Peace Corps Wrap-Up

I’ve been working on this post in my head for about three months. It’s not easy to wrap-up 27 months living in another country. It’s also not easy to talk about it.  I mean it’s easy to talk about, but difficult to truly express what it was like. You can’t just wrap-up that time, emotions and daily life in a sentence or two. Thankfully I’ve had many friends who were very curious about my Peace Corps journey and have asked lots of questions.

Living in another country, in a culture so drastically different from your own, teaches you a lot about yourself. And you change. And those changes affect how you relate to family and friends – and that can make things rough to manage.

People think that you do Peace Corps or international work to change others. But it’s really about change and growth within yourself. This is not to say that I didn’t have an impact on my community. I know I made a lasting, positive impression on those I lived and worked with daily.

At my age (late 40s) and with my background (professional development training / executive leadership graduate program), I thought I knew myself and didn’t need to change anything. Boy was I wrong! Life is all about learning and growing.

Before leaving for Morocco, many people expressed concern on how I would adjust to living in a Muslim country. But the hardest adjustment has been being back in the US. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few things that took getting used to living in Morocco. But once I adjusted I found I enjoyed life there and I miss many parts of the culture.

What were the hard adjustments, how did I change and what’s been hard to adjust to being back?

*choices: I learned quickly there are few to no choices in Morocco…if you want an omelette you can have one with cheese or one with tomatoes, but not cheese and tomatoes together; I learned that I like the simplicity of no choices and now am overwhelmed with all the choices we have in the US (way too many in my opinion)

*unrelenting heat: I lived in the southeast portion of the country near the Sahara and while the winters were nice during the day (and fairly cold at night), the heat of the summer was intense; I lived in a cement block building with no insulation and no AC, took taxis that never rolled the windows down and drank 120 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated and now being back in the US I have major issues with air conditioning – it’s simply too cold.

*time: In America, I was used to things happening on time, being on time to meetings and actually knowing what time it is on a daily basis. Not so in Morocco. When you set a meeting with someone they will respond ‘Inshallah’ meaning God willing it will happen. And that means they may or may not show up and if they do they probably will not be on time. Morocco also operates on Old Time and New Time – when the clocks change not everyone changes with them so you always have to ask which time when setting a meeting. While I don’t miss this aspect of life in Morocco, I do miss the more relaxed, laid back, go with the flow lifestyle.

What do I miss?

*food: daily I miss the fresh vegetables and in season fruits I had access to. The fruits in American, even in season, just taste bland. I miss Couscous Friday. I miss the fresh bread made daily.  I miss the dates and olives. I miss lubia (white beans).

*time: as I mentioned above, I miss the relaxed lifestyle of Morocco. I miss sitting for hours at a cafe by myself or with other volunteers. I miss watching the Turkish soap operas with my family and all of us taking a nap after lunch.

*family: I miss both my host families, my counterpart Fatiha, my PC family, and my community – all who opened their homes and hearts to me and helped me navigate this culture so different from mine (I don’t miss the boys who threw rocks at my house)

There are many small things that I miss – too many to name honestly.

Living in Morocco taught me how to truly live in the moment, to be able to sit in silence, to not stress over small things, to not be inconvenienced by inconveniences, to be more flexible and know that everything will work out. Inshallah.

**My Peace Corps service was from September 2016 to December 2018

**I have an exciting new adventure coming up and can’t wait to tell everyone about it so stayed tuned!


Posted in Peace Corps Morocco, Peace Corps Third Goal | Leave a comment

2018 Books

I’ve always read a lot. Since I was a little girl. I used to become so engrossed in books my parents had to take them out of my hands so I could join them at the dinner table. For the past several years I have set a reading challenge for myself on Goodreads and every year I surpass it. This year was no exception – my goal was 60 and I read 71! I had several reading goals coming in to Peace Corps: 1) read about my country of service, 2) read general Peace Corps stories, 3) read a book from each of the countries that PC is currently serving and has served and, 4) read all the books on my Kindle that I downloaded before, during and after grad school. I’m making great progress in each of these areas! I also have a massive list of books I want to read (kept in an excel file, of course) and the PC Library has been very helpful.

