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.

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.

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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!!!!

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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!

Moroccan Livin’ and Wearin’ – {1}

As a Peace Corps volunteer coming to Morocco, there is so much to think about! And it is so difficult because it is hard to find any information about what to expect. Yeah, you can read blogs and do research on the internet but the experiences vary so* much that it is hard to get a grasp on what might be to come! I remember feeling so overwhelmed especially with clothing choices. I knew that I didn’t have to wear a Hijab… but* what could I wear? Before I left, I finally felt like I was getting into my groove with professional dress and of course, like the Emperor, I wanted to threaten anyone who was going to throw that off.Thinking about dressing drably for two years was a terrible thought to me… I know, I know… how you dress does not reflect the person that you are etc. etc. but* it does sometimes have an effect on how you feel* about yourself. And in the turmoil of being thrown into another country, another language, another culture- feeling weird about what you are wearing is really not something that you need to worry about!!!!

It also depends on the site you are in, my site which is about 200,000 people, the women dress fabulously ALL* the time! I wish I could take pictures of their outfits, they truly are amazing! In smaller sites, I am not sure if this is the case but Moroccan women are very stylish as a whole, so sometimes this can leave volunteers feeling a little mesqina (poor).

I will be debuting one volunteer per week. These volunteers are very* into their own groove and wear appropriate but fabulous clothing!

This volunteer is in a larger site close to Casablanca. Her site has about 100,000+ people. Keep in mind this might not be something she wears everyday but it is* something she could wear everyday if she wanted! She is a particularly fabulous volunteer with her style staying chic but very much on the edge of funky/cool!!!

 Dress: Thrifted from Goodwill
Boots: Old from Target
Belt: Old from Buffalo Exchange
 
 
 

Isn’t she fabulous? Love it! One of the best things that you can do is shop at Goodwill… there is no need to spend a lot of money on your clothes before you come! Next week, I will show you some fabulous volunteers that keep up their style with secondhand souk shopping here in Morocco! So, know whatever you don’t want to bring or can’t find at home… you will have opportunities to find things here in Morocco!!!!

Here is another example of how to turn a fabulous Maxi dress into a Morocco-appropriate outfit!
MoroccanoutfitCollagePS. I bought the jean jacket I am wearing at the secondhand souk here for about 15 dirhams, which is a little under $2.00.

Lookin’ fine as can be….

So… things have been going really really well this week! Crazy* well, I feel so incredibly blessed… but I will share more about that later.

This morning because of said fabulous opportunities… I was unable to go to my regular work-out class. A blessing in disguise, really, because it is a rain-ful day. Some say hamdullah (Thanks be to God), I just blegh and want to stay inside with my teddy bears disguised as cats and eat a lot of soup!

Anywhoo, my yoga class on Fridays was changed to 11:30 in the morning because my illiteracy class started up again so I put on my lovely orange rain coat and ventured into the wetness. Since, I missed my morning workout, I decided to put a few miles in on the lovely* treadmill (I try not to abuse this amazing privilege). Obviously, I am beautiful at this point- hair soaked with sweat and not-to-mention I put my shirt on backwards… whoops! Essentially, I was lookin a-hot mess….IMG_0214

More or less… exactly* like this… only without my tennis shoes. Hot huh?

Well, I will tell you… I got not one, but three* cat calls…

First: Hola, Guapa

Second: Oh my God!

Third: ahhhhhh, guapita!

(guapa and guapita mean beautiful in Spanish)

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen… here I thought I was lookin’ a hot mess and I am as fiiiinnnneeee as can be! Who knew?

It makes me wonder what they* think is ugly? A question to ponder, I suppose!

English Class… Bump, pump, pimp?

I am sure every Peace Corps volunteer has had their fair share of awkward/frustrating moments when attempting to refute or explain something that their student has seen on an American tv show or movie.

The other night… Tyler had a particularly interesting moment with his Level 4 or Communications class. In the class, they were reviewing phrasal verbs (i.e. take out, make up etc. etc.)

Setting: At the Dar Chabab with 12-13 students with fairly fluent English.Student 1: What is bump up?

