Monday, May 7, 2012

My CBT Adventures

WOOPS – getting a little behind on my postings!

I have been so busy since my last post…

Spring Camp was a weeklong occurrence that brought in youth from the surrounding area. I taught English, nutrition, and helped facilitate activities with the youth. We even had a Moroccan-American dance exchange! Spring Camp was a little taste of the kind of work I will be doing in my final site, and it was definitely a source of joy for me. I felt more connected to Morocco, a sense of purpose, and enjoyed beginning to form relationships with Moroccan youth. I found myself energized, excited, and motivated to make a positive change. I plan on carrying a sense of this spirit and passion with me as I continue on my journey here in Morocco.

During the week of Spring Camp, I also celebrated my 23rd birthday Moroccan style. It was definitely one of the most memorable birthdays of my life. My CBT group surprised me with a big plate of vegetables (I love my vegetables!) and my host family made a homemade cake and fresh lemonade. After, we danced for hours to Moroccan music!  

I also went to the Hammam or public bathhouse for THREE hours! There are hammams in every neighborhood in Morocco, and going to the Hammam tends to be a weekly occurrence for men and women. It is a time to socialize and get a weekly scrub down. I guess I would describe it as something like a 5 star bucket bath. We sit on these little stools, surrounded with buckets of hot water, in a giant-tiled, steamed room. Women scrub their bodies and each other with Hammam gloves that help get all the dead skin off the body. I must say I was very exfoliated after the Hammam!

A couple weekends ago Elizabeth and a few other trainees came to visit, and we walked around the Old Medina in Fez. The Old Medina is beautiful part of my CBT site, a place that attracts many tourists and is filled with vibrantly colored rugs, shoes, and clothing. The streets are narrow and surrounded by endless shops of Moroccan goods. We discovered a cafe that overlooks the entire Medina and has spectacular views! 

Unfortunately, I also experienced the seemingly normal bout of sickness during training. I wanted nothing but to be home in my own bed. To cure my illness, I was encouraged by my host Mom to eat only yogurt and cheese and to never drink coffee from the café again. Feeling physically depleted, I also felt emotionally depleted. However, with my health restored this week, my spirits are up and I will not take my health here for granted EVER again.

Last weekend I went with one of my CBT mates to her host Mom’s sister’s house for a night. The home was spacious and decorated “Moroccan style,” beautifully tiled and vibrantly colored fabrics. We had a Moroccan-American dinner. We made pizza for the family from scratch and they made bastillas (thin dough filled with chicken and fish)! We surprised ourselves by our ability to make homemade dough with little previous experience or a recipe. The next day I went on a walk with my CBT mate and the sons of the family. It was interesting talking to them about the importance of marriage in Morocco and other aspects of Moroccan culture. I also observed a donkey pulling a carriage next to a mercedes -- quite an interesting contrast! 

The more I interact with Moroccan people, the more I feel a sense of Moroccan pride. All of the Moroccan people I have met have wanted me to feel comfortable in their presence. Their hospitality is endless, and they are extremely kind and open towards people they meet.

I feel  extremely comfortable and relaxed with my host family. I have adjusted pretty well to their routine and lifestyle. My language is improving and in between some Darija (Moroccan Arabic), Spanish, and English we are usually able to articulate our thoughts to each other.  I truly feel loved and apart of their family. We have inside jokes, laugh a lot, and act super silly around each other. I am able to be my weird self and they whole-heartedly embrace me. My mother and sister work so hard, always cooking and cleaning. The more I get to know my host mom, the more I see that she is a smart and open-minded woman. She has done a wonderful job raising four children! My oldest host sister is talented in fashion design. I love watching her design in our parlor room. My youngest host brother is always full of smiles. His kindness and calming energy makes me love hanging out with him. My spirits are always lifted in his presence. I LOVE my host family so much, and I will definitely miss them when I move on to the next chapter of the Peace Corps experience. 

My oldest host sister is also preparing for marriage and this has been an interesting process to observe. She is helping design her many dresses and busy buying things for her new life with her husband. I am learning that weddings are an elaborate and an integral part of Moroccan culture.

Last week we taught English at the Dar-Chebab. The youth that I have interacted with are extremely motivated to learn English. We even talked at length with some of them about their Education system and ways they want to see it improve. Their energy got me excited to continue having these empowering interactions with Moroccan youth.

I just returned from Azrou yesterday, where I was visiting Elizabeth and her host family. Seeing her was a huge source of relief and comfort. I almost feel like I am at home when we have the chance to spend time together and talk about our experiences. Having someone here that knows me well helps me feel less foreign in an unfamiliar place. I am thankful for this blessing everyday.

My life in Morocco is picking up speed. I have been extremely busy with language and cross-cultural training. I wake up at 7:30 and have four hours of language training from 8:30 to 12:30. Then I go home for lunch until 2:00. We do cross-culture activities in the afternoon and finish around 6:00. I go home and have caskroot ( a big snack) around 7:00. I have dinner anywhere between 10:00 and 11:00. Then I go to bed. The days are long, but the weeks are short. There are constant challenges, but I try and let go and move through them. I see these challenges as a chance to reflect on what I am grateful for and to learn about myself.

I only have two weeks until I am officially sworn in as a volunteer and proceed to my final site! I do not have any idea where I will be living next month and this has been a source of excitement and nervousness. I am looking forward to regaining a little bit of control and independence, but will miss my host family and am aware of the challenge of adjustment that is ahead.

Overall, my experience continues to be positive and I feel I am where I am supposed to be. Sending so much love to my friends and family. Being away from you is a huge challenge. LOVE to you all.  

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