brighter days ahead

springtime is here!!! i ran into these guys on my way to work:

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the sun is finally out! now i can put away my rain boots 🙂

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and it’s green everywhere in hakamaa!

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we just finished spring  camp and all things considered, i believe it went rather well! here are the highlights:

…i think my favorite day was when i taught them colors then i had them play with water balloons afterwards. i basically divided the kids into two teams. i called out colors and then one person from each team would run to the bucket and grab as many water balloons in that color to be used later as “ammunition” and then in the end of it they had a water balloon war. it was gooooood times. i LOVE water balloons. they were one of the few things i brought with me from the states along with fruit roll-ups and airheads.

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…this next series of pictures i call the “tsawerni series” because it’s made up of pictures of the kids i took on the day i was walking around with my camera and all i heard all day was “nathalie! nathalie! tsawerni! tsawerni!” (tsawerni=take a picture of me). and here i thought they were shy. haha…

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…my 2nd most favorite day was art day. i was trying to practice sustainability by skipping the paper and painting their faces instead. haha…as you can see, most of them liked it so much they would go wash their faces and come back for another nathalie original design. haha…

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…this next one was kinda strange but one of the cooler moments of camp. one day my mudir asked me to take a walk with him and another man who was visiting us from one of the associations in tangier. so i said “sure” and the next thing i know i find myself in the middle of this meadow that’s covered in wild flowers with two grown men in their 50’s picking flowers and cheerfully singing songs amongst themselves like two little girls. haha. at one point they each did a “she loves me, she loves me not”. turns out this is what my mudir planned on doing with the flowers: props for a photo opp!

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…and my third most favorite day was friday couscous day!! i LOVE couscous but i’ve only made it once myself because it literally takes HOURS to prepare and it just seems a little ridiculous to do for one person. anyway, this also shows you how they plate their couscous. the placement of each veggie and then finally the meat in the middle is all premeditated resulting in one super deeeerrrricious meal!hakamaa5

and since i haven’t shared a cute photo of mittens lately, here she is sleeping in my arms ^__^

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road block!

she tried running after me shortly after this picture was taken. the nerve…

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my next door neighbors

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happy moroccanniversary!!

…my, what a difference a year makes…

before.

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after.

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❤ my host parents.

i hate to get mushy but i’m gonna! it was a year ago to this date that i began my great adventure and it’s been everything i expected and more than what i could have ever imagined. it has taught me how to persevere through hardship, loneliness, disappointment, discomfort, and frustration but at the same time i’ve learned how to keep trying when plans fall apart, maintain a smile in the midst of the most awkward and uncomfortable situation, to fly by the seat of my pants, be open to every possibility, and to realize that i am not in control of anything. with that said, i am so thankful for all of my friends and family back home for their continued love and support. i can’t even begin to tell you how much i truly appreciate all the gchats conversations, emails, letters, cards, packages, etc. whenever i have bad days, my wall of love serves as a reminder that people care. shuf it! (look at it!)

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and so i guess i’ll end with this: 

donkeys escape!

…and i plan on doing absolutely nothing about it. run donkeyyyssss!

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the little things.

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things are still quite slow at site. the kids are back in school and all but for some reason they haven’t been very motivated to come to english class. i hate to think it’s me but then again a part of me thinks it’s not. i mean we had fun in my classes; some days i literally made it rain candy. i really can’t figure out why attendance is literally nonexistent. i have a few projects a-brewing in my head at the moment…if they don’t want to learn english then they are going to at least learn some american culture. i’m thinking a dance/exercise class and art club is in order. mind you i’ve never even stepped foot in a gym before let alone attended a real dance/exercise class but there are plenty of exercise videos circulating amongst Peace Corps volunteers that i’m pretty confident i can learn some moves from them and then teach them to my girls– no boys for obvious reasons. i’m thinking i’ll start with some hip hop abs…yeah that’ll be good.

