If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

January 7, 2008


Happy New Year! Usggas Mbarke! (oo-sah-gwas em-bar-kee) Don’t you love this time of year when we can look back at the months that have flown by, and look forward towards a clean slate? Even though one year ago I was living comfortably in places with central heating and life now resembles nothing I’ve ever known, am happy to report that my optimism has returned and I am enthusiastic about whatever life will bring me in ’08.

Before I get into life since my last post, I wanted to pass along the following info:

- Peace Corps has recently added two new pages to its website; one geared towards the 50+ age group and another geared towards teens who may be considering volunteering in the future. I’m especially excited about the teen website because I am currently corresponding with students at Westland Middle School and Watkins Mill High School, many of which have expressed an interest in volunteer work. I’ve placed quick links to both on the right side of this page.

- I’ve placed a banner for quotes at the top of the blog that I will change from time to time. I used to do this on my old blog, and I think it has a place here as well. I like to post quotes that have recently served as inspiration or reflect a something I’ve been thinking or feeling.

- On the right you can also find “Fast Facts” - a section I've added where you can find quick info about random things that I have recently done.

- I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at these yet, but on the right side of the page you can find links to some of my fellow PCVs’ blogs. Anjuli, Anny and Mia are all SBD Volunteers serving in Morocco, and were all in my training group. Erin is my cousin who is currently serving as a health volunteer in Malawi. Take a look! They’ll each give you a unique perspective of this wild adventure…

So, since I last wrote I’ve “survived” two holidays without too much heartache and loneliness. I cannot tell a lie, Christmas was hard, especially since I was home alone and we were just coming out a of nasty 3 day wind storm during which we lost electricity (thanks, Max, for that emergency radio – it was amazing!). But I got to speak with everyone in my immediate family for quite a long time and Mr. & Mrs. Bushar (thank you all!), and that made all the difference.

On Christmas Day I spent the better part of the day baking a carrot cake and chocolate fudge. It was the first time I got to do any baking here in Morocco (which many of you know I love to do), and since I was alone I got to rock out to some holiday tunes at the same time. I also went shopping by myself at the tahanout (shop) for the first time! At around 5pm a small group of women from my duar (village) came over, and I wowed them with a spread of the aforementioned baked goods, popcorn, some cookies a neighbor had made for l’Eid Mqorn, hot chocolate, and (of course) tea. I was also lucky enough to have been the recipient of a small tree (see last post) and holiday garland. So I decorated the room, played holiday music from my MP3 player (thank you Ellen & Paul!) and $5 Radio Shack speakers (Carol, who knew that would be such a great purchase?!). The party was a hit! Not only did it provide the perfect distraction from the potential pity party I was in great danger of suffering, it allowed me to work towards the second goal of Peace Corps: to help promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the [Moroccans] served. Finally a real, measurable success! So much so, in fact, that on New Year’s Day a number of them showed up at 5pm again inquiring about a party. I was taken by surprise, but as a good Moroccan host I threw together another mini feast. This time the entertainment was me desperately trying to explain New Year’s Resolutions in my broken Tash…

At this point I would like to stop and mention that since religious proselytizing is strictly forbidden in all Peace Corps countries, I want to be clear that my Christmas event was focused mostly on the cultural impact the holiday has had on the U.S. as a whole. The women were really interested in learning about it, but were especially enthralled with the sweets and the music (who knew Bing Crosby’s “Christmas in Kilarney” would be such a hit?!). You might be surprised to hear that none of them knew anything about Christmas at all. In fact, I was wished “happy birthday” that day more times than I can count. It was really quite sweet. The experience as a whole served a good reminder that not only do I come from a very difference culture, but that human beings all over the world enjoy learning about other people in far off lands…not to mention that everybody loves a good party.

Other than the two holidays and a weekend in my cyber town though, life has been exceedingly quiet. We have only been to the Nedi once in the last 4 weeks, our glorious ladies hiking outings have been postponed by the crazy weather, and most people were out of town for l’Eid Mqorn. I’ve really spent most of my time just trying to keep warm. The temperature in my bedroom hovers around 5°C (41°F) at night, and the house doesn’t get much above 10°C (50°F) during the day, so on days when the sun is out I can be found on the roof basking in its warmth.

The good news is that I’ve recently hit (or recognized my progression to) a new plateau in my language ability and can finally plan some work. I understand more than they realize, in fact, and I’ve even been able to crack a few jokes. This all occurred to me when I had a conversation with my host sister and a number of women about the shoe association with whom I’m supposed to be working. I found out that there really isn’t an association any longer since all but 5 of the members are now married (women in my area do not work outside of the home once they are married). This was some very surprising news indeed. I found myself wondering “What am I here to do, then?” Well, they were wondering the same thing (“Why are you here?” I think was how they put it). I told them that I’m here to work with them on whatever they want to do, and this was met with a great deal of confusion sprinkled with a hint of annoyance. I had a moment of panic, but then I recognized that I now had a project for the coming weeks. Hooray! I have to work with the women to help them figure out what they want and need. Oh, duh, I think that was in my training… I know that my language level at this point is going to make it very difficult for me to achieve this overnight, but I’m just happy to have an objective in the month of January other than finding a house to live in (oh yeah, there’s that).

Before I sign off I want to pay tribute to a dear friend of mine that passed away the first week in December. We called him Bubba, and for those of you who had the absolute pleasure and good fortune to know him, you know that the man was a legend and will forever be remembered as such. Bubba had a capacity for love and understanding that was truly remarkable, and his commanding voice and booming laugh could bring a smile to the face of even the most pessimistic person. Not only did he serve as a “glue” for the hard working arts and crafts community in which he worked, he was a Vietnam Veteran, a devoted husband, loving father and doting grandfather. His passing was unexpected, but he left us with some very valuable lessons to live by: shower your family and friends with love, forgiveness, acceptance, and Bubba-sized hugs as often as possible! Thanks, Bubs, for being one of my most inspirational mentors and a beloved friend. Knowing you was truly beyond… [James Taylor’s “Shower the People” just came through on the shortwave as I finished writing this. Coincidence? Hmm…]

Below you will find some pictures that Mom has been requesting. And just to clarify, the mountains are close. Really close!...

Peace in ‘08


[Now I can download higher resolution photos, so just right click once on these photos to see the detail...]

This is a view looking south at the misty sunrise I got to see on Christmas Eve as I waited for the bus to my cyber town...

...and here I am at my "bus stop".

This is the moon setting over the mountains. Isn't it amazing?

Way back there is my cozy little village. The road there is the road I walk to go to wait for the bus. The labels say the rest...

You can see my souk town in the distance, and I live up the hill to the left.

I decorated the salon for my little party. This is what a typical Moroccan salon looks like.

Mmmmmm, yummy. I spent a lot of time on that pattern in the icing on the carrot cake.

Here I am with my Christmas cards and my lovely little tree. Yay!

Those are cats Sin and Krad (Two and Three) in the foreground, and those are the lovely mountains we go hiking in background.

This is the front of my host house. It's just occured to me it's very similar to the color of Ann and Ellen's beach house.

Isn't this incredible? This is what it looks like facing west just about every evening. I like to sit on the roof or on the front stoop and just watch the light and the colors change.

Here's another view of the evening mountains from the kitchen window.

Ah, this one speaks for itself. I just couldn't resist.

Yeah, that's 47.5 F indoors, and it got down to 40 F that night. Brrrr!

Everyone in my town does their laundry on the roof. It took me three hours to do my laundry that day, but the weather was so nice and I got to listen to BBC News on the radio, so I really didn't mind.