Monday, March 26, 2012

Peace Corps Orientation

I have arrived safely in Morocco! I have only been here a week, but it feels like months…

The weekend before I left for Morocco I had the opportunity to participate in a life transformation weekend in Chicago. Throughout the weekend we learned how to identify with our emotions at a deeper level in an effort to unleash our greatest potential as human beings. The weekend inspired me to continue to use my emotions to connect to others and myself more deeply. I want to live with an open heart and see the hard times as part of the adventure. I am committed to living this experience in constant self-growth so that I can become my best self. This is the best gift I can give to Moroccan youth.

Saying my good-byes was difficult. I had totally planned to be set and ready to go to the day before I left, but in the chaos of saying my good-byes it didn’t really work out that way. I was still throwing things into my bags the second before I left for the airport. Flustered and out of sorts, I met my first fellow trainee in the Cincinnati airport. It was comforting having a trainee by my side as we carried over eighty pounds of luggage around the airport. We flew to Philadelphia together for one night of orientation/staging. Having slept little the night before I left, I ran on adrenaline for the rest of the day. I met my trainee group of over 100 volunteers, met some of the Peace Corps staff, and completed the necessary forms. I also saw my beautiful friend Elizabeth, whom I haven’t seen since graduation! She has already been a huge source of support during this transitional week. The next morning we took a two-hour bus ride to the JFK airport and took a direct flight to Casablanca, arriving in Morocco on March 21. Then we took another two-hour bus ride to Rabat, where we are staying for nine days of orientation.

Thus far, orientation has consisted of medical sessions, interviews, vaccinations, language classes, inspiring youth development videos, introduction to Islam, safety protocol and regulations, a peace corps volunteer support group, and a helpful session about the 7 components of a successful volunteer. The staff has been great, providing tons of advice about health, safety, language, cultural integration, etc. We have been divided into smaller language groups, which I find relieving. I tend to flourish more in smaller groups. My group consists of 4 other trainees. I will be spending a majority of my time with my language group and am looking forward to developing supportive relationships with them. Learning Moroccan Arabic has been so much fun! My teacher is a local Moroccan man who works with the Peace Corps. He seems really kinds and supportive. We are definitely delving right into the language, and I am confident that the Peace Corps will prepare us to work efficiently in our sites in a few months.

The nerves have definitely kicked into gear. Emotions range from fear to joy all in one day! I feel unsettled in an unfamiliar place. I have waited so long to go to Morocco and start my service that it often times feels so surreal. I am excited, but scared and anticipating the many challenges that are ahead. I have been asking myself questions like…will I be able to communicate with my host family? Will I feel safe with my family? How will I apply the skills I have to my community and how will I do it in Arabic!? I try to let go and let the process unfold. I tend to want to know or predict what is coming, but there is so much unknown. This experience is pushing me to give up control and place my complete faith in the journey.

This experience has already helped me appreciate the little things…I was so relieved the other day when we found an Internet cafĂ© near our hotel. I don’t think I had ever been so excited to check my email and reconnect with my friends and family! Sharing my feelings with my fellow trainees is also helpful. We are going through the same experience and can really relate to one another.

The other day we had some free time after classes and we took a walk to the medina. We walked through the local market, consisting of clothes, spices, soaps, purses, etc. I really enjoyed the time to get outside our hotel and feel a little more apart of Morocco. We also had a free day, where we saw the beach, the mosque, another medina, and enjoyed a delicious Moroccan lunch! The food here is great, and I haven’t experienced any problems yet. The sugar intake may become an issue though! The pastries here are French inspired so they are very yummy.

I will be traveling to Fez next week to begin my Community Based Training experience. I will be living with a Moroccan family and attending daily language classes with my language group. We also have a spring camp with the youth coming up! I am looking forward to meeting my host family, developing more relationships, learning more Arabic, and experiencing more Moroccan culture. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie, so glad to meet you in the more life training in Chicago and your sharing with your vision in life is beautiful. I am so glad you are pursuing your life with your goal with self searching as well! And love your sharing here! Please keep us posted I will be looking forward to hearing more here!!