Thursday, September 15, 2011

One year!!!

So, I have not been the most diligent blogger for the last few months, and for that I apologize. You all deserve a real update, and sadly, I don't have the energy right now, so please enjoy this anecdote from yesterday until I find the time to give you all a real update.

Yesterday, on the road
8-year-old boy: Bonjour, Meetra!
Me (in Arabic): Good morning! How are you?
Boy: Comment t'appel?
Me (in Arabic): Why would you ask me that? You just said my name earlier.
Boy (in Arabic): I thought you said last year that you didn't understand French?
Me: Je suis tres intelligent. (This is like one of only five things I can say in French, and it seemed more fitting than the phrases "I'm an American," "What time is it?" "Where is the train station?" and "I don't understand French.")
Boy (in Arabic): I don't know what that means.

And, on that note, happy one year in Morocco to all my staj mates! At times it feels like it went really fast, but then there are also moments where it feels like I've been here forever. May the next year be even awesomer and inchallah more productive!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I have been trained for the last time.....

.....until next fall, when I have to be trained on returning to America.

Anyway, my last training related to Morocco was last week, which is sad to say. I could tell you how I learned all these new and exciting things to do at my dar chebab, or how I learned that there are inflatable planetariums out there, but you all don't want to hear about that. (Actually, you probs want to hear about the inflatable planetarium. It's like one of those bounce house things except it's a planetarium. Apparently there's going to be a space camp in Bouznika this summer and some PCVs get to work there, and there are going to be Moroccan kids who went to space camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and it basically sounds like the coolest thing ever. I really want to go, but I don't have any kids from my site who I think would be interested in it, so instead I'm just going to regular old English immersion camp, which still sounds pretty freaking awesome. I mean, two weeks at the beach with a bunch of my friends and some teenagers, and I get to speak English the whole time. Thank you, taxpayers, for allowing me to live my fabulous life. Well, mostly fabulous. I've killed 8 cockroaches in the last 3 days. But still.)

But as I was saying, what you really want to hear about is how I fared during beach games, right? Well, unfortunately, the answer is not well. The Trilobytes, in spite of being highly diverse and geographically dispersed (is that what it was? I'm already forgetting) did not do so well in beach dodgeball. In our defense, I still believe the game was rigged. But we fought the good fight, and in the end, we were not the most losing team. I didn't actually take any pics, so I'm stealing this one from Margo who hopefully won't sue me:

Then, we progressed to the watermelon eating contest. The challenge: to eat 2 kilos of watermelon faster than the other competitors. These pics are stolen from the wonderful Jo Troyer, who hopefully also won't sue me:

Me with my 2 kilos of watermelon

I was ahead until the final minute. I don't know if any of you have ever eaten 2 kilos of watermelon in 7 minutes, but at some point, you start burping. A lot. And it's really difficult to eat while burping. Also, I got confused once I got close to the rind. Like, how close is close enough? Because I honestly leave a lot of pink stuff on there when I'm eating watermelon by myself, but I know my sister (and goats) will eat the rind. So yeah, I lost that one, too. Though if I have to lose, I'm glad I lost to Lacie.

So yeah, I'm all trained (in theory). Scary to think, as I feel like there's a lot I'm still learning. But inshallah, I'll figure it all out in due time. But for now, I've got to go finish cleaning my house for my mother's much anticipated visit! And when I say much anticipated, I don't just mean by me. My neighbor/Moroccan mother is super excited to meet my "American mother," as she once called her. I like to think that Shahla is my mother on all continents, but who am I to argue with someone who makes me bread and brings me apricots and lets me watch her TV like everyday because I'm too mskina to buy my own? Htta next time, friends.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Special Olympics and Future Plans

As much as I like the Gaf, sometimes one needs to get out of one's site in order for one to retain one's sanity. Particularly when it has been raining inside one's house for nearly a week and one has no Internet and one occasionally loses electricity and thus has nothing to do in one's house, and then one can't stop talking about one's self in the third person....

