Larache, my home away from home!

Larache was my home for two years. Geographically, it is a coastal city of about 300,000 people about an hour and a half south of Tangier in Morocco. It is in between rolling hills, where the city itself is mainly set upon a large hill.
 A lookout point in the Old City

There are several daily markets but the serious business comes with the market on Sunday that is large enough to give Picadilly a run for its money. The market on Sunday is in an area of town that is called: Market Sunday, so you are sure to find it.

Historically, the city was colonized by Spain so the culture, language and architecture of the city, especially at its center, is almost purely Spanish. Coming into the center of the city… the plaza, rightly named Plaza Espana, is a place for large gatherings like parades, the Africa Cup Triathalon that takes place every May and many, many other celebrations.

 gathering of a parade
 
aren’t the buildings beautiful?
 entrance to the old city
Many cities in Morocco can boast of an old city (medina qdima) the most famous being of course, Fes, Marrakesh and Chefchaouen. But many smaller cities have claim to them as well, one of them being Larache. The old city in Larache is smaller but still has a Spanish flair, if a traveler knows what they are looking for they can find remains of an old Synagogue as well as an old church. 

 

 

 view of the city and old city from the lower part of Larache
The main plaza in the old city, not all of the old cities have one of these.
Larache was my home for two years. To say that in the past tense is a little surreal, but having lived there I can speak to the fact that the people of Larache are its most prized possession. Our friends that we have come to known will forever be in our hearts. The students we taught at the Youth Center and its director were the center of our world for the past two years. As we learned their language and they learned ours, there were moments of all kinds: frustrating, happy, momentous, and crazy. Having difficulty in the most basic of conversations has been our ‘normal’ for the past two years, it will be interesting being able to communicate effectively everyday, all day!
 some of our students with their certificates
our amazing Youth Center director who made our service the best that it possible could be!
 students from a Summer Camp
 students from a Spring Camp
 a musical group that we saw perform several times throughout our two years
Leaving the beautiful city of Larache on Sunday was very emotional, as we don’t know when we are able to return. Our friends left us with many gifts, memories and of course delicious tea and cookies. We are trying to process our return to the States and in that frame of mind, I wanted to give you another small tour of our city. It is not a top tourist destination but it has plenty to see and do, the most unique aspect about the city is its’ feel. The culture, history and the people give it a tangible feel that is different from any in all of Morocco.
Linking up today with:
 A Compass Rose : Travel Tuesday
Let’s be Friends: Southern Beauty Guide
an amazing sunset picture from our roof… We will always have Larache in our hearts

Lost in the last Wednesday

So here it is my friends… 7 1/2 days out until we fly home! It is incredible to think about all of the things I won’t have to miss in such a short time… it is hard to sit idly here at night knowing all that we have to do and all that is to come. This morning I attended my last women’s aerobic class. That class saved my life. From my first week, it has provided my an important outlet and lesson for myself. That being physically active not only relieves stress but it helps me escape it, during a run, yoga or workout class… I can pause mentally from whatever is plaguing me. Especially here in Morocco, that was vital to my sanity. It wasn’t only the classes, it was the 20 minute bike ride to the Sport’s Center and the 20 minute bike ride back. I will admit, I have gotten tired of the ride the past couple of months and opted to lazily hop in a taxi but today… it was a nice ride down memory lane.

From the Sport’s Center, I make a right where I bike up a pretty terrible but short hill. I take a left and see the apartment building where I would see someone’s horse stand in front of the door as if he were Mr. Ed and just rang the doorbell to chat with a friend. 

I continue down the street where there are plenty of stray animals wandering about looking for food and notice the place where I fell . I make a right into the round about and see the supermarket that often served as a sanctuary for my ‘store fix’ as it has lots of canned goods, hygienic items,  packaged spices, noodles etc. etc. stuff that is commonplace at a supermarket in the US. I merge onto the main road and pass a delicious restaurant that could be the place where the Hubs and I eat our last meal.

On the main road there are too many memories too count. At the beginning of our time in Larache while living with a host family who lived in this part of town, we spent quite a bit of time walking up and down this street. Without bikes and not wanting to spend the money on taxis we would walk the hour and a half one-way to the Youth Center and back… sometimes twice a day. 

