Sunday, February 19, 2012

Much delayed update

WHAT UP GUYS! I know, I know, I am very behind on my updates. I actually have been keeping my memorable moments logged for just the right moment. That moment has finally arrived. As of this day (feb 19) I am in the Capital city, getting ready for a week-long conference to prepare me for my return home. I can't believe the time is almost here. Not a day goes by where I don't reflect on how much this experienced has changed me. It has been an exciting journey so far. So, since the last time I shared my experience with you guys was in July, I have summarized that last 7 months or so. I know this is super long, but I hope you enjoy it.

August: All of august was the month of Ramadan. For those who don’t know what it is, Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calandar. During this month, teenagers and adults fast from sun up to sun down. They fast from food, water, sex, bad deeds, cursing, being rude to other people, things like that. The time to break fast is determined by the call to prayer. Once the call is sounded, people are allowed to break fast. The most common foods to break fast with are dates, cake, cookies, a sweet and oily mix of flours called slilu, and soup. The soup made during Ramadan is called Harira. It is an amazing tomato based soup that contains garbanzo beans, lentils, noodles, and spices. It is my favorite thing to have during Ramadan. I decided to fast again this year. I like the idea of fasting and wanted a chance to cleanse my body from all the crap I had been eating throughout the year. I’m not saying that Ramadan is necessarily a time to get healthy; some people actually gain weight because of all of the sugary and fatty foods they eat to break fast. When I was able to control what I ate, it was a healthy change. I didn’t fast as much as I wanted to though because I dog-sat for the last two weeks of it. I realized that fasting alone is no fun and very difficult to maintain. I fasted most of the time while I was in Tata, but not the whole 30 days. It is difficult to talk to people about my reasons for fasting. Some people think that only muslims fast and if you do not practice the religion that you shouldn’t be fasting. I try to be respectful of peoples views but also inform them that there are many different ways to fast and many different reasons for fasting. The fasting that I was used to before I came to Morocco was 24 hour + water only fasts. It is a great time for cultural exchange and a chance to learn new things about islam. I would like to maintain the tradition and fast again next year. I like experiencing different religous rituals and this would be a nice one to add to my list. At the end of Ramadan, there is a celebration on the first day of the new month. It is a time to dress up and congratulate everyone on another Ramadan behind us. I love getting dressed up and walking around to see everyone. The food isn’t that bad either.

November: The biggest things about this month so far has been Leid el Kabir and thanksgiving. Leid was an interesting time. It seemed to go a lot smoother than last year, which was nice. I kind of felt overwhelmed with the amount of new people in the douar. It is frustrating to work so hard to establish a good relationship with the community only to have new people come in and be treated like a foreigner and what have you. I bought a jellaba for the holiday. I hate being the center of attention and for a lot of leid that is all it felt like. I can only handle so much holiday before I have to get out and be by myself. It just so happened that we scheduled a party for Audrey on the Thursday following leid so I was able to get away and take a break from all the festivities.

December: Yeah, the best month of the year is upon us! Despite being in a country where Christmas is not normally celebrated, I have been enjoying the festivities the best ways that I know how. I have been listening to all of my Christmas favorites and have made plans to spend the holidays with friends in the sea town of Essouira. It will be a small gathering but very fun. I’m going to make mulled wine and eggnog! The resource room is well underway. I think it should be finished by January. The principal and teachers seem to be really proud of it and I am glad to see that they have so much motivation to make other improvements to the campus. We keep discussing the idea of creating a garden. There is no way to receive any more funds for the project but they seem determined enough to find a way to make it happen. I really enjoy seeing the pride that they have for their school. The lessons at the health clinic are starting to feel mundane so I’m trying to think of ways to vamp up the lessons. I am trying to find resources that I can post or give to the women to help them feel more informed and empowered about their health. The Movies are still good, but I think they are at a stage where more specific, scientific knowledge would be more helpful to them. I have been teaching English at a women’s association in my souk town and it has been going quite well. I have discovered that I am really not teacher-material but it continues to be a fun and interesting experience. It has also given me a new appreciation and admiration for people who decide to dedicate their lives to teaching. It is no easy task!