Here are all the books I read this year and my rating for each one:

January Rating

Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America by Shawn Dorman

3 stars

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely

Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone 5 stars

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman 5 stars

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malik’s Oufkir 5 stars

Sipping from the Nike: My Exodus from Egypt by Jean Naggar 4 stars

Fascinate: Unlocking the Secret Triggers of Influence, Persuasion, and Captivation by

Sally Hogshead 3 stars

The Judgement of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks 2 stars


Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue

Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff 5 stars

Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins 5 stars

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton 3 stars

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol 3 stars

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by

Alice Steinbach 5 stars

Servants’ Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance by

Margaret Powell 5 stars


Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore 5 stars

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea 5 stars

Balthasar’s Odyssey by Amin Maalouf 5 stars

Spymistress: The Life of Vera Adkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent

of World War I by William Stevenson 2 stars


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 5 stars

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman 3 stars

Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery and Murder in Medieval

England by Alison Weir 4 stars

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 5 stars

State of Fear by Michael Crichton 2 stars


Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama 5 stars

There’s No Toilet Paper…on the Road Less Traveled: The Best of

Travel Humor and Misadventure by Doug Lanksy 3 stars

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 3 stars

Tangerine by Christine Morgan 4 stars

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 4 stars

Lost Lexington, Kentucky by Peter Brackney 4 stars

The Designer by Marius Gabriel 4 stars

American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s

Legendary Rise by Joe Drape 5 stars


Origin by Dan Brown 5 stars

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman 5 stars

Voices of Resistence: Oral Histories of Moroccan Women by Alison Baker 5 stars

The Birdwoman’s Palate by Lakshmi Pamuntjak 3 stars

Descent into Chaos: The United States & the Failure of Nation Building

in Pakistan, Afghanistan & Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid 5 stars


America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and

Heroines by Gail Collins 5 stars

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler 5 stars

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man

Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder 5 stars

Grandma 64 Joins the Peace Corps and Lands in Namibia by Anne Baker 4 stars

The Taliba Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker 5 stars

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown. 5 stars

African Visas: A Novella and Stories by Maria Thomas 1 star

Without You, There is No Us: My Time with The Sons of North Korea’s

Elite by Suki Kim 5 stars

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester 3 stars


Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali 5 stars

The Lost Order by Steve Berry 5 stars

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett 5 stars

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston 5 stars

An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor 5 stars

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton 4 stars


Loving Frank by Nancy Horan 4 stars

Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World

by Christina Rickardsson 4 stars

The Honest Spy by Andreas Kollender 3 stars

The Concealed Sarah Kleck. 3 stars

Splendid Isolation: The Jekyll Island Millionaires’ Club 1888-1942

By Pamela Bauer Mueller 4 stars


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover 5 stars

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith 5 stars

I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali 5 stars

Circe by Madeline Miller 5 stars

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari 3 stars

The Bishop’s Pawn by Steve Berry 5 stars

The Museum of Mysteries by Steve Berry 5 stars

The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane by Colin Falconer 1 star

A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medeival Mind and The Renaissance:

Portrait of an Age by William Manchester 4 stars


Ten Women by Marcela Serrano 4 stars

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam 5 stars

The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak 3 stars

Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen 5 stars


Becoming by Michelle Obama 5+ stars

The Great Passage by Shion Miura 5 stars

**4 & 5 star ratings are highly recommended

Posted in Books, Peace Corps Morocco | 2 Comments

Minaret Obsession

During my two years living in Morocco I became obsessed with minarets in this country. They are as diverse as the country itself.

Posted in Morocco, Peace Corps Morocco | Leave a comment

Greetings, Hospitality and Personal Space

As my time in Morocco is coming to an end I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I’ve learned from this culture and about myself. Today I thought I’d share with you some things that are very different here vs. the US. First I’d like to point out that Morocco is a collective society, meaning that the views of the group are the primary entity. What that really means in Morocco is that individual people do not own anything – if something is mine then it’s yours. Headphones are not used because if I’m watching a YouTube video everyone around me wants to watch/listen as well, right? Food is always shared. And if you leave clothespins on the roof someone will use them. In the beginning this was a very hard adjustment but after two years I’ve come to embrace the ‘what’s mine is yours’ concept.

Greetings are a big part of a Moroccans day. You ALWAYS greet those you pass and everyone in a room when you enter. Here’s how I greet people in my village:

*words I use: Salam! Labas? Kulshi mezyan? Hamdullah! (Basically, Peace, are you fine, everything good, Praise God) Some people now simply say to me ‘Laila labas?’

