Thursday, September 30, 2010

After A Couple Of Weeks

So I've been in Morocco for a couple of weeks now. The first week, it was hitting me pretty hard being here in light of having left everyone I knew before entering the Peace Corps. By the end of the second week here, I was less in withdrawal. The whole time I've been here, though, I've been glad to be here, to be doing what I've wanted to do for so long, being in the Peace Corps.

It feels right. So much so that I somehow don't feel all that much like I'm in a foreign country. Sure, I notice what's different from the US. I've been following cultural norms, like eating with the right hand, wearing long pants in public, even when it's humid, and speaking Darija, or Moroccan Arabic, even if just a little at this early stage.

I think that I feel as comfortable as I do here because I'm doing what I've wanted to do for so long. But I also think that a big part of it is that people are very welcoming here. I feel like I am developing a friendship with my host brother who is hosting me in his house. A worker at the cafe very near home is very welcoming. I thanked him in French for being so welcoming. He responded, "J'aime que tu soies ici," or "I like that you are here." He then taught me a somewhat complicated handshake, which I appreciated.

I came here hoping to form these kinds of connections, and I'm glad to be developing relationships like these. I feel strengthened by them. And in becoming closer to Moroccans, I feel validated in my decision to enter the Peace Corps, as beginning confirmation of part of why I chose to go into the Peace Corps. I'm looking forward to what else can develop over the next two years.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feared Evacuation From Morocco

Text message sent to a fellow PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) during PST (Pre-Service Training):

I was already awake at 3:30 today when I heard a rooster which sounded like it was being brutally tortured. Or sounded like it was frantically urging me to get up.  Milliseconds later, I heard what sounded like a small convoy of trucks roll up nearby.  I half expected Peace Corps staff to burst into my bedroom and tell me to grab a bag because we were being evacuated.  Alas, it was just another morning in small town Morocco.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staging, Arrival, and The First Few Days

My first post from Morocco!

To take things in order:

The day I left the USA, my folks graciously drove me to the airport at 3:45 am. Towards the end of my first flight, there was low visibility at Washington Dulles, so we couldn't land right away, then didn't have enough gas to keep circling. So we landed in Harrisburg, Penn., refueled, and went to Dulles. By then I had missed my connection to Philadelphia. I got on the next flight.

Arriving in Philadelphia, I made it to the hotel, where I found that I had missed the first session at Staging, or the within-the-USA orientation. At Staging, the Peace Corps was telling us what to expect. As soon-to-be Peace Corps Trainees, we were also discussing what we were expecting. It was great to finally start meeting other Peace Corps Trainees.

I had a brief freakout toward the end of Staging, thinking about how I'm moving to a place where I don't know anyone. And I was thinking about only knowing minimal Arabic. Soon after that, at dinner with other Peace Corps Trainees, I was feeling camaraderie with them, and I felt much better. I reminded myself that I'm not in this alone. Have to remember to call upon others for help and support.

The next day, we boarded a couple of buses to JFK. That night, we flew non-stop to Casablanca. The customs officials in Casablanca were the nicest I've ever encountered. Maybe it was because we're in the Peace Corps.

Then we boarded a couple of buses and headed for our initial training site on the coast. On the bus, we met the Peace Corps Director for Morocco. The Peace Corps Director for Morocco is impressive in how familiar he is with who we are. He remembered so much about us from what he had read about us.

Arriving at our first training site, staff went over some basic paperwork and guidelines with us. When we were done, that humid first day, I loved taking a dip in the ocean. It was just slightly cool. Small waves, so even body surfing was a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, the ocean was delightful.

We've been learning some basic Moroccan Arabic. I was glad I had spent time learning some basic Moroccan Arabic before arriving in Morocco.

This week, the US Ambassador to Morocco visited us, and spoke with us. I appreciated him pointing out the distinctions between what he does and what we do.

We've also had some sessions on health, safety and security, as well as on adapting to the culture. And we've gotten some shots, too.

Everyone here, including staff, and other Peace Corps Trainees, has been great and friendly and encouraging. It feels great knowing that I'm supported, and that I am supporting others on this path.