March 31, 2013

Hello from my final site/new home for the next two years (hopefully)!

Although we encountered relatively few problems on our journey down to the south, it was still two long days of travel and I am more than happy to not be hauling my worldly possessions around with me anymore. I did manage to lose one of my beloved flip flops at some point during the journey, but that’s just a reason to buy new shoes, right? Of course right.

T– is just as beautiful as everyone I talked to told me it would be. It’s an old city, still mostly encircled by its original walls and the streets small, winding and maze-like. The countryside around it houses many orange orchards, not just oranges, but also clementines when then are in season. Orange trees are shorter than I was expecting, but beautifully green.

The city itself is set against what I believe are the High Atlas Mountains and we can see a range of snow-capped peaks in the distance if we are at the right place in the city to see between buildings to the north. To the south we can see the Ante Atlas Mountains, so it’s pretty beautiful.

On the ground, however, the weather is hot, like Michigan summer already. I’d guess the temperature mid-day is at least in the 80s, although in the morning and evening it is cool enough to need a sweater. The summer is going to be hot, but apparently people here sleep on their roofs during the hot weather and the stars are gorgeous – super clear, although they seem to be in slightly different positions from how I observed them in Michigan. Liz, my site mate, and I are planning to find ourselves an apartment with a roof.

We’ve only been here about 48 hours so far and most of our time has been spent trying to figure out how to accomplish simple tasks – buying Internet time for Liz’s modem, finding a good hanut (corner store), finding where the dar chebab is located. I think having a mental map of your surroundings is an important part of feeling at home, so we’ve been trying to get out and walk each day, just to wander and see if we can find our way back. We’re also working on planning for two weeks of spring language camp, which should be a ton of fun!

When you join Peace Corps, they tell you to not have any expectations because when your expectations aren’t met, you set yourself up for disappointment. I tried pretty faithfully to not expect anything coming in, but I never thought I’d end up in a city like T–. If anything, I thought I’d be in a small town up in the mountains, the only person in town who looked like me. T– is almost the opposite of what I thought I would end up with: it’s fairly big, I have a site mate (who I can’t wait to work with because she is awesome) and there are tourists everywhere, mostly European, if I can judge by the various languages I’ve heard.

I’ve only seen small parts of town so far, but there are numerous mosques, including one that dates back to the 1500s, I believe. There is also a Catholic church, an Arab market and a Berber market, and a weekly souk where you buy vegetables/fruits.

It is strange to go from my job in the U.S. where I always had a pile of work to do to training where we were learning all day long to here at our site where we have to begin building our work from the ground up – work like meeting people, building connections, finding out how to live. It’s a different kind of work and it’s easy to convince myself I haven’t accomplished a lot because my main tasks for the day have been to buy Internet and toothpaste. Slowly it starts and I know once I get going it will be fine, but they warned us about this in training. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re not getting much done. It just takes time. It’s just an exercise in patience. That’s what I keep telling myself, at least.

These next few weeks are going to be busy. Starting April 8, we have two weeks of Spring Camp, then we have another week to find an apartment and then we’re supposed to be out on our own.

First things first, tomorrow (Monday) our job is to set up a post office box, which means we will finally have a regular mailing address, and get some papers notarized so we can begin getting our residency papers, two more things to check off our lists.

And finally, happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it! This is my first major holiday in Morocco that isn’t really celebrated here by a large majority of people and it makes me miss my family something dreadful. I did buy myself some dark chocolate today and I am currently writing this post to the songs of Jesus Christ Superstar, which has been my Easter tradition for some time now, so at least I am keeping that part of the holiday up. Being away from family, however, knowing if I was there we would all be going to church together and then making a big dinner, maybe coloring eggs, it’s no easy thing and I knew it wouldn’t be when I signed up for Peace Corps. So, if you have the chance to hug someone in your family today, please do it, and for all my fellow PCVs in Morocco and around the world, I am thinking of you!

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