Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Hello hello! S'salamu εalaykum (Peace by upon you)
I've been in Morocco over a week now! All 58 of us volunteers made it safely to Casablanca then over to Rabat. To the left is a picture of JFK Airport. On the flight, I sat next to a Moroccan native, who now works in DC. It was nice talking about everything wonderful in DC as well as things to look forward to in Morocco. In particular, we talked a lot about Ramadan. Muslims observe Ramadan during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It's purpose, as I understand, is purification through forgiveness and self-restraint. He commented, "After 11 months of flirting with the devil, it's good that Ramadan is here." He also remarked that with time, I'll come to appreciate the "Ramadan" side of Morocco. But being in a new place and stretching myself in new ways, it's hard not to appreciate everything Morocco.
We spent three days in Rabat, the capitol of Morocco. Since our flight landed ahead of schedule, we were able to see the Peace Corps Morocco Office, an absolutely glorious compound with lush greens, welcoming flowers and intricate tile designs! Time flew in Rabat. Each day, Peace Corps staff had the day mapped out for us. We got necessary shots, an introduction on Moroccan culture, safety and security, rules and regulation, as well as a visit from the Ambassador. I've been grateful to have talked personally with most of the Peace Corps staff and I can tell you, without hessitation, I'm in good hands.
On another note, I've already had a culture blooper! Before lunch one day, my roommate and I decide to head out to the marketplace and buy an adapter. Sweaty, lost and a bit disappointed, we finally stumble into a store that sold tvs. (TV stores have adapters!) But our Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is just barely existent and my French is not much better. After trying to communicate, I decide it's time for charades. I use my left hand to represent a wall and a sideways peace sign with my right hand to denote the plug. I also change it into a fist to represent plugging a cord. I get the most surprised/disgusted look from the store owner. Who would have known that's one of the most obscene gestures?! Only until flipping through the Peace Corps Culture Manual, did I realize clapping your hand over a closed fist is an obscene gesture. In fact, it says in bold, "OBSCENE. DO NOT USE THIS GESTURE." I know I won't ever be repeating that these next 27 months! At least we were able to use some Darija to buy adapters!
Now I'm in Azrou, Morocco for about three months of community-based training. The bus ride only took two hours. And though I was exhausted, I couldn't bare to take my eyes away from the window. It's in the Middle Atlas Region, surrounded by rich cedar forests and various fruit trees. Azrou means "rock" in Berber and used as a center for trade back in the day. My Blue Planet guide book describes the town as a "cheerful, hassle-free little place." And my time here, thus far, has been nothing less. I'll explain more in a later post. But here's a snapshot of Azrou, nestled in the mountains.
Take care and send me questions! I'd love to hear from you.