Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thunder and Lightning

It rained in my town over the winter. And in the spring. Never a lot. If you go by the definition of a desert as receiving less than 10 inches of rain per year, then I live in a desert, which, as you probably already know, is the Sahara.

I talked with this one guy in Marrakech months ago and when I told him in which town I live, and that it's in the Sahara, he replied that my town is not in the Sahara. And then he mentioned the name of a town where the landscape turns to nothing but sand and human construction ends, and he told me that that's the desert. However, according to the definition of a desert which is delineated by the amount of rainfall, I live in the Sahara.

But I digress. As I had been saying, it rained in the winter and spring. I had been figuring that now that the summer has arrived, we wouldn't have any more rain until the end of the year, if not the beginning of next year. I was teaching an English class with one of my better students recently, when I then saw that it was raining. Since I hadn't been expecting rain, I was definitely surprised. I used the occasion to introduce him to the phrase "I couldn't believe my eyes."

Something else I didn't expect in connection with the rain here: thunder and lightning. While I grew up experiencing thunder and lightning, there wasn't any in California, where I lived right before I moved here to Morocco, so I had been missing it when I lived in California. And, since I had been missing it, I enjoy it now when I get to experience it.

In addition to being unexpected, the rain now is a welcome relief from the heat. While I haven't been finding the heat oppressive, the rain is nevertheless refreshing, since it cools things down. Indeed, these days, when it starts raining, I'm often glad if I happen to be outside because then some of the drops fall on me and help me to cool off a little bit.

At the same time, though, the heat hasn't been bothering me very much, I think partially because I was expecting it to be hotter by now. I mentioned to a friend who's another PCV in Morocco, who's in his second year of service, that I'm surprised when I suddenly realize that my back is drenched in sweat. He replied, "So the heat is affecting your body more than your psyche." I thought that that was a good way of putting it, which also adeptly described how the heat affects me where I live.

But to look at another facet of the heat in my life now, though, I must admit that I sometimes now decide not to go outside because it's hot out. So while I haven't been finding the heat unbearable, I also wouldn't say that it has been having no effect on me.

Of course, I certainly have been drinking more water lately. With the guidance we have received from Peace Corps medical staff, I know that I've been drinking enough water. I just find it remarkable when I drink gulps and gulps of water one after another. And that despite how much water I drink, I urinate only a little. However, I know that both of these phenomena are due to how much I'm sweating out of me. Knowing that I am sweating as much as I am, I consequently and consciously drink a lot of water. Even though the heat hasn't been as bad as I expected it to be, I still am respecting the desert and the attendant heat, and taking care of myself accordingly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

Last week I was teaching an English class to one of my best students, who's actually a teacher of Arabic here in my town. On this one particular day, I was teaching him the various types of plural forms which nouns can take in English.

I was teaching him about how, with some nouns, one simply places an "s" on the end of the noun. For example, I told him that the plural form of "cat" is "cats," and that the plural form of "dog" is "dogs."

I was also teaching him that if, by adding an "s," it adds another syllable to the word, then one adds "es" onto the end of the word. For example, I told him that the plural form of "box" is "boxes."

After teaching him various types of plural forms, I finally told him that there is also the category of nouns which end in "o" and which have a consonant immediately before the "o." I told him that for some of these words, one just adds an "s," and that for others of these words, one adds "es." As examples of words in this latter category, words to which one adds "es" to make the plural form of the noun, I taught him the words "potato" and "tomato."

Anytime both of these words come up in conversation, I always think of the Billie Holiday song "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off." When I initially mentioned these words to him, I didn't tell him about the song. When he pronounced the latter word "to-mah-to," I could no longer resist, and told him, "So there's this song which goes like this: 'You say tomato, and I say to-mah-to, you say potato, and I say po-tah-to..."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cold Showers and Squat Toilets

In the last few weeks, it has gotten a little bit hotter at my site here in the Sahara Desert. So I have been enjoying cold showers more than I previously had been enjoying them.

Which brings me to the bathroom I have in my apartment. I am fortunate enough to have a shower in my apartment. While the shower head and shower cord seem fairly old, causing the water to fall out of the shower head as well as be propelled weakly out, I am just grateful to even have a shower at all!

