Just spent a week in my new home, a dry, warm, beautiful small village in the south of
I am already so in love with this place and look forward to doing some good work here. Originally, I’d requested a large site, but as soon as I saw it I knew this was a good fit for me. Close to a large city where I can find anything I might need and get away on the occasional weekend, but the town is very manageable and I won’t face as much harassment because everyone will know me. Even so, during my visit I got the usual leers and catcalls from (mostly) young men, and some little boys threw rocks. It’s all part of the celebrity dynamic though, and it’ll die down as soon as people get to know me.
This is a very small (population about 7,000), new town, created in the ’50s when the king sold off royal land so Berbers could create orange groves. That’s the main business, and the village is surrounded by duoars, or neighborhoods, full of orange grove workers. A lot of corn fields lie further east, and also a lot of olive trees and argan trees; argan oil is very expensive and supposedly the best for both cooking and facial products. Goats like to climb the argan trees and nibble the leaves. I’ve also seen a few camels around.
The landscape is amazing … very southwestern
The surrounding orange groves are a short bike ride away and will be a lovely, peaceful place to exercise. Apparently the youths at my dar chebab love to take long weekend bike rides, so that will be a great way to get acquainted.
The people here seem quite nice, and there’s a lot of potential for work. Besides the dar chebab where I’ll do most of my work, there’s a nedi neswi, or women’s center, that teaches life/marriage skills to young women. I hope to do some type of work there, as well as at two boardinghouses for teenagers from the duoars who live in town during the school week. Some type of girls club seems like a natural place to start; girls especially have little to do here.
My new host family is quite sweet and quite poor. They have satellite TV and Internet, but virtually no furniture. The salon (living room) has become my bedroom, which I feel badly about because the family could use the space. I sleep on a mat on the floor, wash with a bucket of warm water, and wake to the sounds of the goats and chickens living on the roof. I am trying not to be a sissy about a way of life that is normal for the vast majority of the world. I still can’t believe it sometimes, the adventure I’m having. But there are times when it’s quite difficult to adapt.
The volunteer I’m replacing was a godsend during my visit. She’s so organized and went out of her way to help me get introduced and acclimated around town. And she’s short like me, so she’s leaving me her bike and a lot of her clothes! She was the first volunteer the town has ever had, and she did a lot of good work, so I have a lot to live up to.
One highlight of last week was staying up all night with said volunteer to watch the election results roll in. They sure were able to call it quickly – it was about
Other volunteers live in several nearby sites, so I’ll have friends to hang out with on the weekends. And I’m 3 to 5 hours from
When I return for good I’ll get a post-office box set up, and then bring on the care packages! One or two Polarfleece or long sweaters would be great, but otherwise I shouldn’t need the warm clothing I’d begged for earlier. Hamdullah! A few cheap things from Target would mean the world to me. But I’m also learning to adapt to what is available here and (inshallah) what I can afford.
Language barriers will make things hard for a good while. I’ve got a line on a good tutor, an English teacher at the high school. It was inspiring to see how fluent the current volunteer is after two years; she swears that when she first arrived, she was as tongue-tied as I am now.
Nervous as hell about returning and negotiating my new life without being able to communicate easily. But I am truly thrilled with the location, I can see innumerable (that’s for the Bookstore Maven!) opportunities for working with people here, and I can already see ahead six months to when this will truly feel like home.
Swearing in is Nov. 20, two days after my 41st birthday. Hard to believe this new life less than two weeks away.
Photos from my new village.