We Found Love In A Hopeful Place

August is the month of otla (vacation/break) in Morocco, which means that all of our Dar Chebabs are closed! I taught my classes up until the first day of August (Robert’s classes and clubs halted way before Ramadan even), but when otla hit—we got outta there!

It’s been an entire month of traveling. But not all for vacation—from August 11 to 22, we were working at a English Immersion Language Camp in the beautiful beachside city of Al Jadida.

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It was an AMAZING experience! There were definitely some struggles (#classicpublicschoolteacherlife, buying our own supplies) , but it was all good. The camp was made up of 50-ish teenagers, ages 12-17—and an equal amount of American staff and Moroccan staff. There were bzaf different aspects to the Jadida camp, so I’ve split up the photos/stories into sections: Teams and Points, English Classes, Beach Time, Clubs, American Games Night, Halloween Night, Fashion Show, Talent Shows & Spectac, and Other.

Teams and Points

The campers were split up into six teams—all named after different countries in the world. Robert and I were the head of Team Barbados, the best team ever!

Team Barbados with guest star/fellow PCV/camp yoda Byron.

Team Barbados with guest star/fellow PCV/camp yoda Byron.

The title of this post, by the way, is a ridiculous reference to a Rihanna song, because Rihanna is from Barbados. She was our team inspiration throughout the camp. We were diamonds in the sky, indeed.

Throughout the week, the teams competed for points, which they could earn in various ways: library activities (book reports, scavenger hunt, bookmark making, encouragement note writing), contests (spelling bee, fashion show, Halloween costume contest, game olympics, athletic competitions), and being a good person (counselors made points rain for kids who threw away litter, did nice things for their friends, etc.)

Barbados dominating on American Game night

Barbados dominating on American Game night

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In my opinion, Barbados had the best team cohesion of all the teams in camp. (Not biased, nope! :D) We could definitely tell during team-building exercises. They undid themselves from the human knot in about three minutes—ridiculously fast! And everyone, despite lots of trepidation, participated in trust falls to much success. The feelings of camaraderie were strong! (Plus Moroccan kids tend to be SUPER DUPER competitive, which is awesome.)

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And all of that camaraderie and hard work paid in the end… because our team won the entire camp competition!

Point tallies throughout the camp...

Point tallies throughout the camp…

And the final scores!!!!!!

And the final scores!!!!!!

Olé Olé Olé Oléeeeee!

Olé Olé Olé Oléeeeee!

English Classes

Six of the American staff, including me, taught English classes in the mornings every day. The classes varied from Beginner Low to Advanced High. I taught the highest level class, which was full of troublemakers/geniuses, a dangerous combo.

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I loved my class. We talked about everything from their teenage crushes to idioms to the concept of relativity. One of my favorite outcomes was our conversation about bucket lists (which I talked about in the last blog post!)

Many shenanigans were had in Julie's English class...

Many shenanigans were had in Julie’s English class…

Ilias is falling...

Ilias is falling…

...Aaaaand he went down.

…Aaaaand he went down.

I feel like a very lucky teacher! My classes seem to be always full of amazing people.

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Beach Time

Most days, right after English class, we went to the beach! Sometimes there were organized events, but mostly it was just free time on the sand and sea. We swam, played frisbee, sun-napped, and ate bzaf sfinj/beignets (fried donuts covered in sugar). And of course, there was tons of teen selfie-taking going on.

A couple campers amongst PCVs

A couple campers amongst PCVs

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In all honesty, most of these kids probably wanted to do this camp just so they could hang out on the Jadida beach! Worth it for sure.

CLUBS

Six of the American staff taught English… the others, including Robert, ran clubs after lunch. There was Art Club, American Culture Club, Fitness/Work Out Club, Games Club, Photography Club (which was actually Scavenger Hunt Club), and Robert’s Science Club.

American Culture Club having interesting discussions.

American Culture Club having interesting discussions.

Photography Club interrupting American Culture Club because one of the scavenger hunt items was

Photography Club interrupting American Culture Club because one of the scavenger hunt items was “give Paul a little kick.”

Art Club (prepping for the Halloween Night)

Art Club (prepping for the Halloween Night)

For his Science Club, Robert taught about gravity, air resistance, and aerodynamics. Then he set up an egg drop competition. Kids were split into groups and had a certain amount and time and a certain amount of materials to create a protective spaceship for their egg. Then, it was off to a high place (the roof or the 2nd story boys’ dorm) to see which eggs survived!

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Awwww, this one didn’t make it…

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Eggy success!

Eggy success!

American Games Night

Most nights as well, we had themed parties/events. One of them was American Games Night. Teams rotated between various “American” games, which were basically backyard/BBQ games.

Three-legged race, the most dangerous of all... took down quite a few kids.

Three-legged race, the most dangerous of all… took down quite a few kids.

Popcorn eating contest, which was really just an excuse to watch kids look really silly hehehe :)

Popcorn eating contest, which was really just an excuse to watch kids look really silly hehehe 🙂

Baseball, a classic American tradition.

Baseball, a classic American tradition.

Egg in Spoon Relay

Egg in Spoon Relay

Water balloon toss!!!

Water balloon toss!!!

