Finally. Four months in and things have calmed down enough where I have time to write about this wonderful culture and experience that I find myself in.
In this initial post, I will talk more specifically about my role here, what my life has looked liked during training, where I am now, and how I got here. After that, this blog/newsletter will be used mainly to share stories that highlight aspects of Moroccan culture as I experience it. There are a lot of blogs and videos about being a Peace Corps Volunteer; day in the life, packing lists, policies, travel, training, Chacos or Tevas, etc. that are generally universal. I won’t be writing about my day-to-day or my personal woes and undertakings. I am simply a medium for people having a better understanding of Morocco. The Third Goal of Peace Corps is to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans and that is the main focus of this space.
However, there are also some truly remarkable Americans that I have met along the way and it would be remiss of me to not occasionally share their stories.
I would also like to post weekly but we’ll see how that goes. If you would like to follow along, add your email here to get these posts in your inbox! Otherwise, check back here periodically. Please reach out if you have any questions or want to talk about anything.
The Journey Thus Far (In Brief)
There I am, sweating bullets in the middle seat of a Boeing Dreamliner as we leave the tarmac of the Reagan International Airport runway just as my bedtime is approaching. Eight hours of flying later (maybe one of which was spent sleeping) we landed in Casablanca, Morocco. In a sleep-deprived daze, I got off the plane and put my feet on the ground of a different continent an entire ocean away from home. I couldn’t believe it. I actually made it. It was (and in some ways still is) an absolutely surreal experience.
We were shipped in buses to Meknes where we spent the better part of two weeks under a tent learning about our new roles and new lives. We were also split into training groups of four or five people and one LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator) who would be teaching us the local language and helping us navigate in Moroccan culture in towns across the region for nearly three months.
In our training sites, we went to our LCF’s house every morning at 8:00 AM sharp. For four hours, Maryem (my LCF) would go through her language lesson plan with us until noon when we would go back and eat lunch with our host families and take a nap if you were lucky. We would return to Maryem’s house and either learn more language or do a culture lesson for a few hours. Finally, we ended the day with an activity in the youth center and went home. This was the schedule six days per week with the occasional training day in a nearby city thrown in.
Then, equipped with what I thought was a decent understanding of the language, I was sent alone to my final site where I will be living and serving in for two years. I couldn’t understand a thing people were saying but thankfully my second host family was kind and accommodating. With a lot of help, I found a small apartment to live in and the bare necessities to make it livable. And now, here I am writing this on a thrifted rug on the floor of my front room. Slowly but surely, I am getting a grip of the language and becoming more accustomed to life here. Thanks to all of the kind people here, I feel more and more at home everyday.
My “main” mission here is to do youth development. That can look like many things and I am still figuring out what my role is exactly. It depends on the needs and resources of the community but the immediate want in the community is to learn English. So to start, I will be working in the youth center teaching communicative English to the youth of the town that want to learn. As time goes on and I get a better understanding of the community, I will add more classes and activities for youth to learn life skills and community engagement. I am here to serve this community and will do, to the best of my ability, what is needed from me.
The other, less visible, part of my job is sharing culture. I am here to share American values and traditions while at the same time learning Moroccan values and traditions to share with my American friends back home. This means that I am working nearly 24/7 where every interaction presents an opportunity to advance this goal. It can be as complex as teaching youth about Thanksgiving or as simple as describing how much calmer people drive in America.
That leads to a major part of my day: language learning. I think I underestimated how important learning the local language would be. How can I fully express myself and my culture without a good command of the language? How can I understand this culture without understanding the little nuances of the language? Language learning is going to be a major part of every single day here.
I have packed so much information into my brain over the past four months and there is still so much more to go. Now that I am living on my own, there isn’t a host family to make me delicious and healthy food; I have to make my own food again. So on top of learning the language, I will be re-learning how to cook and how to maintain a house (it’s been a while). Add onto that learning how to be a good teacher and that will be my life for the next few months!
It’s an absolute honor to be in Morocco and an even bigger honor to share a small sliver of it with anyone who reads.
I have the honor to be Your Obedient Servant,
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.