I have a home in Morocco! I was very fortunate to find a brand new building with six apartments — and a major contrast to the traditional style of mud brick homes in the south.
My apartment building!
The bathroom – on laundry day with my super zwiin mini-washing machine
The salon with with my super cool ponges! Future plans include a rug and table
Traditional mud-brick houses typically include courtyards, and occasionally roofs.
Hope you enjoyed the tour through my home!
There are many forms of transportation in Morocco. Here are a few of the most common:
Feet. Walking is the main form of transportation all over the country.
Grand taxi — the only way I can leave my site. They primarily go between cities and are designed to hold 6 passengers but in my area we can fit 9 people in one.
Petite taxi – they are different colors in different cities; hold 3 passengers only; and provide transport within cities.
CTM (and Supr@Tours) provides excellent long distance travel (think 4-6 hours)
N9l (kinda pronounced ‘knuckle) – mass transit option that takes the place of a grand taxi
Train – for major long distance travel (like south to north)
Other transportation options include bicycle (many kids ride these to/from school), motorcycles/motorscooter, triporter (like a motorcycle with a truck bed to carry people or items) and the rare personal vehicle.
Getting around in Morocco is always an experience and a topic of conversation when PCVs get together.
It is said that Peace Corps (PC) is the hardest job you will ever love. Our illustrious leader, Country Director Steve Driehaus, recently said that Peace Corps work is what we do every day. Both of these statements are very true. I’ve also heard that Peace Corps is the longest vacation you’ll ever hate. I’m not too sure about that one, but then again I’ve only been an official PC volunteer for three months.
In Morocco, Youth Development (YD) is what we do and that encompasses several aspects. YD is everything from teaching English, life skills, employability skills, healthy lifestyles and anything else that fits with your personal skill level and the needs of your community. The largest portion of what we do is build relationships and build trust which requires a lot of simply being out and about and engaging in conversation.
So, Peace Corps is the work we do every day. And it’s exhausting. As a PCV, you are ‘on’ every moment of the day as you greet people, talk with counterparts, teach a class and enjoy tea with a neighbor. Because we represent America, we must give a good impression dima (always). If I’m not smiling, people are concerned that I’m not ok – that something is wrong and they need to fix it. At the end of each day I’m physically exhaust from trying to speak the language and hoping that people understand me (not to mention me understanding them).
In my small village, I am the only foreigner here. (My site mate recently closed her service and is now back in the US). Most of us are in similar situations. We live in a bubble. Everyone knows what we do and where we go all the time. It can be difficult to reconcile the individualism of the US and the collectivism of Morocco. And is part of what makes this work ‘the hardest job you’ll ever love’. Or is that the longest vacation I’ll ever hate? The next 20 months will tell.
Living in a foreign country, being ‘on’ 24-7 / 365, and struggling with the language can take a toll on your well-being. Here are a few ways I’ve been treating myself:
*eating an entire bar (or two) of chocolate in one sitting
*watching entire seasons of TV shows in a couple of days
*hiding out in my apartment (I consider these ‘mental health days’)
*buying expensive smell good shower gel and lotion
*listening to podcasts while playing solitaire – all day
*going to nearby ‘cities’ to hang out at a café and chat with other PCVs
*paying way too much to have my hair colored and styled
*reading LOTS of books
Peace Corps is not easy and it’s beyond ok to treat yo’ self. What are some of your self-care practices?
Here are a few things I’ve observed the last three months living at my site:
*couscous may come from a bag but it still takes 3 hours to prepare
*getting dressed in a wet bathroom without getting your clothes wet should be a resume skill
*as should eating from a communal dish using bread as a utensil
*asking your host mom to let you help cook means you watch her do the work; however, you get to see how grain is washed, dried and sent to the mill to be ground and how bread is made over an open fire
*an ‘event’ (gathering/party/anytime people get together) is always 3-4 hours long and includes singing and theatre
*going to souk (weekly market) is exhausting and constitutes a full day’s work
I’m sure I’ll have many more observations over the next 21 months so stayed tuned!
We’ve all had them. Occasionally they can be mortifying. Most of the time they are simply funny. When you are learning a new language, it is easy to make mistakes. Here a couple of my funniest moments to date.
*mixing up driver (chifeur) and cauliflower (chefleur)
*dropping a piece of bread in the olive bowl and saying ‘piscine!’ (swimming pool!)
