Camp

Aug. 29, 2014

It may be Labor Day and the end of summer for you guys in America this weekend, but summer is still going strong here in Morocco. The weather in T– decided to get hot this week, which is an unpleasant turn of events, but as the rest of the summer was much more bearable temperature-wise than last summer, I won’t complain too much.

This summer, as it turns out, was nothing like last summer. Last summer, work was non-existent, the weather was hot, and I spent a lot of time in the house. This summer, as much as I was looking forward to getting wrapped up in some personal projects (like getting ahead in my 2014 reading challenge on Goodreads), I had work. Ramadan was taken up by Dar Chabab activities (not successful) and a superamazingletsdoitagain trip to Italy with my friend Leah (very successful). Most of August was spent at a Moroccan-organized day camp. September will be full of meetings and planning and doing grad school applications. And some paperwork for Peace Corps (can’t forget about the VRF – our twice-a-year required reporting).

Moral of the story – much of this summer was spent doing work that wasn’t successful, which after a pretty successful school year had me in a bit of a slump. No one in my site wants to do activities during Ramadan. One person can’t change basic/rampant flaws within an organization in a 20-day period. Even with a year and a half of speaking Darija, people still have trouble understanding me/attempt to converse entirely through mime, which is frustrating because I know they’re not trying to understand me even a fraction of the amount I am trying to be understood.

Good news is, the school year starts mid-September, which means my regular awesome Dar Chabab kids will be back and I will be in control of the activities I undertake (for the most part). Huzzah!

The high point of my summer was definitely going to Italy with Leah. It was 14 days of eating every type of cheese we could find, getting a crash course in Catholicism, and taking lots of selfies. We started with 5 days in Rome, then hit Matera, Naples (and Pompeii), Siena, Orvieto, and then a last day in Rome before our early flight back to Marrakech. Although I loved loved loved every part of the trip, I think Matera was my favorite by a slim margin, just because it was so old feeling. Like more old than Rome, which is pretty old. The pizza in Naples was so good that one night we went to two different pizza places for dinner. We met awesome family friends of Leah’s and ate gelato with abandon. Sometimes twice a day. No regrets in that department. Except maybe that I didn’t have gelato three times a day.

The strangest news is that we have the dates for our Close of Service conference. COSing is the end, you’re done. The conference comes roughly three or four months before we leave the country, and for us will be in January. My next week is going to be dedicated to filling out grad school applications. I have about twenty grand schemes for awesome things I want to do in my site and feeling more and more like I need a third year to accomplish them all. But seven and a half months is all I have left. It’s weirdly time to start thinking about returning to the US.

Categories: Camp, In site, Morocco | Leave a comment

April 21, 2014

My usual wake-up time is around 7 a.m. This morning I slept in until 10. The only cure for the breakneck pace of the past several weeks was sleep, and lots of it. I might sleep in again tomorrow as well. Or go to bed at 8 p.m. tonight, I’ll see if I can stay up that late.

April 5 my stage, or training group, traveled up to Rabat for our Mid-Service Training. One of the three mandated stage-wide trainings for Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world, MST comes when you’ve been in service for roughly a year. It gives us a chance to reflect on the past year, reconnect with people we may not have seen in a year, and gets us a physical and dental visit – no cavities!!!

Sadly our MST meant we missed the arrival of the newest stage to their respective sites, as well as being taken out of site the week before the start of our mandatory spring camps. Work was brought to our conference and in between nightly ice cream and Chinese food trips, we managed to prep our camp from our hotel room.

Sweet and sour chicken never tasted so good.

Sweet and sour chicken never tasted so good.

Having done a considerable amount of organization work before hand and partnering with an awesome association of university-aged guys in Taroudant, we were able to not have too much of a scramble to get ready once we got back to site.

So. About camp.

Our theme this time around was responsibility and volunteerism – Take care of yourself, take care of your community.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

Yay!

Yay!

Together, along with our new volunteer neighbor in the next town over – Liz and I taught 15 hours of English, taught workshops on responsibility, dealing with stress, countering peer pressure, self defense (for girls), and internet safety.

My English class.

My English class.

Our guys in the association gave workshops on self confidence and volunteerism, as well as leading hours of games and songs and organizing the camp-ending talent show.

Games!

Games!

Self Defense!

Self Defense!

More Games!

More Games!

Self esteem!

Self esteem!

We once again had around 20 youth, this time mostly middle-school aged, for four hours every morning, but the week contained some honest-and-for-real youth development work.

A self-portrait activity, led by Liz.

A self-portrait activity, led by Liz.

 

And another.

And another.

