A little less than a week out from Spring Camp and Liz and I are kind of itching to get down to work. After the hectic week of teaching and doing activities and singing and talking, it feels a bit weird to have time to sit down and relax. But we’re getting a lot of that. It’s still technically spring break in Morocco, so there isn’t much going on at our Dar Chebab, and we’re really hoping to start doing some activities.
Luckily (or unluckily?) we now have time to concentrate on the ever-important tasks of securing an apartment to live in and taking care of our residency paperwork, called the carte de sejour. After a semi-heart-attack-inducing encounter with our local police (in which we were told we were late with our paperwork and might have to pay a fine), we now have a list of papers to photocopy and turn in, which is priority no. 1 for next week and should be well on our way to being legal residents.
Finding an apartment here, however, is nothing like finding an apartment in the United States. In the U.S., you have handy things like classified ads and Craig’s List. Here, you have to know a guy who knows of someone who may have an apartment to rent. It’s all in the networking, and luckily we’re living with a very well-connected family. Our host dad used to work for the local electric company, so he can’t walk down the street without someone saying hello to him.
Liz and I are planning on living together, which will help keep our costs down as housing is a bit expensive here in T– thanks to a recently-opened university. Still, we’re on the hunt for something with two bedrooms, a kitchen/living area, bathroom and shower. We’d also love to have access to a roof of some sort. So far we’ve seen two that we liked, although the second which we saw today is just a bit too expensive for our budget. Undaunted, we carry on.
Second on our list of priorities is to do some initial activities at the Dar Chebab and women’s club. Peace Corps advises volunteers to begin by doing something called Participatory Activities for Community Analysis, or PACA. We had practice doing them during training, but now we get to do them for real. They’re basically a set of activities that allow us to learn more about our communities and what people are looking for from volunteers. They include cool things like having your target population draw a community map, so you can see what places are important to them, and writing up collective schedules, so you can see when people are busy throughout the day or year. After we have those done, we can start setting up activities, which will likely be English classes until the school year ends.
All the advice we got during training was to not be disappointed if things start out slow, and that definitely seems to be the case for us. It’s easy, coming from an American life of working for a full day, to feel like I haven’t accomplished much in the few weeks I’ve been here so far. I’m trying to stay upbeat, however, and accomplish something each day. Besides my big goals of finding an apartment and finishing my residency paperwork, I have smaller goals, like learning five new words each day or exploring a new part of the city. We might also get to start working with a language tutor soon, which would be amazingly helpful.
Behind this all, we’re in the middle of a week of hot weather. I’m not sure if this is unusual for this time of year or if we’re not going to see cooler weather until the fall, but for the past couple days it’s been around 90 degrees, which in Michigan is like the hottest day of summer. In addition, it’s not culturally acceptable to wear clothes that don’t fully cover your body – so no shorts, no skirts that don’t at least somewhat reach your lower shins, even short sleeves I’m careful about. Mostly I sweat a lot. Moroccans here are amazing because everyone is still walking around with sweaters and jackets on. I don’t know how they do it. Summer temperatures are supposed to get into the 120 degree range, so I’ll let you know how I feel then.
I will keep you all updated on the house/apartment hunt. We’re also supposed to get a post office box soon, so hopefully I’ll be able to get more regular mail! I hope everyone at home is well!