04 July 2010

Week Two is Done Already!

Finally, I have a few minutes to update my blog here. I guess I was wrong when I thought I'd have plenty of time to ruminate on the facets of Moroccan life. I'm not a volunteer anymore, I guess.

Anyway, when we last spoke, our group was learning the Darija (Moroccan Arabic) that they would need to be able to tell a taxi where to go and how to tell their host families that they were full, and no, please don't make me eat any more. As someone who has spent too much time in Marrakech previously, I can say that these are very useful phrases/vocabulary to have.

This past Monday and Tuesday, we took a "Yay we're done with
Darija" side trip to Imlil and Ourika. We took a rest stop in my old site (yay! ) and I was touched thatone of the younger guys at the cafe remembered my (Moroccan) name. Hamza asked me if it was weird to be back, and until that moment, I had forgotten that I was "back." As I think I mentioned before, it feels pretty much like I never left... except for all the memories I have of 6 months in America, and the fact that I'm training still for the half marathon.

Anyway, in Imlil, we took about an hour hike, stopping at a
waterfall, and ending at our guide's house for a delicious tagine lunch. After hiking in the fresh aire of the High Atlas, a tagine always tastes better. It was fun to be able to see the kids in a different light, as well as remember that I had been hiking the same trails exactly a year earlier, but with volunteers my age, and also in much worse shape. I don't mean to brag too much, but I felt so good hiking, and although I was sweaty and sun-tired by the end of the hike, I didn't feel the same kind of "out-of-shape" tired that I did last year. Woo for running!

After lunch, we piled back onto our mini-buses and headed down to Ourika Valley, where the center director and his wife own a large farm house. Let me say, however, that when I talk about a farm house, I really mean a luxury-country-escape-from-the-city house with four bathrooms, a giant balcony, and a pool. Jamila, the wife, was telling us it took them 30 years to complete the building of the house, and directing work crews was the best Darija lesson she ever got.

The reason we were staying at the farm was so that the next morning, Tuesday, we could go to the closest elementary school where the mudir (director) had asked us to paint and clean up some classroom. I love community service like this, and so it was weird for me to be there directing our kids and finding things for them to do if they were bored. I'm so used to putting in my all... But I was glad I chose to step back, because during a tea break (this is Morocco after all), a few of the kids told me they had never done something like this before, and that now they were inspired to look for such opportunities in their cities back home! If I don't accomplish anything else in this job, hearing that is enough for me.

That pretty much brings us up to the beginning of this "week," which began on Wednesday and finished on Saturday afternoon. Except, of course, for the part where we started learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). I won't bore you with all the particulars, except to say that it's just 3.5 days in, and already the grammar and short vowels are driving me crazy. The first day I walked out of class and my eyeballs hurt as an extension of my overworked brain. Why am I taking the classes and working too, you may ask? Well, first of all it's our job to try to know what the kids are doing and feeling and thinking, but also, um, duh, free MSA classes? Who wouldn't??

Stay tuned for a concert, a spider bite, and a return to the heart of it all!

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