an ode to mittens (my cat-cat love)

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. if you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.”   -C.S. Lewis

 

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growing up, i always had dogs; once i even had a pet cow named untoy but i never had a cat. the closest i ever got to a cat was my friend’s cat that i would see once in a while when i went over to his house. his name was morris. i was so scared of him and he hated me. i never thought in a million years i’d be a cat owner but peace corps has made me do things i never thought i’d do before starting with moving to morocco for 2 years. anyway, when the opportunity came up for me to adopt a cat i was surprised at how quickly i jumped on it considering the fact that i had no prior knowledge of how to care for a cat (i didn’t even know how to clean a litter box!) and i was on a tight budget given my peace corps income and cat food plus litter is an equivalent of about two weeks worth of fruits and vegetables at souk. i guess i must have been really lonely living alone for the very first time in my life in my tiny little village apartment or something. a year and a half later, adopting mitts mitts was probably one of the best decisions i’ve ever made in my life. and as i think about saying good bye to her in the next few days, it just makes me so sad to have to leave her. it won’t be easy, but i know she will be in a good place. her new human seems to be a really nice person and i’m sure in due time, mitts will love her too. so good bye mittens, cat-cat loooooooove…i will miss you always.

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to the incoming volunteers

as a member of the senior stajj (i’m on my way out in 4 months!) , i feel like i should share a little bit of my “wisdom” to the incoming volunteers who are set to arrive in morocco in a little over a week. two years ago, before my departure, i relied a lot on blogs by current pcvs in country to know what to bring, etc. back then, there were still plenty of volunteers who were placed in the bl3d or the villages so their packing lists included things that you might not necessarily need in the big city, which is where they are placing a majority of you youth development volunteers. i know most of you have already done your packing but if you were like me, most of my shopping and packing happened on my last week at home. so for what it’s worth, i hope this will be helpful to you.

- don’t bring batteries. most of your stuff probably won’t require batteries anyway. they’re heavy and if you REALLY need them, you can easily buy them at a hanut (corner store) or whenever you’re in a big city (IF they put you in a village)

- bring spices! i know you’re thinking “oh it’s morocco, they’ll have all kinds of spices.” and we do BUT they don’t have the kind of spices we know and love like taco seasoning (yes, i know you can make your own taco mix but it’s just so much easier to just have the packet), ranch dressing (their salad dressing that come in the bottles don’t taste anything like the kinds we’re used to), dried basil, italian seasoning, etc.

- bring a good knife. sure you can buy plenty of knives in morocco but the GOOD kind is a bit expensive. it’s not heavy, so it’s easy to pack in your suitcase. you can spend your moving-in allowance on other things. like cat food because you WILL get a cat.

- if you like to cook specialty things (for example i like making asian/filipino food sometimes), make sure you bring the necessary condiments/sauces. you’ll thank yourself later. siracha– just do it.

-  no need to bring tupperwares. morocco is the land of plastic containers BUT definitely bring ziploc bags.

- don’t bring a headlamp. you’re not gonna be digging for gold and you won’t be in a mud hut BUT do bring a good flashlight. once in a while, the power WILL go out.

- converters, bring more than one. i suggest you bring 5 good ones. things will happen over time and you’ll either break one or lose one, just bring as many of them as you possibly can.

- laptop, kindle, ipod, camera, thumb drive, external HD etc. BRING THEM

- bring a good sleeping bag! you’ll use them a lot when you travel.

- sheets and pillow cases. there are some here in morocco but again, the good kind will be expensive. these are important because you will be putting your face in it and you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in bed. let’s be real…

- scented candles. they’re lovely and very hard to find around here.

- maps, if you’re into them, bring them but i never understood why almost every blog i looked at said to bring one. personally, i would’ve rather just brought posters of my favorite bands for decoration. you can always look at a map online or something.

- FEBREEZE

**toiletries and clothing…i’m talking to the ladies. guys, i can’t help you here**

- bring tampons. but not a 2-year supply because you’ll have opportunities to re-stock on your travels outside the country or just to the big cities but they are pretty hard to find in site.

