Friday, February 24, 2012

The Winter of My Discontent

Since the fall, no major developments have occurred in my life. The winter has, in fact, been quite desolate. My work teaching English in the high school has continued, and the other projects I’ve been developing are also pushing forward. Language has continued to improve, thanks both to my tutor and to the English-Darija flashcards left by my predecessor (which I have been unabashedly utilizing).
By pirating the wifi of a nearby cyber café, I was allowed to watch most of the Patriots’ 2011 season. This was an unexpected surprise, in many facets. First, the NFL lockout had originally doomed any aspect of the season of even happening. I had initially been pleased to consider this possibility, as going without football was perfectly coincided with being without American culture in general. When the lockout ended and the season was imminent, I attempted streaming the Pats’ games using the aforementioned wifi. I was pleased to see that most games streamed with good quality, sweetened by the fact that I had drafted Wes Welker in a fantasy league spot generously extended by Brendan. I ended up finishing third in the league of ten teams, a noticeable accomplishment for a first-timer. The end of the season, however, was a frustration greater than the Patiots’ Superbowl loss to the Giants for the second time in four years. You see, my Superbowl viewing experience was awful. My friend Gussie came to keep me company, and we mixed pseudo Old Fashioneds (with Scotch) and made Buffalo wings. The plan was to use the Wifi signal to stream the game. When the reliability of the Wifi signal proved itself worthless, we implemented our backup plan of using a USB modem stick to stream the game. The modem also could not establish an internet connection fast enough to watch the game live, so resolved to use our last-ditch effort, by waiting until the game was over and finding a torrent of it online. We began downloading the torrent at about 9 AM local time, and avoided the internet and phone calls for the entire day. The torrent was drawing to a close almost 12 hours later, but for some unknown reason the torrent file was missing the last 0.01% and nobody was seeding it. Frustrated beyond belief, I spent a couple hours attempting to find and download any program that would allow me to watch the unfinished file. It couldn’t be resolved, so with a heavy heart I decided to check the score online, a full 24 hours after kickoff. I went to, but the page continually failed to load. Finally, a Google search answered my question. And so, after countless efforts to watch the game that was so important and significant to a New Englander, I read on the Google results page that the Patriots lost to the Giants, 20-24. Where Superbowl XLII Sunday ranked on my list of ‘worst days ever’, Superbowl XLVI Monday was equally abominable, but for vastly different reasons. The anticipation, frustration, and eventual disappointment and rage made that day a day of days. Truly, truly awful. The only upside was leftover Buffalo chicken and that we had watched Robocop to pass the time while awaiting the torrent’s (non)completion- and Robocop is a fucking sweet movie. I downloaded another torrent of the game, but still haven’t brought myself to view it.
That same cyber café finally got wise to their unencrypted signal and placed a password on their broadcast. I’ve been without internet in my house for a couple weeks, which I see as an unexpectedly mixed blessing. First of all, their disruption of my access was perfectly timed; it occurred within days of the end of the NFL season- one of the only time-sensitive uses I had grown to expect from the internet. Second, I had grown frustrated with my immediate (yet intermittent) access to the web. Email and facebook were automatic, as were regular access to news outlets and social media. Going into Peace Corps, I had braced myself for zero access to all extra-national communication. The fact that all of these aspects of my western lifestyle were so accessible plagued me with guilt and opportunities to waste time online. I’m happy in a way, and I’ll see how long I can go with only checking email and news a couple times a week.
Blah blah blah blah scotch.
I’ve been doing a shitload of crosswords. NYT Sundays are the only puzzles that still pose any real threat. But, give me a couple hours and a clear mind and I can blow through them. The Boston Globe Monday-Thursdays that were sent to me a while ago are so easy that I seldom waste my time on them anymore.
My reading has continued on par; I blew through the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time, followed by Dune. I thoroughly enjoyed LOTR, and I’m happy to say that I can expect reading them again down the road. My favorite part was Book 4, the second half of The Two Towers. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but the books were much more enjoyable than the movies.
