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  • Adriana Curto

Journals through CBT

So my writing has fallen behind and just like that, I’m an official PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer)! There are memories and stories I’ve written in different places that I still want to share so here they are piece by piece, to recap all that lost time I’ve been dying to share.

October 26: Had a dance party with broken speakers and a room that smells like drari. Looked through old pictures of my host family with them and for a split second in my mind, compared this moment to many I’ve had at home. Watching old videos, laughing at how awkward we were in those rather unfortunate phases of our youth. Enough to make me shwiya emotional but was a really powerful moment with my family here in Azrou. I also gave my sisters bracelets that my mom mailed from the States. They freaked out of excitement and before you knew it, my aunt was knocking on my door asking where her bracelet was. Word travels fast, so if you’re gifting, make sure you have enough for your crew and beyond. We had interviews with RMs (regional managers) and they observed us teaching in the Dar Chebab. Luke, Brad, and I taught a lesson on the environment that went pretty great. But it’s not Peace Corps unless in the middle of your lesson, 15 little children come running in and make the room rowdier. We adjusted and pulled even the 7-8 year olds at the back table into the lesson, quickly cut more paper for our “draw a desert, mountains, or forest” activity, and figured it out. If you haven’t figured it out already, to be good at this job, it’s essential to be able to “go with the flow”. It has made all the difference to get to know the kids we’ve been teaching over these last few weeks and seeing those familiar faces show up at the dar chebab makes our job easier.

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Malak, Shayma, and little Noura


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Community mapping at the Dar Chebab: the kids were asked to draw their community and the places they frequent the most (1), sometimes (2), rarely/never (3)


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Environment lesson at the Dar Chebab


November 1: Spent our Halloween doing face masks and watching the Conjuring and Stranger Things. Yes even over here in Morocco we’re aware Season 2 just came out and need to binge. I couldn’t be more lucky to have my CBT group to do things like this, but also of course experience all the feels of Morocco and Peace Corps together in our first few months. The connection we’ve made is something I could spend paragraphs explaining…but I’ll spare you the gushy words about how Peace Corps friends find this unique connection within each other and feel it to the extreme. I did one PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) activity this week, which is a tool PCVs all over the world use to get to know their communities for better integration. Today, I sat down with my host sister and had a pretty big task ahead of me (of course in Darija): ask her about her values, places she spends time, things she hopes to achieve in the future, and things she feels she excels at. From what I could tell, and from other volunteer interactions with other Moroccans, youth here aren’t used to being asked questions like this. It took her a little while to process her thoughts, but after the first few minutes she was teaching me more about herself than I would have ever known. Some of the values she identified herself to have were tolerance, solidarity, and independence. I learned she wants to travel the world to visit all the museums in Europe. Most of her time is spent at school, in the library, or at home. She also expressed that she is good at languages like French and Arabic, but now wants to learn English too, which is why I was begged to go with her to photocopy my whole PC Darija textbook because its one of the only English-Darija resources out there. I left this conversation feeling closely connected to her, as some of her goals and interests were b7l b7l as mine. The confidence she carries around, especially at this moment, was glowing in her face. Site assignments are in a week and I’m picturing a culturally modified version of sorority bid day. There was a terrorist attack in New York and I feel super disconnected from the stream of news following it. Calling my sister a day later with minimal details on the incident gave us both a hard dose of perspective that we are so far away from each other operating in different circles of life.

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The greatest people you’ll ever meet.


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…again.


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I’m the human “Type to Learn” now


November 15: We found out our final sites yesterday. I tried not to be too dramatic about it, but c’mon, the new life decided for me was about to be projected on a powerpoint with a little picture of my face popping up in any of the regions of Morocco. It’s the beginning of a new start. Life will change drastically in a few weeks and I’ll be on my own without the privilege of comfort and connectivity that comes with just being in the same room as other Americans. I’ll be without my LCF, who has facilitated interactions between us and the dar chebab, made the local authority offices less scary and intimidating, and has taught me everything from how to negotiate an overly expensive water bill in Darija to proper hammam etiquette like not putting your shoes on the bench in the changing room (my 2nd time going I felt like a hammam-ing expert). So shoutout to Hassan, one of the most intelligent, dedicated, hard working, and humble people I’ve met.