*how I greet men (or large groups/people I don’t know) handshake and then place right hand over the heart (I will probably continue doing this for a long time!)

*how I greet women, especially those I’m close to: cheek kisses (or presses really); this one gets tricky because everyone does it different. Some times it’s one kiss per cheek, some times it’s one on one side and two on the other, and some times it’s three on one side only or three and one. You kinda have to just go with the flow. And with my host mom and counterpart there is a little bit of lingering on the last kiss – kind of like a hug.

*greeting older women: older women, especially if they are your grandparent or parent, comes with a special greeting of kissing the hand – then she kisses yours and then break free and put your finger tips to your lips (sometimes I place my hand over my heart). Adult children usually kiss the forehead of their parent or grandparent. This is a sign of respect.

When walking down the street it is the responsibility of the person walking to greet those sitting or standing on the road. Most of the time I simply say Salam! and wave my hand. Because I’m a foreigner, I do get a lot of ‘Bonjour! Ca va?’ but I always respond in Arabic. French is the second language of the country (the third language for many people) and Moroccans assume you speak French over Arabic. Those who speak some English will greet with me ‘Hello!’ And I’ve started responding in English because it helps them become more comfortable speaking a language they are uncomfortable with.

Morocco is known for its hospitality. Being from the south in the US I thought I knew what hospitality meant, but no. Random strangers will invite you in for tea or a meal. You are encouraged you to make yourself comfortable and it’s even ok to take a nap in anyone’s house! As I mentioned before, food is always shared. You can show up at someone’s house unannounced and they never blink an eye. They immediately start fixing tea and tell you to stay for food. This is honestly one of my favorite aspects of living in this country.

Personal space. Shew. As a pretty individualistic American I’ve always craved my personal space and didn’t want anyone encroaching on it. My own personal space is an arms length or more. When I sit down in public places I always look for a space as far away from people as possible. Tiny, crowded spaces have always given me anxiety. But it’s hard to live in Morocco and not adopt some of their non-personal space ways. Moroccans literally fill in every tiny space possible. I’ve watched women squeeze in between people and fit perfectly in a space that not even a cell phone would fit! In my area we routinely put 9-10 people in a taxi designed for 6. Families all sleep in one room and crowd around small tables eating out of communal dishes. When I lived with my first host family up north I always found myself sitting on the opposite side of the room from everyone else. Now I find myself squeezing in to the tiny space next to my host mom while I enjoy tea. Women next to you in taxis/buses/trains will put their hand on your knee. When volunteers get together we sleep several people to a room and I no longer find this weird. I’m not sure how I will react to personal space when I return to America. But for now I find comfort in sharing my space with those around me.

This is just a tiny glimpse in to some of the ways I’ve changed and what I’ve learned from this beautiful culture.

Posted in Peace Corps Morocco | Leave a comment


After two years in Morocco, I think I finally have the communication style figure out. I don’t always understand it and for a long time it frustrated me, but it kinda makes sense now.

Moroccans tend to communicate both directly and indirectly depending on the situation and the person (Americans tend to be fairly direct in most cases). When I first arrived in site and was walking with the previous volunteer, people would ask her my name and where I was from. We were both frustrated by this since I was standing right there and they could have asked me. But this is part of the indirect communication and sense of hierarchy. She was the senior volunteer/foreigner so had higher authority. I get it now.

Other forms of indirect communication include having your gendarme call other volunteers to find out where you are (I’m usually in my house); the gendarme calling multiple members in your community when they need you to come to the station for carte de sejour stuff (residency card); when you are at a wedding and sitting awkwardly showing too much leg (or my tattoo?) and someone tells the person sitting next to you; being at same wedding and a guy has an interest in a girl so therefore tells someone in the family of the couple getting married and that person approaches you to see if you are also interested. This form of indirect communication is very common due to the separation of public/private spaces and lack of dating culture by American standards. When a guy likes a girl he finds a mutual acquaintance and expresses his interest which is then relayed through the mutual acquaintance or a family member to the girl.

When it comes to social media, males are very direct and will contact you through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp without even knowing who you are. They look for keywords/locations and randomly type in phone numbers (I had a guy once tell me that he got my number from a book of pages). Both sexes will immediately ask for your Facebook and WhatsApp upon meeting you (whereas in America even family members aren’t connected).

