Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Fog

It always strikes me. When I walk around the city of Rabat I see common sights and hear sounds of any other city. The differences though in my point of view are profound. People don't freak out when I start speaking Darjia. This is normal in the capital city (foreign people speaking their language). No shocking looks. No laughing. When I walk around the streets and look around no one is trying to get me to buy anything. No yelling. No bon jour's. No questions about why I am here and what I am doing. The people here they just live their life with this idea that foreigners are amongst them and they are okay with that. Something about this city brings out another side of myself that I have lost (or presumably so) a year ago. I forgot what it was like to be able to walk down the street and be able to smile at strangers. To look them in the eye and just smile. In a round about way I believe this to be normal. But as I ponder my transformation into the person that I have become I realize that normal is a perspective. One which has now changed because of constant struggle, misunderstanding and successes.

I wonder about change. I have come to the realization that change is inevitable. It's something which I need in my life in order to feel at rest, to feel at home. I think this is why it is hard to be comfortable in our own skin: we aren't comfortable with change. Though the irony is that change is the definition of life. Evolution. Constant change which we fight and fight until we give in or break down. I think better when everything is changing. I have learned to embrace change with a free spirit. It has taken me longer than most to understand that if I would have done this sooner then this experience would have been easier. Clarity is what I think that most of us are looking for. But my clarity is understanding that there is really no such thing. We all live life differently. Most of us have no idea to what is next in life. I call this the fog. Maybe to have life, to truly live, is to be okay with the fog of life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Returning from London

Well Tanie and I went to London for 7 days. We didn't really have any plan because we just wanted to be able to explore and experience somewhere sort of new to us. Well at least somewhere that is different then our normal everyday life now. It turned out really well and always had something to do and the trip was a great time. Highlights were the British Museum, Ice-Skating in Hyde Park, Westminster, Tower Bridge Area, eating great food, watching Harry Potter 7: Part 1, Christmas lights and music all around, and understanding the language. Here are some pictures of the trip:

Big Ben at Night

Tanie and I Ice-Skating In Hyde Park

Me at One of My Favorite Areas In London

In The Tower Bridge Area

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

London Part 2

I am going to London again with my beautiful wife. We head out tomorrow and we will be there till next Wednesday. This is going to be a proper holiday and I am so excited to feel some cold in my bones. I heard that recently they have also had some snow so we will be able to get some of that as well. This is mostly a Christmas gift to ourselves. We both missed the holidays last year and just kind of skimmed over them like they were another day. I felt like it took a toll on our psyche and we needed to get out of Morocco for our Christmas. This really isn't on Christmas really but it doesn't matter to us. It's close enough.

Last time we saw all the touristy things in London. This time we are going to try and experience the city a little more and see things that I always wanted to see but never got around to seeing. Oh not to mention that we are going to a Christmasy thing at Hyde park called "Winter Wonderland 2010"! There will be ice skating and Christmas foods! There are also Christmas lights in places around the city. It will be a great site to see. Now to think of it, completely opposite of sites here in Morocco. I will let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Morocco is getting easier. At least that is what I tell myself. Everyday I seem to learn something new and it helps with understanding this world I am living in. 

Language is getting a little better but to be honest I know now by the time I leave I won't even be close to fluent. As a first language Moroccan Arabic is very difficult. Not only that I know I am not great at acquiring languages. One thing that encourages me is that I can do just about anything I need to do to survive but equally on the other side I have a really hard time with detail things. For example, I can tell you that I like something or something isn't good but I cannot really describe why. I really hoped to be at a higher level of language then I am. I put in the time and study a little each day and use it as much as I can but one thing that really hurts me with language is I am naturally extremely shy. I normally won't say much unless I know you pretty well. 

So advice to those who are thinking about PC or trying to learn a new language you need to know if you are shy push yourself. It not only hurts your language but also your ability to have friends in country. It funny I still hear a lot about a past volunteer. Everywhere in town I go I hear things about she was the best volunteer and she did this and that. She made an impact here. I don't know her but I am sure that she was an extrovert. I have noticed here that if you are an extrovert the PC experience tends to come a little easier. I think thats why I have struggled up to this point. Now I have gotten to the point where I just don't care what people think. I just be try to be myself in every situation. (It sounds easier then it is trust me.) Confidence and being a little more care free tends to make my experience a little more enjoyable than it would be otherwise. These are things I wish I had discovered before I came. Maybe now I can do something about it. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Packages and Health Tour

This is a shout out to my Uncle Glenn and Aunt Barb for sending us this amazing package! We love getting packages and feel loved when we do get them. Also I want to thank Mom, Dad, Rachel, Shannon, Robin, Don, Ralph and Helen for the packages and anybody else who has sent us cards, notes and packages in the past! We love you all and are glad to have people that care so much about us!
ssalamu 3lekum (Peace be upon you.)

Here is a rare look at Tanie working on a poster for the health tour that we helped with. I am so proud of her and the work she is doing here in Morocco. She is impacting so many women and kids' lives it is amazing. tbarka llah lik! (The blessing of God upon you!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taroudant - Sitting in Cafe Bab Al Kasba

-Went to a bookshop asking for a magazine that has Darjia (Moroccan Arabic) in it. I wanted to practice Arabic script but don't know Foosha (Modern Standard Arabic). The man told me behind the counter that both were the same. So he gave me a magazine that was in Foosha but I didn't understand it. He looks at me dumbfounded.

-Women waiting by the hospital to visit or hear news of their loved one. 

-Just saw a Moroccan man with a shirt with Jesus on the cross. The irony of it is amusing to me.

-Tourists with maps, khaki shorts, cameras and hip bags. If I were a thief I would go for them first. 

-Two women with bags three times larger than their head on top of their head without using their hands. I can't help but stare.

-A dirty horse that seems overworked by pulling carriages then a homeless man comes up and hits it hard in the nose. The horse kicks up.   

-Teenage girls arm in arm smiling and talking and enjoying the day. 

-Old woman hobbling down the road. She looks lost and alone and lines on her face remind me of looking at roads on a map of Morocco.

