Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hello Azrou!

We are very fortunate to have such an amazing host family! They are loving, kind, generous, caring, funny, patient and helpful. Hassan is the father and he is an administrator at a hospital. Fatima is the mother and she stays at home to cook (there is a part-time servant to help with chores), but also works at a little clothing boutique and also sells beauty products from home (a brand called Forever based in Scottsdale, AZ). Our host brothers are Yasin (15) and Mehdi (14). They are so sweet and also very respectful, polite, and well behaved. They love to play football/soccer and spend their free time studying, helping their mom, playing on the computer, and helping us learn Darija since they are studying English at school.

One of the jokes in Peace Corps Morocco is that this is really the “Posh Corps” - meaning that we have more of the comforts of home than many other volunteers around the world – although not ALL of the comforts. Currently we have our own bedroom with a television with satellite cable. Our home not only has clean running water but also hot water (although it is not always abundant). We have two toilets – a western toilet that you sit on and a turk toilet (basically a hole that you squat over – we only use this if the western toilet is occupied). There are no homes that we know of in Morocco that have central heating or air – families have lots and lots of big warm blankets. When it gets chilly our family turns on a large space heater that requires butane gas – beware of the loose connection...

Our family has 3 washing machines – none function as well as most in the US though. Kate washes our clothes in a small portable machine (we want one!) and then rinses and wrings them by hand. The clothes then have to dry on the line (we have the option of indoor or outdoor). It can take 24 hours on a warm sunny day or over 3 days if the weather is damp and cold (the weather has been hot, cold, sunny, windy, rainy...).

We love the food that our family serves us! Every day we get fresh baked bread (made in-house by our family's servant – see photo) for breakfast (with olive oil, jam, peanut butter – provided by us, and cheese). Lunch is the big family meal of the day and is always hot and delicious. We usually get some form of veggies, meat, and bread in a tagine. Friday is a special day (prayer day) and most families, including ours, serves a giant tagine of cous cous and veggies (see photo). Yum! Dinner happens at 9 or 10 pm every night. It varies and tends to be small but usually hot (soup, fresh hard boiled eggs...mmmm...).
Fresh house-made bread (Hxubs) 
Friday's traditional and delicious meal: cous cous tangine 
(veggies, chickpeas, cous cous, and broth). 
Friday (jm3a - also the word for mosque) is prayer day.

Kate has now made a meal and a dessert for our family: spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread (our host brothers loved the bread!) and homemade brownies. The family loved the brownies – we know because they and other families are talking about how delicious they were (gossip is a important form of communication in Morocco). Arie and Kate made Sunday morning breakfast together: banana pancakes and scrambled eggs, a repeat will happen this week and we will serve 13 people (everyone wants to try our banana pancakes!). Initially our family and others (again, word travels fast) were very confused as to why we needed 14 eggs – 4 for a big batch of pancakes and 10 for scrambled eggs to feed 7 people.

Kate has learned how to make Moroccan mint tea (see photo), although she uses 2/3 less sugar than is traditionally used. Our favorite kitchen tool is a food processor that is also a scale. We will be getting one for our home when we settle in. We have seen it used to make flour and to grind nuts, and Kate used it to measure ingredients for her brownies and to make homemade peanut butter (a big hit with the family!).
Moroccan Mint Tea made by Kate

For exercise Arie and Kate have been going to Taebo Areobics with another Peace Corps Trainee, Sarah, and her host mom and host brother (her host mom is the sister of our host mom). We go 3 times a week. The class is at a Karate studio in town. It is high intensity cardio combined with boxing and karate moves with push ups and crunches to follow. We love it, even though we are not very good at it. Hopefully by the time we are finished with training in May we will be Taebo pros! We have also been taking advantage of the mountain climate by jogging, hiking, and climbing in the area.
Team Taebo! Are, Kate, and Sarah

What things do we miss the most?
Kate: high fiber cereal with soymilk/almond milk/coconut milk, a wide variety of clothes and shoes for various occasions and weather situations, heated yoga, high speed internet, and my bicycle!
Arie: Thai food, cold cuts, siracha hot sauce, and checkerboard pizza, high speed internet, and Noel.