Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moroccan Hospitality to the Rescue

Recently I headed out in the late morning, as I usually do, to buy some bread to make a sandwich for myself for lunch, and to go to a cyber. However, given that Ramadan had just ended in the last couple of days, all of the shops were closed.

Though there were a few people milling about, there were far fewer people out and about than usual. Given that I had very little food at home, and definitely no bread, I figured that I was probably going to be missing lunch. I tried to shrug it off, and, thinking that I could at least try to do something, I started off toward an apartment building I know to try to find out if there were any available apartments in it on behalf of Stan, the new PCV living in my town.

Soon after I turned onto the road toward that apartment building, I saw a fellow who lives here in town who is always friendly and welcoming to me. He invited me to come to his home for lunch. I was glad to accept, not only because I was hungry and didn't have much to eat at home, but also because he had invited me to his home months earlier, at times which weren't convenient for me.

So, I was happy to finally accept one of his invitations, and I turned around and started walking with him to his home. Right after we crossed one of the main streets here in town, he walked up to a group of men, some of whom were sitting on the curb, others in a car next to the curb, who were there talking. Given that typically in Morocco, if as a guy you're walking with another guy, and he starts talking with people, he shakes the hand of every guy there, and you do the same, even if you don't know them, even if he doesn't introduce you, and even if you think you're never going to see them again. So, once he had started shaking their hands, I did the same. After his very brief conversation with them, we continued on to his home.

We completed the short walk to his home very quickly, and proceeded up to the top floor, the third floor of the building. He immediately brought out some tea (which, here in Morocco, typically contains a lot of sugar) and removed the knit towel which was resting over the large plate holding a variety of cookies in front of us. When I finished my glass of tea, he asked me if I wanted more, which I did. More than once he told me to eat more cookies. He again offered me more tea, but I declined more tea at that point. Moroccans always encourage their house guests to eat and drink!

After we had had some tea and cookies, we continued watching TV. At one point, we were watching either a TV show or a movie which featured an actress who, I'm pretty sure, was Jennifer Lopez. They hadn't dubbed over the original English dialogue; rather, it had Arabic subtitles. So, I understood when I heard J. Lo's character tell her fellow character, "Change your shirt; you smell like dog," whereas my host laughed and repeated to me in Darija what she had just said, because he had just read it. I responded to him, in Darija, "Yeah, she didn't like that." When the two characters started slow dancing with their arms draped over each other in a bar in the next scene, my host changed the channel, about which I felt little regret.

Then I was more excited to get to see a little of a special on National Geographic Abu Dhabi which was set in Yosemite National Park. Although I understood very little of what was being said in that program, which was in Arabic, of course I could tell that they were observing small frogs in the water there in the park. And, toward the end of the program, I enjoyed seeing some footage showing some wide vistas in the park, which I especially appreciated having visited there and hiked there over a dozen times.

After my host and I had been watching TV for a while, he brought a large teapot and a type of water basin into the room. As typically done right before a meal in someone's home in Morocco, I placed my hands over the basin and he poured slightly warm water over my hands. When I told him "safi," meaning that he had poured enough water over my hands, he then handed me a towel to dry my hands.

He then brought in a tajine of chicken and olives, sitting in the juice of the chicken, and covered with French fries. He had also just brought in some bread (large, round, flat bread), from which we broke off small pieces, and which we used to dip in the juices of the tajine, and also used to grab olives, pieces of chicken, and French fries. We also used just our fingers to pick fries off the top of the chicken, which, incidentally, was a whole chicken, as is usual in a chicken tajine. (Each of us ate with the right hand; in Morocco, it is understood that the left hand is reserved for hygienic uses). Towards the end of the meal, he encouraged me to keep eating, but I didn't want to make myself uncomfortably full, so I told him I had had enough.

Also, I saw a plate of fruit which was waiting for us, so I left some room for that dessert. We enjoyed some melon and grapes for dessert.

Soon after we had finished dessert, he brought the teapot of warm water and the basin back into the room, and I again washed my hands. Soon thereafter, I then happily left his home, thanking him repeatedly, grateful for his generosity and hospitality which had saved me from being hungry for the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Come, Sit, Eat Again

My first full day back in my town here down south, I went to the home of a wonderful family. While I always enjoy going to their home to visit them, on this particular visit, I went there to introduce myself to Stan, another PCV who arrived here and started staying with them during my recent travels.