Direct communication includes things like very personal questions that Americans tend to avoid. How much is your rent? How much did you pay for those shoes? Are you married? Why not? Are you lonely? To be honest, many American families harp on those not married and without kids. But the difference is, in Morocco this is often one of the first questions people ask you when you meet.

I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out exactly what constitutes a direct vs indirect question. But friends and family shouldn’t be surprised if I now directly ask them what their salary is and indirectly inquire whether they want to grab a coffee.

**please note that this is a very generalized view of both Moroccan and American communication styles and based on my own personal experiences

Posted in Peace Corps Morocco | Leave a comment


I have struggled the last 6 months to write this post – as I promised I would in the last post. It’s not an easy subject. And harassment is not something exclusive to Morocco. I am also cautious to not cast an unpleasant light on a country I have come to love and call home.

But harassment in Morocco is a very real thing. There are many different levels of harassment and I’ve been fortunate to be victim of only the mildest kind. Because of that I will only speak to my experiences during my time here. I define harassment as any unwanted attention that makes you uncomfortable.

On a day to day basis, I mostly deal with things like kids/boys throwing rocks at my building (yes I’m sure they are looking for attention – but it’s irritating); unwanted comments from teenagers/young adults (including some pretty lewd & graphic things said); bicycles, motorcycles, cars and trucks flashing their lights at me, honking and swerving in to the space where I’m walking.

In some ways I understand the comments from the young men. Morocco is a society where the genders are separated: women are confined to the home (or private space) and men are allowed to dominate all public spaces. Once you reach puberty, there is very little interaction between the sexes (except among family members) so in order to let someone know you like them and want to get to know them, men catcall. With technology and the availability of Facebook and WhatsApp some of this is changing. But technology also opens up whole new ways for men to harass women (I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve had to block on FB Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram). Also because public spaces are considered men’s spaces some men feel women deserve the attention/catcalling/harassment simply for being outside/sitting in a cafe. *Please note that I do not agree with these methods nor do I believe that every male feels this way – it is a huge generalization and an attempt to understand the society in which in I live.

On a more physical level, I have had men purposefully sidestep into me at souk or on the sidewalk in order to brush up against my breasts; sit way too close in a taxi or on the train; and slide their hand under my butt as they are getting out of a taxi. I have been with a volunteer and a friend visiting from the States who’ve had their asses grabbed.

Many volunteers experience harassment on a much higher level (to the point of assault). Many women in Morocco experience this on a regular basis as well – it is not just aimed at foreigners. I cannot speak to their experiences because they are not mine. What I’ve come to realize living in Morocco and with the recent Me Too explosion is that women all over the world are targets for men who feel they should be allowed to do and say whatever they want. Again, I know that not all men think or act this way – but we can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore the facts.

As I stated earlier, the harassment I’ve received is very mild – but it’s still harassment. My coping mechanisms include meditation, ignoring as much as possible, and attempting to understand the root of where it comes from. This is the only way I can survive day to day.

Harassment is real. And it needs to stop.

Posted in Morocco, Peace Corps Morocco, Society | Leave a comment

My Day to Day

A week ago a friend suggested that I blog about what my daily schedule is like. I had been thinking about doing this but wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested. I mean for the most part my day to day is pretty basic. But I understand that friends and family think I’m living this ultra exciting life and are curious about it. So here’s a week in my life.

First off, I no longer set an alarm unless I have early transportation to catch (or we are at Peace Corps training). I have a basic routine every day, but sometimes I choose to just sit and stare at the ceiling or chat with fellow volunteers for hours. I listen to tons of podcasts and audio books. I read a lot (as you know from a previous post) and occasionally I spend hours watching movies and TV shows.

Monday – woke up at 7:15 and stayed in bed until 8:00 listening to podcasts

8:00-9:30 … breakfast/drink tea/workout and yoga/meditation (I’ve been following a 30 day fitness app since August)

9:30-10:30 … went to weekly souk in next town south of me. This is the weekly market where I buy fruits and vegetables and a few other foods. You can pretty much buy anything at souk (household items, school supplies, clothes, and animals). I usually go every other week to get fruits, veggies and olives. Once a month I buy a kilo of pasta, raisins, almonds and walnuts.

