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11/21/09 - Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written and life has certainly changed for me. I left my host home where we’ve been training and many tears were shed by everyone. They might not have been perfect, but they were a family that cared about me. I have heard from them several times already since I left. All 56 of us trainees met up for a few more days of group training and then we were sworn in on November 12th in Rabat. Quite a formal affair and attended by some of the Moroccan officials, US Embassy personnel, etc. We PCV’s were cleaned up too (complete with showers) and I even wore a dress!! We had a lovely lunch in the garden at the PC offices and then we had the afternoon free to explore Rabat. One stop was to the train station where I purchased a senior citizen travel card that enables me to save 40-50% on train trips I may take. Morocco doesn’t have a lot of trains and CTM busses seem to be the next best way to travel, but will travel to Rabat several times a year for meetings and that will be at least partly by train, so if it can help – great. On the 13th, we were turned loose and left to find our way to our sites on our own. There were several volunteers heading my way so we all boarded a train early that day and we were off….. Arrived in Marakesh and planned to board a bus to get the rest of the way. Since there were five of us, decided to travel by Grand Taxi since it would be more comfortable and not that much more expensive. We had luggage piled on the roof and the trunk was tied down. We traveled a couple of hours on curvy mountain roads. Kind of glad I took that Dramamine before we left.
I can’t believe I am really in my home town for the next two years. I didn’t say “home” because I’m not in my home yet. The PC requires us to live with one more host family before they let us live alone. We will live with our hosts until January 1st. I can’t say that I’m excited about living with another family, even though the last family wasn’t bad, I am just eager to be in control of myself and life. Never quite certain what is happening when?? The purpose, of course, is to give us a local family to bond with and to help with immersion into the community and language practice. One of the best things about this area is that we will have electricity and water 24/7 – whooo hoooo. This update will be focused on giving you a mental picture of where I am now.
Host Family – Might as well start here. Must say if my first impressions hold, I lucked out here. They are by far the best family I’ve been with so far. Lucky for me too, since I will have two years of contact with them. My family consists of a dad, LHussain who is 50 years old and works as a plumber. My mom, Atika, is 43 and she is a housewife. When I say housewife that means milking the cow, feeding the animals (chickens, rabbits, and sheep is what I’ve seen so far). And I think taking the animals out to eat grass, thus being a herder too. She takes care of all household tasks including baking bread each day to serve with fresh butter she has made from the milk. She is one busy lady… I have a host brother who is 10 years old and his name is Zachiria and I have an 8 year old sister named Zakia. The children both attend school and so far are smiling and well behaved. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a bit of sibling poking and prodding, but on the whole the house is relatively quiet. There is also another young man here by the name of Nortin. I’d guess him to be about 15. I’m not certain how he fits into this family, but I have learned that his father died and his mother lives elsewhere. Is he a relative, does he live here permanently ???? He helps out with any task my mom and/or dad is doing at the moment. My family is nice, happy and very accommodating to me. My mom wants to help me with the language and is always talking to me. Some of which I understand and some I don’t. Unfortunately, I still tend to try to answer in English with only a few Tashlheet words thrown in. Something I need to work on.
My home is up in the hills, the last house at the end of the lane. The area is beautiful and surreal in a stark kind of way. Their house looks huge, and it is a good size, but I’ve seen that the barn-like structure is attached. They have three parlor like rooms, one formal room surrounded with cushions and this is where I am currently sleeping. Another room is also surrounded with cushions and houses the TV. This room doubles as the bedroom for the kids. The other parlor was to have been my room and they were painting it a HOT pink the day I moved in (second HOT pink room I’ve had. Do I look like a HOT pink person?) This room has two windows opening up to the central hallway. For whatever reason they haven’t moved me to this room and I’m kind of glad since there are no window coverings on the windows and I would be quite visible in there. The parents have a bedroom to themselves. The part I’ve just described seems to be a new addition and there is tile on the floors and light fixtures (not bare bulbs) hanging from the ceiling. The bathroom is also in this area and it stinks very badly. Can’t really figure this out since we have water and my mom appears to be conscious of the concept of clean??? The bathroom was also painted HOT pink while the painting was being done. Whew…. It does wake you up in the morning. The kitchen is in the older portion of the house. My other two host homes didn’t use soap to wash the dishes and I’m glad to see that this mom does. It makes eating a bit easier. My mom must also realize that I don’t want to share a glass to drink from and even though I sometimes eat with my hands, she usually gives me at least a spoon to use. Last night they showed me an area to bathe in, complete with hot water (my dad is a plumber, after all).
