Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sbah lxir!

Or, depending on when you’re reading this, msa lxir! (Good morning or good afternoon/evening, for those of you who don’t speak darija.)

We’re a few weeks into our seminar site at Azrou, a charmingly French-influenced city of about 50,000 a few hours inland from Rabat. Azrou is tucked into a valley in the Middle Atlas region and surrounded by mountains topped with the second largest cedar forest in the world. (Statistics like this have been thrown out to us, and I throw them forward to you without benefit of fact-checking, unless otherwise noted, so accept at your own risk.)

The weather has been absolutely lovely as well, a bit cool in the mornings and a bit stifling in the afternoons, but overall it feels perfect to my Midwestern skin. Trish and I hiked up the hill and out of town yesterday afternoon, finding a quietly pastoral view of the countryside with Azrou and the mountains beyond. Not getting much exercise right now; full days of training sessions, and evening time constraints because of Ramadan. But I can see some beautiful long hikes (and, inshallah, bike rides!) in my future.

After days of dry info sessions in Philadelphia and Rabat, it’s been a relief to finally get started on our language training. It can be a bit frustrating at times, but when I think of what I’ve already absorbed in just a few days, I’m astounded. The pressure’s off now that I know I’m not expected to be fluent by the time I move to my permanent site in December. Already using a handful of phrases in the medina, or city center, buying such necessities as phone cards and nail polish remover. I can now greet people and say goodbye and, I think, count to 100 as well as any first-grader. Swyia b swyia

Language lessons are punctuated by YD (Youth Development) training exercises and technical sessions on health, safety and cultural issues. We’ve met a few current PCVs (Peace Corps volunteers) and have started discussing gender roles in development and how to introduce SIDA (AIDS) prevention in communities where such things simply aren’t spoken of. I’m so inspired and already envioning so many possible projects – but it’s important to go into my site with a blank slate of mind and wait to hear the community’s own assessment of its needs. I have my first interview this morning with the training director to discuss my skills, strengths and experience so they can determine the best site for me.

And have I mentioned my stagemates? There are about 30 of us YD trainees, currently living in a dormlike setting (my room of five women is about the size of my bedroom back home). Collectively we have a great rapport; individually, each brings such talent and intelligence and humor to the group. I’m the only “older” volunteer in YD (no one else is over 30), but I certainly don’t feel out of place. And while I’m not getting a chance to work out much, my abs are going to be rock-hard soon from all the infectious laughter.

On Sunday we divide into groups of four and move to smaller villages for CBT (Community-Based Training: Peace Corps loves its acronyms!). We’ll be there for two weeks, continuing our language training while practicing our job skills in the dar chebab, or youth center. We’ll have our own host families and, for the first time since we gathered in Philly, our own rooms.

Internet access has been sketchy here in Azrou, and while our towns will have cybercafes, the quality of the connection may not foster great communication. And I mailed off postcards the other day, but let’s just say you shouldn’t expect much snail mail from me. Buying and mailing six postcards cost me nearly $10! Aside from overseas postage, everything of course is less expensive here. Time, however, is at a premium during training. Don’t worry when I go AWOL for stretches. I’ll be back when I can, and you can be sure I’m learning and having fun. Kulsi bixir! (Everything is fine, or, as I translate it, It’s all good!)

The view from here.

Heres a YouTube video of Azrou:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful to hear from you! You look absolutely beautiful, and quite happy. I'm super glad.