Tuesday, April 26, 2011

get me a seat on that party bus

I bought my bus ticket for my site placement visit.  I packed up my little book bag and got on the bus one morning at 8:00am ready for the 10 hour bus ride.  We were off!

At about 10:00am a woman got on the bus with her two year old small child.  She sat down next to me, said "por favor" and threw her small child onto my lap.  Then she got a plastic bag out and proceeded to vomit for the rest of the bus ride.  She couldn't hold onto her child and her plastic bag, so I became the bus babysitter.  Luckily he was exhausted, so he just snuggled in and fell asleep. Every hour or so the mom would talk to me for a couple of minutes before disappearing back into the plastic bag.  At one point she produced a bottle and handed it to me and so I fed the kid some lunch.  At about noon the baby wakes up, cries, and vomits alllllll over me.  This of course caused the mom to vomit even more and the baby just sobbed. Bless that nice man across the isle who handed me some tissues and the grandmother who finally took the baby off my lap.  But for the rest of the bus ride, about six hours, I had to sit in my smelly baby vomit covered clothes.

Welcome to my life in maternal and child health!

My week at my final site was a great introduction to my future two years.  My town is a lot smaller than I was anticipating.  It is about 400 people, most families are farmers and grow apples, apricots, almonds, olives, figs and pomegranates.  It is a beautiful town which is right at the base of a mountain and next to the desert.  If you turn in a circle you see everything from fields, to mountains, to desert.  It is an interesting combination.

My town has a health clinic, two small stores and a mini-post.  My counterpart is the health clinic nurse.  He speaks arabic and french and I speak, well, I speak english, but am working on arabic.  He and I cannot communicate much yet, but all in good time I suppose.  I also met some teachers (one of whom speaks some okay english!) and other towns people.  We don't have running water, so every day my host mom and I would walk to the spring to collect water.  That is going to take some getting used to.

My host family at final site is just my host mom.  Her husband passed away last year and her three daughters live in Midelt.  The oldest daughter is married and the other two are going to high school.  So my days were pretty quite, just hanging out with my host mom.  I helped her feed the chickens and the turkey and watched her cook.   her and her friend are already trying to marry me off.  I may not know much in arabic, but I do know my name, the word for marriage, and the name of this fella in my community.  Finally I told my host mom that the only way I could get married was if I was given 538 camels, 25 chickens and an olive tree for everyday of the year!

Speaking of marriage, I did go to day two of a five day wedding.  My host mom dressed me up, as in went into my room and picked out my outfit and then put three scarves around my shoulders, and then we went to a neighbors house.  There, we sat in a room with 54 other women.  Now, the room we were in was about 6ft by 12ft, so really not that big!  We made it work!  For about four hours we sat, sang, clapped, drank sugar with a little tea and ate wedding cookies.  Since this was the first time I had ever met or seen any of these women, they were just as curious as I was.  I consider myself lucky...I made it though two hours before I was dragged up and forced to dance while everyone stared at me.  For twenty minutes I was the wedding entertainment and everyone was whispering "look at the white girl dance!  is she french?"  Luckily, Tim's taught me how to dance without caring, so that is just what I did!  Then after the dancing we were taken into different rooms and fed roasted chicken(literally about half a chicken per person) couscous with chickpeas and raisins and lots of bread.  Then we were given oranges.  It was a strange six hours, but it was a great way to be introduced to my new community!

 It was really very cold and windy in my town.  One morning I woke up and the mountains had a lot more snow on the caps than they had the day before.  I'm dreading the winter time....luckily that is not for a while.

My town is about 25 miles from a bigger town.  That is where my bank, big post office, weekly market and supermarket (which sells nutella and cheese) are located.  I have grand visions of biking there for the market every sunday.  I told another volunteer that and he told me when I was exhausted and unable to petal my way back home, I could crash on his floor.  So at least there is a backup plan!

During my week I also got to meet a lot of current PCV's in the area.  It was nice to meet some current volunteers and get to know the area a bit.  The Midelt Provence is beautiful.  When you all come to visit we can have a photo shoot in front of the apple fountain.  It is pretty awesome.   And by awesome, I mean it gets painted so sometimes its a red apple, sometimes green, and occasionally yellow.  You can plan your visits accordingly.

So I officially swear in as a PCV on May 25th and on the 26th I travel to my site for good!



p.s.  I have a post office address now!!!  Only, I'm not supposed to post it on the blog, so I will e-mail it to my mom.  If you would like it, just let her know and she will give it to you!  Cindy Currell:  cindycurrell@hotmail.com

:) I love letters and will write to you too!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It is apple season in morocco!  To celebrate, several of the girls in my arabic learning group and I made an apple pie (or an equivalent....okay it wasn't a pie, but it was apple and it wasn't covered in oil, with bread or rice, therefore it was amazing.).

animals in morocco:

So we all know about the chickens in the bit lama, Hasak (bathroom, i'm sorry for speaking of dirty things, in arabic), but now it is time for the cats.  So my family has two cats and the mama cat just had kittens! So we have three little kittens that are about two weeks old.  They are pretty cute, but I'm glad I'm leaving my host family relatively soon and will not be forced to adopt one!

Anyway, Spring is in full force over hear which is really nice, but it means one thing....animals.  There have been many more critters around and I just do not love that.  For example, the other day I had a lizard in my room.  It was on the wall by the light switch and it made it very tricky to turn off the lights to go to sleep.

