Friday, April 2, 2010

one month in...I'm ready for more!

It has been a whole month since I've been in Morocco! I really can't believe it. It has been so long since I have written, I'll try to remember everything.

reflection on packing:
Even though I tried to do all of this research and preparation, I feel like I didn't pack as well as I should. For the most part, I feel like my clothes are more casual than what is expected here. Everyone dresses in matching clothes and is always very well kept and looking nice, even if it is to walk down to a neighbor's house. Image really means a lot here. And while I feel like I have adequate clothes to cover myself up, they really aren't pieces to make one outfit. I am given a good amount of walk around allowance so I plan on buying some clothes that are more Moroccan style. Bargaining is usually the way you buy things like clothes here and I'm still not confident to do that, so it might be a little while before I get some good clothes.

CBT site:
My Moroccan family is so great! I have a forty year old sister and her mom. My sister isn't married yet, but she knows practically all of the women and families in the town. Our house is really nice and I have a big room all to myself. I sleep on the floor on a ton of blankets so it's pretty comfortable. And I'm able to do yoga, read, and just have some time to myself if I need it, which can be quite a luxury when comparing my situation with other PCTs. My mornings for the past 3 weeks have been pretty repertory. I wake up and get ready, have my breakfast of bread, olive oil, jam, and really sweet tea, and get to the LCF's house for class. We study language until 10 and have another breakfast of bread, jam, olive oil, and sweet tea. We continue to study until 12:30 and eat lunch. It is usually a salad dish of different veggies and rice, followed by a tajine. Since the tajine always has meat it in, our cook makes a separate dish of lentils or lubia for me. She is truly an amazing cook! So we have our lunch from 12:30 - 2, which gives us a lot of time after eating to relax, maybe take a nap. We begin studying until 4, then we have another break consisting of more tea, cookies or cakes, and bread with all the fixins (jam, oil, honey). After break, we study cross culture or just study language until 5:30. I usually go home right after to talk to my sister and she usually wants me to eat again. Depending on what feels right, I may go hang out with her and her friends from the neighborhood, or go to a nearby bridge where a lot of younger kids play after school. Once it gets dark, I stay home and try to speak with my family or watch tv with them. Dinner is usually at 9 or 930, and I typically go to bed right after. So if you've lost track, I usually eat about 5 or 6 times a day. I'm getting overloaded on sugar and bread! I've started to have a little more control over what I'm eating because my language is getting better and my family and I are more comfortable with each other. I'm starting to do more things around the house too. I help with the dishes and helped make spaghetti for dinner the other night. It is definitely a step by step process (imik s imik)

New experiences:
Although my village has electricity, very few households have washing machines. I'm fortunate to have one in my house, but I figured it is good to learn new skills that I may need later, so I learned how to wash my clothes in the river. It was such a great experience! All I need is some tide, a couple of buckets of different sizes, dirty clothes, and a frraka, which is a long wooden board with ridges on it. I would hawl all of my stuff to the river, fill up my bucket with some water, add my clothes and some tide, let them soak for a bit, then get to work on the frakka. There seems to be a certain method when washing clothes this way, because I was constantly getting advice on how to do it. Some girls even offered to step in and do the washing themselves. I gave in because it was faster and we were getting a lot of wind that day, but it would have been nice to figure it out on my own. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities though. mashi mushkill. The really hard thing for me was making sure that all of the detergent was rinsed out of the clothes. If not, they dry really stiff. Not fun. It takes a long time (obviously) but it is a great way to socialize with the women of the community. And everyone seemed pretty impressed with me too.
Another interesting experience has been going to other peoples' houses for dinner. Us 5 PCTs at my CBT site have been the talk of the village since we got here and all of our host families are wanting us to come to dinner. Observing dinner customs is such a good way to gain insight into their lifestyles and practices. There was one particular dinner that was really different from all of the others. Islam is the largest practicing religion in Morocco, and like all religions, some families practice slightly different customs of the religion. With this family, males and females were completely segregated the whole night during dinner. I only saw the males in our group when we first got there and when we left. That was the first time that I went to a dinner like that.
As part of our cross cultural training, we learn about the religion of Islam. One thing that we discussed is the way animals are killed for food. Some of my site mates were able to witness this first-hand. They bought a live rabbit and kept it at the LCF's house for 2 days. On the morning of the second day, one of the local butchers came over and three of the five of us (me not included) witnessed the slaughter of the rabbit outside the front door of the house. It is interesting to see the differences in how most people here view the death and eating of animals. It is still a hard topic to discuss here, but I'm getting better at voicing my opinions. I don't want to take away an experience that someone feels they should have, even if I don't agree with it. It is still tough to witness the treatment of animals here though.
I'm not sure if I mentioned this in the last blog, but I experienced a hammam! It is basically like a steam sauna. There are public hammams, but I have only gone to private ones where only a couple of other people are in them and I know who they are. At first it is really gross to be able to physically see how dirty your skin is, but you get used to it.

Hub site:
About every week or so, all of the health pcts gather in the big city for technical training, debriefing, and western toilets :) It is always a ton of information, but it is really helpful and certainly useful. I feel like we won't truly understand the importance of it all until we are at our sites and experience things first hand. It is hard to stay proactive and attentive because the weeks have been so tiresome. It's just a constant flow of information and being at this place at this time, and not having time to get all of the fun errands done. I am getting better about managing my time, though. And this won't last forever, so that is good to know.

What's to come:
I have a meeting with the site director next week about my placement. I won't know about my site for a couple of weeks, but will be able to visit it for a week before I get stationed there. Because of the language that I am learning, I will most likely be placed in the southern part. I am hoping that it is near the ocean (only an hour or 2 away)! I'll keep you updated on it as soon as I am able!

til next time!

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