11:15 … washed up and dressed

11:50 – 2:00 … at the Dar Taliba for Project Soar. I eat lunch with the director at 12:20 and we start our program at 11:45.

Afternoon … at the beginning and ending of each Project Soar module the girls conduct a survey. So today we started a new module and I had to prepare the surveys and results and send to the Project Soar Headquarters. In addition there is a report and attendance to be done for each workshop. The rest of the afternoon I prepared for my English class tomorrow, chilled out, read and did wifi stuff.

6-8:30 … kaskrut with my host family. Kaskrut is tea time and a regular part of most Moroccan’s life. During this time I drink many glasses of Moroccan mint tea, eat a lot of bread and olive oil and watch Turkish soap operas. I also my food scraps to my family for the sheep, goats and donkey.

Back home I crawl in bed under 4 thick wool blankets, finish reading a book on my Kindle and fall asleep around 10.

Tuesday – woke up at 7:15 and stayed in bed until 9 listening to podcasts. It’s really cold and I don’t want to get out from under all the covers.

My morning consists of eating breakfast, enjoying a cup of tea, going over notes for English class, talking to Jessica from Project Soar, working out/yoga/meditation, and reading.

Noon – 2:00 … at the Dar Taliba. The bread isn’t delivered until almost 1:00 so no English class today. My counterpart and I discussed the Project Soar session for the next day – she had to hand write some stuff to use for the activity. Peace Corps teaches you patience, flexibility and resiliency.

Afternoon … Fellow PCV Natasha came over. She’s in the town I go to for souk. Her computer charger died so she’s been coming over every few days to charge her computer. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading, doing wifi and making sure I have everything for tomorrow.

7:00 … made dinner and cleaned up

8:00-10:00 … podcasts under the covers!

Wednesday – woke up around 7:30 and listened to podcasts until 9

9:00-11:30 – usual routine, but no workout or yoga today (my back is not feeling it today!)

Noon-2:00 … Dar Taliba for Project Soar and lunch

Afternoon … stopped at 7anut (small store) to get toilet paper. The rest of the day was the usual wifi and reading time. Around 5 I ate a yogurt with musli and some fruit.

7:00 … started listening to podcasts and fell asleep around 8:30. Apparently I was tired!

Thursday – pretty much the same morning routine as before. Did a little yoga to help with my back pain.

Noon – 2:00 … lunch and tutoring at Dar Taliba. On Thursday’s I do tutoring, which consists of about 10 girls with various questions on their English homework.

Afternoon … same old same old. Fixed dinner around 5.

6:00-11:00 … listened to an audio book while cuddled under a pile of warm blankets

Friday – it’s couscous day!! Seriously my favorite food in Morocco (maybe ever?)

8:30-9:30 … finished listening to the audio book

9:30-11:45 … breakfast, tea, podcasts, yoga, and reading. WhatsApp’d with Ayoub, a university student from my site who is studying English in Marrakech; he asks me clarification questions on words and phrases he finds in books and movies – I consider this a form of tutoring.

11:45 … started boiling water for a bucket bath/enjoyed bucket bath

12:50 … call to prayer. I wait until I hear the call the prayer before heading to my host family’s house for couscous. The kids leave for school at around 1:20 so I chat with them for a bit as they get ready to head out. The rest of us eat after my host dad gets back from mosque – usually around 1:45.

3:00-5:00 … English Club at the high school. When I showed up today I was told it was canceled so I trekked back to my apartment. Again, flexibility! Spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with fellow PCVs and friends/family back home. Finished reading a book.

7:00 – Audible finally updated my monthly credit so I downloaded the book that my book club back home will be discussing tomorrow (I’ve tried to stay up with the books they are reading). Listened until around 10:00.

Saturday – woke up at 8:15 and listened to audio book

9:30 … breakfast and tea while listening to book, plus a little yoga

Noon – 2:00 … lunch and Project Soar at Dar Taliba

2:00-6:15 … finished listening to audio book then a little wifi (yes, I finished 4 books this week)

6:40 … FaceTimed with my book club! It was so awesome to see everyone and chat a bit about my life as well as the book. Hoping to make this a regular monthly thing now.