Dune was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I thank to Brendan for suggesting it to me. Aside from an exhilarating story and amazing characters and prose, the book contains more Arabic that I, or anyone that has ever read it, would have expected. Arabic language and culture are thoroughly engrained throughout, and catching sly references to words that I myself have encountered during my language studies here fills me with great joy and satisfaction.
A few blog posts ago, I mentioned that I was anxious for the arrival of winter, as I would no longer have to suffer the oppressive heat of a Moroccan summer. I also said that I would probably regret saying that, which I am doing right now. Winter is much worse that the summer. In summer, the heat and humidity are awful and there is no escape. The winter, however, prevents you from enjoying the little successes and luxuries afforded by warmer weather. As I mentioned before, dishes and laundry are ominous. Even getting out of bed in the morning is a chore. Why exit your warm sleeping bag to embrace to frigid air of the interior of your own house when you could just turn yourself over and fall back asleep for a few more hours? I had even experimented with this last week; when my sleep schedule had been so off thrown by my reluctance to wake in a reasonable fashion I tried alternating all-nighters and lengthened sleeps. The days after the all-nighters were productive and lucid. The result was surprisingly successful, but alas I have not continued it. Variation in daily schedule makes it difficult to maintain such a regiment.
Anyway, I’ve returned to infrequent email checking so my correspondence with love ones may be severely lacking in the weeks or months to come. I’d like to develop a more concrete system as times passes, but for the time being I think I’m pleased to not have to onus of constant contact with the outside world looming over me as it had in the months passed. I’m happy to be disconnected.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Help a brother out

A real update is coming, I swear.
Right now I'm working out some budgeting issues for a science fair I've been helping organize in my little corner of Morocco. We need some funds, so if anyone reading could find it their hearts to chip in $5, $10, or even $20, I'd be eternally grateful. Even small donations would go a great distance, so please help us out. If you can't that's cool too. I know what it's like to be poor so no judgments if you can't give.

As I said, a real update detailing this work, and other aspects of my life will be coming very soon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Baaad Day for Sheep

Last month was L3id Kbid, so I’m posting this article very late and without any pictures. I wrote this the day of, and edited slightly afterwards. Again, for unobvious reasons I delayed its publication. Enjoy.
This week was L3id Kbir, the Islamic holiday that takes place about two months after the end of Ramadan. Here in Morocco, as with most Islamic countries and cultures, the holiday is celebrated by each man of each household (man is qualified any man that has a wife here) sacrificing a goat of sheep in the name of Allah. I was invited to partake in this ceremony by my friend and Arabic tutor, Said.
Waking up before 8 in the morning was strange, to be honest. I hadn’t awoken before 8 in some time as my work has not required me to get up so early. This said, I was blown away as to the beauty of the sun rays piercing Debdou over the eastern cliffs in early November. I walked up one side of the box canyon that is my town, towards the south and perpendicular the sun, at about 8 in the morning. I arrived at his house early enough to a eat breakfast of tea and xoringo (a type of oily, porous pancake), and proceeded to the roof where Said’s father and unmarried brother (unmarried=no goat) were preparing to kill the first goat. This goat had impeccably impressive horns. Whether or not he knew his fate was unclear, but regardless he did not seem to enjoy being manhandled and pinned to the ground. He fought, and bleated, but to no avail. Kudos to him for never giving up, but alas he had no chance of reprisal or pardon. Said’s father held a large knife to the goat’s throat and without pause drew it across the neck, severing the jugular veins and esophagus. The goat, aware now of its present predicament, began thrashing and kicking, but the blood was already pouring out, spurting out in thick columns and saturating the white fur around its neck and the ground surrounding. It tried to moan, it tried to gasp for air. It farted profusely, but all it accomplished was in producing horrid sucking sounds from its flailing esophagus.
