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!