-Just saw a guy who was homeless who looked exactly like Jack Sparrow. It pretty much made my day.

-A group of 50 tourists with a Moroccan tour guide with a sign held up directing on where to go. It is humiliating and embarrassing. Like they didn't stand out before. 

-Sitting and watching for two hours now I feel dizzy from all the movement. Maybe it's time to leave. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Not To Wear - A PCV's Take On Tourists

After being in Morocco for a year it has been interesting watching tourists come here and spend their vacation here. After a while I started noticing some trends. Sometimes I am shocked by some things that I see and other times I laugh. These things will help you blend in a little better even though you never really will blend in. I still stick out like a sore thumb but I feel like I am getting noticed far less than I used to. I feel like I have preface this by saying that I don't believe every tourist does this just say few but I still think it is worth sharing. I plead with you be sensitive to the culture and use your common sense.

What Not To Wear - A PCV's Take On Tourists

Fanny Packs - Beside these being completely out of style nothing says tourist more than a fanny pack. If you like the convenience of one of these than that's your deal but what do you need to take with you when you walk-about the city? Is it so much that you need to take a huge sack on your stomach. Just put what you need in your pockets. It really makes you stand out much less.

Speedo's - Men when you are on the beach do not wear these. This might be popular on European beaches but it is shocking to me to see men wear these on the beach. Plus I don't want to see your man piece. It's gross. It makes it even worse when you have a man who is 100 pounds over weight wearing one of these. No one wants to see this especially a conservative Muslim community.

Djellabas Or Caftans - In Marrakesh I have seen tourists wearing djellabas/ Caftans. This within itself isn't the issue. The issue is when people don't wear them correctly. Did you know that djellabas/ Caftans are meant to go over clothes much like a long coat would. It is super embarrassing when you see that they have nothing underneath these things. I have seen Morocans in a fit of laughter because of it and I have to admit that I just shook my head. But to be honest it is very rare (unless you are wearing them to big holidays or weddings) to see someone wearing them out on the town that are tourists. The people of Morocco are becoming more and more modern. This means you can dress this way too but just use common sense.

Short Skirts, Or Shirts That Show Cleavage - This is mostly for the ladies. I see so many women that wear these things and they get so much unwanted attention that it's crazy. Harassment can be pretty bad on most days but if they see someone with these kind of clothes most Moroccan men don't know what do with themselves. Do your part to not get this attention by using your head to dress more conservatively.  The locals will appreciate it. Also I have heard people say, "Well some Moroccans wear swanky clothes why can't I?" My response to that is, "You can." but keep in mind that you stand out already and this is mostly true only in big cities. Trust me it might feel good to be noticed for the first night but when men start saying things like, "How much(implying for sex)?" or " I want to have sex with you" you might start think otherwise about what you are wearing. If Moroccan women get comments like that they know how to handle themselves or at least tolerate it (even though it's sad to see any harassment, women should be able to express themselves without being ogled at or spoken to like property!) but tourists are normally not use to that level of harassment and it might be too much.

Extras: Huge cameras, camping clothes, etc.

What do you think? Anything else that I missed and should be mentioned?  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Misconceptions about America

Over the last year I have come across many misconceptions about America's from Moroccans. I think it is interesting to find what some people believe about American's and why exactly they believe what they do. Obviously these opinions might not represent all of Morocco but it is interesting nonetheless. Today I will highlight just two.

Americans just have money and we don't have to work for it.
This came about when I had a conversation with a few PCV's. We are all speaking about money in Morocco and how little it costs to live here by American standards. Then one of the volunteer said, "There are people in my site who believe that we just have money and we don't have to work for it." I ask myself why do they think this is? Is it all the western movies on "Fox Movies"  where they see Americans just siting around fighting but they have huge mansions, expensive cars, and huge wardrobe. In these movies it seems no one has jobs we all just mess about all day. I guess if that's the only time you ever hear about American's you might think that this is true. It is just an interesting point of view but obviously a false one.

American's do not have to pay for education.
This one I sort of understand. Here in Morocco anyone can get into university for free (all but room and board that is). The only requirement is that you have to pass your BAC (baccalauréat) exams in order to have a chance to go to university. I am sure exactly how it works but I assume that the better scores you have the better chance that you can get into the university of choice. Moroccan education is very similar to the French school system.  There are public universities which they can go to for free or private ones that really only the very wealthy can afford. You tell me which gets the better education? America has yet to do something like this. It would be nice for those who cannot really afford the education and maybe be able to get a better life because of it. If America did do this I am also sure the people would have to pay for it in taxes and many would be opposed to having to pay higher taxes. As a person who drowning in debt I hope that we as a nation can figure out the national debt so we can take care of our people which such things as free public university. *stands down from soap box*

I hope to highlight more of these in the future. Again I want to portray I do not think that this is what the majority believe. Everyone is an individual and can have their say. I just hear things like this from time to time and I think that you would think this would be interesting. I hope you enjoy! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What Exactly Is A Peace Corps Volunteer?

Disclamer: This is forward and it's my opinion. So in other words this post is probably incorrect and you need to take it with a grain of salt. :)

I read several blogs about PCV's and I have noticed a trend in several of them. I have noticed that everyone has their own preconceived notion of what a Peace Corps volunteer actually is. When some people think of a Peace Corps volunteer they think of a person in the middle of Africa living off of rice and beans in a mud hut wearing back packing clothes able to speak the language fluently, no electricity or running water, listening to the BBC is the extent of entertainment, there is not another volunteer within 50 miles, people around have AIDS and you are there to educate people about simple preventive measures on how not to get the disease, ideas of changing the world, living a simple life, living off of little money, roughing it, having an adventure, and challenging yourself.

When it comes down to it there are only three things that define a PCV:

-Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

-Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

-Helping promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.

These are the things that define us as volunteers. Even here in Morocco as volunteers we all have had some of these preconceived notions of what a PCV might be like. Are we not volunteers if have running water and electricity? Are we not volunteers if we cannot speak the language fluently? No, honestly being a volunteer is what you make it. Are you working for peace and not division? Are you living in a foreign country?  Are you trying to build a community and empower people? Are you working hard to accomplish the three goals? Have you swore in as a PCV? Awesome, then you are a PCV and the rest is personal choice.