I pass the Anapec (an employment organization) where we went once to try to organize an employment workshop series for a women’s association. 

I pass one of the high schools and smell something being deliciously fried,  this has been the scene of many boys yelling at me but also where we attended an English Class party for a couple of our Youth Center students. 

I continue to go straight around my favorite roundabouts in Larache, called Cuatro Camino (4 roads), it is a breathtaking fountain 

Where I see a man that lives on the corner and seems like he is constantly giving a speech to a large group of people…

I race down the street and let myself let go a little bit as I glide down the hill to the post office, which holds memories of frustration, joy and lessons of patience

I glide around the big roundabout that boasts itself to be the center of town… I take a glance at the ocean

  
before I take a right onto my tiny little street…..

 I have done this ride almost three times a week for a year and a half now. Each time has been different in some way… whether it be my bike tire a little flat, lots of traffic, my body having more/less energy. But both the class and the ride give me a sensation of empowerment. They reassure me that this is the place I am supposed to be at this time… it wipes away a lot of the frustration and gives me a “you can do this, no matter what” feeling. As I ride up to my door, I let myself get lost in the revery of my very last Wednesday in Larache.

I feel the earth movin’ under my feet

NEW NEWS: I have been listening to Carole King lately, I have to say that I am likin’ it!

Old NEWS (but still exciting): We are coming home soon!!!

Crazy News: WE ARE COMING HOME SOON!

I thought processing to leave America for Morocco was going to hard, but trying to process going back has seemed insurmountable lately. Which is why I haven’t updated on our impending leave. Being in Peace Corps sometimes feels like a ‘forever thing’. Realistically, you know it isn’t but sometimes two years seems like SUCH* a long time, especially if this is something you have wanted to do since you were 18 or had been working on the application for almost three years! It is hard to realize that I have not only checked something off of my bucketlist but that I have achieved a dream. Peace Corps has been a long journey, by far the longest I have done or that Tyler and I have done together- right now we have been married longer in the Peace Corps than we have been out of it, CRAZY! But we never would have made it through without the support of one another but also the amazing support of our friends and family… to think in three short weeks I won’t have to miss Parmesan cheese, Hershey’s chocolate, ranch packets, taco seasoning packets… I will be able to buy tortillas!!! I will forever be thankful to those who sent us such wonderful gifts to keep us from missing things from America too much… we appreciated everything so much! It touched our hearts the kindness and warmth that would come through in the contents of the box!

IMG_0173-001 IMG_1795 IMG_2011-001 IMG_0105 IMG_0169 IMG_0170 IMG_1868 IMG_0123 IMG_0131 IMG_2709 IMG_2710-001 IMG_2115 IMG_2114 DSC09877 IMG_0692 IMG_3506 IMG_1794Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of the love and support you all have provided over the last two years, we are so blessed!!!!

 

 

My day with the two Latifas

or juj Latifat (two Latifas) if you will.

My upcoming program for International Women’s Day has been a bit like a rollar coaster… meeting and planning the budget, grant stuff, emotions, denial etc. etc.

Anyway, last Friday was a high point. The escalation of nervousness and feelings that grows until you are right at the top of a hill on a coaster before you fall… I used to LOVE* that feeling… the ‘EEK’ that would come out, the nervously looking over the side. The ascension is the best part on a physical rollar coaster and in the rollar coaster of life.

I met my counterpart Latifa at the preschool she runs before we went out for the day. She had told me the day before we were going to talk to high schools about getting girls involved with the event. On the way out of the preschool, we met another Latifa who is the president of another women’s association that I have worked with… and out the door I went with the two Latifas. I was surprised that we were walking but I told myself it would be good exercise since the high schools are pretty spread out. We didn’t go far though… next thing I know we are at a local pharmacy telling the pharmacist and another lady about the event. They seemed to be talking about the details so Latifa (we will call her Latifa one) and I went outside to look at the roundabout in front of the pharmacy.

This roundabout has the ability to be breathtaking, unfortunately at its current state it is more than a bit lacking. Garbage bins are overflowing, the ‘fountain’ is broken and filled with trash and the landscaping is non-existent. Latifa (one) started chatting about the things we would do for this wonderful little roundabout on International Women’s Day. Latifa (two) walked out of the Pharmacy and told Latifa (one) and I that she had received two large donations from the pharmacist and the woman, who turned out to be a dermatologist. We took that as  good sign and started walking to the doctors, butches, and stores around the roundabout to ask them for donations for the day. It was a very* successful day and with the bumps that we had had in the last couple of months, it left me feeling like we were still riding to the top of the coaster!

