Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Souq & Blue Bear update

Hi everyone!

I hope that you all had a nice Christmas and will have a fun New Years! Jon and I were invited to spend New Years Eve with a couple of nearby volunteers, but because of a number of reasons we decided to decline. Besides, as it turns out it's a very rainy and foggy day, which isn't very good conditions for traveling on these mountain roads.

One of the reasons that we didn't want to go away was because we where supposed to look at a potential house for rent that our host mother found. We also talked with our counterpart and my tutor about potential houses. We're still waiting, but we have a whole month. That's what Jon keeps telling me! After 5 months of living out of a suitcase, finally having a place of our own will be like heaven.

Yesterday was Souk day. Jon and I finally took an inventory of all the things that we bought from the previous volunteer so that we would know exactly what we still needed to buy. We figured we could buy some of the smaller items little by little (like kitchen supplies and blankets), so that we wouldn't have to do it all at once when we move in. The only things we ended up buying yesterday was a tea pot and some glasses, but we also priced a lot of other items as well.

The thing about Souk is that it's cheap, but you're also expected to bargain on most items, especially the ones we're looking to buy (you don't bargain on vegetables for example, which are already at rock-bottom prices, unless you plan on haggling for a half an hour to save 6 cents). So we'll probably go over the prices we got with our family to determine if they are fair. It's very common for foreigners to be charged more for things, but we've found that people seem to be pretty fair in our small town, maybe because they don't see many foreigners, or maybe because they see us week after week.

At any rate, we like to go to the Souk just to see all the excitement. It's kinda like having a big festival in town every week. Any this week was even more exciting, there where more venders there than we had ever seen. That's because they're getting ready for a holiday called Eashura. We can give more details about the holiday later, but part of it involves giving gifts to children and playing small drums. Therefore, there where tons of venders who sold either the drums or the small plastic toys (the really chintsy stuff found at a dollar store). We saw a few of these drums the other day when our family got some out from years past. they're made out of ceramic and some sort of skin for the part you beat. We bought somewhat large and very nicely painted drum at the Souk, only to find that our family had also bought one for us! So now we each have one. Of course they proclaimed that the bigger one was Jon's. Anyway, it was a beautiful day for the Souk and we had a great time looking around.

So this past week I decided to have a little fun and make an outfit for Blue Bear. It didn't really take very long, I worked on it a little at a time in the evening mostly. I started with the sweater first but then decided that he needed a hat (well, Jon was strongly encouraging me to make a hat too). I thought the pointy design with the tassel looked very Moroccan, since pointy is all the rage here and tassels can be found on many Jellabas (but usually women's I think). As usual, I made up the design myself, not that any patterns would exist for this particular bear anyway. Designing is the part that is most fun for me. And look at how happy Blue Bear is to have a warm outfit for the winter!

Happy New Year!

emily and jon

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jon's Language Progress

Just wanted everyone to know that a wood carver at my association yesterday mentioned that my Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is comparable to his Tamazight-speaking grandmother who knows little Arabic. And I laughed. I think that part's important.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Just wanted to let you guys know how we're celebrating our christmas in Morocco.

step one, cookies.
Yesterday, Christmas eve, we (me and some of my female relatives here), baked three different types of Christmas cookies; chocolate chunk with crushed candy canes, peanut butter oatmeal (not too much oatmeal), and gingerbread cookies :) All in all, it kinda turned out to be a culinary catastrophe. Jon was no help at all, but was able to coordinate the "tree" decorating. With our two younger sisters and cousin they strung popcorn and made paper snowflakes, which where taped to the tree (pictures later). Meanwhile, in my limited vocabulary and even more limited cooking ability, I struggled through making cookies with nothing to measure with, limited directions (we didn't even have directions for the gingerbread at all), and no temperature control for the oven. I think i was starting to catch on by the third batch and it wouldn't have been so bad if i could have made all these mistakes in the privacy of my own kitchen. but our Moroccan family was very encouraging, kinda in the way you encourage a five year old when doing something for the first time. So all the cookies are hard as rocks, but tasty just the same...they are good dunked in tea. One of my mistakes was the sugar...way too much, but that's not really a problem here in my opinion. we also introduced things that the Moroccans found very strange for ginger and nutmeg. Also, there is no molasses in Morocco, so we used this caramel stuff, not a bad substitute. I will begin my intensive cookie-baking training with Mom and Grandma as soon as I return to the states. But before that, i hope to pick up a thing or two from my host mom (like making her amazing bread) and Lisa, the nearby volunteer and culinary master.

