Hey gang, what's up? Just giving a heads up, and letting everyone know that I'm alive. Here's a few highlights of recent events that are reflected in the latest log updates. (Oh, and there's 100+ new pictures from this trip on the website now!)
-Narrowly avoiding a mauling by a local dog
-Getting an official reprimand from the Peace Corps (oops)
-Playing with scorpions
-Hail, rain, and mud mud mud in the mountains
-And much more, as always, see the details and pictures on the site here:
For those who want an in-depth write up of life here, it's posted bellow. The impatient should skip on to the pictures on the site
All the best folks,
A day in the life of Peace Corps training:
4 nights and 5 days a week we're in CBT (Community-Based-Training) where we live with a host family that doesn't speak any English, and get 10 hours language training per day. There are 4 to 5 volunteers at each CBT and there are, I think 6 of them. I'm in a remote mountain village called Ait M'Hamd. My host family lives 4k outside of the village on a donkey trail through the hills. It's a really pretty area just 30ks from one of the largest parts of the High Atlas mountain range. The snow-capped peak of Mt. Azurkee looms on the South-Eastern horizon. The East and South are flanked by smaller white-topped ridges, with distant, high-rolling hills completing the landscape. It's semi-arid, meaning trees, bushes and crops grow out of the rocks and mud for a short growing period. There's been a lot of rain there of late, so it will be greening up quite a bit soon, but I don't expect it to last long. Even now you can flip over rocks and find scorpions crawling about.
A typical day at CBT starts at 6:45, with me rising from a concrete floor covered only by a rug and a thin bit of felt. I have breakfast with my family, trying to communicate basic ideas, such as "no, I really only want one cup of coffee, not 3" and "Thanks, but I've had enough heavy-grain bread to last me a while, I don't need to eat any more just now." At 7:20 (Sbah oo arba) I walk the 200 meters to the host-family of another volunteer, Ali where I have a second breakfast if I can't talk them out of it. At the very least I'm required to drink tea. When we finally convince Ali's family that we've had enough to eat and we're late, we begin our 45 minute walk into town. If we're lucky it's dry, if not we slide down a hill and finally make it into class with 30lbs of caked mud on our boots.
In class we continue to work on the Berber dialect of Tamazighet. So far it's the hardest language I've had to learn. There is next to no structure for anything so for every noun you have to remember singular and plural. For every verb you have to remember which past conjugation to use, and whether stem changes, then, for present you have to remember the infinitive and continuous infinitive forms, oh, and did I mention you have to remember a 4th form of the verb because negotiating the verb changes the stem? Oh, yeah, if your direct object is a pronoun it becomes part of the verb, shoved in the middle somewhere. After this, teaching myself more Russian is going to be a piece of cake!
During class we take advantage of the running water and electricity that we lack in our host families, washing clothes and charging cameras and such.
It's 6pm when we finally finish with class, and to make it home by dark (as required by Peace Corps) we have to leave immediately. We take our 45 minute hike home, and after climbing our final hill, Ali and I have tea at her house. Let me adjust that, Ali has tea and I do my best impression of a jungle gym as all of Ali's young host-sisters climb on me. Her host father and brother are almost never home, so I'm the only male figure that shows up. The slightest bit of silliness becomes a great source of entertainment for everyone involved, save Ali, who looks on, trying to figure out what the joke was.
Eventually, (usually when retrieved by one of my host brothers) I head home, and try to avoid my family's very aggressive dog. We sit around the wood-stove in a common room and talk, or if I have any new pictures, we look over those on the laptop until dinner comes out. It's usually what's called a Tajine which is a meal where the meat is in the center, surrounded (buried) by veggies such as potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes in a broth. It's served in a brown ceramic dish with a cone top that is removed to reveal the food. Hunks of flat bread are passed around and that bread is your only utensil. You use the bread (with your right hand) to scoop up the broth and veggies. Once you've gone through most of the veggies, the head of the family pulls the meat out of the middle and passes it out (always giving me the biggest piece). As with everything else in this country, dinner is a negotiation, and even when I win the argument, I feel stuffed 10 times over.
When I finally convince people that I need to stop eating and sleep, it's usually 11 or so. I do my best to sleep through the bedbugs or whatever is chewing on me mercilessly throughout the night, and all too soon it's time to start the cycle over.
On Saturday after a morning of language class, all of the volunteers at the CBT sites pack up and head back to the training compound in Tanant. Once there we have access to soft beds, electricity, and HOT SHOWERS! Saturday evening and Sunday are free for us, and are usually spent playing soccer or whatnot, and on Sunday taking a 40km taxi ride to Azilal for our once-weekly internet access. On Monday we get technical training concerning water supplies, health factors, and other subjects related to our work here. Tuesday morning we get more classes, and that afternoon we head back to our CBT sites.
Rinse and repeat, as the saying goes, until April 22nd when we finally find out what our final site will be. After that the schedule shakes up with CBT visits mixed in with visits to our final sites. Finally, we head to Ourzazatte for the swearing-in ceremony, after which, we will begin our 2 years of service at our final sites.
A month after swearing in, we should have our own place and a permanent address, so after that point I will be happily accepting care-packages!
Still with me? Good. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. It's not an easy life, but what's life without challenge?