I know of PCV's (very few) who have this smug attitude because they live in the middle of nowhere and they don't have electricity or running water and they come to another site that does sometimes conversation can become, "Wow, you're living in the "Posh Corps" or, "This is not Peace Corps". So? What's the point here? Is it that we cannot help others or volunteer our time if we have an oven, a refrigerator or that we can buy cheese here in site? Also, things like if you are not fasting during Ramadan, going to weddings every other weekend, working three weeks of summer camp when you only have to work one, wearing a headscarf in site, not having a computer in site, wana (internet) stick doesn't work in site, don't have enough transport, can't get veggies until souq (market) day, can't drink the water without purifying/ boiling it, etc. become contests of  "I am roughing it more than you" hence I am a better PCV or I am having a better/more genuine experience than you. This does not need to be. Community among PCV's is just as important as community among your host country nationals. We are all trying the best we can.

Peace Corps is not about about having lack of things. Truthfully I live better here then I did in America money wise. I don't have to pay for insurance, my housing, we get money back for things like job related travel, and we get a bit of cash each month to spend. Not to mention that I am married so we get to pool our money together so we can actually save money.  My point is that a volunteer can be exactly what I described above or it can be the exact opposite. Case in point:

So which of these people are PCV's? Obviously both. For those looking to job the Peace Corps know that perceptions of that you think it is going to be is probably going to be the direct opposite of what it turns out to be. It turned out that way for me.

Peace and Love

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Anonymous

To the "Anonymous" who decided to call me all kinds of things. First of all if you are going to criticize someone give me your full name! You would never ever say the things that you did if you were to my face. Who has the time to go around to random blogs and just spread hate.  Apparently were a PCV in 87-89 what you are doing is the opposite of an RPCV should be doing. I am ashamed to see the bitterness that is steaming from you. I just can't believe this hatred that you are spreading. Just the way that sent me four Anonymous posts is very cowardly. Anonymous I am a person and again if you are an RPCV our government and the PC would be very ashamed of you. Hsuma alik (If you were an RPCV from Morocco then you understand that).

Why am I bringing this out to the open? I am doing this to defend myself and to show others why I am trying to do with this blog. Just to clarify, I am trying to get potential PCV's to understand that life in the PC isn't easy and I wanted to show my audience what life here in Morocco is really like. I know I wish I would have found a blog like this back in the day before I came to PC so I know what my experience here might be like. I know this is not everyones experience but this is my experience!  I am not whining, far from it, I love this place. You don't even know me or how I think so don't make assumptions. Email me and try to understand where I coming from. 

Another thing how am I being ignorant of the "Moroccan culture and religion"? Sure I don't know everything but I am trying. I am not Muslim, if someone expects me to change religions and give up my own beliefs because I travel (and or live) in another country they are backwards. Islam is a beautiful religion but its not my religion. Cultural exchange means them trying to understand me with me trying to understand them.  In other words it's part of my job. Blogging within itself is part of goal 3. You should know what that is. I want the people back at home to understand Moroccans a little better as well.  If you need a refresher on the three goals take a look here on the PC website. Our job is in three parts, not just giving the HCN skills. Check it out.

Also you criticizing my post on Marrakesh about money. I am not a rich American. If you knew anything about PC you would know they give you a little money to volunteer. So you would know that a taxi ride that is normally 5d goes up to 50 or 100d's is a huge deal. I am not spending money all over the place because I have it. I am blending into the culture because any Moroccan would fight to the death for a taxi price like that. I just assume that people should treat everyone with respect. I don't think thats too much too much to ask for.  It happens in every other place in Morocco just not Marrakesh (most of the time).

I better finish here. I was just disgusted by the emails you sent me and I needed to defend myself. I am not perfect and don't claim to be but to everyone out there know that I am trying the best I can and that I am still understanding daily about my host country nationals and myself. I am sorry if my posts came across as whiny or complaining this is not what I wanted to do. In turn I just wanted to give truthful blog posts that help people understand the PCV experience a little more. I hope that this blog has done that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Is All I Can Think About

By Wednesday it could be 84.... Maybe then I can sleep again... You Tata people...I would have ETed like a month ago. Stay strong brothers and sisters. Stay strong.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ramadan and Fasting

The issue of fasting is one that is a difficult one. This has been a personal struggle for me and one that is still stretching me. Take this with a grain of salt. I don't mean to upset anyone but my intention is to clearly define how I am feeling and my personal thoughts on this matter not to condemn or belittle but those who know me would know I would never do that.

For me I choose not to fast during Ramadan. Why do I choose not to? To be the answer is very simple. I am not Muslim. I believe if I choose to fast I will be sending very confusing messages to our friends here in Morocco. See part of my job is to show them a person who lives in America who has their own beliefs and their own religion (or in some cases no religion). I have a lot of people in my site when I say that I am not a Muslim the first thing they say is, "Why thats bad you will go to hell". Then I try to explain that "Well I am Christian so I have my religion and you have yours". This has never worked. Usually I get a response of, "Come on you are so close just become Muslim because it is beautiful". And rightful so Islam is beautiful but it's not who I am.

So here I am in a Muslim holiday where most people are fasting but me. I feel like if I start fasting people will get excited. Why? I assume they will get excited because they think I have an interest in Islam (which again I do have an interest but not to convert). I want the people of Morocco to understand that beliefs work both ways. Just because I am foreign it doesn't mean that I have to conform to a certain belief system. I have heard people say well you are respecting Moroccans if you fast. I am not so sure this is true. Most people here take their beliefs very seriously, and to start practicing parts of their religion out of respect it seems like I would be starting another, "Well being Muslim is better than being (insert religion here)". I am tired of these arguments/discussions. Also, what happens after Ramadan? Will your community expect you to continue to practice their religion? Who knows but it is too complicated to me. Refraining from eating in front of people who are fasting is enough. This shows that you respect them for doing it, that you care about the individual and that you are using common sense by not making others salivate.

