Rabat and Hotel Oscar are firmly behind me. While I am firmly grateful for the week of training Peace Corps gives us prior to our community-based training, being cooped up in a hotel with 97 other nervous people sitting in training sessions all day was becoming less fun by the hour. The only bad thing is my roommate Monika and I have now been forced to part ways.
Thursday (Jan. 24) all of us loaded onto three buses and headed out of the city east to the city of Fes. Almost as soon as you get out of Rabat, the countryside changes into lush green farmland and rolling hills as you climb higher and higher toward the mountains. Also, shepherds and sheep are everywhere along the highway.
In Fes, our group was split into three smaller groups, with half of the total group meeting three times during our host family stays. Those three groups were then taken to clusters of smaller communities surrounding Fes. My community is of about 20,000 people south of Fes sitting at the feet of a ridge of what I would call mountains, but according to my friends from Colorado are more like big hills. I’m still planning on climbing to the top of them sometime within the next ten or so weeks.
My host family is, in short, amazing. I have a host mom, a host dad, a host sister and a host brother. My host sister is 22 and takes science classes at the university in Fes. The house is gorgeous, three stories and all decorated with blue and white tile. My room is on the second floor. To access the house, you have to go through the front gate, which leads you into a front yard of sorts that contains two clementine trees, a lemon tree and an olive tree, all of which are currently bearing fruit. Heaven.
Peace Corps was right, however, when they said to pack for Alaska not Africa. While it might not be cold out compared to the temperatures Marquette has recently been surviving, the houses aren’t heated and with tile floor and tile walls, everything inside is chilly – cold enough to be able to see your breath when you breath. Today, of course, was raining most of the day, so everything felt even colder.
My group of six people (five host families since two of my group mates are married to each other) was placed into families that are largely related to each other, so today, almost everyone had lunch and dinner at my host house. Fridays are couscous day, kind of like the tradition of having a fish fry on Fridays. So we had couscous. And it was delicious beyond words.
The rest of the day we spent walking around, sadly in the rain, with our language and culture facilitator. We got a bit of a tour and did some shopping in between all the eating we did. Highlight of the day – we bought a chicken that was alive when we got there, weighed for us and then quickly dispatched, plucked, cleaned and ready to take home in a bag within five minutes. How’s that for fresh?