Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Giving Thanks

It's November! I have noticed that on Facebook a lot of people are posting something that they are thankful for each day of the month.  This is an idea that I really like, so I am going to attempt to do so over the span of this month right here in this blog post.  Check back for updates!

November 1st - We are thankful for our local Souk!
We are thankful for our Souk, a farmers market that happens bi-weekly is our town, is our best opportunity to purchase fresh produce; there are no supermarkets in the desert. Our weekly meal planning revolves around Souk days.  We get really excited when there are: ripe avocados, fresh figs, sweet red peppers, turnips with a big bunch of greens on their tops, and fresh lettuce.  Since we are so remote, there is usually little variety. Nonetheless, we love to go and see what is fresh and in season!

 November 2nd - Couscous Friday!
It's FRIDAY! In Morocco this means couscous! Moroccans love to eat couscous on Fridays and on holidays.  We go and eat couscous with our host family every Friday that we are in site.  Couscous might be the most important and most delicious dish (in our opinion) in Morocco. We are so thankful to have a time each week with our host family to share such a wonderful meal. Yum!

November 3rd - The Guitar!
We are thankful that our Dar Chebab, or local youth center, has multiple guitars. Arie has fixed them up and is starting to give lessons to a few boys in our community.  He practices the guitar himself for an hour or two each day.  He is getting really good, especially with the blues, and I enjoy listening to him (unless I am trying to take a nap).

November 4th - PCMOs 
(Peace Corps Medical Officers)!
The PCMOs in Morocco are a wonderful team of qualified doctors who advise and support us during the physical and mental ups and downs of our service.  We are thankful for their support!

“We must find time to stop and thank the 
people who make a difference in our lives.”
― John F. Kennedy

November 5th - Our Community!
Here is the desert we are surrounded by wonderful people.  Our Peace Corps Volunteer friends, our host family, our Moroccan friends, our Dar Chebab Mudir (youth center director), our neighbors, our favorite Hanut owners (shopkeepers), the post office workers, the women, the men, and the youth who are friendly and welcoming.  They all support us and the work we do. We are thankful that every time we return home from being out and about in the community we have smiles on our faces and laughter in our hearts.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; 
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

 November 6th - Freedom, Equality, and the Privilege to VOTE!
Being in a foreign country and immersed in a foreign culture gives you a new perspective on your own home country and culture.  We realize that as Americans we are very fortunate, and so we are grateful to realize this so as not to take it for granted. Now get out there and take advantage of the great opportunity and VOTE!
November 7th - Our President and First Lady!
Four more years! What a wonderful, beautiful, amazing couple we have to lead our country - I am so proud and thankful. Onward and Forward President Obama! Watch Obama's Victory Speech HERE!

 November 8th - Our New Oven! 
Our wonderful host family had an extra oven that was just sitting in storage, so they lent it to us for the duration of our time in Akka.  Most Moroccan apartments do not come with appliances (like a refridgerator, oven, washing machine/dryer), so you have to buy your own.  We splurged on a nice fridge, but we had to save our money for an oven. Thankfully we can continue to save our money.  And thankfully it is big enough for a turkey, since we are hosting a Peace Corps Thanksgiving!

November 9th - Notes from the Universe!
I LOVE to get daily messaged in my inbox from The Universe.  They are little reminders that "your thoughts become things, choose the good ones." The Universe also sends messages the show you new perspectives about the magic of life, yourself, and others. This is the one I got today:
"So very much can happen in a lifetime, or even on a single day of any lifetime. Yet I can assure you that whatever has or will happen in yours, no matter what chasms you cross, heights you scale, or how many people you love and are loved by, when all is said and done and you take that final look over your shoulder, what will humble you the very most, will be that you got to be YOU."
Of all people,
    The Universe

A message like this reminds me to be grateful for the adventure I am on and to enjoy the ride! If you want to get a daily message from The Universe, click HERE.

November 10th - Fall Weather in Frankfurt!
 We are thankful to get away from the heat of the desert to spend a week in Germany.  Our natural habitat is one with 4 seasons.

