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.

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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.

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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.

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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

March 27, 2014

Today is March 27, which seems like it will pass as any routine Thursday should – tutoring, prepping our Life Skills program with my counterpart, class.

The big deal, of course, is that one year ago today I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, having endured roughly two-and-a-half months of language and technical training. That day there were 95 of us, most dressed in traditional Moroccan djellabas, and if anyone else’s thoughts mirrored my own, scared out of our minds knowing we would be leaving the confines safety of training the next day for our respective sites.

Today we are a few less people – although I’m not sure of what our exact tally is, having seen our stage-mates depart from us due to medical and personal reasons – however as evidenced by the #95strong on our Facebook statuses our original group has stayed in our minds. We have figured ourselves out in this new country, or hopefully (as in my case) are on our way to figuring ourselves out – what is our role, how do we best benefit the communities in which we serve, what’s the best approximation of Mexican food we can come up with without spending 4 hours preparing everything?

We’re also getting ready to see what is known as the “Super Stage” exit the country. The training group who arrived in 2012 came into the country with over 100 members and they became our gurus in the ways of Peace Corps, ready with advice and suggestions as we settled in. To watch them leave, will I think, be an even bigger milestone than today.

As it is, there seems to be no time for celebrations of any sort. I’m working my way through a particularly nasty cold that had me canceling class and remaining glued to the couch all yesterday. Today at least the achiness has stopped, so I’m up and about trying my hardest to not blow my nose in public, which is a taboo action here.

Next weekend the new volunteers will arrive and the next day my stage has to make the trek north to Rabat for our Mid Service Training, which I’m assuming will contain a celebration or two. Immediately upon our return, we have another week of spring camp and then just a few weeks left until my big “vacation” in which I will go to Europe and see my family.

Maybe more than having been here for over a year, the idea that sticks out to me is that from here on out I have less than a year left of my service. Pressure is on to make things awesome.

 

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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.

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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)?

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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!

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The middle school boys singing during the talent show.

The middle school boys singing during the talent show.

Now. Deep breath. On to April.

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Feb. 6, 2014

The night of his arrival. Mskin.

The night of his arrival. Mskin.

This is Zund-Zund. Despite looking exhausted and somewhat bedraggled in this picture, Liz’s new kitten is well on his way to becoming roly-poly and looks to have a promising career as an acrobat/parcour athlete, which I guess is the hoped-for result when you take an animal from living on the streets of Morocco to the posh life of sharing an apartment with two doting Americans.

A walking entity of sass...

A walking entity of sass…

The arrival of this little was the second of big changes in our lives and will forever be inseparably connected to the first – moving to a new apartment.

Since coming to T– and moving out of our host family’s house, Liz and I had been sharing a two-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a building. Because it was situated in the center of the building, the apartment remained nice and cool in the summer, somewhat like a cave. Unfortunately, it was also cave-like in that it had no exterior windows, only a central courtyard that extended up through the center of the building to the roof.

Thanks to a member of our extended host family moving, however, we began to hear a lot more about different apartment options in town, and ended up taking look at the one above where our host uncle moved to.

It has not only five windows, but a significantly larger kitchen, and three bedrooms, which seems like a palace.

Our zwin kitchen.

Our zwin kitchen.

More giant bathroom! Now with working sink!

More giant bathroom! Now with working sink!

Comfy salon area.

Comfy salon area.

Spare bedroom, currently occupied by bikes and miscellaneous items.

Spare bedroom, currently occupied by bikes and miscellaneous items.

 

My room, already a mess after one week of occupancy.

My room, already a mess after one week of occupancy.

Deciding we wanted the place, however, turned out to be the easy part. Heck, hauling all our stuff between the two places seemed like the easy part compared to the feat of mental will-power it is to get your utilities changed to a different address.

In the U.S., of course, rentals usually come with a water and electricity meter already installed. Just call the appropriate company and have the bill switched over into your name.

The Moroccan system is that every new tenant must bring their own water and electricity meters, and when they leave, those meters are removed.

All this meant a careful orchestration of timing to allow us to get the meters installed (which takes at least two days of solid running back and forth between the two offices filling out forms, making sure the right fees are paid, and that the meter eventually gets attached to the right apartment.

Very luckily for us, our host uncle gave up several days of his busy life to walk around with us and get everything arranged. Without him, I’m pretty sure we would still be living in a water and electricity-free zone.

We began the process on Monday, Jan. 27 with the signing of our contract with our landlord and the initial trips to the water and electricity offices. That took most of the day.

On the 28th, we began sweeping and getting rid of dust, just about the only cleaning we could do without water. That afternoon, Liz looked out the window and saw a trio of impossibly tiny kittens running confusedly through our alley. Running down she caught one and thus was the coming of Zund-Zund.

