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.