Anyway, so last week, I got to hang with 23 other awesome volunteers at the Special Olympics in Tangiers. Here's a pic of all of us prepping before the event started (ignore my hat hair):

My job for the day: timing kids running. As some of you may remember, I actually used to run track back in seventh grade. So I was interested to see how these kids' times compared to mine. While some of them were about my speed, the vast majority of them were so, so much faster. It was kinda unbelievable. I don't really know what's considered a good time for running 50 meters, but several of them were around 8 seconds, which seems pretty good to me. Unfortunately, I didn't get a whole lot of pics of kids running, but here's a pic of kids showing off their athletic skillz at the awards ceremony:

So yeah, the Special Olympics was awesome, and it was just super cool to see that there are opportunities for kids with special needs in at least some parts of Morocco. (We've only got a few special needs kids in the Gaf, but there's no special programs or anything for them, and most of them don't really ever leave the house.)  I'm already looking forward to possibly being able to go to the national games next year in Ifrane.

So I'm back in Algeria at the moment, but thankfully, not for too long. Next week, I'm off to In-Service Training (at the beach!). The week after that, my mom's coming to Morocco, which I'm pretty excited about. In the meantime, the Peace Corps is doing some crazy restructuring/re-organization thing, so we'll see what's going on with that. Internet's still not back, so who knows when the next update will be. Htta next time.....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Look at that, I’m actually saying something good about Ohio

It’s not often I extol the virtues of my home state. (Except when I talk about how Ohio is a microcosm for America, but no one ever seems to believe that, so I’ve stopped talking about that….also, not sure that’s necessarily a positive. I mean, I think it’s pretty cool, but usually when I bring it up, people say something like, “Who uses the word microcosm in ordinary conversation?”) Anyhow, if there’s one good thing about growing up in Ohio, it’s that it taught me to deal with rain. Back in the ‘Nati, it rained all the time. You just kind of learned to hike up your pants, grab an umbrella, and deal with possibly having wet pants for the rest of the day. People in the Gaf don’t really roll like that. They’re more like, “Oh, it’s raining. Let’s all stay inside and not have school or work or anything until the rain starts.” (This makes more sense if you know that there are a lot of farmers here, so they can’t really work in the rain….)

I’ve been waiting for nearly 3 weeks for Maroc Telecom to come fix my Internet, and Wednesday was supposed to be the day. I was walking around all day Tuesday in a haze of excitement.  When I woke up at 2 AM Wednesday morning, I knew something was wrong and that after weeks of waiting, something was yet again to come between me and my beloved Internet. Seconds later, I heard the first clap of thunder. I resisted the urge to do something over-dramatic like call everyone I know to complain about the Internet or try to make a Grilled Cheesus to pray to. I just grabbed my sleeping bag, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

This is only the second time it’s seriously rained since I’ve been here (I know, right? Twice in six months?), so I was expecting that other than the massive disappointment that was my Internet not getting fixed, the day would otherwise be normal. I soon realized that would not be the case. I left my house at 9:30 for work as per the usual, and I had barely made it to the road before the tobis (15 passenger van that takes people between my town and the next town over) pulled over.

Tobis driver: What are you doing?!?
Me: Going to the youth center.
Tobis driver: What? Why?
Me: I do theater with the girls at 10:00 on Wednesdays.
Tobis driver: But it’s raining.
Me: Yes, it is raining a lot.
Tobis driver: Looks at me like I’m the dumbest person he’s ever met. But it’s raining.

After some awkward, confused silence, I hopped in. When I got there, the youth center was closed. No big. I sat down with my umbrella in the pouring rain and pulled out a book, preparing myself for a short wait until my mudir showed up. It took all of 5 seconds before an excited neighbor dragged me out of the rain.

Really sweet woman who I’ve never met before and whose name I’ve forgotten: Don’t sit in the rain! You’ll get sick and die!
Me: But I’m waiting for the girls to come so we can do theater.
RSWWINMBAWNIF: What?!? They won’t come. It’s raining!
Me: But it’s Wednesday.
RSWWINMBAWNIF: Come inside and drink tea!
Me: But then I won’t be able to see if they come or not, and they’ll think I’m not here because they don’t see me, so they’ll go back to the college and we won’t get to rehearse. (PS – Yeah, I know the word for rehearse in Arabic. I just learned that one last week.)
RSWWINMBAWNIF: Well, you come here and drink tea, and I’ll look at the window and tell you when the girls show up.

I couldn’t exactly turn down a deal like that, so I went into the house, had Breakfast – Round 2, and watched Pearl Harbor. Eventually the girls showed up and had their minds blown when they realized I had actually come even though it was raining. They ran off to get my mudir to open the door, and he was also shocked I had come to work in the rain. I tried to explain that where I come from in America, it rains a lot, so this is not a problem. They all kept looking at me like I was crazy, and then my mudir explained that there’s no school when it’s raining, so he just assumed I wouldn’t come into work, either. I had to LOL at the whole concept of canceling school for rain (if this had happened in Ohio, we would have gone to school like three days a week), but I guess to each his own.

Anyhow, after a couple of hours of hanging out with the girls/not really rehearsing anyway, I was ready to go back home. Everyone was all like, “You’re going home? But it’s raining. You should just stay here. You can stay at my house!” Again, I tried to explain that the rain is not a problem, but my mudir insisted that I wait for him to get his car and drive me home. I live 3 kilometers away and I’m lazy as hell, so this sounded pretty good to me. He drove me to the spot on the road closest to my road (my house is in a field). I “God bless your parents”-ed him and promptly stepped out of the car and into what turned out to be a 2 foot deep puddle of mud. All I could think was, “OMG, I just told them that rain isn’t a problem and that I could totally handle this, and then it takes me all of 2 seconds to get covered in mud.” But God must’ve felt guilty for screwing up my Internet because I got lucky and my mudir and his friend didn’t see me walk into the huge mud puddle. So I dragged myself home, caked in mud, and used the last of the water I had saved up to wash my leg. (Ironically, during all this rain, I haven’t had water at my house at all. Thankfully my neighbors left like 50 liters of water in our shared courtyard, so I haven’t died of dehydration yet.)

But yeah, since then, I’ve been trying not to leave my house lest I should step in another mud puddle and/or have Moroccans ask me why I’m outside in the rain. The rain continues, though it’s calmed down considerably. I’ve been pretty bored, as I’ve been entirely alone in my house for 2 days without Internet or TV or anything other than the trashy romance novels my sister bequeathed to me to keep me busy. Things I’ve done to fill my free time:
-Wrote this uber long blog post about a really unremarkable day
-Wrote a song about how sometimes chwiya is better than bzzaf. (When the Internet comes back, this song is totes going on YouTube, so tell your friends.)
-Whacked a kid in the face with my umbrella (purposely, but he had it coming).
-Tried to put up my mosquito net, failed, then tried again 10 hours later.
-Finally had Nutella crepes for breakfast!

But yeah, life without Internet or work is pretty rough. At least I have cheese and Nutella to help me get through this difficult time.

(In case anyone's wondering how I posted this when I claim not to have Internet - I had to travel 30 kilometers for this Internet. Still no news on when they're planning to fix the phone lines near my house.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Camp!

Last week I got to leave my little town in Algeria (basically) and go to camp in Taza with some of the coolest Moroccan teens I've ever met. And I promise, I'm not just saying that because we're all Facebook friends and they're probs going to read my blog. These kids were legit cool, like so cool that I was hoping that at some point the girls could take me shopping and give me a makeover and lessons on how to be cool a la how JFK transformed Ghandi from a nerd to a stud in the makeover episode of Clone High. 

Anyway, my main responsibilities at camp were teaching English and then running a club activity. And performing the "Go Bananas" song like 10x a day because the kids in my class really liked it and kept asking me to do it again for them. I taught an intermediate English class, and it weird. In all the classes I've taught in the Gaf, I've never had students who understood enough English that I could get by only speaking in English. It was nice to have a break from having to clumsily and awkwardly explain things in Arabic, only to have the kids stare back at you and tell you that the thing you just said wasn't actually a sentence and they have no idea what you want from them. These camp kids knew what was up, which totally made playing games with them 1000x easier. (I don't know if you've ever tried to explain Simon Says in Arabic, but it didn't go over so well when I did it. Even when I explained it to my class at camp, I had one kid who was confused about who Simon was and why I was being Simon when I had just said that my name was Meetra.) It was basically a week of Pictionary, Hangman, Never Have I Ever, and rocking out to Lady Gaga (which actually put two students to sleep....) And some grammatical review, just to round things out. I didn't manage to get a pic of all the kids in my class, but here's some of them:

