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 (baccalaurĂ©at) 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
Matt

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.