7:30 … podcasts until I fell asleep around 10:00

Sunday – woke up at 7:30 and listened to a podcast until 8:00, when I had breakfast and tea

8:30 … washed my hair

9:00-11:00 … did laundry, yoga, straightened up around the apartment

11:00-4:00 … the weather has been back to normal February weather the last two days so I went to Tinzouline (the next town south of me) and hung out with Natasha at a cafe while she used my charger and we both did wifi stuff (including me working on this blog). Grabbed lunch at another cafe around 2:00. Saw my English Club counterpart and we discussed some upcoming activities (he also said we will no longer be meeting on Fridays). Completed the Project Soar reports and attendance for the last two workshops. Bought some bananas and oranges for the week.

Back at home I put away the fruit, went to the 7anut for more toilet paper and had to make two trips cause I didn’t take enough money the first time (I planned to buy 2 four-packs but he had a new 12-pack!), finished this blog and grabbed my laundry from the roof.

Not sure what I’ll do the rest of the evening but it will probably involve a book or a few podcasts. Oh and I need to prepare for Project Soar for tomorrow!

In addition to listening to podcasts and audio books and reading, I sometimes watch movies from my hard drive or shows on Netflix (my wifi resets on the 18th so I try to use all my unused data on the 17th). Also, some of my reading each day is reviewing language.

Sometimes on Sundays I don’t leave my apartment cause I need a mental break.

During the winter I clean my house once a month (though honestly it’s been since just before everyone was here for Christmas!). During the rest of the year, when my windows are open, it’s at least once a week if not more because of the dusty wind every day.

Every couple of weeks I go to Agdz, which is a 40 minute taxi ride away. This is where the bank and post office are and I hang out at a cafe (usually with other volunteers), eat pizza and get food I can’t get in my site (oatmeal, cheese and Nutella). I also dump my trash here because my site has no garbage collection.

Once a month I travel to Ouarzazate, two taxis and under 2 hours away, to pay for my wifi, hang out with other volunteers, eat msmne (delicious flat bread similar to naan), chicken nuggets and fries, and get food (peanut butter, musli and strawberries/peaches and such in season fruits that aren’t available at my sou).

While my technical work day is only about 2 hours a day, my work includes all interactions with host country nationals every day and time preparing for each class/workshop. Because I eat lunch at the Dar Taliba every day (and with my host family on Friday), I try to use school breaks to eat with other community members. It’s starting to stay light later now so I’ll soon start having more kaskruts as well.

I’ve been asked what is a bright spot and what’s the hardest each day. Sometimes gathering the mental strength to leave my house is the hardest. Some of this is due to the language barrier – I’m far from fluent and I struggle understanding most things some days – and some is due to constant harassment. I’ve been reluctant to talk about this with friends and family back home as I want to be careful of casting an unfair light on this country that I do enjoy living in. But it’s a daily reality and I’m working on a blog post to address this. The bright spot is knowing I am making a small impact on everyone I come in contact with every day.

This has been a really detailed and long post! But I wanted to leave you with a few pictures.

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment


What is resiliency? It can be described as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  Are you a resilient person? Do you conceptualize events as traumatic or as an opportunity to learn and grow?

In the Peace Corps, we talk a lot about resiliency and ways to work through the tough times we will experience. Each volunteer brings with them different strategies to help them cope.

Back in November, I was part of a resiliency session at one of the trainings for new volunteers. There were four of us who discussed struggles we have gone through and/or currently going through and the strategies we use to cope. For me, my biggest struggle/challenge is the language. Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is not an easy language to learn and I simply find it extremely difficult. Arabic is the second hardest language to learn in the world. Darija is the Arabic dialect spoken here in Morocco. Some days I have to force myself to leave my house because I’m scared to have to speak to people. It’s a catch-22. If I stay inside I don’t have to speak; but if I actually go out and speak then maybe my language will improve; but then again, I’d have to actually go out an speak. Ugh.

I’ve developed a couple of strategies to help me and thought I’d share them here.

*If there’s something specific I need to talk to someone about, I practice what I need to say before leaving the house and as I’m walking down the street.

*I use a notebook or my phone to track new words that I can then review later

*Yoga & Exercise- every day

*Meditation – for me, meditation is about gaining control of my breath and calming my mind; many times I use meditation before leaving the house to think positive thoughts and center myself

These are my main strategies. Other things I do to preserve my sanity is have clear boundaries, hide away and read, spend time with other volunteers and eats lots of chocolate. I also find spending time with my host family to be relaxing and enjoy having couscous with them every Friday and kaskrut every Monday.