because productivity is low, morale has also been low. the weather sucked and so motivation suffered. basically everything blew. but alas, the sun has come out. and my laundry is now only taking 2 days to dry instead of a full week.–by the way, doing laundry by hand in 30-40 degree temperatures without a water heater SUCKS! i can literally see steam rising up from my hands because the water is so frigid…anyhow…i titled this blog “the little things” because those are pretty much the only things that is keeping me afloat right now.  living alone in this strange place, it’s easy to feel sorry for myself but i’ve realized that there are plenty of people here who look out for me. last week, the taxi man kicked a guy out of an already full taxi just so that i can have a seat and i won’t have to wait for another one to come. the guy gave up his seat pretty willingly, which i thought was pretty generous. yesterday my host parents worked together to unclog my toilet then proceeded to clean my doorway and the area surrounding the entrance to my house as i stood there and watched because i wasn’t quite sure of what was happening. today, a group of little girls chased me down the street to first give me kisses (of course) and then some candies. mind you these kids families’ can’t afford much and for them to share their candies…it gets me right here <3. now if that’s not love then i don’t know what is…by the way, the kisses are always abundant. if i get stuck somewhere where there’s a group of women or girls, i can’t get away without each one of them giving me kisses. i’ve had a line going once or twice before! there is seriously something to be said about human touch. i can’t even explain it. i used to cringe at the thought of hugging people who are unfamiliar to me let alone letting them kiss my cheek but now i’m like “bring it!”

 

a year end review

i’ve sort of been putting off writing a wrap up of 2012 simply because i didn’t want to get sad or start pining for things and people that i miss. however given the year that i’ve had, i feel that proper time should be devoted to reflection for everything that has happened in the past year.

2012 was full of life-changing events that brought on new adventures, heartaches, huge adjustments, challenges, excitement, extreme highs, and some of the lowest of lows i’ve ever experienced in my life. and to be honest, i still couldn’t fully tell you what it all means to me…at least not yet. at the beginning of our service, the peace corps showed us a little chart to illustrate for us what we can expect emotionally as we go though our service and it goes a little something like this: the first 3 mos or so you will be at a high because you are experiencing all new things and everything is still exciting, then eventually you go down as you realize “oh sh*t, what did i get myself into” then you go up again as you move into your final site and your getting to know everything, then you go down again as things eventually get old, and so on and so forth. right now as we’re approaching our year mark, we’re supposed to be at a low as we’re questioning our original motives for joining the peace corps in the first place, whether or not it has all been worth it, and of course everything we’ve given up to be here. right now i’d say i’m at 60-40 (no worries, the chart says in a month or two that can easily change to something more positive). morocco has been an awesome experience overall. one that i can already tell, i will value for the rest of my life. so far, i’ve gained some very special friendships through my time here. i’ve learned so much about myself and what i’m capable of. and i’ve seen places and experienced things that i would otherwise not have the opportunity to had i not made the move here. that said, living in morocco is hard for obvious reasons. but the lack of daily life conveniences aside, it’s hard being completely alone in a strange country (well, strange for me). it’s hard adjusting from living in america where i am free to do/say whatever i want, to anyone i want, wherever i want to having to always be conscious of myself and my surroundings. i’ve never spent this much one-on-one time with myself ever in my life.  i’ve done a good job of entertaining myself so far with movies/tv shows on my computer, taking up crocheting, getting a cat!!!, and taking more naps to fill my day.

i’ve changed. i can feel it. i’m a little more “go with the flow” now. i’m still very much on time but there will be times when i’m not and *gasp* i don’t apologize for it because people mostly don’t even realize that i’m late. i used to put great value to my personal space but morocco has taught me that here, personal space is not a right, it’s a privilege. from being squeezed in a taxi with 7 other people where a random person’s arm, leg, or worse–butt cheek can be on you for the entire length of your trip. where strange little girls and grandmas grab you and give you up to 6 pairs of cheek-t0-cheek kisses each and you can’t do anything about it but just to take it (this is 10x worse in the summer time because then they turn into sweaty cheek-to-cheek kisses…ick). and i’ve accepted the fact that i am helpless when it comes to certain things and even though i’m used to doing things for myself, it’s okay for me to ask for help and let people help me. sometimes it feels weird to be vulnerable but you get through it.

