In site

April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

I have two weeks left in site and entirely too many emotions to put together a coherent blog post.

Thus, some bullet points in no particular order:

  • I’m mentally preparing myself for the costs of grad school. Mentally preparing myself for the foreseeable future of the cheapest rent I can find and the cheapest food I can stomach. Dave Ramsey makes me want to pay off debts I don’t have yet.
  • A few coats of a light pink nail polish keeps me from biting my nails, which I have been doing for as long as I can remember.
  • My chababs just kicked butt in the Write On! Creative Writing Competition!!!! Out of the 14 of my kids who participated, 7 won regional awards. Out of those seven, two won national awards. I’m so proud.
  • I get to do another library training next week, which will be my last big piece of work.
  • It does not feel like I only have two weeks left.
  • Over the course of my Peace Corps service, I will have read 134 books, provided I finish one book this week and one book next week. 45 in my first year, 72 in my second year, and 15 so far this year, one to finish this week and one next week.
Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | 2 Comments

March 25, 2015

Some people’s Peace Corps services are based around one or two large projects. They center their work and their lives like digging wells or raising money to build latrines. One volunteer here in Morocco has extended for a third year of service to build a youth-run cafe at her dar chabab. A previous volunteer in T– brought in wheelchairs to distribute to those with mobility issues.

But if you don’t have a big overarching project, that’s also completely normal. Lots of people’s services are a lot of smaller projects strung together. It really depends on what people in your community express a need for.

My service has been in the latter category. I teach English. I organize camps. I help facilitate a girls’ Bollywood-style dance class. I do creative writing and life skills. If I were to come close to having a “big” project, it will probably be one that I only started in earnest in January.

My mudira with two of my volunteers next to Shelf #1.

My mudira with two of my volunteers next to Shelf #1.

Thanks to the help of a handful of really dedicated young people at my Dar Chabab, we now have a library! Fiction and non-fiction in Arabic, French, and English enough to fill two large metal bookshelves that are available to anyone who is registered at the Dar Chabab and who has taken our library training (more on that in a second).

Organization!

Organization!

Signs!

Signs!

Labels!

Labels!

I had heard about PCVs setting up libraries in their communities even before I began the application process, and my pre-service dreams somewhat included handing out books to the people in my community, however naive that might have been. Because your service is about doing what’s best for your community and when I got to T–, even though I knew that family finances dictate that many kids here grow up without owning books and that reading usually has to be done in a second or third language here because Darija and Tashelheit are both spoken – as apposed to written – languages and that having a library in their neighborhood would be an awesome resource, I realized it does no good to set up a library in a youth center no one attends.

So first order of business became getting a regular population of youth, which I felt comfortable saying I had by the time I spent my second October in site. By then, I was trying out new classes and meeting new kids, and I had largely forgotten about the library idea. But I got put on a list to receive two big boxes of books from the American Embassy’s Regional Language Office and when the books got there I figured I needed to do something with them. I went to talk to the local Ministry of Youth and Sports administrator – my mudira’s boss – and told him I wanted shelves. During that conversation, he also indicated several boxes of books from a previous library attempt. So we had books.

The girls adding some shelf markers.

The girls adding some shelf markers.

Thankfully, one of my counterparts, Abderrahim, was willing to make the 12 hour trip north to attend a Peace Corps-sponsored library management training where we learned about everything from the Dewey Decimal System to outreach mechanisms. Some people had already developed libraries at their dar chababs. Others, like us, had books, but needed to know how to organize them. Still others were starting from scratch completely.

During the two-week winter break in January and February, I decided to forgo our usual camp extravaganza and rounded up volunteers to come in and work two hours a day to organize and label the books. We started by splitting them into languages, and from there into fiction and non-fiction. Then we put them into categories, stuck labels on them and put them on the shelves. We wrote out signs telling people how to find the books and we made shelf labels of all kinds. All the kids worked hard, but one young woman in particular – Aziza – was there every day and ended up working with Abderrahim and myself to develop a training for those who want to use the library.

Abderrahim leading our training.

Abderrahim leading our training.