- no need to bring toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, and conditioner because they are heavy and they have plenty here unless you use some specialty brand. prices are also not that unreasonable. you can do it.

- bring razors, they have them here but the good kind is kind of expensive. again, don’t get crazy and bring a 2-year supply. you can always re-stock later.

- bring clothing that you can layer. i would suggest long, light and loose tops because well you can’t wear tight stuff, it is highly frowned upon and it will kill you in the summer.

- skinny jeans are in for both boys and girls as they are everywhere else. in fact, skinny jeans might actually be really helpful in cultural integration for you boys. girls, they’re fine as long as your butt is covered.

- bring a few cute outfits, you’ll need them. trust me.

- bring a rugged jacket for everyday use and one that is slightly fancier, nicer for special days.

- nailpolish, bring them! you may want to rethink the color depending on your site but most of the time people don’t mind it especially when you’re in a big city. when i was in my old site, i’d put on nailpolish on the weekends or when i’m hanging out in a big city then take them off when i’m back at work. it’s good for your mental health

- definitely bring make-up. a lot of women will wear eyeliner and face powder daily so it’s up to you what your regular make-up regimen is, but it’s absolutely acceptable to wear it.

- bring perfume. it will remind you of life at home.

- bring LOTS of underwear. i brought about 30. trust me, just do it.

- bring LOTS of socks. you’ll loose some eventually and other times, you’ll just get so sick of hand washing them, you’ll just want to throw them out. it happens.

- bathrobe. bring a nice fluffy one for the winter. i understand they can be bulky when you’re packing but you’ll absolutely thank yourself later.

- bring running shoes you’ll need them. flats are nice too but you can buy some when you get nice leather ones here for between 100-200 dirhams. bring boots, you’ll need them. and girls, make sure you bring nice, fancy shoes for special occasions. not necessarily heels because those can literally kill you over here. lots of potholes to fall into.

- most importantly, bring a hobby. you’ll have lots of free time that you’ll need to fill. i took up crocheting. but that’s just me.

okay, so this is all i can think of for now. ask me if you have any specific questions! i can’t wait to meet you all and happy packing :)

i’m still here, ted!

hi! it would seem as though i’ve completely neglected this blog but nope! i am still around. i guess now that i’m a second year/senior stajj volunteer (5 months to go! eeeee!!!), the novelty of it all has sort of gone away. everything now feels normal, regular, and dare i say, mundane. just the other day i sat in a cab that was parked at a gas station, as the driver filled up his tank and chit chatted away with the attendant and then proceeded to go drop off some groceries at his house, meter on and everything and it wasn’t until i got to my destination that i said to myself “hhmm…………………………………………oh well.” when normally i would be totally irritated by it. also, twice in one day i was mistaken as a local by two moroccan women at the fes mall. one wondered what time the stores open and asked if i worked there, and the other at the carrefour, came up to me and asked me where the raib (some pink yogurt drink) was like it was nothing. there were other people around but they came up to me! not gonna lie, that kind of made me feel good. actually, it’s not until i saw other people’s reaction to my life in morocco that i realize how weird and different it really is over here (oh yeah, my mom and aunt came to visit!). ANYWAY, all that to say that i’m still here, alive and well and that i’ve got a few updates to share with you:

work:

work has been pretty smooth sailing lately. right now i am teaching an art class and an english class once a week (possibly soon to be twice a week) at the dar chabab. i’m also doing an aerobics class twice a week at the women’s center with just the kiddos this time. and i’ve finally been able to start the iyf life skills program at the girls’ center. come january, i hope to be doing it at the boys’ shelter also! ya!

life:

well i am still crocheting up a storm. anything you see me wearing in pictures that look like it’s made out of yarn, i made.  i know. lately i’ve gotten into crocheting cat outfits…here are my latest creations. they were christmas presents to my closest cat friends:

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mittens is doing well. i’m doing my research now on what the process is for me to take her home. so far every volunteer i’ve talked to with experience in taking their cats home have told me that mitts has to be under 1o lbs., which means she has 5 months to lose about 3 lbs. i think we can do it! i just can’t bare the thought of leaving her behind now that we’ve reached a better understanding of each other. you know? yeah she loves me.

