Thursday, July 2, 2009

spend the lasto, in your pocko...

So let me tell you about my Saturday...

The principal from the local elementary school invited me to an end of the school year party in a small village in the hills near where I live. Cool.

I got up Saturday morning, got myself ready, and headed out the door at around 8:45 to meet the principal at the school. We, along with a group of five other men, left in a grand taxi for the school in a town about three kilometers away to pick up sound equipment for the party. They loaded the car up and we headed out into the hills where we spent about 30 minutes on a dirt road before reaching our destination.

All the town's children were there and a group of 10 camp-counselor-type people were there from Inezgane (a bigger city near Agadir, about 2 hours away) to keep the kids entertained. They played big group games, the most notable of which involved a whistle. They chose a few kids to be taken aside while the rest of us were let in on the secret that a whistle would be hanging out of the back of Mostafa's pants from the elastic band. The kids who were taken aside were brought back one by one and charged with the task of determining who had the whistle. So it essentially looked like this: Mostafa wandered around the seated crowd with a kid by his side. When he stopped, someone would reach up and blow the whistle. Mere inches from his butt.

Later in the day, after lunch, we gathered in a room to watch a movie. Ratatouille. I love that movie. Only this version had been translated into Tashelheet by what must be some very patient people in Inezgane. The title was Agherda n Bariz. Literally, "Mouse of Paris". The characters had names like Lahcen and Zaina. I don't think I can define what I felt while watching it. Maybe it both amused and bemused.

Following the movie, we began another. Tashelheet films are quite popular here. I, for the most part, don't understand them (both language and subject matter) and therefore only watch them if they're on while I'm visiting someone's house. I'm not familiar with the stars of the Tashelheet silver screen, so imagine my surprise while watching the film on Saturday that the man who caught my attention by entering the room through the noisy door and interrupted the film was the very same man whose image was being projected on the wall. Didn't catch his name. Nor did I get an autograph. But I did listen to his very compelling argument for being a good student. No, I don't want to spend my life doing nothing but sitting on the sidewalk. Stay in school, kids. I do realize that this was actually probably a very exciting event for the kids. I do hope that his words held some weight with them.

What followed was a big treat. A clown in ski bibs. He danced with a cane. Some of his moves resembled mine. It was disconcerting. Change of clothes. Rapper. Change of Clothes. Charlie Chaplin-esque. Change of clothes. An Indian guy singing... something. I spent this period texting a play by play to my friend Maggie.

There was an awards ceremony for the kids afterwards. They called each kid up and a distinguished guest was called upon to present each award. I was sitting with the kids and not really paying attention when I heard, in Tashelheet, the words for "American," "health education," and "she knows Tashelheet". I looked up, noticed a teacher motioning to me, and realized they were calling me up to present the award. Looking back, I probably acted too much like the award was going to me. Could've waved a little less.

To wrap up the evening, some of the younger (middle school aged) counselors from Inezgane, put on a fairly dramatic production. I can tell you that those kids will probably think twice before sniffing glue, smoking, being homeless, and/or abandoning an infant. I was honestly quite impressed with them for presenting those somewhat racy topics in such a conservative area. They did a good job. It was a little long. But they acted their hearts out. I wondered if they were doing it up a bit because the film star was in the audience. Maybe they've got their careers lined up now.

The crowd dispersed, the men took down the tent, packed it up, we got back on the dirt road, and headed back to the school where we had picked up the sound equipment earlier that day. There was a group of men waiting there and I stood around while they struggled to assemble the tent (for the party I attended the next day) with only the glow from the classrooms in the distance. I felt kind of bad just spectating, but I figured there wasn't much they would let me do anyway.

Another ride in the car. I made it in my door at 11:30pm. 15 hours.

But probably one of the funnier days of my life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

hooray hooray, but now i'm gold...

Friday, June 19

I took a Facebook quiz a couple weeks ago to determine which Food Network personality I am. Rachael Ray. I blaming it on narrow test parameters.