Step two; stockings.
so late last night we told our family about "papa noel" and the tradition of hanging up our sock over the window (no fireplaces here folks). Jon and I demonstrated by draping our socks over the curtain rod. Unfortunately our family didn't follow, until after we turned in for the night. Around midnight we gathered the socks and tried to figure out whose was whose....which we where wrong. we got our bothers' sock mixed up with our Moms' and the two girls where mixed up as well...oops. but besides that, the stockings where a big hit.

Step three, presents.
throught the months of november and december i have been making presents for my family here: a wool bag for our mom, scarf for our brother, funny slippers for one sister, and a headband for our other sister. yesterday morning we wrapped them in newsprint, which we decorated ourselves. Those too where a hit. so I guess two out of three isn't bad.

All in all it hasn't been a bad Christmas experience. We're looking forward to a call from my parents this evening and we'll probably take a walk later, I hope. Thankfully I got my wish, which was to NOT have a white Christmas this year! Merry Christmas everyone!


ps here are some pictures

Our delicious Christmas bricks!

l'3id Kbir, et al.

It snows in Minnehaha! Here's the proof!

In our down time, when it's nice, we take walks around our town. Here's Emily with our town behind her walking on "the road to Meknes!"

Our l'Eid Kbir was great! It's a sacrificial holiday that celebrates Abraham's obedience to God, as when Abraham was about to obey the order to sacrifice his son, God replaced his son with a sheep. Hence, every year, each family that is able to do so purchases a sheep, has it slaughtered, and feasts upon it for about a week!

Unfortunately, the slaughter took place in a very dimly lit part of our house, so we weren't able to get any decent "up close" pictures to show. No problem; if you're determined and resourceful, you'll be able to find slaughter pics and other goodies on other Peace Corps Volunteers' blogs! During the morning of L'Eid Kbir, this was our view from our living room window:

However, we did get some pictures of the l'Eid eve celebration and our family preparing the organs for our lunch: liver, heart, lungs, and other organs deliciously wrapped in fat, flame-grilled to perfection, and served between hand-made bread! Wouldn't this concept do well in America!

We recently visited our friend Lisa, who lives in a town close to Minnehaha. It's not nestled in the mountains like our town is, therefore, it's somewhat warmer than Minnehaha. We took a stroll around her town and ended up in a pretty nice park, which apparently housed monkeys and even lions at one point. The cages looked like they could barely contain a group of teenage boys... Lisa's host mother said, laughing, that the animals all died as a result of the cold. Seems like a big oversight on the part of the animal's's a shot from within the park.

We also celebrated Christmas at Lisa's house with her family. The first night we were there, we made eggnog and started on our gingerbread house. The second night, we made chocolate and mint cookies and finished our gingerbread house. Check out the pictures:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

simana luwla dyalna f Minnehaha (our first week in Minnehaha)

Right now, we're at a cyber cafe in Minnehaha, which is pretty inexpensive (4 dirhams/hour, which is the equivalent of about 50 cents). This doesn't seem to be a bad option, as there are at least 10 cyber cafes in our town, and it is much less expensive than having internet in our future apartment (~300Dh/month). We'll see.

