Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Return

It has been several months now since I've returned to america and so far, more or less, it's been good.

Things are still shiny- I still get disproportionally excited about a big delicious cup of coffee or a 2 dollar taco or my beautiful new bra's and all they do for me.

Simultaneously a lot and very little has happened since my return. The holidays happened which were incredible and difficult. Incredible because I finally got to celebrate with family and friends and difficult because they had to live up to the expectations I have built up over 2 years in Morocco.

I got a part time job at a gas station and had to work christmas day, and as a child of school teachers I had no true way to deal with working on a holiday I had always had free my whole life.

I had to quit the part time gas station job because my body doesn't like standing still for 9 hours straight. It was sort of a disappointment. I kind of liked the work. I was busy most of the work day, I got to talk to lots of different people, the cash register was like a real-life Iphone game. I could see myself owning a little corner store like that some day (clearly with a different focus then 99 cent toquito's and frozen pizza's though). Often when I'm home I feel like I have no friends, because I have no social circle that remains here and I just sit at home feeling lonely – working at a place where more or less everyone has to stop meant that I got to see old teachers, classmates and got to make new friends. So on one hand while I continue to nurse my cranky upper back, I am grateful for my time there and I have a new found respect for people who work at places like that, standing all day on stupid mats that are supposed to help- by the way- every other country I've been to lets their tellers sit down.

Some things have been confusing me since being home. I'm not sure how I feel about wearing leggings and nothing over top of them especially in the winter time, though I've found some longer shirts that make me feel less exposed and I will probably jump on that bandwagon.
I am confused by commercials, though the more TV I watch the less ridiculous they seem. However, for the first 2 months commercials felt alien to me. The flashy BS that shows ridiculous juxtapositions between what we should want and how we should look and act confused me. Why do we need all this stuff? I will admit, though, that I watched some of the super bowl commercials the other day online- it's absurd how quickly these 30 second to 1 minute absurdities hawking cars and soda's and banks and a plethora of superfluous shenanigans become normal.

I don't know if this has been a natural progression for me or if I just expect more from my country after being in a country with so little infrastructure and work for its 'common man'; but one of the things that has been most upsetting and difficult for me to understand is what people are willing to do and not do for their jobs. I am having a lot of trouble understanding why a community of workers would accept not taking lunch breaks or smoke breaks or why we as a society accept how little some people are paid and how much they are expected to work. This year people had to choose between spending Thanksgiving with their families or making extra money and working at a box store so we consumers could get “good deals” a few hours earlier. WTF. I'm confused why there is so little opportunities for people to work and get paid enough to survive and why we still accept that sick people should have to go bankrupt to get the care they need. This is a whole other topic entirely but I'm also confused why people don't realize that big change takes time and is going to be messy (this is specifically in regards to the health care system that is being overhauled through the affordable care act).

America isn't so different from when I left it- sure the cracker aisle of the supermarket looks pretty different, there's more types of Arizona Iced tea but I think as a whole I feel like I'm back - capital “H”- Home. I love the Berkshires and the things the people of this community are working to achieve. I go to a monthly barter market, I've met young farmers and homesteaders, young professionals and motivated community builders, there's beautiful and welcoming public spaces and delicious restaurants with thoughtful menus, open mic nights and contra dances. It seems to me that at least here people are working towards things I value- community, sustainability, and building up local products and traditions. I love the Berkshires- to me it seems like the perfect middle ground between country and city- there's hiking, and lots of nature but there's still concert venues, an arts and entertainment industry and you can easily get to metropolitan area's by bus or train. I don't know if I'll ever truly be able to afford to live here full time- but we'll see.

I do miss Morocco a lot- I miss having my own house, I miss my town being a compact little thing that means I can walk everywhere. As much as I love having all the groceries I could want available to me all the time I miss my weekly souk and buying vegetables by the kilo and walking home with them in my hiking pack. I miss how connected I felt to people. I miss the freedom of interacting with people on my own time, instead of theirs. I miss my site mate, my stajmates, my Peace corps and moroccan friends, I miss the sunsets and the mountains and public transportation.