I guess for me I just got to the point to where I am tired of trying to act like I am somebody that I am not. I just want to be who I really am and not this culturally shifting person whose beliefs and ideals change because I live in a different location. It's so easy to do because you want to be liked so badly but to me in the end it's not worth it. I want to be who I am. An American Christian living in Morocco trying to understand different culture and ideals without compromising my own. To each his own I guess but fasting is not for me. It's too confusing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Boredom and Ramadan

I call this time in my Peace Corps experience Absolute Boredom. I haven't really posted a lot lately because there really isn't much to report. Since Ramadan has started my life has been boring. I try to find things to fill this time but it is hard to fill it with cleaning, watching movies, playing games, surfing the net, etc. I just get bored quickly. BTW if you don't know what Ramadan is check it out here.

I think when people told me before that Peace Corps volunteers have a lot of down time I didn't believe them. I thought that we would have so little time because we would be doing our jobs. But the truth is that our jobs are sometimes seasonal, and when we do go into work it is not an eight hour day it is more like a college professor: go to the class you set up, you have "office hours", and then with the free time you play games with the kids(well my professors never did that but maybe yours did). 

With the month of Ramadan no one comes to the Youth House (where I work). They are either traveling, in their homes with their families, playing soccer or helping with chores. So it makes it difficult to just do my job when no one even comes. Also almost all the stores are shut down because no one wants to work in the heat with no water or food. So they go home and sleep. I think they are smart. This makes it difficult to do normal everyday things like buy food or pay bills. Strangeness it seems rules my life.

So in turn we are in our house trying to make it through the heat and the boredom. Sometimes it is difficult to stay completely positive. 

Here is a list of the things I miss and think about the most when I am bored:
Canned Food
Microwave Dinners
Frozen Pizza
Movie Theaters
Driving a Car
24 Hour Stores
24 Restaurants
Being close with family and friends

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Camp

A few days have passed since I have been home from summer camp and overall it was an okay experience. The Summer Camp is at a beach town called El Jadida. As a Youth Development volunteer I am required to attend. Summer camp is a 10 day long English Immersion camp put on by the US Embassy and also the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports. As volunteers we put on activities such as English classes, and clubs for example my science club. Also we help put on activities every night like American games night or Halloween. All these things help fulfill the goals of peace corps like cultural exchange: Moroccan to American and American to Moroccan..

My responsibilities centered around the science club. In this club I had 20 kids, Tanie and another Moroccan helper. We did all kinds of things sort of involving science. I had five classes and I did things like build bridges with toothpicks and glue, build and explode volcanoes, and made a movie wheel. The kids seemed to throughly enjoy themselves. To be honest everything went so well in my club that it was the smoothest thing I have done with the Peace Corps with kids! That's a good feeling.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy Lately

Things That Make Me Happy Lately:
Coffee in the morning
Conversations with my wife :)
Doing anything that is productive
Talking to someone knowing that they don't want anything from you
Not getting "bon jour"ed when I walk around town
Little kids in jalapas (They are so cute!)
Days that are below 95 degrees
Any time I do not hear grinding outside my window
Richard Ashcroft (New CD but it's not that great)
Getting nostalgic over video games (Chrono Trigger)
Lists - To do lists, or lists like these
Comments make me happy too

(This list could be updated from time to time :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

London and a Baby!

Tanie and I went on a small trip to London England a few weeks back. I have been before but this was Tanie's first time to see the great city. I love London. Honestly if there is one place I would like to live after Peace Corps it would be there. Something about the diversity of people and the amount of things to do, the public transportation, and so much more that makes it (in my mind) the greatest city in the world!

What can I say...it was amazing. I love the city more now then ever. Tanie and I explored the city so much! We got into town at 6 in the morning and nothing was open on the first day. We couldn't find a coffee shop that was open at 6! Starbucks opened at 7:30 so we went to Hyde park and walked around. It was peaceful and cold. I wasn't expecting that. Coming from Africa I think I am used to hotter weather now. Anyways, we spent that first day doing the Original Bus Tour. It was a great way for Tanie to get adjusted to the city. We got on and got off the bus all day seeing the big sites: St. Stevens Tower, Westminster Abbie, Parliament, etc.

Needless to say she loved the city as much as I do. Speaking of Hyde park, we ended up going to speakers corner, something I wanted to check out. It was pretty cool. There was not as many speakers there but it was still early summer still but there were little crowds. We ate in so many different places: Japanese, three different pubs, Italian, curry house, sandwich shop and not to mention the breakfast at the hotel. With Starbucks, we wanted to go there as much as possible so we went twice a day. I am glad we did because we miss it so much.

The second day we visited museums and churches and we booked a twilight flight in the London Eye. It was awesome! I was a little scared in the air but since we traveled I have gotten over my fear of heights mostly. Their were specials with the Eye and we got it for 10 pounds a piece. It was well worth it but I don't know if it is worth 23 pounds.

The third day we went explored the city more and saw some things that Tanie wanted to check out like Brick Lane and then we went to a concert at night. The concert was amazing and so much fun. We saw Tanie's favorite band and one of my favorites Switchfoot. They are a rock band from San Diego California. It was just random chance we got to see them. The next day we had to travel back pretty early but we still had a little bit of time to explore a little more. It was only a 4 day trip but it was awesome!

Next summer Tanie and I might go back but we are planning a Europe trip that we will see at least 5 European countries. I am so excited about that opportunity. So overall London was amazing. I can't wait to go back! Actually it was really tough to come back to our site. I felt like I got culture shock coming back and feeling the weight of confusion all over again. If I fell like that now just wait until next yet when we take our other planned vacation. We might not make it back :)

By the way some other awesome news, my sister gave birth the other day! Eean Eugene is so cute! I am excited that is a boy! My other sister was with us here at our site when it happened. We got to Skype with my sister and my brother in law before and after the birth. I am happy for the both of them. They will make great parents! Congrats to them!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marrakesh - I Am So Over It

Marrakesh is my least favorite city in Morocco. Why? Because it seems that every taxi driver is completely ridiculous. That is not the only reason I have many which I will go into later but for now let’s discuss this.

