Moroccan Alarm Clock
Every morning around 7:15, I wake up to the voice of a woman waking up another man. It’s gentle yet stern and always the same tone. She says, “Yasser, Yasser.” Thats my alarm. I get out of my bed, throw on clothes for the day and slip on my house flip flops to brush my teeth and wash my face. Getting ready takes me about 8 minutes, maybe because its in the dark or because i’ve become super okay with not looking in the mirror before I walk out every morning. My host family puts breakfast out for me every morning and no lie, the sound of the tea kettle whistling gets me out of bed in the morning. It means i’ll drink at least 2 cups of atay loaded with sugar and fresh mint, one of the most popular drinks in Morocco. Out my door I turn a few corners through the alleys of colorful doors, pass the 7anut (corner store) that sells fresh baguettes every morning, occasionally pretend to be a mother to walk my host cousin to school, and end up in Darija (Morocco’s dialect of Arabic) class by 8:30.
The training site I’ve been placed in for CBT (community based training) is a small city in the mountains called Azrou. It’s a relatively big and amenable site in Peace Corps world. There’s qhwas (coffee shops), commercial shopping, a huge souk on Tuesdays that is 50x the size of the farmers market in Cold Spring, and mountains to hike where monkeys hideaway. I live with a host mother, father, and three sisters: 12, 8, and 16 months. If I could describe Moroccans in one word right now, it’d be hospitable. That first day I arrived at my house, the bag that I wanted to rush and unpack was irrelevant. I was led straight to the salon and poured cups of tea and fed a large platter of lamb tagine that, from observation, was looking like I was eating with my hands. I knew basically no Darija so smiling and nodding was my best friend. They’re an amazing bunch and in no words can I express how much they’ve taught me and the warm feeling of family they’ve shared with me. Each day i’m at site and with my family, I think about how much i’m learning and how it’s always a little bit more than the day before. Shwiya b Shwiya.
My host sisters and host cousin
My CBT group is incredible and I owe most of my sanity to them. There are 6 of us plus our LCF (Language & Cultural Facilitator) and we meet for language class from 8:30-12:30, go back home for lunch with our families, then meet again from 2:30 on to discuss tools for youth development and community integration. Together already we’ve conquered 100+ hours of Darija, eaten way to much milwi (bread/crepe like snack with honey and cheese), gone a week without showering only to embrace our greasy hair, watched a whole series on Netflix, and have created a tight, unique support system that perpetually looks out for one another. People say CBT is one of the hardest periods of Peace Corps, but this crew has made it hard to think about ending. I’m sure throughout my posts I’ll reference back to their ability to create a spark in my first few months here and I’m very grateful for all 6 of them.
I can predict but I can’t say where I’ll be after we leave Azrou at the end of November and swear in as official Peace Corps volunteers. Maybe in the South two days travel from Meknes, maybe in the North outside of a major city, maybe nestled in the mountains or maybe in the desert. Maybe in six months I’ll be teaching in a Dar Chebab (youth center). Maybe I’ll have my own place where the smell of tomato sauce on the stove will harmonize with the lyrics of Springsteen in the background, just like our kitchen at home. If so, Mom, you’ll be the first to get that text. What I’m trying to communicate is that my life for the next two years is an open book of self discovery, personal and professional rewards yet hardships, rich cultural exchanges, and all the jumble that comes with living in a country at a very different comfort level than I’m used to. It’s observing and participating, not judging because this culture does things differently than my own. These next two years are about listening and leading in a Moroccan context, placing my desires and development standards as an American on the back burner. They’re also here for me to share my Moroccan experience with everyone back home. As the only country left in Peace Corps operating within the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region, this goal is especially important, maybe now in 2017 more than ever.
Until next time! AKA until I find semi-decent WiFi to upload another post 🙂