Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

What an Adventure.

Hey,

I finished my Peace Corps Service in May 2013 so now i am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.  I know that it has taken me a long time to update this, but honestly i forgot about this blog, which is why this update is about 6 months late. There are days where i feel like PC and Morocco never happened, alike it was all a long dream and i just woke up. It’s a bit weird to be honest.

So…what have i learned? This is one of the main questions i get from people and i rarely answer it seriously, instead opting for a more generic, cliche quick answer that rolls off of my mind, the answer that normal people can relate to, anything to move onto the next subject.

But i’m gonna be serious for a moment and really answer that question as best as i can. There is so much that i have learned about myself , and in general, that there is not enough time for me to express it. I feel like i grew up by 10 years rather then the mere 2 i spent in Morocco. I learned that i can poop anywhere. I learned that confidence in yourself will take you far,  the outside world is constantly going to  try to break your confidence with images and expectations and trying to tell you what to do, but don’t listen to that static. It’s ok to be alone, more importantly LEARN how to be alone.If you have an imagination you will never truly be bored.  You are not a unicorn, the world does not owe you anything. A core group of good friends will get you through your worst times. You don’t really need to shower every day.  Don’t always stay in your head. The only reason you need to look at what your neighbors have is to make  sure that they have enough.  Don’t get in a fight if you have a glass jaw (i’m saying this metaphorically, but it works literally too.).  Keep you’re chin up, you’re eyes open, shoulders back, follow your gut, be strong because people can smell weakness.  And be sure to do no harm but take no shit.

That’s all folks.

Here are a few pictures from swearing out.  My staji was broken up into groups where 10 of us left each week, so these pictures are of my 10 group leaving.

This is me officially “Stamping out” Guess what i am mentally thinking.  the 2nd one is me with my Peace Corps BFF, she lived 8km away from me and kept me sane. the 3rd pic is just cool. i’m in the back so you can’t see me. we look like a GAP commercial. and the last one is from my last sunset in Marrakech.

1017119_10102138400624852_1648190369_n jen sunjumpp

Bslama. God bless your parents.

My Packing List

From my understanding there will be a new group of trainee’s coming into Morocco in January, MIRHABA (welcome)!  I remember one of the most stressful things for me before departure was packing, and I remember that I read a lot of blogs to help with the whole process, so I thought I would offer my 2 cents on packing for Morocco. Please note that this list is for women.

First of all, don’t go all crazy and buy a ton of new clothes because honestly no matter how “great” the quality of clothing, they are all going to become sun bleached, rip, and get holes in them (hand washing isn’t exactly a delicate process for your clothes) that you will then spend your nights trying to “fix”, the result of which will be this uneven mess that in the end you won’t give two shits about.  Just accept that all of your clothes, underwear, and shoes will die here. Accept it and move on.

So with that in mind, this is what I recommend bringing:

-          A good handful of Hanes T-shirts, just make sure they aren’t too form fitting. You don’t need to look like Jabba the Hutt but you do need to be mindful of the culture. Also you need to remember that sexual harassment can be a problem and a way to significantly deter that is to cover up and wear more loose fitting clothes. I know, I know… in a perfect world it shouldn’t/ wouldn’t matter what you wear because everyone would respect you and no one would harass you…but this world is far from perfect.

-          A few button down shirts that you can wear over your t-shirts and are long sleeved but you can roll them up your arms.  These are great and I really wish I brought more of them with me instead of giving mine way before I left.  The trick to dressing here is LAYERING! I wear my t-shirts in the summer because its so hot, but once it starts cooling off I just throw one of these babies on and boom, I’m good to go.  My community is ok with me wearing t-shirts in the summer, but not in the winter. I am expected to cover my arms more in the winter.  I have this great one from H&M that is super light material and covers my butt. It has been a life savior because I walk a lot, and while it is winter and cooler, the sun is still pretty brutal and hot.  The over-shirt is long enough to cover me, but is still light enough so I don’t feel like I am melting.

-          Skirts!  I brought a good amount of long flowing skirts, all purchased for a few bucks at the thrift store.  I wear them all the time and I’m happy that I brought so many of them with me. I wear skirts more than jeans mainly because I live in the dessert and jeans are way too hot to wear.

-          Jeans.  Some PCVs hate wearing long skirts and never wear them, which is totally fine. But keep in mind that if you wear jeans you should then probably wear long enough shirts to cover your butt.  I brought a few pair of site jeans that are looser fitting, and I always wear them with long shirts. I also recommend you bringing a nice pair of jeans for when you go to the big cities and want to dress up.