 November 11th - LEGOS!
Both Arie and I loved Legos when we were kids - what a great activity! We are thankful that our parents knew that Legos were awesome!

November 12th - Salad!
It is not easy to find lettuce of any kind in the desert, let alone dried cranberries, walnuts, feta cheese and honey mustard dressing.  We are thankful for the opportunity to eat a big salad for dinner. Yum! What a treat!

November 13th - Birkenstocks!
Germany makes superior products, and Birkenstocks are superior shoes.  I am thankful to be able to afford them and to have a chance to purchase them and bring them back to Morocco.  Finding healthy, comfortable, and cute shoes in Morocco is not easy. 

November 14th - Starbucks!
In my opinion, finding good tasting coffee in Morocco and Germany is not easy.  So often it is just espresso (which can be good) or instant Nescafe.  Thankfully Starbucks exists in Germany (yes, I know there are 2 Starbucks in Casablanca, but when will I get there and do they have soy milk?).  All around the world you can count on good coffee from Starbucks.  Good coffee is catching on in Germany, and we managed to try some local coffee too, but if you must go corporate - Starbucks wins.

November 22nd - A Happy Thanksgiving!
Traditions allow us to express that which is important to us.  Traditions play a role in defining who we are as individuals, families, groups, and cultures. Traditions give us hope for the future - something to work towards or to look forward to.  Traditions provide comfort and structure and define periods of time.  Being in a foreign country with traditions that are new and different can be unsettling and can create a feeling of loss and loneliness.  I feel that making a point to maintain your own personal traditions can help with feelings of homesickness and sadness while being away from home.  This is why I am so grateful and thankful to have a great group of Peace Corps Volunteers to celebrate the tradition of Thanksgiving with.  We will be feasting on the classic Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie...plus a lot of other delicious foods.  The only thing missing will be our American friends and family, and some cool weather with leaves on the ground.  The Sahara desert will have to do.  Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23rd - Those Who Have Taught Us!
The turkey was delicious, the party was fun, and overall our Thanksgiving was a success.  We served a 30 pound turkey (it was the smallest one available) and hosted 20 Peace Corps Volunteers at our house - this was our first time ever hosting Thanksgiving, and it was a great success! Everyone brought delicious food to share, and the meal went off without a hitch (even though we ate 1 hour later than planned).  Arie and I have our elders to thank for this success: our grandmothers and grandfathers, our aunts and uncles, and our mothers and fathers. Those who hosted thanksgivings past and made the experience fun, delicious, and memorable have taught Arie and I how to pull it off on our own.  We watched and learned over the past 30 years of how a Thanksgiving day is done.  We absorbed the traditions and values of our families (games after dinner, candles on the table...), and now we can do it on our own.  Thank you!

 November 26th - Living in the Desert!
Now that the weather is cooler, our bikes are in working condition, and we have visitors to show around, we get the chance to explore the area we live in.  Wow - it is breathtakingly beautiful! We live on the edge of the mountains and the Sahara Desert in the largest palm oasis in Morocco. While we miss the four seasons of Minnesota, we are thankful to experience new terrain and a new climate.
November 30th - TGIF!
Wow! We just had our FIRST full week of work (the kind where you get up and go somewhere and have to plan and prepare)! It sure feels good to get to the weekend, and we are thankful for this.  Technically we work every day - we are representatives of the United States, and part of our job is to share our culture.  We do this by being present in our community and building positive relationships within our community - this work happens everyday.  This summer we planned and implemented two summer camps for youth, and after that we spent the fall traveling around the country to Peace Corps trainings and meetings, traveling north to visit the dentist, celebrating l'Eid, celebrating Thanksgiving, and taking a vacation to Germany.  After all that we are VERY ready to have a work schedule and routine.  And now finally this week we got that! We have been working at the Dar Chebab (youth center), Netti Neswi (women's center - Kate), and the Lycee (high school). Thank God it is Friday - it feels good to start a work routine that brings you to a weekend.