For me the training is the real work that will make a difference. The library is nothing if no one knows how to use it, and especially if no one knows how to take care of it. It’s important to me that the work of keeping things organized doesn’t fall just one one person, because there’s no budget and no time for anyone to be full-time librarian. Each patron – can I use that? – needs to know how to put the books back on the shelves.

Me holding one of our spiffy pastel colored library cards.

Me holding one of our spiffy pastel colored library cards.

We did our first training last week with 15 youth. It was a good start and now that they have their library cards, I’m hoping to repeat the training at least once with a different group. Abderrahim and Aziza will also hopefully do the training again in the fall or on an as-needed basis as more people get interested in using the books.

It turns out it’s not really my project anyway. I’m leaving (in a month!!!! ack!) so it needed to be planned and carried out with other people being in charge. Maybe it’s better that the library only got off the ground in the last part of my service, because there was no time for me to take over major responsibility for it. Either way, I’m happy it’s beginning to function and that people are using it. And by “happy” I mean “SUPER EXCITED.” Makes me wish I could come back in five years and see how things are going. Time to start saving for that plane ticket?

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

March 16, 2015

COS emotional wellbeing update.

Last month: euphorically happy at the though of returning to America, land of burritos and movie theaters.

Yesterday: Liz walked into the kitchen to find me sobbing over a halfway made salad for trivial reasons.

Feelings are hard. Blogging about feelings is hard. Leaving is hard.

Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Feb. 8, 2015

71 days until I have to leave T– and be in Rabat to close my service. That’s two months and 12 days. I’m continuing on a pattern of being ridiculously excited to return to America and also ridiculously heartbroken at the thought of leaving Morocco. Currently I’m in the heartbroken stage (like almost started crying during my girls’ Hindi Dancing Club yesterday because the time is coming when I won’t be able to hang out with them anymore), so I figured I’d cheer myself up by thinking about one of the biggest things I will NOT miss about Morocco.

And that is doing laundry by hand.

This is the face I make every time I have to do laundry. Zero percent excited.

This is the face I make every time I have to do laundry. Zero percent excited.

Because of my tendency to let laundry pile up for weeks until I have no clean clothes left – which is definitely a habit I had in the US – laundry day has always been an all-day process for me. In Morocco, however, instead of taking over four laundry machines and sitting on the laundromat’s free wifi for a couple hours, I’m glued to the house for pretty much a full day.

Our laundry machine here is a bright pink tub and a wooden washboard.

Pink laundry bucket of sadness.

Pink laundry bucket of sadness.

First step in my laundry process is to remember to buy detergent the day before. Tide (called “teed” here, the word for any sort of laundry soap, not necessarily the brand name stuff although that is what I usually end up buying) usually comes in packets that cover one of my laundry days, and since I never have the foresight to buy two packets at once, I always need to buy more so that I can start laundry early.

Laundry in the summer isn’t bad, because it’s so hot that I don’t mind being up to my elbows in water for the day. Also the sun dries everything in like an hour.

In the winter, however, the water is cold. The soap dries out my hands. And the sun, while still shining, doesn’t dry things nearly as fast, which means available clotheslines limits the number of loads that can be done.

Clean!

Clean!

The struggle. It is real.

So today I am doing laundry. My first load is soaking. I’m too lazy to provide the amount of agitation a laundry machine would, so I settle for letting things soak in soapy water for about 45 minutes, then scrubbing each thing on the washboard. Then rinsing everything twice or three times, which doesn’t get all the soap out, but most of it. Then wringing everything out by hand. Then hanging it upstairs on the roof while the second load soaks. If I’m lucky and it’s a warm day, some of the first load dries in time to make room for the second. Today is not a warm day.

The rest of the dirty water goes down the toilet,hopefully without socks or other small items.

The one good thing about this method is over time it basically destroys your clothes – I don’t think I have anything that doesn’t have holes in it – making it much easier to decide what not to take with me in April.

Clothes over. Threadbare = very yes.

Clothes over. Threadbare = very yes.