Tyler explains that it is essentially to go up to the next level or on Facebook, a post can be “bumped up to the top”

Students all at once: Wait, is it with a ‘b’ or a ‘p’

Tyler writes “bump” with a ‘b’ on the white board.

Student 2: O! That sounds like the word that is for the thing to fill a bicycle tire

Tyler: right, pump, with a ‘p’

Student 3: ooo! That sounds like pimp!

Tyler: uhhhhh, yeah but that’s not a great word

Student 3: No, it just means make better, like “Pimp my Ride”

Tyler: yeahhhh but do you know what a prostitute is?

Some shocked faces because Tyler said the word ‘prostitute’ and quick explanations for those who did not understand, in Arabic

Further careful explanation ensues for the last two minutes of class about what a pimp is and how it is related to a prostitute….

End Scene

Even after a year and some months, it is still interesting as to what aspects from American culture via tv/movies are absorbed here… apparently “Pimp my Ride” is one of those things!

So… what do you do everyday… part tlata (3)

I haven’t done an update like this in awhile so I thought one was due….

For our first summer, we had four English classes a week, levels 1 and 2… which was WAY more than most people have in their sites so we considered ourselves pretty lucky (or at least I did, have I mentioned that Tyler doesn’t prefer to teach English?)

Then last fall we were able to add a level 3 class. That is also when I started going to my women’s workout class and we started going to the ACCESS program. We had a party for our students and then gave ourselves a little break in December.

In the Spring, we were the busiest we have ever been! We had four levels of English class going-including 3 sessions of Level 1. I had an extra beginner English class just for women. And we were also teaching an intermediate class at the fishing school here in Larache (which crazily enough is funded by the Japanese government). It was a pretty crazy time! Then summer arrived and well, we didn’t really have much. I had yoga and my exercise class, then we did a summer camp but that was about it.

Now we are back to teaching, we have four levels again but only one of each class as we are trying to focus on doing other things. English classes are in such high demand though- it really is difficult to say no.

But, even with what might be a lot* to do… we still have a TON* of free time. This is also a cultural aspect that we have had to adjust to… there is a large emphasis on spending time* with other people, building relationships and just going with the flow.

I have recently had a revelation on our time here… I have been complaining a lot about how we don’t have much time left…. and I just want to go home already…. blah blah blah… ain’t nobody got time for that, ESPECIALLY* Tyler who has  so many things to do, things are coming out his eye-balls!!!! So* I sat myself down and attempted to figure out what was behind my grumpy Gus-ness.
In all of that… I found this…

It came to me that, Peace Corps may be boring… or I may be restless and feel overwhelmed with the idea of so much time and then even more overwhelmed at the idea of how hard it will be to transition back- BUT* that I am supposed to be where I am or at the very least…. I should appreciate being where I am. I may not know the reason… it may not even really matter but that Peace Corps time is special. 1) Because when have I EVER* had this much time on my hands…to do only* what I want to do- WHATEVER I want to do… learn to knit- OKAY! make homemade pasta- OKAY! talk to a friend from home- OKAY!!! Watch an entire tv series all day- OKAY! spend every day, all day with Tyler- OKAY! and 2) When will I ever have this much time again? Who knows- maybe not until I am 85 years of age! I should* appreciate these moments, no matter how hard it is. And definitely… appreciate the next six months.

I have been okay* in the reading books department, but I have been much* better in the watching tv department! I feel like it is truly* an education watching all of these shows… what is better than being able to spend time with flawed, rich characters?!

Here are the shows that I have watched entirely, am currently watching and/or will watch soon!

Friends

Gilmore Girls

The Mindy Project

Downtown Abbey

The Blacklist

Glee

Game of Thrones

True Blood

The Newsroom

Parenthood

Pretty Little Liars

Mom

New Girl

Girls

West Wing

Boy Meets World

Growing Pains

Dawson’s Creek

Ally McBeal

One Tree Hill

Trophy Wife

House of Cards

Boston Legal

Orange is the New Black

Seinfeld

It is super easy to keep track of everything with Sidereel.com!!!

Pretty soon, this free time will be much needed for the job/internship search. And overall, it has been one of the most difficult things to adjust to- what would you* want to do with all of your free time? What if you only worked 15-20 hours per week? What if you had A LOT* of time to do whatever you wanted to do?