-          Leggings.  If you are planning on wearing skirts, you need to bring multiple pairs of leggings. I cannot stress this enough.  You really need to wear leggings under skirts because the wind will often times blow your skirt around. Not to mention chaffing of the thighs (nothing is worse!). All of my leggings are so patched up its really ridiculous….and embarrassing.

-          Shirts that cover your butt.  Especially if you plan on wearing jeans. If you are tall, like me, it can be really hard to find long enough shirts so I recommend buying some dress’s that goes down to your knees, but instead of wearing it as a dress you just wear it as a shirt, paired with pants.  This is also great for when you travel to big cities, or to Europe where you can wear them as regular dress’s rather than shirts.

-          A few thermal long sleeves for the winter

-          Winter jacket. I brought a wind breaker for fall weather and also a really thick and long winter jacket. I never use the super thick jacket in site because it’s never that cold, but I have used it when I visit friends up north.  You won’t know where your final site will be so you kind of have to plan accordingly.  This is why layering is so important. Yeah, you may look like that kid from A Christmas Story, you know the scene when the younger brother is going to school and his mom just keeps putting clothes on him and finishes the look with a snow suit that results in him unable to keep his arms down. But hell, he sure looks warm, and you will be too.

-          Socks. Bring a few good pairs. But they are also pretty easy to purchase in country at souk.

-          Underwear/ bra’s. Bring as much as your heart wants, because no matter how many pairs you bring by the end of your first year you are going to be begging your parents to send you more as your nimble little fingers work tirelessly to patch the holes that are inevitable. It’s kind of a sad day in service when you realize you have to start patching up your underwear. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Ya know? Also if you are thinking you will just buy more in country…good luck with that on your “salary” and also I only see men selling women underwear, not exactly an ideal situation.

-          Hoodies/ cardigans. – awesome for your house and for when you go outside to throw on over your t-shirt.

Toiletries:

-          Diva Cup. Resistance is futile.  With the Turkish it’s just so much easier than the other products and you don’t have to worry about what the kids are touching when they go through your trash. And they will go through your trash.  If you’re not into that, just bring it in case you will want to use it later on in service. They are not that expensive.  I would say that almost every women PCV here uses one, and those who didn’t bring one with them had one sent.

-          Lotion!  Dear God, I am so ashy here there is never enough lotion.  Yes you can buy lotion here, but its not very good stuff and very expensive.  SO if you have a brand you really like and won’t be able to live without, bring it. Bring a lot of it.

-          Foot cream. Seriously your feet are about to get nasty with cracks on the heels no matter where your site is. So bring some good foot cream to sooth those babies.

-          Contact solution.  You can buy some in the big cities but it’s really expensive and not that good quality.  I’ve had some sent to me, but it’s a risk because I don’t think you’re supposed to mail liquids. Oops.

-          Contacts. Bring enough for 2 years. PC will not give you any.

-          DEODIRENT – Bring it. Seriously.

-          Floss. PC gives you floss that feels like it will rip your teeth out. I actually use it to sew because it’s a lot stronger then thread.

-          Makeup. Just bring some for when you are in a big city are want to go out or when you go to Europe or someplace and you want to feel a little bit more put together rather than look homeless.

-          Hair ties. I am very particular about mine so I brought a bunch and I’m happy I did.

-          Perfume. I only wear it on special occasions but it’s really nice to have around.  It’ll help keep you sane and feel like a women after months of feeling gross.

-          Nightquill/Dayquill/ musinex – PC will give you a standard medicine box, but it won’t have these medications in it. I’m really happy I brought a ton of them with me.

Backpacks/outdoor gear.

-          Hiking backpack.  A MUST! You are going to travel A LOT around this country and you will need a good hiking backpack.  I’m talking a legit hiking backpack that can take a beating.  I encourage you to find one with a sleeping bag compartment.

-          Sleeping bag.  A MUST! Again, you are going to travel a lot, you need one of these. Get one that is light weight and comes in a compress bag.  No matter where you are, if you have a sleeping bag you’re going to be 10x more comfortable than if you didn’t. Also you can use it as comforter for the winter.

-          Regular backpack. I have this awesome Eddie Bauer and it’s by far the best investment I made before coming to Morocco. It’s very comfortable and can hold a lot and the straps are sturdy so it doesn’t feel like it’s going to break at any moment.  Not only is it great for country, it’s great for when you travel overseas because I can use it as a carry-on.  Seriously, best thing ever. Remember, strong straps are key for your backpack.

-          Hiking hooks. I’m actually not sure what they are really called but I brought a few with me and they are great because I can hook them up to my backpack and attach things to it.  And they are only a few bucks.

