approaching month six

Two weeks ago I moved into my new apartment here in the desert oasis and I feel as if I have finally achieved some sense of normalcy and routine.

But just as those words come out of my mouth… “normalcy and routine…” I want to spit them back out. You see, “normalcy and routine” don’t really exist when you’re in the Peace Corps. The lack of “normalcy and routine” is one of the things that drew me most to joining the Peace Corps.

Here’s my version of “routine” as I enter month six with Peace Corps Morocco:

I try to start most of my days by exercising. Here in my piece of the Sahara Desert it reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit by 9 o’clock, so I wake up around 7 to beat the sun. Some mornings I go on long walks with women from my community and other mornings I go on a run by myself. My sitemate hosts an amazing aerobics class for women three times a week at the gym in our town, and I often like to tag along.

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The rest of my morning and early afternoon hardly ever looks the same. Lately I’ve been trying to make my apartment feel a bit more “me” by hanging photos, getting back to drawing and painting, and adding some color to my walls. On average I’m invited to lunch at a community member’s house around 3 times a week, and I happily consume heaping portions of couscous, chickpeas, and tagine and practice my Arabic. Sometimes I find myself at a wedding and other days I chat with my favorite hanut owner. Every day I find myself lesson planning or brainstorming projects for several hours.

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At 5 o’clock I head to my Dar Chebab, making stops along the way to pick up a snack and say Salamu 3alaykum to hanut owners and greet little kids with a series of kisses on the cheek. I work at the Dar Chebab every day from Tuesday – Saturday until 9pm. What does this entail exactly? In the simplest of terms — I run a youth center. The beginning of each day starts with endless games of UNO, Old Maid, checkers, and drawing pictures. As the night progresses I shift into my regular programming which, depending on the night, will be a fun activity or an English-based class.

Right now I am focusing most of my time working with my teenagers to pass their English Baccalaureate exam in June by facilitating grammar lessons and perfecting writing and communication techniques. I try to keep things fresh and fun for them. For example, last week I taught them this little trick: you always know if you’re using passive voice if you can add “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence is correct (This blog post was written by zombies). It was quite a hit let me tell ya! For my non-English activities I always try to get them moving and working together in teams. And thus, I now have succeeded in getting my students addicted to playing dodgeball! Needless to say, I have a lot of fun at work.

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After the Dar Chebab closes I like to walk around and enjoy the cool night air for a bit before returning to my house — and I’m usually accompanied by a gaggle of youths that never fail to make me feel like some sort of minor celebrity. My town comes alive at night due to the high temperatures during the day, so it’s usually a great opportunity to walk around and talk to people I know in town. Once I’m home I make dinner (I’m on a fajita kick… with homemade tortillas!) and throw on a show on my computer (lately it’s West Wing… again). I also like to call up Peace Corps friends or FaceTime a family member before settling down for the night and reading a book (I just started Outliers). There is nothing in my town by way of night life… unless you count the new restaurant in town that makes little pizzas and plays Backstreet Boys (specifically the “Backstreet’s Back” CD) every time I go… so my nights are usually pretty low key.

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My work in the Peace Corps is two-fold — fulfilling my commitment as a Youth and Community Developer, as well as participating in a mutual exchange of culture and ideas between Americans and Moroccans. I believe my dedication to accomplishing each task depends upon my commitment to the other — they are mutually reinforcing. The more I integrate with my community, the more successful my work is — and the more successful my work is, the more people see me as an integral part of their community. I have many exciting opportunities on the horizon, and I’m really excited for what the next few months will bring (except maybe the 130+ F degree heat)!

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