My water is out today. I know, I know... This is the Peace Corps. If I never had running water, I'd be fine. I'd have a system. I don't have much of a system for usually having running water and then having it stop. I generally keep jugs full of water just in case. I had some girls from my community over yesterday, though, and they'll bang on anything to make music. They used my 20 liter jug for a drum, which I refilled this morning after noticing a drop in water pressure. It proceeded to leak out all over my floor. So. In the market for a new 20 liter jug. I currently have 10 liters in bottles in my kitchen. I test the faucet about every 30 minutes. I really shouldn't. A watched faucet never runs. At least today.

Back to the girls... A group of five came over yesterday afternoon. I've had people from my community over before, but never a solely teenage crowd. I've never entertained for a group of teenage girls before. In any country. I was kind of nervous and was afraid I'd bore them. But when in doubt, bake. I figured it would keep us busy while also allowing us to socialize. We made jam thumbprint cookies from the wonderful cookbook my grandma sent me for Christmas. I made the dough ahead of time so we could just assemble them together. Two people rolled the dough into balls. Two dunked the balls in egg whites. Two rolled the balls in chopped walnuts. And we all made thumbprints in the cookies and then filled the prints with strawberry jam when they came out of the oven and had cooled. We drank iced chai. I don't know if they liked it, but they drank it, and that was kind of them. They wanted to listen to music and dance after we finished the cookies. Ladies here know how to move. They wanted me to dance and I warned them that I most certainly cannot dance like they can. They didn't believe me. I showed them. They believed and we did my spastic moves instead.

Oh. And because of the cookies... They told me that I'm like Rachael Ray. I don't want to hear that anymore. Yes, they get Rachael Ray here on a station from Dubai. Dr. Phil and Tyra too. I'm glad I don't have a TV.

I spilled candle wax on the touch pad of my computer last night. I don't think you're supposed to do that.

Friday, May 8, 2009

i may be weary, but i am not weak...

Things I am pretty sure of:

There are at least two Komodo dragons living on my roof.

My kitten, Olivia, alternately thinks I am a cozy bed and something to climb and/or attack.

"In the womb of winter, summer seems a myth..." But it's not.

I'm just finishing up a three week tooth brushing program at the local pre-school/kindergarten. What a time, what a time... I'll say this: the world does not need comedians when there's a room full of 3-6 year olds learning how to brush their teeth. Each child was provided with a toothbrush and every weekday morning, I, along with the teacher, demonstrate and correct tooth brushing technique. Overall, the kids have been very enthusiastic about it and many caught on very quickly and are now able to model to and lead their classmates. The class consists of about 30 children, broken up into three tables, organized by age. Naturally, the older table is a bit ahead of the others in terms of ability, although the second table has come to be quite good. The third table... What to say about the third table? There are a couple of kids who have done very well, perhaps even on par with the children at the other tables. Others may need a bit more time. There's one girl who I just cannot get to stop chewing her toothbrush. On occasion, I've taken her toothbrush from her telling her the one single thing that she has to do is close her teeth and I'll brush for her. That lasts for about two seconds and then she's chewing again. Some of the toothbrushes at that table look like they've been used to scrub the floor for years. Of course, I'm sure my three-year-old self had tooth brushing blunders of her own.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

merrily, merrily, merrily...

So... I guess it's been awhile. But only because nothing's happened since it was cold in November...

Okay, things have happened. So we're all up to speed, a brief recap (did you know the full word is recapitulation?):


Eid Mqqurn - sheep died, nearly every bit was eaten, though I still have a piece in my freezer
Christmas in Madrid - ate many pork products, Indian food on Christmas Eve, went to
a Methodist church with Texan preachers


Visit from Sam - HLP4L! Here's the comprehensive rundown.

Marrakech 1/2 marathon - what a mess! Got very lost, but found a friend in Ishmael,
an 11 year-old with a penchant for James Brown


Visit from Tori - we did a lot of turning about the country in trains, buses, and
automobiles and met some... interesting folks


One year in country. Crazy.