Stuff with holes is going to be used as rags in a thorough deep clean of the apartment. Stuff that is still wearable will be offered to volunteers in the area or to my host sisters. My plan is to leave T– with a week’s worth of clothes, many of which will then be retired to the trash once I arrive home.

It’s exciting stuff, getting rid of things you don’t need anymore. Also, counting down the number of times you have left doing laundry by hand before you get to a real washing machine. One down. How many to go? Not sure, but the light at the end of laundry tunnel is in sight.

America, I’m coming for your appliances.

Categories: In site, Morocco | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Dec. 28, 2014

I know what you’re thinking: sheesh, Johanna sure isn’t as dedicated to updating her blog as she was when she first arrived in Morocco.

I will grant you that, however, look on the bright side! What was once such a new and overwhelming place to live that regular blogging and journaling were necessary to help my brain process everything is now a normal life with routines and things that can be expected and so forth. My classes began just after 3id Kbir – which was the topic of my last post – and have thankfully left me quite busy with a schedule that comes pretty close to the Peace Corps recommendation for volunteer work hours and with so many kids wanting to come to class we don’t have enough space to fit all of them.

So really, no blog updates probably means I am finding everything so routine it doesn’t bear mentioning. Huzzah! I’ve only been waiting for that to happen for a year and a half.

On that note, something truly exciting just happened!!!

My mama came to visit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DSCN2014

Yes, I was pretty much making that face the entire two weeks she was here.

Mom, being the good, kind, wonderful, amazing mother that she is, promptly began saving for a trip to come see me as soon as we knew where I was going, which amounted to giving me the best Christmas present ever. She stayed for the two weeks before Christmas and we had a lovely time doing a bit of traveling and doing a bunch of relaxing and sitting in the sun in T–. She got to meet my host family, as well as several other families that have become like my families here. My dar chabab youth were the cutest ever and decided to throw her a top secret surprise welcome party, complete with jumping out of a classroom en masse and shouting “Surprise!”

Us getting a tour of the boat building in Essaouira.

Us getting a tour of the boat building in Essaouira.

Why is it so rainy?!?!?!

Why is it so rainy?!?!?!

Relaxing with ZundZund.

Relaxing with ZundZund.

After lunch with Mounia and Jeremy.

After lunch with Mounia and Jeremy.

Out in Taroudant!

Out in Taroudant!

We ate lots of couscous, wandered through the souk, did impromptu carpet buying, and played Scrabble. For Christmas Eve dinner we made French onion soup and it was delicious.

Mom and Leah at the zwinest hotel in Taroudant for lunch.

Mom and Leah at the zwinest hotel in Taroudant for lunch.

Mom gets henna done for the first time.

Mom gets henna done for the first time.

Eating all the cake at the Dar Chabab.

Eating all the cake at the Dar Chabab.

Almost as good as being together was the chance for Mom to see what life in Morocco is really like. As much as you try to explain things, you really don’t understand it until you’re here and I think Mom came away with a very positive impression of Morocco, which makes me happy, because this place has been my home for the past two years.

Now that she has successfully arrived back home, I have a week of class before I have to head up to Rabat once more for what is called our Close of Service Conference (COS Conference), which I am dearly hoping will include information on how to leave Morocco without becoming a sobbing mess (who am I kidding, that’s a given) and how to readjust to life in America. We also find out exactly which dates we will be leaving Morocco, so that will be exciting and terrifying.

And since it’s New Year’s, maybe my resolution should be to blog once a week? Let’s try that and see how it goes.

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

October 6, 2014

Happy 3id to everyone!

One of the three sheep on our roof.

One of the three sheep on our roof.

Today and yesterday Moroccans are celebrating 3id Kbir, which celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God’s subsequent substitution of the boy for a ram. Much of the Muslim world celebrated the holiday yesterday, but as with Ramadan, it all depends on when the moon is seen. Each Muslim family celebrates by feasting on an animal of their choice – usually a ram, but could also be a goat or camel or cow, depending on their tastes and budget. The animal is typically slaughtered at home by the head of the household with a quick slice to the neck and then butchered if he has the proper training or a hired butcher comes to make sure things are done the right way.