-          Shoes. Teva’s or Chaco’s are a must. Teva’s and cool sunglass’s are basically a staple in every PCV attire.  Flip flops for your house and showering, especially when you are in a hotel.  A nice pair of shoes for when you want to party wouldn’t hurt either.

Ok, that is all I can think of right now.  Keep in mind when you are packing your clothes that less really is more.  At the end of the day you will end up wearing the same clothes over and over again because doing your laundry by hand is THE WORST. If you have anything, like an article of clothing that you really like and you wear it all the time, like a hoodie then you should bring that too because chances are you will wear it a lot here at least in your house if not in public.

Also I should mention that my list is based off of my experience here, and I live in a village in the dessert.  All of the new people will be YD volunteers so I’m assuming that the most rural of you will be placed in at least souk towns and cities, rather than full on villages.

Don’t worry about packing too much, you can always ask your family to send you some stuff once you get to your final site.

OH, and don’t forget to check out all the PCV discounts available to you, an addition don’t be afraid to buy your outdoor gear stuff online where it is usually much cheaper, just make sure you do a lot of research before your purchase it.

GOOD LUCK!

Dandruff and Dreads.

No one warns you about dandruff before you move to the desert. I feel like my skin is cracking and my scalp is peeling off. It’s pretty gross.  It’s cold again in the desert, which means that bucket baths/washing my hair is back down to a bare minimum.  I’m fairly sure my hair is starting to dread itself, which is cool because I’ve always wanted dreads.

Thanksgiving was a great time, a few friends from the north came down to escape the snow.  The PCV couple in my souk town was gracious enough to host Thanksgiving in their house, we had a large good group of people and a ton of food which included a 30lb turkey (AWESOME) and all the traditional sides…plus the fried rice I made.   Yeah, I could have made something more “traditional” but honestly Thanksgiving needs a little bit more diversity.  I did it right this year, by which I mean I took a nap after I ate dinner, then I  ate dessert,  then I took another nap.  The only downfall was the 7km walk back to my other site mates’ house at night. I was whining the whole way how un-American it was to exercise on Thanksgiving.

Work is work. I hate writing about work because I spend so much of my time thinking about work here. So let’s just say that work is work and that’s that. 

This is how I feel every day when I talk to people:

http://whatshouldpcvscallme.tumblr.com/post/37291050859/when-i-dont-understand-someoneve

Also, I have less than 5 months left.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve been here for around 21 months. But then I look at my feet and realize I can’t remember what my feet clean looked like, and then 21 months seems about right.

Poise

October 15th was Global Handwashing Day, as a tribute to this important day ,this week, my site mates and I went around the schools in our villages and souk town to teach roughly almost 800 kids how to wash their hands with soap properly. It was awesome and exhausting. I feel so lucky to have amazing PCVs around me.  I think that a lot of PCVS around the world spend a lot of time planning projects to only have them fall apart due to some obstacle or another, and let me tell you it sucks when that happens.  You learn quickly how to fail with poise, you learn not have a break down, not to freak out, and you learn to let it roll off your back. It’s an important lesson that I think a lot of people my age don’t understand yet.  So when a project actually goes well, when you finally feel useful, and like you have actually completed something, the feeling is one of euphoria, FINALLY something has gone right.

I have less than 6 months left in Morocco, my staji is the next to leave.  The past few weeks have been important planning weeks for work for the rest of my service. I’m determined to make the rest of my time here the best of my service, and between Girls Club, Health lessons, and English tutoring, I think it very well may be.

When nothing goes right I have to remind myself that this will not always be my life.  I just take a walk and drink in the beauty that surrounds me and let that heal my wounds.

Wisdom

A wise COSing PCV once told me “don’t worry, the last 6 months are the best”.  I think she may be right. 

Random ramblings

You know what’s great about having a dog?  Whenever you drop something on the floor they are always there to eat it and you never have to clean it up. The ants in my house have become like my dog. Anytime I drop any kind of food particle after a few minutes they swarm the food and carry it away. I have no idea where they take the food, I can only assume there is a mass ant lair under my house where they are building their power and numbers until one day they will kill me.

I sleep on my roof 6 months out of the year because it is just too hot and uncomfortable in my house to sleep during the spring/summer months.  I actually like sleeping on my roof because the stars at night are so beautiful. There is no light pollution (gotta love village life) so I can see everything and on nights when there is a full moon I can read on my roof, it’s pretty awesome.  I have this routine when I go to bed, after I have set up my bed on the roof I listen to Miles Davis (Flamenco Sketches) and count the shooting stars. For those 9 minutes and 25 seconds I am at peace with life and the world. The stars are completely surrounding me and they are the only thing I can see, it feels like the sky is hugging me. I know that when I am back in the states this “routine” I have will rarely happen, and I will miss those 9 minutes and 25 seconds.

