I’ve received my official invitation to serve in Morocco. I immediately emailed my official acceptance, and on Friday I got their official receipt of my acceptance (this has possibilities for theater of the absurd, doesn’t it?).
I’m scheduled to depart in late March. My job will be different - an NGO development worker rather than an English teacher. I’ll be part of the first group of volunteers to serve in this new program, a pilot project to help community-based associations (CBAs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) improve their organization, management, accountability, capacity, etc.
Unusual with Peace Corps, I know in advance the general region where I’ll be working. It’s called the Tensift, an area in Central-Western Morocco made up of five provinces and including the major cities of Marrakesh and Essaouira, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. As best I can figure out, it’s roughly 150 miles by 150 miles (about the size of all of Lesotho), centered on the 32nd parallel (think Savanna, Georgia). Geographically, it’s made up of coastal plains in the west and the High Atlas Mountains in the east, including Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Winter weather could be spring-like on the plains to bitter cold in the mountains. Summer weather, hot and humid in the plains to just hot in the mountains. So packing will still be a challenge! If only I knew which part of the Tensift region….maybe they could just send me the address of where I’ll be living?
I’m pretty excited about Morocco. I get to learn Arabic, something I’ve always wanted to do, and I get to know the country. In my imagination, Morocco is the epitome of exotic – camels, belly dancers, incense, strange musical instruments, Kasbahs. What will it really be like? But I have a personal connection, too. My oldest brother, Hamid, was a Muslim convert who did the Hadj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) and travelled to several other Muslim countries later in his life. He loved Morocco and spoke of it often with affection. Morocco is also close to Europe, a realistic and economical option in case I need a vacation from the exotic. I have a friend who owns a house in southern France; we’ve already made tentative plans for me to visit him there.
I’ve just begun my study of Morocco – with travel guides, what else! (Lonely Planet - thanks, John - and the Eyewitness Guide) – but I’m hungry for suggestions. I have five months, after all. Books, movies, send me your thoughts. In this age of the Internet, it’s easy just to Google it, of course, and I’m doing that, too. I’ll soon add a tab to this page, with links and other information on the country, language and culture, creating my own little portal to Morocco.
That's it for now. More soon.