Halloween Night

Another night we did that was a HUGE success was Halloween Night! Everyone dressed up in costumes and we had a blast. We had face painting, bobbing for apples, gummy worm fishing, candy number guessing, pin-the-heart-on-the-skeleton, plus a showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

However, I missed most all of this because I was part of the Haunted House team. Yep, that’s right. I was part of a Haunted House crew!!!! It was incredible. We turned the conference room into a Hall of Terror. The kids, one by one, crawled through a dark maze, where several of us American staff lurked…

At first, I was really skeptical. Like, yeah right! None of the kids will be scared by our low-value production. But turns out, they were TERRIFIED and they had lots of fun being terrified. We don’t have any pictures from Halloween night because we were so busy giving children nightmares, hahahaha.

My faaaaorite part was scaring the tough boys who swaggered in and declared, “I’m not scared! I know it’s just you guys!” By the end, some of them were swearing and loudly nervous laughing… We definitely got ’em. 😉

Afterwards, one of my students came up and said, “I knew it was you guys in there, but I still felt so scared!” A wonderful compliment, hehe.

Fashion Show

Yet another theme night was the fashion show, which was very popular with the kiddos. They particularly loved the Classic category (modern, chic clothing) and the Crazy category (self-explanatory). We also had categories of Traditional Moroccan, Avant-Garde, and Sporty. At the last moment, some kids declared a Hip-Hop category as well.

Some ladies in the Classic category.

Some ladies in the Classic category.

Sooooo cute :)

Sooooo cute 🙂

Rim was a shoo-in for the Crazy category.

Rim was a shoo-in for the Crazy category.

Anne flaunting her jellaba in the Traditional category.

Anne flaunting her jellaba in the Traditional category.

I borrowed Rosana's gndura and entered the Traditional category too, because not enough kids signed up for it.

I borrowed Rosana’s gndura and entered the Traditional category too, because not enough kids signed up for it. Thanks for the 8, Judge Byron.

The winners of each category and the illustrious judges.

The winners of each category, the illustrious judges, and Laila the MC.

Talent Shows & Spectac

As I’ve talked about before, spectacs are a HUGE thing in Moroccan youth culture. And since we work in the youth development sector, it means we get to experience a lot of them. Spectacs are end-of-camp or end-of-event talent shows. Lots of singing. Lots of dancing. And always reallyyyyyy long. Morocco loves spectacs.

At the Jadida camp, we had THREE spectacs. THREEEEEEEE. To differentiate them (HA HA), they called them “Talent Show,” “Mini-Spectac,” and “Spectac.”

The talent show was a medley of individual kids showcasing random impressive feats:

Laila playing the guitar and singing.

Laila playing the guitar and singing.

A choreographed fight.

A choreographed fight.

Wiam did a stunning gymnastics routine.

Wiam did a stunning gymnastics routine.

For the mini-spectac, the kids performed in their country teams. Barbados did a chant written by our Prime Minister, plus a cool dance circle spearheaded by Anne (fellow PCV, camp librarian, and awesome person). I was gunning for a Rihanna song, but we didn’t have enough time to practice it. Alas!

The big spectac was held our last night at camp. It stretched from 9PM to 4AM (kind of like a Moroccan wedding, hahahaha). Around 2:30AM, dinner was served. Kids performed, but there were professional musicians as well. Kids were tiiiiiired. Adults were tiiiiiired too. Some of them never even went to bed because the kids who lived in Beni Mallal left on a bus at 5AM. We spent most of the night taking pictures with our favorite campers:

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Collapsing into bed that night, we all felt super exhausted but also very happy.

Other Camp Moments

The Jadida summer camp was jam packed full of so many moments. Some other things we did:

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Took a field trip to the famous Portuguese Cisterns in the fortified city of Mazagan in Jadida. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site.

Inside the cisterns.

Inside the cisterns.

One of the most successful parts of camp, in my opinion. Everyone wrote each other amazing encouragement notes. Robert and I received so many adorable ones.

One of the most successful parts of camp, in my opinion. Everyone wrote each other amazing encouragement notes. Robert and I received so many adorable ones.

My English class wrote Byron a brilliant letter full of hilarious insults. Two of my faves from the letter:

The opposite of encouragement notes. My English class wrote Byron a brilliant letter full of hilarious insults. Two of my faves from the letter: “You are like a pregnant elephant nerd.” “Do you have a girlfriend? She would be annoying too.”

Soooo much dancing. I've danced more in Morocco than I've danced total in my entire life.

Soooo much dancing. I’ve danced more in Morocco than I’ve danced total in my entire life.

Just chilling out during free time!

Just chilling out during free time!

We will definitely be back to work at this camp next year, inshallah. It felt so rewarding to make such close connections with these students in a short amount of time, and to watch them make connections with each other. Lots of friendships were made (and a few more-than-friendships as well, ooooh)!

As some of you know from our previous “camptastrophe” post, we weren’t super keen on working at camps in Morocco before. We wanted to focus only on our classes and programs in terms of First Goal work. I’ve only been to camp once in my life (sixth grade nature camp) and Robert’s been a couple of times. But we’ve never really known about “camp culture.” Now, we are 100% for it! Bring on the camp songs, the team spirit, the stay-up-late talks, the crappy food, the random competitions, the inside jokes—all of it!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

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