Camp was simultaneously a nice break and a really exhausting experience that I now need another break to recover from. As nice as it was being able to speak English for a week and catch up on the latest celeb gossip from the girls in my class (and hang out with 3 other awesome Americans), by the end of the week I missed my kids in the Gaf. So, now it's back to work as I scramble to see if my kids can get this Earth Day play ready in time for next week. The camp kids gave me a cold, which is why I'm currently hopped up on Cepacol throat lozenges and orange soda, which my local hanut guy insists has the same healing power as orange juice. I've been downing this soda all day and I don't feel any better, so I'm somewhat skeptical.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I watch too much TV

As some of you may know, Boy Meets World is my second favorite show of all time. Even with my absurdly slow dial-up, I've been trying to download all the episodes so I can sit alone in my house and laugh hysterically. Problem is, while BMW is still the most hilarious thing ever, the older I am, the lamer they seem. (Not you, Rider Strong, if you're reading this. You're still awesome.) I mean, who goes to college and is roommates with their BFFL from HS and still dates the same girl and insists his BFFL has to stay with his gf because everything has to be the same? In my youth, I was all like, "Yeah, Cory, keep everything the same because Season 5 was awesome and everything should always be like that." But now, I'm just like, "Cory, you need to go out there and find yourself and let your friends find themselves. I mean, you have a poster of celery in your room. You've got no personality. What's the deal with that? Also, let's be real, Shawn's too cool to be hanging out with you anyway."

I like to think that we're constantly evolving as people and becoming better and better versions of ourselves. Or at least more genuine versions of ourselves, if not actually better. Ever since I started on this BMW kick a few weeks ago, I find it hard to watch any TV because characters never seem to evolve and are always in the same job, the same relationship, still afraid of commitment, basically still stuck in the exact same sitcom tropes. Is that really how life is? Does it take us 7 seasons of living before we can get up the nerves to make a major life change? And have I changed or evolved in the last 7 years, or am I just as bad as Cory and Topanga?

To quote Boy Meets World, "There's always gonna be an Eskimo standing in my way.....I'm my own worst Eskimo." (PS - If you haven't seen it, this is probs one of my top 5 fav episodes.) As I sit here, I'm just hoping that I'm not being my own worst Eskimo and holding myself back in any way. Here, it's really easy to just let opportunities for work pass me by and sit in my house and be on my absurdly slow Internet all day. My site is pretty small, and I have relatively few counterparts to work with, so even getting simple things to happen can be a struggle. (See: My sitemate and my Earth Day project, which we've been working on for 3 months and is still possibly not gonna happen.) Most days I can handle it, but there are definitely times where I find myself getting really irritated with how hard everything is here. But I like to set monthly goals for myself, so here's my goal for April: Embrace the struggle, don't get frustrated when everything falls apart, and when all else fails, watch more Boy Meets World because that show is freaking awesome even if the characters don't ever evolve. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Six months!

Six months ago today, I landed in Casablanca, along with sixty-seven (?) other trainees, all tired and confused and still not really sure what the hell youth development is. Six months seems like an appropriate time for reflection, so here goes.

Things I've learned in the last six months:
-If you smile and nod a lot, people will like you. They'll think you're an idiot, but they'll still like you.
-If you can't tell what're you eating, don't ask.
-It really is possible to have stuff coming out of you at both ends at the same time. 
-Even when there's nothing in your stomach, it's still possible to have diarrhea.
-Anyone under the age of 7 doesn't care that you don't speak their language. In fact, one of my best relationships in this country was with a 4-year-old who, for almost a month, didn't seem to notice that I don't speak Arabic.
-People here are insanely generous. Seriously. Like I can't sit down next to someone on a train without them offering me half a sandwich or walk by someone's house around kaskrut time without being offered some tea or bread. Also, ever since they found out I don't have an oven, my neighbors got together and worked out amongst themselves a schedule for who is supposed to bring me bread on a given day. 
-Winnie the Pooh lied. Donkeys are not adorable. They are awful and loud, and they get way too close to my house and then won't shut up.
-Apparently you can bargain with the electric company about your electric bill. (Still not sure I actually believe this one, but my neighbor swears it's true.)
-Everything really does happen little by little.

I've been having some Internet troubles, so I guess that's the end of my reflections. Later days!