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

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.

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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!

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!