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?

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TOUBKALLA!

I just realized that I never ever talked about climbing Mount Toubkal! That is crazy… considering now that it was OVER 3 months ago.

Well first things first… for those that have never climbed a mountain before (and before this one, I hadn’t). It is THE* most physically challenging thing I have done, to date.

I went with 7 other fabulous girls and it was an ADVENTURE!

We all decided to go after our Mid-Service Training that took place at the end of June. From Rabat we took the train to Marrakesh, then a taxi from Marrakesh to Imlil. Our taxi thankfully dropped us off at our hostel, which was wonderfully comfortable and quaint. We were all soooo excited! We got up early the next morning, had breakfast, and began our trek.

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on the train!

The guy at the hostel made a fabulous little map for us and OFF we went! We were so excited!!!! I remember that feeling of not really knowing what was coming and a little nervous but still thinking- this is going to be FUN!!!!!!

1045212_10100849976676993_592084913_nbefore the hike!

So as we were following the map, I didn’t realize that we had a small hill to climb before we even reached the base of the mountain…..so we start going up this hill and here I am thinking that we were already climbing the actual mountain- BOY WAS I WRONG!

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breakin…1044145_10100849977555233_1224670042_nwalking up the hill!

We got to the river bed, which at the time I didn’t realize was the base of the mountain, and well, we took a well-deserved break!

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Then as we started to really climb… we started to realize how serious it was. We were climbing a mountain- CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woof! I remember someone telling me before we went that it would be a nice, lonnnnggg walk.

Well. It. wasn’t.

Now, I feel like I am climbin’ aboard the complain train. But, it was really hard, we climbed for 7 hours the first day, with food breaks and short water breaks. The lovely girls I was with- we made goals for ourselves… okay, make it to that rock, okay we will walk for 15 minutes, twenty minutes. It was crazy how difficult it would be at points to keep going, all I wanted to do was stop and take a break. Sit and enjoy the wonderful view….

1276_10100849982325673_1061020295_n 1000984_10100849989196903_564023852_nthis was actually on the way down, but more on that later

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A very big POSITIVE, we saw a herd of mountain goats with their incredibly cute kids and by kids I mean, baby goats!

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So we climbed and climbed before we FINALLY made it to the refuge!!!! Let me tell you, my dogs were barkin’- LOUDLY!

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We had dinner and decided to head out at 6am! Fortunately for me, I was able to fall directly to sleep- um not. I actually didn’t get one ounce of sleep, which was to say, very exciting.

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We headed out in the dark to get to summit… this was the most difficult part. If I had known about this part the day before, I might not have complained so much….might not have.

998177_10100849983388543_1261546251_nAt one point, I could only describe myself as straddling the rocks like a frog, crying and saying…. this isn’t worth my life.

Mayyyyybbbbbeeee a tad dramatic, but have you even been on the side of a mountain with loose rocks falling every which way? Well, I hadn’t either.

After three hours of climbing almost straight up, we could finally see the top. These three hours included all types of climbing- big boulders, small rocks, loose rocks, sand…. ziggin and zaggin. I am sure that I was a sight at times, I remember another time where I wasn’t sure which rock to grab and I look over and several Moroccan climbers (who I am quite sure they had either rock climbing ancestors, related to spiderman or had more monkey in their blood than me) were jumping from rock to rock like it was an every day occurrence. Hmmmm….all the while, when I was straddling rocks holding for dear life, I couldn’t help but think about how the climb up the mountain related to my Peace Corps service.

Serving in Peace Corps is so similar to climbing a mountain, its pretty scary. With everything that someone goes through…. learning a language, adapting to the culture, leaving life behind, building a new life, leaving friends and family, building new relationships with new friends…. it is SO much! And is all really within a short period of about 3-4 months, it is necessary to know when you need a break but it is also really vital to knowing when you need to push through the hard times and just keep on going. The people that are there to support will provide words of encouragement or, it is just them being there going through it with you that is important. There were times climbing to the summit, we were quiet for hours (I know it is difficult for some of you to picture me quiet for more than a few minutes) but it happened! And it was going through it together that was important, it was being there at the top with others that made it feel that* much better.

IMG_0084almost there!

IMG_0080WAHOO! we did it!

IMG_0085puffy fingers and all!!!!

Little known fact (to even myself before this), that I am terrified of heights. Completely and utterly terrified, I couldn’t really stand up on the top! Who knew?

1043982_10100849984910493_846887774_nps, it was REALLY cold up there

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So… after awhile, we started our descent! We were planning on going ALLLLLLL the way back down to our hostel in Imlil…. and all I could think was, here we go, this has GOT TO BE easier than the way up. Well folks, if you thought that too, then we were both wrong.

Also, I didn’t get that many pictures on the way up to summit- it is pretty difficult to take pictures when you are straddling rocks.

992775_10100849986227853_1238347087_n 1009886_10100849986098113_611560775_nwhy yes! That would be grabbing onto rocks with fear of falling, on the way down. But again, even when sliding down on my hindquarters on slippery rocks… I couldn’t help compare it to my service. At the year point (our Peace Corps summit), I remember thinking… okay! It all gets easier from here right? I am integrated, I can somewhat communicate, I have everything I need!!!