Our first full day as volunteers was quite nice. We took a walk around town and went to the summit of a nearby hill to get some photos. Our view was obstructed by some trees, so we decided to walk a bit further along the ridge of the hill. We came upon a shepherd who warned us of his dogs that were ahead a bit. He accompanied us toward a safe spot and after we got some shots, he invited us to his house to "shrb atay" (drink tea). His place was small, but warm. It was made of mud. He also had satellite television. Moroccans LOVE satellite television. It was a strange mix of old and new, archaic and technological.

When asked what we were doing in Minnehaha, we introduced ourselves as American Peace Corps volunteers. He approved. We talked about our families, how long we had been in Morocco, how long we had been studying Darija, etc. We mentioned the man that we were working alongside, and he nodded, indicating that he knew our counterpart from the mosque. After that, we was like peas and carrots. He invited us over to his house for l'Eid Kbir as he vigorously demanded that I eat more olives ("kul zitun! kul zitun! kul! kul! kul!) But I think i'm getting better at resisting the command "kul." Both of us are. If only we had such resistance during the CBT phase; we could have avoided 2 months of GI trauma.

The next day, Sunday, we went with our little sisters to a "running" practice. There are a few men who volunteer as coaches and meet with about 50 or 60 kids. The kids do warm-up exercises, run, stretch, do various training drills, and play athletic-oriented games. We met at a soccer field and walked with one of the volunteers to a small wooded hill about a half mile away from the field. The kids ran. I acted mostly as a photographer; after a short while, Emily started exercising along with the kids. She said it was a good way to keep warm. After a few hours, we walked back to town, and upon departing, the volunteers invited us (or me, I wasn't quite sure) to a cafe for later in the day.

As women are mostly forbidden from cafes, I thought it wise to go by myself. We talked about the Peace Corps, and what Emily and I would be doing in Morocco, and for how long. I don't think they believed me, or maybe it's just that they didn't understand me, because they kept asking for clarification. After that, they started talking among themselves. I don't mind this, because our weakness is understanding Moroccans when they speak. Whenever I get the chance to listen, I definitely take advantage of it. Later, when we departed, one of the volunteers invited both Emily and myself to meet one of his friends and an American student the following day. Of course, I accepted, as I was very curious why there was another American in this small, secluded town in the middle of Morocco.

We met the following day at a cafe and talked about lots of things, mainly Amazigh-ism, and its importance in Morocco today. Many have heard of the term "berber," but that term is viewed as derogatory by Moroccans who identify with their heritage. They would much more prefer to be referred to as Amazighs; "berber" is a term given to them by the French in the early 20th century. It translates, roughly, as "animal." Needless to say, pro-amazigh-ism is an important stance among the residents of the Middle Atlas, especially in Minnehaha.

This week, we also met with the artisans of our association. There are 12 woodcarvers in the co-operative; I got to meet with 10 of them. Emily met with 2 of the women of the adjoining neddy (a neddy is a women's association...its a general term, neddy's can produce any number of things: weavings, crochet, knitting, embroidery, etc).

One woman that Emily met with was working on a cross-stitch pillowcase and the other was crocheting a washcloth that people use to scrub themselves at the Hammam. The men that I met with were working on bowls mostly. Very large low bowls in which women knead bread. It's all very awesome and we will undoubtedly have many pictures later!


Unfortunately, we are not going to bestow upon our host family an amazing dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie!...hopefully, we'll be prepared to do that for Christmas.

Talk with you all later,

Emily and Jon

Monday, November 17, 2008

site visit, LPIs, cedar forests, and beyond...


Hello friends and family! Emily and I have been back in our CBT debriefing site for some time now. We spent a week in Minnehaha, and got to meet our host family there, our work counterpart, and various other members of the community. Most of the week was very VERY rainy and cold, and we pretty much just stayed inside. However, on the Thursday of that week, it became quite gorgeous! So much so, in fact, that we emerged from our host family's house and took a walk around the town and took care of some business that was assigned to us by Peace Corps (meeting with local officials, finding out where resources are in the town, and laying down some legwork that will generally make it easier for us to integrate into the community).

