Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Month of Traveling

I remember looking at Peace Corps policies and wondering how is it possible to squeeze in traveling. On paper, we only can take two vacation days a month. As it turns out, traveling is part of my work! I spent most of March out of my community. My neighbors joked, “Once you’ve adjusted well, you need to leave and travel.” Here’s a little on where I went and what I did:

VSN Training. Peace Corps tells you this is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And there’s truth to that. It’s tough. But I have found the rewards to be well worth enduring through. Such is the general idea for the Volunteer Support Network (VSN). VSN is a volunteer driven support network created to provide basic support to PCVs. Previously VSN trained volunteers train interested in basic counseling and listening skills. Thus, VSN volunteers, predominately working on an informal basis, help fellow PCVs cope and get through difficult times.

For five days, me and four others highlighted skills and techniques of a good listener. And we practices skills of building rapport, identifying and discussing emotions, as well as appropriate ways to develop a plan of action. It was great “VSN-ing” as well as getting “VSN-ed.” Delicious meals also accompanied our good conversations. We had penne alla vodka, lasagna, cinnamon rolls (with frosting), zucchini bread….. Yes, I am eating just wonderfully here! We also met women in the local weaving association. They welcomed us with open hearts, hot tea and cake! I need to make my way back and buy a rug. Maybe when that next mandat comes!

Beni Mellal. On March 4, the new PCTs landed! And I had the joy of meeting and sharing with them. For the most part, being in Beni Mellal reminded me of the tangible enthusiasm I felt starting this journey. It took me back six months ago when I was that PCT. I had a million burning questions. And I interrogated each volunteer in hopes of understanding my days to come. With each breath came another thought, another I-need-to-know-and-really-really-really-want-to-know-right-now: “Do you like Peace Corps Morocco? What do you like about it? ...Tell me about your site …Tell me about your community members …Where have been your challenges? …How do you deal with a Turkish toilet? …Does everyone really get sick? …How did you learn the language? …. What am I getting myself into?! What keeps you going?”

Nffsu. Breathe. Somewhere between then and now, these anxieties have disappeared. That or they are no longer as frightening and overwhelming as before. Challenges are ever-present- still battling it out with darija, staying motivated with language, staying motivated with work, understanding what is work, adjusting to the slower pace of life, battling with the money issue, and so the list continues. But then morning comes. I awake for a jog and realize how great it is to be exactly where I am. To any PCT reading this: I think you all are gems. It was my joy to be among you all. Welcome to Morocco. Happy you’re here and will serve along side of me.

Sefrou/Fes/Rabat. PCVs only accrue two vacation days a month. But we’re free to play on the Moroccan holidays for which we are in-country. Add that with weekendays, work-related leave and/or vacation days… BAM! Traveling becomes possible. More importantly, understanding markets, showing my association innovative products and meeting with potential buyers is part of being a SBD volunteer! Here are some pictures that cover the highlights of my trip:

Jonathan and his site!

Also caught Lynn at her site! Morocco is beautiful and green.

Tanneries in Fes.

Moroccan sleeping on the job, Fes.

Me and Fes at night.

Rabat, Famous Unfinished Mosquee.

Ouarzazate. I’ve been in country for six months. I’ve been a PCV for four months. Hmmm… where did the time go? What did I learn? Have I really learned anything? Why isn’t this language sticking? Shouldn’t I be more productive? L-hamdullah, SBD 08-10 volunteers in the south convened in Ouarzazate for a much needed morale boost.

In a day, we shared ups and downs of language learning and community integration. We reviewed SBD’s project framework. How can Peace Corps’ SBD program truly reflect our reality? Peace Corps clarified technical difficulties with a new reporting system. And we made suggestions for June’s IST (In-service Training). I think the best part was being reunited with familiar faces and good conversation over panache (a smoothie that has everything in it AND it’s delicious).

I’ve been back at site for a couple weeks now…. I’ve slowly returned to my regular house visits and spontaneous play dates. Amina and I have started experimenting with new products. I’ve written out a few workshop sessions to teach these women what makes a strong grant. I’m starting to teach English classes next week, by the request of my women. But my favorite has to be ryada (exercise) mornings. For an hour, three times a week, I kick, move, shake, dance and yoga with unreserved women. During this time, we leave hsuma (shame) at the nedi door.


To Visit My said...

your blog is good good good......

Rachel said...

All of your pictures would be amazing for a Traveling Terps photo contest : )