January: This year, I spent my Christmas holiday in a fellow PCV’s site that is close to Essaouira. Three other volunteers also were able to make it. Those who had them brought Christmas lights and other decorations. We all had Christmas music ready to blast. I was able to perfect my eggnog making skills and had the opportunity to make more spiced wine but it was accidentally knocked to the floor ☹ oh well, next year enshallah. We all brought gifts and played the white elephant gift game. I received some lovely Amerian treats such as kool-aid, crystal light, kraft mac and cheese shells, a pack of gravy, and jello. I was also able to keep my personal family tradition alive and watch the Muppet Christmas Carol movie! Thanks Cara!! All in all, it was a very satisfying Christmas. The highlight of this month was my trip to Spain to celebrate New years. I went with a friend who works in the same province as me. Spain is so great! I was inspired to learn a little Spanish before I went and it certainly came in handy. I got very good with asking for direction ☺ My friend and I visited both Barcelona and Madrid. We met some really great travelers from all over the world. I never realized how diverse Spain was and I really appreciated that change. It was nice to go somewhere where you didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone is different. As far as work goes, I’m still teaching health lessons to kids of all ages. The resource room is slowly but surely improving. In December, an association from the provincial capital came to the school to do music and art activities with the kids. They also painted the outside of the building in great mural designs and painted the inside of the resource room. I couldn’t believe how wonderfully it turned out. English classes are going really well. I am so surprised every time I teach with how quickly these girls pick up the information. I know it isn’t because of me, for my teaching skills are in much need of improvement. They really keep me enthusiastic about teaching them. It’s great. I’m also teaching at the clinic. I am focusing more on SIDA information and starting discussions on home verses clinic deliveries. The women have done a really good job about having regular pre-natal check ups and making sure that their children are getting all of their vaccinations on time. Mostly I love going to the clinic so I can see and play with all of the babies. They are all so cute and happy!

February: This month began with another LEid: LEid Mulid. It is the prophet Mohammed’s birthday. On this day, the big thing is to get all dressed up and walk to the marabout. I decided that since it was my last leid in country that I would go all out and get dressed up too. I was super fancy in my Qaftan, lizar, and silver Jewlery. Another tradition is that for two or three days, the teenage boys in the community make this dish called Tagula for the whole community. It is basically barley flour with salt and water that has been mixed and heated in a big over a fire. It is stirred continuously until it reaches this thick, sticky consistency. All the girls bring their big plates to get the tagula and take it to their homes. There, they make a thick oily sauce that they dip the tagula in to eat. I know that I am not describing this well, but trust me, it is delicious! Another fun activity is that the boys in the community will have these theater-type performances for the whole community to attend. There is tons of drumming and laughter. It is so much fun. And at the end of every night, at around 11pm, the men have what is called an ahwaj (pronounced ah-who-ahj)which is a drumming and dancing performance. I never get tired of them, despite that it is in the middle of the night in the freezing cold and doesn’t finish until 2am ☺. On the last night, it was so cold that the girls watching the performance just gathered up some wood and started a bon fire. It was for me the best last Leid to spend here in Morocco.

Something else that I have to look forward to this month is COS (close of service) conference. During the second to last week of February, all of the volunteers who came into country with me will meet up in the capital to reunite and prepare for the ending of our service. Some of these volunteers I haven’t seen since November of 2010. It will be a great opportunity to catch up and it may even be the last time that I ever see some of them. The conference is a weeklong and it is also the time that we get a big medical evaluation that will make sure that we go back to the states in more or less the same healthy state in which we arrived. I’m really looking forward to it.

At this point in my service, I am really trying to be proactive with my future plans. I have started collecting resources and am studying for the MCAT. I am contacting as many people I know who may have information about job opportunities for when I return. I try not to get to overwhelmed by it and just take it one day at a time. This experience has really fueled me to work towards my next goal in life: becoming a doctor. I feel more confident than ever that I want to work in that field and although I will probably be a blithering mess for the first month or two of my departure from my community and my work as a volunteer, I will be excited and ready to do what is necessary to be accepted to a school by fall of 2013.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hello my lovely friends and family!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer. This is one of my favorite times of year. It is such a nice feeling to know what to expect this time around, after being here for over a year. I wasn’t expecting such an easy transition back into Morocco after visiting home but in some ways it was like I never left.