Roofs are very zwin (good) in Morocco. Most people here DO NOT have mechanical clothes dryers, and "landrymats" largely do not exist either. After either a) handwashing their clothes or b) using their washing machines, the women hang up the clothes on the roof of their house to dry in the sun. Seems pretty efficient to me! Morocco, even in the cold months, has a pretty hot sun!

The picture above was actually taken from the roof of the volunteer that we are replacing! The mountain in the distance (well, a small mountain anyway) offers a splendid almost-360 degree view of the land surrounding Minnehaha!

I had to include a picture of my 2 month old beard. I chopped it recently, but here it was in its full splendor. Note the neck hair and the toothpaste around my mouth! I'm a tenacious brusher! Needless to say, Emily was sad to see the beard go, but not the neck hair.

So, we bid our host family goodbye, and came back here in order to do some last minute preparations for the Language Proficiency Interviews (LPIs). We just took those the other day, and Emily and I both did pretty well! We both have the same rank: Intermediate Low. The rankings go like this:

1. Superior
2. Advanced High
3. Advanced Mid
4. Advanced Low
5. Intermediate High
6. Intermediate Mid
7. Intermediate Low
8. Novice High
9. Novice Mid
10. Novice Low

The highest that anyone got was Intermediate High, and I believe all of those people had prior language fluency in Arabic or other languages, which makes me feel better about our scores!

To give you an ide a of our ability, I'm going to quote a passage from a language book that we recently got:


Can speak on familiar topics, ask and answer simple questions, initiate and respond to simple statements, and carry on face-to-face discussions. Can pick out the main idea in a friendly informal conversation. Often speaks incorrectly but by repeating, generally can be understood by native speakers who regularly deal with foreigners. Frequently can understand native speaker if her or she repeats or speaks more slowly.

New topic - HIKING! Yesterday, we went back to the cedar forests that make this city such an awesome place to hike and enjoy nature! We went primarily for 3 reasons: a) we only get one day for exploring per week, b) we wanted to see the giant tree called "Cedar Guru" or something like that, and c) we wanted to see/feed more monkeys! We were successful in all three of these goals, as you will see...

These little buggers are smart! They know how to open bottles of water and actually seemed to prefer beverages over food. For example: I offered a few dirty apes dried bread and sugar cubes and they smacked them out of my hand! THE NERVE! However, one of our volunteer friends was practically bitten until he gave up his delicious bottle of Sidi Ali! I should have brought pop or an energy drink or something. That would have been funny!

Unfortunately the tree was dead. It was big though. It's hard to tell from the photo, but I'm sure it was probably 8 to 10 feet thick at the trunk! The tree was surrounded by little tourist shops. Tons of fossils and gemstones that make our Rock Shop look pretty pathetic. There were ammonite fossils the size of dinner plates and geodes the size of soccer balls!

The forest was absolutely gorgeous. The colors were vivid and the light streaming through the branches laid out shadows in all directions. There was an atmosphere in the forest that reminded me of a fairy Lord of the Rings or the like. We hiked until we were tired and then turned back to feed the monkeys some more. I managed to capture this shot of Emily with a little one. His mom was near, but he was still very timid.

On our way back home, we came across a herd of sheep, although there was no shepherd. At least we couldn't see one. Continuing our walk home, we had a pretty nice view of the countryside and a few houses among the hills.

I'm going to backtrack a bit. Saturday evening, we had a dance party to celebrate our completion of the LPIs! Americans were teaching Moroccans dancing and Moroccans were teaching Americans dancing as well! Personally, I thought the Moroccan dances were alot more fun! A few girls, including Emily, formed a dance troupe and performed a choreographed dance for all of us! I took a bit of video during the party and later composed it into a movie! However, I couldn't include the movie because the bandwidth here is very narrow and sometimes it's impossible even to upload pictures! You can imagine how awesome it is, right?

