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

August 11, 2008

August And Everything After

Well, I've finally figured out why it's better to frequently update one's blog: I have so much to say I don't know where to start!

Summer in Morocco is full of all sorts of surprises, and in fact it has kept me wondering if there will ever be a predictable part of my service. As I mentioned in my last entry, June was full of PCV reunions (otherwise known as "training" and some extracurricular trips to the beach), July saw me leave the country for the first time in almost 10 months and was a time of joyful reunion with family, and August has been like adjusting to a new country.

In the rural areas of Morocco such as the one in which I live, most houses are left unoccupied until August when there is a flood of people returning from the likes of Rabat, Casablanca, Spain, Italy, France, etc. to visit "home" and relax a bit. As I'm sure you can imagine, this time is anything but relaxing for the people who are permanent residents in these towns. Travel is near impossible (I got stuck for over 24 hours in a town where they are usually begging people to reserve a seat in a taxi), the market is full of people simply people watching (I was welcomed by more than a number of people to the town I've been living in for nine months... not unpleasant, just funny), and prices for some of the most basic day-to-day things have crept up a bit.

But, there are some upshots to August that I hadn't anticipated (almost enough to distract anyone from the stifling heat): there are festivals going on all over the place, every weekend brings another surprise wedding complete with super delicious food and hours upon hours of singing and dancing, and ice cream has arrived to many of the hanuts (although not in my town, but in my cyber town and that's enough for me!). I lived in fear of the Saharan summer for many months, and I'm now finding that the best surprise of all is that not only is it not so bad, but I actually kind of like it. As always, this experience leaves me thinking that I hardly ever know what I will like or dislike until I actually try it.

That said, I am off to hike Jebel Toubkal quite soon (the tallest peak in North Africa at just under 14,000 feet) and I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to cold nights just above freezing and high temps during the day in the 70's. When I return home I will be greeted with a first-time festival under full swing in my site, during which time I expect to get very little sleep, eat lots of food (especially berkooks, my favorite, which is tiny pasta with honey, almond butter and melted butter drizzled over it - delicious!) and dance and clap my little feet and hands off into the wee hours. Ramadan starts the first week of September: something tells me this will be my first chance to recuperate from the frenzy of August.

This leads me to my next topic, which is Ramadan. As you may or may not be aware, Muslims fast during Ramadan. Those fasting rise with the first call to prayer (before day break, will probably be about 4:30 am) to eat, and then do not eat or drink anything again until sunset (the second-to-last call to prayer). We arrived in country the day before Ramadan started last year, and this will be the first time I experience it on my own in my own site. People have already started asking me if I will fast, and so far I have not come up with a suitable answer because I do not know yet. If I were to continue my regular dietary habits, I would have to be very careful not to be seen eating, and not to cook anything during the day out of respect for my neighbors. As time goes on, though, I can see the benefits of fasting with my community. Not only will they be honored that I am trying to understand them in such a personal way, but it would help me gain a real perspective on the challenges posed by fasting during this month in relation to work and health and daily routine. I will let you know what I decide whenever I decide it.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures I have compiled since the last time I posted some. I want to thank you all so much for reading my blog; it continues to astound me when I hear people referring to it. Who knew?

I hope you are all well, and that none of you are living anywhere where in the shade it's a cool 117...


A great kick-off to summer; all the CBT group back together again to celebrate my birthday. Well, that's not really why we were all in the same place at the same time, but it was fun all the same. And just in case you were wondering, the consensus was that I turned 23.

Ah, yes. This was the hike in June when I realized perhaps I ought to break out the bigger hats for the summer sun.

Where to go next? Always the question a PCV is asking. Although in this shot we may be looking for shade. I love this picture.

The heat was worth this find at the end of the walk: a pebble maze!

The Nedi: my place of work, my place of social interaction, my everything. Isn't it wonderful?!

These are two kids (brother and sister) that come to the preschool at the Nedi. I just love them; we like to play soccer in the courtyard, much to the amazement of the other women. They wanted me to take their picture in front of the garden the women are working on.

In June we went on the last hike of the summer. It was yet another new hike for me, and the first time I was afforded such an amazing vista east. Look at how many layers of mountains there are!

You know you must take a break from hiking for a while when you all try to cram underneath a bush for some shade.

As much as I loved this particular hike, I had one heck of a time getting out of the way of the smoke. We cooked a lovely tajine way up there, but I reeked of campfire for days.

Here are Ann and I in Seville, Spain; A beautiful city that everyone should see if they get a chance. I met her in Spain and we travelled down into Morocco together. It was so good to see family...

After our glorious trip to Spain, Ann and I took the ferry across from Europe to Africa. This is the Rock of Gibraltar, known as Jebel Tariq in Arabic (Tariq means "the way").

This the the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. It's the third largest mosque in the world, has the largest minaret in the world, and is the only mosque open to non-Muslims in Morocco. If ever you're travelling through Casa, I highly recommend taking the tour.

Ann & I in front of the mosque. We had a great time on our trip!

All of the artisanal work in the mosque was created by Moroccans. This enormous metal lamp was simply amazing.

Here is another typical Moroccan lamp, very different from the metal one above. This was hanging in our room at the riad in Marrakech.

No matter where you are in this country, the sunsets are truly spectacular.

At the end of July we had a glorious week of evening thunderstorms. There wasn't much rain to accompany the thunder and lightning, but it was wonderful nonetheless. Here I am watching the clouds roll in from the safety of my little kitchen.

This is the sun rising in my site. My host sister, her niece and I decided to exercise one morning. Our leisurely walk turned into an 8 mile hike.

A few of us were travelling in a grand taxi when it broke down. Without a word, the driver left in another truck. He did eventually return, but we were all struck with how normal it all seemed. We have been in this country long enough to know that everything works out in the end.

Just another beautiful African sunset.

I went to a wedding last weekend, and for the first time wore the traditional outfit of the women in my town. I borrowed the whole thing from top to bottom: kaftan (the goldish layer), black skirt (saia) and the white veil (zif) that I'm not wearing yet in this picture.

The view from the back. Good thing that belt had elastic because I ate well that evening!

Here we are on the way up the hill to the wedding. We sang songs while we walked. The sun was hot, but our spirits were up and I was busy trying to figure out how to keep the veil on my head with the wind blowing.

We were at the wedding from 11 am until 10 pm. The temperature inside was in excess of 120 F, but that didn't stop us from dancing, singing, drumming and clapping to our hearts' content!

Here is the large drum they use at most gatherings. It's made from wood and cowhide.

I wish I knew the proper words for these instruments. This is the handheld drum that everyone seems to know how to play excedingly well.