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!
I am currently serving in Peace Corps, Morocco, as a small business developer working with artisans since September 2008. I have a Master of Fine Art, in studio art from Washington University in St. Louis.