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so on my walk to the post office one day, i happened upon this special winter apparel hanut. they mostly sell men’s wear but outside they have these magical bins that hold really awesome souk sweaters (probably also for men but whatevs, i do what i want). what are souk sweaters you ask? well they are used grandpa sweaters that are probably from the 80’s (if not older) with the most interesting, colorful designs and patterns. anyway, they are 20 dirhams each (roughly $2.25) and i love them. they keep me warm and strangely really comforting. here is my collection of souk sweaters (so far):

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so christmas is upon us (4 days! eeek!!) and you would think it would be easier being away from home the 2nd time around but nope! i get unbelievably homesick and sad sometimes. the feeling comes in waves, and they usually go away after a bit. while riding on a sad wave the other day, i actually tried to do some retail therapy at the mall and realized that even in morocco, there is absolutely nothing else that i could possibly want. i feel like i have everything! i’m happy with my cat and my souk sweaters. haha. here’s to the last few days of 2013. i’m looking forward to the home stretch of my service and being home next holiday season. 

It’s that time of year…Eid Mabruk!

Last year, I celebrated L-3id with my host family up in Hakamaa. My host mom knocked on my door in the morning holding two skewers loaded with liver that was wrapped in fat then grilled on the “grill” (it’s not really a grill. It’s more like a clay pot with coals); mmmm….breakfast :) Then she told me to grab my camera and to join them next door where I found two giant sheep carcasses hanging from the ceiling. My host brother and host nephew were elbow deep in one of the dead sheep’s bod, extracting it’s intestines and other stomach materials, which  they then handed off to my host mom to clean out. and that, that was somethin’ else. I left their house that afternoon with an entire leg of a sheep. that thing filled up my tiny little freezer and lasted me until Christmas. In fact, my sister was even able to partake of it when she came to visit me.

This year, the celebrations are a little different. There is no host family, and no sheep slaughtering. This time I am spending it with other Peace Corps volunteers and friends around Fes. Actually the celebrations began last night: a friend had this idea to have a group of people, doesn’t matter what raise or religion, walk around Fes wishing strangers a Happy Eid. The idea is that although Eid Al Adha is a Muslim holiday, it’s something everyone can be a part of. Just like we do for Christmas, people here can also get so caught up in the celebrations and can sometimes also lose sight of what the true meaning is of the holiday is. Simply put, the purpose of last night’s activity was just to wish everyone a Happy Eid and share smiles with complete strangers because, why not? I have to say, I felt a little out of place at first because well, I’m American and I’m a Christian but in the spirit of friendship and one love, I figured this would be a good way to celebrate Eid for me this year. Last night, someone told me that I was welcome in Morocco and that this is now my second country (but technically it’s more like my 3rd since I was born in the Philippines, but whatevs) and that felt really good so I call last night a win!

Here are the notes and signs I made :)

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And of course Mittens has to join in on the action…

 

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The Last Half of the Summer

So I realized I never did finish the recap of my last Summer here in Morocco. So many awesome things have happened between the last post I left off on and now but I’ll try to remember as much of it as I can so here goes:

El Jadida

I’m not usually too excited when it comes to camps but the El Jadida Linguistic Camp is something I’ve been looking forward to since I participated in one last Summer. The kids are pretty awesome, some of them I even hang out with from time to time when I’m in Rabat or Marrakech (shout out to the El Jadida gang! you know who you are). I like the fact that this camp is by the beach, I have fun with all the activities that we have planned daily, and I even get into the team competition (albeit a little bit too much sometimes, but y’know). Also, there’s usually a dance party every day and well, you know me…Unfortunately, my stay was short-lived this time around because I got ill…the illest I had ever been in country and probably as far as I can remember. (My mom tells me I was a sickly baby but I have no memory of it so it doesn’t count) Anyway, I only got to stay 3 days out of 10 but it was still fun while it lasted.

Portugal

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One of my friends from home came to visit me in Morocco but before that we met up in Lisbon for a few days and it was AWESOME! I hadn’t seen her for over a year and after being in Morocco for that long, mostly living in isolation in my tiny little village up North, I was afraid I was going to be too weird for her but she had no problem with it. We ate and drank everything both she and I can imagine (mostly me) and we literally went everywhere in Lisbon we can get to: Our Lady of Fatima, Alfama, Belem, Sintra, Barrio Alto, etc. I highly recommend a vacation in Lisbon if you can make it. We were sad we couldn’t go to other places like Porto but it was still good times :)

Merzouga, Marrakech, Fes, Azrou, Berrechid

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I don’t even know where to begin with this…we went to Merzouga for a Camel Trek and due to poor planning on my part (I thought Ramadan would end later than it did but it didn’t), we had some troubles  adventures leaving the desert on our way to Marrakech. But we got there eventually and all was fine. We stayed in a nice riad in the medina, which was a PAIN to find as most riads are but again, we got there okay. A few other friends met up with us and we were able to have some good times out on the town. After Marrakech we headed to Fes where Sarah got to see me and my now natural habitat and meet some of my friends. Of course she fit right into the mix. Then we saw the monkeys in Azrou, FINALLY! This is my second attempt to see monkeys and they were great. One was eating sunflower seeds right out of my hand then he got mad at me for trying to pet him so he grabbed my shirt and probably wanted to beat me up but I ran away quickly.

Rabat

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In August, my counterpart and I signed-up for the PDM (Project Design and Management) Workshop in Rabat. It was a 3 day training to help us build our capacities in conducting community based projects. Basically, within the 3 days we designed a project, put together an action plan on how we would achieve our goals, who in the community can help us, etc. Outside of the sessions, we all had fun getting to know and just spending time with each other. It was an amazing feeling being with other pcvs and our moroccan counterparts, working together to achieve one main goal, which is to help our communities.

Larache


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Glow Camp was something that has been in the works for a very long time, close to a year maybe! It was a project that was started by three other volunteers and for it to finally come together was nothing short of amazing. So GLOW stands for “Girls Leading Our World” and we had 26 participants all together form various cities in northern Morocco since the camp’s location was in Larache. Over 7 days we had 13 workshops on various subjects like citizenship, healthy living, dealing with sexual harassment, etc. It took 11 Moroccan counterparts and 6 Peace Corps volunteers working together to make this an awesome experience overall. Here is a link to a little video I put together of the camp :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEKbHavRsu4&feature=youtube_gdata

 

….so anyway, i think that pretty much summarizes the highlights of this summer. there were a few more trips to marrakech and rabat here and there, which are always nice. now that fall is upon us, it’s time to get back down to business. right now i’m trying to get a few projects going, specially IYF’s Life Skills program but other than that, I will be back at the Dar Chebab and teacher aerobics at the Women’s Center mn b3d l-3id (after l-3id), a popular expression these days :)

mastering the art of gls-ing

to “gls” is to sit down, literally. but i associate it more with doing nothing; something i find myself doing plenty of from time to time here in morocco. back in the states i usually never have more than 5 minutes where i’m literally not doing anything. every moment is occupied with something…i don’t really even know what, but there was always something to do.  so you can imagine how much of a challenge it was in the beginning to deal with the very loooooooooong waits (for people, for meetings to begin/end, for grand taxis to fill up, etc) and loooooooooong bus/train rides. i’ve learned to never leave home without my ipod AND my kindle, just in case one poops out on me. i make sure my phone is always charged and ready to go in case i get bored and i need to call people to chat. and i also never forget to bring a snack (this has nothing to do with coping with having nothing to do. snacks are just a must in life).

overtime, i’ve realized that i don’t actually need my ipod, kindle, or my phone because pure and unadulterated gls-ing in of itself has many benefits. for one, people watching is a thing. one time, i saw a man in a dress! that is not something you see everyday in morocco. gls-ing  also allows you to be one/present with the people around you. you learn to make conversation and make friends. sometimes when you talk to people on the train/bus they usually will share their snack with you :) if you you happen to gls with friends well then sit down and have a conversation! there is plenty to talk about.  lastly, gls-ing allows you to get lost in your thoughts and sort through whatever is going on in your head; there is a lot to be said with a little introspection and this in particular will usually kill a so much time for me. next thing i know, a few hours have passed and the waiting is over!

