whatever your host mother placed in your triangle because she wants you to be strong, healthy, and full of carbs. We are lucky enough that our host family understands how much we like our utensils so we use spoons and forks pretty often. The dish can sometimes also be more complex with pressured cooked meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) and vegetables that are in season. Right now we eat a lot of carrots, zucchini, potatoes, quince, parsnips, and onions. Side salads are seen, too. They aren’t as big as I’d like. I eat a lot of bread and really just want a giant spinach salad with grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The salads I’ve seen are a mixture of fresh cut tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and/or radishes. It is covered in some lemon juice, pepper, salt, and olive oil. I see myself making a lot of this in the summer.
Then around 6 or 7 it is caskrute. This is called snack time, but the proportions are not particularly snack-like. There are usually a lot of the same foods at breakfast as there is at dinner with the addition or cookies or some traditional Moroccan foods. I think I will create a post about traditional Moroccan foods because this post is becoming quite long. Caskrute is also the time for friends or family to gather and visit over food if there is a reason to celebrate something or to just catch up.
Dinner is a challenge. We usually don’t eat it because it is around 9 or 10. We are tired from the day and stuffed to the brim with food. The Moroccans are very comfortable with telling us to eat and eat and eat. They want to make us feel so comfortable by telling us to eat. Like, “Don’t be shy! You are welcome! Eat as much food as you want!” And they usually aren’t convinced if you say you’re full. So after a day of this it is hard to eat more food. If caskrute is small we end up eating some dinner. Our host mother will sometimes make leftovers for dinner, or a type or porridge that is boiled with milk, lemon peel, and cinnamon. It has been one of my favorites so far. She will also sometimes make another big meal. She is amazing.
My days are about to change significantly. We swear in as Volunteers on December 9th and travel to our permanent site soon thereafter. As busy as these days are it will be hard to transition to self-made days in an uncomfortable environment. There will be a lot of unfamiliarity, and unscheduled time. Our site is new and has not had a volunteer before so whatever we bring is what the people will know as Peace Corps. It is time to start laying the roots and using the training we’ve learned in these past 2 ½ months.