I had a really funny occurrence on the train as I was heading back to my province capital. I was on the train from to Marrakech. It was a pretty busy day when I got on the bus, but I managed to find a seat. Once we arrived to Casablanca, the train was flooded with teenage boys, all wearing red and green and sporting the Moroccan flag. I have never been a fan of crowds so when the aisles kept filling and filling, I got more and more worried about what was going on. I later found out that there was a football (aka soccer) match in Marrakech and Morocco was playing Algeria. BIG DEAL apparently. Kids from all over the country were going to cheer on their team. It was an amazing site to see, like nothing I’d ever witnessed. And to top it all off, Morocco WON!! From 1130pm to 4am, the streets were filled with cars honking, people yelling and cheering, flags being flown all over the place. It was a mad house. I would have hate to have seen what the stadium was like when the game was over ☺

Coming back into country at the beginning of summer was rather difficult. Thankfully, I had a couple of weeks before the schools closed and summer vacation officially started but things were still really winding down. It is hard to do any real structured work. Most of my work is done in the schools and they were getting ready for testing. And plus it was getting really hot. It is hard to do anything outside during the day. I’ve been using this down season to hang out with people in my village and have a lot of informal conversations about different topics. A lot of women in my site are pregnant right now and may still be during the month of Ramadan (the fasting month), so I’ve been talking to them and their families about the importance of waiting to fast until they’ve given birth and to not fast consecutively if they are breast feeding. It tends to be a considerable problem that pregnant or lactating women decide to fast even though it is dangerouse fo their health and their baby’s health as well. I am trying to do a lot of planning for after summer, work related and not. I have a lot of ideas for lessons and campaigns and I feel really comfortable in my language that I think I can make it happen. Speaking of work…. I really need your guys’ help!! I am currently raising money to fund a grant to renovate a room at the school and turn it into a health resource room. It will give my community the opportunity to come together in a more formalized setting to do workshops and trainings on all topics, especially those health related. The full summary of the project is online at the Peace Corps website ( The project number is 378-158 and if you search under volunteer names, it will be under Rice B. Please take the time to check it out and read over it. If you would like to help me out on this, donate as little or as much as you desire. Truly, every little bit helps.

I have also spent a lot of my time hanging out with other pcvs. At this point in our PC careers many of us are taking this time of minimal work to focus on creating a plan for once we finish our service. It is really difficult to think about what it is going to be like outside of this new life that we’ve spent 15 months cultivating. I myself do have a main idea about what I want to do and where I want to go after Peace Corps, but other little desires are also having an affect on my decisions. For instance, I’ve really developed a love of languages since working here and now I am using my spare time to learn Spanish. I also plan to go to Spain for new years with hopes of practicing the language and learning more about the culture. I sometimes think about what it would be like to stay overseas and work, using the languages I know and maybe learning some new ones as well. I think about who I might meet while I am here. I think about my love of Moroccan culture and what it would be like to give that up. And I also think about my family and what it would be like to live so far away for so long. It was really hard at first to cope with that, but now that I am acclimated and am doing well, do I want to go back? Right now, everything is still up in the air. I love the states and I love the idea of going back and applying for med school, being close to family, continuing community outreach work. I just can’t stand the idea of not taking a great opportunity because I have had this set plan for so long. All life is about is change. I don’t want to regret choices because I was afraid of changing things up. I’m sure a lot of other people would agree with me on that.

So, that’s where I am right now. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about home. I miss you guys very much. Thanks for all of your support. And please check out my pictures on facebook. They are really lovely and can convey all that is Morocco and my service so much more than what I put into words. I love you guys.