there is a reason why people say patience is a virtue. it’s hard to be patient. it’s especially hard when it’s hot/cold out, when you’re hungry, or when you’re tired. but it’s important to remember to chiiiilll…it’s not the end of the world to have to wait; you don’t have to always be doing something. sometimes you just need to gls and let everything sink in. say it with me, “wooooooooossssssssssssssaaaaaaaaaa” :)

 

 

baraka.

right now ramadan is in full swing. living in a city of about 1 million people, i would often wake up and hear the sounds of cars and motorcycles driving past, people talking in the streets, and the occasional vendor selling anything from fish to fruit from my bedroom window. but not these days. now i wake up to the sounds of birds singing if you can believe that. i am not participating in the fast this year because frankly, i don’t think i can survive the heat without drinking water all day but in the spirit of ramadan, i am doing plenty of meditating and self-reflecting (as well as eating delicious lftur [break fast] feasts and couscous but we’ll get to that later).

my cousin is here for a visit. and somehow, whenever we get together, we get into conversations about life, the future, plans, and goals, which of course has got me thinking the grand question: “what am i doing with my life?” and this may scare and/or dismay some of you but honestly, i don’t know. i can’t give you a straight answer for that one. however, i can say that i am learning about myself and how to be a decent human being. i am exploring my options in life. i am enjoying every random moment of adventure i’m having. etc. but i can’t really give you a quantifiable response. yknow? my service ends in 10 months. and as we move closer and closer to may of 2014, i’ve found myself getting increasingly anxious for my future. i’m feeling the pressure to find my next move and to make it a good one. but until then, i resolve to enjoy every second that’s left of my service and to make it count.

sometimes, i get too focused on the future and what’s next that i forget how truly awesome this experience is. once in a while i’m reminded of it but it’s not until someone from home comes to visit when it really hits me how special morocco is. i think the one thing i’ll take away from this experience is the connections that i’ve made with people here. from my host family in my training site, to my host parents in my old site (who still call to check in on me once in a while), to my random encounters with people in general. one most recent encounter i had was when my cousin and another PCV friend of mine were lost on a hike and we see this man and his donkey coming down a hill. my PCV friend approaches him to ask him for directions and he happily showed us the way…and then some. he told us his name is Ahmed and asked us to wait a little while his donkey had a drink of water then he led us back up the hill to an open field where he parked his donkey. he asked us what we were doing so we told him we were on a hike from ahermoumou to a place called meghila to see the waterfalls. so he takes us and shows us the path where we needed to go but then he warns us that it would be too far of a hike to make it back home before the sun goes down. he then takes us to his house and introduces us to his wife and daughters. i can see from the bewildered look in his family’s eyes how confused they were that their father shows up with a group of americans to their house. i guess at that point the three of us are resigned to the idea that we were not going to get to our destination so we were sort of just going with the flow. Ahmed, offers to take us for a little stroll so we went. he takes us around zituna, which is the name of the village we ended up in, introducing us to every person who stops and asks who we are as his family from america which elicited more strange looks from his neighbors. he shows us the olive trees, he tells us about the other american volunteers he knows, etc. we tell Ahmed multiple times that we need to get home before sun down just to be safe and that we can’t stay for the breaking of fast. we told him we didn’t need to eat because we’re not hungry but he insists on us staying. we reached a compromise. he said we can go but not after we make another pit stop at his house. there his family offer us each a glass of juice and sat us down at their table as they scramble to put together a quick snack for us. the three of us didn’t want to be rude and eat before the breaking of fast but at the same time, it was clear that we were not getting out of there without being fed so we decided that we would go ahead and tell them we’d wait and break fast with them in an hour or so. Ahmed was pleased about this and immediately grabs chairs and leads us up on his rooftop where we sat and enjoyed the sunset and talked until the call to prayer came. we may not have gotten to our final destination but instead that night we found ourselves at Ahmed’s table and somehow that was exactly what we all needed.

so anyway, back to the word “baraka”. in darija it can either mean “enough” or a “blessing”. i think it describes my life perfectly with both its meanings. i can’t ask for anything more than this. ramadan is an opportunity for me to remember to be content with my blessings and to appreciate them to the fullest.

