Notes & Anecdotes: Part 7

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. Catch all the Notes & Anecdotes here

  • Because we won’t have access to the camera to upload our pictures for a while, this is a special work-only edition of Notes & Anecdotes! Autumn is in full gear, which means work is flourishing! (It definitely dies down in the summer, even in super busy sites like ours.) If you’re only interested in adventure, culture, and/or language posts, you can skip this post.
  • Robert’s work: Right now, Robert is in an awesome coastal city in the South participating in a Community Health Workshop. When he gets back, he plans to ramp up his Health & Safety workshops. We have new counterparts for this. And our mudir is really rallying for this program. He even recruited a random kid to help him mime the Heimlich Maneuver to make sure Robert was trained in it. (Still not sure what Heimlich Maneuver is in Arabic…) It was pretty hilarious. Other things on Robert’s docket: a huge health project in the spring (stay tuned for this one!), HIV/AIDS education, and recruiting for Science Club. He’s also taking over Beginner English Classes—one for kids and one for adults.
  • Julie’s work: My classes are running as usual, even with my usual assistant Robert gone! My Advanced English classes and my Journalism/Creative Writing Program are PACKED. There’s a waiting list, which makes me feel bad. I wish there was time and room for everyone. The journalism programming is especially exciting for me! It’s igniting so many complex and thrilling topics of conversation about objectivity, ethics, freedom, etc, from so many different perspectives. I love it! I’ve also been doing a lot of Write On work: grant-writing, donations soliciting (which is way more difficult than I expected), and some advertising. But next month, as our schedules settle, there are loads of new things I want to facilitate! I want to start a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Club.
  • Other work updates: The best best best best BEST news about our work lives has to do with work that is not ours at all! It’s about sustainable development!! Two big sustainable things have happened in our city! First of all, remember the giant load of books we carted from Casablanca to our city? Well, we didn’t actually tell anyone at our Dar Chebab that we were showing up with hundreds of free books. We weren’t sure what exactly we’d do with them and had tagged it a #laterproblem. But the people of our Dar Chebab, lead by the mudir’s assistant Rahim, took the books and made a mini library. They have implemented a check-out system and an organizing system (it’s no Library of Congress, but I digress). It’s amazing and it’ll clearly keep going long after we’re gone! All we did was give it a little kickstart. 🙂 The second sustainable story is from the Model United Nations training we kinda-almost-nearly attended. We took our friend and counterpart Hazar to it right before we left for Washington DC, but we weren’t able to attend the rest of the training because of our flight time. Hazar is now starting Model United Nations classes at the Dar Chebab and hopes to bring some people to a bigger conference later. She’s going to do it all by herself, which is awesome! Robert and I have to be choosy about what we lead at the Dar Chebab because there’s so much going on and we only have so much time. Neither of us are interested in Model UN, but if other people are—we are more than willing to be sideline supporters. We can’t wait to see what happens, and we hope other students are inspired to start their own activities.
  • When we get the camera/pictures back, we’ll update posts on Eid al-Adha, our Blog It Home tour, and much more!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

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Notes & Anecdotes: Part 5

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. Catch all the Notes & Anecdotes here

  • Our host sister Amal and her husband Said opened up a new hanut (little store)! This is ridiculously exciting for so many reasons. Said lost his last job because of a physical injury and the family’s been hurting financially for a while. Inshallah this means stability for them and their kids.
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Fatine, her dad Said, and Robert at the hanut!

  • Last Wednesday, we walked to the Dar Chebab for my 5pm Advanced English class only to find that it was closed and Rahim (the key holder/mudir’s assistant) wasn’t there. My most eager student suggested we study in the garden, but everyone else was like “let’s just meet back here after Iftar.” On Friday, that student got Rahim’s number to borrow the keys to MAKE SURE the DC would be open. I just really appreciate how dedicated my students are!
  • Also, English classes have been a dream during Ramadan because none of the other classes are running, which means I GET TO USE THE ONE AIR CONDITIONED CLASSROOM! Yay!
  • We’re making more and more cool work connections. One local teacher invited Robert to give a presentation on Native American culture (and breaking harmful stereotypes), which he is really excited about.
Students from ACCESS, a program for low-income youth to learn English.

Students and teachers from ACCESS, a program for low-income youth to learn English.