And now it's April. At the beginning of the month, I, along with 7 other volunteers (and 130 others countrywide), worked at a spring English language immersion camp in the city of Zagora (about 14 hours of travel from where I live). There were about 70 campers aged 14-17 and a group of about 5 Moroccan counsellors. I taught an English class with another volunteer named Kate. We covered subjects like family relationships, simple action verbs, and the difference between "a" and "an". Kate and I taught our class "Hello, Goodbye" by the Beatles. We came up with hand motions and wowed the crowd at the "Spectac" at the end of the week. My friend Mel and I led a nutrition club 3 days of the week. We introduced the kids to peanut butter. The campers were fantastic. They were so enthusiastic, and overall, very well behaved. We taught them "Row, row, row your boat" and they ate it up like pie. It was a totally exhausting week, but completely worth it.

Finally, finally, finally I found myself a kitten! There are cats everywhere here, but I've been wanting a kitten from a family who keeps their cat inside because the outside cats can be pretty funky. Last month, I was visiting a family that I'm friends with and they told me their cat had just given birth. It was a triumphant moment. I was there a couple days ago. The kitties are bigger and I can bring one home soon! There are two daughters in the family; Samira is 21 and Hafida is 15 or 16. Samira loves make up and nail polish and all things pretty and they both love doing henna. Thus, I had my nails painted and henna done on my hands. In the process of waiting for the henna to dry, dinner was served. Egg tagine with bread. Samira had to hand feed me. I decided this must happen a lot when people get henna because not one person in the room skipped a beat as Samira scooped egg up with the bread and proceeded to shove it in my mouth.

At camp, I made a bean bag with a sock and lentils. I introduced it into the afternoon activities of the kids in my neighborhood. Whoa.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

oh, the weather outside is frightful...

I have a new appreciation for Tiznit. I just had to buy a blanket two weeks ago. Just one blanket.

I'm in the north for training.

It is cold.

Very very cold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

you are my sweetest downfall, i loved you first...

So, I named him Samson and not Zeke.

He died about two hours ago. He had a really rough case of roundworms.

I'm thankful that I got to love him the last four days of his life.

Monday, October 20, 2008

you ain't nothin' but a hound dog...

Friday, October 17

I used to hate dogs. I could not understand why other people seemed to love them so much. I've always been a cat person. Strangely enough, my first pet was a dog. A little Dachshund named Dodger. And I remember loving him and being very sad to leave him when my family moved to Saudi Arabia when I was five. But those feelings were soon enough forgotten and from that time until the end of my junior year of college, the only pets my family had - both my dad and stepmom and my mom, my brother, and I - were cats. I love cats. They're independent. They're clever. Despite what non-cat people say, they have a lot of personality. All the cats I've ever owned have been an incredible source of entertainment and laughter. They can tend to be kind of elitist. You have to work for their affection, and it's so rewarding once you've earned it. I always thought dogs were fairly dumb animals, giving their loyalty and affection to anyone who gave them the slightest bit of attention. And really, who wants love you don't have to earn?

Which brings me to my next point.

My mom had been wanting a dog for quite a while when she finally was presented with the opportunity to take a dog from a woman she met in a parking lot who was having trouble finding the time to care for her dog Savannah.


I swear she's the most beautiful creature that has ever existed. I love her with my whole being. Her wonderfulness is unending. It was only after she came into our lives that I was able to begin to tolerate other dogs. And it is because of her that having a dog later in life is now a non-negotiable for me. (A dog that will live in harmony with my future cats, of course...)

There are a lot of wild dogs here. A lot. And it's very rare to see one that looks fully healthy. They mostly look dejected, scared, malnourished, deformed, and abused. Dogs here are definitely not man's best friend. They are mistreated and for the vast majority, if not all, that's the only life they'll ever know. On my way back from a hike on a mountain near my house, I was walking to my host family's house to say hello and a dog that I hadn't noticed moved about three feet away from me. It startled me at first as it can be unclear as to what a wild dog's reaction to an oblivious and obtrusive human is going to be. But it just stood up and cowered timidly. And as it backed away from me, I looked it in the face and I saw Savannah and I felt for that dog the love that I feel for her.

And I had a thought... And at the risk of sounding blasphemous... I think Savannah is like Jesus. Kind of.

She loves me when I take her for walks. She loves me when I throw her toys in the backyard. She loves me when I run around the house and play with her. She loves me when I love her.

