Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tiflet and bum foot update

For those who have been following updates on my Facebook page, you may already know the news of my latest adventure in Morocco; for those unaware yet, I have had the unfortunate luck of learning firsthand about the Moroccan medical system:

Yes, that is my foot. Last Wednesday - on our last day of training in Fes before leaving for Rabat the following morning - I bounded down the stairs into the breakfast area and managed to skip the very last stair and land with my left foot twisted underneath me. I heard a crack at the time and while I tried to convince myself that it was a sprain, I was pretty sure it was worse than that.
Fortunately, our medical staff was walking into the building at the same time as my little fall and they were put right to work. Within 2 hours, I was taken to a medical clinic, where x-rays indicated that I had fractured a small part of the tibia in my left leg (a bone just above the ankle), and I was immediately put into a cast and given crutches. It was a FAR quicker process than I have ever dealt with in the U.S. (and completely free), so I was pleased about that! But as you can imagine, it has caused a lot of challenges in dealing with day-to-day life (as it would in the U.S. too, but I would know a lot more about my surroundings back home).

Justin and I were taken to Rabat a day early with our medical staff and I met with a specialist there who confirmed the fracture and gave me some medicine. The following day (last Thursday), we were sworn in as official Peace Corps volunteers! We met the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco and his wife; he asked me where I was living before joining the Peace Corps and I told him Brooklyn – he looked down at my cast and said that if I’m a New Yorker I shouldn’t have any problems dealing with a broken leg :) I took that as a compliment!

Our full training group and staff at Peace Corps Headquarters in Rabat

The U.S. Ambassador to Morocco and his wife at our ceremony

We all tried to wear traditional dress; photos of me coming soon I promise!

On Friday, Justin and I left Rabat for our new home, Tiflet. We are only a 45 minute taxi ride from Rabat, so fortunately the travel was fairly easy. We met our new host family and they welcomed us into our home where we will live until the end of the year while we look for a place to live permanently. And I breathed a sigh of relief that our bedroom is on the first floor of the house!

Since then, we have been moving pretty slowly given my casted leg. Fortunately, the expectations for us between now and early next year are not too major - mainly to get to know the community and the Youth Center where we will work, to look for a place to live permanently, and to find a language tutor. Even so, it’s been really frustrating for me to not be able to fully explore my new community. I am excited to be in a new place and it’s hard to not just be able to walk around and see as much as I can. I’m trying to remind myself that we’ll be living here for 2 years and I will have plenty of time to see and learn everything.

And Justin has been a saint in the last week, amazingly patient and understanding and willing to walk slowly next to me as I hobble along in the crutches. I hope that in the coming weeks I will be able to put some more weight on my foot which will allow me to walk further, and based on the current calculations, my cast should be off by December 30th (fingers crossed!!). So I hope to enter the new year healthy and excited to fully learn about my new home. I imagine that the next month or so will be both physically and emotionally difficult for me, but like I said I’m trying to remain as positive as possible. More to come soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sandy update!

In previous posts, I mentioned quite possibly the greatest dog in the history of the universe - our beautiful Sandy. We fostered her from late December through mid April and attribute her joining a wonderful forever family largely to our "Adopt Sandy!" campaign :) We think of her often and have (perhaps over-enthusiastically) shared pictures and videos with many of our fellow Peace Corps colleagues.

We recently received an update from her great parents along with new pictures, and I wanted to take a break from the Morocco-related posts to share. She is not surprisingly doing wonderfully! She had some health issues around the summer, but those seem to be resolved and she is healthy and beautiful. We've been told that she is now what they call a "veggie dog" and her favorite treat is baby carrots. We also hear that she is bilingual which they discovered when a Spanish language program came on the TV. She reacted to it, and they tried out some commands in Spanish, and you can guess the rest - we always knew she was a smart girl! We feel so privileged that we had her in our lives for even a few short months and are very grateful that she has found a wonderful family who is willing to keep us in the loop :)

Here are some recent photos - hope you enjoy.

P.S. - while she still doesn't like the rain, she enjoyed playing in the October snow in New York!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One door closes...

