The Journey from January to July

Two days ago, we celebrated our official Half Year Mark of living in Morocco.

Wow. Six months. SIX MONTHS.

At that time, we happened to be in Casablanca to help sort books for an association there. Some badass volunteers, along with the Casablanca Sidi Moumen Cultural Center, succeeded in getting 30,000 books (that’s literally TWENTY-THREE TONS) delivered to Morocco. They are now being sent to various developing libraries across the country.

This is just one fraction of the 30,000 tomes.

This is just one fraction of the 30,000 tomes.

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We were so tired and gross by the end of the day, but it was worth it!

Because we were in Casablanca, we also took the opportunity to indulge in some Americanness: aka giant burgers and milkshakes from Blend Burger! IMG_1023 Last week, we were faced with an even starker reflection of our half-year in country. We went to Harhoura (a beach community right by Rabat) for our In-Service Training Conference. We sat through hours of workshops, info sessions, language sessions, and meetings. Like all conferences, some of it was boring and some of it was useful and inspiring.

But of course, the best part was getting to see everyone! It was wonderful and affirming to hear about each others’ stories—both commiserating in struggles and celebrating each others’ successes. And, of course, having parties in the hotel pool! IMG_0797 IMG_0811 IMG_0833 IMG_0846 IMG_0879 IMG_0881

Breath-holding contest, not dead dudes.

Breath-holding contest, not dead dudes.

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Hind and Badr’s splash war had some civilian casualties.

We stayed in the same hotel we were in when we first arrived in Morocco. Six months later, so much has changed.

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In Harhoura back during the time of sweater weather.

In Harhoura this time 'round. I saw so many peoples' elbows for the first time.

In Harhoura this time ’round. I saw so many peoples’ elbows for the first time.

It was strange to remember our staj half a year ago in the same place—scared little babies who could barely utter a “salam,” all holed up in our separate rooms to escape the winter cold. Now, in the bright heat of July, we all laughed and cringed and reflected together about the journey from January. There have been so many rough patches for all of us, but IST shifted some perspectives. For me, there was a lot of clarity. We’re still here, still surviving. Many of the old fears have shifted or disappeared. I remember that the walk across the street to the supermarket seemed so much farther away in January. Why was it so daunting? It seems like nothing now to hop across unyielding traffic and buy some snacks. This time around, we chatted in Arabic to the hotel staff and made sassy comments during sessions and hung out in each others’ rooms until way late into the night.

Massage train. Maybe symbolic or something, hahahahahaha. Okay, not really.

Massage train. Maybe symbolic or something, hahahahahaha. Okay, not really.

A group of people did a really great job putting together some IST events, including a frenzied scavenger hunt. At the end, they organized a “Prom Night” in the hotel restaurant, including voting for prom court and superlatives. IMG_0956 IMG_0962

Robert and I somehow won the Cutest Couple award, although I was gunning for Most Likely to Shave Their Head to Keep Cool.

Robert and I somehow won the Cutest Couple award, although I was gunning for Most Likely to Shave Their Head to Keep Cool.

Spotted: Kika and Alexis, and the REAL cutest couple Cam and Toby.

Spotted: Kika and Alexis, and the REAL cutest couple Cam and Toby.

No one was surprised when Abderrahmane won Most Likely to Get You Dancing.

No one was surprised when Abderrahmane won Most Likely to Get You Dancing.

Awkward Prom Poses

Awkward Prom Poses

Some other highlights of the IST Conference/July:

  • THE PREGNANT CAT. The hotel in Harhoura is overrun by mostly-aloof cats. There was one cat though, who was very friendly. She also happened to be alarmingly pregnant. She begged us for food during meals and sneaked into at least four different hotel rooms. Towards the end of the week, we had regional meetings. Ours, for the Mid-West region, was outside on the lawn. Just as our regional managers, Samira and Fatima, were telling us about something important or other, the pregnant cat strolls into the middle of our chair circle and starts digging a hole. “Is she about to poop?” some of us wondered. BUT THEN NOPE… HER WATER BROKE. The pregnant cat started having contractions right in the middle of our regional meeting!!!! Samira was like, “Is that cat distracting?” and we were like “UMMMM KINDA YEAH.” Anyways, the cat ended NOT giving birth at the meeting, but continued to have contractions. Later that night, we found out that she slipped into someone’s hotel room and gave birth in a friend’s bed. It was all very dramatic. 😉
  • When we first arrived, we thought the hotel food was so delicious. Now, after six months of Moroccan Mama Cooking, we know better…
  • But also, I ate McDonald’s. And it was magnificent.
  • There were a few moments of great spark during IST. As in, we feel inspired to continue our work projects! Science Fair, Write On, etc. And maaaaaybe even convincing some kids to climb the highest mountain in North Africa with us?
  • We spent the 4th of July in Tangier, with a stop at Ksar El Kbir beforehand.
  • We had a couple of friends stay with us before and after IST, and we’re super excited for more American houseguests! We suck at hosting Moroccans (as our Moroccan friends have made clear, ahahahaha), but if you are interested in an indulgent amount of American food (like mac and cheese or noodle stir-fry) and Eyoo (off-brand Oreo) milkshakes, then mrHaba bikum!

Yours Truly, 

Robert & Julie

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