Host dad (in white) and the butcher talk about their plan of attack.

Host dad (in white) and the butcher talk about their plan of attack.

3id reminds me so much of Thanksgiving. You have a traditional meal based around a certain animal. Family tries to come together to celebrate. Relative strangers (or the poor Americans who live next door) are invited over to share in the meal. You share what you have with people who aren’t as well off and are grateful for what you do have.

My day started off (relatively early) with a breakfast at our house. After scarfing down some yogurt, Liz and I dressed ourselves in our limited collection of traditional clothes and ran up to the roof where we found not one, but three sheep awaiting their fates. Each belonged to one of our various neighbors, including the cutest family ever who live directly next door to us. We wished them happy 3id and offered apologies on not being able to join them for breakfast because we were expected at host family’s house in time to see their sheep.

Liz and the second of three breakfasts.

Liz and the second of three breakfasts.

Halfway there, we were flagged down by another of our neighbors, and we ran up to her roof quickly to see their sheep and drink a quick glass of tea and some cookies before offering apologies again and making it the rest of the way to host family. We met host dad on his way back from the mosque and after greeting him, headed up to their roof to see the rest of the family.

Last year there were three sheep to be done at host family’s house – one for them, one for our host uncle, and one for the family that lives downstairs from them. This year, we arrived just as the downstairs family was finishing theirs, and since host uncle was celebrating 3id with a different branch of the family this year, we only saw one actual slaughter.

Our host family's sheep standing amidst the laundry.

Our host family’s sheep standing amidst the laundry.

Breakfast #3!

Breakfast #3!

We sat down for another breakfast, took pictures while host dad and the butcher took things apart, and spent several hours chatting with our three host sisters, punctuated with kebabs of sheep liver and lungs for lunch.

Lungs and liver! Or was it heart? I don't remember.

Lungs and liver! Or was it heart? I don’t remember.

We also saw the partial preparation of the sheep’s head for a tajine tomorrow, however, our host aunt is the one who likes to eat it, so we expect it will be going to her house for consumption.

The sheep head being prepared - held over an open flame to get the hair off, I believe.

The sheep head being prepared – held over an open flame to get the hair off, I believe.

After slinking home in a food coma, we were delivered about a kilo of mutton from one of our neighbors, which is now residing in the fridge while we decide on an appropriately delicious recipe to use it in.

This morning, we were summoned to another neighbor’s house for breakfast – which included tea, meat kebabs, bread, and cookies. They make their kebabs into sandwiches with yummy chopped onions and spices, which were super good. After several games of Uno, which is my favorite game to share with Moroccans, we got up to leave and were told to stay for lunch, which was the yummiest eat and prune tajine I have ever had. Sweet and savory has never been so good. They also sent us home with a plate of meat, which went into the freezer this time.

A nice reenactment by Liz's cat of what I will be spending the rest of the day doing.

A nice reenactment by Liz’s cat of what I will be spending the rest of the day doing.

3id this year is teaching me a new definition of the word full. For much of Morocco, meat is an expensive luxury. Meat included in meals is usually a small amount for each person, bolstered by bread and vegetables. 3id is a chance for everyone to bulk up on protein, which is why it’s eaten for several meals straight. I have felt pretty honored this year to have been invited to share the meal with multiple families. It’s a nice feeling to be a stranger and to be welcomed.

Now, time to research curry recipes and not eat anything for the rest of the day.

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

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

June 1, 2014

The school year is wrapping up here, students are feeling the pressure of upcoming exams, and I can’t decide if things are slowing down or speeding up.

Work-wise, things did slow down considerably for me over the past few weeks, only because I got the chance to take my first real vacation since arriving in Morocco in January 2013. I flew off to the Netherlands to meet my mom, dad, sister, and a number of super wonderful and awesome Dutch relatives. Happy tears were shed, cheese was eaten in embarrassing amounts, bikes were ridden, tentative plans for a Dutch close of service trip were made. Mostly I was grateful for the chance to be around the people who are the most important to me in the world, after having only Skype and Facebook chat communication over the past year and a half. It was more than a bit difficult to get on that plane back to Morocco, but now that I’m here, I’m ready to go for the rest of my service and it’s going to be epic.

