So it's been one week since I left the US and what an incredible whirlwind of a week it has been! In some ways I feel like a tornado hit me in Seaford, took me for a turn over Casablanca, tossed my brains over Rabat, and spat me out in Marrakech. And I'm still spinning.
The flight to Casablanca was wonderful. My seat mate was a Moroccan American gentleman who seriously invested himself in explaining to me many things about Moroccan culture and history; when we landed it was very nice to have him there to welcome me to his country. On exiting the plane the world was still pitch dark so I contented myself with gazing at the airport terminal - yay, my first sight in Morocco! When I finally collected my bags and left the airport I was greeted by an orange-yellow-pink dawn and saw the first of many, many beautiful palm trees. (Those palm trees are always a sign of warm weather and vacation for me; they are like billboards and their message is always: “Hello Andrea! Yeah you! Welcome to paradise!”) I stayed for a few days in Rabat, which is the capital and administrative center of Morocco, and received about 2.5 months of training in 1.5 days. (Actually, I think I only got about 2 months of training; the other .5 I will have to learn on the job, me thinks.) I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer on January 5th and was the person of honor at the reception of cookies and Moroccan mint tea following the ceremony. Here I will give you an aside. There is a correct way to poor Moroccan tea (and thus also an incorrect way: beware). The tea lover enjoys a thick foam on top of his or her tea (just like the beer connoisseur), and acquiring the foam is all in the pour. That is why pourers-in-the-know hold the tea pot very high and very far away from the cup – the tea splashes down and creates a nice head. Next time you find yourself pouring Moroccan tea, get some air on that teapot!
I traveled to Marrakech via a very comfortable train and saw lots of countryside and many villages. I can't help comparing everything to Armenia, so the landscape just looked very flat to me. New and interesting, but, baby, this girl needs altitude! I felt relieved that I was heading to a city located next to the Atlas mountains.
My first days in Marrakech I stayed in a “bungalow” at “the Club.” What PC residence is complete without indoor plumbing, lots of hot water. . .a couple of pools, tennis courts, a cafe and roving peacocks? For awhile I thought I had discovered that elusive Posh Corps of which some speak. Overall my stay at "the Club" was nice, but also a bit lonely and detached. So now I am staying with a colleague of mine, Soukaina, and her family. They will be my host family for at least the first month, and I feel lucky to be taken in by such hospitable people. There is a mother and father, who both like to laugh a lot, a sister and two little brothers all living in one apartment. The mother and father speak Arabic and French to me, Soukaina speaks English, and the youngest boy, Sallah, tries to use his English and giggles. Tonight I had couscous with carrots and radishes and meat, and a side of lentils. I learned how to say, “Take, take!” in Darija/Moroccan Arabic (in the masculine and feminine forms, of course), as the father told me to eat a lot and get fat! And of course the meal was followed by delicious Moroccan tea. Only this tea was made with thyme, not mint. Soukaina says that mint is refreshing and for the summer, but thyme is the herb used for tea during the winter.
I don't have too much to say about my work, and certainly hope there will be more to report next week. I am working with this organization:
The site is in French, but I'm in the process of translating much of it. Surprise, I know French.
So, until next time, B'Salaam!
(And everyone except Matthew, ignore my grammatical errors. Matthew, send me a report, post haste.)