Sunday, December 7, 2008


I figured 12 months from my last post would be an appropiate time to post a new blog:) I'm now making a vow to write in my blog more consistently. Wish me luck. The good thing is.... I'm still here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas or Mbruk l'3id..?

With the lack of internet and alone time in my town, I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with my blog. Although, in the spirit of Christmas, I’ve decided to quarantine myself in a room with Xmas tunes, devoting time to emails and a blog entry that I will later post when I get to chance to go to Ouarzazate where there are a handful of cybercafes with somewhat steady internet connections.

A few things that I found interesting in the last four weeks of being in my town:

---Riding in a grand taxi is interesting here. I walk down to the main street from my duwar (village) and stand there where the taxis wait. I notice that people are staring but I just wait until the car fills up with six passengers. If it’s a stationwagon-type taxi, I’ve managed to sit with 13 passengers. It get’s quite interesting when you see a man sitting on the left side of the driver. What’s even more interesting is when you see a slender man sitting on his wife’s lap while there is a sheep going “baaa” in the back and French country music going in the front.

---My counterparts, Rykia and Haja Fadma, along with my host-mother, Mina, a sister-in-law, Ijja and I made a trip to Ighrem N’ougdal. There’s a post office, sbitar (health clinic) and the Gendarmes (like the police but not the police), there. They explained to the Gendarmes who they were and what kind of work I would be doing with them so that I could secure a Carte de Sejour (an official identification card). The Gendarmes in Ighrem only speak French or Darija so you could just see how interesting it was with me using butchered Tashlheet. Fortunately, every thing went well and we were done. Both, Mina’s baby son and Ijja’s baby son had been terribly sick, vomiting for days with a fever. So, afterward, we all went to the sbitar to only find that there was no doctor or nurse there. Rykia, knew of a old woman nearby that does somekind of alternative village medicine. I want to be careful and not label this as anything but all I can say is that there was yarn, leaves, sticky black stuff, smoke and coals involved. She did a number of things I could never explain but when it got too smoky, Rykia, Haja Fadma, and I left the room. I was a bit worried for them. After everything was finished, the babies came out crying with black coal lining their eyes. Two days later, the babies were well and eating again. I had never witnessed anything close to this before except in movies.

---Having the privilege of attending several social gatherings with the married women in my town has been pretty exciting! They seem to really like to separate the married women from the unmarried women and the men from the women at some meals, so it’s sort of strange being the only one in the room labeled as a “tafrukt” or girl, but they seem to understand that they are the ones that I need to get to know. One gathering was for a baby, three were just for lunch, one, for an engagement and one–a wedding. It all starts with a greeting that goes around the room right to left as each person enters. Round 1: Sweet tea, nuts and cookies are passed around. Round 2: The host will pass a basin and kettle around for guests to wash their hands. A tagine with meat and sometimes prunes is served. The bread is passed out and we start dipping our bread into the meat juices. A respected woman at the table is then asked to then take the meat and start dividing it up into equal portions–I mean equal–placing the meat on each person’s share of bread. Some women will eat it and some will just have a small bit and wrap up the rest to take home to their children. The table is wiped down. Round 3: A heaping plate of some kind of starch is shared; most of the time it’s couscous with vegetables. Everyone digs in with their hands. It’s kind of sad when the host never gets to enjoy the lunch with her guests. She’s busy working the courses. The table is wiped down again! Round 4: A mountainous plate of unpeeled fruits consisting of apples, bananas and oranges is placed in the center of the table with 2 or 3 knives randomly protruded! Man, by this time, I’m ready for a nap. After everyone’s finished, the table is wiped down one last time followed by the passing of the water kettle. Lastly to the end the meal, a supplication and beautiful prayer is chanted with open palms by all before getting up to thank the host.

When I experience unique moments like this, I often wonder what everyone is doing back home at the exact time. I guess for now, I'm just dreaming of Christmas lights and trees, ribbon, cookies, and music!

Merry Christmas everyone! Miss you!
Love you Mom, Dad, Nhu An, and Mai-Ly. Thank you for the phone calls!

Here are a few pics: some are from this last week’s l’Eid Kibir, which fell on December 21st this year. There is a picture of my family’s sheep sacrifice hanging in the kitchen signifying Abraham’s substitute sacrifice in the Koran.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Settling in...