Thennnnn one morning, at 5:00 am I was woken with a start!  Now, as poor Stephanie Wiezbenski can attest, I am not the best sleeper and anytime there is a noise or movement I wake up, sit up and gasp.   and that is exactly what I did.  At 5:00 am the dad cat from my house was fighting a neighborhood tom cat in my room, right next to my bed!  It really startled me, so much so that I screamed, thinking there was a robber or something in my room.  When I realized it was just cats, I freaked out just as much and dove under my blankets thinking "don't get rabies, don't get rabies, don't get rabies, pleeeeeeease!!"   Now, I have been fully vaccinated, so that is a relief.  Anyway, after all the commotion, I kept waiting for my host family to come to my rescue!  As such a damsel in distress, i thought it would be natural for someone to escort those unfriendly cats back to the great outdoors of the desert.  No one came.  I had to wait, under my blankets, for a good twenty minutes until the fighting (and it was a loud and intense fight) cats found their way back out from under my door.  

In the morning when I went out to breakfast my host father sat next to me and said "meow, meow......AHHHHHHHH"  and then laughed like he had never laughed before.  This happened on repeat until I left for school.  From now on, any time the cats come in the room my host dad laughs and shoos them away.  

Clearly I'm becoming one with nature around here.

Anyway, today I learned some VERY EXCITING news!  We were told where our final site placement will be.  On monday we are traveling to visit our sites for the week!  I will be spending the next two years in a small town in the mountains.   I'm in the Mident province and actually about 20k's outside of a small city named Mident.  My town has never had a Peace Corps Volunteer before.  There are about 1500 residents and most are farmers.  They grow a lot of apples and figs!  ladies of 101: Do you know what that means?? apple day 2011, Morocco!  done.

I'm feeling very pleased with my site.  Of course, I can say that because I haven't been there and know three things about it:  they grow apples, its 20k's from the market town (the small city that hosts a weekly market where people buy all their goods and supplies) and its never had a PCV before.  I'm hoping for the best and will let you know more next week, enshallah.  :)

books read: 2
camels: 4
ankles: 2, but it was in the city
number of times I've embraced my non-existent jewish roots and said Hello as Shalom rather than Salam: 3.  

Missing and loving you all.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

who is chicken now?!

Did you know that dates come from palm trees?  No, not the dinner and a movie kind, but the fruit!  who knew?!?  
The town of Oulad Larbia is an oasis town.  In the distance you can see snow capped mountains.  To the west there is nothing but sand and dunes.  To the east there is nothing but a beautiful green space full of palm trees, vegetation and a rive that runs through the middle.  to the North there is a road and other small towns.  It is a small town of less than 300 people (an estimate).  It has two stores (similar to a UDF or other gas station store, minus of course, the gas pumps), a mosque, a school, soccer fields and three hotels/hostels. Most are farmers or potters (not like harry) and most families seem to be related in some way or another.   This is where I live. 
I’m studying Moroccan Arabic rather than a Berber language which I think I’m happy about.  There are 6 other Peace Corps Trainees in my group.  We are living with host families and going to school for 8-10 hours a day.  It has been verrrrrrry busy, but we are all learning a lot about culture, language and customs.  Language classes are difficult.  very difficult.  but we are learning a lot and it is getting better!   Talk to me in a year, i’ll respond in arabic.  done. 
We have two pets at our school.  By pets, I mean stray dogs that hang around and that we’ve named.  One is Simba.  He is a puppy and he doesn’t like us and is scared of us.   I leave pieces of bread outside for him everyday.  Soon he will be my friend!!  Matildo is our other dog.  He (we originally thought it was a she....Matilda) is a gem of a dog.  He walks one of my friends to school every morning from her house.  He stays outside of school and waits for us.  The other day we fed him chicken bones and rice, he loved it!! I keep hoping he will convince Simba to be our friend too.  I’ll keep you posted. 
I have three new host-sisters:  a 4, 9, and 12 year old.  My host-mom is a housewife, but spends most of her time knitting/weaving and doing other things.  My host-dad is a potter and makes these neat pots.  We have 6 sheep 1 chicken, a donkey, two cats, and as of Sunday three kittens.   Sometimes I get to help feed the donkey and sheep.  I love those days. :) 
Living with my host family has been an interesting adventure.  The daughters are fun and have been such wonderful Arabic helpers!  They laugh at me a lot.  A lot.   My host dad is pretty funny.  He likes to ask me questions and when I don’t know what he is saying he just says them again......r----e-----a---l-----l-----y---------s-------------l-------------o---------w---------------l--------------y  and I still don’t understand.  :) 
My mom doesn’t like for me to help with any of the housework, so instead she always sends me to play with the girls.  When that doesn’t work, she just takes me around to her friends houses.  So generally I am about two feet behind her, following her like a small puppy.  I tease her and tell her that I am her pet, just like the chickens. 
Speaking of chickens....i’ll tell you a funny story.  the other day I really needed to pee, but our bathroom is in a pretty precarious location.  Also, it is not polite to tell people you are going to the bathroom because it is considered dirty.  Plus, there is no lock on my bathroom door and my little sisters find knocking to be slightly foreign...  So I waited for the perfect time- no one was around so I go to the bathroom door and open the door......and there are chickens in the bit lama.  Now, i’m pretty good at a lot of things, but I do not know how to handle livestock....i’m from the city!!   I didn’t know what to do, so I went to get my host sister and had to tell her there were chickens in the bathroom.  She thought it was so funny so she got our other sister.  Then it was all so funny and they were laughing so hard that the dad came over to make sure everything was okay.  Then I just looked silly because there were chickens in the bathroom and everyone was laughing.  
Now we joke about the chickens.  He met his fate though.  We ate him for dinner the next night.  
strange things PCVs packed- a list, continued:  a piccolo, hair dryer and spatula.  
Camels:  YES, i’ve seen three!!! They are for tourists and not actually used for daily life. 
miss you all!