Getting to my final site- Nov 18th
Finally it was the morning to head out to my final site – but I had to make a stop along the way in Fez. Why? To pick up my hedgehog of course – he had be confiscated at the last hub day before heading to Rabat because he could have a communicable disease or something like that plus the Peace Corps manual says to can’t have a pet until AFTER your sworn in. So lucky for me my host family was in Fez the night I needed to have somewhere for my hedgehog Ras to go. My host dad picked him up and took him home to care for him while I was in Rabat until I could come back to Fez and pick him up a few days later.
So instead of travelling as a group on the train with the rest of my region mates – I travelled solo and then switched trains in Fez so I would have enough of a layover to get Ras and then get back on the train.
So I met my host dad at the train station and it was emotional for me to see him again knowing that I wasn’t going to see him or my host family in Ras Lma for the next couple of months.
I went to find my train after picking up some snacks and the first English language paper I had seen since I came to Morocco. It was pricey – the paper that is but well worth it for the small comfort.
But let me backup and tell you about some of the wonderful people I met on my journey to my final site!!
At the start of my journey I met a great older lady while waiting for my train in the Rabat station – she studied English long ago as a young woman. She and I muttled through a conversation in a mix of Darija, English and French. Yes although I don’t speak French nor have I ever made any effort to study it – it has strong latin roots which allow me to compare word to the Spanish words I know and get the idea of what the person is saying. She kindly pointed out when our train arrived and thought I too was travelling in First Class but I said no.. I am in Second Class and boarded the train after saying goodbye.
Once I got to Fez and picked up Ras I then went looking for my train and was basically adopted by this married Moroccan man and his wife with two small boys one appeared about a year old and the other around 2 ½ – 3 years old.
I ended up asking him if the train was the right train and if it wasn’t if he could help me find the right train. He said yes this is the right train and do you understand French? (Which most Moroccans will ask you – once they figure out your not Moroccan in my case) I said no I speak English. I am from America. He asked what I was doing in Morocco and I said I am a Peace Corps volunteer and I am here to work in the Dar Chabab. In the end he said come with me and helped me put my luggage on the train and sat me across from his wife and small kids.
This man was so nishan (straight), which in Darija means – honest and upstanding. He wouldn’t sit across from me- after taking the time to introduce me to his wife. His adab and his wife’s was so amazing. He also wouln’t look at me the whole 2 hour train ride. This man’s wife while juggling two toddlers offered water and snacks. I felt the least I could do was help look after the older boy – he was a handful although he spend most of the time with his dad between the rail cars running around and being held up to look out the window.
This amazing couple lives in Guercif and I told them before I got off the train to be sure to meet the new volunteer that would be arriving there soon.
I made sure to add the people who help me along my way and my time in Morocco to my dua’s for surely these people could use an extra one headed their way if nothing else because they have done a good deed with no thought of themselves.
I finally arrived in Taza’s train station and met D. who is an environment volunteer who lives 20 minutes outside of Taza in the mountains- helped me lug my luggage up the hills, gave me a tour of Taza, let me spend one night at the house of the couple who are volunteers who do live in Taza and then head over the next day to meet my new host family in Taza.
Taza is full of wonderful things that make the living in Morocco that much easier – starting with a regional hospital should one need to use it, a public bus system which runs regularly except when there are protests, taxis, two small supermarkets, a daily souq, so many cafes you can throw a stone and hit one – with your eyes closed-, banks, hanuts, pharmacies etc.
Taza is also semi surrounded by a large national park – which is beautiful and makes for an amazing view when you go up the hill to the Old City.
Yes Taza has an old walled city – as Taza was once the capital of Morocco and is highly strategically located at the base of the Atlas Mountains – it is said that who controls Taza controls all of Northern Morocco – and this was true historically speaking.
Taza also is home to the Museum of the Resistance. A museum, which documents the Moroccan resistance to the French. I think one of the coolest parts of the museum is the wall that has pictures of the local resistance fighters.
The museum also has a gallery of portraits of the different King’s of Morocco with biographies in French and Arabic. Unfortunately nothing was in English at the museum. So I had to muddle through with what I could understand in French, which wasn’t much.
My work will be centered hopefully around the Dar Chabab located in the center of Taza that area is called – called you guessed it – Centerville!
I hope to be able to help the youth bring the programming and services they want to the Dar Chabab as so far the biggest thing happening is band practice, ping pong, English and Yoga classes taught by another PCV.
I have been keeping my eyes peeled for areas for improvement in the Dar Chabab and I have been quietly writing proposals for the different projects I see that the youth could use.
However just because I think they would be helpful doesn’t mean it is what the youth want so I am watching and waiting for the youth to tell me what they want.
In the mean time, I am suppose to spend my first three months in site “relationship building,” – which means I spend a lot of time meeting and talking to people and listening.
I feel generally useless in all honesty meeting people but its what Peace Corps told me to do.
There is a huge cultural difference between Moroccan and American’s when it comes to the work environment and getting things done. American’s value people based on what they are able to accomplish. Moroccan’s value people based on their individual relationship network.
It is a huge prospective shift to try and view things in a Moroccan way. It also means it takes twice or three times as long to get things done here than it does in America.
It’s also difficult when the mudir of the Dar Chabab doesn’t understand the role of the Peace Corps volunteer and based off my language competency views me as unintelligent. This is difficult to swallow, have my ego hurt and not respond when I really really want to say something smart assed along the lines of – Hey! My Darija might suck but so does your English!
Its also difficult when none of the Moroccan’s have such a Lost in Translation experience of coming somewhere and being expected to function at 100% only having 3 months of language learning under your belt, living in an entirely foreign environment & culture.
So I am working on having patience with myself, Moroccan’s and Morocco right now – Insha’Allah it works out.