Thanks and be well,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Well, I made it back to Morocco safe and sound. I just want to thank everyone who I was able to see for taking the time to catch up with me! I LOVED being back home and spending time with family and friends. You really never know what you are missing until it isn't close by. I have certainly learned not to take close relationships for granted. THANK YOU ALL! Other than family and friends, some other things that I missed were yoga classes, spinach, mushrooms, vegan sweets, and soymilk. Oh, and driving. Some things that I was doing fine without were commercials, fast food, humidity, and maybe supermarkets too. Coming back almost felt like more of a relief in some respects. I have fallen dependent on the simplicity of life. I feel less pressure, less overwhelmed. The whole supermarket thing tripped me up a time or two but eventually got back in the swing of things. On the flight from Chicago to London, I sat by a very nice lady named Maryellen. She was on her way to visit her home county of England. She has been living in the states for 17 years.
Once I landed at the casa airport, I had to go to Rabat. I had never been to Rabat before so I didn’t know what to expect, or really where I was going. I called the PC office and the Office assistant was very helpful in finding me a hotel to stay at for the next few days. I also started calling all of my volunteer friends in province. I really missed them while I was away. While on the train to Rabat I called a couple of hotels. Not surprisingly, the receptionist didn’t know tashlheet so I worked with what French and Arabic I knew to make a reservation. Thankfully the hotel was really close so I didn’t have to deal with a taxi and my luggage. I was thoroughly unimpressed with the room. For 100dhs (quite a lot on a peace corps budget) I didn’t even get a shower and the sheets didn’t look very clean. But I was so tired!! It was a decent place to crash at until the next day.
Wednesday I ventured out to the PC office for the first time. I also changed hotels ☺ this new hotel has both a shower and a toilet, free wifi, AND a tv! Very nice! And only for 130 dhs! The attendant is a very nice guy as well. He is from Ghana and has a really cool name that I can barely pronounce. So now I’m just sitting and waiting for my physical on Friday. Maybe I’ll work on uploading pictures and getting to work on my grant (MORE INFO COMING VERY SOON!) I’m anxious about getting back to site. Not too much longer now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

back in the USA!

Greetings everyone!

I hope this update finds everyone healthy and happy. I believe the last time I wrote an update it was during the month of March. I’ve been quite busy with new work and getting ideas out of my head and putting them into reality. At the end of March, I worked on a project with the YD (youth development) volunteer in my closest city, Tata. She had been working with her students to choose and prepare 20 murals to be painted on the walls bordering the Dar Chebab (recreation center). It took her and her students about 2 weeks to choose which murals to put up and to prepare the walls. She also had a competition and two students, a boy and a girl, won the opportunity to coordinate and paint a mural that they designed themselves. The pictures depicted all topics such as environment, culture, AIDS, youth empowerment, and artistic beauty. I, along with 5 other volunteers from tata, ourzazate, and taroudant province came and helped the students finish the murals. The kids did a fantastic job and the murals came out really well. Something that I didn’t foresee, however, was how tiring this project was going to be. It was a great opportunity to work with kids and learn how to execute a project like this, but I needed a week to recover from the exhaustion!
Another event that I had a lot of fun working with was spring camp. In many cities across Morocco, Peace Corps volunteers work with the ministry of youth and sports to help run a week-long English immersion spring camp. The week is filled with 2-hour English classes every day, sports, clubs, excursions, and night events. I worked at the camp in Taroudant. We had 9 Peace Corps volunteers and 10 Moroccan counselors for about 160 students, boys and girls, ages 14-17. Having never been an English teacher or a camp counselor, this week was full of learned lessons and unforgettable experiences. It was great to work with kids who are so passionate about learning English and understanding American culture. I was also not used to working with “city” kids. These guys and girls were singing songs by Justin Beiber, break dancing, rapping, and many had this “emo” style that is non-existent in or around my village. It was very refreshing to have conversations about their hopes and dreams and to catch up on pop culture and current events. Many of the kids loved to dance, so for my club that I had to organize, I taught dance moves. I just took zumba class dances that I had learned last year and taught them to the kids. They loved it. And on the last day, the counselors hosted an event called Spec-Tac, where campers could perform acts, songs, dances, what have you. Three girls asked me to help choreograph and participate in a dance with them and another group asked my choreographing skills to perform a dance. They honestly did most of the work. I mostly tried to be encouraging about their ideas and helped mediate between conflicting ideas and help the groups come up with solutions and finish their dances. They did a wonderful job! I was so proud!! Helping at camp was probably the best experience I have had since working here in Morocco. I am counting down the days to next year’s spring camp.
Back in my own village, things are coming along slowly but surely. I have been trying to stay consistent with my monthly health lessons but during most of the month of April there have been teacher’s strikes at the grade school, middle school, and high school. These strikes are countrywide and are very annoying when most of your work occurs within the school. I had to cancel my April lessons because during the only time I had, there was a strike that whole week. My work with the women has been a lot better. I have developed very good relationships with the women in my community and have improved my language enough to move many of my maternal lessons from the health clinic and directly into the homes of women. It has been difficult to successfully convey my message of going to the health clinic for pregnancy check ups and giving birth to their babies, though. The women are very set in their habits and it is difficult to encourage them to make changes, but I won’t give up and hopefully the younger wives that I talk to have a better ability to change their ways.
In general news, the association in my village has begun an extensive project on caper production. Apparently caper trees grow wildly around my village and there are associations in other places in Morocco who have been collecting and processing capers to sell in super marches and other establishments that are frequented by tourists. The girls and women participating are super excited and motivated to work on this project. I know they are going to be very successful in this and I am looking forward to see how far they will get before I make my permanent journey back to the states.
Speaking of the states, I’m traveling back there this month. The whole month of May, I will be back home. I can’t wait to see family and friends. I am really interested to reflect on the changes I see in me and those back home after being away for a whole year. I’m looking forward to it. I will try to make rounds and see everyone, but I can’t guarantee anything ☺