Well, to conclude our week, we had a few last-minute seminars and an awesome talent show. We had an super sweet art fight that was inspired by a friend of one of our friends here. Check this link out:
There was a panoply of talent exhibited at the art show: singing, dancing (belly, choreographed, and many others), spoken word, other musical performances, and even amazing video art!


Today, we took an oath to, among other things, protect the Constitution of the US, and to serve the people of Morocco so as to preserve their dignity. We were in a pretty awesome hotel on the top floor, overlooking the older section of Fes, which has been preserved largely intact since the 11th century! We only stayed in Fes for a few hours...afterward, we came back here to our Seminar Site, to spend one more night among our American friends!

Tomorrow, we go back to Minnehaha as full fledged Volunteers! Some of the tasks that we will be working on in the next 2 months include: looking for an apartment, getting our Cart de Sejour (proof of residency), looking for tutors, continuing our language learning, and trying to meet as many people as possible!

Hope all is well at home. I just saw that gas is $1.80/gal! Hope that trend continues! Have a happy Thanksgiving and Christmas if we don't hear from you! We'll try to make some phone calls from public phones, as that is much cheaper than calling the states from our cell phone.


Jon and Emily

Friday, October 31, 2008

A couple of shoutouts before we move on...


I just wanted to let everyone know that I added a few links. Samir, my CBT sitemate and hmmam buddy, is featured under the blog name, "From the Cold Land with the Hot Sun." Now you see, we had a similar CBT experience (being in the same town) however his writing style depicted our experience so much more vividly. I'll be following this one regularly and I suggest all of you to do the same.

The second link is the site that our CBT group created. The construction of the site was done primarily by one person, Nora, and we all contributed content to it (Samir, Jamila, Touria, Mariam (Emily), and myself (Karim). The link is called "Association Atlas Fil et Couleur." Check it out and if you're in the neighborhood of Itzer, you should hit them up for a trek!

Lastly, the third link takes you to a directory of Morocco Peace Corps Volunteers' sites. The link is labeled "Peace Corps Journals," or something like that. If you've got a few extra minutes sometime, it might be worth checking out. The site might be a little intimidating, as there are tons of links...each taking you to a different experience. Exploring this site would be a more long-term project.

Tonite, besides being Halloween, is also the night before we head out to our Volunteer site!!! We know a few details about this host family, namely that there is a mother and no father. She has 3 kids, an 18 year old son, an 11 year old daughter, and a 6 year old daughter. This family dynamic will be totally different than our last family, which was mostly nuclear (a mother and father, a 22 year old daughter, a 19 year old daughter, a 15 year old son, and an 8 month old daughter).

Our site, which I will call "Minnehaha," is known for it's mineral springs and delicious water. I don't really know too much more about the site, besides the fact that it is approximately a 3 hour taxi drive from our seminar site. Minnehaha's artisan groups keep themselves busy with woodworking, metalworking, embroidery, knitting, and other small crafts. Women do not weave in an association in Minnehaha, but, like in many Moroccan towns, they weave in their own homes. The area is actually known for a particular style of weaving, which is good for Emily!

Wish us luck in the next week, as we get to know our Volunteer site, our future co-workers, and our future home!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Farewell to CBT

So, we have been in our CBT (community based training) site approximately 25 days, eating Moroccan food, experiencing Moroccan customs first-hand (a 3 day wedding, among other things!), and speaking Moroccan Arabic. Well, at least we're learning the four days, we will part with this small town in the Middle Atlas Mountains and return to our Seminar Site, 120km northwest of here. It has been very eye opening to see the differences and similarities of Moroccan and American lifestyles, especially regarding the differences of food and sense of space and the similarites of humor and family ties.

Some days, it feels like I have no language ability, but then other days, I'll manage to hold my own in a conversation, even cracking a few jokes here and there.

Overall, the experience has been fairly easy. Maybe it's because our family is very patient with our broken, slurred words and incomplete sentences. Maybe it's because we're not yet fully alone. We have not only each other, but we are also with 5 other American Peace Corps Trainees and an awesome LCF that speaks pretty good English.

