Monday, October 25, 2010

This is. My life. Right now.

We started teaching English classes at the Dar Chebab (Darija for "youth center") here in town last week. I've been enjoying it. It feels great to be sharing knowledge with Moroccans. I say Moroccans, and not Moroccan youth, because although the vast majority of the people we teach are youths aged 6 to 18, anyone can come to the Dar Chebab for English lessons. Some of the kids have already started learning English in school, whereas others don't know any English when they come to the Dar Chebab. So, I've taught lessons on counting in English, as well as on the passive voice.

So this is my life right now. It feels good, and I'm glad that I'm here helping people right now. I'm trying to focus on right now. At some point in the last few weeks, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of living here, in a new and foreign land, where I don't know many people, for the next two years. I was feeling challenged by the reality that I'm only going to see family and friends back in the USA a few times over the next couple of years. Then I began to apply myself simply to today, the day in which I am living at any particular moment. Suddenly my life in the Peace Corps became not only much more manageable, but also much more enjoyable.

And by not worrying about tomorrow, I'm also integrating into Moroccan society. Moroccans are more concerned with building a relationship with someone than they are with timetables. So, in effect, by relaxing, and not worrying about tomorrow, I'm implicitly embracing, and learning about Moroccan culture. Now viewing and approaching my own life differently, less concerned about time than I was before I came here, with the insight I am gaining while living in Morocco, I better understand Moroccans, one of the reasons I came here. By not worrying about time, much as Moroccans are unconcerned with it, I FEEL a different approach to life. Since I am being transformed, I will more easily help citizens of the USA understand Moroccans, one of the reasons why the Peace Corps sent me and other Peace Corps trainees here to Morocco.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Foibles In Food Preparation

This morning I was helping cook a very delicious lunch with Liz, Tory, Katy and Margo, who are the other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) in the town where we've been training during PST (Pre-Service Training).  My friend, that is, my fellow PCT, handed me peeled garlic.  I placed a piece of garlic on the plate.  I put the knife on top of the garlic, parallel with the table.  Next I wanted to crush the garlic under the knife.  I slammed my fist down on the side of the knife, and that piece of garlic flew out the window.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who's The Crazy One Here?

A couple of days ago, I explained to a petit taxi driver in Fes that "Daffy Duck" was the name of the stuffed animal hanging from his rear view mirror.  Actually, at first, it seemed that the chap didn't even realize that I was pointing to the looney tune.  He was looking in the other direction, out his driver's side window.  I had to redirect him to the rear view mirror.  Then, at first, I asked him in Darija, that is, in Moroccan Arabic, "Shnoo smeetoo?" meaning "What's his name?"  He looked quite confused.  Then I said, "En francais, il s'appelle 'le canard fou.'  En anglais, il s'appelle 'Daffy Duck.'"  

Then it occurred to me that this fellow probably had never seen our fearless cartoon character in action.  Then it also occurred to me that Moroccan taxi drivers probably don't name stuffed animals hanging in their taxis.  So, then I thought, "This guy is probably thinking, 'That duck isn't crazy; you are!'"

Then I quickly explained, "Ce canard est dans les bandes dessinees aux Etats-Unis!"  Once I had explained that Daffy is in cartoons, the cab driver said, "Ah, oui!  Les bandes dessinees!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Little More About PST (Pre-Service Training)

It recently occurred to me that there are probably gaps in what many of you know about my experience thus far here in Morocco. So, I figured that I should write a new blog entry.

First, keep in mind that I am not yet a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). I am still a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT). After a few days of initial training with all of the other Youth Development (YD) and also the Small Business Development (SBD) PCTs, I and the other YD PCTs headed to Fes, while the SBD PCTs headed to a different place. Then we split into groups of five and six and headed to our small Community-Based Training (CBT) sites, where we have been spending most of our time. Every couple of weeks, we leave our smaller CBT sites and all of us YD PCTs meet for a couple of days of training together, then head back to our local CBT sites.

At our CBT sites, Monday to Friday, we spend a few hours each morning learning Darija, or Moroccan Arabic. Saturdays, we only meet in the morning to learn more Darija. Each day that we meet, we eat lunch together, after sometimes going out and buying our food at the weekly souq, or farmer's market, which is in our town. After lunch, sometimes our LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator, which is Peace Corps' name for our teacher) gives us a lesson about Moroccan culture. In the afternoons, we also go out and meet members of the community, including at the town's Dar Chebab, or Youth Center. During these interactions, we have tried to assess the state of youth in our community, what resources they have available, what they could use, and how they spend their time. By trying to find these answers, we hope to be better able to help the youth in our communities. Also, by gathering this information, and practicing this approach of gathering information, we hope to be better prepared to learn about our communities at our final sites.

That is, once we finish the nine weeks of training next month, we will leave our CBT sites and head to our final sites, where we will live over the next two years. At the end of this month, we will find out where in Morocco our final sites will be.

Actually, by the end of PST, a PCT has to pass tests, including on safety and security in Morocco, and on Peace Corps procedures and policies, as well as an LPI (Language Proficiency Interview). If a PCT passes all of these tests, then a PCT is sworn in as a PCV. We current PCTs here in Morocco will be sworn in as PCVs in mid-November.

In the meantime, our focus in the afternoon has been shifting somewhat, such that for part of the afternoons, we are learning about teaching English classes to youths. When we arrive at our final sites, we will begin by teaching English to youths. Later, we may also begin working on involving youth in a broader range of extracurricular activities, which may involve teaching English within the context of those extracurricular activities, which may be civics or geography lessons, sports, theatre, health or environmental education, or other activities.

When we arrive at our final sites, we will again be living with host families, as we have been doing during training. Then, soon after arriving at our final sites, we will likely find our own housing. It surely will be even more of an adventure when we head to our final sites!