Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Daily Grind

For the interested, here is a brief synopsis of my community-based training schedule:

7:30am – Wake up. It sounds late, but even after eight hours of sleep I still want more during CBT. I take about 15 minutes to throw on some quasi-filthy clothes and attempt to make my hair loss less greasy. Most days I forgo looking in the mirror; ignorance of my face is bliss!

7:50am- Breakfast! When possible, I run out of the house before my host mom notices and seek out yogurt and fruit. This is not a reflection of my host family, merely of my desire to not eat bread for 6 meals per day. Most mornings I end up eating my first dose of bread with olive oil, butter or jam and a quick glass of hot milk with a tiny dose of coffee.

8:00am- Out the door with two of my training group neighbours, Lindsey and Drew. We head to the local cafe for a quick espresso coupled with a comparison of the previous evening’s success stories and failures. For example, “I understood when my host mother told me to clear the table;” “We didn’t eat till 11pm;” “I did nothing but watch Turkish Soap operas while my host sisters yelled at each other;” “My host brother host an evil glare when I ate the chicken in his triangle, but I was so hungry!”

8:30am- Welcome to Hassan’s language class! The six trainees, including myself, give a brief synopsis of our activities in the past tense before we get down to business. After this, we delve into the meat of the day while lately has been verb tenses (simple present and past, check!) Hussan “squeezes” us hard, but the classroom atmosphere is always positive and engaged.

10:00am –Atay! Drew or Rags normally grab six loaves of bread from the local store (hanut), which ideally will last our group for the day as Fatimizera brings us the first tea break. Since breakfast is fairly small, our group demolishes several cups of tea with our bread, dates, almonds and scrambled eggs.
10:30am- Back to language, normally a combination of practice and application. We play guesstures, draw verbs, write dialogues and role play in the class or head to the market, hanut or cafe to practice our newly acquired vocabulary/grammar.

12:30pm – Lunch time: This is typically the largest meal of the day in Morocco. We begin with a small salad that varies between lettuce and fruit; beets, carrots and potatoes; or cucumbers, tomatoes and homemade dressing. The main course is normally a Tajine (this is basically the Moroccan slow cooker) with veggies and sauce overtop a small piece of meat. Other days we feast on couscous, lentils and fried fish with side dishes of eggplant extravaganza or another bean. The entire meal is eaten with our fingers/bread (or sometimes a fork when we feel super western). After the main course, Fatimizera brings out the dessert; a delicious array of strawberries, apples, oranges and bananas.

1:00pm – Break: Lunch is followed by an hour break; each trainee has their own form of rest including a slow stroll through nature, listening to music, writing family or a simple nap. My favourite break thus far has been a stroll to Immouzer’s biggest waterfall where I found myself wandering amongst goats and sheep. Where was my camera?!

2:00- Afternoon class varies. My favorites include cultural sessions on Islam, indirect communication and collective cultures. I could talk about cultural differences for days. Other topics include Peace Corps specific training (not my fave) and slowly learning standard Arabic Script. Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is not a written language so most signs are written in Script or French. The focus on our training is conversational Darija, so thus far my script is non-existent.

3:30pm- Another Tea Break – this looks pretty much like the first one of the day. Moroccans tend to eat less at major meals and snack more throughout the day. Since food is always accompanied by tea, we are pretty jacked for the majority of class.

4;00pm – Lessons/Activities at the Dar Chebab (Youth Center). This portion of the day is still in development. We initially conducted “Spring Camp” to get to know the local kids/teenagers and are currently working on a Peace Corps directive to get to know the community. Eventually this will transition again to additional teaching practice. When we run out of ideas with the kids, we pretty much play soccer or throw the Frisbee around.

6pm- Done with class! From here, I try to do a short workout; either a run around the outskirts of town where we are hollered at in French, Darija and Spanish or a strength-training workout at the house with the host family staring.

7:30pm – Tea Break with the family. Are you hungry? Not really. Have some tea, enjoy some more bread, eat, eat, eat.

8:00pm – Free time at home. My activities depend on the night. I frequently attempt to practice what I learned in class with my host sisters (exchanging English, French and Darija) or watch the best Turkish Soap Opera on TV with my host mom. Sometimes I get in some additional reading, blogging or simply pass out on the couch.

10:00pm (hopefully) - Dinner time! Dinner is another small meal and typically occurs 15 minutes after my host dad returns from the town center. In the typical Moroccan home, women do the heavy housework lifting. My family is fairly liberal, but the men in the house rarely lift a finger to help with household chores or meals. During dinner, my host dad quizzes me on key phrases in Darija, what we are eating and the whereabouts of another volunteer, nicknamed “Zittun” or “Olives.” It’s a long story.

11:00pm-ish, bed time! If I haven’t already fallen asleep in the living room, I try to head to bed directly after dinner. Moroccans tend to be slower in the morning and bursting with energy in the eve, so I am always the first one to give in to the fatigue. I take one last trip to the Turk, say goodnight to the family and pass out in my room roughly an hour before my host sisters settle in the for night.

Monday through Friday, that is my life. Saturdays are a half day at Hussan’s school of learning, ending in a trip to the local market to purchase the week’s fruits, veggies and beans before heading home for the weekend. Most weekends consist of laundry, trips to the Hammam (public bath house), household chores and maybe a nap.

The schedule is both exhausting and exhilarating. During any given day, I may feel competent and confused, independent and dependent, understood and alone. While I am glad that the community-based training does not last forever (I can’t wait till I have my own room), I feel blessed to have such a positive and challenging first impression of Morocco.

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