There a few ways to get into the city. If you are coming out of country you would fly in, or you might take a taxi or bus in. There are issues with all of these when you get there. Outside the airport, bus station, and/or taxi station there are petite taxi’s which are all waiting on the same thing: people which they can over charge. The problem is that the city is way to big to walk around without getting a small taxi. You have to have one to get from the airport to the square or where ever you are coming from.

Conversations with taxi drivers are typically is something like this:

Back story: I am coming from the CTM bus station and it should be 10-15 DH to get to the square where my hotel is.

Taxi Driver: Do you need a taxi?

Me: Yes but how much?

Taxi Driver: Where do you want to go?

Me: To the square?

Taxi Driver: 120 DH

Me: That is very expensive! Why is it so expensive? Use the counter(meter).

Taxi Driver: It doesn’t work….. okay 70 DH.

Me: No seriously, I know the price. 15 DH is a good price.

Taxi Driver: (laughing at this point) You will never get a taxi for that.

Me: I did yesterday coming from the same place.

Taxi Driver: Well there is a lot of sun today. My last price is 50 DH.

Me: Bye

Then I choose to walk out to the street get a better price, which I almost always do. What I don’t understand is how they can do this. Every time I have ever asked if their meter works it never does. I have even told the taxi driver to try to make it work and they pushed every button on the meter but the power button acting like I am a gullible foreigner.

Yesterday I was in Agadir, probably one of my favorite towns in country (they always use their meters), I was talking to a taxi driver there and he said the next time that someone tries to pull that stuff again that I should tell the police about the situation because they could get their license taken away for trying to do that to someone.

I know they don’t do this to everyone. I am obviously foreign but the fact that I am getting ripped off just because I am is not right. I have never on first try had a taxi driver in the city use their meter.  Just because of this it puts a big sour taste in my mouth and I will try hard not to go back.

It’s not just that but it other things there that bother me as well. I have seen too many fake touristy things that I can’t stand any more: snake charmers, men in Berber dress dancing around for no reason, monkeys, henna women, etc. This stuff isn’t real Morocco, not even close. It bothers me to think that people believe that this is genuine people of Morocco living their day to day lives trying to share their culture with others. Actually it is quite the opposite, these men and women are playing on stereotypes that most foreigners believe is real: people wear fezes, people charm snakes for fun, etc.

People who are trying to supply a product in Marrakesh are so pushy. Try walking in the square for a few feet and you will hear things like “Hello come to my shop I have something beautiful to show you.” Or I have heard people walking in the square and the next thing they know a monkey has jumped on their shoulder and the owner now demands 100 DH. Two times in two nights I had two different people say f-you after they didn’t get what they want. One was a beggar like the age of 9 and I refused many times to give him money and the other was a man touching my sister on the back and then started touching my wife and I stepped in the middle and then he put his fingers up like a gun to my forehead and said that I was a bad man and that I needed to f-off then he acted like he pulled the trigger to blow me away.

This is a lot to say that I just don’t feel welcome there. I don’t say this after one visit. I say this after over 5-6 visits. I wanted to give Marrakesh a chance but I am over it now. If you come here don’t spend more than 1 day in the city. I don’t think it’s worth your time or money.I speak Arabic and still get bad prices and people acting like I am a fool.

Remember this is only my opinion about Marrakesh and not my site or any other city. These are some pretty hefty generalizations which someone might disagree.That's fine. I am sure that there are many people in the city that are honest and trustworthy but most of the people which I have dealt with there have not been. There are many cities in Morocco that are beautiful and have wonderful people and I am glad for that. If it were like this everywhere I have went I don't know if I could take it. I could write more but it is already a long post and I think you get the idea.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Land of The Beautiful Confusion

Things that influence Morocco to make it what it is today. 
Media (Globalization)

Languages Spoken
Arabic (MSA)
Spanish (In the North)
and more

Beautiful confusion

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Early Mid-Service Freak Out

I think I had my mid-service freak out early. Times get hard and you don't know what to do. There were a couple of times which I was trying to blog about it on here but I am sure my Peace Corps supervisors would have probably called me. Actually I still have them saved as drafts. I figured that if I woke up the next day then I could post it but my feelings were the same but the next day I felt quite the opposite of what I was feeling the day before. So I didn't post them but I think I figured out mostly what it is.

The roller coaster of emotions is the think that I believe I have the hardest time with. In one day's time I feel like I am so excited to be here and do what I doing and in the next hour I feel like trash and wonder what I am doing here. It's funny it seems that there are no in between emotions like a calm happiness or a little anger or a slight misunderstanding. In my opinion, when you are in a tense situation like this every emotion you feel are magnified times three. To be honest I don't think I have a very difficult job its just everything else. Teaching is the easiest part about Morocco. Trying to communicate with people is most difficult. The middle stuff is like trying to constantly figure out what in the world people are doing here or acting a certain way etc.

I would say the second hardest thing is the difference between boredom and extreme activity. Sometimes I have nothing to do at all. So I try to fill the time with doing random things. Other times I will have so much to do it is extremely overwhelming and I feel like I am going to implode.

Some things that have helped be with my early mid service freak out:
Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Recreation
Dr. Who, Star Trek, Curb Your Enthusiasm  
skype conversations
other PCV's
trip to Agadir for my birthday 
my upcoming trip to London
my sister coming to see us
upcoming In-Service-Training
summer time

All this to say is that it feels great not to quit and make it on the other side of frustration and all those other extreme emotions. I feel more confident because of all of it. I feel like for me that is the best thing I could gain.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tiberius the Turtle

Tiberius is my turtle. He is named after James "Tiberius" Kirk (Yes the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise) because he is a little explorer. We got him from our Arabic tutor. He is very cute and he been with us enough that now he has a personality. He does things like constantly staring into red lights and hiding in toilet paper rolls :) I have never really been much of a pet person myself (well a dog or cat person) but it seems this is a pet that I will enjoy having.