We were able to slightly expand our camp from the session in February – meeting for a full seven days instead of just five. We had better workshops and retained more kids.

Some of our boys.

Some of our boys.

Our big achievement for the week was our volunteerism project – held in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day. We arranged a trash pickup for our kids to conduct at a local field/empty lot.

One of our "before" shots.

One of our “before” shots.

It became more than just having 25 kids with trash bags.

P1120849

We worked with another local association to bring in dump trucks and a backhoe from the city to do several sweeps of the field, helping to eliminate several of the layers upon layers of trash.

P1120920

We didn’t get every single piece of trash, in fact there’s enough left over for us to do another trash pickup at some point. But the kids worked for a solid 8 hours picking up trash.

And after!

And after!

The neighbors loved having us there and arranged breakfast for the entire camp, as well as water breaks throughout the day.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Some local artists also worked with us to create several murals on the walls surrounding the field, encouraging people to stop throwing their trash there.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Painting away.

Painting away.

Despite some hiccups, it became a hugely positive event that both the kids and the adults working on it enjoyed and valued.

Best of all, the association we worked with to provide counselors for the camp is really happy with how things turned out and wants to work with us on future camps!

One of our counselors in action!

One of our counselors in action!

And the local Ministry of Youth and Sports was pleased enough to mention we may have access to a bigger facility the next time we have a camp.

Hamdulillah and God bless everyone’s parents. It’s time for a nap.

 

Categories: Camp, In site, Morocco | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

March 13, 2014

Since my last update, life has been somewhat consumed by the planning and implementation of spring camp. Moroccan students get two weeks of spring break, one week in February and one in April. Both weeks are prime time for organizing camp experience in our Dar Chababs and the planning of those camps is an experience, especially if you’ve never taken the lead on organizing one before.

P1120229

Most camps across the country are day camps, where students come for about four hours a day to participate in English classes and other activities. Our camp was scheduled for five days, running 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with our activities and English classes centering around health.

A group explains their poster.

A group explains their poster.

Our camp was titled “T– Dar Chabab Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Spring English Language Camp,” which in hindsight seems kind of an extravagant amount of words. “A healthy mind in a healthy body” is actually an expression in Arabic, so the kids related to it.

Learning the parts of the body.

Learning the parts of the body.

Knowing most of my regular Dar Chabab students are in middle and high school, I structured the camp for those age groups. Throughout the week, myself, two other American volunteers (yay for Liz and Leah!!!!), three Moroccan adults, and representatives from two associations collectively provided four and a half hours of English classes, 2 hours of diabetes education, 2 hours of AIDS education and activities, 4 hours worth of sports activities, and one really awesome talent show in which one of the entries was “a series of pushups.”

Trust me, it was impressive.

Trust me, it was impressive.

 

Not to mention songs and games thrown in at random intervals.

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes...

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes…

Dinosaur.

Dinosaur.

While overall the camp was successful, we did run up against some issues that will hopefully be corrected in our next camp (April is coming up fast).

The first problem was our sign up process. I started a sign up sheet and we quickly surpassed our limit of 47 people, after which point I had to begin turning people away. Day 1 of camp begins and only 26 people show up. By the end of camp we had 20. That’s a nice-sized group to do activities with, but not when you consider what the original number was supposed to be. The solution? Parent permission forms and a small fee.

Problem two: while most of the Moroccans working with us at the camp were great, talented, skilled individuals, some of them had never given a presentation before, meaning their workshops were a bit disorganized. Prior to the April camp, I’m hoping to do a training for those who will be working with us to get everyone on the same page regarding the camp’s goals and procedures.

Despite those two issues, however, I thought we put on a pretty good camp.

We had art activities. Sports. Dancing. Joke telling. All the good stuff.

What do you call a fish with no eyes (Is)?

What do you call a fish with no eyes (Is)?

P1120163

The association at one of the local schools organized a field hockey/soccer game for the boys. They were awesome!

The association at one of the local schools organized a field hockey/soccer game for the boys. They were awesome!

P1120038

The middle school boys singing during the talent show.

The middle school boys singing during the talent show.

Now. Deep breath. On to April.

Categories: Camp, In site, Morocco | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Jan. 8, 2014

Happy Belated New Year!

If I had been in Michigan a few days ago, I would have been dressed up in several layers of clothing watching a tin-foil ball of lights drop jerkily from the top of a tall building (yay Marquette ball drop!), but since I was in Morocco, I was dressed up in several layers hanging out with a super awesome group of girls at a girl’s empowerment camp up in the mountains.