Being resilient is not easy. Knowing yourself and what works best for you so that you can learn to cope with the struggles and obstacles that face you is an important strategy for success. For PCVs it’s a vital part of service.

Posted in Peace Corps Morocco | Leave a comment

Project Soar

Back in November, I attended a training for a program called Project Soar (PS). This is a girls empowerment program and I was really excited to attend. I had my counterpart with me who is the mudira (director) of the Dar Taliba (girls center) where most of my work is centered. I was a little nervous that Fatiha would be mad at me due to the intensity of the program — see all I told her was it was about girls empowerment, not how it was structured. But never fear. Fatiha has embraced the program and we have moved forward full speed ahead!

What is Project Soar? It is a 501(c)3 American non-profit association founded in 2013 by Moroccan-based American social entrepreneurs, Maryam Montague and Chris Redecke. The flagship location is based in a semi-rural village on the outskirts of Marrakech. The mission of Project Soar is to empower teenage girls in the developing world. There are 50 workshops of empowerment to keep the girls in school and to prepare them for more productive, fulfilled futures.

What are the 5 Pillars of Empowerment? This is what each of the workshops is centered around: the belief that every girl should have the opportunity to know her Value, Voice, Body, Rights and Path.

A Project Soar Girl…

Knows her Value. She is confident, has high self esteem and respects her own worth and potential.

Knows her Voice. She communicates her thoughts clearly, resolves conflict effectively and advocates for herself productively.

Knows her Body. She understands changes in her body and values her own health and wellness.

Knows her Rights. She embraces her right to an education and understands her right to be free from exploitation, violence and forced marriage.

Knows her Path. She has tools to envision her future, sets goals assertively and conducts action planning with ease.

The curriculum is laid out in 5 modules that focus on the pillars with 10 workshops each. Fatiha and I have completed 2 of the modules (Values and Voice). I’m super blessed to have a go getter counterpart and a captive audience of 15 girls who get more excited each week about this program. Many of the other volunteers who attended training are struggling to get started and maintain interest. Fatiha and I determined that in order to complete the 50 workshops before the school year ended we needed to do 3 sessions a week (taking in to consideration school holidays, breaks and testing). It’s a pretty rigorous schedule but as I said the girls love it.

Each workshop begins and ends with the following Core Belief being said in both Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and English. I honestly get chills every time I hear the girls recite it.

Ana 9awia (I am Strong)

Ana Dakota (I am Smart)

Ana 9adira (I am Capable)

Ana mustahi9a (I am Worthy)

Al fatatu 9uwa (Girl Power!)

The sessions all include education and discussion on the days topic, an activity to reinforce the ideas of the topic, meditation specific to the topic and journaling. The girls really enjoy meditation and journaling (where they get to utilize their creativity). I’ve also watched them shine during a pro / con debate, developing abstract images of themselves, and expressing themselves via song, story and jokes. I have noticed significant changes in many of these girls and can see their self confidence grow weekly. These girls have also taken initiative and will do the Core Belief without me being in the room (they are ready to start or they have to leave for class), and writing on the board to get the session going. Most recently, Fatiha was talking with a group of girls in her office and wasn’t able to get started right away, so one of the PS girls grabbed the dry erase marker and did an overview of the previous workshops!

This is my success story. One of the highlights of my Peace Corps service.

Posted in Empowerment, Peace Corps Morocco, Peace Corps Third Goal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Books, Books, Books

I’ve always read a lot. Since I was a little girl. I used to become so engrossed in books my parents had to take them out of my hands so I could join them at the dinner table. For the past several years I have set a reading challenge for myself on Goodreads and every year I surpass it. This year was no exception, except that I almost doubled my set goal!! I had several reading goals coming in to Peace Corps: 1) read about my country of service, 2) read general Peace Corps stories, 3) read a book from each of the countries that PC is currently serving and has served and, 4) read all the books on my Kindle that I downloaded during grad school. I’m making great progress in each of these areas! I also have a massive list of books I want to read (kept in an excel file, of course) and the PC Library has been very helpful.

