Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sounds of Morocco, on to CBT, et al

I've been wanting to do this post for a long time, but I've had to wait a little while to "accumulate" enough sounds. Unfortunately, I did not record these sounds, I'm only listing the numerous, various, and always interesting molecular vibrations that have entered our room within the past week:

In no particular order:

Donkey cries (eeee-hah eee-hah eee-hah), extremely LOUD cat meows, barking dogs, growling dogs, yelping dogs, construction sounds (bulldozers, trucks, etc.), the call to prayer @ around 4am, various strange birdcalls, the sounds of children playing, men and women laughing, and cars and trucks driving by (we're located on the main strip in the town in which we're doing our pre service training).

There's probably more sounds, but I can't think of all of them right now....

Emily and I have recieved information about our first homestay family, whom we will meet tomorrow. A mother (housewife), a father (butcher), and 3 kids: a 22 year old female, a 16 year old male, and a 6 month old baby girl! We will be travelling about 120 km from this site to go to our Community Based Training (CBT) site, where this family lives. In addition to us, there are 4 other trainees who will be staying with 4 seperate families in our CBT site. There, we will continue our language and technical training while we live with, and learn from, our homestay family. This is a very exciting experience for all of us because this will be a MAJOR step in our language and cultural growth.

Around October 2, we will come back to this site to debrief and describe our experience learning from our families and the local artisanat (the artisan groups that we will interview, learn from, and work with). A week or so later, we will go back to our homestay familes to complete phase 2 of CBT. After 2 1/2 more weeks at CBT, we'll be back here to conclude our pre service training.

Does it all make sense right now? Not exactly. We have a general idea of what's going on, but we have to complete our CBT training and the rest of PST to really be prepared as volunteers.

We're not taking our laptop with us to CBT, so in a week or ten days, we'll have another post concerning our first stage of CBT.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

well here's some more pictures for everyone to enjoy, for those of you that enjoy weaving will like these pictures. most of these pictures where taken on suday, the same day we did our hike. Jon didn't come out to the Artisanat, but I had a great time seeing the different sorts of crafts they do here. notice the big show room, and the studio of looms. At a seperate rug shop Lynn and Dan where dressed up in berber wedding blankets, infact I was dressed up as well, but I didn't include it because it's kinda blurry.

So, we've been busy with lots of semenars and language training. we're really trying our best to master the language, but it's very slow. I'm getting more and more excited about our work with SBD. Our program manager is very inspiring.

here's the Artisanat, and yes it is spelled right

here's some HUGE looms for weaving rugs at the local co-op

Here's a loom in the same rug shop

here's a couple of our fellow PCTs all dressed up in Berber wedding garb in the middle of a rug shop

here's an image from the roof of where we're staying!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

As promised, pretty pictures

SBD peeps just about ready to head out to our Seminar Site!

Our drive to our Seminar Site became more and more mountainous as we drove toward Morocco's interior.

During our trip, we saw lots of farms chock full of livestock.

This is a view from our Seminar Site toward the mountain that we scaled today!

The beginning of the hike was just before a cemetary. We walked through the cemetary to continue on our way.

It was a tough hike up the trail. We hiked about 1000 feet up.

But it was well worth it!

Emily with our Seminar Site in the background!

A shot of our amazing food! Fresh vegetables, bread, chicken, and lentil soup!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pre Service Training: our Seminar Site

Yesterday, we departed our hotel in Rabat and took a 3 hour bus trip to a town in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco. We travelled through a lot of rugged, winding territory and saw a lot of farmland, farmhouses, mountains, and valleys. We took a few pictures from the bus, but they don't translate very well.

So far at our Seminar Site, we've been eating some AMAZING meals. Moroccan food is very tasty, nutritious, and simple! Some of the main types of food include Tagines (pronounced Tah-zheens), which are stews with cucumbers, potatoes, turnips, carrots and/or different types of meat (beef, chicken, etc.), couscous, flatbreads, pastries, lots of tea and water, sugar dates, and a powder-like mixture of flour, cinnamon, finely chopped nuts, sesame seeds, and sugar that can be scooped up with flatbreads.

We've also begun to delve into Darija, the main dialect of Morocco (aka Moroccan Arabic). The main difference between English and Darija is......EVERYTHING! Vowels are not used as often as in English, which results in alot of atypical letter combinations. Take, for instance, the Darija word for scissors: "mqs." Another major difference is that Darija uses alot of throat sounds (which sound like you're clearing your throat), and we Americans use mostly the tongue area of the mouth and the lips to make sounds. It's a bit challenging, but we just started today. Our language and culture facilitator is a really good teacher, so we're both REALLY excited to continue our studies!

The geography of this area is absolutely fantastic: completely surrounded by cedar-tree-covered mountains! Our site is also located in the midst of a national park, and many of us have been talking about hitting the trails to check out the awesome views!

We will be really busy for the next week (until Friday), when we will learn of our community based training sites (aka our first homestay family experience). During this week, we will be learning more about Darija, Moroccan culture in general, and our Business Development jobs.

We haven't uploaded any pictures yet, but when we get some, we'll either edit this post or do a new post with pictures.

Just so everyone knows, our wireless internet is not letting us load certain web pages, including Gmail. So, we haven't been able to receive or send any emails from that account. For now, expect to not get emails from us.

Everything is great and everyone is very warm, generous, and friendly. I'm sure it'll get more difficult, but Emily and I will ride this wave for as long as we can!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Were finally in Morocco!

