Today, I accomplished the one thing (besides communicating flawlessly in Darija) I have wanted to do since arriving in my community. I climbed up the mountain.
My town is built kind of at the feet of, kind of up the side of a ridge that I like to think of as a mountain but is really more like a tall hill. It looks like a mountain compared to what we have in Marquette. All of us (Americans) saw it and instantly said, we need to climb this.
So today, our language teacher kindly rounded up a group of boys from the Dar Chebab (the youth center where we work) to take us. Our guides usually climb up the mountain in the summer for picnics and things like that, but we wont be here in the summer so we have to take advantage of every opportunity.
To get there, we trekked a few minutes out of town across a bunch of farm fields toward the hill. The day was brilliantly sunny and many of the farmers were out working. I’m not sure what the main crop is here, but things were already sprouted.
The bottom portion of our mountain is covered in olive trees, which we also had to walk through. No switchbacks for these kids – they lead us straight up and we were all out of breath and sweating after a few minutes. In addition to the olive trees, there were also several patches of low white flowers we passed and a blooming almond tree.
After the trees, the vegetation gives way to spiny pricker bushes and other things that aren’t all that nice to run into or grab a hold of. Threading our way through those and doing a bit of strategic rock climbing, we made it to the top in about an hour, including the trip through the farmland.
From the summit you can see the entire area is ringed with mountains, including several areas with snow-capped peaks. The kids also showed us an edible root at the top, so in case we get stranded somewhere, we can forage for food. Just kidding. You need a shovel to dig that stuff up.
I was expecting the opposite side of the ridge to be just as steep going down as our side is, but the top of the ridge extends into a plateau, with another single hill on top of it. I’m going to mentally refer to it as “Weathertop” because it looks just like the location from Lord of the Rings. The boys wanted to take us to that as well, but we had to get back for lunch with our host families. It was one of the other trainee’s birthdays, so there was lots of cake involved.
After taking in the view, we walked along the top of the ridge and then began our descent, past a couple shepherds, some lonely mountain houses and lots of olive trees.
Outside of mountain climbing, training is still going very very well. In our language classes, we have learned days of the week, months of the year and have finally begun to learn to conjugate verbs, which means we can finally make sentences, huzzah!
We have also completed our first activity at the Dar Chebab – an afternoon of American games held on Saturday. During our planning process, we imagined ourselves with a group of early teens outside in the sporting complex next to the youth center. Instead, it was raining and the majority of our participants were late teenage guys (several of them guided us up the mountain today). So we improvised and switched out some of the games, but still played Red Light Green Light, which they seemed to enjoy. They also taught us their version of musical chairs, where the leader has a song to sing and everyone sits down when he says a certain word three times. Overall I think it was a success and they have been asking us if we are coming back next weekend.