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hi everyone! Merry belated Christmas and happy new year! I hope everyone is staying warm and enjoying time with family and friends. Tata is a pretty nice place to spend the winter. The days stay around 80 and the nights don’t get below 50. But given that my house is made of cement it turns into a fridge that stays at 60 or so throughout the day. I have to put on warm clothes when I am inside the house. Work is going along pretty nicely. I’ve been teaching health lessons inside the schools every month and also at the sbitar. The principal told me that he wants to create a health and environment room to do lessons in. He wants all kinds of technology things like a tv, dvd, projector and what not. That may end up being my main project for the time being.
During the month of December I celebrated a holiday by climbing up a mountain! Not a very big one, but it was certainly a workout  I’ve been doing a lot of biking these days a coupld of weeks agio I traveled to see some other PCVs. The total trip was about 44 miles and I did it in two days! It was really fun to bike around my site because I pass camel herds all the time.
Christmas and new years were very nice. I went to Tata and some other PCVs joined and we made nachos for dinner ad had a white elephant gift exchange. For new years I went to agadir. I was able to see fireworks and danced in a club until 2:30am. I love agadir!
January was a pretty mellow month. I went on a lot of picnics with the girls in my site. We packed a mule with supplies and walked about 1 mile away from the village. We basically set up a camp and cooked breakfast and lunch out in the middle of nowhere. We had tea and coffee and I brought a soccer ball for us to play with. In the village the girls don’t play soccer, so I was so surprised to see how much skill these girls had! They made teams and goals and were calling fouls and taking penalties. It was amazing to witness!
February has been one of my busiest months! I had another regional meeting at the beginning of the month. It was really nice to meet volunteers from other sectors and exchange information, resources, and ideas about projects. I got a lot of information about youth development and hope to start doing some leadership and team building games with the students in my site. And right after the meeting, my mom came into country!! I took her on a ten day tour of Morocco; we visited Fez and had some absinthe tea (don’t get the wrong idea, it is just herbal tea) and bought some clothes, then we traveled to a town outside of Beni Mellal and she got to enjoy some recently pressed olive oil; our next adventure was to Marrakech where she enjoyed harira and galanga tea in the Jemaa El Fnaa. We shopped a little more before we traveled down to agadir and enjoyed the beach and the English pub. Next on the list was my site, where she experienced henna and tried on some traditional outfits of the sahara. She also visited my sbitar and met the midwife nurses that work there. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to see souk and walk around to see everyone in the village. ** a note to pcvs who are reading this and are having family visit soon: I HIGHLY encourage you to spend a lot of time in your site. Mom and I only stayed for two days and I truly regret not giving ourselves more time to really enjoy spending time with family and friends there. Had I known what I know now I would have had my mom stay in site for at least 5 days to a week!** I think she had a good time and it was really nice for my host family to meet family from the states. They keep asking when she is going to return (enshollah ;) )
So in less than a week I will have been in Morocco for a whole year! Peace corps life really hasn’t been anything like I had expected, but I am so happy to be having these experiences. I am so pleased with my decision even with all of the ups and downs, frustrations and let downs, miscommunications, and cultural faux pas, and I can’t at this moment imagine anywhere else I want to be or anything else that I would rather be doing. I can’t believe I’ve already learned so much and I still have another year and two months to go. I plan to make a trip to the states in may, so if anyone is in the Wichita or manhattan ks area please let me know! I want to get in touch with people and catch up!! Until next time, be safe and keep on keeping on!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