I do not miss doing laundry by hand, being cold inside during the winter and having to feel anxiety about how I dressed and how I interacted with men. I love the individual freedoms I have here and how I can express myself how I choose once again- I love talking about things like hetero normative values and environmental sustainability. I love the familiarity and history I have with people and old friends and how easy it is to talk to people. I love the value Americans give to independences and uniqueness and creativity. I'm totally adrift about what I want to do and how I want to fit in here long term- but I am really thankful to be home.



Here's some pictures of my last few months being home and how I feel about America:


Beer and Iphones- AMERICA! 

Goodnight Moon! America appreciates literature

individual freedoms- we have them. 

mom and I had a table at a craft fair- we sold very little, but it was fun to be in my elementary school and see local people I used to see often. 

New york city in the snow- pretty awesome. 

new years day hike with good friends. 

snow is my favorite. It is gorgeous here. I'm getting to go cross country skiing once again! 

live music? heck yes!! Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams less then 30 minutes from my house. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

my list post

so... things are definitely winding down here. I'm starting to say goodbye to people. I've had to start thinking of things as my 'last'. It's weird to consider that two years are almost over. next week I need to start packing my house over to my site mates and in 9 days I get on a bus to check out in rabat and then in 13 days I board a plane and head home. Holy Cow. This is obviously a highly complicated time so I thought I'd keep this post a little less rambly and a little more cut and dry. so here's that. enjoy!


Things I am going to miss about morocco
-       The kindness and generosity of strangers here
-       How people just give you things for free all the time
-       How little kids need to be entertained ( ie piece of carboard, rocks, candy wrappers) and how parents/adults don’t feel the constant need to be shoving entertainment in kids faces
-       How total strangers will often share food or cold water with you on a hot day or a long trip
-       Sleeping outside in my courtyard for most of the year
-       Going shopping at weekly souks
-       Fruits that are hard to come by stateside- fresh figs, fresh dates, excessive amounts of pomegranates, cactus fruit and fresh apricots (that come with the added bonus of being called mish mash)
-       How being a vegetarian finally pays off ( meat should be more expensive than produce people! )
-       The food- especially Cous cous, msimin/milwi (ie fried bread) and rfisa
-       Donuts and bread and all sorts of other random stuff available for next to nothing on the street
-       Having my own kitchen and having the time to cook and experiment
-       Having my own house
-       How people aren’t plugged in all the time
-    When interacting with teenagers especially girls - I like how in morocco body image and self esteem aren't the first issues that come up. It's really liberating 
-       Knowing people in town- ie my veggie guy, my cookie ladies, my taxi guy etc…
-       Having time to do excessive amounts of crafts
-       Doing yoga in my courtyard
-       The stars! And the meteors/shooting stars
-       Not being stressed about time or money generally speaking
-       Public transportation, cheap taxis and being able to walk places

Things I am not going to miss about morocco

-       F*%#ing flies
-       The water going out for many hours and/or days at a time
-       Sharing water bottles and water glasses with anyone and everyone
-       People coughing on me/ people not covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough
-       The way adults physical discipline children
-       Lack of trash/litter infrastructure and etiquette ie people just throwing trash everywhere.
-       People throwing up on public transport
-       People invading my personal space on public transport
-       Unwanted attention/harassment
-    Ryals- I hate doing math to go shopping- royals are not a real currency just use dirhams!
-       Not having all the produce I may want at any given time
-       Shitty internet
-       How people let their cell phones ring loudly and for a long time and also just pick it up whenever they choose for example when we are in the middle of a conversation, while they are driving a very crowded taxi etc etc… (but the Christmas ring tones are great, I personally have heard silent night, jingle bells, frosty and rudolph)
-       People taking craft projects out of my hands or bag to work on them…. I do not share my crafts well.
-       Having to “dance monkey dance” every time I need to do simple things such as shopping (ie bargaining ) or having to deal with my mumbling incomprehensible bank/post office guy for 30 minutes just to take out my money
-       Being constantly asked about my child and marital status.
-       Feeling anxious about what I wear every time I leave the house
-       Paying 1/3rd of my rent for a bottle of booze