Being a brisk November morning, the heat of the escaping blood caused its fluids to immediately begin steaming. I had been expecting the animal to give in quickly, but to my amazement it kept struggling for minutes afterwards. The violent kicking subsided after a while, but its body continued to twitch and spasm for quite some time. The pool of blood grew, and after a while the general heat of the heap dismayed and evaporated.
This was the first animal I had ever seen to be slaughtered. I found no fault with its struggle, and believed that he had fought admirably, although, realistically, who was I to decide on the judgment of God’s creatures? Surely God above had better things to be doing, like protecting other sheep….
The second beast to be slain, a sheep, died much like the first. Its neck was sliced and it bled out quickly. Still kicking and reaching for ground, it inadvertently landed its feet violently on the head of its companion. By the lack of any reaction by the first goat I could finally affirm that the he was dead. Blood escaped the wide and deep gash in the sheep’s neck, covering more of the ground bright red, mixing and pooling with the blood of the first. Some had splashed on my boots, but not having done the killing I can safely say I was not the most affected. Said’s hands and those of his father were drenched in blood, as were their sandals and the cuffs of their pants. They barely seemed to notice.
Said then made a deep cut into one of the sheep’s rear legs with a long incisor. He inserted a deep straw, placed his lips upon the hole and began inflating the corpse with his breath, as to separate the skin from the flesh underneath [I had no idea this was possible]. It blew up like a party balloon, and Said would test its inflation by banging on its stomach. When it had expanded to nearly twice its normal size, Said began skinning it. I helped.
The skinning process was exhausting, from what I could tell by Said’s exasperation. After decapitating it and removing the feet, he cut through the fur to reach the flesh and began peeling back the skin. He cut tough spots with his knife, but mostly he performed this task by soaking his hand in water and knuckling the gap between the carcass and the fat layer on the interior of the hide. It was awkward and took fucking forever. He and his mother had been propping it up, but when they needed another hand I complied. I took hold of one of the sheep’s hind legs with one hand and its tail with the other, pulling the fur taut away from the body. This left me in the fortuitous position to be staring directly into the dead beast’s anus. As Said worked away at the hide, the flesh around the sheep’s rear became relaxed, allowing for its asshole to slowly expand, upon which the cold air penetrated and began emitting thick steam from the dropping pellets nestled calmly inside. It was, in a word, foul.
Having removed about half of the pelt, Said strung and hung the carcass up, securing its hind knees to an overhanging beam with rope. He continued knuckling the skin away while I held onto its warm and bare legs for stabilization. It was not fast. On the contrary, it probably took another twenty minutes or so before Said placed his bare foot on the skin bridges between its front legs and its neck and pressed down to finally free the pelt from its body.
The evisceration was gross. Removing the organs was fine; I had no issues with that. Removing the contents of its intestines, however, was horrible. Every inch of its digestive track was filled with green shit of varying concentrations and consistencies. The guts were rinsed thoroughly in a bucket, and another bucket collected all of what would have eventually become excrement, had the sheep not died on that roof. I watched for what must have been half an hour in silence, transfixed on the woman, bent over a bucket, squeezing green goat shit out of intestines like they were yo-gurt.
My walk home was pleasant; on this grand holiday people are dressed well and everyone is friendly. Said’s house is uphill from mine, so in walking down the main road, I observed the slow accumulation of the goat and sheep blood that had been washed off the roofs and butchering areas of every other household between his and mine. The streets literally ran red with the blood of sacrificial goats and sheep. By the time I reached my house, I had had to cross the river of blood numerous times as it zig-zagged across the road. Not one house in my town is without a dead goat right now, save mine, so visualizing the amount of blood in the streets may be difficult. Just imagine what it would look like if, say, great iron veins lined every street of your town and they all oxidized and began leeching out at once.