The camp, organized by my super good friend and awesome CBT mate (training was almost a whole year ago! Wow!), was a GLOW camp – Girls Leading Our World – which are a favorite activity of many PCVs. The camps can focus on pretty much anything, as long as it’s intended for helping girls improve their lives and communities. Ours was focused on leadership and entrepreneurship, and turned out to be a great success.

The first thing to know about Moroccan girls is you always say hello and goodbye with kisses on the cheek (if you are also a girl, of course). Our camp had 50 girls in attendance. Which means kissing fifty people on the cheek every morning – usually once on each side of the face. Same in the evening when they left. That’s a lot of cheek kisses.

Between greeting and saying goodbye each day, we ran the girls through a series of workshops and activities. My particular responsibility was leading a goal-setting workshop on the first afternoon. The girls thought about what they wanted to do with their lives, both within five years and then as adults. Lots of them want to be doctors, teachers, a couple policewomen. Others had goals of getting married and having children – specifically twins were popular with one group. In the second half of the workshop, the girls chose one goal that was particularly important to them and then brainstormed the different steps that need to be accomplished to reach that goal.

Our other workshops included an entrepreneurship lesson in which groups created greeting card companies, a dance workshop, and a self-defense introduction, which I thought went really really well. Nothing like spending a morning showing girls how to throw a punch without breaking their thumbs. And how to be aware of their surroundings. And helping them realize they can protect themselves. That they should protect themselves. Love it.

And, of course, over the week, we sang songs and had outrageous dance parties and had a good time in general.

The camp was held about an hour outside of Ouarzazate, and being in the mountains, was quite a bit colder than I’m used to now in T–, where it reached about 80 degrees this morning. It brought me back to training last year – see your breath indoors, don’t change out of a base layer of long underwear except absolutely required, sleep in a coat and a hat. My dose of winter right there.

 

Categories: Camp, Holidays, Morocco | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Sept. 1, 2013

Home again, home again, jiggity jog.

I’m in the middle of a brief 48-hour layover in my apartment in between a mini-camp session, an awesome training in Rabat and then busing of for another training in the east. It’s been a crazy 10 days or so, and I’m feeling really excited about work starting up again this month. It’s nice to be busy, really really nice.

Anyway, a week or so ago, just after getting back from the big summer camp, my friend Leah (here’s her blog: http://leahthesandpiper.wordpress.com/) and I traveled slightly south from Agadir down the coast to arrive in M–, where another two volunteers live and work. One of them, Eva, had organized a mini-camp at her Dar Chabab: two hours a day of activities focusing on English and nutrition.

Me, the kids, and our art project - a paper quilt.

Me, the kids, and our art project – a paper quilt.

Leah and I arrived on time to observe the Thursday session, then came back Friday and Saturday with activities of our own, including measuring out the total amount of sugar found in a typical diet here. It’s a lot. We talked about food-related vocabulary, did an art project, hung out with some amazing girls. It was pretty fun.

Eva’s site is unique because her town is situated on a river. With actual water in it. And that’s weird, because we have a river in T—, but I haven’t seen water in it. There’s a road running down the middle of ours. Anyway, M– has water, and that means it’s very very green all of a sudden.

Just a guy pulling himself across the river.

Just a guy pulling himself across the river.

Three Moroccan ladies out for an evening walk by the river.

Three Moroccan ladies out for an evening walk by the river.

The river is actually part of a big wildlife/bird preserve and national park, and one of my ulterior motives for going to help out at the camp was the find out how to get to the park and then entice my bird-watching relatives to come visit. Because why visit your favorite niece/cousin if you can’t see a bald ibis as part of the deal?

Birds!

Birds!

The last day of the camp, we set out on a nice walk by the river, but ended up making it all the way through the park to the ocean, which ended up being a three-and-a-half hour hike. Unprepared as we were (no one thought to grab money for our “quick” walk), Eva talked a taxi driver at one of the coastal towns to drive us back to her site with the promises of payment upon our safe arrival.

After recuperating slightly, we all piled into a taxi and headed to Agadir for the night to celebrate a fellow volunteer’s birthday.

Which language would you like to karaoke in?'

Which language would you like to karaoke in?’

Then Liz, Kirsten, and I went to Leah’s for a night of homemade Pad Thai, shooting star sightings, and grad school application discussions before I caught a taxi on the side of the road the next morning to take me back to Agadir where I caught a bus/train up to Rabat for the Project Design and Management training.

My counterpart, Karim (second from left) with our awesome Peace Corps training staff. Love the staff. Love them a lot.

My counterpart, Karim (second from left) with our awesome Peace Corps training staff. Love the staff. Love them a lot.

Counterparts being awesome.

Counterparts being awesome.

Our project planning timeline.

Our project planning timeline.