 Things I am looking forward to Stateside
-       Trees!
-       Hiking trails
-       Getting to dress however I want and not feeling too weird about it
-       The accessibility and ease of things- ie no one giving a shit (no harassment)
-       Big cups of delicious coffee
-       Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, and Indian food- let’s be honest how much variety there is in food
-       Intentional vegetarian cuisine- not just a meal that’s been cooked without meat
-       Living in a more secular culture again
-       Better craft supplies ( I cannot wait until my first shopping trip to a yarn store- it’s going to get crazy!) 
-       Heating and hot showers
-       Simple meals and the novelty of cooking things from scratch instead of always having to cook things from scratch
-       No one paying me excessive unwanted attention
-       The familiarity

-       Family and Friends!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

hahah. oops. yeah. i haven't updated in forever.


As it has recently been brough to my attention it has been months since I last updated my blog. I believe this is because I have settled into the “norm” of my life in morocco, and as a result forget that you all aren’t over here with me and as a result have no idea what’s going on with my life.

In the past three months I have experienced another Ramadan (filled with breaking fast with my host family and friends here in site as well as making my own delicious smoothies and lots and lots of figs) . I also got to visit my host family in fez again, scored intermedieate mid on my Arabic language skills, crocheted like a mad woman , worked 2 separate camps, made a pretty basket bag, attended my close of service conference, and just generally hung out, finished the lord of the rings books, ate good food, cooked some new food and watched a few good movies and tv shows.

My service is winding down. At my count I only have 43 days left in morocco or something in that ballpark. I officially fly out of morocco on the morning of November 14th and I ‘ve already started assembling my baggage, and considering what will and wont try and get crammed into my bag to come back home with me, and what will stay to be hopefully enjoyed by another volunteer.

I want to do a list post in the near future about things that I love and will miss about morocco, as well as things I’m looking forward to when I return home. But this Is not that post. I want to put some thought into that one, and this post is mostly just to let you all know that I am still alive and update you a little bit about my life.

The summer was hot- 101 degrees in my house every day for 2 weeks hot. I put my travel clock/thermometer in the sun for 5 minutes and it jumped up to 112 degrees, so to say the least I was quite warm. I took lots of naps. I covered myself with wet sheets, and slept restlessly. Ramadan was an enjoyable time (despite the heat) and I was able to spend time both alone and with people in my community. After breaking fast one night with a friend I got accidentally moroccoed and ended up cleaning a friends house for several hours with a large group of women. I didn’t realize that was what I was going to be doing, and it was muggy work pushing water from the roof to the garage, but it was with some wonderful people and it was actually surprisingly fun, and I got cous cous after…. Anything can be made better with cous cous. (something I am seriously going to miss when I leave, and before you say it, the cous cous available in the states isn’t the same)
Ramadan was also my time of yoga (which because of travels and camps has fallen out of habit) I loved doing yoga everyday in my courtyard and even got to see some shooting stars while holding triangle. I am really excited to build on my practice, and I figure 5 weeks on of yoga, 5 weeks off (now more like 7 oops) and when I get back home I can go to yoga classes as well.

I also got to attend a friends wedding over here-  it was fun. Moroccan/Berber weddings are really interesting and filled with traditions and practices I still don't really understand, and no one seems to be able to explain fully. But I got to wear my jlaba’s got some henna done and did a lot of floor sitting. After 10 hours or so of sitting on the ground my body felt like it had been sent through the dryer with rocks in it, but it recovered , and as it was only my second , and probably , last wedding in morocco I still had a lot of fun.

It’s weird being so close to the end. I’m calling this my “shiny” period, and as my friend sarah has said, nostalgia is a powerful thing. This close to the end it’s easy to forget all the times I felt insignificant, useless, full of doubt and wondering what I was even doing here. I’m at a point where things that might have annoyed me 5 months ago are just morocco being morocco and I’m enjoying them for what they are (oh… you don’t know when the vacation is for your biggest holiday because you don’t actually know what day that holiday is yet that is 13  or so days away… oh… morocco… ha ha….. the time is changing, oh just kidding it’s not… daylight savings is totally arbitrary… oh morocco. Etc etc) so that’s kind of fun. It’s ridiculous that 2 years is almost over, and I guess I’m older and wiser but who knows if that’s actually true. Peace corps says that it is  "the hardest job you'll ever love" and I don’t know how I feel about that saying- but I will say that I have loved my time in morocco, and I’m going to miss it mightily. At this moment I’m not really ready to leave, but I am also ready to be home.
2 years feels simultaneously an eternity and a blink- but I think the timing is perfect. The sine wave that is the emotional roller coaster of this journey is definitely ending at the top of the hill, where I can look back fondly on the peaks and valleys of these last 27 some months.