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summertime and the livin’s easy

hello everyone! it’s been a while since i’ve posted on here but there’s been a lot going on in the past couple of weeks that i don’t even know where to begin! the other day i woke up and BAM! all of a sudden it’s july. where has the time gone?? i guess the cliche is right: time flies when you’re having fun. don’t get me wrong, there was definitely some work involved between all the fun but even that was fun. fun, fun, fun…i’ll make that the theme of my summer :)

Essaouira:

so it all started with essaouira where i attended the gnaoua world music festival. think coachella (lots and lots of hipsters…who knew those existed in morocco?) but this is more like a giant blend of musical talents from artists all around the world. it’s a three day shindig that included music, good food, great company, new friends, and awesome experiences. i think essaouira easily makes it to the top of my 2 most favorite cities in morocco so far along with chefchaouen. i definitely hope to go there again before my service ends. 

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Rabat:

then we headed to rabat for our Mid-Service Training (MST). that was a 2 day training where we learned about resiliency, changing behaviors, and had a few more language sessions, etc. the highlight of that trip was definitely getting together with everyone from my stajj again. the last time we did that was last september for our In-Service Training (IST) in marrakech. 

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Toubkal:

climbing mt. toubkal was probably amongst THE hardest things i’ve ever had to do in my life. i completely underestimated just how difficult it was going to be. absolutely no preparation went into it on my part but in the end, when all has been said and done, i’m still glad i did it. i made it to “my summit” (an hour within the real thing) and called it a day. i just couldn’t do it anymore. the altitude really got to me. ironically enough, the day we climbed the summit was the same day as my dad’s one year death anniversary. it’s weird to say it but that was completely unplanned. anyway, two days and approximately 32 miles of hiking and that was that. on the way back, i rode a mule along a never ending cliff (i’m not kidding) for 4 hours. it was like being on a slow roller coaster ride. somewhere on that mountain is a small berber man who now knows the phrase “oooooh my God!” all thanks to me. his response every time was “ma kan xafsh walu”. i should get that tattoo’ed on me somewhere. 

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Agadir:

shortly after our toubkal trip i went to agadir for the International Youth Foundation (IYF) Training. we spent 5 days there with our moroccan counterparts learning and practicing how to be facilitators of this awesome life skills/world of work program, which i am hoping to implement in fes this fall, inshallah. for me, the best part of that week was getting to work with all the amazing moroccan counterparts that were present. meeting and working with them reinforces my desire to do work in this country. everyone was so motivated and excited for this program so i’m really looking forward to doing it with my counterpart in a few months.

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and so with that, i have a few days back at site until the next round of fun begins again! the heat is here and ramadan will be starting in a couple of days. so here’s to making the best of my last summer in morocco!

side note: i just wanted to say that all the photo cred for this post goes to my dear friends who took all of these random shots with their cameras…my camera disappeared somewhere in essaouira at the beginning of the trip :( thanks, guys!

 

