People are forever asking me questions about my upcoming adventure in Morocco (which I honestly love!) so I thought I’d do a little FAQ page to keep it all in place. And maybe there’s a question you hadn’t thought of before!
Q: Why the Peace Corps?
A: This is a many faceted answer but boils down to a few key things. I have always wanted to live and work internationally and to learn a new language (and speak it fluently!). Combine this with my wanderlust, need for change and adventure, desire to experience different cultures and service to others and you have a perfect storm.
Q: Where will you be?
A: Morocco. That’s as much as I know right now. We will get our site assignment once we are in country during training.* Due to safety and security issues for all volunteers worldwide, the Peace Corps asks us to not publicize our exact location.
Q: Where is Morocco?
A: It’s in the north-west corner of Africa, about 8 miles across the Gibraltar Straight from Spain.
Q: Why 27 months?
A: Great question! There are three months of training and then two full years ‘on the ground’.
Q: What will you be doing?
A: Another great question. And to be honest, I really don’t know. I am a Youth Asset Builder and I know I’ll most likely work in a Dar Chebab (youth center). But my actual duties will be dependent on which site I end up at and what their wants and needs are.
Q: Do they speak English?
A: Some do. But we will learn their language in order to integrate in to their culture. The official language of Morocco is Darija – which has been described to me as street Arabic. French is also widely spoken as Morocco is a former French protectorate (I’ve been brushing up on my French – high school was a very long time ago!). There are other native languages as well spoken by the Berbers – the indigenous people.
Q: Will you come home during your service?
A: Honestly, barring a family emergency, I do not plan to. I want to use my time exploring the country, seeing some of Africa and taking advantage of the close proximity to Europe.
Q: So what will you do when you get back?
A: At this point, I am not thinking about my future plans. But I hope this service will provide a way in to further international work.
Q: What does your family think?
A: This one is a tough one to answer because my instinct is to say ‘what does it matter what my family thinks? This is about me, what makes me happy. It’s not about them’. But it is a valid question. I think it can be summed up with what my son said ‘I’m not happy about it, but I know it’s what you’ve always wanted to do, so YOLO’.
Q: Morocco is a Muslim country, right? Does that mean you have to cover up? Aren’t you scared being a female (and blonde at that!) in a Muslim country?
A: Yes, Morocco is predominately Muslim (98.7%). No, I do not have to cover. We are encouraged to dress conservatively out of respect for the culture. And doing so helps you integrate in to the culture easier and quicker. And I’ve never felt scared, uneasy or unsafe in any of my travels so I don’t expect to feel so in Morocco.
Q: But is it dangerous?
A: No. The Peace Corps does not send volunteers in to dangerous areas. It is no more dangerous there than it is in the US or most other parts of the world. But then again, anything can happen at any time. The Peace Corps is prepared to handle that should a situation arise.
Q: What’s the weather like?
A: Morocco’s climate is very diverse, varying with the season and region. In general the country has a tropical climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 35°C (95°F) and as low as 5°C (41°F) in the Sahara. You have the coast which is warm and Mediterranean-like. Inland which is hotter and drier. The south which is very hot and dry. And then there are mountains that run the entire country that have snow.
Q: What’s the population? It’s a small country right?
A: The population of Morocco is 33.01 million (2013). If you were to place Morocco over the US, it would cover from approximately Canada to Mexico. So in comparison to the sizes of other countries in Africa, yes Morocco is small. But compared to the US, it’s a pretty good size country.
Q: Will you have modern amenities?
A: The answer to this is ‘most likely’. For the most part, Moroccans have access to electricity, running water and internet. But that doesn’t guarantee I will have these things.
Q: So do you get paid?
A: The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization. Volunteers receive a small monthly stipend for incidentals. Keep in mind, we are to live like those we serve – not live above them. And most of the rest of the world believes that all Americans are rich (like movie star / NBA rich). Our medical and housing are taken care of via the Peace Corps.
Q: So where will you live?
A: During training and the first month or so in site, I’ll be living with a host family. This will help with language training and integration in to the culture. After that, I will find a place of my own.
Q: Will you live in a tent? Where will you sleep? (from my niece!)
A: My niece thought I would live in a tent. Morocco actually has houses made from concrete. The outside is typically very plain while the inside is ornately decorated. And I will get to sleep in a bed! I will have to use a Turkish Toilet (squat toilet) and most likely take bucket baths – though some places have a shower.
Q: What is the food like?
A: The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, the old national delicacy. Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco, usually eaten in a tagine with a wide selection of vegetables. Chicken is also very commonly used in tagines, or roasted. Moroccan cuisine is influenced by Morocco‘s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian and Berber cuisine. (from Wikipedia). Spices are also extensively used. I plan to do several posts on the food I experience.
Q: Will new blog posts go directly to Facebook or do I need to keep an eye on your blog for new ones?
A: Well, I have the settings set to go directly to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but occasionally something goes wonky. You can sign up to receive an email notice whenever I post a new one
Q: Why are you so awesome? And did you know I’m living vicariously through you? (seriously – I’ve been asked this!)
A: I imagine I’m so awesome because I’ve surrounded myself with awesome people and I have good genes. And I love that friends / family are able and willing to live vicariously through me. Not everyone is cut out to do the work of a Peace Corps Volunteer and I am happy to share my experiences with those who find it intriguing and exciting but who could never commit themselves. I hope through my service I am able to help my friends and family learn about the country and customs I will be living and be more open-minded to those who are different than us.
*Don’t worry – check out my Lingo page for terminology you may not understand!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the Peace Corps or Morocco so there are probably mistakes all through this. But this is the way I understand things to be at this point.