Super cute
Eats flowers and weeds
Does not bark or meow
Sleeps almost all day
His head goes in is shell
Poops a tiny little bit
Gives us happiness
Good practice of having a real kid

Does not snuggle
Might out live me (some live over 100 years)
Could become the size of a small watermelon
White pee
Might get salmonella from the shell

So you can see there are many pros! I was really bored I thought you would enjoy meeting my turtle.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Development and Peace

The following quotes are from an article off The New Yorker. If you are interested in the quotes you should read it. I will respond with some responses to the quotes. This article really made me think about my purpose here and it is very well written. It has been circulating around Peace Corps blogs the last month or so. I am sorry if it is repetitive by now but it’s a great article. I hope you enjoy it!

The New Yorker: The Doorknob

“The problem with Peace Corps is that the 27-month commitment is a major deterrent for young people"

-Nicholas D. Kristof

Before joining the Peace Corps I never met anyone who was a volunteer. Most people I do know who service oriented things like the short term projects. Leaving things like family, friends, and country is very difficult. I don’t know if I call it a problem. I think the time is about right because if you are not serious about developing others this would not be too big of a deal. Development does not happen overnight, or even in a 27 month period sometimes. Development in my mind is best described as a journey.

Peace Corps Volunteers as “résumé-driven, undereducated provincial American BAs with, all too often, little or no knowledge … even in teaching (or speaking) their own native language.”

- John Brown, Former Foreign Service Officer

I understand where he is coming from here. I feel this way when it comes to teaching. I have never taught English before. Sometimes I feel underprepared to teach something about a language I just naturally speak. For example, what in the world is a modal and what is its function? This is a question I got from one of my students. I had to answer him by saying, “I am not sure. I don’t know this kind of stuff. I just speak English but I am not a teacher.” Though it seems my primary job now is to teach English. I have no clue what I am doing most of the time.

“I’ve tried to educate Congress that P.C. is not really a development program. Nor is it a cross-cultural program. It sits on a sliding scale between. It’s about living humbly and understanding, and making lifelong friends."

-Rajeev Goyal, President of Push for Peace Corps

My primary job has not been teaching English. It seems my primary job has been peace. Imagine that. We promote peace just by getting a better understanding of the people here and also them understanding our culture and country. Getting people to understand misconceptions of American culture and its people makes peace more attainable. Development is a part of my job but without living humbly or understanding I could not do development. True development is done when you are at the level of the people you are with and they trust you. That way the journey of development is done with the people, not separate. Development is great but peace is better.

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Negativity and Good Things

Camp Taroudant is over. It was a long exhausting week. I learned one big lesson in the week: I need to chill the crap out. The whole week I was stressed out. I guess it was mostly psychological. I think way too much about everything. It's the normal stuff like not knowing what to expect, and never doing it before. The thing is that everything went great! The Peace Corps volunteers were amazing and were taking things with stride. I blame it on my introversion (get energy from being alone). The thought of having to be around 110 different kids around that I have teach, talk to and entertain sounds like my worst nightmare just because people in general exhaust me. I am working hard to fix this but I am having little success. I think for the rest of my service I am going to try hard to work with kids of the amount of 15 or under. Then I can be my prime :)

Anyways, part of my chilling the crap out I am going to try and be more positive and that includes blog posts.

Things that I am excited about:

-My sisters upcoming visit. She is coming in the middle of June.
-London. My favorite city on earth. Tanie has never been and I hope she likes it as much as I do. We will be there at the end of May and a few days in June.
-Packages that are coming. Packages always make a bad day better. Thanks everyone for sending them.
-IST (In Service Training). This is time for us to get together with other Peace Corps volunteers. I am excited to see them again. We train for random things but the training isn't what I am looking forward to.
-Summer. This will be a great time to explore Morocco and relax in the scorching hot weather here around this area. I hear that everything shuts down during this time. Ramadan is something that will be very neat to be apart of again but in a different city.
-End of May. This is when my classes will end for awhile. We might be able to start up things like a film club or something else. Who knows.
-Broadband internet. My internet is now by a wireless stick that runs from cell phone towers. Needless to say the internet for us is very slow. Very soon we want to get broadband connection. It is a little more expensive but it will be worth it.

Thanks for reading :)


Sunday, March 28, 2010


I traveled to a nearby city be apart of a spring camp that we put on along with the Ministry of Youth and Sports here in Morocco. I am excited to be a part of it but also a little nervous as well. As of last week we were expecting 60 kids at our camp but as of yesterday we had over 100 conformations.This means that I will have a bigger class and almost guaranteed over 25 kids. I have never taught over 15 kids at one time. I hope that I can control them! The campers are mostly in the age of 14-17 with a few that I know of that will be a little older and younger. I am teaching beginner high which means they should know like, "Hello. How are you." etc. I have a lot of activities planned. I hope they go over well. It feels like I am back at a camp that counseled at a while ago. We are singing the same songs and doing some of the same stuff. It should be great. I still have a little to plan and I need to get to it! Wish me luck on a hopefully great week!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Before I came to Morocco I assumed that everything that I would buy here would be by bargaining. Most of the guide books I have read tell you to make sure you are good at bargaining because most shop owners will jack the prices up because you are foreign. I have found that I rarely bargain (even though I would like to say that I am very good at it). Food (most of the time) has a set price when things you buy at a hanut (store). You mostly bargain at the suq (weekly market) or at side stores but to be honest I try to avoid it. I have found that I can almost find just about anything I want without the need for bargaining.

In the beginning we had to bargain for things that are bigger like our bed, ponges, (sort of make-shift couch) fridge, and other things but not so much now. Now I only do it from time to time. Most of the time in small cities if you do get overpriced it will only be by a little bit. Places like Marrakesh and Fez are notorious for the prices to go up big time because of the tourism through these cities. I have found that the Moroccans are mostly right when they say that Moroccans will get the best deals so make friends with the locals!

Main thing to remember while bargaining is that it is a game to the person whom you are bargaining with. Most of the time I have found the other person has a smile across their face because they are having a good time. The best thing to do is to smile back and stay calm and enjoy the experience.

