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 ☺

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