When chatting with family members and others… the questions often surround: “so what do you do everyday?”, “what have you been up to lately?”, or “have you started working yet?”. So I wanted to write a post addressing some of these questions. It is difficult to answer some of these, as Tyler and I have even had to adjust our own opinions of what work, productivity and accomplishments are over the past couple of months. So first, I will explain what we have done in the past couple of months and then explain the day to day.
Pre-service Training (PST):
Our pre-service training took place from March 27th through May 19th. In this time, we stayed with a host family in the city of Ifrane, Morocco (which I have commented on before). During this time, our days were filled with going to our LCF’s (Language and Culture Facilitator) house everyday from 8:30-12:30 then 2:30-5:30. During that time we would study Arabic, talk about Moroccan/American culture and sometimes plan events for the Sports Center/Dar Chabab in Ifrane. During PST, we participated in a two-week Spring camp in addition to planning a trash pick-up for a local elementary school and then helping out with Olympics and Talent Show events at the Sports Center. The rest of our time was spent with our host family, who enjoyed our spending a lot of time with them. Which, in retrospect, helped us greatly to understand Moroccan culture in many different ways.
As of May 23rd, Tyler and I were officially sworn in as volunteers! Which literally translates to being in our own site and having a much less structured schedule. As you may know from our housing posts, we lived with a new host family from the time that we arrived in our site on May 24th until June 15th. Today has been EXACTLY a month in our new apartment! I would definitely say that I am proud of our accomplishments over the past month!
The adjustment required to the slower pace in Morocco has been my most difficult obstacle thus far. I absolutely adore being busy, having wonderful color coded schedules that I make for myself, sometimes even scheduling in naps and tv time. Being in Morocco, at least during the summer, the time has been unstructured and seemingly unoccupied. That being said, my frustration has lessened with my own mental adjustment of “using my time productively”. Rather than seeing time as productive in running errands, checking things of list of “things to do”, going to work etc., it has been easier to see productivity in smaller tasks such as: mopping the floor, getting an email sent, baking a cake, or studying Arabic for an hour. Simply explained, doing the day-to-day chores became much more difficult once we were living on our own. I can no longer make my regular stops at Trader Joes or Target to “pick a few things up” after work or go to Aldi to do our major grocery shopping every two weeks. Also, cooking/baking anything takes a bit more time than it used to… due to having to making fresh tortillas (if we want them), cutting up garlic with a knife, finding the right ingredients and absolutely nothing being processed or packaged in any form. Tyler and I have adjusted our day to having a big lunch (which usually takes between 2-3 hours to make) and then having a smaller leftover dinner or snack.
Along the “have you started work yet?” line, the initial answer would be “why, YES! we have!”. However, our “work” is not in the conventional sense. We don’t go to an office or “go to work” everyday from nine to five. 1) Morocco is just not structured in that way as people might often head to work around 9, but return home for lunch around 1 or 2 and then head back to the office/place of work around 5 or 6, ending the work day at 8/9/10 for dinner. Also 2) a lot of our work in the next couple of years will lie with meeting the Peace Corps’ goals (from Peace Corps Website):
The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:
- 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 peoples on the part of Americans.
The first goal has been met by our “working” in the Dar Chabab (Youth House) in the traditional sense. Every week, since arriving in Larache, we have been teaching English on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 6:30-8pm. We have also participated in and planned some activities on Sunday mornings for the youth.
The second goal, however, is a bit more abstract. These goals are met by being successful in “integrating” into our community by meeting and getting to know people, having conversations and hopefully working with people in the future to plan programs. First, our assignment is to meet and get to know people. During our first month, Tyler and I have noticed a small barrier in meeting this goal, our limited knowledge of the Arabic language. I have met another obstacle in the name of gender differences (but that is for another post). Also, culture has been somewhat of a barrier. I would generalize and say that Americans like to get things done, we are all about the process with logistics and checking things off. Well, in the Moroccan culture it is more about “who you know” and the relationships that you have with others are the most important aspects. The emphasis is on spending time with others, getting to know them and working with them based on whether they are a “good” person, rather than what their specific skills are.
The third goal is also abstract. Our first effort to meet this goal is creating this blog and sharing our experiences in Morocco with our readers. We plan to continue this goal in a couple of other ways. First, Tyler is planning to post on another page of this blog his own insights in terms of public policy in Morocco. He is still working on these logistics but hopefully he will share this with you sometime soon. Another effort on our part will, hopefully, be our participation in World Wise Schools, which we are still doing a bit more research about … so we will let you know when we have some more information about that, too!
To wrap up, we are indeed “working” in many senses of the word. We are teaching English classes three times a week, we meet with a tutor and walk around to meet people, we research lesson planning for our classes and Tyler is a representative on the Volunteer Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps. But our work also extends beyond that, when we are walking in the street and stop to chat with someone, buying groceries from the market, or patronizing the same hanut (store) to purchase all of our kitchen supplies, in order to develop a relationship with them. Our work includes connecting with and getting to know the people who live on our street, in our city and in the Country of Morocco.
I apologize for such a long post but I wanted to make sure I answered the questions thoroughly!!
More later on gender differences and my opportunity to work at an Orphanage Camp in the city of Dar Bouazza in August!