Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco comment that the 10-week Community Based Training (CBT) process is one of the most difficult parts of service. We are expected to sit in class from 6-10 hours per day learning an unwritten dialect of Arabic, prepare and teach classes at the Dar Shabab (most often in Arabic) on topics ranging from goal setting to beginner English, and come home to families with whom we share no common language. On top of that, we have technical skills trainings with the Peace Corps once a month and weekly progress checks on our language skills. I’ve even had to re-learn parts of my daily routine that I’ve practiced with ease for over twenty years – such as bathing, using the bathroom and feeding myself. With the (very little) spare time I have left, I barely squeeze in yoga sessions and chats with my family in America. It’s no wonder I’m exhausted all the time!
In honor of the nearing of the end of CBT – this is our final week! – here are the top ten things that have encouraged me to persevere and excel.
10 Reasons Why I Survived Peace Corps Training
**(in no particular order)
10. Milka Oreo chocolate bars & Coca-cola
Sometimes my frustrations with Arabic trickle over the edge – when I still, after 9 weeks, can’t pronounce the letter L-Qaf correctly or when I can never convey my emotions appropriately (the word mqllq means both angry and sad). Enter this beautiful chocolate bar and a bottle of Coca-Cola. It doesn’t solve the problem at hand, but it does make me feel better – and sometimes that’s all that matters. Sometimes all you need is a little comfort to encourage you to pull through. Sometimes that means a 1 Liter bottle of Coca-Cola. You do what you gotta do.
9. My iPhone
This ain’t your grandparents’ Peace Corps no more — and that’s okay. The world has changed significantly since Peace Corps first began, and so too has the work of PCVs. I couldn’t be more thankful for my iPhone here in Morocco and I’m not embarrassed about it. With my iPhone I’m easily able to connect to the Internet, which is integral to my job here as I’m constantly designing lesson plans and sending reports. It’s also a great little camera when I don’t feel comfortable bringing my DSLR when teaching or travelling. Having my iPhone has also made keeping in touch with family and friends back home easier. I can stay up-to-date with my friends’ lives with WhatsApp and I can randomly call my mom with FaceTime and it shows up on her phone like a normal call would. Life isn’t put on hold for two years while I’m here… it still goes on. As happy as I am to be here in Morocco, it’s still incredibly important to me to be a part of my loved ones’ lives back home.
8. My host family
It takes a particularly special group of humans to accept a stranger into their home and adopt them as their own. After nine weeks I truly feel like a part of the family. They are among the most generous people I have ever known, literally giving me the clothes off of their backs at times. We come from highly different cultures, which sometimes drove me to my breaking point, but at the end of the day we all laugh and love together. Even if I were fluent in Arabic, I still wouldn’t have the words to express my gratitude.
7. Pepto Bismol
Heartburn, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea! Yep, I’ve had ‘em all. Sometimes all in one day. There was one point in training where I’d thrown up more times than I’d had bowel movements. I even rode my first Moroccan carnival ride (and probably my last). It’s Peace Corps. Pop some Pepto and get back at it.
6. My cold weather gear
PC Morocco encouraged us heavily to “Think Alaska, not Africa” when packing for CBT. Man, were they right! For nearly two months it was colder inside my house than it was outside. I could see my breath every hour of the day. My daily staples included a layer of long underwear (from LL Bean and Hot Chillys) and/or fleece-lined tights, wool socks (layered on top of regular socks), a scarf, hat, and mittens – all in addition to the outfit I’d layer over it and my fantastic winter jacket from The North Face.
5. My Arabic textbook
My lifeline, especially the first week with my host family when I didn’t even know how to say “I’m hungry.” I took this damn book everywhere. While I’ve become conversationally proficient and no longer need the book glued to my hip, I still sometimes have to run to my room and look up a word mid-sentence.
4. Other Peace Corps Volunteers/Trainees
I can’t emphasize enough how obsessed I am with my fellow Peace Corps Trainees and Volunteers. It’s beautiful to see how an organization can attract such a diverse group of individuals, all bound together by their mutual desire to impact the world. Every day I feel as if I’m surrounded by my soulmates.
3. Couscous Friday
The most delicious day of the week!
2. Being a nerd
Guys, learning is fun! As frustrated as I’ve gotten (and continue to get), my love of learning always overpowers the feeling of wanting to give up. When I was younger I’d read under my covers with a flashlight until the early hours of the morning. My mom could never get mad at me – because how can you punish your daughter who stayed up late reading a book? I’m so lucky that my parents have always encouraged me to embrace my “nerdy” side, and that I went to a college where being smart was cool (holla American U).
1. My CBT mates
By some combined stroke of luck and destiny, the six of us were randomly assigned to spend ten weeks together. I couldn’t be more grateful. After spending the majority of our waking hours together we’ve learned to depend on each other. Liz is a gentle spirit who loves playing with the stray cats and cares deeply for others. Dia makes friends with everyone she meets and always has another question to ask. Vince never fails to make us laugh and keeps us hip with the Arabic slang. Rissa is one of the most positive people I know and has some pretty sweet dance moves. Sam is easy-going and tells the best stories. I don’t know what I’m going to do without them by my side every day for the next two years…
Cheers to another zwin (beautiful) week!