It helps that we've had successes: Emily has an enthusiastic Moroccan projectmate, Aziza, who is eager to learn new ways of crafting her bags to make them more useful. Emily is applying many skills in this project, including design, sewing, and, of course, language. Take a look at one of the maquettes, resembling Aziza's bags, that Emily made.

And a sketch of a pattern that Emily used to create a maquette.

Emily's main design modification is the addition of the bottom, which gives the bag more volume and usability. Hopefully, this project will not only influence Aziza and the other weavers of the association, but it will also increase the value of the bags.

And I have been collaborating with an artist named Mohammed. Mohammed is a very prolific painter, sculptor, and comic art creator/designer. He paints murals and has contributed politial drawings to a few local newspapers ("jurnalat" in Darija). I discovered, however, that he has never photographed, catalogued, or recorded any information concerning his artwork. So, I have been working with him in photographing his work, naming it, and producing a catalog. The plan is that he can use these skills to archive his own works and the works of his art association. Now that the association has a website, this information can be put online, increasing the likelihood of sales.

In a future post, I'll include the website that one of our CBT groupmates created, which will feature photographs of the artisans' works.

All for now. Unfortunately, we will be leaving the awesome internet of our site's PCV. So I don't know when we'll be able to post alot of pictures. While the bandwidth's nice and fat, here are a few:

Emily in her wedding Khaftan (sp?)

Dung beetle. After all, there are alot of donkeys!

Emily and I in front of our beloved CBT site!

A quick photo during a mid-day stroll through our site!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Moroccan Culture: Part 1

So, there are no pictures in this blog post, sorry to disappoint. Also, it might not read logically. Again, bear with me. There are lots of items regarding Moroccan culture that are popping up in my head right now, so I just had the idea to record some of them down. Based on a month of observation, here goes:

The concept of hot and cold is pertinent to many rural Moroccan families, especially pertaining to physical health. One is persuaded against staying out in the cold, especially when he is underdressed. And, upon coming in from the cold, one is warned of the health problems of lost body heat and the cold in general. Wetness complicates this matter: if it is cold AND rainy, there is even more pressure against experiencing the elements. "Brd," a Moroccan would say, referring to the cold. I find this word easy to remember because it sounds like "brrrrr...," something Americans might say after coming in from the cold.

As people might know, the concept of time is a bit different in Morocco, as compared with America. Many Americans embody a "time is money" attitude that segments their days into strict schedules. There is much pressure to adhere to these schedules, as we generally tend to base our self-worth on the amount of things accomplished. Sometimes, relationships are sacrificed at the expense of getting the job done. In Morocco, like many other non-Western societies, relationships are valued more than work and time is not strictly adhered to. As a result, the pace of life is generally slower than in the United States and tasks aren't completed as speedily. I have not had much culture shock in this sense, as the Moroccans that we've been working with have been pretty motivated to work with us. However, I have no doubt that Emily and I will experience this in the next 2 years.

Moroccans are generally less direct than Americans. We tend to say what we mean, and mean what we say. To convey a message, we generally rely on what we say rather than how we say it. In Morocco, there is more emphasis placed on the non-literal meaning of a message: what is implied rather than what is directly stated. For example, let's say that a Moroccan friend were to offer you food, drink, or a favor. If you were to say "no, thank you," your friend would generally not take that answer at face value, even though you really do not want what's offered. It would take 2, 3, or even 4 "no's" to get the idea across. An American might feel pressure in this situation to say yes, and this is what often happens. At first, they may not understand why their Moroccan friend keeps pushing the issue! We have experienced this example of indirectness especially during meals. "Kul! Kul!" (Eat! Eat!) or "Zid! Zid!" (More! More!) typically punctuate dinnertime conversation. My experience of mealtimes thus far is that as long as you keep eating food, you will continue being fed. This is a dangerous combination, especially with foods that are new to one's body. If you're full, say it! Shbet, L Hamdullah (I'm full, thanks be to God!)!