Today marks exactly 2 months since Justin and I joined the Peace Corps, and it also marks the end of one phase of our time here and the beginning of a new one. This morning, we left our training community in Moulay Yacoub and exchanged tearful goodbyes with our host family who has done so, so much for us. They sent us off with jllabas (pictures forthcoming!) and a slew of other memorabilia that we will cherish and think of our time here. In just a short time we have truly connected with our family and with the Moulay Yacoub community and it will always fill a donkey-shaped place in my heart. Justin and I are absolutely planning to go back and visit, hopefully when our language is even better and they might understand what we are saying :)

A "quilt" from a program that I ran with girls in our community. Thought it looked cute :)

While we are sad to leave, we ended our time in Moulay Yacoub with a bang – this week was L-3id L-kbir (also known as “the great feast”), one of the largest holidays in the Muslim community. The holiday is held on the tenth day of the month of du l-Hijja in the Islamic calendar (the last month of the year) and is derived from the sacrifice story of Abraham and his son Isaac. For those who don't know or need a reminder – the holiday honors when God (or Allah) told Abraham (for Muslims, he is called Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Isaac (for Muslims, Isma'il) as a test of his faith. As Abraham was about to kill Isaac, God stopped him and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead. *16-Nov: Clarification at bottom of post!

For 3id, each household purchases its own sheep (those who cannot afford a sheep buy a lamb or a less expensive animal). Then, the head of the family kills the sheep (or in some families, a butcher comes to the house and performs the ritual). Over the days following this, the family eats all the different parts of the sheep. And when I say all I mean ALL. They also eat a TON of sweets at every meal- cookies, cakes, candies, the works. I am refraining from posting some of the more graphic pictures and descriptions of the week but I’m happy to share upon request! In addition, families buy new clothing to wear for the holiday, usually get haircuts, and women use henna as cosmetic and as a means of protection against evil influences. For us, the week was overwhelming but a really interesting experience and allowed us to spend a lot of time with our family, which we really appreciated. 

Our friend the sheep who is no longer...
A sample of our typical non-meat spreads last week

So we’ve said goodbye to the beautiful Moulay Yacoub with its mountains, hammams, donkeys, steps and steps and steps, and the amazingly welcoming people who took us in and allowed us to be part of the community for our short time. We are now in Fes where we will spend 4 days, then 1 day in Rabat in which we will be sworn in as official Peace Corps volunteers. My host sister sewed me a beautiful purple jllaba for 3id which I will be wearing again at our official swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, so you will be seeing it soon. Then, on Friday we head off to our new community (Tiflet) to begin our 2-year adventure. More to come over our next few days the next door opens!

* Clarification on 16-Nov: I realized that one piece of my description of Abraham's sacrifice may have been unclear. While Ibrahim is of course the Arabic version of the name Abraham, I did not mean to suggest that Isma'il is just the Arabic equivalent of Isaac. As you may know, Abraham had 2 sons by different women: Isma'il (or Ishmael) and Isaac. In the Torah and Christian Bible, Isaac is the son that Abraham was about to sacrifice, whereas in the Qur'an, Abraham was about to sacrifice his first son, Isma'il, when Allah sent the ram. The theological importance of the distinction is that Jews trace their descent from Isaac and Christians believe that Jesus was a descendant of Isaac, whereas Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohamed was a descendant of Isma'il.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our home for the next 2 years

Drumroll please!! 

Justin and I have finally learned of our site for the next 2 years. It's been a whirlwind month and a half and I am nervously anticipating the next stage, but am very excited for the adventures to come. With no further ado, I introduce to you our new home:

Meet Tiflet! (the dot in red on the map above) 

- Pronounced "Teeeee-flt" or "Teeee-flit" - I learned how to write it in Arabic script and I'll try to write a pretty one and post it sometime soon.
- Population: Around 100,000, we think.
- Location: In Northwest Morocco, about an hour west of Meknes and 45 minutes southeast of Rabat.
- History: Dates back to settlements by the Phoenicians and Romans in the first millenium B.C. Apparently lots of excavations in the area with historical artifacts according to our guidebook.
- Geography: Tiflet is in a valley, surrounded by hills. From what we've been told, it's relatively flat. We're just excited to go from climbing stairs every day to a paved road or two :)
- Language: Mostly Darija with a bit of French.
- Known for: A strong beekeeping industry, producing some wonderful honey for the region. Also apparently known for really good watermelon.
- For our jobs: Seems as if there will be lots to do. We have 2 youth centers which will be great since there are 2 of us. There are 3 women's centers which is a lot, and I'm looking forward to doing lots of activities with girls and women in the community. Otherwise, a lot of nonprofits and some human rights associations that we're also hoping to get involved with.

That's about all that I know so far! We have another week and a half left in our training site (Moulay Yacoub), which will include a big Moroccan holiday starting Monday (look for a blog post all about it next week!) and a camp with the youth to conclude our time with them. Then, we will return to Fes to complete our training, then off to Rabat to be officially sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. From there, we are off to Tiflet, where we will live with a host family for the first month to help us meet people in the community, get acclimated, and search for an apartment. 

So a lot has happened, but as you can see, lots more to come! And now that you all know our official site, start planning those visits!!!! :)