Town Itself – I think most of you know this, but I am located south of Marakesh (a/k/a Kesh) and north of Ouarazate (a/k/a Oz). It is in the mountains and I’m told at about the elevation of 4,800. The town has a population of about 3,000 people, but it doesn’t look it. We have many of the local officials here in town, a post office and they and the local businesses are located along the highway. There are groups of homes (called duwars sp?) clumped around and about the hills. Everywhere I walk there is a hill to climb. I keep telling myself – I will either be in great shape in two years or dead from exhaustion. I’m guessing the area could be a bit challenging when it rains and snows. I haven’t really had an opportunity to look around town much, but there doesn’t appear to be a lot here. Several hanuts (small storefronts where you can buy the basics) a butcher, a couple of teleboutiques (public phone areas), but unfortunately no cybercafés. Because of this, I decided to purchase a satellite connection to the internet so I could have contact with the world on a regular basis and without having to travel 1+ hours to otherwise do so. The initial outlay was 500Dh (about $60) for the modem and I will have to pay 200Dh a month (about $35) for the service. I haven’t used it much yet, but it seems to work well. I’m told it is slow and will not be great for downloading, but will otherwise meet my needs okay. Doubt that my PC monthly allowance will cover this, but I’m willing to pay for this for my piece of mind.
New Home – Most homes in the area are made from adobe complete with mud floors and roofs. My home is relatively new, made of cement and appears to have been constructed for rental purposes (only one in town) since it has two complete living areas. I am located on the second floor of this building. None of the homes (mine included) have a heat source within them and betting they will be a bit chilly in the winter. The volunteer that was here lived in this home before me and I purchased from her the furnishings she had which made my life so much easier. I have a front room you enter into and it has great window looking out into the hills. I think I’ll buy a plastic table and chairs to put in there and use it for dining and as my space for computer use. I need to get a mat or rug for under my feet since that cement floor is cold! I have a parlor that has a window and since I took over the apartment of the volunteer who left, I have three ponches (large cushions to sit on), a coffee table (most often used to eat on by the locals) a bamboo doored shelf thing and a rug on the floor. Probably won’t do much else with this room since it meets basic needs. I have a kitchen with a window. I have a small countertop with a sink built in complete with running water (albeit cold). I have a small stand-alone oven with a separate two burner (kind of camp stove) on top of it for cooking. I don’t have a refrigerator since that is really considered a luxury here, but I do intend to buy a small dorm-sized one since I consider it important for my health and luckily this area has the electricity to let me do so. There is also a nook with a shelf in the kitchen for storing dishes. Now to my bit-la-ma (bathroom). I have a small window and yep, has that wonderful Turkish toilet once again. The best thing about this room is that not only do I have running water to gather water in to flush the toilet, but the PCV had a hot water heater put in and I have a shower….. A luxury I never thought I would have. I do have a sink, but it is located outside this room and in the front room. Now you have a complete picture of my future home in your mind. Can’t wait to cozy it up and make it mine. The PCV that was here was not a cook and seems like she broke a lot of what kitchen dishes she had, so I do have things to purchase and will begin the gathering process in the coming days/weeks. I have two 20+ women living below me. One speaks a bit of English and teaches at the association and the other works at a daycare. Neither of them are from this area and they are here on contracts from the gov’t til June. I hope they’ll stay on, but they don’t seem that happy with the area and betting they will not
Language Update – still my biggest struggle. I didn’t do as well on the test as I would have liked and I had to sign a contract agreeing to tutoring and studying the language more. I wasn’t the only one, but the majority of the trainees passed the minimum required. I obviously know words but I have great difficulty putting them into sentences and verbalizing them. I still can’t hear the spoken words to distinguish what is being said. I have talked with a tutor and hope to meet up with him soon. Between him and my family, I hope and need to progress. Still, considering I’ve only been in-country since September and knew no Arabic before I came, I’m no soooo bad.
I will gladly share with you my new address if you contact me via my gmail address. I also had to purchase a new SIM card for my phone so my telephone number has changed from the first one given to me. Let me know if you want this information.
I know that Thanksgiving is just around the corner for you. Seems impossible to me that it is this time of the year. I seem to have lost the entire last year. I don’t intend to celebrate Thanksgiving in any special way. Seems like such an undertaking with the language barrier and all. Next year I will definitely cook! I hope you all have wonderful times with family and friends. Eat a bit of turkey and a piece of pecan pie for me. Well my friends, I have much to do and I’d best get with it. Til next time. Bslama