Also it is not uncommon to be asked to drink tea with shop owners. This is all part of tactic on both ends. The nicer you are and the more time you spend with the shop keeper shows him that you are serious about the purchase you are about to make and the more time you spend in his shop the more likely you will buy something. During the tea you make small about everything.

I recommend not wasting your time over 10 drhms on big items unless you just want to get to know a Moroccan a little more. If you have tea with them, most of the time, you will become friends. I have shop keepers all over my town who every time they see me they usher me over want me to drink more tea with them. I love this about Moroccan culture.

My wife refuses to bargain because she does not have it in her to be aggressive and you do have to be too to get a good price. It is normal to say things like, “This is too much for me.” Or “Bring down the price.” Or “Give me a good price.” Also, it good to know that you should point out defects in the product (if there are any) this helps you get a better price. These things might seem a little forward or like I said aggressive but it really is not. You will soon get used to it and it will become natural. Or maybe you will be like my wife and have someone else do it for you ;)

I hope this gives you an idea what goes on in the marketplace here in Morocco. Although these things that I have shared are not universally true, I have found them to be mostly right. Every town has a different feel so explore and have fun.

Thanks for following me!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Couscous and Hospitality

Every Friday Tanie and I go over to the host family's place for couscous. Moroccans eat later than Americans most of the time so we got there about 1:15pm. We rang the door bell and waited. Then a floor above us a girl called out "Skoun?" which means who. I said well it's us and our little host sister came down and spoke to us and said, "Nobody is here." We were like okay see you later. She said, "Wait come up stairs." "Okay" we said and we skirted up stairs to sit and wait for nothing. We figured that we were not eating anything there because nobody was there but we were wrong. We waited for ten minutes and then up the stairs from next door we were presented with couscous for two. Come to find out someones uncle was sick and they were with him all day but we did not receive a call or anything to tell us not to come so we came like normal.

We thought how funny this was. This would not happen back in the States. Can you imagine going next store and saying, "Um, we have some visitors but no food can we take some of yours." They might let you but then think, "Our neighbors are a little funny." Hospitality is hard to be out matched here. Food from the next door neighbors plates just so we would have something to eat. Amazing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Frustrations and The Baby Behind Bars

This past week has been a freak out week. It seemed like everyday I had a little bit of a breakdown. Questions like, "What in the world am I doing here?" or "What do these people expect of me?" or "What exactly is my job here again?" My language has seemed to have plateaued. Which if you heard me speak Arabic you know that is not good. My Arabic is poor or at least it seems that way. I speak about main events and I can tell people what I want and need but the details are nonexistent in the conversation. With all of these thoughts and frustrations it helps me to think about why I came in to Morocco in the first place.

To promote peace.
To get outside of my American bubble.
To learn another language.
To develop my skills with a degree that was basically worthless.
To travel to other countries.
Countless more.

All this to say that sometimes it is okay to be frustrated. Experiences like this make people stretch and grow. Frustration is life. Things like walking into your place where you work and thinking these people don't need me to be here. To travel down the street and get spoken to in four different languages and to not know any of them so I don't speak at all. To feel lost in your own hometown not recognizing any faces. To be the only white person in several kilometers feeling abnormal every time people look at me. Sometimes I think that you need to feel like a baby in the window looking out into the world wondering what world am I doing here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PPST, The New Group, Language, and Confusion

Sorry my faithful followers. I have been away for a couple of weeks and I have not had the energy to update anything. I have been in a city near Ifrane for training for what they call PPST (Post Pre Service Training). This is a training consisting of some training on technical things such as teaching, camps, clubs and associations. All that was great but it was better to speak with other volunteers about their different experiences. I am truly surprised that people had so many different experiences. It is great to take these experiences to heart and be able to use them like they are my own. Now it is great to be home.

I read a lot of blogs on peacecorpsjournals.com. I must admit that I find it funny reading the incoming group blogs that will be leaving to be at staging in two days. The reason why I find it funny because I remember the feelings I had before I came here. Feelings of adventure, making a difference in the world, going to some far away land, excitement, and doubts.

After being here for just about 6 months in country I have some thoughts:

The language, in my opinion, is the hardest thing about the Peace Corps. If you consecrate hard on the language then most of the other stuff like culture, technical things just kind of fall into place.

I am utterly confused about what my job is here exactly. Youth Development is the title of my program but it is really broad of what my responsibilities are. Peace Corps Morocco seems to be pretty unstructured even with Health and Environment sectors its not so straight forward. Focus your energy to goals 2 and 3 while you figure out exactly your role in your community is going to be.

You will learn a lot about Americans. What is funny is before I came here I had a sheltered experience of life. People here in the Peace Corps are amazing but completely different than most people I knew back in the states. My point of view has been stretched by the differences of people. Get to know your group mates you'll love them.

The excitement will eventually wear off. All this mystery of adventure, world peace, and all of this will adventually come to a point to where everything around you is completely normal. Example: The other day I was walking to the Dar Chebab (Youth House) and along the way I heard a woman screaming. I looked up and a saw a woman running toward us and a man behind her completely naked. Completely naked! So after I saw him I said to my wife calmly, "Lets cross the street there is a naked man coming toward us." It was a little strange but I didn't even think anything of it until I thought about it later. Back in the states I would have felt completely weirded out but I think after being in a different country for so long you just kind of see it as the way it is. Everything is so different you sometimes wonder if you are watching a movie or living someone elses life. Excitement turns into weirdness. Weirdness sometimes turns into frustration. There has been times where I felt like I am tired of the Moroccan people. Then I come to understand this is just me. My worldview is just being tested everyday but after a while all these things become normal and its not so much an adventure anymore, just life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

PPST, Camels, Technology

Quote of the day:
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced - even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. - John Keats

Time from PPST (Post Pre Service Training) has been fun. It has been great to hang out with a lot of Americans. We are hear to learn things about clubs, associations, teaching and language. Our fellow PCV's are great! I am missing my own home and food. I am not looking forward to the 18 hour trip across the country! Way too long.