Throughout this morning I cannot help but compare this holiday with the seminal Christian holidays in America, specifically Christmas and Easter. While L3id Kbir could be seen as horrific, barbaric, or what have you, it strikes me as much more of a genuine, practical, and non-nonsensical pledge of religious devotion. First of all, everyone’s gotta eat. Many people in America, me included, have never really seen or asked where their food comes from. Given the task of observing, let alone performing an animal slaughter in the name of mere sustenance, Americans may become disgusted or ill. Here, the whole family is involved. Death and sacrifice are a necessary element of eating well for everybody on the planet (excluding vegetarians, who by this point probably won’t still be reading this anyway). A society that embraces this fact may very well be much more adjusted than one where people have no idea whence their meat comes. Second, the religious aspect of it is very true-to-form. It’s a simple procedure; killing a goat in the name of God, so that He may continue to bless your family with health and fortune [As most of you know I’m not religious but I can see how others would find this appealing]. Plus, you get to keep the goat! Win-win! There’s no commercialization of it, there aren’t millions of dollars spent frivolously, nor nerves racked nor emotions and expectations crushed. There are so many ways to fuck up Christmas [at this point I began writing a lot about my issues with Christmas, but I’ll spare you].
What I’m trying to say is, even on one of the grandest holidays of the Muslim calendar, the celebrations are simple and meaningful. I ate with Said’s family for lunch: grilled goat liver (mafuf), goat tajine, and cooked goat head. I wouldn’t recommend the head.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pretend you're reading this in August

This was written at the end of August, but for some reason I neglected to upload it then… woops!
As I write this, I’m sitting in a train station. I was called to PC Morocco HQ in Rabat for training, so I’m taking the train. What I didn’t know was that the train schedule changes during the month of Ramadan. Instead of four Rabat-bound trains passing through this station every day, now there is one and it doesn’t arrive until 6 hours from now. So, I’ve got some time to kill and I may as well make the most out of it; I haven’t updated my blog in quite some time, despite the wealth of free time I’ve had this past month.
It’s Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. From dawn ‘til dusk, every Moroccan may not eat food, drink water, smoke cigarettes, or copulate. Compound that with incredibly long, excruciatingly hot summer days. Due to the discrepancy between the Muslim (lunar) and Gregorian calendars, Ramadan begins 15 days earlier each year. Some years Ramadan occurs in winter, where the days are short and cold, thus minimizing the risk of dehydration. Such is not the case in August. I attempted fasting for some time, but without water in the daylight hours one gets quite loopy, and I basically cannot function without that cup of coffee each morning- my fasting stint didn’t last long. I don’t eat anything in the day as it’s too hot for an appetite to even exist. Friends of mine in town have invited me to break fast at sun-down with them and their families, and breakfast can be quite tasty; dates and olives, egg dishes, and Harira (Moroccan specialty soup).
I sleep until noon or later each day just to pass the hours. It gets quite boring in a small town where all of the cafes, stores, and businesses are closed nearly all day every day. The night life is flourishing, which is a plus.
OH! I got a house. That was nearly two months ago so it’s kinda old news by now but I haven’t really updated with anything substantial in a while. I’m living in the house that the previous volunteer occupied, and I inherited a lot of his stuff; stove, oven, space heater, 5 ponjs (couches), a full spice rack, and a lot of other goodies. He really hooked me up, so I am very grateful for his generosity. The house itself is spacious and well lit. It’s got two bedrooms, a salon, a big entrance area, a large kitchen, an indoor bathroom with separate shower room, and a private roof equal in size to the square footage of all of the aforementioned rooms. It’s too big, almost. I can’t really fill any of the rooms. Not like I’m complaining, though. I’ve got plans for the second bedroom, sort of. At this point I’m leaning towards a hammock and potted plants, although I’m open to suggestions.
I spend much of my time in the salon, as there is a faint Wi-Fi signal from a nearby cyber café that seems through the walls and provides me with free email checking and internet browsing. The signal is weak and it cuts out often, but it’s better than nothing and I get much more than what I pay for, which –again-is nothing. The salon is nice- it’s where 90% of my stuff is. I eat in there and I’ve hung a bunch of maps that my parents sent me to liven up the walls a little. The only problem is the poor ventilation in the salon. There’s a window, but the way the room is shaped prevents good air circulation. It gets hot and stagnant in there easily.