  • Walking past the barbershop across the street one night, I accidentally kicked over and broke someone’s tea glass. Then I ran away from the crime scene, awkwardly shouting “smHu liya!!!” ….oops.
  • GYM UPDATE: As many of you know, we have been searching for the elusive women’s gym in our city ever since we arrived. Every person we ask insists that it does exist, but has no idea where it is/when it’s open/who operates it. Now, we’ve finally gotten a lead! It turns out that the owner/coach of the gym had a baby four months ago, right before we moved here. The women’s gym has been shut down during her maternity leave—but she’s opening it back up in September! So… more updates in September, I suppose!
  • Remember the 30,000 books we sorted last week? Yesterday, we went back to Casablanca to get our 10 boxes of books (plus 2 boxes of beautiful notebooks and 1 box of tote bags with puppy print). The entire day was a living lesson on the flexibility that PCV life requires. Originally, our friend/counterpart Meryem was going to drive us straight to the warehouse to get the books. But then her car (named Christina) ran into some issues. Mskeena Christina. So we decided that we would take the train up, and then pay a lot of money to get a grand taxi to pick up all of the boxes and drive us all the way from Casablanca to our city. We had this plan in mind all the way up until the middle of the day, when our friends Matt and Anne came to the rescue! They were also picking up books and were able to fit a good portion of our boxes in their giant van (which they were not driving, another person was… in case Peace Corps staff happen to be reading this, hhhhh). They were even able to drop the books off directly at our Dar Chebab! We called Rahim to open the door, but he told us he was going to the gym (grrrrrr men’s gyms), soooo we called our mudir, who was very confused but very helpful. (Sidenote, we forgot to tell our mudir that we were getting him a dozen giant boxes of free books… oops, gotta work on our communication.) Everything worked out on that front! Alas, we still had four giant boxes at the warehouse to pick up. Four seemed like too little to hire a grand taxi for, so we decided to haul them back the hard way. We piled them into a petit taxi, then onto a train, then onto a wagon cart, then onto another petit taxi… and finally brought them home! The train back was especially difficult. It was so crowded that we were perpetually smashed into strangers. Then some creepy drunk men showed up and tried to get all up in our business. I shouted at them and they skulked away to another compartment for a while, but kept lurking back to leer at Meryem and me. There were also a bunch of annoying babies (quote from Meryem: “If that baby comes back one more time, I’m going to punch its stupid face.” …you can see why we’re friends, hehe). But we survived and the books survived and the French class kids are going to be so delighted with them! Thank you to everyone who made this happen!!! ❤
  • Yesterday’s adventures didn’t end at the delivery of the books though… when we got home, we were looking forward to just relaxing for the evening. But then our power went out… Our landlady is on vacation, so we asked our mul hanut if he knew any electricians we could call. Asking for help for basic things is something we’ve learned a lot from here in Morocco… Back home, we’d just Google a local electrician, but that’s impossible here. Things happen at a community, face-to-face level. Anyways, our mul hanut called all the electricians on his contact list, but none answered. Then he found another guy on the street who insisted he knew something about fixing electricity (he didn’t). They worked on our fusebox for a while to no avail. We told them that we’d just deal with it tomorrow, and then we both fell asleep. Around midnight, we woke up to the sound of men shouting and throwing rocks at our window. They were shouting the name of the PCV who we replaced, who lived in this apartment before us, so we figured it was just a bunch of his old friends being annoying. Then we heard them ask a passerby, “Do you know any words in English?” After which, they began shouting, “HELLO! HOW ARE YOU! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA!” Robert realized that it might be an electrician… which it was!!! He fixed our lights, hamdullah, and everything was well again.

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

Notes & Anecdotes: Part 4

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. Catch all the Notes & Anecdotes here

  • We went back to our pre-wifi-in-house cafe to meet our tutor, and our favorite cafe guy greets us with “You guys haven’t been here for 22 days! Where have you been???” …I guess he missed us! 😀
  • There’s this one dog in town who just looooooves to lazily stroll across busy streets and to lay down in the middle of the road. He stresses us out, but it’s always a relief to catch sight of him! He hangs out downtown, which is called Centreville, so we’ve taken to calling him “Centredog” (pronounced “saunter dog.” A double entendre).
  • We’ve decided to serve chocolate milk to all of our guests who don’t want tea. It’s been very popular.
  • I found out that our mudir tore down the flyer I put up for my Intermediate English class because I left out the “alif” in the definite article on the word “Thursday” (lkhmis)… Really, dude? No leeway? Not even a little? … I mean, I could have just used a pen to draw a line in front of the word. There! An alif! Grrrr…
  • Laundry disaster the other day: it started downpouring the moment I finished washing everything, right as I was about to carry it all to the roof to dry. Aghh! Sucks extra because laundry here takes 3 times as long and 5 times as much manual labor.
  • What makes me the happiest is just hanging out with friends in town. For instance, hanging out in the forest with one of our lovely friends, Hazar (not pictured cos we don’t have her permission to post yet). We brought a “picnic” (aka takeout pizza and ice cream from the Carrefour) and had a grand ol time climbing trees and spinning on the playground equipment!
Mmmmm pizza picnic!