The stereotype about Moroccans riding is camels is not true. I have yet to see anyone riding a camel. Actually I have learned from my tutor that camels are considered unreliable and most would rather have a horse or donkey for transportation if one uses animals at all (which most don't). Most people here use taxis for transport.

Technology is very expensive here even for American standards especially with computers. Everything seems to be at least 10-15% more expensive. My thought is that when developing countries need to be developed but they cannot afford the technology how does the country develop.

Peace and Love

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Training, Being French and Married

Currently listening to: Kings of Leon - Only By The Night

We will gone for about two weeks from my site because we have some training that the Peace Corps puts on. They are teaching us more about teaching and all kinds of other sessions. I have mixed feelings about going because it seems like we are just starting to figure out what we are doing here and now we have to leave. I am truly excited to get some more tools under my belt to be able to teach more effectively. Sometimes I just feel lost walking into a classroom not really knowing what I am suppose to do when I get there.

It will be super great to see all of the people from my "stagee" (group) and discuss with them what has been successful and what didn't work with teaching or community entry amongst other things. Also, it will be great to let my guard down and by myself for a few days :)

Some things I want to do when I am there:

-I hope to visit my host family when we training in the city of Ifrane.
-I want to visit Fez because I haven't made it there yet and I hear it's beautiful.

Some Thoughts:

-People yell out "bon jour" (pardon my french) in the streets at us. It used to really bother me like I was losing my identity as an American or something but now I realize that most of the people that say it are just try to be nice. So in turn I just say bon jour back. It makes everyone happy (including me).

-Being married in Morocco seems to gain you a little respect amongst the people here. I am not for sure exactly why but people get so excited when you tell them that you are married.

-Also being married I believe makes it harder to integrate with the children you are suppose to be developing. I assume they think I am an adult so they can't be themselves around me. At least this is what I have heard.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beggers, Couscous and Call to Prayer

Hello my great readers.

Every time I post I intend to post a few thoughts. As of right now I am drinking a Twinning's Indian Spiced Chai and enjoying life. Today is a great day of having other women PCV's over to talk about a woman's wellness workshop. These times are always good times to check up on each other eat amazing food! Almost all PCV's are pretty great. Now if I can just understand the people of Morocco everything would be awesome!

Random Thoughts:

-Being lost and whimsical in this culture is part of growing. This is exactly what I wanted but after a while the "fun factor" wears off and you just feel lost.

-Beggars in this town are ruthless. One followed me all the way from the taxi stand and I could not get him away. At one moment I thought I was going to get in fist fight with one of his friends but they were under 16 so I was not intimidated, just frustrated.

-Couscous is something that most Moroccans eat on Friday's. Families come together for this meal and eat it out of a communal tangine. Most of the time men of the family eat in one room and the women eat in another. Even the word for Friday is very similar to the word meeting in Arabic. It is just sort of worked in the culture because the language the goes hand in hand.

-Call to prayer is 5 times a day. Before I arrived to this country I thought people stopped wherever they were and prayed. Most of the people I have ran into do not pray right away. The call to prayer is more like a reminder to pray as soon as you can.

Thanks for following :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Richard Ashcroft

Richard Ashcroft might not be a household name in America but in Britain that is another story. Mad Richard (as some call him) is formally the ex-frontman of The Verve one of the greatest British rock bands. Anyways all that to say that he is back again, this time with a new band called the United Nations of Sound (not the best name for a band). They are coming out with a new album in March for now they released a new video and song from the upcoming album. The song is called "Are You Ready?" and if it any indication of what the CD will be like then it will probably be playing on my Ipod for a long time. If you are interested check out the new video here:

Are You Ready?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Community, Cooking, French, Kids and Religion

I have been a Peace Corps volunteer for close to a two months now. I hope that this blog gives you an idea of some of the things I am experiencing here in Morocco.

A few thoughts:

-Community is important here and everyone knows your business (sometimes before you do)
-Kids are kids anywhere you go. Here it is a progression to slowness with boys. From going crazy everyday doing things that mothers in America might discipline their child for like jumping on the back of moving trucks. Then they get old and stand on street corners just talking. Then a little bit later in life they end up in cafes watching football matches. Slower and slower.
-Cooking takes a lot longer here because we have to make everything from scratch but that is not a bad thing.
-The French language is very important here and I feel disadvantaged because I do not know it
-Religion is a big deal to most of the people here in Morocco, but most people here cannot understand the religious text they are following. (It is in a different type of Arabic.)

Much love and more to come.

Thanks for following me :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Tuesday was a great day! I had my Beginner’s English class at the Women’s Center and I’m at about 12-15 women and girls each day. We went over the months and words like ‘month’, ‘day’, ‘year’ and then I gave them some ways to use these words in a sentence.

After I finished class I met up with the Small Business Volunteer from the nearest town, Joy, and we worked on learning how to use a foot powered sewing machine. I think we got the hang of it by the end. I sewed up one side of a purse that I am working on.

Hopefully the end result will be good. Joy and I got the fabric at a ‘Ponj’ shop, which is like a couch shop. So it is pretty thick material. We are hoping to come up with a good pattern that the women at our Women’s Centers will be able to create and sell on their own. All of the female volunteers in my area are getting together at my house to do some planning for a Women’s Wellness Workshop to train a few women from each center to teach Aerobics and health related issues. I don’t yet have an aerobics class but I am hoping that the director of my center will know a couple of women that would be interested to do a class with me. I’m really looking forward to this meeting and hope it goes well.
After leaving the Women’s Center I went home and made lunch (always a long ordeal). Then Matt and I went to the Dar Chebab (Youth Center). We had a Beginner’s class of 14 today. I’m really excited because when we first started we were just getting like 1 or 2 kids showing up. It’s hard to teach a class with 2 kids in it.
I think that my language is really picking up I feel much more confident speaking Darija and have more fluency. It’s exciting to have a conversation in another language. After 4 months in Morocco I already speak way better than my Spanish after 4 years in high school. Though sometimes people do try to speak to me in Spanish. (Morocco is very close to Spain.)
Well now I need to do some shopping. I’m our of peppers.