Sorry for the radio silence, and enjoy some random pictures from the last few months! And look forward to another post in the nearer future.

making my basket bag at the girls craft camp

the view from the roof (ie my bedroom) at the leadership camp

a picture from last year, teaching the alphabet in my mumu

doing yoga with the girls at the craft camp

the 28 remaining pcvs at our cos conference, we are an attractive bunch

metal and mosque 

look at that view

i ended up singing with the band at a bar in rabat. i disappointed because I don't know any bob marley songs....  but it was still fun

Sunday, June 30, 2013

summer is upon us. for reals.




Summer is once again upon is and I find myself planted in front of my fan wearing as little clothing as possible, turning my computer off midday to keep it from overheating and I take long naps with a wet sheet covering me. It is notably hotter this summer then it was last summer, the hottest it ever got in my house last year was 97 degrees, and yesterday we banked in at 99- when it gets that hot, really all I have the energy to do is sleep. While I never took naps in college, or partook of the midday siesta’s at camp they have become wildly important  to my summer schedule here in morocco. Naps always made me feel lazy and like I’d wasted a huge part of my day, but culturally I’m in good company- most everyone else in my town sleeps through the hottest times of the day as well. If you want bread or milk at 2:30 pm you are shit out of luck my friend- everything is closed and most people are taking their typical afternoon snooze. The nice thing about taking a nap (for most of the) midday means that you can stay awake comfortably when the sun goes down, the breeze picks up and it becomes way more comfortable to be alive.

Nothing much new has happened here, classes are officially over at my youth center, we held a little “party” with the last 2 students standing on Friday which mostly involved us doing the coke or pepsi taste test, playing guitar eating cookies and then them showing off their kung fu and “parkour” skills.

I’ve decided that this will be my summer of betterment- which means I am actively (and happily) working out every day- I’ve been rotating between some biggest loser dvds  I bought before I left and some yoga videos. I love being back to a point where I crave my exercise and feel like my day is empty without it. I love building onto my yoga practice and it feels nice to feel strong in my body again. Morocco can be very lazy. While I do walk everywhere, it’s a lot of walking then sitting. Sitting then more sitting then some more walking. I’m pretty sure most of my muscles have atrophied past the point of health so its time to kick my own ass back into shape, and yoga is such a great way to do it. It is a little on the hot side, but I figure I paid 30 bucks to do bikram in America, and the temperature at my house is almost that hot, so might as well do some hot yoga for free!

I am currently in zagora to work a camp, that was very moroccoed in its architecture and setup. It was a surprise camp, no one knew it was happening until yesterday afternoon when me and another volunteer were frantically drafted to help. We showed up in zagora this morning, and made our way to the house of the volunteer where we are staying. Because she is traveling she left her key with her local store/hanut guy. When we showed up, he wasn’t there. So in a very Moroccan fashion we knocked on his door and confused his poor daughter into letting us keep our bags in their living room while we went to souk/the weekly market to pick up some food for the week. Mashi mushkil (no problem) the guy was back upon our return and apologized profusely, but really it was no big deal. (I realize how wonderful morocco is that it was no big deal that I just left my belongings in a strangers house then walked away for an hour or so to go buy veggies). Now we are settled in with the internet, waiting until it cools down so we can meet with our manager/boss guy. So, very un-American of me to be as calm as I am when less then 24 hours before this camp is meant to start I still have no idea when it is, where it is, what I’m doing, how many kids there will be, lets be honest I LITERALLY have next to no information. I think morocco is having a good influence on me.