The roles of women and men are generally different in Morocco as compared to America. For instance, in a typical rural family, the women (mother and sisters) do all of the housework, and prefer it this way. If men were to do work within the household, the women would be thought of as worthless or ineffective. They would think of themselves this way as well. Of course, there are exceptions (for example, a non-nuclear or single parent household). Rural women go out mostly during the day for running errands. Men, however, are seen at all times in the streets; they are in the company of other men only. They are to be seen congregating at public cafes, which forbid women. The sexes rarely mix in pubic. To do so would create a bad reputation for the woman involved.

Another differing topic is the concept of space. In a typical rural Moroccan household, there are no separate bedrooms. There is generally a sitting room (living room), a salon (a room for hosting guests, which is generally bigger than the sitting room), a kitchen, and a sleeping room (where any combination of family members may choose to sleep). Sometimes, family members sleep in the sitting room. The bathroom may or may not be inside the house. Sometimes, it is an attached structure with its own entry. Families generally store their clothes together and designate a room for changing clothes. Furthermore, there isn't a whole lot of "stuff" that family members own. There aren't piles upon piles of toys for children. There is no clutter that takes up all the room in the house. It just doesn't exist. The family ties are more important than the individual; there is less emphasis placed on individualism and more emphasis placed on collectivism. Living with a Moroccan family has helped us understand how materialistic, individualistic, and direct our own culture is. Not necessarily bad; just different. Its interesting to consider that we don't really know who we are unless we step outside and look around for differences of which to compare ourselves.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

CBT Phase 1

This is the mother of all updates! However, there aren't enough pictures to describe what the past few weeks have been like! I've tried to put all the pictures in chronological order, but it might be off some, so bear with me. Ok, lets start!

When we drove from our Seminar Site to our CBT site (for the first phase), we paused at a stop where barbary apes are known to congregate. I believe it is part of the national park around our Seminar Site. So, we drove up to the hairy lil' buggers and pulled some snacks out for 'em.

There were about 15-20 surprisingly tame apes in their troop. They even took the food right out of our hands. They are clearly fed quite regularly. I kinda wanted to pour a whole box of crackers or cookies out on the ground to see what kind of anarchy would ensue, but that probably wouldn't have been culturally sensitive (among the apes, that is...).

So we parted our primate ways. The trip to our CBT site took about 1.5 hours and was a pretty amazing drive through the middle Atlas Mountains.

The path cut through a few valleys and cliffs, sometimes coming perilously close to the edge! Much of the drive was silent, as we were awestruck with the scenery and linguistically limited. The grand taxi driver tried communicating to us a few things here and there, but didn't have a great amount of success.

When we finally arrived at our CBT, all 6 of us were met by members of our host family, who took us to our homes. Our host sister took us home and we tried to communicate that afternoon/evening about our family, our home, and ourselves in general.

As a side-note, I have decided not to post photos or specific information about host country family members or other host country nationals until I get permission.

One day soon after our arrival, the Peace Corps volunteer that works in our site showed us her apartment. We went to the roof (what a view!) and I snapped this picture of Emily. Notice the plateau in the background. We later hiked that plateau...there are pictures of the hike a little bit below!

One morning, as we walked to school, I turned around and snapped a picture of our family's house (The upstairs one with the blue windows).

We took an amazing trek one Sunday. Our group plus our Language and Culture Facilitator, the president of the town's association, and another random guy all went. The hike was pretty exhausting, but well worth the sweat! At our first "checkpoint," we took a quick break to admire the view. Unfortunately, as it was Ramadan, we were unable to drink water in plain sight of practicing Muslims.

Here's the view facing the direction that we came.

We walked up and down a few more valleys and ended up at a giant dam. The last valley before the dam was lush with fruit trees, especially apple. Here's a nice shot of the valley looking with the dam in the distance.