On the 29th the water was finally on and everything got a good scrubbing, at least by our standards. On the 30th electricity was finally on and just in time for our moving truck to arrive in the late afternoon.

Ever since signing our contract and getting things marginally clean, however, we had started carrying smaller items over by hand – things that could be easily put in bags, clothing, drawers, kitchen items – anything we could carry to feel like we were making progress. Our bigger items, like our fridge, beds and tables, were put on a truck and driven over. The loading and unloading of the truck took less than an hour.

Our Internet took until yesterday to get set up. Today, we had a friend of ours come over and fix the drip in our bathroom sink and install a light fixture in the living room.

Any time you change residences, a lot of work is involved, but it takes significantly more patience and finesse to do here. I’m glad we did it and I’m even more glad that the process is over. And now we have an extra bedroom, in case anyone might decide to spend their extra money on flying across the ocean to visit us…

 

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Jan. 16, 2014

Exactly 365 days ago, I and 94 other Americans took our first stumbling steps on Moroccan soil. Or tarmac rather. Nothing like jet lag and multiple bags stuffed with all your worldly possessions for the next two years to make walking in a straight line difficult. We landed at about 6 a.m. out in what seemed to be the middle of the runway and were immediately herded onto buses to the arrival terminal, through customs, to the baggage claim, and then back onto another bus for the hour-long trip north to Rabat. Mostly I remember fighting to stay awake and then very gratefully passing out for a few hours in the hotel until our first in-country training session.

One year in and a new group of Americans made that same journey a few days earlier this week. Congratulations to the new stage! Congratulations to the old stage – almost done! Congratulations to my stage!

One year in country is typically a big milestone for Peace Corps Volunteers. Finishing training. Swearing in. Arriving in site. Our In Service Training that comes three months after we swear in. The next big anniversary will be our one-year in service mark (which hacks off the couple months we were in training) and our Mid-Service Training/medical exams. But those don’t come until April, so I’ll just revel in the one year-iversary of today.

Which doesn’t really mean anything as I will be going to teach class as normal.

Normal, by the way, is a glorious thing. It’s stressful to be consistently unsure of what is going on around you. It’s a glorious thing to have a somewhat-regular schedule. I appreciate things like that. Even more I appreciate being able to muddle my way through conversations in Darija. Even getting the gist of what’s being said is better than having no clue.

A year into Peace Corps service can come with the dragging feeling that the excitement is over – nothing new happens, you know the routine, the “newness” if it is gone. On our handy chart of typical Peace Corps emotions, there’s a low point most volunteers experience at the one-year mark. I’m so far feeling much happier now than this summer where there were limited work opportunities, and while not everything is as exciting as it once was, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Life is life and here’s some things I love about mine at the moment in no particular order:

  • Goats in trees – the sight of a four-legged hoofed animal hanging out on a spindly argan branch never gets old. It’s a treat every time I see them.
  • Greeting people I recognize on the street.
  • My chababs yelling hello to me as they race past me on their bikes. They know to yell my name so I know they’re not creepers.
  • Sitting with my host mom and host sisters for Friday couscous.
  • Our mountains, once again snow-capped and hanging out protectively on the horizon.
  • Generally hanging out with kids at the Dar Chabab. Kids are cool.
  • Skyping with my family.

Upcoming things I’m excited about:

  • potential new projects
  • visiting with my mom, dad, and sister in May!!!!!!!!!
Categories: In site, Morocco | Tags: | 4 Comments

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.

 

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Dec. 26, 2013

Merry (day after) Christmas, everyone!

The spread out when baked to look like Christmas arrowheads. Whatever. I tried.

The spread out when baked to look like Christmas arrowheads. Whatever. I tried.

All this year I was in great fear of being flat out depressed on Christmas. The period of time from Halloween to New Year’s is my most favorite time of year – even though I’m a great fan of Easter and the Fourth of July during the appropriate time of year – and the thought of being away from family for the holidays is pretty heavy for me. There’s no substitute for me being able to hang out with family and enjoy a Christmas feast together, spend a morning opening presents, going on a Christmas Eve cross country ski outing.

As it turns out, my first Christmas in Morocco was pretty lovely. Not as lovely as being at home. But much better than I was expecting.

They may look like plain squares, but really they taste like Christmas.

They may look like plain squares, but really they taste like Christmas.

Since I have guilt issues about canceling class, I decided to stay in site and not travel too far to visit any other volunteers. My classes met on Christmas Eve and Christmas as normal, but were treated to cookies, writing letters to Santa (yay for practicing the verb “to want”), and tonight – a showing of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Jesus is considered to be a profit in Islam, so the story of his birth appears in the Koran (although I’ve been told he is born under a palm tree instead of in a stable) and most of my students had heard of Santa Claus (or Baba Noel) due to the French colonization influence here. They had fun making up ridiculous Christmas lists – what any 12 year old would do with a Ferrari is beyond me – and I received several real and virtual Christmas cards, which made me feel so welcome and accepted and at home in a place that is so far from my real home.

