Sunday, May 1, 2011

Roses, Running and the Week After Site Visits

This has been another good week, but in a different sense than last.

The week before, all of us were visiting our permanent sites. This was the first time Peace Corps Morocco sent the volunteers out so soon. Usually, they don’t visit their permanent sites till CBT is over, after swearing in, then they go…and stay. For a variety of reasons (one of them budgetary), they decided to send us for the one week “get acquainted” visit in the middle of our training. As with so many things, there were unintended consequences.

Mostly, the results were good. Nearly everyone was enthused with their sites (as was I). The unintended consequence is that now we’re all a little impatient with training. We want to get on with it, do the real thing, not just training, not just practice. Of course, we all recognize that we still need more language and we still need technical training. But…we’d all still like to be doing actual work… a very American trait. In a deeper sense, it magnified the cultural differences we live under. It made us all yearn for the sense of autonomy that we feel in America (without even realizing it).

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Even though I have a very good living situation with my host family, I became acutely aware this week of how much I wanted to be able to live on my own schedule. As it is now, I go to school all day. When I come home, I’m expected to spend time with my family, which I willingly do…and yet it’s also an expectation. Moroccans tend to always be together and think that people should not be left alone. So, for example, if I say I’m going for a walk in the fields, they will almost always tell Sulayman to go with me. And that’s just a minor example. During her site visit, one volunteer said her family sent one of the children to her room every night so that she wouldn’t have to sleep alone.

Anyway, the tenor of our training changed this week. Still lots of language (I think we were introduced to about 600 new words in the last two and a half days) with the addition of technical training on water and sanitation, but a lot of thinking ahead to when we’ll be on our own, have our own places to live, etc. Because I’ve already found a place, I’ve begun to think of what I will do to spiff it up a bit. One of the things I did here in Qalaa today was price paint…but I’ll save the redecorating details for later.

We've done a couple of things to help offset our restlessness. For example, yesterday afternoon several of us watched a movie together (Crazy Hearts). Afterwards we went for our first run in Azlag. It drew a few comments of amador (crazy), but the exercise was good for the soul.

But don’t get the idea that I’m pulling back from my desire to become an active member of my community. This morning at breakfast Mohammed said they were going into the fields to pick roses. “Everyone?” I asked. He nodded and asked if I wanted to go. I did. We went to fields I had never seen before, quite far from the village, along Hobbit-like paths. My sisters Aicha and Ouardia showed me several new trees, including quince and several others I haven’t found the translation for yet. It was a great hour and a half.

So today, I’m following my nose, being American, not drawing back from, but trying to find the sweet spot of “integration.”

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