March 19, 2013

I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t been through the process to really understand the enormity of these words, but I HAVE MY FINAL SITE!!!!!!!! I’m not sure it’s been quite so hard to wait for anything in my life, but we made it and we all know where we are going, and for the most part, I believe everyone is excited, encouraged and looking forward to getting to our new homes.

A group of us went into Fes on Saturday because we had the weekend off and we had to be in Fes on Monday anyway for our site announcements. A lot of us stayed at this hostel called the Funky Fes, which caters a lot to tourists but is fairly cheap, located just at the edge of the old medina area of the city. I’d recommend it if anyone is going to be in Fes – nice and clean, free breakfast, beautiful rooftop terrace to sit on. The hostel is built in an old riad, which is an old city house situated around a courtyard. The courtyard is now covered with a permanent tent so that it can be used as the lobby area and all the dorm rooms come off the sides of the courtyard. A group of us trainees took over one of the rooms and enjoyed the weekend. Mostly we walked around the old city area, which is all super tiny winding streets and shops and things. You can’t bring cars in there, but a lot of people bring donkeys, so sometimes you have to jump out of the way when you see a horse or something coming toward you. It’s pretty crowded and you have to watch your stuff because it would be easy for pickpockets to get you. No worries though, we were all super vigilant.

The medina has different areas, like sweets and candies, metal working, leather working, clothing, all different stuff and it’s like a maze so you either just wander around and see random things or you go with someone who knows what they’re doing. A lot of times you run into kids or guys who offer to show you to someplace, but then they just end up wanting money in return or just getting you lost and then demanding money to get you unlost.. We got pretty good at avoiding them though. I was really tempted to buy everything, but I’m going to have to come back to Fes at some point before I go back to the States so I can get everything I wanted.

Ok, so we got there on Saturday afternoon and walked around a little bit and then walked around even more on Sunday, although we got caught in a huge rainstorm Sunday afternoon, so we were all kind of soaked for the next day, because we didn’t really bring a lot of clothing to change into. It was still awesome though.

Monday was the big day – site announcements!!

We got to the training center, which is another Dar Chebab, on the other side of Fes early and everyone kind of milled around for a while getting breakfast at local cafes and such. Once we got started, they got us all together in the main Dar Chebab room and told us a bit about the process of getting us all sites, which we had all heard before . They get the list of places that have requested a volunteer from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and then the list of volunteers. We all got interviewed and then the regional managers for Peace Corps sit down for a three-day meeting to fit the volunteers with their sites. The married couples get placed first because Peace Corps has to make sure there’s enough work for two people to do. Then the guys get placed and then the girls.

First we were each given an envelope and at the same time we had to open them and inside was the number of our region. Peace Corps splits Morocco into eight regions, and my envelope said I was in Region 5, which is the furthest south along the Atlantic coast.

Anyway, then we got into our region groups and got to meet our regional managers, who are all Peace Corps staff who are our supervisors.

Then we had to take a coffee break. It was just like waiting to open presents on Christmas. So we had our coffee and then we got back into our regional groups. My group is pretty small. There’s 95 trainees in my group, but only 9 of us got sent to region 5, and all of us girls. At first I didn’t realize how far south Region 5 was, but then I looked at a map and was like, oh man, that’s south. Once we were back in our region groups, the regional managers did the big reveal for our final sites. Ours was done on a powerpoint, so the manager had a map of the region and then when he pushed a button, a person’s picture would show up next to their site. Mine was like the second or third, I think, I don’t remember. Anyway, right after my picture showed up, so did the photo of one of the other girls in my training group! We’re sitemates!!! I totally wasn’t expecting to be sharing a site with someone who has become a friend over the last few months.

Our new city is called T–, inland from Agadir, which is the closest biggest city and is a huge tourist beach area. T– is a community of anywhere from 30,000-80,000 people, which is a huge range, but I guess that’s because a lot of people have country houses they go to, so it’s hard to pin down the exact population, according to the most recent volunteer who had worked there.

T– is in the Souss Valley area, which is really far south, but it’s also a big agricultural region. Part of region 5 is also the desert, so there’s a lot to see there. Apparently the markets are supposed to be phenomenal in the region because so much is grown there. Like all the oranges we’ve been eating here in training near Fes come from the Souss Valley. It should be really pretty.

My site mate and I are supposed to be living with the same host family for a month and we will be working at the same Dar Chebab, which also has a Nedi Neswi or women’s club attached to it. It’s supposed to get super hot there, like 120 degrees isn’t the highest temperature I’ll be experiencing this summer. I guess the key is to drink a lot of water.

All of the new arrivals to the region will probably travel to Agadir together and then all the other volunteers in the region – there are 18 and only 2 of them are guys – are meeting us in Agadir for the night before going onto our final sites. The region of volunteers seems really really supportive. We were told Region 5 is the region in Morocco with the lowest rate of early terminations for volunteers, which is great. It’ll just take me a bit to get used to the temperature, which is I guess the easiest thing to adjust to.

The city last had two volunteers in 2011, both guys. The Dar Chebab has a lot of associations and groups that meet there, but no one is currently offering regular classes for the kids, so it will be fun to start developing activities and stuff for them to do.

Our new host family is a mom and a dad and they have two daughters, ages 17 and 12, and a nephew who lives with them, who is 15. T– I guess is famous for its ramparts, which are red. It’s about an hour and a half from Agadir and an hour from the High Atlas Mountains and three hours south of Marrakech. While people do speak Darija in T–, they also speak Tamazight and Tashelhit, both of which are Berber languages, so I guess I’ll be learning some of those as well.

We leave our training sites on Saturday and then meet in Fes where we get bused back to Rabat where we have to do our language proficiency interview, hopefully meet our Dar Chebab directors and then swear in!

I’m really really excited to go to my site. It’s not anything like what I had said I was interested in, but it so doesn’t matter. It’s going to be awesome. I was sure I was going to be in some teeny tiny town up in the freezing cold mountains all by myself. But I got pretty much the opposite of that. I’m really excited to be able to see a different area of the country, and even though it will be super hot, I think it will be ok.

My friends from training are all kind of scattered around the country from the north to the south, so it will be a good chance to travel around and visit them and get to know more about the country. It’s hard spending two months getting to know people only to be separated again, but it’s good knowing everyone is excited about where they are going. I’m feeling really positive about the whole thing and I hope it will be an awesome two years. I just can’t wait to get there!!

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