So that was class.

Most of this week, outside of class, of course, was spent on Skype with my family and making a day trip to one of the neighboring volunteers for Christmas brunch and a cutthroat game of Settlers of Catan.

Casserole and beignets!!!!

Casserole and beignets!!!!

Semi-early on Christmas morning, I hopped in a taxi, passed not only the goats in trees but also a herd of camels, to the west to visit one of my closest neighbors. A bunch of other volunteers had gathered there to celebrate the holidays, which we did with homemade beignets, egg breakfast casserole, and Christmas cookies. The nine of us also did a white elephant gift exchange – where you can steal and trade gifts until most people have what they wanted. I brought a knitted potholder to exchange and ended up with a bag of chocolate granola. That takes care of breakfast for the rest of the week!

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

Meanwhile, my family at home has swollen to include my mom’s brother and sister visiting for the holidays and I’ve been spending more time on Skype to feel like I’m not missing any of the Christmas activities. Being on the computer set in the middle of the kitchen watching dinner be prepared is almost the same as being there, right? Not quite, but it’s amazing to be this far away and still be able to see someone talking to you on a completely different continent.

While it would have been much better to be home, my Christmas was still quite nice and I’m excited for the next year!

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

Dec. 10, 2013 – My packing list, revisited

Depending on your outlook, packing for a trip can be exciting, because you get to look forward to the place you are going, or stress-inducing, because you’re not sure what to pack and if you’re forgetting something important.

If you’re packing up your life for two years in the Peace Corps, I’d say the whole experience leans more on the “stress” side of the equation. If you’re currently working on getting packed to come to Morocco, embrace the stress (because Peace Corps wouldn’t be Peace Corps without some nerves involved) but don’t let it overwhelm you. Even if you completely pack the wrong things, you can sort that out when you get to country. Except maybe don’t forget to bring a really warm jacket… It’s going to be cold when you get here.

Anyway, here is my packing list as posted on this blog last January. This is mostly what I brought and I thought it would be helpful to go through item by item and say whether I was glad I brought that thing. So here it goes. Bold items are things I’m really glad I brought, italicized are things I wish I had brought a different version of, strikethroughs are for things I wish I hadn’t wasted the space on.

Baggage

  • hiking backpack – good for extended trips in places where there aren’t paved roads
  • carry-on rolling suitcase – if I could have revolutionized my packing process and not brought this bag (and also reducing the amount of stuff I brought) I would have
  • school-sized backpack – for short trips, carrying my computer, hauling notebooks around, buying things at souk
  • duffle bag – awesome for trainings/week-long trips that are too short for the big backpack

Outerwear

  • Columbia jacket with removable fleece lining (wearing on the plane) – I thought I might have been crazy for bringing this, but I’m so glad I did, especially for the fleece lining. It doesn’t look cute, but it kept me warm during training. Also, I haven’t worn it yet since I got to site, but I would have died in a tiny shivering ball of cold if I hadn’t had it those first few months. If you end up not needing a huge jacket, you can always send it home or just not wear it. But remember, there are sites here where your olive oil freezes in the winter.

Shoes

  • hiking boots – very good for walking through mud
  • Mary Jane-style shoes (wearing on plane) – love them
  • hiking sandals – should have brought Chacos instead. My Keens get too many rocks stuck in them
  • sneakers – I brought running shoes, but since I don’t run in my site, I use them mostly for doing other exercises inside. If you like to work out, bring the shoes.
  • flip flops – great for showering in hostels, walking around town; if you are really strapped for space, you can easily get them here
  • everyday walking shoes – I should have picked a more comfortable pair, my own fault