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Marrakesh-Safi Region of Morocco


November 17: I have 2 pages left in my Darija notebook, which I think is pretty symbolic to my life at the moment. The pages have turned rather quickly and I have less than a week left in Azrou with my family and my CBT group. I didn’t think I could connect so much with a family in just two months, but they made me feel like their fourth Moroccan bnt, protecting me from the cold, cold air (60 degrees) by wrapping my wet hair up after we hammam, feeding me the most delicious food and not stopping until I’ve insisted i’m full at least 5 times, and constantly making sure I was comfortable and happy. In these 10 weeks, I’ve learned more language and culture than I ever have. I can successfully bargain for myself in Darija and throw off peoples perceptions when they look at me and think I’m a French tourist (which is a joke because it took my 8 year old sister an hour to teach me a 6-lined dialogue in French the other day). I can sit around the kaskrout table and finally understand the chatter of the day being tossed around and sometimes even chime in!! I also now know I can wheel my 1 1/2 year old host sister in her stroller through a rocky, chaotic souk which means I can be trusted in my host mom’s book, l7mdullah. Every day is a new day with new conversations and pretty sub-par games I end up playing and actually laughing at. Like hide and seek in the same bedroom with one table to hide under and one bed. You’d think it’d get old after one round, nope, mashi 7nna.

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My beautiful Azrou family


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In Morocco, lunch (ghda) is the largest meal. People return home from work and school for a 2-3 hour break, eat, and then go back. This beats 45 minute lunch breaks in America any day.


This brings me to now. December 4th. My last week of CBT in Azrou came to a close with a 4 hour meal cooked for my group by my/Luke’s family, a last night sleepover with my 2 sisters regardless of the fact my alarm would go off at 5:30am to leave and we would all be in the same bed, and Noura (my baby sister) sitting on top of my suitcase from what I tell myself was her way of communicating don’t leave. A few days ago, we were sworn in as Volunteers with an official ceremony consisting of speakers from the Embassy, Ministry of Youth and Sports, and 2 fellow mutatw3in who gave speeches in Darija. I had the opportunity to meet my new supervisor in the association I will be working in and we had a 30 minute conversation about my new site and work opportunities all in Darija. We even took a cheesy, ambassador-like picture shaking hands…so there’s proof we’re off to a good start! Because of an unexpected medical curveball, I’ve been in Rabat for a few days before traveling to my final site (kulshi mzyan daba), so I had some time to finally write this blog post, catch up on WiFi, and sort my suitcase before heading down to my new home tomorrow, which is a small village an hour outside of the beautiful port city in Morocco called Essaouira. Although Thanksgiving has passed, I want to express how thankful I am for my friends and family back at home who are constantly checking up on me, the new friends I’ve made in Morocco who will do zwin, wondrous things in the next two years, and the Starbucks I just located and totally spend 1/3 of my daily allowance on. I’ll try and write once I’m settled into my new home!

Nshufk mn b3d!

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Azrou.


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Here’s Noura reminding you that next blog post is coming once I can haul this bag through Morocco to site!


Darija cheat sheet because my English vocabulary is slowly disappearing…

Drari-Boys

Shwiya– A little

Dar chebab– Youth Center (literally house of youth)

Darija– Moroccan dialect of Arabic I’m learning

b7l b7l– The same

7ammam– Public bath house

Bnt– Daughter

Kaskrout– Evening snack usually between 6-7pm before dinner

l7mdullah– Thanking God everything is good

mashi 7nna– Not here

mutatw3in– Volunteers

kulshi mzyan daba– Everything is good now

zwin– Beautiful/great

Nshufk mn b3d– See you later

**Songs that got us through CBT played on repeat way too often**