As I was sitting waiting for the taxi today I have learned that while I still can be highly anxious and easily frustrated by many things I have gained so much patience. Before morocco I don’t know how relaxed or laid back I would have been about sitting on the curb just chilling with nothing to do until 6 more people decided to go the same direction as me. I definitely would not have been ok with my bag being in a stranger’s house and walking away from it and I would absolutely unequivocally not be ok with this work situation. I’m really thankful for the things morocco has given to me and I’m hoping that I will be able to carry some of it back to the states with me.


So that’s it for now I think, here’s some random pictures from the last few months.

on of my ladies threading beads for her bead crochet. 
me and my lovely site mate tiffany in traditional n'kob garg

one of my favorite things about bigger cities is that you can buy pre-cooked chick peas and fava beans. yum! 

souk 
apricots and plums!

a pretty door in my friends site

 you can kind of see under the right wing that there is a baby bat under there! they had gotten trapped in my big room one night and while they took me by surprise  i know they made their way back to their home in the rafters above my stairs. i also have baby birds living on my stairs- literally i have no idea where their nest is meant to be, and they are literally just cozied up into the corners of my stairs at night.  they're so young i can get right up to them and look at them from less then a foot away and they just stare back. 
reflections in the palmerie

carbohydrate fiesta! we had our closing day party at our women's center and everyone brought their own type of bread, personally i made banana bread with chocolate. 

i washed my bracelets in bleach, they needed it. 

danger guys and girls, we now have a full time donut guy in town. while they aren't the best donuts i've had in morocco they are now available to me all the time. luckily during the summer, i don't often walk down that way.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

long time no write


In my head this blog post is going to be witty and on point and interesting for everyone to read. In reality this will probably just be another rambly account of my pretty boring life.

Something I will talk about briefly is nesting- or at least my experience of it.

While meeting the group of new volunteers I have a tendency to say that " I like living in morocco, because I've never lived anywhere before" someone was confused and asked me what that meant- and what that means that as a touring or seasonal worker I, more often then not am living with the people I work with- sure Saint Mike's Playhouse is in Winooski, but with only a few days or afternoons off here and there I never really got to see Burlington or Winooski. At camp, I would never ever trade the idyllic little place I call home for 3 months each summer, but I am not living in Raymond or Portland, I am living at camp, a temporary community we create for ourselves. Even in college, we were a temporary and time-framed community of people, being a residential campus I never really left, and when I did, it was for my seasonal summer work or family vacations. On the other end of this crazy time framed lifestyle I did live and grow up in the same place, I still run into classmates in teachers whenever I go home, but it's not the same.

Morocco is the first time I have had my own house, my own kitchen, my own wardrobe (and not just a suitcase). I have my regular grocery store, and the regular place I buy my bread, I walk by places and I know their names, and they know mine. I feel like I'm part of the community, I go home at the end of a day, or trip to the store and get to sleep in my bed, I get to cook food in my kitchen. As much as I love travelling and moving around and my seasonal life style I have fallen in love with my nesting love affair with being somewhere. As a result of this I have not done a lot of travelling while I've been in morocco. first off it's a pain in the butt to get out of town and then an even bigger pain in the butt to get over the mountains, imagine every time you wanted to go on vacation you needed to spend 6 hours in a bus going over round up and down a bajillion mountains. So there's that. I've already told people that I know I'm going to regret no travelling more in my time here, because tickets to get back are expensive, but I guess as long as I already know that's how I'm going to feel, then it's ok. Also I'm totally dependent on my current dirham (not dollar) income, so no international trips for me, at least not until I leave.

Dont worry all of you out there who have this image of me just sitting in my house crocheting and going for walks around town for the next 6 months. I do have plans to travel, just nothing to crazy and nothing too far. My goal this summer (which might be a crazy however well intended one) is to try and visit people in my region- I say this is crazy because it's wicked hot here in the summer and travelling isn't fun and it's illogical to go even further south as the temperatures rise.  I'm hoping to hike mount toubkal (the tallest mountain in north africa) this month, as well as visit a friend, and then I have plans for the end of august, and then our close of service conference in september. I just need to figure out july, maybe I'll get myself to a beach, or create a beach in my courtyard. We shall see.

