Monday, December 12, 2011

Our time in Tiflet so far

I realized that in between complaining about hobbling around in crutches (the cast comes off in NINETEEN days and counting the minutes!!) and teaching about Moroccan life here and there, I haven't talked much about what Justin and I have actually been doing day-to-day the past month in our new community.

Even though I only have 1 good leg, it feels as if we have been able to do a lot in a short time. Here are some of the things we've done:

  • We are Fa-mi-ly: We have spent lots and lots of time with our host family, even taking a trip out to Khemisset to visit our mother's brother and sister-in-law's family (I talked about this in last week's blog post a bit).
  • Top Chef Morocco: We tried our hand at cooking our family pizza (if you recall from a previous blog post, it's our second time, after cooking it for our family in Moulay Yacoub). Not quite as good as our first time but pretty decent – hopefully we will improve with more practice!
  • Keeping up with the Joneses: Beyond our family, we have gotten to know the people in our neighborhood. Our host family runs what is called a “hanut” here (similar to bodegas in big cities in the U.S., just small little shops that sell necessary household items such as soap, canned foods, etc). So we've spent lots of time sitting with our family next to the hanut, chatting with people in the neighborhood and either impressing them with our vast language or making lots of mistakes and listening to them laugh at us (depending on the day). Lots of kids play in front of the hanut, so it keeps the area pretty lively.
  • Meeting the Yoots: We've been spending lots of time at our Youth Center (here it is called a Dar Chabab – Dar means “house” and Chabab means “youth”, so House of Youth). We've been really fortunate to be placed in a community with a Dar Chabab that is well-stocked with amenities (it has a computer lab, a library, an auditorium with a stage, 2 classrooms, a pool table, a ping-pong table, a TV, and lots of musical instruments), and with a really committed director and group of youth who spend lots of time there already. So we won't have to work too hard to get people to actually come there in the first place. The areas that are most active in the Dar Chabab seem to be music, theater, and computers – every afternoon when we are there, we sit in on the Music Club's activities which usually involves guitars, keyboards, drums, violins, tambourines, singing, and dancing. And a theater group has started rehearsing for a play in January and they let us sit in on rehearsals. Sometimes we just play pool or chat with the youth and watch football (soccer) games on TV. The center is a great place for the kids to go and they seem to really enjoy being there and being around each other.
  • Getting Ready to Teach: We've started to prepare for teaching English classes in January. Another really fortunate thing for us is that people are REALLY eager for English classes – almost every day, we have a new group of people ask about when classes are starting. Our biggest problem may be having too many people (which is a good problem to have). We have just posted an announcement around town (a small version is below, you can see our pictures on it!) that says that we are doing small assessments at the end of December to determine individual English levels, to allow us to create classes to address all levels/ages. Then we post a class schedule on January 3 and start classes week of January 10. If it were up to everyone here, we would be starting immediately, but I'm glad to be taking the time and getting to know the community a bit first.
  • Meeting the Gals: I visited a Women's Center in town (called a Nidi Niswi) and spent some time with the girls there. It's kind of like a Dar Chabab but gives some more technical assistance to women in sewing, dressmaking, etc. A Peace Corps volunteer living in Tiflet in 2007 taught them aerobics which they seemed to LOVE, and they really want me to have a class with aerobics, yoga, dancing, etc, so assuming I am cleared to use both legs early next year, I might try to start some classes with them and get some good exercise and new friends out of it!
  • Where to Live: We have talked to people about helping us to find an apartment for January. We've seen 2 apartments so far, not sure yet what we'll do but I'm glad that things are available and very much looking forward to having a place of our own!
  • Forgetting our Newly Learned Language: The director of our Youth Center has been helping us to find a Darija tutor, to continue our (slow) progress. He just gave us a number for a teacher who is willing to help us, so hopefully it will work out.
  • What Else: In between this, Justin is taking a lot of walks around the community (me, a little but ever so slowly) and reporting back on all of the things he is seeing and learning. And we are trying to study language a bit but not as much as we should be. We sometimes go to the cyber cafe near our house to catch up on emails and to Skype with people back home. We hope when we get an apartment to get an internet connection there, which should make things a bit easier.
our poster advertising English classes!

That's about all of it – otherwise, just starting to make plans for the upcoming months and reading a lot of books. My parents gave me a Kindle as a birthday present before leaving and while I was a bit hesitant about moving away from real books, it's been a much easier way to read books here where we don't have a lot of space or places to buy them (so thanks Mom and Dad!!). If anyone has recommendations on good books to read, please leave them in the comments; I have 2 years so looking for lots of suggestions!

I apologize that I haven't posted photos of our new community; the truth is that since I'm on crutches, I just don't carry around a camera very much. But hopefully come January when I have 2 workable feet, I will post lots and lots and lots of photos... so just hang tight for now!

I miss everyone back home. This time of the year I'm thinking about New York all lit up in Christmas lights, the tree in Rockefeller, the beautiful holiday window displays, music on Steinway Street in Queens, generally how happy people get during the holiday season. I fired up my holiday music mix on my iPod to hopefully keep a little bit of the feeling here with me, and I smile when I listen to it :) Please enjoy it a bit extra for me!

More to come over the coming weeks as we (hopefully) secure an apartment and a tutor and I very soon get this cast OFF!!! Hope that everyone is doing wonderfully!

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