Sunday, September 1, 2013

Feeling a part of a Moroccan Family


While serving in Morocco, I have learned about some essential components that any human being needs to thrive. In addition to having a sense of control over one’s daily activities and feeling a sense of purpose, feeling connected and a part of a community is of the upmost importance. We are energetic beings and need the positive energy of others to keep us motivated and fulfilled.

If it weren’t for the connections I have made with Moroccan families in my community, I don’t think I would have had the strength to continue my service. Life in Peace Corps is extremely lonely. However, the warmth I have received from Moroccans has helped mitigate some of the negative aspects of isolation.

I spend a lot of time with one particular family. The mother’s name is Aziza, whom I consider a mother to me in Tissint. She is calm, caring, and motherly. I have never heard her yell or get angry. She parents with love, and it is beautiful to watch. Then there are three girls, Baya, 16, the oldest, Fatima, 14, Selawa, 9, and one boy Unis, 12. Baya is always busy cooking, cleaning, and helping her mom with daily chores. She is the quietest of the three girls, has a warm smile, and a curious nature. Fatima loves to learn, especially English, and go on adventures. One of my favorite memories with her is when we took the bus to the bigger city, Tata, about an hour north of Tissint. Together, we shopped, walked around, and we were even invited to share a meal with a Moroccan family we met that day. Then there is Selawa. She is one of the funniest girls I have ever met. If she were to come to the USA, she could easily be cast in her own comedy show. She has a star quality about her and a sense of humor that brightens anyone’s day. Unis has been deaf and barely able to speak since he was young. However, this does not stop him from living his life to the fullest. He is expressive, energetic, and loves to help. He is kind, gentle, and trustworthy. He loves to walk Haven and help me with my chores. We often go on walks and share the peaceful nature of our community.

I truly felt like one of them the other day. It was a beautiful morning, and we walked 30 minutes out into the palmery. Here we collected palm tree leaves, which are used for baking bread and creating roofs over open spaces in homes. We collected them into four bundles. Then we each hoisted one bundle onto the tops of our heads and made the journey back home. The image of me walking alongside them with a bundle of palm tree leaves on my head is a memory that I will never forget.

They call me their sister and I call them my sisters and my brother. It is as if they have adopted me. They come by daily to check up on me. The door is always open for me to go and drink tea, share a meal, or even sleep at their house if I am feeling particularly scared or lonely. I am not sure how I can ever thank them enough for how they have impacted not only my service, but my life. Through them I have seen the goodness of humanity. They have become my family here and will continue to be long after I return home.
Love to all the Moroccans who have welcomed Americans into their homes!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March Marks One Year!

March marks one -year in Morocco, and I couldn’t feel more excited. This past year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging, but rewarding years of my life. As I reflect on this past year, it is amazing how much has happened. I moved to Morocco, learned basic Moroccan Arabic, moved in with two Moroccan families, survived my first desert summer, facilitated activities for Moroccan youth, and experienced the many emotional highs and lows of Peace Corps life. It has been an unforgettable year, and I feel more blessed and grateful than ever for the wonderful people in my life and the opportunities that I have been given.

March not only marks one year in Peace Corps, but is also one of the busiest work months of the year. Since returning from vacation, the dar chebab (youth center) has been packed with youth. I have had a consistent work schedule and routine, which has really helped me feel adjusted and productive. My work includes teaching English, soccer, art, dance, hiking, and girls/women’s empowerment activities. I love to watch the young women learn and be engaged in the activities at the dar chebab. I also recently celebrated International Women’s Day with a few other volunteers. My friend organized a program, and I helped facilitate an activity about the Moudawana Code, a law that now gives women more freedoms and rights in marriage, divorce, and guardianship.

In addition to being busy with work, I also celebrated a Moroccan holiday with a local family. We walked to a nearby village where they slaughtered a camel and a cow in honor of Muhammed's birthday. There was a large market set up with local jewelry and goods.

I have also been busy taking care of my new dog, Haven. I found him alone and abandoned in a little cave in the mountain. I couldn’t say no to his sweet, innocent puppy face. My neighbors and community members think I am a little weird (something I am sure they have been thinking for the past year).  The concept of having a dog as a pet is a little foreign to many Moroccans. He has been a positive addition to my life here in Morocco. He is one lucky pup and will be returning to America with me next spring.

In general, life in Morocco feels pretty normal now. There are fewer surprises, and I feel settled and comfortable in my little Moroccan house. I have my little routines that bring me peace and help me re-center after a stressful day. I especially love to sit in my courtyard, look at the stars, and drink hot cocoa. I have also figured out how to cook tasty meals using the local ingredients and have had a lot of fun in the kitchen. The hiking and bike riding is also spectacular this time of year. I have never seen beauty like I do here in Morocco.

That’s all for now. I hope life is going well for all who read this. Sending love and light to friends and family in the USA!