LEid and getting ready for thanksgiving

*Ok, this blog was written a REALLY long time ago. I appreciate your interest inspite of my delay in entries. I have decided to write my entries a little differently. They will be more like journal entries with dates on them so if it takes me a long time to submit, you will know when I wrote it J Thanks for keeping up with me and my life in Morocco!*

(between the months of October and November)

Hello all of my wonderful family, friends, and blog followers! I thank you guys for checking in and keeping up with what I have been up to and learning in Morocco. So I get a couple of magazines a month from the National Peace Corps Association, and the theme of this month’s magazine is about fulfilling the third goal of peace corps: bringing our experience back home. The official statement of the third goal is … but in my terms, it is about taking our experiences as volunteers and using them to help other people expand their own worldview. I hope that my entries are helping you all see this part of the world in a new, exciting light. I always encourage you to do your own research about this wonderful country and culture that I am immersed in. My point of view should not at all be taken as a generalization of Morocco as a whole, not even as a generalization of the province of Tata as a whole. That’s what is so fascinating about this country! It is hard to believe that even within a few miles of a big city with fancy clothes, lap tops, Mercedes benzes, and washing machines there are communities that have to fetch water twice a day, wake up at 5am to bake their own bread, wash their clothes in a ditch, and are just as happy as those big city folks. Maybe more so. I still can’t get over the wonderful hospitality of my community members. They are teaching me so many wonderful things about how to approach life and daily situations.

Yesterday (October 11th) I did my first lesson at the local health clinic. I spoke to women about family planning and the different methods offered at the clinic. I think that it went pretty well and I was able to explain everything well enough for the women to understand me. Tomorrow, Eric and I are going to do a lesson on handwashing at one of the grade school classrooms. We are going to help them make a poster of their hand prints for world handwashing day.

So for the passed couple of days I’ve been sick with a bad cold. It really sucks to be sick in another culture. I have people telling me that the wind made me sick (which I can understand their logic… wind = cold weather = lowered body temp = harder time for immune system to fight off microbes) and that I’ve been riding my bike too much. They keep telling me that I should stop drinking really cold water because that is what makes you sick. I’ve also been told what remedies will cure it. A mixture of coffee, vinegar, and lemon juice will get rid of it, as well as mixing yogurt with instant coffee as a medicine. My community members also don’t seem to use rest as a way of getting better. I don’t really want to be around anyone because I don’t want to make anyone else sick, but they tell me that I should walk around to make me feel better. I hope my cold doesn’t last for very much longer because I can’t handle having 5 “medical experts” checking in on me for very much longer J They are being very sweet by looking after me to make sure that I’m alright.

I have an interesting story about interacting with forgeiners in my community. On the 14th of octber, outside my health clinic, a group of mechanics set up shop on the road. The mechanics were servicing cars that were coming through the town as part of a week-long rally that traversed all over Morocco. At first I was really excited to see other English speakers and wanded the opportunity to speak with them. But as I kept watching and observed the different, subtle ways that they were treating my fellow community members and their town, I grew a little annoyed with them, maybe even a little bit angry. I started to look at the bigger picture of the situation going on in front of me: This group of foreigners, coming in with no way of communicating with the people, using their road; And when their cars are all fixed up they drive off like they are on a race track when the road is full of kids. I could also get a vibe of prejudice coming from them. I am surprised with my reaction a bit, for I felt a little protective of my friends around me. I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea that the visitors may have thought more of me because I spoke English and am American. And despite whatever I feel, there is no way to change it. That is life. All I can do is be a good friend to my host country nationals and spread the word of understanding and tolerance to you lovely people.

