Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Welcome to the Desert

The journey is long and hot; our bags are heavy and we stink.
The bus is full and wobbles with every bump and turn.
Up through the desert mountains a winding road like a roller coaster
moves us forward towards a place we have never known.

Camels, tan, brown, black, one hump, two, and a baby.
Goats enjoying an argan nut snack, one is up in a tree.
These are the tree climbing kind of goat.

2 women, 1 man stand in the road as the bus driver stomps on the breaks.
They get on.
2 claps will stop the bus; you can get off anywhere.

We are alone on the road in the desolate desert.
What if the bus breaks down?
Do we have enough water?
Just imagine, but we arrive with water to spare.

This is Morocco.
We are home.

We sleep under the stars in a concrete courtyard.
In a metal crib with a cardboard mattress sleeps Adam.
On the ground sleep mother, father, sister, brother.
We lay on a bed, because Moroccans are welcoming and generous.

Behind a wooden door are 3 sheep and 1 goat.
Above us the north star and the big dipper.
Cats wander in under the front door to sniff for scraps.
A radio in the distance sings a song in minor key while a donkey brays.

The desert breeze ruffles our sheet.
This is Morocco.
We are home.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

8 Weeks in Morocco!

Hello Friends and Family!

We can hardly beleive that we have been in Morocco for 8 weeks! One week from now we will be saying farewell to our wonderful host family in Azrou and heading to Rabat to prepare to be sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers! We have been very busy studying language and culture and preparing for our work as youth development volunteers. 

The past two months of training have been exhilarating - full of challenges, learning, and most importantly laughter (the kind where tears roll down your eyes and you almost pee your pants).  Below is a graph to exemplify some of Kate's adjustment observations.  While the ups and downs look extreme overall our ability to cope and adjust has been easy and comfortable.  Although, once we leave Azrou and get to our final site a whole new adjustment cycle will begin.  Flexibility, a positive attitude, and perseverance are the keystones of a positive and successful Peace Corps experience!

We LOVE the food in Morocco - it is AMAZING. 

Below is a photo of a very special dish called Bastilla.  It is a giant pastry pocket made of filo dough, and wrapped inside is chicken (this one contains one and a half chickens), spices (like cinnamon, saffron, coriander...), onions (maybe 10?), and a bunch of parsley.  That is the first layer of the Bastilla.  The second layer is almonds, eggs, and sugar.  That is all wrapped up and baked in the oven.  The top is sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Everyone sits around the big Bastilla and breaks it up and eats it with their fingers. YUM - 7 of us took this one out for lunch one day. 

Some other foods we LOVE:

Zmita - which contains roasted and ground up: peanuts, almonds, soybeans, corn, flax seeds, sesame seeds.  Also flour, sugar, oil, and fennel seed.  Every thing is ground to a powder and mixed together.  Depending on the batch you either eat it with a spoon or with your fingers.  We get some for breakfast every morning.

Melawi - this is like flat tortilla/crepe bread, but better than both.  You can put honey or jam on it, or just eat it plain.

Rfisa - this is a big dish that consits of pieces of Melawi covered with pieces of chicken, lentils and gravy.  For some more info on Rfisa and a recipe click HERE

Shpekiya - is sinful. It is some sort of fried pastry the is SOAKED in honey and oil.  Mmmmm...

Beef and prune tagine - imagine slow cooked beef in a rich gravy with big warm prunes on top. 

We visited Fes one weekend.  We spent most of our time wandering around the narrow streets of the old medina (medina = city).  Below is a photo of one of the main gates into the old medina.

Below is a photo of Arie and our LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator) Elghali as we navigated the maze of small streets with little doors into the homes of Moroccans.
While in Fes we ate lunch at Cafe Clock - check out their website HERE.  This cafe offers vegetarian and vegan food (along with camel burgers), as well as cooking classes and yoga classes.  The cafe has multiple floors and a rooftop terrace.  It would be a great place to hang out and use some wifi while sipping coffee and snacking on some hummus and tabbouleh.  Below is a photo of Arie and Kate on the rooftop of the cafe.

Yesterday we led a English/Yoga session at the Dar Chebab (Dar = house, Chebab = youth, therefore a Dar Chebab is a community youth center).  Over a hundred youth showed up, and Arie had no problem getting them all to do some mountain, tree, and eagle poses!