Here are all the books I read this year and my rating for each one:


A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service                                        4 stars

Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East by Donna Lee Bowen       3 stars

Younger Than That Now by Michael Moran                                           2 stars

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg                                                5 stars

The Conquest of Morocco by Douglas Porch                                          No rating


The Sand Child by Tahar ben Jelloun                                                                 3 stars

A Woman’s Passion for Travel: True Stories of World Wanderlust             3 stars

Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times by Margaret Nydell     4 stars

A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco               4 stars


White Men Don’t Have Juju: An American Couple’s Adventure Through Africa     4 stars

Literacy, Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco                          2 stars

Caim by Jose Saramago                                                                                                        5 stars

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams                                                                4 stars

Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah                    5 stars

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray                                                                 5 stars


Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman’s Journey Toward Independence       5 stars

The Unbroken Line of the Moon by Johanne Hildebrandt                                        5 stars

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith                                                    5 stars

Barkskins by Annie Proulx                                                                                                4 stars

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes           4 stars

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano                                                    1 star

The Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta                                                                                    2 stars

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett                                                                                    5 stars


The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner                        4 stars

Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society                                       by Fatema Mernissi                                                                                                         4 stars

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly                                         5 stars

Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois by Sophie Perinot               4 stars

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert                                                      4 stars

The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau                                                                                    4 stars


How to Forgive…When You Don’t Feel Like It by June Hunt                                  1 star

An Anthology of Tashelhiyt Berber Folktales by H. Stroomer                              4 stars

Rumors by Anna Godbersen                                                                                        3 stars

Envy by Anna Godbersen                                                                                             3 stars

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon                                                     3 stars

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini                                                     5 stars

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff                                                                 4 stars

The Guardian of Secrets and Her Deathly Pact by Jana Petken                           3 stars

The Gringo Brought His Mother! by Geneva Sanders                                            3 stars

And the Rest is History by Jodi Taylor                                                                       5 stars

The Negotiator: A Memoir by George J. Mitchell                                                    5 stars


The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield                          4 stars

Nirzona by Adibah El Khalieqy                                                   1 star


Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village                                                              by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea                                                       5 stars

Morocco Since 1830: A History by C.R. Pennell                         4 stars

The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers                               5 stars

Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon                                     5 stars


The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal            4 stars

Living on the Edge: Fiction by Peace Corps Writers                4 stars

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs                                                        5 stars

House of Tears: Westerner’s Adventures in Islamic Lands    3 stars

The Birth Order Book: Why You are the Way You Are by Kevin Leman        3 stars

Lost Geography by Charlotte Bacon                                             3 stars

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt               3 stars


Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan                                5 stars

Pirates: Myth vs Reality by Helen Hollick                                 4 stars

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor by Anne Edwards          5 stars

The Last Paradise by Antonio Garrido                                      4 stars

Never Eat Alone: An Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time                             by Keith Ferrazzi                                                                          3 stars

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Eizabeth Blackwell               4 stars

An Introduction to Islam by David Waines                             2 stars

The Moroccan Women’s Rights Movement by Amy Evrard                           4 stars

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean                          5 stars

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory                           3 stars


The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain                                        4 stars

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne                        5 stars

The Man Who Could Be King by John Ripin Miller               4 stars

All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and                                                                            the Arab World by Zora O’Neill                                                 5 stars

The Lioness of Morocco by Julia Drosten                                4 stars

Madam Belle: Sex, Money and Influence in a                                                                     Southern Brothel by Maryjean Wall                                       4 stars

Paradise Delayed – Our New Lives in the Wild. Caribbean Island Life in the Beautiful Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama by Ian Usher         3 stars

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen                                5 stars


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas                                          5 stars

Beneath the Wall by Eryn LaPlant                                          3 stars

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of                                                              an African Village by Sarah Erdman                                      5 stars

Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China by Philip P. Pan 5 stars

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chan 5 stars

The Map Thief by Michael Blanding 5 stars

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer 5 stars

Beautiful Tempest (Malory Family #12) by Johanna Lindsey 5 stars

Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story by Tyler E. Lloyd 5 stars

The goal I set for myself was 40 for the year. As of today, I’ve read 74 with 2 more to be completed soon. Four and Five star rated books are highly recommended. The big question now is what should my goal be for 2018??  Gonna sign off now so I can go read some more …..

**UPDATE: I doubled my goal. As of the morning of December 31, 2017, I read 80 books! I think I need sleep now.

Posted in Books, Peace Corps Morocco, Travel | Leave a comment