At the beginning of November, I head to Marrakech for another training. I will learn about grant writing and take a break from my site to re-focus my plans and organize a bit more. Thanks to all who keep up with me and in case I can’t talk to you all before, have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

PPST and my birthday!!

Hey everyone!! I’m sorry again that it has been so long since my last post. It has been an unlucky time for internet this past month; I usually only have enough time to read (and try to respond) to emails and research PC business. I hope the weather states side is bearable for you all. So what all have I been up to lately? Well about a week ago I attended my Post- Pre Service Training (PPST). It is a time where all of us health volunteers can come back together, take a break from our sites, share our experiences, and get some formal technical training to prepare us for executing projects in our sites. Even with all of the training seminars I had to attend (which were indeed very helpful and informative) I would dare to call it two weeks of heaven! We stayed in this wonderful hotel in Ouarzazate that had air conditioning, a huge swimming pool with club music, and great food (despite the lousy service). I was able to get up every morning and swim laps!! And on Friday nights, we went to this nearby club and danced until 4 in the morning! To go from three months in the bled with 120* F sun w/o AC, no real outlet for exercise, and not a whole lot to do besides talking to people and studying tashelheit, that place was pretty awesome. It was also really great to see my fellow volunteers and catch up on what everyone had been up to. It was really nice to hear everyone’s stories so far and it was also reassuring for me because despite how different everyone’s site is, so many of us had similar experiences and feelings over the past three months. The training seminars we attended consisted of various topics surrounding health issues in Morocco: Maternal and Child health, Water and sanitation, hygiene practices, HIV/AIDS, as well as helpful workshops on how to introduce peer education into the schools, how to prepare and give a lesson, and we had a panel of 2nd year volunteers discuss how to handle Ramadan and also to just talk about their own experiences during their first 6 months of service. A lot of ideas were generated from the trainings, which I am thankful for. It finally gives me more of a direction as far as what I want to work on during my service here. I still need to do some assessing of more specific topics, such as bathroom access, water sanitation, and maternal health, but hopefully by November, I can get something big rolling that will really help out the community. For right now, I’m just going to work on preparing health lessons to teach in the schools. It is a good and simple way to establish my role as a health volunteer in the community and allows me to practice my language in a very public setting.

Another great event that recently came and went was my birthday!! It couldn’t have been more convenient to be right at the end of PPST. The Friday night before, I danced at the club with all of my friends, and then the next day a big group of us headed to Agadir for the weekend!! On the night of my birthday, we were able to find a restaurant that served asian food, and everyone chipped in to pay for my meal! Then we headed out to the English pub and listened to some interesting karaoke music :O) The next day we spent all day at the beach. I also traveled to a nearby surf town called tagazoute and hung out with some pretty cool people. The view there was beautiful! All in all, I’d say that it was one of my best birthdays (it is definitely up there with last year’s birthday, Lizzy B. J)

So today (8/19/2010) marks the first week of Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is the month of fasting where Muslims fast (that means no food OR water) from sun up to sun down. There are people who are exempt from fasting: children who have not yet hit puberty, the elderly, pregnant women, lactating women, women who are menstruating, and people who are sick. They know when it is time to break fast when they hear the call to prayer (tiwitchi). This occurs around 7:15pm. Moroccans break fast with dates, cakes, and soup, this sweet, nutty dry paste called slilu, and this cold drink of corn flour, sugar and water, called goofia. Breaking fast is a glorious time because the food is so great! This is my first time experiencing Ramadan and I decided to fast the whole month! The first day was terrible, but since then it hasn’t been too bad. The town is pretty much dead during the day; everyone spends it laying down and/or sleeping. I’ve spent a lot of my time reading and studying, trying not to sleep too much during the day. So I have the first week down and two more to go! I have no doubt that I will be able to fast for the whole month, but I’ll keep you posted on how it is going!

Before I end this post, I just want to say good luck to everyone who is heading back to school! I want to hear about what you all have been up to this summer, so send me emails! I can’t guarantee that you will get an immediate response, but know that every letter I get is SOOO appreciated and I WILL respond! Enjoy your last few days of summer freedom!