I’ve been travelling a little bit. I went to a small town on the Mediterranean coast for the Fourth of July weekend with some other volunteers in my region and we sat on the beach, drank some beers and ate some pork. It was magical. America would be proud. A couple weeks later I traveled to a small mountain city in the center of the country for a week of ‘Post Pre-Service Training’. The training itself was valuable, but it was much more important seeing all my training friends after a couple months of separation. I also go to stop in Fes on my ways to and from PPST, which was a lot of fun. Fes is a beautiful city with plenty of good street food. Not as many fezzes as I’d been expecting, though.
My reading has slowed considerably. I finished Blood Meridian (a fucking fantastic book, to those of you I haven’t already proselytized) and then read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I’d always heard good things about it and I’d read some of Eggers’ short stories so I was eager to receive it from a friend. It’s a good read, full of funny stories with a solid basis for a story. I felt it kind of petered out at the end, as autobiographical accounts of youth may seldom have strong finales. Eggers’ writing style is unique, characterized by rambling neurotic soliloquies and a constant editorializing of events that, by his admission, probably didn’t happen with any similarity to the ways they’re described. I feel if I were to ever attempt any longhand writing it may read like Eggers’, just not as well. Beyond that I haven’t picked up any other books. I’m going to check out the PC HQ library tomorrow to see if they’ve got a few titles on my list.
Podcasts have been occupying a bit more of my time of late. Most of the podcasts I subscribe to last around an hour, which is about the same amount of time I take to cook each night. My favorites are The Nerdist and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Not only are they funny and interesting, but it’s refreshing to have an earnest slice of Americana each evening or every couple days. It grounds me, and reminds me that there continues to be a world that I left at home.
Work hasn’t begun yet, as the schools are still out for the summer and everyone (myself included) is so unmotivated during Ramadan that any efforts to begin anything would be virtually fruitless. When work does begin, I’ll probably fall into a more structured routine and maybe even update this blog with more frequency than every two months.
It’s wicked hot here. No joke. It hits 100F every day. I know I’ll regret saying this, but I’m anticipating the cold embrace of winter with excitement.
That’s where I ended. Reading through it, it’s certainly not my best work but I don’t have the motivation to edit it at all, so that‘s what you’re getting. Regarding the last line, I’ve come to regret saying that. It’s gotten cold, and every day it’s getting colder. Looking forward to next summer!

Monday, July 11, 2011


I've decided to remove the name of my site and replace it with TOWN in all previous entries. It was just too easy to google search my name, or peace corps with the name of the town and find my blog. Not that I don't want people reading it, but if anyone from the town were to attempt the search with the aforementioned keywords and come across it, they might interpret my statements unfavorably. OK? OK! Actual updates forthcoming.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Yesterday marked the four-week mark of my stay in TOWN. My routine hasn’t altered much since I got here; I still spend a good amount of time sitting in cafes and reading, taking breaks to engage in short conversations with people about the weather, and then more about the weather. My language is still improving thanks to my tutor, with whom I meet about four evenings a week. He’s impressed with the progress I’ve made thus far and he’s confident that after a year or so I’ll be quite functional in conversation of any topic with locals. Most other people in town don’t have the patience to talk with me, which is understandable, and the conversations with them are generally relegated to weather or simple pleasantries. I’m not upset about it but it does make it difficult to practice language outside of the tutoring sessions.