She loves me when I don't have enough time for her. She loves me when I would rather watch a Project Runway marathon than take her for a walk. She loves me when she's covered in dirt and I don't want to get near her. She loves me when she smells and I push her off of the couch because I don't want to sit next to her. She loves me when I ignore her.

It's only because of Savannah that I have been able to love other dogs. Well-behaved dogs. Pretty dogs. Friendly dogs. Even annoying dogs... in small doses. And the dispirited, desolate, and mangled dogs I see here on a daily basis.

I love dogs because I love Savannah. I love Savannah because Savannah loved me first.

And much like Savannah, Jesus loves me when I love him. He loves me when I laugh. He loves me when I delight in the beauty of nature. He loves me when I take interest in the world around me. He loves me when I work hard.

But far more significantly, he loves me when I'm ungrateful. He loves me when I'm impatient. He loves me when I think poorly of others. He loves me when I think poorly of myself. He loves me when I'm yucky. He loves me when I'm lazy. He loves me when I really couldn't be bothered. His love for me is flawless and endless and is constant and consistent no matter the circumstance. I only know how to love at all because of the example he gives by loving me.

It's only because of Jesus that I am able to love other people, although not even close to approaching how perfectly he loves. My family. My friends. Strangers. People that are interesting. People that are funny. People that are friendly. People that annoy me. People that aren't particularly nice to me. People that are sad. People that are lonely.

I love people because I love Jesus. I love Jesus because Jesus loved me first.

So, I guess the answer to my earlier question is: Me. I want love that I don't have to earn.

To be a disciple means that we deliberately identify ourselves with God's interest in other people. "That ye love one another as I have loved you..."


So, no joke...

About 15 minutes after I finished writing everything above, I decided to sit on the stoop outside of my house to read The Audacity of Hope (Go Obama!) and a little puppy wandered over to me. I could tell that he had been injured because he has a lump on the left side of his jaw and throat area. I sat for a little while baby-talking him and kind of touching him with my fingertips. (He's fairly dirty). I heard a dog yelping and crying last night which caused me to have a fairly strange dog dream and I figure that it must have been him. A couple neighborhood kids rode by on their bikes and I asked if they knew what had happened to him. They said another dog bit him. So, I had a decision to make. One option was to continue playing with him for a few minutes and then leave him to fend for himself. I didn't think that was a very good option.

I went inside and filled a bucket with hot water and tried to clean him up a bit. I cleaned the area around his jaw and neck and he didn't yelp or flinch or anything, so I'm not exactly sure what the problem is. I gave him some water and he seemed to have some trouble swallowing. I gave him a homeopathic remedy (Arnica) for trauma, muscle fatigue, sprains, and bruises on the counsel of my mother. A neighborhood girl came by. I told her what I was doing and she said that he belongs to the family that lives behind me. The concept of dog ownership here is pretty foreign and judging by his condition, it's pretty clear that he's not being taken care of very well by the owners that he may or may not have. It was getting pretty dark, but I heard the son of the family behind me and asked him if the puppy is theirs. He said something along the lines of "It was at our house". After a while, I locked him in my front gate and went over to the neighbors' house to ask if he belongs to them and they said that he just runs around outside. I told them that I was going to take him. They said I should just keep him in the area inside my gate but outside my door and that's where he is now. In a little cardboard bed with some fabric in it. I gave him a little dish of milk to see if he'd take it. He lapped a bit of it up, but I think he got a bit overzealous because then he started to cough. I may give him a bit more in the morning so that he can have something of substance as I'm not sure he can swallow food at this point. I was not planning on becoming a dog owner during my time here and the timing certainly seems less than ideal. But whatever...

It's only the first night, so I may be getting ahead of myself. I'm going to bathe him in the morning. I'm pretty sure I already have a flea bite on my hand. But I have the opportunity laid out right in front of me to love and care for something whose life would otherwise be most definitely hard and painful and troubled.

He's sleeping so peacefully. I keep opening my door to check on him. He must be so tired. Spending every night out in the wilderness with older, bigger, tougher dogs on the loose. He's safe inside my gate. He's so precious. I want to take care of him. I want to nurse him back to health. I want to love him in a way he's never known.

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36: 24-26)

So maybe his name will be Zeke.