* saying dog (klb) instead of heart (9lb) … the 9 is kinda like a k but comes from the back of your throat
*using mdegdega (exhausted) – for some reason this word makes everyone laugh
*saying bislama (good bye) instead of bismela (In the name of God – which is said as you begin eating and starting anything new)
*saying chukran (thank you) instead of salam (which is a greeting)
*saying nti (and you) to a male (nti is female; nta is male)
*asking for olives (zitoon) when I wanted olive oil (zit)
And I always have to stop and think before greeting Lubna (the nurse) because I am afraid I’m going to call her lubia (beans).
Hope you enjoyed these little moments as much as I have. I’m sure I’ll have many more over the next two years.
I’ve been living in Morocco for six months now; four of them with a host family and two on my own. A couple of weeks ago I realized the honeymoon period of living abroad had come to an end. How did I realize this? Small, petty things started to frustrate me. I’m not going to list those here because they ARE small, petty things.
We recently had our In-Service Training (IST) and my spirits were lifted from being around the other volunteers and talking about our ups and downs, as well as discussing ideas we have for working in our communities. This time at IST helped me remember why I was here and the importance of our work as Peace Corps Volunteers.
A few days ago, I was asked what I liked about living in Morocco. Here’s my list:
- People – Moroccans are very nice and innately curious
- Hospitality – Moroccans are extremely welcoming, always inviting you in to eat and for tea or just to sit and chat
- Sense of family, community & closeness – family is very important to Moroccans and they will easily adopt you in to theirs, sharing what they have, sitting close to you, and greeting you with enthusiasm (as well as cheek kisses) every time they see you
- Food – couscous, tagine, oranges/peaches/strawberries/pomegranates in season, fresh veggies purchased weekly at souk, and warm bread with olive oil
- Atay (tea) – I admit it…I’m a fan of Moroccan Mint Tea and miss having it multiple times a day now that I’m on my own
- Diversity of the landscape – like America, Morocco boasts beautiful coastlines, mountains, grassy plains, desert, large cities and small villages
- Weather – I haven’t experienced the summer in the desert yet but I’ve been warned about it; however, so far I’ve enjoyed the mild fall, winter and spring I have experienced
- Hammam – there’s just something about how clean you feel after going
- Walking in the Palmerie – it’s very calm and peaceful
The honeymoon is over but thankfully, my list of likes outweighs my list of frustrations. I love living in Morocco, learning more and more about the culture and customs and getting to know my community. The next 21 months are going to fly by.
I have been wanting to write a blog on the hamman experience. When I saw the great post by my friend Rosana I decided to just share it. The main difference is I LOVE going to the hammam yet there’s not one in my site so I haven’t been in 3 months. And my skin is gross as a result. I hope to get to the one in a neighboring site soon.
It was school vacation two weeks ago and most classes and activities were cancelled at the youth center and youth vocational center in town. Everyone was taking a well-deserved break after studying hard for exams. I realized I had never posted about the Moroccan hammam (public bath) so I took advantage of the free time […]
via Moroccan culture: the hammam (public bath) — rosanacouscous “Me voy a comer el mundo” (“I am going to eat the world”)
Recently I had the opportunity to watch my host mom make bread. She does this once or twice a day every day. Bread is a staple in this country and is used as a utensil while eating from a common dish. Most households in my village make bread daily.
Fire oven to bake bread – frrana dyal 5ubs
Bread dough ready to go in the fire oven
The finished product!
Living in Morocco has given me an opportunity to explore a new country and I’m really excited about that. Since moving here in September, 2016, I’ve had the chance to see a little of the coast, mid-country and the south. Here are a few pictures from my travels so far. Enjoy!
Harhoura – where we had our first week of training. It sits on the Atlantic coast just south of Rabat.
Rabat – the capital city
Hassan Tower – a minaret of an incomplete mosque in Rabat
Ain Chegag – where I lived for the first three months of language and cultural training
Ifrane – the most European city in Morocco
Meknes – where we had several large group trainings (the photo below is a view from our hotel)
Ouarzazate – stop over point for travel north to south
Marrakech – stop over point for my travel from south to north
Jemaa el Fna
Fez – toured the Old Medina
Leather tannery in Fez
Agadir – coastal town where I spent Christmas
Erfoud – edge of the Sahara where I took a camel trek for my birthday
Hope you enjoyed this visual trip through Morocco!