Mmmmm pizza picnic!

  • We finally, finally, finally have all our carte de sejour papers! In a bout of excellent efficiency, we photocopied them and notarized them in the span of an hour. The people who work at the notary office are kind-of friends. As they were stamping our papers, they complained to us that American English impossible to understand. (“British English is clearer! Why do you Americans pronounce “t”s like “d”s? Like “ledder” instead of “letter”! I can’t understand anything Obama says on the television.”)
  • But alas, we haven’t gotten them processed yet… Our Regional Manager, Fatima, came to visit us yesterday. She tried to help us get them processed, as well as finish up house rental paperwork and open our PO box. Unfortunately, an entire day of attempted errands came out to nothing thanks to various external factors. Ah well, we’ll keep trying…
  • Walking home the other day, overheard some random kid we don’t know say to his friend, “That’s Julie!” Is this awesome or freaky?
  • Ever important food updates: With the help of our new blender, we’ve been making milkshakes! So far, we’ve done mocha and peach&banana. Up next, strawberries, nectarines, cucumber/melon/orange, and watermelon!

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

Notes & Anecdotes: Part 3

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. Catch all the Notes & Anecdotes here

  • The acoustics in my classroom are so bad that I have to shout a lot, which often means that my voice is gone by the end of class. I need to practice Teacher Voice more.
  • We finally made plans to meet up with an Arabic tutor in town. Way better than us trying to keep our attention on the textbook.
  • Last Friday, our host mom made us our favorite Moroccan dish, rfissa, for lunch. This was a big deal because it was couscous Friday! On Fridays, Moroccans eat couscous for lunch. Safi. It’s tradition. It’s a woven part of the everyday week. It’s a given. So, when Mama Ryqqia told us that she was going to make us rfissa (it’s also called bormash in some parts of the country), we knew that this was proof positive that she loves us bzaf.
  • Our little neighbor girls want to hang out with us ALL THE TIME. It is both lovely and annoying. I do want them to come over every once in a while to play games and learn a little bit of English while we feed them snacks—they’re adorable. But seriously, the doorbell-ringing and door-banging is constant. We’ve even pretended not to be home a few times because we needed decompression time. We thought that our cat Mishmash would put a stop to their intrusions—most Moroccan kids we know are scared of cats—but alas, they ended up loving her. Mishmash, darn you and your irresistible cuteness.
  • We were lucky to inherit many household items from our esteemed predecessors, but we still had some important shopping to do. AKA kitchen stuff, AKA the delight of Robert’s life. Shopping for kitchen stuff makes him really happy (which in turn makes me happy because it eventually leads to Robert cooking me delicious foods, hhhh). Taking the advice of everyone we’ve asked, we’ve eschewed the weekly souk in favor of other markets: the macro, the chatayba, and the large kitchen hanuts in town. We’ve found most things Robert wants for great deals, though we’re still searching for a good chef’s knife. (As a chef’s son, Robert haaaates shoddy cooking knives.)
  • Which brings us to the next small-update—food! We can FINALLY cook for ourselves. My favorite creation so far is grilled cheese sandwiches with avocado and tomato. I even made stir-fry noodles. (Hamdullah that soy sauce and rice noodles exist in the Carrefour!) Next week, we are going to make chicken parm and bring some to our host family.
  • We attended a Project Citizen showcase at one of the private schools in town, a great networking opportunity. Private school events are awesome because they always have snacks and tea… although they did make us give a speech, arghhh. We met a new friend who is starting grad school for computer science in Massachusetts in the fall. (His mom drove us home after the showcase.) Also, the headmaster told us he wants to have a meeting about collaborating for possible programs next school year! Yessssss—we’re totally going to see if Robert’s science fair dreams or my journalism program dreams are possible. 😀
  • More Work Updates: I am loving my English classes so far! Ramadan and the end of the school year are both coming, so my schedule will no doubt morph next month. For now, I am plenty busy. I already have a rapport with my awesome students. (I can already tell which ones are the teachers’ pets and which ones are the sassy back-talkers. I adore them all!) I am extra excited because, come Autumn, I have loads of programs planned and I hope some of these students will help me. I’m sowing the seeds for them now. I’m especially looking forward to implementing creative writing classes that will lead up to the annual Write On Competition. As for Robert, he is creating curriculum for Science & Creativity classes—(going well, but lacking students. English is where the demand is.) He’s also developing some Health toolkits. Because I don’t have enough time and energy to do ALLLLL the English classes our Dar Chebab wants, he is also teaching his very first beginners’ English classes! We’re on a day-to-day figure-it-out schedule right now, but we have BIG PLANS for the future.

