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.

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ANOU!

SO*

I am not sure if you all know how excited I get about even the *IDEA OF SHOPPING*…. if you don’t know… pretty freakin’ excited.

But shopping in Morocco presents its challenges, there are places that have price tags… but those price tags are usually above and beyond the Peace Corps budget. Otherwise, the usual shopping scene consists of old medinas and secondhand souks. I don’t want to bad mouth my souk- it happens to be p.r.e.t.t.y. fabulous and I have had the MOST* amazing finds (as evidence (here, here, here, AND here) Not to mention there are tons and tons of things that I have never posted!!!!

Anywho… these fabulous finds often come at a price that one must negotiate the price to, and even then, there is ZERO guarantee that the price is going to be a good one… with the added bonus that going to souk to find something is a complete bargain in and of itself! And in Larache, it is almost impossible to find the “Moroccan made goods”. The wonderful items that I find at souk are often from Spain or elsewhere in Europe… not really made or produced here in Morocco. The places we do have here (the four stores) are very very expensive and often offer the “typical tourist” gift… nothing really special. If we wanted special gifts we would have to travel the four hours to Fes or 8ish hours to Marrakesh, then only* to  start the witch hunt for good products at reasonable prices.

Then to start thinking about getting the stuff home… WOOF! Last year our friends sent a package full of wonderful Christmas gifts and I think it took between two and three months to get home!

Thinking about all of this for a Peace Corps volunteer is overwhelming… and shopping as a tourist… FORGET ABOUT IT!

So you might ask, why am I still so excited about shopping for Christmas gifts for people at home?!?!?!

BECAUSE! A fabulous fellow Peace Corps volunteer and friend has been working really hard to start something new and well, FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anou is more* than just fair trade… it LITERALLY takes you directly to the artisan! You have choices of BEAUTIFUL* Berber carpets, bags, jewelry and they are just getting started! They have spent so much time finding reliable and fabulous artisans and it is evident on the site that these are quality (AKA PERFECT CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!!!!)

Plus* an experienced online shopper knows that an added cost is always* the shipping… it gets super ridiculous on some, especially around holidays. BUT* the shipping cost is included in the price… it’s amazing!!!!! I know some of the experience is going to the place and buying the item in the store, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could make sure that the artisan was getting a truly fair price, which sorry to say folks- most of the people in the medina and/or shops aren’t- without having to worry about getting the item home?

These are some of my absolute favorite items…

Necklace - Cluster by Khenifra Women's Cooperative Jewelryseen here

Charm by Mohamed El Asri Jewelry

seen here

Beaded Necklace by Association Ighrem - Timdokkals Jewelry

seen here

Necklace - Long Strand by Khenifra Women's Cooperative Jewelry

seen here

And folks, that is just the jewelry!

I am *BEYOND* excited to start/finish my Christmas shopping to finally give people at home amazing Moroccan gifts!!!

Don’t forget they have a facebook page too and* you can pin any of their items on Pinterest!

Bloglovin’- Fashion and Food!

ALRIGHTY!!!!!!!!!!!! The blogs are back…. yes, I do follow more than just Feminist blogs…. these are so wonderful and give me some ideas for inspiration on fashion and food!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Enjoy!

Fashion Blogs

Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins

Franish

Mix and Match Fashion

Work Clothes, I suppose

Food Blogs

Alexandra’s Kitchen

Bran Appetit

Budget Bytes

BS’ in the Kitchen

Cookies and Cups

Christy Jordan

Eat yourself skinny

Gimme Some Oven

Hey! That tastes good!

How Sweet it is

I breathe…. I’m Hungry

Joy the Baker

Just a Taste

Life as a Strawberry

Lisa is cooking

Mels Kitchen Cafe

Minimalist Baker

Movita Beaucoup

Peace. Love. Nutrition

Pioneer Woman

Realistic Nutrition

Skinnytaste

The Kitchn

The Pastry Affair

The Yummy Life

Yammie’s Noshery

Ode to the Library…..

The humid summers of my childhood seemed to go on forever …. obviously, I was busy making plans, painting my nails and calling all of my friends. Every now and then, I would walk into the air conditioned palace of the Mishawaka-Penn Public Library. The library offered adventures that were beyond my normal dreams….. to suburban Connecticut with the Stacey, Dawn, Claudia, Mary-Anne and Kristy…to the one room house on the prairie with Laura…. on the search for a ghost with a hotel manager named Baltimore Cleveland…. suspenseful adventures that elicited Goosebumps…. tales from the 1930’s version of Mississippi …… and the craziness from a fellow namesake!!! These stories filled my need for adventure outside of the very important summer schedule of a 5th, soon to be 6th grader.

Here I am, more than a decade later, reminiscing about summers gone by, about friends and family as I see friends’ Facebook posts about vacations, happy hours and the like. As I bask in the glory of not having any of those luxuries, I realize, once again, that my old pal the library will provide me with as many adventures as I desire!!!

Yes, that’s right! I am a proud member of Arlington Public Library- you may ask, what does that do for me across the great sea? I will tell you- it provides me with the technology of ebooks and audiobooks!!!!!!! This past year I have had tea with the estranged widow of Charles Dickens, been terrified for all 12 books with the girls of Rosewood, eavesdropped on a torrid affair with none other than the late John F. Kennedy,  spent time with Ron Reagan as he reminisces about ole’ Ronald and even attempted some time with a lively gal named Ayn Rand (obviously, not all of these books, I would recommend). With technology at my side, I have grown and learned as I did through my childhood! It is especially interesting receiving more blatant and confused stares when I pull out a book to read while waiting for a taxi or at the post office here in Morocco. Reading is not a common hobby here, so I often look up to see an older women giving me the stink eye or little child gazing at me as though I am a museum piece. Although, I would not argue with a statue of myself reading – IF it were to promote literacy (would anyone ever really say no to a statue of themselves?) . I digress.