Not exactly… the second year has shaped up to be a difficult time as well! Yes, I am integrated, yes I have completed a project, yes I have a schedule and people who know me, but* how do I really make my time here worth it? How do I get to know people better? How do I keep from going crazy with the prospect and excitement from going home?!?! I’ll let ya know as I am still currently on my Peace Corps mountain descent.

IMG_0097the refuge in sight!!! Note* this is still about an hour away

Well, it took us another three hours to climb down back to the refuge (a total of 7 hours). We had an hour break for lunch and then kept on truckin!!

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 little goat!!! IMG_0119

just some fellow mountain climbers… with their chickens and sheep IMG_0116

I was hoping that the trek down would only take us 5 hours and we were really well on our way… until we got a little lost.

Which… I am sure is the way that I will feel when we have about a month left. Unfortunately, I kept insisting that we were on the right path… when in fact we were the complete opposite of being on the right path. Mer 😦 Fortunately, I was with really really forgiving people who weren’t mad at me for too long, I hope.

IMG_0127do you remember the first small hill? It was a glorious site!

With getting lost, we ended up walking for about an hour and a half extra…. so it turned into about 6.5 -7 hours… which if you were calculating that would be 14 hours of walking. After a day of walking 7 hours…. woof!

IMG_0128ALMOST THERE!

We literally collapsed when we arrived at the hostel. Thankful that it was over and in awe of ourselves that we did it.

I think maybe next time, it maybe easier to start with something smaller and not climb North Africa’s tallest mountain as a first mountain climb… but hey! Go big or go home right?

1011821_10100849989646003_1982187727_nOur congratulatory McDonald’s meal

The most important aspect though, that both Peace Corps and Toubkal have shown me, is that I am capable of much more than I think I am. The human will is profound.  When pushed there are soo many possibilities! There is an incredible amount of strength inside that sits stationary and quiet until it is tapped into. I am grateful for the opportunities to learn that about myself and consider myself blessed to be able to learn those lessons early in life.

Who knows what mountain I will climb next?!

You’ve got a friend in me

“[Friends], you can see them out on the horizon like a great wave,
its whitecaps approaching. But on the other hand is a levee
that protects us, that of the women we can call anytime,
day or night, to say “I’m drowning here.”

-Anna Quinlen
(Author of “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”)

The time after college is a very conflicting time. It consists of being on your own, like college, but without the social structure in place. Without friends down the hall, without friends in the next room, without friends just ten minutes across campus. When we moved to D.C., I felt this change immensely. Making new friends was difficult- I tried going out on putting myself out there and trying new things…..”friend” dates and book clubs- after speed reading an entire novel I forgot to read, I found out its not really that NECESSARY for some groups.I was so lucky to have a job that allowed me to meet such amazing people. The complicated part of this new unfounded territory is, the search for new friends isn’t the only item on the list, a huge part of the new life is maintaining old friendships. Some people are lucky enough to have both high school and college friendships to manage and sadly, some don’t make it. Though with social media, it makes it easier to “keep up” with others lives. Press “Like” if an old friend is engaged, married, having babies, getting new jobs, having a great date, getting flowers, etc. etc. One can argue this is a shallow maintenance and in the end doesn’t count for much. Just because someone can “see friendship” doesn’t mean it is really there.

When Tyler and I left for Peace Corps, my biggest concern (and still to this day) were our relationships. I tend to hang on to people and do my best to keep in touch (not just on facebook). But two years is a really long time, especially post college. Little did I know though, I would soon meet many people from all over the country,  from different walks of live and with experiences to share that I couldn’t even imagine. I am now lucky enough to call some of these people friends. Some live close and I see them often, some a little further who I see them every couple of months and some even further than that where it has been six months between visits. But* disregarding the amount of time, we are able to bond in new ways. This experience requires support and a new type of family and friendship. Unfortunately, there are just some aspects of life here that are difficult for people at home- or even those serving in other countries- to understand. Likewise for family and friends back home, everyone is having experiences and living life, and it is more difficult to understand when someone is not there.

With all of craziness, Tyler and I have found friends that reflect the best parts of us, allow us to grow and we can count on their companionship. I have heard people ask, what will we talk about when we don’t have Peace Corps? It may be a similar experience to the “after college” syndrome, but even with that dangling above our heads, the bond that we have created will be a hard one to fracture. Peace Corps service requires vulnerability, emotions, hard times, frustrations which make the good times (usually in Rabat) even more sweet and creates an even more cement-able bond. This bond is a special one also because it some times requires spending large amounts of time with complete strangers whether it be at camps, on trains or buses, or even welcoming them to share my home. These experiences (unless couchsurfing is your thing) are unlikely to be replicated.

This has been a time that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, but the best part about our experience has been the Peace Corps volunteer friends. I have learned so much from them and know that they will continue to enrich my service in a way that I never expected. Much like the way Buzz and Woody forge an unlikely friendship through their adventure with aliens, piggy banks and Mr. Potato head- my new friendships are based unbridled excitement, difficult times and inconceivable moments that even those who experience them- find it hard to believe.

Cheers to Peace Corps friends!!!!

*close with Vitamin C’s song…. Graduation*