I need to discuss one of the best things that I have discovered since moving here.  The MOO-MOO!   I know you are thinking “what? Huh? Why?” well, let me just explain and BLOW YOUR MIND! Yes, I am talking about an actual moo-moo here, all the women wear them inside their houses because it is a light fabric that covers most of your body and is very comfortable.  They are ALWAYS full of color and consist of different flower patterns. You may think that it sounds ugly, but they are really beautiful and fun! It actually looks a lot like this (read: I look like this in my house when I wear my moo-moo, see that smile? Yeah that’s true happiness.):

They are the best thing ever because when it is really hot and you are not dressed appropriately (naked) in your house and someone knocks on your door all you have to do is throw a moo-moo on and BAM! You’re good to answer the door!  Also this moo-moo will save your life when you travel.  Don’t you hate when you are using a communal shower having to put clothes on in the less than desirable shower stall? Well no need to worry anymore just throw the moo-moo on that can double as a towel and walk back to your room, strutting your stuff, knowing that you have beaten the evil communal shower system.  Want to go to the beach but you don’t have enough room to pack a beach towel (cough Ryanair cough)? NO WORRIES! Your moo-moo is so large that it can act as a beach towel! It’s dirty? That’s ok! Your moo-moo is made of ultra-light material that dries in less than an hour!  Basically what I am saying is that Moo-Moos are awesome and in a perfect world everyone would be wearing a moo-moo all the time…and only moo-moos.

2nd Year

Hello!

It certainly has been a long time since I have last updated this blog. I know, I know…WORST BLOGGER EVER! In my defense though I haven’t really written anything at all in the past 15 months.  Writing for me used to be really soothing and help me to organize everything that is jumbled in my brain, here though it has been really difficult for me. I think maybe because so much has happened and continues to happen I just need more time to reflect before I start writing. Now I’m trying to push myself into writing again. 

SO let’s start off with YES, I am STILL IN MOROCCO! I am now one of the ever elusive and ever so slightly jaded 2nd year Health Volunteers in Morocco. We are a rare species as our entire program was cut right when we got to country, making us the last health/environment staj in Morocco.  But who’s bitter?

I am not allowed to post the exact name of my village in Morocco, but I think it’s safe enough to tell you that I live in the freaking dessert.  It is hot.  Like there is a “cold front” going through and it is 99.5 in my house right now, and that is indeed cold.  I am learning Tashlheet, an Amazigh (Berber) language. It is hard…. really freaking hard, but I am getting by.  I can talk about the weather like a damn champion!  I am not naïve enough to ever think that I will become fluent in this language. EVER.   But I’m trying, and I can buy food for myself so it could be worse.  Oh and I’m forgetting the English language…I’ve been told that’s a good sign.

I have been here for over 14 months now and I have had countless adventures.  Yes, life can be hard and unyielding and it can feel at times like a constant up-hill battle. But you know what? That’s how I know I’m alive.  Those hard times make you appreciate the times when things  (anything) goes right.  I have learned that what motivates me cannot be the “big projects” but the little things because if only the big things motivated me I would be in a very dark place.  So it’s the small things, something as small as having a successful souk experience, or the first time someone spoke to me in a normal speaking speed and I understood them. That motivates me. Without a doubt I have had some really hard times, here are a few things have helped me through it all. 1) thinking of it all as an adventure, even when shit hits the fan I just take it as another lesson learned, another adventure I’ve lived through. I think if you don’t look at life this way you will just go crazy. 2) My fellow PCVs. Seriously, they are awesome and at the end of the day they are the only ones who really get this crazy life we are living. We are there for each other, and we understand each other. I am so lucky that my staji is full of amazing , crazy, and kind people.  3) Laughing at myself. Oh my gosh do I laugh at myself! ALL THE TIME! Life is funny and bizarre already, add living in a village in the dessert, barley being able to speak the language, and by myself, it’s freaking hilarious.

I just re-read my last post about all the things I freaked out about and I can’t help but laugh at myself.  Everything turned out fine. Why did I ever doubt myself, why was I so worried?   All those things just seem to trivial now, I know that at the time they were big concerns but all those concerns stemmed from doubting myself, not having any confidence in myself that I could do any of this.  After reading that post I can see how much I have already changed as a person in the last 15 months, and I’m really happy I have changed.

That’s all for now, I will try harder to update more.

p.s. My dad was right, on the plane ride over to Morocco the only thought that was going through my mind was “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!?!!” So here is my advice to anyone out there who is about to embark on an adventure:Image don’t think about it, just do it.

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