Monday, November 24, 2008

The bread I make pleases me, will you show me how?

If you are wanting a glimpse into my life right now, pick up a copy of "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sadaris and flip to the chapter "See You Again Yesterday", that sounds about right. I'm slowly losing my english-speaking crutches and will soon be completely on my own trying to figure everything out. In the language test I took a little over a week ago I placed at "Intermediate Low", which isn't terrible for 2 1/2 months. The reality, however, is much more irregular, some days I would say I go up to "Intermediate Mid" other days I'm more at the "Novice" level. Which can make for amusement and confusion.

At least I know I'm not the only one having to go through this. Anyone who has been dropped in a place that doesn't speak your first language has to go through this, I'm sure. But shwiya b shwiya I'm getting it. Little by little I have let go of the crutches and stand on my own weak language legs, and little by little they're growing stronger.

I just arrived at my site on Friday. As soon as I put down my belongings and went to attended the going away party for the volunteer I'm replacing I got requests for help. Mostly right now I'm getting people who want to learn English. I think this would be good in small quantities, but is not the reason why I am here. It does sound like there are a lot of artisan organizations I can look into. I'm excited and a little intimidated because of my language (see above). It is good to establish some of these connections now though, even if I can't act on them so easily right now.

Alright, back to business. I have a good internet connection here, so continue to expect regular updates from me. I may not be as verbose as some, but do check out my photographs on flickr! Pictures are worth a thousand words after-all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Before the Dive

I lift my head up from the sink, splashing water on my face and looking at the mirror. Over my shoulder and out the door to the roof I can see the remaining embers of the sunset behind the mountains--now here is a scene the artist never tires of. The next moment I am peering over the roofs edge absorbing the hush of dusk. The color drains from the sky and intensifies the twinkling display of lights on the far hillside. In the rapidly cooling air, I can smell the smoke of all the wood-fires freshly lit, and watch it materialize in the streetlamp.

The street stretches into and out of town. I was up here not even a week earlier when I caught the sound of a motorcycle zooming into a fatal collision below. I recall this violent memory despite the tranquility. What road lies before me?

There is a lot of beauty here. I have become even more appreciative of a beauty that lies beyond language. I’ve also a new understanding of humbleness. The humbleness of a child that can’t communicate effectively the battle that goes on inside. My inner monologue becomes richer as my tongue struggles to develop the leanest sentences. However, I delight in my successes from the last ten weeks, and I feel strength building in my language and confidence.

Tomorrow, this country will become my home for two years. I’m as ready as anyone can be, knowing the biggest struggles and lessons are yet before me. I am in the arms of a country that has already shown extraordinary hospitality and kindness, as well as misunderstanding and harassment, humor and humility. I come equipped with my own talents, insights, and shortcomings.

I leave the roof as the sun leaves the continent. Tomorrow, I finally swear in as a volunteer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The "city" is where I'll be

Needless to say I've learned a lot in the last week. I went out to my site and saw where I will be living for the next two years. I got to speak and explore the city with the volunteer I will be replacing, which gave me some insight into the work and town.

I wasn't sure how to approach this post because so much has happened all at once. I'm not a fan of writing really long posts, so I will make a series of short ones over a period of time.

To start, my impression of the city.

It is perhaps the largest site for Small Business Development volunteers. It is the capital of the province it is located in, and a short distance east of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. It is located on a major thoroughfare and it is easy to get transport around the country. This also means that it will be much easier to come visit me than if I was out in the "bled" (country). The weather sounds moderate, it is on a plain closer to the coast so it is getting more of the warm coastal weather. There are palm trees and lots of greenery, people have potted gardens outside their houses and on their roofs. Orange and olive trees line the streets. You can see the mountains in the distance if you get just outside of town and away from all the buildings. It isn't a site where you can walk out of your home into mountains, desert, forest, or beach, but none of these things are too hard to travel to from my site (maybe the desert, that is pretty far south).

In the streets it is still possible to see cats (a lot of cats, but not many stray dogs), donkeys, horses (they are a means of transportation in little coaches or "coochies"), and chickens.

The town is big enough that the current volunteer says it is still possible for her to get turned around if she strays to far from her normal routes. If I stay in the neighborhood she is in now, I think most things will be within easy walking distance. Although perhaps I am not facing some of the struggles of living in the bled, I think the city will provide other challenges for me. I will always be just a foreigner to harass to random passersby. I may get to know the community I work in, but not the whole city. Also, I have to be careful about being out in certain areas at certain times if I'm alone.

Since the town is large and easy to get to, there is a large selection of food available to me. There is a large daily vegetable market out on the streets, a large fish market, a few "supermaches" (think 7-11 with staple foods), countless harnoots (small bread/food places), and a weekly souq (huge outdoor market). To top it off they are opening a marjon in the next few weeks, which is apparently like a walmart (mixed feelings on this, but I will likely be able to find most of what I need and want).

Best of all there is an amazing pastry shop that uses real chocolate! Expect food posts from me in the future (for you foodies who are reading).

Okay, that was a short run-down of the site. More to come!