Friday, December 9, 2011

Surf, a Spelling Bee, and IST

Sunset over the Atlantic
We arrived in Mehdiya last Sunday after dark. Though I couldn’t see the ocean, I could smell it. When I went to sleep that night, I went to sleep to the sound of surf for the first time in nine months. And when I got up in the morning and looked out my window I saw a broad beach, a long breakwater reaching out into the ocean, and what looked like a dredge working at the mouth of the channel. It reminded so much of Grand Haven and my home on Lake Michigan.
Walking the beach with a friend, Adam, during
lunch break
The fifty-two remaining volunteers of the 60 who started with me (eight have ETd – early terminated – for personal or medical reasons) all converged on Mehdiya, a beach town a little north of Rabat. The occasion was IST (In-service Training), held six months after swearing in for each staj. On our first day, we had another LPI (Language Proficiency Interview). I did all right, moving up one notch to Intermediate Mid. At least I’m moving in the right direction! The next day, we shared our experiences so far and our plans for the next phase of our service. That was followed by a couple of days of workshops on grant-writing and teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).
I feel lucky. Many PCVs are still “integrating,” but I have plenty of work with my three days a week teaching in the elementary schools, plus work at the sbitar, middle school health club, and with the women’s association I’m helping get started.
Going through the rules prior to the start of the
IST Spelling Bee
I’m also working on a new project – Spelling Bee Morocco – that I hope will eventually create a national spelling bee for Moroccan students. I used the gathering at IST to present the idea to my fellow PCVs, and we held a late-night Spelling Bee at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Fourteen PCVs participated and about 20 others formed an audience. Much to my surprise, very few of them had ever participated in a spelling bee back home. But they’re a bunch of smart, confident people, and they really got into it. It took eleven rounds to crown a winner. She won on “hippopotamus” and “aggraded” after the runner-up stumbled on “euphemism.”
The winner and a disconsolate runner-up
IST has ended. We’ve just had dinner. There will be a “Souk Prom” later tonight. And tomorrow morning, we’ll all head back to our sites. This is the last time all of us will be together at the same time until our COS (Close of Service) conference, a few months before we complete our Peace Corps service, so there’s a bittersweet tinge to the evening.
I spent a day in Marrakesh on my way here, and I’ll be spending a couple of days in Rabat on my way back home. I’ll tell you all about that, and some other travels I’ve taken in the last couple months, when I get back to my site next week.

Mehdiya has a beautiful wide, flat beach

Work boats entering the channel at dusk


  1. Looks like a lovely place to recharge your batteries and get ready for more work. Wishing you the very best, David

  2. Yes, it is a lovely place, and I did just that. I went for a run every other day and long walks on the other days. I could definitely come back here on my own someday, just to chill out.