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9/28/09-10/7/09 - Can’t believe I’ve only been gone a month. At times (most times) it seems so much longer. We were told that this training period is probably the hardest part of this commitment, and it is really hard! Much harder than I anticipated, but I’ve gone through some tough times before and I can do this too. I’ve had a good cry or two which have also helped. There are so many things to adjust to, studying to do (and I haven’t done this in years) and, of course, a language I don’t understand most of the time. There have been some tense times where I have seriously questioned – why am I doing this???? But can quite honestly say I’ve not thought of throwing in the towel and heading home. When I can get a good night’s sleep, it also helps!! I’m gonna laugh more……
Other volunteers & language -- 5 of the 63 new volunteers that left Philadelphia together have gone home -- all for personal reasons. I’m told that this is more than the norm for this point in time. Four have been young adults and one was an older (like me J ) female. On the whole, spirits are good, but I’m sure we have all had low times. Except for a few, we all have problems of some sort or another with the language. Having just spent time with my colleagues at the hub site last week, I’m feeling better about my language learning. Many of the “mature” volunteers are having a harder time of it. As suggested to me by the country’s director, I am going to try to learn five new words a day – even if I just learn five a day – think of the vocabulary I’ll have in a few months! We are scheduled for a language assessment test when we are at the hub site on October 8th, so keep me in your thoughts and say a prayer for me if you are so inclined, that I do okay.
Host home -- I’ve moved to another home. My group unanimously agrees that I got the short end of the stick with my original home assignment. Not that the people were bad or mean to me, but the atmosphere was not warm or welcoming. I would have rather done anything than go home! They were also dealing with some difficult times. They lost a loved one just six months ago. He was the son, husband, father and brother of this family and he died in an industrial accident. I believe everyone is grieving and they aren’t feeling a lot of joy at the moment (maybe they never did?) Initially I thought I should stay -- maybe this is why I’m here? Give them a diversion to think about. But at the encouragement of everyone (and finally myself) I asked the PC to move me. My experiences were not positive nor was the atmosphere conducive to good learning.
My new host home is soooo much better. I have a large room with a window facing the main (only) street. It is directly across from the souq (weekly market selling everything from soup to nuts – very noisy on Sunday). I have a mat on the floor to sleep on and a small round table in the corner. Certainly nothing fancy but it works quite well. Unfortunately, our squat toilet is not in the home. I have to go out the main door and down some steps to get to it. The bathroom is a 3x4 room with just a toilet in it. It is tiled and at least this toilet doesn’t stink and it is kept much cleaner. The rest of the house consists of a parlor (a room surrounded with benches and thick cushions. There are two tables in the middle of this room and this is where we eat, do homework, watch TV (providing they have electricity, every house has a TV with satellite dish) or just hang out. I think the room I’m currently in was their TV room and the bedroom for the kids. There is a master bedroom which is furnished just like a room in the US. While I’m here the kids are sleeping on the floor in their parents’ room. There is a small cuisina (kitchen) with a tiled counter top. I haven’t seen this room used much, since there are two other cooking areas (albeit outside) but they seem to be the preferred places. The outside kitchens have dirt floors, bags of grain, etc., piled everywhere, a small pit for fires and the butane hotplate and an oven of sorts. There is also a bed in one of the kitchens and I’m betting this is where the grandmother stays when she is here. I’m told she lives here most of the time, but she is visiting relatives at the moment and I haven’t met her There is a lovely, natural courtyard with a vine covered trellis across the top where we often have our tea when I get home from school.
My family consists of my 33 year host dad. He has a café in the lower level of the home where he serves Nescafe (instant) and hot sweet tea and they play pool and foosball. He closes up shop around 9:30p and from what I can tell, he opens up around 5p. What does he do with the rest of his day ??? My host mom is 25 (yep, younger than Chris). She is pregnant with her second child which is due in late December or so. My host dad’s first wife died at childbirth and my host mom is raising his 9 year old son and their 5 year old daughter. My host mom is warm, loving and ever so nice. I haven’t seen preferential treatment displayed between the children and she kisses/cuddles them frequently. She also feeds me on a regular basis, something I really couldn’t count on in my first home. She is up, cheerful and has tea waiting for me before I head off to school. The only problem I have here is that they all want me and my attention. It is hard to carve time out in the evening for homework and studying. And, I need some time for me alone, a rare commodity at this time and it will probably remain so until I get into my own place.
I attended my first Moroccan wedding last Saturday. It actually started Friday night. Around 9p on Friday, we heard horns blowing. We checked it out via the windows. The cars in the village (all five of them) were lined up and slowly driving down the street, blowing their horns. One of the cars was decorated with balloons. I was still wondering what was going on at this point??? The cars drove past and then returned and stopped at the house next door. Lots of people gathered in the street with drums and horns blasting – and the party began. I later noticed them hauling out blankets and bundles (gifts, I presume). They played music (I think the same song) all night. When I returned from school on Saturday afternoon the party was still going. Fatima (my host mom) and I went over to it after I changed into a skirt and top. We women all gathered in a space behind the house, covered with a tarp. We sat on the ground, some chatted and we looked at each other. Some women were scurrying about serving the men food. After the men finished, we women went into the house where we were fed platters of chicken and bread. Later lamb and veggies came out (who knew there would be a second course, I was full). Then the platter of melons and grapes. A shared water cup was passed from woman to woman. I’m passing on this part since I am not drinking the local water. At this point I’ve yet to see the bride or groom?? I later understand they were married Friday night, probably around 5a or so, maybe they are consummating the marriage?? We head back outside where more drums and horns blow, along with singing. We walk the main street, clapping our hands and have a gay time. A white horse is brought out that is switched continuously, making him rear and buck a bit. I’m told the horse likes to dance too (yeah right!). The party continues all night and seems to end at dawn on Sunday. Luckily Fatima is pregnant and we head home at a reasonable hour on Saturday night. The kids were in and out of the party and did eat with us ladies, but Ebklean (my host dad) did not join us at all.
We’ve had a couple of days where we received torrential rain. I’m told in some areas the cars were floating. We lost electricity and used the butane tank with flame out the top for light. It was kind of scary. Most days have been sunny and hot. Guessing 85 or so, but who knows. It is beautiful here around 5p since it is cooling down. Nights have been comfortably cool, yet not cold.
We are in school all day from 8:30a-5:30p. We have a cook who serves us a breakfast (yes another breakfast) around 10a, lunch (our biggest and balanced meal of the day) around 12:30, and then we have a tea break around 4p. One day we made pizza for lunch. Not quite as good as we would have in the US, but not bad. Ummm, no pepperoni to be had here, so it was a veggie pizza with gouda cheese. I would like to believe that I’m losing some of the weight I put on my last few months in the states. My pants are baggy – isn’t that an indicator?? Guessing they since I’ve worn them for two weeks now, they are only stretched out!! Too bad… We have bread, bread and more bread offered here. I’m passing on most of it, but I’m certainly eating far more than I did in the states.
End of update – out of time for now. Will likely be two weeks before I have internet access again. Miss you all. Bslama