Where We Live
A smallish-medium city an hour south of Casablanca and two hours north of Marrakesh. Two hours by train to the capital, Rabat. Population about 150,000. It is a university city, so there are tons of college kids. There are a lot of wealthy folk in town too (evidence: country club, golf course, fancy spas), but we live in the lower-income part of town. We will be moving into our own apartment in May, inshallah, but we’ll probably still be living in the same part of town. Not only is it easier for commuting, but it’s all we can afford. (The downside of living in a university city is the university student prices for housing.)
When we did a PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) map activity during Spring Camp, we learned a few things about the city. The PACA Map asks students to draw and label a map of their community, and then asks them to mark the map in a few different ways. We specifically asked them about the “good” places and the “bad” places. Then we asked them to explain their choices. From PACA and other conversations with people, we’re learning a lot about our new home. Here are some facts about our city that you can’t find on Wikipedia:
- There are two main roads in the city. Triq Marrakesh and Triq Dar Bida (aka The Road to Marrakesh and The Road to Casablanca).
- We have a Carrefour, which is a French supermarket chain that is much like QFC or Safeway. There are Carrefours in Taiwan too, so I was thrilled to be near one, despite the fact that the Moroccan ones don’t have food courts with spicy beef noodle soup (oh how I miss thee).
- Not only do we have a Carrefour, but we also have loads of Bims (small supermarkets), hanuts (little Moroccan shops), and a few souqs (outdoor markets). The big souq is on Sundays, but there are smaller weekend and everyday ones as well.
- There is a fairly well-regarded hospital.
- The city is surrounded by beautiful fields and a good-sized forest. This we learned from exploring and not from the PACA Map. More about our field and forest adventures later!
- Our city is located very centrally, a passageway between the North and the South. This will make travel easy and it (hopefully) means visitors aplenty. Everyone, mrhbabikum!
- Our host sister told us, “Here, women can hang out and walk around alone at night. That’s how you know it’s a safe city.” I haven’t really been able to test this out yet, but we shall see.
- Basically, we have everything we need and more! Beautiful fruits and veggies, cafés, internet, hot water, photocopy shops, and so on. My whining about the lack of pho restaurants and real cheese is just me being a spoiled American.
What We Do
We work at the Dar Chebab Sidi Abd Al-Kareem. Dar Chebabs (literally “House of Youth”) are centers for young people run by the Ministry of Youth and Sport. The important takeaway from this is that I work for a ministry, and therefore I’m a Harry Potter character. 😉 Anyways, there are two Dar Chebabs in our city. The other one is located in the northern part of the city, in a wealthier neighborhood. Ours is in the lower-income neighborhood. It is much busier, wilder, and (in my opinion) zwiner! So, what work do we do exactly? The most accurate answer is: we’re not quite sure yet, and that’s okay! When people ask us, we usually just tell them that we’re going to be English teachers at the Dar Chebab, which isn’t wrong. However, our work will always be broad, flexible, and difficult to define. Both of us have big dreams that may or may not work out… we’re taking it swiya b swiya, little by little, step by step. Our focus is grassroots development work, which means that we will be co-trainers, co- facilitators, project co-planners, mentors, and learners. As for specifics, we’ll let y’all know when we know! Hah.
How We Are
Busy, happy, melancholy, nostalgic, apprehensive, enthusiastic, anxious, eager, agitated, stressed, energized, and mostly OVERWHELMED. While I’m looking forward to implementing all the projects and ideas I’ve been dreaming up, I’m also freaking out.
The recommendation is that if we have a negative feeling, we wait a couple days before writing about it so the feelings even out. But what if these feelings are more complex than that—if they’re long-term and also mixed with all the good parts? Hey, I won’t sugarcoat my experience here. In Morocco, I’ve truthfully found grand adventure and the warmest love. Many things have been extraordinary beyond belief. However, I have also been feeling inadequate, incompetent, hopeless, helpless. There are many times when I can’t help but think: I am not good enough. I’ve taken on too much. I don’t have the skills or experience or charisma necessary for the job.
I can’t let myself be swept away by these fears and trepidations though! For me, positivity takes constant hard work. And despite all of this, I remain optimistic that I will come out of this stronger, inshallah. There is absolutely more good than bad here! It’s just that both are coming in such immense levels of intensity.
When people ask us what the hardest part about being here is, I think they mostly expect the answer to be bucket baths or Turkish toilets or something. But those things don’t even rank. The answer is something intangible. Something I’m still struggling to process and express. All dramatics aside though, we are doing just fine, truly. We love our new home, our new family, our new friends—and we have not forgotten our old! We’re still just at the beginning of this journey.
All our love,
Robert & Julie