Jul 25, 2010

t minus three weeks

ok ok, its been a while. time flies! Since my previous update my laptop crashed and its been tough keeping in touch with everyone online, and this blog fell by the wayside. So here's what's up in Rabat.

First off, I now know that I will be staying in Morocco for two more years as a Peace Corps volunteer! I'm going to be in Youth Development, working for the Moroccan ministry of Youth and Sports. Woooo! I can't wait to get started.

Since I have arrived in country I have visited many Moroccan cultural and heritage sites including ancient and modern mosques, ancient souks, Abasid ruins, a Roman necropolis, the Royal Palace, the National Library and Archives, archeological museums, and contemporary art exhibitions with the work of current Moroccan artists on display. Since my last update I also checked out two Moroccan music festivals: "Ganoua" North African music and Sacred music with Sufi and mystical influences. Morocco is such a culturally rich place, and is a complex mix between an Arabic/MiddleEastern/Muslim country, a modern European nation with a growing economy and infastructure, and also an African/North African "tribal" society with at least three distinct Berber languages not related to Arabic or French at all. I have also attended lectures, (hosted by the Qalam Center) on topics such as Women in Islam, Moroccan Habits and Dress, Moroccan Architecture, and Education Reform in Morocco.

One of the most gratifying and informative experiences I've had so far was a 3-day trip to a small Berber village located in the Atlas Mountains. The village population is about 15,000 people and I gained access to this remote location thanks to the help of a friendly Peace Corps volunteer who kindly invited me to visit his site. I was able to eat 2 meals with a friendly morccan family, and I also spent the day at a community center for youth, or "Dar Chabab", where I spoke with the director about current events and his work at the center. As a Youth Development volunteer I will work in a Dar Chabab also, so it was cool to get a small preview of my new job.

I have also visited a few other Moroccan cities, but with the Qalam center excursions, although I frankly stopped going on these after two tries because they were a bit too touristy and expensive. However, I've still been able to learn a lot, gaining new vocabulary and "seeing the sites" despite the obstacles. So far I've visited Essaoueria, Maraketch, Casablanca, and Meknes. Now that my language skills are better I feel comfortable making travel arrangements on my own and traveling "the Moroccan way" on the souk bus, via grand taxis, and by taking the train. My days of fully-arranged tour-bus excursions are thankfully over! Hamdullah!

Bye for now