Clothes

  • pants (4 pairs, one worn on plane)
  • skirts (all below the knee) – should have brought longer skirts in general (to the ankle) – see previous post on clothing choices.
  • long sleeve shirts for layering (7) – these are lovely in the winter
  • short sleeve shirts (4) – good for wearing under something loose but long-sleeved in the summer
  • workout and pajama shirts (3) – bring your workout clothes!!!!!
  • button down shirts/blouses – these are nice because a lot of them are ¾ length sleeves and a bit cooler in the summer/can serve as something professional looking if needed
  • what are actually sun dresses but will serve to cover the butt for shirts that don’t already do so (4)
  • cardigans (6) – essential!!!
  • leggings (2) – brought one pair that are fully to the ankle and one pair that are to the knee – haven’t worn the to the knee pair yet.
  • Tights (2) – if it’s cold enough to wear tights, you might as well just wear leggins. Not that they take up that much space
  • long johns (2) – you will live in these during training
  • capris (2) – not long enough to be worn in my site
  • tank top (1) – wish I had brought more for either wearing inside the house during summer or for layering under a shirt with a too-low neckline
  • bathing suit (2) – hotels have pools here! I would also suggest bringing a set of t-shirt and shorts you can wear over your suit in case you’re in a place that isn’t strictly for tourists
  • workout capris (1) – too short to wear outside and too hot to wear inside
  • workout shorts (1) – inside exercising FTW!
  • fleece pullover
  • sports bras (2)
  • regular bras (3) – should have brought more, what was I thinking?!?!?
  • pajamas (3) – I have one pair of heavy fleece pajama pants, one pair of flannel and one pair of sleep shorts
  • underwear (20 pairs) – I firmly believe you can never have too many clean underwear options. Also I like to go for ridiculously long amounts of time without doing laundry
  • socks (hopefully enough and in an acceptable combination of short, tall and workout) – I don’t wear socks in the summer, love them in the winter, bring ones that will keep you warm
  • mittens – The problem isn’t so much being cold outside, it’s being cold inside
  • gloves – thin ones you can work or write in
  • fingerless gloves – love them!
  • warm hat – worn constantly in training, usually inside
  • scarves (2) – if you don’t have one you like at home, they are widely available here – nice big drapey fashion scarves that can double as blankets or pillows, I wouldn’t bother with a knitted winter scarf

Gear

  • sleeping bag – super great if you are cold or traveling
  • sleeping bag liner – like a sheet for your sleeping bag – during the summer I just travel with this if I’m visiting another volunteer
  • towel – mine is a large or extra large quick-dry thing that packs nicely
  • pillow case
  • pocket knives (2) – mine have screwdriver attachments on them, which is what I use them mostly for
  • silverware kit – this is a spoon/fork/knife combination that folds up, I haven’t really used it much, but I wouldn’t say it’s a complete waste
  • headlamp (2) – I love these for reading at night, midnight bathroom trips
  • flashlight
  • umbrella – hopelessly broke during training. It rained a ton. It kept me kind of dry. If you have space bring one, but don’t expect it to survive the winds.
  • Scissors – small to pack, good for art projects
  • markers – Crayola is my most favorite thing in the world
  • Nalgene bottle – no, I lied, this is my most favorite thing in the world. I bring it everywhere. In the summer I drink about 5 a day. Also, Moroccan custom is to share a water glass for the entire table, so if you don’t want to feel like you’re monopolizing the water, you can bring your own.
  • Sunglasses – there is a lot of sun in this country
  • extra pair of regular glasses – required by Peace Corps
  • earrings – nothing that you’re afraid of losing

Toiletries

  • 3 months of medication – you start getting your prescriptions from Peace Corps at the end of training
  • hair ties
  • deodorant – deodorant here is a bit strange, so if you’re in love with a particular kind, bring several sticks of it
  • shampoo (travel size) – shampoo and other toiletries are widely available here
  • conditioner (travel size)
  • lotion
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes – I did bring several extra toothbrushes with me
  • hairbrush
  • floss
  • razors – if you like a particular kind of razor, bring extras
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • Diva cup – this is among the top things I am glad I brought with me, makes everything so so SO much easier. Practice with it for a cycle or two before you leave.
  • sewing kit

Computer stuff

  • laptop and necessary software disks – don’t forget your software disks. Your computer might crash here and you want to get it up and running
  • Nook and necessary charging cord – I love my Nook.
  • electrical outlet adapter/converter set – if it works in Europe, it works here
  • camera – preserve the memories!
  • batteries and recharger – I brought rechargeable batteries and a charger, it’s kind of nice to not have to find out how to dispose of batteries
  • DVD/CD case (including four workout DVDs) – workout programs you can do indoors – they save my sanity

 

Stuff for me

  • journal
  • sketchbook
  • pencil case
  • pictures of home – they’re a fun thing to show to your host family – just make sure the pictures don’t show you or your family wearing shorts/tanktops or drinking
  • knitting needles in case – if you like to knit, Moroccan ladies will be absolutely thrilled to see you doing something domestic. Crochet hooks have been easy for me to find here, but knitting needles have not been

Cultural outreach items

  • host family gifts (2 sets) – I brought keychains and some other Michigan-themed items.
  • Bananagrams – games of any kind can be hard to find here – Uno is one that Moroccans love and can be played without English

Important paperwork

  • Peace Corps papers
  • immunization records

There’s my list. I think I stuck basically to it, but there might be some things that got thrown in last minute.

 

My top six items

  • computer
  • Nook
  • Diva Cup
  • Nalgene bottle
  • camera
  • recipe book

 

Top 5 Items I Wish I Had Brought

  • external hard drive for exchanging movies and such
  • Chaco sandals
  • set of measuring cups/spoons
  • address book with addresses of family/friends
  • more long skirts

 

 

 

Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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