These couple of hours reminded me of how generous and supportive Moroccans can be, most of the donors within seconds were willing to help out in some way. It surprised me that we were able to just walk out with cash-in-hand donations. Those few hours also reminded me of why I wanted to join Peace Corps in the first place, the feeling of working with other people successfully towards a mutual goal was absolutely amazing.

The afternoon continued with Latifa (one) inviting Tyler, my tutor and myself to a cous cous lunch (the typical cuisine on Fridays). It was wonderful… by far the best cous cous I have ever had in Morocco. It was one of those ‘I’m really full but will continue to eat type of meals’.

While we were eating, some of her little preschoolers were returning from their at-home lunches. Usually when I come to the preschool,we are in the confines of her office and I don’t get the opportunity to interact with the little ones. This was a different kind of day and one little boy caught my eye. His name is Reda and the fact that his pants were a little* too short made him more endearing. Most of the little ones were shy in disposition at first, but after we were there for awhile,  the kids were dancing around us trying to get our attention. Within the hustle and bustle, one little boy ended up hitting Reda. Latifa stood up and went to talk to the boy about how wrong his behavior was. The little boy immediately started crying and yelling at Latifa. Because his tears were streaming, his words were a bit muffled for me but my tutor started laughing almost immediately.

Apparently, the little boy, whenever he is upset, he starts yelling that he will buy a sheep and he will eat it all himself and not share it. This time, he yelled it over and over, including little bits about telling his father that Latifa had hit him. The little boy took his experience with his family buying a sheep for l’eid kbir and thought that the most hurtful thing he could say was to not share his sheep. This would be akin to a little boy yelling that he would buy a Christmas turkey or ham and not sharing it with his teacher. In that moment of almost spitting out my cous cous because I was laughing so hard, I was reminded again of why I joined Peace Corps. The moments that you share with people in more than one language that creates wonderful relationships.

The day ended with a wonderful surprise Valentine’s Day dinner of turkey burgers and french fries and delicious homemade chocolate covered strawberries.

And that was my day with the two Latifas.

A post about nothing…

Some days, I wake up absolutely bursting with creativity. These are the days that I write a to-do list, get excited about the day and look forward to everything that can be accomplished. Usually around 2pm, I feel a creativity-crash. Over the last 22 months, this crash has had to do with a lot of things, the realization that some things I just can’t do here in Morocco, that in order to do some things- it requires going outside, and mostly that although I should treasure the days I can read for endless hours… at this point, I have had enough of those kind of days.
At the beginning, I was so excited to keep this blog. I wanted it to be rich with stories about people, culture, and descriptions of places! I wanted it to be an intimate way to record our memories  for family and friends, but mostly for myself. However, as time went on, I didn’t find myself wanting to share the things that happened, mostly I found myself counting the days/months/minutes until we would safely be back on US soil. As we prepare, somewhat, for our return- interviews, job applications, etc… I find myself in a very obscure place. Yes, there will definitely be things that I miss about Morocco. Yes, I am very excited about the idea of going home. But the in between things… those are the things that I am frustrated with- the thought that I may have become a more negative person, really bothers me. The knowing that I have changed, but not being able to identify how… and if it is good or bad. The ambiguity of where my work ethic is and if it will ever be the same? My laziness has taken on a new shape and it cuddles with me 95% of the time. I am not comfortable with how acquainted I have become with my laziness, I would like some space but so far it has not moved an inch. It makes me impatient, frustrated and discouraged, to have such an experience with inactivity. During the phone interviews that I have had this week, I can see a glimpse of the aspects that I love about myself…. direct communication, enthusiasm, prompt response to structure, organization and  positivity. Most of those characteristics, I am sad to say, are aspects I don’t see of myself every day here.

One of the biggest realizations that I have had most recently is the concept that I am not sure how to bring back those characteristics I appreciate in this environment. It is such a short time until we return, but now that I have become conscious of everything, will the day-to-day be tolerable?