He was an Environment PCV before coming to live here in my town. However, when they transferred Stan to my town, they transferred him into the YD (Youth Development) sector, so now he's a YD PCV, just like me. But, having done extensive environmental work back in the states, he'll likely do a good deal of environmental work here in our town.

I'm happy that Stan is here. He is a very nice guy, very soft-spoken, and very considerate. He's an elderly fellow; in fact, I often joke around with him and other PCVs that he resembles the elderly Obi-Wan Kenobi, as portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness, from the first three Star Wars films which were made.

So, I went to his host family's home to meet him. I wanted to show him where I live, so that he would be able to stop by whenever he wanted. Conscious of how it was then very late in the afternoon, and thus getting very close to when the family would be eating "ftur," or the meal which Moroccans eat at dusk to break their fast, I told his host sister, "He'll be back in time to eat ftur with all of you." She responded with what could best be described as unrestrained incredulity. In total disbelief and confusion, she didn't hesitate as she instantly asked, shocked, "And you?! You're coming back to eat ftur with us, right?!" In her reaction, she showed how, once you are invited to a Moroccan's home, they are very hospitable, in contrast to how when you are in public and you encounter a Moroccan you don't know. And, in this case, even though I just happened to drop by unannounced, and even though I was about to leave, I was expected to come back to eat with them.

So, I brought Stan to my apartment so he would know where to find me. We didn't hang out at my place very long, though, because ftur was going to be very soon. So we turned around and made the short walk, perhaps 5 minutes, back to his host family's home.

At some point after having the light meal, which we ate just after 7 p.m., I got up to leave. Stan's host mother was surprised. She told me, "You're not leaving; you have to stay for dinner." So I sat back down and continued watching TV with them.

Significantly later in the evening, certainly after 10 p.m., they brought out a tajine (a word in Darija which stands not only for a Moroccan stew, but also the clay container which holds it). The tajine consists of vegetables on top of any of various kinds of meat. In the last week or so, at their house, we've been eating tajine with goat meat in it. Stan told me that they recently slaughtered a goat. One eats the tajine by breaking off pieces of bread (large, round, flat bread) and using the bread to grab pieces of vegetable and meat for oneself out of the communal tajine. After eating the tajine, we've been eating fruit for dessert, which is common to have for dessert after dinner in Morocco. One night, we ate some muskmelon, which I especially enjoy. Other nights, we've had grapes for dessert.

So, it has been nice to experience their hospitality, as always. It's also been nice that the heat has started to abate since I arrived back in town. It has only helped, in terms of the heat, that we have been getting some rain in the last week or so. Sometimes it's only been a few brief drops. However, the other day when I was here in the cyber on the Internet, it started raining pretty hard, complete with thunder, and presumably lightning, but I didn't see it, since I was inside.

The other day I took Stan to the top of this hill here in town to show him this amazing view of a mountain here in my town, with the palmerie, the massive grove of palm trees, in the foreground. Soon after we started walking down the road from the top of the hill, it started raining, and not lightly, either. We started walking more quickly. Remembering the substantial downpour we had recently had, and looking up at the ominous color of the sky, I opined, "I don't think that this is going to be one of those extremely brief showers. We started walking even more quickly, only to observe a few seconds later that the rain was lessening. And then a few seconds later, we started chuckling as the rain had petered out to a few isolated drops. And then very soon thereafter, it stopped altogether.

While I've been grateful for Stan's company, I must admit that I started feeling down in the last week, from missing loved ones and life back in the USA. And a couple of days before I started feeling a little down, I really had honestly told my mom that I was feeling pretty good, considering how there is little work to do right now since the Dar Chebab (youth center) is closed right now over the summer. I've been reading a lot during the copious spare time I've had lately. But in the midst of all the spare time, despite my enjoying the huge amount of reading I've been doing, a little undercurrent of homesickness had crept up within me since I had sent that e-mail to her.