In other news a few weeks ago we had our regional meeting where I finally got to meet the other new volunteers in my region- the new culture/environment the new volunteers have created is much more positive and energetic then the one I came in on I think, so that's fun. We had a nice day in a pretty hotel doing model UN and talking about local activities and projects and then went to one of the movie studios, touting such films as Asterix and Obelix Anthony and Cleopatre (my favorite french comedy), jewel of the nile and some others- other things filmed in morocco were game of thrones (check out episode 7 or 8- that's my region and contains lots of berber symbols!) salmon fishing in the yemen, the then commandments, the mummy and tons more. It was cool to see the studio, though it was kind of falling apart.

The only other thing occupying my time has been crochet. My goal this summer is to make a blanket, and I'm a little bit around 1/3rd of the way there. It's been fun, and I love having a big project/goal.

so that's it for now- maybe I'll actually try and update more regularly. we shall see, so many empty promises.

game of thrones, possibly quarth?
just getting to know a statue

me in asterix and obelix! egypt or something
me and a bag that i made when i decided i didn't want to use it for my blanket

me and my yarn
the beginnings of my blanket


all of my squares are finished!!!! 

the circles and flowers
raised flowers

granny squares
flowers!!!! so cute. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

the trip with the fam!


So this blog post is long overdue and I am really sorry about that- I had actually written a blog post before my parents came, but my internet ran out before I could post it, maybe I’ll post it up but it’s kind of out of date.

As some of you may or may not know the most difficult time of my service (thus far and hopefully all around ) was the time following my trip to America. I was legitimately bummed out and pretty unhappy, and I would be lying to if you I hadn’t been worried I would fall back into the melancholic pit that was the month of September after my family visited. Thankfully that was not the case! Getting to see Morocco through the eyes/experiences of my family made me love and appreciate this country even more. Morocco was on its best behavior, no angry drivers, pickpockets or harassers (minus one guy who yelled "condom" at us in the medina of Marrakech)  instead my family got to experience what I have come to love here. I realized I had taken for granted/ just expected the generosity and kindness and hospitality of Moroccans as a whole- getting a handful of dates, a bundle of mint, an invitation for food or free cookies  from friends and strangers is totally normal for me- but it was really touching to see happen for the first time for my mother and father. When things like that happened my mother said “this would never happen in New York!” and I’m hoping to keep that in mind upon my return to the states, hopefully I won’t become known as the creepy dreadlocked lady who invites strangers in her house all the time for food and tea- but for reals the generosity and the amount that people share here is something that America could benefit from.

So now onto the trip!


the square from the side 
After a 2.5 hour line at customs mom and jack finally made it out of the Marakesh airport in our rental car- Mom and Jack killed it driving, and Kesh is not an easy place to be a passenger let a lone a driver- luckily our hotel was close by and super nice! Also within the first 45 minutes of them being on sovereign Moroccan soil I was asked twice about my unmarried relationship status. The fam got a great price on the hotel stateside and they only charged me 30 bucks or so to crash and even brought me up a bed. We got free tea, delicious snacks (that I actually think we were meant to pay for) and were even serenaded upon our arrival by a skinny French lady in a gold sparkly dress singing some jazz- it was all very fancy and NOTHING like being here as a PCV, we weren’t allowed to carry our bags, I was afraid to touch things, the food menu had things on it that cost more then I spend on groceries in a month. I told the ladies at the front desk that they might have to remove me forcibly because that shower was AWESOME. I jumped them into morocco head first by dragging us to the Marakesh center Jmee El fnaa- which was BUMPING. Because of the school break everyone and their brother, their cousin, their cousins wife and kids and mothers and grandmothers and everything in between were in Marakesh ( I know of at least 5 people from site who went to ‘Kesh during the break)- but I was told there was delicious tagine to be had at a legitimate price so we braved the crowd. I think Jack got a little overwhelmed, but it was cool to see it at night and so busy. Morocco is definitely a country worth listening to, especially in the square . 




















some of the marakesh medina
The next morning mom and I kind of ditched Jack and took an early morning adventure into the old Medina, and while not everything was open good god is Marakesh incredibly pleasant at 8am- if you are overwhelmed by cities get a good early start in the morning and you’ll have the old medina to yourself. We started the day with a very Moroccan breakfast of café ns-ns, Milwil/msmin and avocado juice- and while mom was a little skeptical of the bright green liquid placed in front of her, she was a convert just like the rest of us! We got to do some shopping; I got to show off my baller bargaining skills (and was only slightly ripped off). After our shopping trip we began the climb in our Air Conditioned car over the tishka pass. 

the very quiet morning in the medina


buying nuts for our car ride! 


















