We swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers a week ago today, which was a nice end to our training period. We swore an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, and by doing so agreed to abide by the core expectations for all Peace Corps Volunteers. The one that we’ve been thinking about most this past week is #3: “Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.”
We arrived in Azilal last Thursday, and have been excitedly exploring ever since. So far, this city seems to be exactly what we asked for, and we find ourselves asking “… is this really Peace Corps?” Azilal is in a valley in the High Atlas Mountains, and while the city itself is a lot flatter than we expected, there are some great views in the distance. We’ve spent our days going on 4-5 hour walks with our host sisters, who are more than happy to take us out exploring. We’ve found tons of gorgeous little places, and lots of paths that we’re looking forward to exploring further on future walks, hikes, and runs.
We’ve also been spending a lot of time with the current PCV who is living here for the next month. She’s been helping us out with all kinds of stuff, including letting us use the wi-fi that she has set up in our apartment and helping us transfer all of the utilities to our names so we can move in when she leaves. We almost can’t count the number of times we’ve turned to each other and said “seriously… this can’t be Peace Corps.”
But of course this is all just our first impression. We know it’s inevitable that we’ll run into hardships; for example, the current PCV was telling us all about winter in Azilal. She said this past one was a pretty mild winter because they got a meter of snow in November and that was about it (and yes, still no heat in the houses here). We laughed in dread, assuming we’d have all of summer and fall to prepare ourselves. Then, of course, we experienced our first cold spell today, which included hail. We’re back to wearing long underwear and two sweaters inside… so yes, this is Peace Corps.
We had this point driven in further on Monday, when we decided to go to the nearest city to pick up our bags that Peace Corps had shipped there. After we took a taxi for an hour and a half along the winding road out of Azilal (with Matt sitting next to a dude who got a little queasy and had to ask the cab driver to pull over so he could vom), we got into town, picked up our bags, had lunch with some volunteers who live there, and were considering our trip to be pretty successful. We decided to go back to Azilal a different way so we could stop by a nearby town and meet another volunteer who lives there. It wasn’t until we got dropped off in that town and our cab drove away that we learned that there was a taxi strike going on there, and we wouldn’t be able to get home that night. We ended up having a great time getting to know the volunteer there, and we’re both pretty glad we got stranded that night. But between the partially understood phone calls back to our host family in Azilal and the process of finding a ride home the next day after we discovered the taxi strike was still going on, we realized again that yes, this is definitely Peace Corps. And maybe we should chalk it up to the fact that we’re brand-new volunteers, but we’re still pretty excited about that. 🙂