anyway, as time passes, it doesn’t mean i miss home any less. i think about home and everyone there almost everyday. i’m truly thankful for friends and family who have kept in touch with me despite their busy schedules and the time change. it’s a little overwhelming for me to think that i will be spending the entirety of 2013 in morocco but hopefully some of you can make it out to visit me?? 😀 there is so much to look forward to already. i can’t wait to see what this year holds for me.

straight updates

when i started this blog i told myself i wouldn’t be one of those people who don’t update for daaaaaaaays but here i am, over a month since my last post. boo on me but you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun! (please excuse the cliche) and fun is indeed being had– don’t get me wrong, morocco is not usually fun well like 80% of the time but lately it has been a lot of fun due to the holidays that have come up, my birthday, and my sister’s visit! aaaanyhooo, let me get on with the updates and showing you just how much fun the last month or so has been.

halloween extravaganza!

a fellow volunteer was able to organize a halloween festival at her site complete with a pinata, games, handmade decorations made out of recycled materials, and a haunted house! those of you who know me probably won’t be surprised by the fact that i’ve never, ever been in a haunted house before BUT i was in one for this event! i was one of the scarer though so it wasn’t a big deal. i sent one kid running out of there yelling for his mom…literally! i mean all i did was i RAWRed really loud and grabbed his ankles. geez, what a baby.

 

my sister’s visit!

so it was a bit of a roller coaster ride at first because after anticipating and preparing for her visit for a few weeks, she tells me just about two weeks before she was to arrive that her boss didn’t approve her vacation request and that her trip would be cancelled. i think you can imagine the disappointment and the overall feeling of sadness that came over me at that point but alas, in true effie fashion, she was able to pull a hail mary and get that vacation approved! anyhow, she spent a day in tangier and was able to meet my host parents and my host bro. after that we headed to marrakech where we stayed at a super zwin (beautiful, pretty much just plain awesome) riad, we went to a fancy hammam, did some shopping, and got to walk around a bit. the next day we met up with our tour guide and driver (two separate people ya’ll and yes, we had an whole car to ourselves during the last half of the trip). we pretty much spent the entire next day driving through the atlas and stopping by various sites to admire and take pictures. after that we were brought to an auberge in tinghir where we would take a long around, visit a berber rug making house/association/place where my sister spent an obscene amount of dirhams (she did get pretty cool rugs though) and then we went to walk around the todra gorges. after the todra gorges we headed to merzouga for our camel trek. and here’s a funny story: so on the way my sister had to stop by an atm to withdraw some cash. i get out of the car to help her and we’re both thinking that it was going to be a quick stop and then we’ll be on our way. we turn around and discover that the driver is gone with the car along with ALL of our stuff. i mean purses, backpacks, passports, cameras, etc. after a few minutes i started to get really mad. who effing does that?! the tour guide thankfully stayed behind and so i was able to take my anger out on him and yell at him a little. he says the driver just went to go get gas. the heck??!!! who takes that long to get gas?! so the guy comes back and i’m yelling at him, “fin gadi?!?! algeria??? china??!!!” i think i scared him a little. anyway we continue on our way and i find out later that night, during our campfire that he actually went to go get me a cake so they can surprise me with it later on. i don’t even remember telling them it’s my birthday but i guess i must have in one of my emails when i was trying to schedule the whole trip. anyway, i felt like an asshole and it was really an awesome trip altogether. who can say they spent their actual birthday in the middle of the saharan dessert, being serenaded by four berber men on drums?? oh and the camel ride was super cool too!