Never will I grimace at paying taxes for my lovely friend, the library! Never slight a place that promotes community literacy and best of all- good people watching. I once sat next to a man that proudly donned his birthday suit under his tattered trench coat! We have grown up together and although I miss the book sales and mysterious smell of borrowed books (you never quite know where they have been)… I will gladly accept a new and bright friendship from afar.

So people… get out there and enjoy the fresh air, summer heat, refreshing drinks and delicious grilled food! But don’t feel sorry for me! Oh no! Know that I am also in the sweltering heat, but basking in the humorous tales of David Sedaris, Bill Bryson and Ellen Degeneres.

New Adventures… including a “fast” trip to Tangier

Eid Mubarak! (Which means, Congratulations on Eid!) Eid is the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the Holy month of Ramadan. For Tyler and I (along with many other PCV’s), this means life going back to normal (at least as normal as possible) as well as being invited to homes to celebrate the holiday and allowing for NEW ADVENTURES!!! 🙂

To catch up, we did have some adventures during Ramadan. The first adventure was being invited to break the fast by a man who often comes to the Dar Chabab!  For a while, I really thought that we were not going to be invited to any liftors (fast breaking meals at sun down). Integration into the community has been somewhat difficult despite our good relationships with some men at our Dar Chabab. Although I was very disappointed about not being invited to liftor, in my endeavor to become a more patient person, I tried not to sulk too much. And… my patience paid off! It was very exciting as the call to prayer came on the television screen to eat delicious Harira (a traditional Moroccan soup) and eat dates, fruit and milliwee (a flaky delicious Moroccan bread). We had wonderful, albeit, difficult conversation to go with our meal- which by now is an expected side dish- and went on our way!

Secondly, we had an interesting trip to Tangier (which is a large city about an hour and a half north west of us on the tip of Morocco across the Straight of Gibraltar from Spain). Our trip, in a nutshell, contained these details!

  • Arrived after a much longer bus ride than anticipated
  • Got a taxi to the Marjane (a Wal-Mart type store, located in some large cities) while trying to communicate with another PCV on which* Marjane in Tangier to go to, and then ending up at the wrong one. Then the taxi man tried to tell us that he was charging us double- which I responded- no we are not going to pay double. That, of course, did not make him very happy. He was persistent, but I was more so.
  • Got another taxi back to town, where a man attempted to charge us Euros (*note that the exchange rate is about 1 euro to 11 dirhams; 1 American dollar to 8 dirhams). But we agreed upon a rate and took off, only for him to try to argue the rate once we reached our destination.
  • Tried to find a restaurant that would serve food in Tangier (note* that it is very frowned upon for even non-Muslims to eat/drink in public during Ramadan.) But thankfully, some touristy places were open (since we were acting as tourists that day- we would never have done this in Larache).
  • Tyler’s foot was ran over by a rogue taxi on a walking street! (Don’t worry– he is okay!)
  • During our walk back to the bus station, we saw a man in his skivvies in a courtyard, where he proceeded to take off his skivvies for some unknown reason.
  • At the bus station, we were rushed onto a bus leaving for Larache–this is where our trip takes a turn for the better–immediately following the call to prayer everyone on the bus began breaking the fast on the bus! Up until this point while traveling during Ramadan, Tyler and I had experienced waiting a long time for transportation or the transportation stopping for an hour and a half in a random city—during this trip we were quite surprised for it to continue following the sunset call to prayer. THEN* a man began walking up and down the aisle of the bus offering dates to everyone! A friend and myself, also received a carton of milk from this man, while Tyler chowed down on candy, bread and milk. These moments are often a time of reflection for myself. I often become overwhelmed or upset with some situations in Morocco, but seeing this kind of generosity offers a new perspective. On this large bus, this man made sure that everyone had something- it’s a feeling, at least for me, of familial connection with these perfect strangers.

For the last day of Ramadan (which for Morocco was Sunday, August 19th), we were invited again to break the fast with our friend and his family! They also invited us for Eid the next day! This was very exciting because we had already been invited by my tutor to her families’ for breakfast! So at 9 am, on Monday, we found ourselves taxi-ing to a wonderful breakfast! Which included TONS of my tutors family, getting henna’d, drinking Moroccan tea and eating delicious cookies, pastries and cakes (which included one I had made, but according to my tutor’s sister- it wasn’t as good as the one she had made).

Then we proceeded to our friends house for a delightful lunch of cous cous, more tea and fruit! Although, life during Ramadan was slower and at times frustrating, it was so exciting to be with these Moroccan families on this day. Hopefully we can continue to build on these relationships and get to know more people in Larache!

As for the next month or so, I will be at a children’s orphanage camp in a town called Dar Bouazza and Tyler will be staying here to continue to teach at the Dar Chabab. We will meet up in the middle of September for training with the Peace Corps in Marrakech! Upon our return to Larache, we hope to start new classes at the Dar Chabab along with Arabic classes for ourselves at a local association!

We have created a photo sharing website with many pictures posted from the first 5 months in Morocco. You can visit the site at the following link: http://s1052.photobucket.com/albums/s443/taduffey/

We are ready for new adventures! 🙂 I will leave you with a recent family photo we took! 🙂

ImageI am holding our new addition Layla and Tyler is holding little Henry!

So…what do you do everyday?

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.

Sworn-in Volunteers:

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:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. 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! :)