Hi everyone! Thanks for all the great emails. If it wasn’t for the mundane details from your lives, I wouldn’t know how to keep myself connected to life back home–everything from having dinner with friends to taking a nap during a rainy day.
It’s nice to know that I finally have a permanent site, in which I will not only live for the next two years, but create, and hopefully, carry out my own small business projects with the weaving cooperative and small associations nearby. The town is situated halfway between Marrakech and Ouarzazate in the high Atlas Mountains with mud-homes built into the hillsides.
My quasi-sitemate, Amy, lives in a town about 10km away and about 5 dirhams a cab ride away. I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have each other for comfort. I’m sitting across from her right now writing this now! Since we’ve been allotted two days a week to travel for internet and tutoring, we’ve designated today as one of our days for errands and internet.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Just finished with a visit to my final site. My home for the next 2 years. Here's a picture of my new little host-sister, Asma welcoming me to my village:) Sort of. Included are other pics that I will talk about soon. In a nut shell, this is my home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


After telling people about my sugar dream, I thought to myself, why not share it with everyone?
And so, it all started the day my host-mother Fadma ran out of sugar from the bucket and had to literally, crack open another cone of hard sugar with a rock the size of a softball. That night, I dreamt about sugar.
“I was in bed, woken up by officials in uniform, knocking at my door. Soon after, I was standing in line with every person from my village. When I reached the front of the line, the man alerted me that I had consumed so much sugar that I had to pay so many dirhams to cover the sugar-consumption tax. I asked them how they could possibly know how much sugar I had consumed. With a look of more disappointment than sympathy, this man, told me that they had been watching me for quite some time, with endless footage of tea, cake, and cookies. This followed with a whisper to my ear, from the woman standing behind me, telling me that sugar indeed, was responsible for not only feeding this country, but also funding the government.”
If this dream was real, I’d be financially ruined. With all the readily available sweet confections, I’ve already caught myself making references to sugar tax. Especially during this particular and very important lEid, which marked the end of Ramadan, I’ve had numerous opportunities to indulge myself with mint tea and cookies. Christmas memories crossed my mind as my host-family cleaned the house and put on their new garb. What surprised me was that, my host-sister, whom always covers her head, had me curl her hair! It was really interesting to wear a traditional jellaba and walk around our community. I went from house to house with my CBT group visiting families in the morning and then later, with my host-mother, visiting more family and friends. It was funny seeing the looks on tourists’ faces when they see Americans in Moroccan attire. What’s even more interesting is seeing the look on Moroccans’ faces when they see Americans in Moroccan attire. I must have gone to 12 houses that weekend. That weekend was great but exhausting! Oh so back to sugar right? You can just do the math and imagine how many cups of sweet tea and cookies I had.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

In with the fam...

A pic of our village's famous kasbah!
Somehow, even though it's only been three weeks since I've left the US, it feels like a heck of a bit longer. When people say that it's easier to learn a language when you're immersed in it, I think they forget to mention that it can also be super-frustrating, for lack of a better word. After seven days of learning Tashlheet, (a berber dialect spoken in various regions) I've managed to amuse and entertain my family with my hilarious phonetic pronounciations. However, it's clear that Moroccan television will always come in first in terms of entertainment!
Let me introduce you to my host family. Let's see...there's Fadma, my host mom. She's in one word - amazing. For being just shy of 29, she spends all day cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children and making sure that everyone is fed, which includes sheep, goats and chicken! I will never be half as tough as she is. Her husband, Abdelmalik, is a kind of slender man with bulging cheekbones. Working as a guide at the Kasbah, he's able to communicate in more than 4 languages, which also means that he gets to be the lucky one to translate some of Fadma's fast phrases into pocket English. They have three children--Salua, Zakaria, and Hajar. I absolutely adore these kids. I'm so grateful to have such a welcoming family with such patience and hospitality. So far, my host father has already told me that it would be no problem if I stayed 2 years. We'll see what they think of me at the end of training in two months!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Alas, I'm finally here.

Morocco is such a beautiful country. While driving from Rabat to Ouarzazate, I couldn't help but notice the resemblance to Arizona. Once, we passed Marrakech, the roads got more more and more windy. We drove through beautiful mountains and finally came to what everyone can refer to as the DESERT. I couldn't believe that I was in Africa! This was amazing! After the long drive, we were greeted by our Pre-Service Training Staff, that interestingly, introduced us to our first Ramadan break-fast at 6:45pm. It consisted of a wonderful warm soup with meat and vegetables along with various flatbreads and sweets to be washed down with ofcourse, sweet mint tea. This all was to be followed by real dinner at 10pm:)

After being here for a few days, I've realized that my mind and body are so tired and the thought of more reading material and sessions seems daunting. Nevertheless, I embrace the next ten weeks of training! This picture was taken from our hotel just after sunset.