I’m reading a lot. Too much, perhaps, because I’ve almost finished all of the books I brought from home. I read Ernie’s War by Ernie Pyle, a conglomeration of his best dispatches as a WWII correspondent in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and the Pacific. I’ve read a few of his other books but this one definitely feels like a true greatest hits collection. It’s filled with solid, passionate articles throughout and contains a visible arc of his own sentiments of the War as he progressed from Africa to Europe and finally the Pacific. Next up was Catch 22, which I had started in high school but never finished. Countless chapters are funny as hell, and the book contains much of the absurdity you’d find in the writing of a 30 Rock episode. I couldn’t remember why I’d never finished it the first time round, but near the end of the book I was reminded of how slow and depressing it becomes. No matter, still a great read. I’m now halfway through Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, which I read two summers ago and absolutely loved. It’s just as good this time through, and I feel like I’m catching more (or at least I have the patience and time to read more slowly and reread bewildering passages). The story centers on a gang of American renegades and murderers horseback riding around the America-Mexico border in the 1850s, scalping Apaches for profit. Like The Road, it’s horribly violent but McCarthy has an innate way of making it all so beautiful. Also his descriptions of the geology of the American southwest are second to none… purely astounding.
I’ve attained my Carte du Sejour- my Moroccan residence permit- after weeks of meetings that felt more like interrogations and negotiations with the local Gendarmes (rural royal police force). It took abnormally long because apparently I’m the first PC volunteer to be working directly with the education delegation. There’d been no precedent so they had to draw a bunch of new papers and forms together. It’s all done now, so I’m a legal resident of Morocco and I can begin working with my counterpart, the local high school. I’m going to be a regular fixture in the school but I won’t be teaching every day. When the school year starts in September, I’ll probably be teaching English or environmental science upwards of twice a week. I’m not sure of my duties exactly, but I’ve been formulating some basic lesson plans in the aforementioned subjects. The director of the high school is an incredibly nice guy and I’ll be meeting with him a lot after the students’ national collegiate entrance exams finish next month.
It has become very hot here, and it’s still only June. The sun is oppressive and the heat in near unbearable between noon and 4pm. Consequently, this is when most businesses are closed and people return home to eat lunch and nap. Likewise I spend this time indoors, in the house of the host family that will be putting me up until I move into my own apartment. It’s hot at night, and keeping the windows open allows for ventilation but also bugs. To defeat the bugs one can sleep with a blanket (bed sheets? what are those?), but this is just as sweltering as having the windows closed. The end result is that every morning I wake up drenched in sweat and covered in fresh bug bites. I got to stay in a hotel in a nearby city for a regional PC meeting a couple nights ago and my room had A/C. I was thrilled, but simultaneously depressed by the fact that it would be a good long time before I would enjoy that luxury again.
I got food poisoning last week and was miserable for a full 24 hours. I would’ve killed for some Tropicana, and when I asked if my family if there was any juice to drink they brought me a glass of oregano tea. They told me that it’s supposed to cure disease, but I really just wanted some nutrients I could keep down so I passed on the brewed oregano and ate some watermelon instead. I kept it all down and felt better, but this still led to every single member of my family explaining to me how bad watermelon is for your stomach. “It makes you sick!” they’d say, and I would respond with something like “It’s delicious, nutritious, and it’s the only food that won’t make me vomit immediately.” They didn’t believe me and days later I’m still running into townspeople to whom my family relayed the story who are now also telling me how watermelon makes you sick. Ugh.
The largest annoyance I’ve encountered here in TOWN is convincing the locals that I’m not the past volunteer, Brian. Not literally of course; they know I’m not him, but they expect me to be nearly identical to him. Every single person I’ve talked to, without exception, has asked if I’ve talked with him. I haven’t and I tell them this, but they still ask me to say Hi for them. Many people will tell me how they were such good friends with Brian and will compare me to him. I understand that his language comprehension was far beyond that of my own (I would certainly expect so, as their latest memory of him is from when he’d lived here for two years and near perfected the language). He hiked a lot, which I’ve been told I must do to be like him. He also had many little go-to interactions with people, which have been explained to me and are now expected of me to continue. For example, when going through pleasantries, a normal question is, “Is everything good?” Brian’s response to one man was always some permutation of “TOWN is good. The weather is good. Tea is good. Brian is good. Everything is good!” This man told me about this exchange and now, if I don’t respond in the same fashion, his face darkens and he will either scorn me or leave without saying anything else. I’m sure everyone that reads this blog knows that I like to do things my own way, and I don’t like being compared to others. It’s frustrating to have to win cultural affection by playing these silly games and fitting myself into the mold of their memory of Brian. I’m competing with an infallible ghost whose presence in town may or may not grow stronger as time passes. My only hope is to surpass their collective memory and establish myself as a separate entity from Brian. This may take time, and I’m hoping I don’t crack until then. I do need to state, however, that I hold no resentment towards Brian or the people of TOWN. He did a lot of great work and was respected by everyone in town, and I can tell that he is genuinely missed.
