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.

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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.

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Communication

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

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Harassment

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.

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Resiliency

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.

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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.

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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:

January

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

February

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

March

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

April

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

May

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

June

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

July

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield                          4 stars

Nirzona by Adibah El Khalieqy                                                   1 star

August

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

December

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

One Year in Morocco

I’ve lived in Morocco for one year now and wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1 – Moroccans have this amazing ability to fill every open space beyond normal capacity

2 – I’m learning day by day to let go of anxiety knowing everything will work out

3 – I’ve learned to sit and do absolutely nothing for hours at a café, at my house, at someone else’s house, waiting for a taxi, being in a taxi/bus/train, etc

4 – Donkeys are the most pathetic miserable animals ever

5 – I’m terrified of preteen boys, especially when they are moving in packs

6 – Sleeping under the stars in relaxing – but doesn’t mean I want to start camping

7 – Cement houses in the south are a bazillion times hotter than traditional mud houses

8 – I now fully understand that this is the ‘cold land with the hot sun’

9 – The generosity and hospitality of Moroccans is overwhelming and awesome

10 – Stepping outside your own box can be extremely difficult when you struggle with the language and being an introvert

11 – I used to be an extremely independent individual

12 – Moroccans are not shy about their curiosity

Hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight in to my day to day living in Morocco!  Looking forward to what I’ll learn the next 15 months.

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

Traveling Morocco, Part II

Back in January I posted up some photos of my travels within Morocco for the first 4 months being in country. I figure it’s time to post up pics from the last 8 months as well!


Boumalne Dades


The Gorge


Marrakech 


Zagora 


Rose Festival at Kelaa M’Gouna


Chefchaouen 


Taza


Larache


Agadir


Taghzoute

Posted in Morocco, Peace Corps Morocco, Travel | 2 Comments