I recently have read some posts written by members of the group that arrived in mid-January. Most of them are so excited and practically bursting off of the screen. This is wonderful to see and it does remind me that being able to experience something like Peace Corps is a privilege. The recipes I have made, the knitting I have learned, the books I have read, the shows and movies I have watched, the language I have absorbed, the places I have seen, the people whom I have met, the time that Tyler and I have had together– all of that is irreplaceable and unique and special. I will treasure all of those memories forever and they will keep me in a place far from regret, but does all of that mean as much if a person feels lost during all of it?

Moroccan Livin and Wearin {4}

Friendships were the absolute last thing on my mind when preparing for Peace Corps. I was so worried about what sweater to bring, what change would come and making sure I ate all of my favorite foods to even consider other Peace Corps volunteers.

Let me tell you, it is no small or easy task to be shoved in a new city and THEN* a new country with 100 other Americans. One hundred other strangers. Keeping people’s names, stories, and faces straight is sometimes just as overwhelming as the new country and language itself. This for someone who has considered themselves somewhat of an extrovert. I adore meeting new people and learning about them, building some kind of new connection or bond… usually these kind of interactions are exhilarating. However, in the first ten days in the capital city Rabat did not* give me that feeling. It was a feeling similar to the first day of middle school, hoping that you have the right* clothes, you make the right* friends and most importantly you say the right* things.  I wanted to hide in my hotel room and savor as many hot showers as I could (Lord only knows what the showering situation was available in my training site). That feeling of feeling overwhelmed and nervous when together as a large group of 110, then 100, then 90… now I think we hover somewhere in the 80s, did not fade until we met at our In-Service Training (which takes place at 6 months of service). Only then did I feel comfortable because I had formed beautiful and amazing new friendships. Which, quite unexpectedly, has been a very big highlight* of my service. Other PCVs are a new family, who will provide some* headaches but ultimately are a system of endless support.

This fellow volunteer was in my training group. We went through the thick and thin of it all at the beginning…. the crying, frustration, anger, confusion,language breakthroughs and moments of happiness. We, and others in our CBT (Community Based Training), came out with with an irreplaceable bond. DSC05363My CBT group with our fabulous language teacher. Seems like FOREVER ago!

Of course, we were placed pretty far apart when we received our final sites. She is in a tiny* one-street town right outside of Agadir while we are a few hours north of Rabat. Her site gets blistering hot during the summer. However, she is unable to change her wardrobe to accommodate this heat because of the conservative nature of her town.

 IMG_3160

Scarf: gift
Purse: purchase in Marrakesh
Boots: gift
Button-up tunic: Target
Leggings: Target

IMG_3159 IMG_3158It is important to keep in mind that she is not able to wear this in her site with just leggings, as it would be inappropriate. She saves it for the fabulous times we are able to spend time together and create even more wonderful memories together.

I am so thankful to have her in my life even though we live far apart. She has taught me that I should have been looking forward to the deep, wonderful connections that I would form with some volunteers.

Living and Wearing in Morocco {3}

Ogosh! I haven’t written in sooo long! I will write a better update soon but I wanted to get these fabulous outfit posts up for the new group coming!!! Can you all believe you leave incredibly soon?! Then, before you know it, you will be like my staj who are getting ready to leave in the next 4-5 months! NUTS!

You all are probably done shopping for things but I am going to do a post everyday this week so you have a better idea of everything!!!

Today our fabulous volunteer has an incredible style that is part grunge, part cute and part chic. She is the site mate of my first featured volunteer. She lives a little bit south of Casablanca and has a pretty large site! She wears her boots all of the time… she said they were a bit on the expensive side but they have lasted through EVERYTHING Morocco has thrown at her and they are still in FANTASTIC shape!!!!

IMG_3151

Boots: Doc Martens- $100
Dress: Target- $30
Cardigan: H&M- $10
Scarf: J.Jill -gift

This dress is one of the fun* items that my friend suggests you bring. This volunteer said that she wears the dress in site over jeans and then in Rabat with leggings! Her advice to  everyone is the same, don’t forget your cute outfits AND* bring a good pair of boot. Take care of those feet!

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Spend as much time you can with your loved ones!!! Remember that you are about to go on an adventure of a lifetime…. and you can look fabulous while doing it!

Also don’t forget to check out another volunteer’s post on clothes if you haven’t yet!