(a little more than) halfway there

so a few days ago, myself and other members of my stajj (2012-2014) celebrated our one year anniversary of our swearing-in ceremony. 5/23/2012 marked the day we became official peace corps volunteers, which doesn’t sound like much but it meant we survived CBT (community based training) aka boot camp, and had learned enough language to be set out to our various corners of the country to begin our service. up until that point, we were called PCTs (peace corps trainees…i know. we had to earn the title!). anyhow, it wasn’t like i was counting down to the day or anything, in fact i didn’t really think of it until i was able to get onto facebook a couple of days ago and see all the celebratory posts from people. but now that i have a moment to think about it, it’s kind of cool that now when people ask me when i’m coming home, i can say “i’ll be home in may”. if you count the exact number of days, it seems like it’s a lot but it’s really not. i mean this past year has gone by SO fast! so in honor of this anniversary, here’s a picture of myself and a couple of good friends of mine from our swearing-in ceremony. coincidentally, we were all in rabat this year to celebrate and we went to see rihanna for free courtesy of the king and the government too, i guess.  it’s actually part of a whole concert series called mawazine that has had quite a few famous artists in it in the past but this year, they are featuring arab artists (as per usual) amongst the more mainstream ones like mika, jessie jay, the jackson 5, cee lo, david guetta, etc. etc. (side note: i’m also gonna see david guetta :) essentially, the purpose of mawazine is to promote morocco as an open and tolerant nation. but anyway, here we are at swearing-in:IMG_1044

and just because i haven’t been in rabat without witnessing some sort of protest, here’s a picture of one we witnessed while we were there last week: (not entirely sure of what they’re protesting this time but i have a feeling it has something to do with them wanting more jobs)

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a reintroduction to real life

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a snapshot of my morning: surfing the internet and waiting for stuff to load, sipping some deeerrricious coffee given to us by a KOICA volunteer we had lunch with a couple of weeks back, and enjoying some homemade carrot cake made by my roommate. 

now if you are reading this back home you might not think any of this is anything special but let me explain.

saying that life in fes is different than my life in hakamaa is a huge understatement. first of all, “…waiting for stuff to load” on the internet doesn’t mean a full 24-36 hour wait anymore. here it means 5-10 minutes tops (of course depending on what you’re waiting on). coffee is no big deal but this is coffee from korea! given to us by a friend we HAD LUNCH WITH! and the “us/we” i keep referring to is me and my ROOMMATE! a human one! who baked a carrot cake BECAUSE WE HAVE AN OVEN! i mean i probably sound so crazy to some of you and honestly, i probably did lose a little bit of my mind being so isolated back in hakamaa but the good news is that i’m slowly regaining some of it back. haha… but really, fes is giving me some semblance of what life used to be like for me where i got to HANG OUT with people and have fun, meet new friends and share stories, etc. the other night, i had sushi for dinner. i mean, WHAT! oh and last week WE WENT OUT TO BRUNCH! i kept blinking and shaking my head every 5 mins thinking, “noooo please don’t let me wake up from this amazing dream!”. i was drinking freshly squeezed orange and peach juice, eating smoked trout and broccoli amongst other things (i haven’t had broccoli in over a year), in a garden covered by white canopies, surrounded by flowers and little butterflies floating about. they even provided people with cute little straw hats in case the sun gets in your eyes. OH! and there was a man sitting in the corner playing a sweet, sweet song with his guitar!! unbelievable. anyway,  i think you get the picture.

so what else is new? i am now a bona fide aerobics teacher extraordinaire :) yes, friends you read that right. once a week i teach an aerobics/exercise class of about 25 people at the women’s center here in fes. i’m not exactly sure how this happened. but i said “challenge accepted!” and now here i am! let’s just say i lost a little bit of sleep the night before i made my big debut but i pulled through! i was hurting in places i didn’t think could hurt! and then i had to climb 9 flights of stairs afterwards to get home (that’s right, we don’t have an elevator in our building!). this week will be my 3rd week with the class and i have to say that it is getting better and easier as i go. the women in the class are all so sweet so it makes it all easier. i even got my first couscous lunch invitation after class last week! (i frickin’ love couscous). in addition to my exercise class i’m also teaching at the dar chebab (youth center) 3 times a week. right now the school year is ending so starting anything big is kind of pointless. instead, i’m taking the time to get to know my surroundings and the people around me, hoping to eventually find my niche.

i’ve been in fes for 3 weeks now and there is a ton more things to see and explore. i have a feeling this next year is going to breeze by! oh by the way, this is karina. she is actually a boy but my roommate initially thought she was a girl and proceeded to give her a girl name. she doesn’t mind it though:

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oh! also, i’ve updated my contact list with my new mailing address :)

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