 

thanksgiving celebration in berrechid

so after our week of galavanting around the southern part of morocco, for the last day or so of effie’s visit, i decided to take her to berrechid where a bunch of other volunteers were gathered to celebrate thanksgiving. we had TONS of good food, which went well with all the great conversations and awesome company. a good time was had by all and it was great to get to know my fellow volunteers who i may not have known too well at first because well first of all, there is 100 of us just in my stajj and some of them live waaaay down south and i’m on the tippy top of the country. during the weekend we got to share what we were thankful for, we got to cook together, play games, and everybody was so nice and welcoming to my sister who was pretty much the only one there who wasn’t a volunteer. anyway, it’s hard to imagine celebrating the holidays alone in a different country but with people like this around you, it makes things a whole lot easier. it’s like having a family away from home 😀

 

world’s aids day/sida activity in ouezzane:

this past weekend, i, along with some fellow volunteers in my region and one who is not necessarily part of the region but is equally awesome (…just wanna be all-inclusive, ya know) helped out another volunteer with her event at her site. basically she came up with the idea of having a weekend of testing and education about aids as well as blood pressure and blood sugar (this is huge here in morocco coz everybody eats a pound of sugar with every meal). she had associations come and provide testing and even got a local eye doctor to provide eye exams and glasses to some people in need. she had an awesome turn out overall and the cherry on top was getting the time to spend with my fellow volunteers. its’ not often we get to see each other and when we do it’s like whoah. hard to explain but i’m sure you can imagine.

 

and that is it for now! more later 😀

 

moroccan christmas

…or at least that’s how i like to think of it. the holiday is called Eid al-Adha (translation: festival of sacrifice) or it’s also known as l’3id kbir (translation: the big holiday). the days leading up to it is comparable to people getting ready to celebrate christmas back home only instead of scrambling at the mall to buy the latest gadget for a loved one, moroccans go to the sheep souq to buy the best looking sheep they can find to take home and slaughter on the first day of l’3id (oh yeah, it’s a 3 day celebration). while waiting for my mudir the other day in tangier, i watched 3 sheeps and a goat trying to resist the walk to their impending doom but alas, none of them were saved. i saw that goat get stuffed in the trunk of some guy’s car and i knew as am sure it did too, that it’s all over.

moroccans and muslims around the world celebrate this holiday to commemorate abraham’s sacrifice– as the story goes (the islamic version although it’s a shwiya the same to the christian version), is that abraham, his wife hajir, and son ishmael, who is his only child at the time traveled to arabia on God’s command. abraham left to go back to canaan while hajir and ishmael stayed behind. quickly their resources ran out and hajir prayed to God for help and water sprung up out of nowhere.  years later God commanded abraham to build a place of worship near that very same well and this is how mecca came about. then abraham was faced with another challenge. he was asked to offer his dearest possession to God- his only son. so abraham asked his son if he would be willing to give up his life and ishmael gladly gave his consent. as abraham was getting ready to cut ishmael’s throat, he closed his eyes because he couldn’t bear to watch his son die and when he opened his eyes again, he was surprised to find a dead ram in place of ishmael. as a reward for his willingness to sacrifice his only son, God rewarded him with his second son, isaac. and that is how eid al-adha came about.

it is said that this tradition accounts for 100 million slaughtered animals just during the celebration of l’3id itself. crazy! old volunteers warn us newbies about all the blood and the variety of sheep parts that will be scattered all over the streets the next few days. coincidentally, i’d planned on staying indoors the next four days anyway. peace corps has a travel ban in place for us volunteers for the next week so i can’t really go anywhere. and since there’s nothing to do around town anyway, i figure i’ll just stay in! yesss…unfortunately it was a little harder to avoid the carnage at home. my host family was nice enough to spare me the actual slaughter but my host mom showed up at my door with a large liver kebab and half a round of giant bread inviting me to see what they were doing, making sure that i remembered to bring my camera with me so that i can show my mom some pictures. and of course, i was happy to oblige. she leads me around the back of the building where it literally looked like a crime scene. there was blood and guts everywhere…literally! i go inside the barn and find two sheep carcasses (one is my host brother’s and the other is my host parents’) hanging with their skin cast aside and their various organs are divided between different buckets. i sat with them for a little while as they worked to prepare the sheep for consumption, they showed me which parts were edible, and which ones aren’t. the whole thing was actually pretty interesting and a little entertaining. the best part was that i got to take home an entire sheep leg to cook for later! so how does one end a day such as this?? by watching princess bride and eating pb&j for dinner. Eid Mubarak everyone!!

here’s a couple of pictures for your viewing pleasure 😀