As we walked back toward town, we passed a few farmers with crates upon crates of apples! One of us asked the farmers if we could buy a few apples from them and they refused us! In fact, they offered to take us up to their trees so that we could help them pick some apples and take some for ourselves - for free! The apple trees were so small, but were bursting with fruit! This was an interesting cross-cultural experience. It turned out that one of their managers that was on site spoke a little bit of English that he learned from a Peace Corps volunteer a few years back. After this experience, we headed back to town and started phase 2 of our trek.

As mentioned above, we hiked to a plateau that is visible from our town. The hike took about 40 minutes, and we basically walked along the path of a grass-covered stream path until we got close to the base of the plateau. In the above picture, a flock of sheep were seen grazing close by. I couldn't resist taking a quick shot with the plateau in the background.

Of course, once we got to the base of the plateau, it was a quick hike up to the top (maybe 10 minutes max). However, it wasn't an easy hike. The plateau was quite steep in places and there wasn't an established trail that led to the top. No biggie. We made it up safely, and took some photos, and rested, and feasted on some AMAZING apples! They were the most delicious apples that we've ever had, to be sure! The above shot is our CBT site from the top of the plateau.

Random gorgeous rainbow picture!

Here's a shot of our CBT group as we make our way through the older quarter of our town. We were on our way to the home of 1 of the 6 weavers of the association whom we interviewed. The women were all very hospitable, offering us food and drink, even though they were all fasting. Many of their homes were quite amazing as well, resembling a series of caverns with their large, open rooms and short, narrow hallways.

Midway during this first CBT phase, the president of the town weaving/artisan association organized an art exhibition at a local dar shebab (youth center). A few bits of information are necessary for background purposes. The town has NEVER had an art exhibition before and the dar shebab had not been in use for a very long time. So, naturally, we trainees felt that this was a very amazing opportunity for learning and integrating within the community. The president was very encouraging about our participation, so we all helped out in the ways that we could. Emily and I helped to organize the artwork and assisted in hanging rugs/paintings/etc. The above picture is a shot of us in our jellabas. Well, not OUR jellabas, but ones that were furnished to us by our family! Jellabas are traditional Moroccan clothing that is worn over shirts and pants.

Here is a sample of the artisans' work. There are about 6 really motivated artists in this small town that do the majority of the weaving.

In addition to weavers, there are artists in the association who draw, paint, and sculpt. Here is a shot of one artist's work in particular. These "bone sculptures" were quite a conversation starter! In his sculptures/wall hangings, this artist not only used locally obtained animal skeleton fragments, but he also used pine cones, partially woven fabric, wool yarn, and various shockingly bright colors of paint among other media. Quite interesting!

We took a walk out in the street in our jellabas and couldn't resist taking a shot of this thuggy/grim reapery image.

In addition to language classes, we were also doing analysis of our interviews of the 6 local weavers. Emily and I had incorporated some of our cartooning abilities in this analysis, and our group mates took this picture as they were making fun of the fact that we were similarly dressed. We actually did not plan to match...

Here's the completed "Daily Schedules" graphic that we were working on. It basically lists how the 6 women spend their time during Ramadan (the 9th or 10th month of the Muslim calendar, I forget exactly) and during the rest of the year. The key is at the bottom of the poster.

Here's the completed "Seasonal Calendar" graphic that Emily drew and helped design. The donkey (hashak) in the middle was just for fun! This basically shows how different aspects of life change for the weavers throughout the year.

And lastly, here is a beautiful shot of the skyline near our home. There were so many opportunities for pictures like this.

Our second phase of CBT starts this Saturday (October 11) and lasts until Halloween!! We are looking forward to increasing our language, completing projects (for the association) that we have devised, and generally furthering our aptitude in this society. We may or may not do blog updates during that time. We have access to internet there, so it all depends on our amount of spare time.

It will be cold, however. We'll be sure to bring much warmer clothes this time around!