I will admit that renting a car was my idea, and a selfish one. I have gone over the tishka so many gd times and every time it’s zooming by on a bus, we probably could have chartered taxis just as easily and have come out a little under the cost of the car but having the freedom of a vehicle made the trip so much less stressful (at least for me). Mom and jack both did a great job on the Tishka, and we were able to stop for fossils, pictures and much needed pee breaks. 

A storks nest on a mineret
a nice vista


our car and an amusing road sign

one of the many stone/earth villages along the pass. 


the waterfall across the mountains after the "layer cake " section of the tishka

at the top of what i call the "layer cake section" 

Unfortunately for the fam, the managed to be here during the HOTTEST week of the year thus far, dude it was a crazy heat wave 100 plus degrees- this time last year I was still wearing a sweater/flannel to keep me warm during the day. Literally the day after they left it dropped almost 20-40 degrees (though  that is now no longer true).


mom coming down a set of stairs in n'kob
OK back to the trip- we spent the next 2 days hanging out in N’kob- this was the chillaxin part of the trip, we went for walks around town, the palmerie, played scrabble, ate food of my own creation (pizza and tagine). We also, of course, visited my buds the cookie ladies and my host family the bounty of gifts mom and I stressed over in tow. I think the hot pads/ oven hot hands confused people but were appreciated nonetheless. We also got a very enthusiastic science talk from my friend Brahim who is an amateur archeologist.  Having my parents here made me feel good about my integration here, while I watched my family squirm uncomfortably as we sat awkwardly in one place or another I realized how normal it felt for me to just hang out on a stuffed flour sack on the side of the road with a group of ladies speaking a language I didn’t understand.  


old dude carrying a shovel

















a lady near my house making bread in the traditional oven! 

the oldest kasbah in nkob

the watchtower and jack

me at the watchtower

mom and I at the watchtower

pizza in my kitchen!!!!

After N’kob we went out to Erfoud/Merzouga for
our camel trek, which was the part I was most looking forward to. Thank god we had AC because the trip was hot and long, and probably the most boring landscape ever, hundreds of miles of hot scorched rocks with a few mountains and scrubby plant life here and there (including the cabbage tree! My favorite.) Mom’s guide book mentioned a fossil museum with free admission so we decided to check that out. I was dubious about the legitimacy/fanciness of this supposed museum but I was thoroughly impressed and totally fascinated by all the spcemins on display. Most common were trilobites and ammonites, but there were also crinoids and stars and all sorts of other cool stuff, so many fossils! And so many of them from right around the museum. 







As you all may or may no know two of Peace Corps goals for volunteers is the exchange of culture back and forth- and while as a PCV I’ve made a point to become part of my community sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re doing it more for your own benefit then anyone elses- you start asking questions like “does anyone really care?” and “do they actually want me here?” It’s easy to get wrapped up in this cloud for quite a time, but while we were at the museum I definitely felt like what I was doing meant something to people- the museum guide/leader who was fluent in 5 languages found us while we were browsing and offered us a ‘backstage tour’ telling me he wanted to show us how they did things and give us a discount at the shop (20-40% on everything geez!)  because how important it was that I was there to “learn about their culture” – people were also impresses when I told them my town, which I’m learning has a bit of a reputation for being mskin (sad/poor ) . Our impromptu guide took us into the initial cleaning room where boxes and boxes of rocks were piled high along the walls with fossils waiting to be uncovered by the little metal dentists drill. Then he took us to the professional workshop- equipment and training provided, I believe, by a partner located in Arizona. Then they took us into the flashy room where they kept the expensive stuff as well as special commission and museum pieces. It was cool to see creatures that were 300 million years old that looked like they were still in motion under the prehistoric ocean. We went a little banana’s at the gift shop and filled up on ammonite shells and keychains, a gorgeous crinoid for jack and all other sorts of gifts for ourselves and people at home. I will admit before this trip I was pretty ambivalent about fossils, but I’m now pretty excited about all of it, also it turns out the guy who did planet earth came and did an piece about the fossils in the area, so I’m definitely going to check that out! 