Faced with this most recent wave of challenging emotion, I thought it only appropriate to follow my own advice. Consequently, I acknowledged my feelings to myself at the time, and almost immediately I felt better about it. Just in deciding to be conscious, and to confront how I was feeling, I took a small, yet nevertheless major, significant, and powerful step in favor of my own well-being. In essence, I was glad that I had taken care of myself! And knowing that I have to be consciously strategic and mindful of how I respond to my own personal challenges, and how I should follow my own advice, I decided to air my feelings by blogging about my recent emotional challenge. And, it also seemed appropriate to respond to this challenge by blogging about it, since in doing so, I am sharing with others how I had dealt effectively with it, which might, in turn, help them to cope with challenges.

In that vein, of trying to help, I had also come to a similar conclusion in the preceding several weeks. It had occurred to me that it may appear like I've been complaining about various aspects of my life here in Morocco since I arrived back here in Morocco from my trip to the states last month. I decided at some point in the last few months that I had to start being more expansive than I had been in my blog, that I had to stop censoring myself as much as I had been in my previous blog entries.

Why, you might ask, had I been censoring myself somewhat? Because I didn't want to be focusing on the aspects of life here in Morocco which are not my favorite parts of my experience here. I dealt with them without blogging about them, so as to try to remain positive on the blog.

And then at a certain point, I thought, "I am not giving people back in the USA an accurate, true picture of Morocco. In fact, I might potentially be misleading people who are currently applying to the Peace Corps, and who might end up as PCVs in Morocco." So, I am now consciously writing about aspects of life in Morocco which may seem to irritate me. While they may at times seem to be things which had not previously been problematic for me, oftentimes I am writing about phenomena which at times have irked me for much of the time I've been living here.

When I choose to let them irritate me, that is. I've been trying to not let things annoy me, and instead to remind myself that God wants us to love each other, and not focus on petty things which are ultimately not important in any way whatsoever.

I thus hope to share a helpful perspective by blogging about such challenges. Over time, I have been learning to deal with such challenges. And in dealing with them, and in sharing how I deal with them, perhaps I can help other PCVs.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drag

On my way back down south last week, I took the train to Marrakech. On the train, some of the conductors were female. However, they were all wearing the same things as the male conductors: navy blue pants, navy blue suit jackets, and navy blue ties, over baby blue colored button-down shirts.

I was surprised to see these women wearing these particular items of clothing. Not so much because I had never seen Moroccan women wearing these particular items of clothing, but because in my town, I usually only see women wearing long keftans, or Moroccan women's robes.

I must say, I was very intrigued that they were wearing such clothes. It made me think about how few sartorial options women in my town have, at least without risking disapprobation by much of the rest of their community. Now, I realize that these female train conductors were not in my town when I saw them, and that most likely they do not live in my town. However, continuously seeing the limited clothing choices which women in my town have, I was glad that these train conductors had the option of wearing what they were wearing. This despite the fact that they were essentially wearing uniforms. And despite the fact that they were essentially wearing what is typically called men's clothing. Because despite how some would claim that these aspects of their clothing reflect a lack of true individuality and independent expression, I was nevertheless relieved to see these women as having at least an option of some substantive kind about what to wear, in comparison with the women in my town.

On the train, I was also struck by how a few people went to the space between the train cars to smoke. I've both observed, as well as read, that in the way many Moroccans act, they may seem to people who live in the USA that they, Moroccans, don't seem to care about being polite to strangers. Indeed, as an instance of this phenomenon, when walking up to a hanoot (Darija, or Moroccan Arabic, for "grocery store") in Morocco, if you don't walk all the way up to the counter, someone else will probably walk right past you and start getting what he or she wants from the shopkeeper rather than forming a line behind you. It doesn't matter if you were there first. Thus, to people who live in the USA, Moroccans may sometimes seem rude due to apparently not taking the considerations of strangers into account. So, I was pleasantly surprised when these Moroccans went to the space between the train cars to smoke.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tips for PCVs and PCTs

I've been compiling a list of tips, or insights, which I feel that I gained when I was a PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) and thus far while I've been a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer), and which RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) and current PCVs have either explicitly or implicitly suggested to me. I thought it could be helpful to some people if I posted them here. While I have written them with PCVs and PCTs in mind, I think that they could be helpful generally in life, so even if you're not a PCT or a PCV, you might find these to be helpful.

***Take one day at a time. If you find yourself looking forward, only look forward to the next thing that's going to happen in a few weeks or less.

***Acknowledge your feelings. This is another one that is very important. If you try to squelch, smother, or ignore your feelings, such as homesickness, and despair arising out of homesickness, it is likely to get much, much worse. By contrast, by acknowledging your feelings, you are then set to take the next step and deal with them.

***Keep in mind that how you feel is most certainly going to change. This is another huge one. Oftentimes PCVs can feel as if the state in which they currently find themselves is going to continue for the rest of their service. In fact, that is usually not the case, as you continue to adjust.

***Remember that you're not alone. Remember that right now, there are literally thousands of other PCTs/PCVs experiencing challenges in the Peace Corps.

Remember that over 200,000 people have served as PCVs.

Try to maintain perspective.

Upon arriving in your final site, set yourself definitely achievable tasks which will at the same time help you progress in many larger ways, namely:
Learn five new words each day in the host country language;
Meet five new people each day.

Take the time, in fact, make it a part of your routine, to do things each day which nourish your soul, namely:
Write down some things every day for which you are grateful. Be sure that at least some of them are things about your present situation (i.e., great specific people you have met, specific activities you have done in your work, things you get to do in your free time, a new food you have gotten to try, etc.)

Make it part of your daily routine to do something each day which is important to you. For me, that has been reading a few pages of the Bible every morning when I wake up.

Value all of your accomplishments, no matter what size they seem to be.

Remind yourself that you are never going to see all of the positive effects you are having as a PCT and as a PCV.

Try to be flexible. Remember, you're living in a foreign culture, and many things, from transportation, to food, and plenty of other things aren't going to pan out exactly the way you would like it to. Similarly, people are likely not to operate just as you would like them to; host country nationals are likely to be different from you, potentially including in their work habits. Keep all this in mind if you start to become frustrated.

Try to be patient. With others. With yourself. With time. Things probably will not happen when you want them to happen; it might take longer for certain things to happen than you originally hope.

Get some exercise multiple times every week.

Even when the purpose is not to get exercise, just going for a walk can help, including to clear your head, and/or to shift your perspective.

Appreciate the natural beauty and landscape around you.

Try to maintain a sense of humor.

Develop friendships with host country nationals as well as PCVs.

Find the right balance between spending time with host country nationals, spending time with other PCVs, and spending time alone. All of these are important for different reasons, including but not limited to learning about where you are and developing as a person and as a PCV and as a citizen of the USA; getting time with those who understand you; and resting and recharging.

Talk about how you feel. When trouble hits, share your feelings, whether it be with another PCV, a host country national, or friends and family back home, whether by e-mail, through the postal mail, the telephone, Skype or gmail chat.

Keep in touch with folks at home, but don't rely too much on the net.

Use the postal mail. Putting physical pen to paper can be therapeutic. Also, later in life, you'll have more mementos of your Peace Corps experience in the paper letters and other correspondence written with a pen.

Send your postal mailing address to people you love, and ask them to write to you in the postal mail.

Reward yourself.

Take care of yourself.

Ask for help when you need it.

Remind yourself why you're doing this.

Remind yourself of what your values are.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Humility as a Reflection of Love

I just finished reading "The True Solitude," which is a collection of excerpts of different works by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. In this book, Merton offers his thoughts on finding peace, both from the values one exhibits, and from spending time in nature. He also shares his musings on the value of solitude. He also writes of how one can receive, accept and reflect God's grace, which can help one to weather difficult circumstances.

In one passage in the book, Merton explains, "Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love." He goes on to say that one sinks into despair when one refuses help from others, instead choosing to be lost. Pride gets one there, since as soon as we fail, we pity ourselves. And despair comes from pride so large and stubborn that one chooses misery over the happiness that comes from interdependence and reliance on God. And then he emphasizes, "But a man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity."

In digesting Merton's words, I thought, "This teaching is perfect for PCVs." As Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), we despair for various reasons, but so often it's because we are not getting what we want. Sometimes it's because we're living in an physically isolated site, and we want to be geographically closer to other PCVs in the country where we're serving, or because we desperately miss loved ones back in the USA, or we're overwhelmed by living in a foreign country, or we're frustrated because we feel that we can't speak the host country language well, or we're frustrated because we feel like we're not accomplishing much as PCVs, and for many other reasons. So much of the time we despair as PCVs because we don't have what we want during our service as PCVs.

But why did we decide to become PCVs? To help others. Consequently, we shouldn't be focusing on what we want, and thus we shouldn't be focusing on what we don't have, but instead we should be focusing on how we can help others.

And who are we to be thinking that things should be a certain way? Hopefully we didn't have such expectations about our Peace Corps service before we got to our host countries. We don't know why we've ended up in certain countries, and in certain communities. Nor do we know all of the effects we're having as PCVs.

But if we try to stop focusing on what we don't have, and focus instead on what do we have--and the greatest of these gifts is the opportunity to help others--then in those interactions, motivated by love, we can find the joy that is cultivated when one helps others.

Not knowing all of the effects we're having as PCVs, potentially one can choose to feel uncertain, or even despair by assuming that one is not having much of a positive effect on others' lives. One can combat this uncertainty and despair by changing one's focus. For myself, ideally I always try to trust in God, who brought and guided me to where I am today. Essentially we can choose to respond to God in kind: by striving to show God the love which God has shown to us. I don't know God's ultimate plan. But I have been learning to trust God. And it has worked very well, I must report. God has been providing me with everything I need. Beyond superficial material needs, God has given us tremendous opportunities to help others, and in those possibilities, we can choose to help, and thus love others, which brings us a wondrous joy, and a far better result than the alternative course of action.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Proselytizing

Yesterday someone asked me if I'm Muslim. Moroccans regularly ask Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) here in Morocco, including me, this question. When we say that we're not Muslim, they subsequently proceed to try to convert us to Islam. However, despite how regularly we get asked this question, I still found it ironic that this occurred to me as I was returning from Mass yesterday on the tram. When I responded that I wasn't Muslim, essentially the person started trying to convert me to Islam. Actually the person who was doing this was one of the tram employees who monitors the tram and takes people's tram ticket stubs.

I left the interaction irritated for a couple of reasons. First, it's illegal for people to try to convert Muslim Moroccans to some religion other than Islam; but it's not illegal for Moroccans to try to convert you to Islam. Second, looking back at the conversation, I realized that I had felt irritated by it because I felt like it wasn't a dialogue; I felt it was much more like a monologue, a lecture. I felt like the man was completely uninterested in trying to learn about what I believe. When I told him that I'm Christian, he immediately proceeded to tell me that there aren't three gods, but that there is only one God. However, if he had tried to find out what I believe, by asking me questions rather than simply talking at me as he was doing, he would have learned that I believe that there is only one God, but that God has multiple facets, that God manifests in different ways.

I have always been irritated by, and uninterested in communicating with, others who don't try to understand my point-of-view. So it certainly makes sense that I left that interaction yesterday feeling irritated. However, in addition to generally being irritated by others who don't try to understand my point-of-view, I was also irked by this interaction yesterday because of how important the subject matter is to me. Given how I feel about religion and its importance in my life, I very much didn't appreciate how this man was talking at me and was not trying to have an interactive discussion with me.

I enjoy telling people about the diversity of citizens of the USA. And one way I do that is that I just tell people what I believe, and by doing so, help people to better understand Christianity, and thus the religious diversity of the USA. But that interaction on the tram made me feel like that particular person wasn't even interested in learning about my faith and about diversity in the USA. I suppose that I have to remind myself that not everyone in Morocco will be as interested in learning about me and about the USA as I would like them to be.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joyous Song of Expats Living in Morocco

I was happy to attend Mass today here in Rabat. It was almost all in French. A moment after I stepped into the church, I was glad I was there, just being in a silent church.

I arrived very early, perhaps an hour before Mass was scheduled to begin. A little after I had arrived, people started gathering in the front pews and started singing. I really enjoyed listening to them sing.

During the service, they sang a couple of songs in a language I didn't understand when I heard it and also when I tried to read it on the bulletin for today's Mass. After Mass had ended, I approached one of the young black women who had been animatedly and happily singing in this other language. I asked her in which language these songs were written and sung. She told me that they were in one of the languages of South Africa. It turns out that there is a South African expatriate community in Rabat.

So, I enjoyed visiting a church today, and enjoyed attending Mass today. I also enjoyed listening to joyous, buoyant South African song today, for which I was most grateful.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taking The Wheel

I love trains and trams. So, while I've been in Rabat this week, I've been happy to be getting to ride the new tram which just started transporting passengers three months ago, so I'm told.

However, what I loved more was how at one stop, the man driving the tram stood up, stepped aside, and the woman who had been standing beside him sat down and started driving the tram. Many Moroccans are accepting that women may rightfully occupy a variety of positions in the paid workforce. On the other hand, many Moroccans believe that girls and women should restrict themselves to domestic tasks in the home rather than be employed in paid positions. Consequently, being concerned about women's human rights, I enjoyed seeing this particular woman sit down and start driving the train.

However, even more than either of these things, even more I loved how my middle-aged, well-educated Moroccan friend, who's a woman, exclaimed, "A woman is going to drive the train?! Great!" While I like seeing people make bold choices which show they are empowered, motivated and determined to shape their own futures in constructive and beneficial ways, what I like even more is seeing people who do so while encouraging, emboldening, and hopefully inspiring others.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Breeze Is Not A Breeze Is Not A Breeze

At the beginning of this week, I was walking with a couple of other PCVs in a town near Marrakech. It was quite hot. After a short walk, we reached a bus stop, where we escaped the heat as we waited under the shade of a tree for a Marrakech city bus to take us back into Marrakech.

After not too long, perhaps 15 minutes, the bus pulled up and we boarded the bus. As the bus got moving, a breeze started to blow through the windows of the bus. It wasn't a refreshing breeze, however, because the air blowing on us was hot.

The next day, I was in El Jadida, a city on the coast. It was not hot there. In fact, that night, when I was asleep, a breeze was blowing, through the windows of the room in which I was sleeping, which was so chilly that I was uncomfortably cold.

Two places. Same country. Same time of year. Not the same breeze.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Camp 2011

For ten days spread between the end of last month and the beginning of this month, I was at Summer Camp here in Morocco. Moroccan kids end their academic year in June, and they're off from school until September, so during the summer, Moroccan kids go to camps to learn English and do extracurricular activities, sometimes in their own towns, and sometimes far from where they live. At this particular Summer Camp where I was, the vast majority of the kids did not live in the area in which the camp was held. The kids who attended this summer camp, who were in their early and intermediate teenage years, traveled from various parts of Morocco to attend this particular Summer Camp.

At this specific Summer Camp location, we were both north of my town, and we were on the coast, so it wasn't hot at our Summer Camp location. I was glad that I was rarely sweating during Summer Camp, given how hot it has been in my town. In addition to it not being as hot as it has been in my town, I was also happy whenever we got a cool ocean breeze there at camp.

At this specific Summer Camp, we were working in a city. Taxis ran on and near the street on which the camp was located, and grocery stores were within a block.

The Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sport runs Summer Camp, just like it runs Spring Camp. PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) help to conduct activities at Summer Camp, just like at Spring Camp. PCVs serving in various regions of Morocco worked at this particular Summer Camp.

On the day our Summer Camp started, I was one of the PCVs conducting LPIs (language proficiency interviews) in English of the campers who were arriving at camp that day. I began to interview some campers who, I quickly learned, did not know any English. I asked them basic questions like "How are you?" and "Where are you from?" but some of them could not answer them. I also held up some of my fingers a few times and asked them what numbers they were, but they didn't know. However, I also interviewed students at many other levels of English speaking proficiency, including one exceptional student who was probably just one stage or two shy of being fluent in English.

Once we had the results of the LPIs, the two PCVs (one first-year PCV and a second-year PCV) who were coordinating our activities as PCVs at the camp, divided up the students into six levels of English classes according to their ability to speak English. Some of us PCVs then taught English for the next six days of camp. I was assigned with another PCV to teach the second lowest level English class. However, we taught much of our class time teaching the present continuous tense. So, we taught the students in our class how to form and say sentences like "I am studying English."

After having a modest breakfast of coffee, milk, bread and jam with the campers, and then teaching the students English for an hour and a half in the morning, on some of the earlier days of camp, some of the other PCVs and the Moroccan staff took the campers to the beach in the late morning and returned in the early afternoon. The camp was so close to the beach that they walked to the beach.

On each day of the camp, we PCVs ate lunch with the campers at the facility where the camp was being held. At lunch, we usually ate salad, some meat which was usually chicken or beef, and, of course, bread. There's always bread at a Moroccan meal.

In the afternoons, we PCVs we also ran clubs for the campers. Other PCVs ran a theatre club, a music and dance club, a sports club, and a country club, where campers learned about foreign countries.

Another PCV and I ran a creative writing club, where we taught campers basic writing activities like writing letters, brief biographical descriptions of people, and poetry. One day during the creative writing club, I discussed humor with the campers in the club and what makes jokes funny in the USA. I was impressed at the jokes which the students wrote.

In addition to teaching English and running clubs, as PCVs, we were also trying to monitor and direct the campers' behavior by assigning them to five different teams named after foreign countries. Campers lost and won points for their teams based on what they did. Campers lost points for their team if they threw trash on the ground, swore, talked to each other in class, and otherwise disruptively behaved. Campers won points for their teams if they picked up garbage, correctly answered questions in class, read a book and summarized it for us, and otherwise constructively behaved. Campers had one such opportunity to earn points in the afternoon, during library time, when they sat and read books in the library and then summarized them for us, sometimes orally, and sometimes in writing; sometimes in Arabic, and sometimes in English. At the end of the camp, the team with the most points won prize bags containing short books and food.

Later in the day after club time, we PCVs also ate dinner with the campers. At camp, dinner usually consisted first of harira, Darija for "soup," followed by some kind of meat and bread. For dessert after dinner, sometimes we ate fruit, and sometimes we ate yogurt.

After dinner, each night, the campers performed in talent shows. Typically the kids danced and sang in the talent shows.

After each evening's talent show, we turned in for the night. As PCVs, we slept at the same facility as the campers. However, we slept in a different building from the campers.

One afternoon, some of us PCVs and the Moroccan staff took the kids to a nearby town and walked through the medina, or the old part of the town, with its narrow, winding streets. Given that some of the students at camp were poor and thus had probably not traveled much, I was glad that we showed them a little more of the region in which camp was held, since some of them had likely never previously been to that region of Morocco.

On the second to the last full day of camp, those of us PCVs who had conducted LPIs (language proficiency interviews) at the beginning of camp again interviewed campers to re-assess their proficiency in understanding and speaking English. I was pleased to see that a significant percentage of campers had improved in understanding and speaking English. Almost all of the ones I interviewed on the first day of camp who didn't understand any English had clearly become able to understand and speak basic phrases. Although I wasn't one of the teachers who had instructed them, I nevertheless found it hugely fulfilling and satisfying to be interviewing those students, and witnessing their progress in learning English.

On the last full day of the camp, we PCVs held an English Olympiad in which the campers participated. Each pair of PCVs who taught English class together over the previous six days ran a station at which we quizzed campers on what we taught during our particular English class. However, each camper only attended the same English class over the previous six days, so some campers were much more likely to be able to answer particular questions during the English Olympiad than other campers who had not attended the English classes in which particular material had been taught.

During the second half of this Summer Camp, we operated under an altered schedule because Ramadan started halfway through our camp. Many campers and Moroccan staff were fasting, so that they were not eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. As a result, we started our days at camp during Ramadan at 12:30pm. Breakfast and lunch were not served. At around 7:30pm, when those fasting broke fast, all of us ate together in the dining room at the facility where we were all staying. This meal, "ftur," in Darija, consisted of harira, dates, "helwa shbakiya," Darija for a specific Moroccan sweet served during Ramadan, hard-boiled eggs, orange juice, coffee, milk, bread and jam. Around midnight, we ate a meal just before turning in for the night which closely resembled what we had been eating for lunch before Ramadan started. When the kitchen staff served us this midnight meal, they also gave us bags containing yogurt, bread, cheese, and sometimes cookies, all of which was for those fasting to eat just before dawn.

I feel that I should state here that I am not fasting during Ramadan because I don't want people to think I'm Muslim. I don't want people to think I'm considering becoming a Muslim. And I don't want to implicitly encourage others to be Muslim; if I were to fast during Ramadan, at least some, if not all, people would think that I'm Muslim, and that I want others to be Muslim. I do not want any of these things to happen, because I do not agree with basic statements in Islam. Islam states that Jesus did not die on the cross. Since I disagree strongly with this statement in Islam, I don't want people to think I'm Muslim, I don't want people to think I'm considering becoming Muslim, and I don't want to implicitly encourage others to become Muslim. For these reasons, I am not fasting during Ramadan.