After much anticipation and a whole lot of tiresome travelling, Emily and I have made it to Morocco; Rabat specifically!! We arrived in Casablanca early on Tuesday morning. Here's the first picture that Emily took in Morocco:

Once in our bus, all 58 of us trainees we bussed over to Rabat, where we stopped to visit the Peace Corps Morocco headquarters. We also visited the Peace Corps Morocco Training staff, who gave us our first taste of Moroccan mint tea! It tastes just like spearmint gum, I swear!

We walked around the grounds, admiring the library and the other resources that will be available to us over the next 27 months! It's a beautiful setting with lush vegetation and gorgeous architecture. See for yourself!

After that, we arrived at our hotel in Rabat, where we ate, relaxed, and went on the rooftop to admire the view and send some emails! I've included a few pictures of that awesome space...I think we'll begin to miss it once we're in Azrou this Friday.

We've been attending training sessions during the day and socializing in our time off at night.

Today, we actually got a "walk around" allowance (400 Dirhams, which equals about US$ 12.50) and were set loose to explore the city of Rabat, if only for a few hours. We saw a bunch of stores closing, maybe because of the evening prayer, or maybe in anticipation of breaking their fasts (we're in the midst of Ramadan, where
muslims fast during the daylight hours). Emily and I searched for an adapter for our computer, but couldn't find a merchant with the right wares...Better luck next time!

Tomorrow is our last day of orientation before we're off to another hotel in Azrou. From what I have gathered, we'll be doing 1 more week of training in Azrou before we are relocated to live with our host family!

We all are taking it little by little, slowly gaining experience that will help us all in a very short amount of time!


A random Ps...: French people love Morocco!!! They're everywhere (at least in our hotel...)!!!

Pps. This post should have been posted Tuesday, but the wireless internet has been pretty flaky and I haven't been able to upload images. Hopefully this does not continue...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

1 Year Anniversary!

Yes, Emily and I have been married for 1 year now! Peace Corps....what an anniversary present!!!

Early in the morning, Emily took a picture of our room's view. Have a gander.

Anyways, today was an extension of yesterday, going over staging exercises that reinforced the main themes of Peace Corps orientation: safety, integration, and health, among others.

During our lunch break, we walked around and found a Mexican restaurant called "Mad Mex." It had some really interesting and funny food names, which I unfortunately cannot remember right now. Emily got a shot of our group as we walked up to the place.

After the day was over, we gathered downstairs as a large group. Some of us went to the east side of town to check out some sights. We took the train over to the 8th street stop and we saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I was pretty impressed with Independence Hall because it made me think of the movie "National Treasure." That was a cool part of the movie. Here's a shot of the Liberty Bell:

We walked around a bit after that. We headed to South Street, which ended up being a larger, grittier version of Coventry (for all of you Cleveland fans)! We took the train home after that and ended the night by hanging out at a local pizza place.

We forgot to include a picture of our room, so here's one from yesterday that shows our desk, computer, and flat screen TV (which we didn't use)!

Tired. Going to bed to get a restful night of sleep before our big day of travelling tomorrow!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Philly: Day 1

What a day!

My first experience in Philadelphia involved meeting a handful of extremely friendly Peace Corps trainees as we waited for the shuttle bus to the Sheraton Hotel. That experience hasn't changed very much throughout the day: everyone that Emily and I talk to are very friendly and open to learning about one another!!! It's the easiest social experience that I've ever taken part in. That's saying alot, because I'm usually socially handicapped in large meet-and-greet situations.

The hotel is amazing! It's by far the fanciest in which I have stayed. There is a computer with free internet, a flat screen TV, a huge desk/work area, and EXTREMELY comfy beds! Very impressed!

Our orientation today was ok...although I'm looking forward to our Pre Service Training when we arrive in Morocco. I'm also looking forward to learning about the culture and starting to learn the language. Many people here have had experience with Arabic, so I'm feeling a little nervous about my status language-wise. I want to dive right into it!

Emily and I walked around with a group of fellow trainees tonite after we ate at a Thai restaurant. The weather was mild and breezy: a perfect night for a walk. There were a few interesting sights as well...mostly old churches and buildings that were excellent architectural specimens: Gothic and Italian among others. Very old; very cool!

So that's pretty much it. Going to work on some homework with Emily and hit the sack.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

...what the Peace Corps tells us not to do...


Here's my week:

Monday: Finished working at Cedar Point, worked on packing our cluttered apartment.

Tuesday: Packed/moved all day long; rented moving truck; moved most of our life into the truck; went out to the 800 club one last time....went to bed around 1am.

Wednesday: up early at 5:30am; moved more stuff into the truck; drove to our storage site and emptied the truck; got the truck back on time, I don't really remember what happened after that....errands...visiting people...etc.

Thursday: More errands and visiting people...

Friday (tomorrow): Looks like even more errands and visiting people...

Saturday: Our flight to Philadelphia at 9am kicks off the Peace Corps Bonanza!

I'm never ever the type to rant in a blog about the drama of my life. I do, however, feel that preparing for the Peace Corps (moving, etc.) in 4 days is one of the most mentally and physically draining things I have done in life so far. Next time I decide to halt the events of my life and do a 180 degree turn, I'm going to give myself at least a full week and a few more pairs of hands to help out with the move!

I can't wait till I can just rest!

Enjoy floor-computer pictures (desk was packed in truck):