PDM is three full days of awesome training, and if you’re a PCV who has the chance to do this training, I would highly recommend it. You bring a counterpart (a Moroccan volunteer who is interested in working with you) and a project idea. The training has you take that idea through the entire project design process, like a recipe for organizing yourself. Basically I just want to spend my life talking about visions, goals, objectives, and indicators for success. Lots of ideas, lots to do, lots of lists to make.

 

Categories: Camp, Morocco, Training | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

August 19, 2013, part 2

After having three camps canceled on me this summer, I finally found one to work at, a week-long day camp organized by two of my closest neighbors in a town halfway between T– and the coast. While slightly smaller than my town, theirs has a gigantic Dar Chabab with lots of kids, many of whom came to hang out with us for the week. We had about 40 kids and seven Peace Corps Volunteers, not to mention the great Moroccan staff members we worked with, which is a ridiculously low ratio compared to what you will usually find, and as a result, class sizes were small and things were awesome.

When I say kids, I mean our 16-22 year-old campers. Most were either in high school or university, and there was a pretty good mix of English levels. We taught four levels of English, with my class being a collection of 11 intermediate speakers.

Here they are, hard at work.

Here they are, hard at work.

Our camp, unlike the spring camp held in T–, was a day camp, and a half-day camp where our involvement was concerned.

Myself, three volunteers from the region, and one volunteer for whom participation meant a two-day bus trip from her site all piled into the apartment of the two volunteers organizing the camp, both of them from my training group.

The day we arrived, we all sat down for a meeting with the director of the camp, who also serves as the director of the Dar Chabab there. We talked over the schedule and got a tour of the Dar, which is huge compared to the one in T–. They have a whole compound area, complete with a large auditorium, a basketball court, several large classrooms, a library, and a smaller field for soccer.

Water balloons on the basketball court.

Water balloons on the basketball court.

We took over the morning portion of the camp, each of us teaching an hour and a half of English, leading a club activity, and then collectively leading a larger full-camp activity. My English class was intermediate, as I said, which was nice because they understood enough already for me to speak entirely in English.

We talked about Halloween. And decorated paper pumpkins.

We talked about Halloween. And decorated paper pumpkins.

 

Clubs I was directly involved in included team-building, art, frisbee, and girls’ empowerment, all held on various days. While we all assisted in each of the full-camp activities, mine included a camp-wide scavenger hunt that I thought the kids enjoyed quite a bit. Other days we did environment clubs, ping pong competitions, a water-Olympics of sorts, an egg-drop competition, really a full week.

A group of girls with drawings of their dreams. I love that my job is telling kids they are awesome.

A group of girls with drawings of their dreams. I love that my job is telling kids they are awesome.

After a morning of crazy and fun, we all ate lunch together and then the Americans would head home to wilt in front of our fans for a few hours until it was (marginally) cool to resume movement (read my previous post on the temperature).

Our final day of camp, was the obligatory “spectac” or talent show. The spring camp I worked at had one of these every night, which the Moroccans love. We used the opportunity to have the whole camp sing happy birthday to one of our fellow volunteers.

Besides being a good time and good work after a month of nothing, camp was also a chance to find out how well we worked together as volunteers. I got placed in a pretty awesome region where the volunteers are pretty supportive of each other, and mostly we just really enjoyed hanging out together for the week. We cooked dinner together every night. We sat up late chatting. A bunch of people went running together in the morning.

It was also a way to wrap up and say goodbye to one of us, a volunteer from my training group who decided it was time to go home. It was a sad thing to see her go, because she would have done great things here (instead of doing them in the U.S. like she will now), but it was also good to talk with her and know she was leaving because she knew it was the right thing. We will miss her.

Categories: Camp, Morocco | Tags: , | Leave a comment

August 19, 2013

I’m currently relaxing in my apartment, back from one of the busiest weeks I’ve had all summer – summer camp! And while I plan to immediately follow this post up with one about something camp-specific, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what 117 degrees Fahrenheit feels like and how it can effect your life.

And since I know that when Monika reads this, she’ll tell me to stop complaining because it’s been 140 degrees in her site, I’d just like to point out, I’m not complaining, I’m just hoping to hold a useful discussion in case you, the reader, is ever caught in such an enviroment.

Summer didn’t get hot here (I mean in my region of Morocco) until the middle of July, which was blessedly much later than last year. And it didn’t get really hot until this past week. For future reference, “hot” refers to the 90-110-degree range, “really hot” indicates anything over 100.

If you’d like to know what the last week felt like, find yourself a hair dryer. Put it on its highest setting and hold it directed at your face for ten minutes. Ovens also provide useful illustrations.