I’m moving into Brian’s old apartment in a week or two, as soon as I get my house check approval from PC. After that I’ll furnish it with everything I’ll need that Brian did not leave for me in storage and settle into a nice routine. Post-Pre Service Training is in a few weeks in Azrou, where I’ll get to hang out with all of my friends from training that I haven’t seen in a month. I’m looking forward to playing youker and people who understand my references and words.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How's Morocco, homeslice?

This was a question Brian asked me in an email. Well, it was the entirety of the email but that's besides the point. The point is that my response is a good overview of what life at site has been like. It's free of vulgarity so I figured I'd just publish it here for my family and any other interested parties. Forgive the punctuation; these keyboards really are annoying. There are only a couple jabs at Studwell. See if you can find them!

morocco's kickin. im living in a small mountain town as the only non-moroccan, which has given me quite a bit of perspective of being the minority. my arabic is coming along, but everyone likes to joke that i know nothing, which i understand in arabic, thereby refuting their point. its hard to get that idea across, though. for the most part everyone is really nice and welcoming, especially among younger people. the village elders can be quite distant towards outsiders, it would seem. im going to be working with the high school, which just got out for summer so im basically going to be spending the next three months sitting in cafes and getting to know people while improving my language skills. there isnt much to do here, and most of the adults are unemployed so they spend their time sitting and playing parchesi and rummy. ive been reading a lot, which i can see is one of the only things to do to pass the time in a small town where you dont speak the language well. im praising my ability to be patient, as it has eased my transition here and will continue to be a vital asset as i spend the next two years. a more fidgety person might go stir-crazy in just a few hours. i keep thinking about how much you would hate it here; nothing to do, no-one to talk to, nothing to drink and a very limited menu. the scenery is beautiful, as i mentioned in one of my blog posts, and i hope to upload some pictures soon. im planning an extensive exploratory hiking trip of the surrounding ridgeline mountains in the next week or so, it really just depends on weather.
this cyber cafe business is driving me nuts, what with the terrible french and arabic script formatted keyboard, the slow and public access, and the infrequency with which i can read the news or check email. im going to buy a usb-modem, as most people in this country with personal computers are wont to do, but im afraid ill just spend all day online and not talking with people and learning, which, as far as i can tell right now, are my only real duties.
i was elected to the volunteer advisory council by my peers as the representative for our "staj"- our class of spring 2011 environment volunteers. its like a student council, and i was happy to be elected for reasons other than but also including 4 paid trips to rabat each year. adam eldahan is the rep from the 2010 health staj, so ill be seeing him regularly until he finishes his service next year. small world, right?
im trying to obtain my work papers- or that is i have been trying since i first got to my site a week and a half ago- but the bureaucracy here gives new meaning to the phrase 'ludicrously inefficient'. i have until tomorrow to get the receipt of my papers to peace corps. wish me luck!
the spanish enclave city of melilla (sp?) is quite close to my site. i will be using it as a much needed getaway from time to time. if youre ever touring europe in the next two years....
i hear youre becoming a fireman? i neednt point out the obvious and documented trend of pyromaniacs in firefighting brigades to you, do i?

Yes, Brian is becoming a fireman. But you should ask him about that.