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie

Notes & Anecdotes: Part 2

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. 

  • Our carte de sejour journey continues. Last week, we had to go to the Ministry of Justice and Liberties in Rabat to apply for another security clearance. It all turned out well though! Luckily, Fatima—our Safety and Security Coordinator—was there to fix everything like the badass she is. As a huge plus, we were able to stop by the Information and Resource Center in the Rabat office, where M’hamed the librarian hooked us up with a pile of pages! A happy Julie requires lots and lots of books, so that in itself made the trip worth it.
Fatima, our superhero!

Fatima, our superhero!

  • I’ve been trying to study a bit of Arabic every night in between kaskrut and dinner–but one night, my host sister decided that there was a more pressing priority for my integration. So instead, we youtube searched “bride falling off amaria” and watched like twenty videos.
  • We had our first visitors! Matt and Anne live in a neighboring town and needed to come to our city to pick up their luggage. Because of the camp, we hadn’t picked ours up yet either. So we turned it into a fun exploring day!

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  • One of our host family’s favorite topics is which soap opera star looks the most like Robert. Which always turns into a conversation about how Arab he looks. Guess who is left out of this conversation, hhhhhh. 😛
  • When we’re at the café, sometimes random dudes wander in selling homemade foods. We buy one every time. Our favorite is this meat pastry thing. Is this a bad idea for our bowels? Probably… we’ll see. But who cares—they’re delicious! And at least we know they’re halal.
  • I have finally achieved the impossible. I drank enough bowls of hrira (Moroccan soup, my favorite stuff in the whole world) that NO ONE TOLD ME TO SHRB, KULI, OR ZIDI. They just all looked at me as I patted my protruding stomach and nodded approvingly.
  • We’ve found some unique strategies to deal with overly hyper kiddos.

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Love,

Julie & Robert

Notes & Anecdotes: Part 1

We don’t just want to write about the Big Things in our lives, so here we’ll share small stories and quick blips and such. 

  • We have a cafe! The qhwa ns ns is on point and there appears to be air conditioning once summer hits. The l-3asir d lavoka is a bit pricey, but we’re friends with the garsuns and the baristas now, so this place is pretty much a done deal. 🙂
  • We got our carte de sejour (legal residency cards) pictures done… and they photoshopped us! Ahahahahaha.
  • We have been pressured into being koura (what Americans call soccer) fans. “I don’t know” is apparently not an acceptable answer to “Which team do you like?” … Thus, I guess we’re now Barςa and Raja Casablanca fans… (?????)
  • There’s a guy on the Turkish soap opera who looks EXACTLY like one of my editors back in the states.
  • I have a gym buddy now! Hopefully. Our host sister Amal told me that once work settles down, she’d take me to one of the women’s gyms in town so we can work out together. I’m super excited. Poor Robert needs to find his own gym.
  • One day, these two young women came over for kaskrut. They knew a bit of English, so we were having fun talking to them in a hybrid Darija/English. Turns out, they’re both doctors at the city hospital! Robert got their numbers, of course. He’s itching to do some health volunteer work. Even if that doesn’t work out though, they’re potentially some good contacts. (I’m dreaming up a Goals for Girls workshop where Moroccan women to come talk about their careers with young girls, inshallah.)
  • We have been on a weeklong quest for strawberries. Every time we see the strawberry cart guy, we’re on our way to something important and can’t stop to get any… but when we go back, he’s gone! Every. Single. Time. We’re going to feel so accomplished when we finally buy some freakin’ strawberries.
  • Some of the new normal things in my life now: impromptu dance parties, getting applause from the whole room every time I read an advertisement or label (I got even whooping when I read the jam jar! …Dude, Arabic is hard…), hardcore stares every time I walk down the street, planning my days around when I’ll get wifi, a dozen glasses of tea every day, stuffing some TP in my pocket every time I go out just in case, looking forward to cous cous Friday every week, and socializing ten times more than I’m used to (yet feeling even more introverted as the days pass).

All our love,

Robert & Julie