The water from the shower runs onto the floor of the bathroom, which is tiled like walls of showers in the USA are tiled. The water from the shower then makes its way to the drain in the toilet, which is immediately adjacent to the shower. However, unlike the toilets most commonly seen in the USA, in the bathroom in my apartment is a squat toilet. The squat toilet is a square of porcelain a couple of feet wide on each side. It has a couple of grooved foot pads, on which you can step and stand while you use the toilet, which are parallel to, and at the same height as, the floor. The porcelain in the rest of the squat toilet slopes downward toward the drain in the squat toilet. As most of you probably already know, there is no seat; one uses it by squatting over it, rather than sitting as in the USA. And one "flushes" it by pouring a bucket of water into the drain in the middle of the squat toilet.

Earlier this month, while taking a shower, the thing I had most feared for months finally happened: I dropped the bar of soap. While that isn't necessarily a problem when it happens, it can be, given that the shower is so close to the squat toilet, and that the shower water drains into the squat toilet. I turned around just in time to see the bar of soap disappearing from view as it descended into the drain. The next thing I thought was, "Well, that's one bar of soap that I'll never see again."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

IST (In-Service Training)

Last week, I was at IST (In-Service Training) with the other PCVs who arrived in Morocco at the same time as me, in September of last year. We gathered together to discuss lessons we had learned in the three months since we all had last met for our previous communal training. We also discussed upcoming activities for the summer. We also had a variety of sessions dealing with administrative, safety and security, and medical issues. Some of us were due for, and thus received, regularly scheduled medical shots.

It was good, as always, to spend time with other PCVs. When I spend time with other PCVs, I'm reminded that I'm not the only one doing this work. I gain the insights of my fellow PCVs about challenges we tend to face. And consequently I always emerge from these communal trainings strengthened and energized for the work we're here to do.

During my free time last week, I was happy to enjoy some ice cream there in the town on the coast where we had the training. I also enjoyed some time at the beach when we weren't in training sessions. And a bunch of us PCVs played some dodgeball there on the beach, which was fun.

On the way back down to my town, I again enjoyed some fresh-squeezed orange juice in Marrakech. While there, I was happy again when I found more delicious ice cream.

Later on in my journey south, while riding the bus through the High Atlas mountains, I was surprised to spot waterfalls. Given that I was seeing hardly any snow in those mountains, I didn't expect to see waterfalls, but I was glad that I did, and enjoyed their beauty.

While it was great to spend some time with other PCVs, and while I was glad to gain their insights and support, it was tiring doing that traveling. I've been using my free time to rest up since I got back here to my town.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"I'm sorry I couldn't make it any sooner, but I was all tied up."

Some words about transportation in Morocco. I think I've already mentioned buses and trains in previous blog posts. One can also get around in Morocco by taking both petit taxis and grand taxis. Petit taxis travel within cities and sometimes within some bigger towns, and typically take no more than three passengers, two in the back seat, and one in the front passenger seat. Grand taxis, which are usually Mercedes, travel between towns and cities, and carry six passengers, in addition to the driver, cramming four people in the back seat, and two in the front passenger seat. Each passenger pays for his or her own place. If a passenger in a grand taxi wants more space, that passenger can pay for an additional seat or for additional seats. But usually each passenger only pays for his or her own seat. Grand taxi drivers ideally want to fill up the taxis because they don't want to miss out on money they can make, so even if a passenger is ready to go, usually the driver waits for the taxi to fill up before leaving town. Sometimes after waiting a little while, a driver will leave with a taxi that isn't full, after making a judgment call that it's better to get going and at least make the money from the passengers who are already there, rather than keep waiting for more passengers, who may take a while to show up.

I was sitting at the grand taxi stand in my town last week, waiting for a taxi to fill up so I could get to another PCV's site to attend an exhibition of talent of local youths. As I sat waiting there, in front of me lie a sheep with three of its legs tied up. And then I thought that that sheep and I were more similar than I had previously thought: neither that sheep nor I were going anywhere until each of the guys transporting us decided that it was time to go.