Still buzzing from our fossil purchases and exciting excursion back in time we made our way to a restaurant for some food before heading out on out camel trek. We ordered cous cous and I’m disappointed in the fact that that was the cous cous my family had over here because I love couscous so much! But it wasn’t all bad. After we met up with our driver/ guide who took us in his 4x4 over glorified ruts in the desert to the auberge in Merzouga. We had some tea, and chilled by the pool for an hour until the temps went down a bit and then headed out to our camels! Our guide Hassan (I think) wore his sahara blue jlaba thing and a bright turban and led us out into the desert. The dunes were gorgeous and made me miss my days in lighting design, there were so many blues and purples mixed in with the expected oranges and whites and yellows of the desert. It was so cool riding along on a camel into the Sahara. We arrived at our campsite, which was a little sandless valley among the dunes that was actually a bed of fossilized coral. For being out in the desert it was super swanky; nomad tents with full on mattresses, western toilets, hot showers and electricity. We shared the campsite with three French dudes who were a little rowdy, but in a very French way. In typical Moroccan fashion we were given tea and peanuts upon arrival and hung out then were stuffed with food – a salad/veggie plate, tomato stewed beef a GIANT tagine with some of the best eggplant I’ve had in this country followed by fruit and dates finally followed by a campfire and some drums and music. The moon and stars over the dunes were incredible and mom and both witnessed a star go out/die which was crazy! I’m glad she saw it too otherwise I would have thought I was crazy. Suddenly this star in the sky got really really bright then just faded away. In a way, that day was time travel day between the fossils and the star we traveled back in time (and space! ).

In the morning we were woken up to catch the sunrise over the desert which was a beautiful (however early) start to the day. Then we settled down for a very Moroccan breakfast of juice and coffee and bread and olives with butter and jam and olive oil. After breakfast we headed back out of the desert astride our camels- in case you were wondering camels sound like a combination of Chewbacca and a gurgling drain. Our ride back was uneventful and pleasant, not too hot because of the early start. After we exited the desert our driver met us in his 4x4 and took zooming back over the more mars like desert landscape. He had heard us talking excitedly about fossils so on the way back stopped us off at this small field area where they mined for the bigger pieces for tabletops and counters and other household items. This was literally a field of fossils, never in my life would I have thought I could just bend over and pick up something that lived 300 million years ago in the OCEAN, but that’s what we did. At first the driver left the engine idling then realized that we were all to entranced crawling around picking up fossils that he turned his car off. Before we left we were swarmed with a few guys holding polished fossils in old display boxes and mom bought two gorgeous ammonites and jack bought this long spiney guy whose name I forget. Our guide also assisted us in buying some dates on our return to Erfoud and I’m talking the big money show pony dates- these puppies weren’t the shriveled up 1.5inch things I can get here but dates the size of a babies fist that were absolutely delicious. In another example of  the generosity here our guide invited us over for  a tagine lunch and so we drove along the road towards errachidia to look at the palmeries and earth towns of the ziz valley to pass the time.

We made it back to N’kob that night and prepared mom and jacks baggage which mostly involved the very difficulty decision-making process of what rocks would be going back stateside. 

The next morning we stopped off for some bread from the cookie ladies and some laughing cow triangles and made our way back over the tishka. We spend the night with my love Sarah Quinn who took us around Tamslohte’s zowei/ancient religious school. We hung out at the café and ate some cliff bars, and made some chicken tagine. Bright and early the next morning we packed back into the rental car and made our way back to the airport.

            It was hard saying goodbye and the trip definitely could have been longer. But it was amazing to be able to share the place I’ve been calling home for over a year with people I love.