Thankfully no time to sit and dwell on the post-vacation blues. Today was the final meeting for a course my friend Mounia and I have been teaching since January. Well, she has been teaching it. I’ve been assisting.

The program is from the International Youth Foundation, and is called Passport to Success. It covers basic skills like listening, communicating, goal setting, resolving conflict, and self confidence, as well as AIDS awareness, gender-based violence, and job skills like writing a CV and being a good team player. Many of these skills are not taught by the educational system here, but are something youth recognize are needed and desired. Youth who successfully complete the course are awarded with a certificate, which is used in a portfolio when applying for jobs.

We finished today by chatting about the program, what they enjoyed about it, what they thought could be improved for the next group. Most of the students commented on how much they had enjoyed the collection of people itself, finding friends with people who they may only have known in passing before. I was very impressed by how interested the students were in the program and how much of their time they were willing to dedicate to it.

Up next is a girls’ camp organized by Liz, speaking at the new stage (training group) In-Service Training, planning for another two summer camps, English classes. Ramadan will happen in July. For now, time to relax.

Categories: 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 28, 2014

Every day spent in a different country or culture is a learning opportunity. Of course, many of those opportunities are small – a new word, a new connection made between your own life and the lives of those in your community, that eating sheep brain isn’t as gross as you might think. Small things. The big, soul-touching realizations that come, I find are more rare, which might be a good thing, since having your perspective suddenly change can be a big deal.

I had such an experience yesterday.

In one of my English classes, in order to generate discussion topics as well as exposing my students to ideas from around the world, I occasionally will show a TED Talk using my computer. The other day, I came across a TED Talk by a Muslim American man who had created a line of superheroes called The 99, each hero based on one of the attributes of God, things like wisdom, light, generosity. To paraphrase his words in his talk, the goal was to attach positive ideals to the image of Islam in a world where the West is bombarded by negative media representations of one of the world’s largest religious groups.

So in my very Westernized, Christianized background (where images of God and Jesus are a commonplace and expected part of faith, thanks Michelangelo), all that registered to me after viewing the talk was that:

A) my students might be interested in hearing about what someone who shares their faith in America is doing, and

B) superheroes are cool.

Of course I knew about previous conflict over Islam being depicted in political cartoons and the anger that caused. I knew images are not part of Islam. But for whatever reason, on some level, it didn’t register that any image of God, even one that is purported to be carrying a positive message, would be unacceptable to them. As one of my students put it, it is “a line which we should not cross.”

And for the remainder of class, my students managed to change that deeply ingrained idea that “a picture is just a picture” that has been lodged in my head. And they did it by speaking their faith and voicing their opinions calmly, yet strongly, taking the time to teach me something I didn’t know I hadn’t understood. While I’m not sure I fully understand even now or am able to put into words correctly, their view is that God is God and human beings should not attempt to portray Him visually in any media. It is, you might say, a “deal breaker,” a point of faith they are not interested in allowing any leeway to.

Even now posting this, having realized my perspective was wrong, that I should have thought more carefully about how my students would perceive this idea, I have fear in my heart that the reaction from people reading this who knew better than me will be “No kidding, Johanna, how could you be so stupid to not realize.” And maybe I am stupid, but I hope hereafter I am less so.

The point of this blog is to share some of what I have learned here in Morocco, Peace Corps’ Third Goal – telling Americans about your host country. And while pictures of souk are fun, and talking about eating sheep brains has a sort of exotic flair to it, these aren’t the things that will really help Americans understand Moroccans. To understand them, particularly their young people, we should be willing to at least attempt to understand their faith, which governs so many aspects of culture here. We should listen to the young people of Morocco, and of the entire Middle East. They are navigating a world that consistently presents them with conflict and judgment, and their faith is one of the tools they have to do so.

And as they just showed me, if we are willing to listen, they are willing to talk.

Categories: In site, Morocco | Tags: | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: