Indeed, I was led to write this particular blog entry because my experience here in Morocco provides a reliable example of the phenomenon which the recruiter described to me, of how a PCV might sometimes feel like a goldfish in a bowl, receiving stares. Last week the school year began here in Morocco. It reminded me of how I was very conscious, when I first started living here in my town, of how I received many stares as I walked down sidewalks and streets, amongst schoolkids who were loitering and going to and from school.
Not only have I not escaped stares here in my town, I have received stares here despite the presence of other non-Moroccans in my town. Tourists frequently visit my town, in order to see the palmeries and the rest of the desert landscape here. Further, I'm not the first PCV to have lived here in my town. Thus Moroccans living in my town have seen many non-Moroccans for years.
However, I have received, and still receive, stares here, from people of many different ages, because, in Morocco, it is not considered rude to stare at others. Without learning about such cultural phenomena as this one, one could potentially become quite unnerved and irritated. It's important to take the time to learn about cultural norms, so that one understands what is happening when it does happen. Of course, partly one learns about cultural norms while living in another country. But I suggest that upon arriving in a foreign country, it's best to deepen the understanding of the culture which, hopefully, one started to acquire through research one did before arriving in the host country, the foreign country.
One can then have a deeper, more educational and more satisfying experience in that foreign country. Regardless of the amount of research you've done before arriving in the host country, though, remember to consider the perspective of the other person, and how that person's life experiences have shaped his or her perspective. Having done so, you'll be in a better position to help achieve the third goal of the Peace Corps, that is, to help citizens of the U.S.A. gain a better understanding of people of other cultures.