Mornings would find us waking up already dripping with sweat, literally. Mornings might feel slightly cool on our walk to camp, and by cool, I mean the 80s. That would only last for a couple hours though, because by mid-day, the sun would be out in full force and the wind, instead of cooling us down, would make the heat worse. A hot wind is nothing to play around with.

Camp was over after lunch for us, so there was nothing to do but head back to the house, douse your t-shirt in water, put it on, and cozy up to your favorite frozen water bottle. We had fans, but believe me, there comes a point where the fan does nothing but blow hot air on you.

Because temperatures didn’t usually break until the early morning hours, the entire house of girls took to showering with their pajamas on and then going to sleep wet, half of us on the roof, half of us clustered around open windows.

On Sunday a cold spell came through and I think it only got up into the 80s during the day, which meant we had enough energy for a round of frisbee at camp. Never has 80 degrees felt so cool to me and my Michigan blood.

Even though the weather was hot, it wasn’t as impossible to function as I imagined it would be, back in March when I found out I’d be moving to the south. We had a really successful camp (I will write the post, I promise!). We learned how to fit seven water bottles in a very tiny freezer. I managed to keep up with my Insanity workouts and therefore don’t have to repeat Week 3! The temperature was a challenge. We dealt with it. Region 5 is keeping up the awesome.

Categories: Camp, Morocco | Tags: | 4 Comments

April 14, 2013

Moroccan school kids get a two-week spring break holiday in April, and that means one of two things – you enjoy relaxing at home or you go to spring language camp!!!!

Liz and I, of course, went to camp.

Best photo of Spring Camp 2013? I think so.

Best photo of Spring Camp 2013? I think so.

P1100160

T– is actually the host city of the largest spring camp in the country, so we spent the past week teaching, talking to and running after 160 kids, aged from early teens to early 20s. It was exhausting and amazing, usually at the same time.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports here in Morocco sponsors week-long language camps in either English or one of the Amazieght (non-Arabic native) languages that is spoken here to help kids keep up on their studies even while on vacation (and to help them from being too bored). The camps are held in Dar Chebabs all over the country, and are usually day camps that provide either a full or half day of activities. The kids usually get lunch and snack, as well as classes and other activities to participate in.

In T–, however, you’ll find a different kind of spring camp. Our camp is one of the few overnight camps, with kids staying in the dormitories of one of the local high schools. Liz, myself, four other Peace Corps Volunteers and about 10 Moroccan counselors were running the activities for the week, and it was intense.

The camps are organized with a director (a Moroccan) and usually have a volunteer coordinator, who for us is an amazing PCV who lives near T– and who has been awesome at helping Liz and me get on our feet in our new town. She was in charge of coordinating between the Americans and Moroccan staff and organizing our activities.

Basically each American was responsible for teaching an hour and a half of English every day and then leading an hour and a half club activity each day. We each had a permanent English class that we taught, but the kids were split into groups for the clubs, so that each group rotated through the clubs and we just taught the same activity to a different group every day. The second week would have been run in a similar fashion if all the kids hadn’t signed up for the first week, resulting in the cancellation of the second.

My English class was made up of Beginning-Mid students, so they had some experience with English, but not much beyond greetings and numbers and such. Liz and I worked together for our club activity and did a bunch of team-building games, like the human knot and a lava cross, for anyone who has experienced those activities before. The first day of camp, which was last Monday, we spent most of the afternoon giving the kids language proficiency interviews, which sounds intense but really just means sitting down and talking with them one-on-one to find out their English level. Lots of great kids and lots of good English being spoken here.

The rest of camp consisted of English and sports activities in the morning followed by clubs and more activities in the afternoons. Moroccans love music, so most meals involved the kids forming giant drum circles by pounding on their tables, and most of our evening activities involved an on-going week-long talent show that stretched until at least midnight every night. That plus trying to communicate in my very broken Darija made for an exhausting but exhilarating week. Liz and I got the chance to meet a lot of the awesome kids who live in T–, and we hope to see many of them at the Dar Chebab in the weeks to come. In addition, the director of our Dar Chebab helped out at camp, so we got the chance to work with him a bit as well.

This past week brought a lot of great memories for me, but I think my favorite overall was doing the team-building games with the kids. After each game we would stop and talk about why teamwork was necessary to accomplishing the goal of the game, which we did by speaking in English with the kids who had advanced language levels and with one of the Moroccan staff translating for those who did not, as my Darija is still quite limited. Whether you’re talking about American or Moroccan kids, it’s crazy awesome to be able to hear their ideas about the world and their own lives. I can’t wait for next year when I’ll actually be able to talk…

Categories: Camp, In site | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: