The Ouzoud Falls

The Cascades d’Ouzoud or Ouzoud Waterfalls are one of the biggest ecotourism sites in Morocco.  At 110m, the main waterfall is the 7th tallest waterfall in Africa… and luckily enough for us, the falls are only a 30 minute drive away from Azilal! A trip there has been hanging over our heads for months with questions about it nearly every day from somebody in Azilal: “Bonjour! Ouzoud?” (a lot of people think we’re French tourists) or, “Are you going to Ouzoud?” or, “Have you been to Ouzoud yet? No? Why not??”

People are mostly just flabbergasted because the only reason foreigners come to Azilal at all is to get to Ouzoud or to the Bougamez Valley (another popular ecotourism site that we have yet to visit…), so the fact that we’re foreigners and have not yet visited these places is a little odd. And now that we’ve  visited Ouzoud  we understand the question a little better – people keep asking because Ouzoud is BEAUTIFUL and what the heck were we doing living so close and not going to see it?!  We finally got our chance to visit this past weekend, and now we can finally answer all the questions with “Yes, we’ve been… and it was awesome!”

We really enjoyed getting a chance to see Ouzoud. There are tons of things to do there – artisan booths to shop at, a short hike to the big waterfall, lots of little restaurants, swimming holes and jumping rocks, monkeys to take way too many pictures of, and tons of little hiking paths for longer hikes (we explored for a couple hours and found some awesome scenery and a little cave)! Are you all planning to come visit us yet??

You need to look at this one full size to truly appreciate Matt's insanity

You need to look at this one full size to fully appreciate Matt’s insanity

Exploring the cave

Exploring a little cave

Monkey!

Monkey!

Gorgeous river valley

Gorgeous river valley – this is a nice hike way past the touristy areas

Did we convince you? Come visit!

O-H!

So to cap off all the fun we were having at our In-Service Training, a couple PCVs organized a Prom to take place last Friday night. It was tons of fun, and thank you to everyone from our group that made it such a good time! The theme for the night was “cheesy American/rep your (U.S.) region”… but leave it to the Ohio State grads to interpret “rep your region” as “rep your university”, which we all did with pride (and without coordinating with each other!). We’ve been in country for 5 months and M*ch*g@n still sucks!

Prom

In-Service Training

Hey all! Since we’ve been in site for a little over 2 months now and have (theoretically) started integrating and doing work, it’s time for another Peace Corps training! We’re currently in Marrakech for what’s called In-Service Training, which is a week of training for all the volunteers in the group we came with. We’re having a great time catching up with everyone, seeing the sights of Marrakech, and participating in really important organized events such as the Pool Olympics, Darija Talent Show, and the Prom that’ll happen at the end of IST next week.

The big mosque in downtown Marrakesh

The big mosque in downtown Marrakesh

Snake charmers in Jemaa el Fnaa, the big tourist square. This is where he catches us taking a picture and makes us pay for it.

Snake charmers in Jemaa el Fnaa, the big tourist square. This is where he catches us taking a picture and makes us pay for it.

Matt performing his twist dive in the catapult event of the Pool Olympics

Matt performing his twist dive in the catapult event of the Pool Olympics

But really, we are doing quite a lot of work here meeting with volunteers and staff to discuss what we’ve all been up to and to be trained in a few more things. We’re also getting a lot of language instruction – Matt and I are studying Darija in the mornings and in the evenings we’re also finally getting a chance to have some formal instruction in Tamazight, the Berber language that almost everyone in Azilal speaks. It’s not strictly necessary for us to learn, because most people in Azilal also speak Darija, but we figured it’d be nice to have that extra way to connect with people.

We’re pretty busy and pretty tired most days here but it’s really nice to see everyone after being in site by ourselves for the better part of the last few months. Enjoy the pictures!

Matt and Cori

Serving Together

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary this Wednesday- woohoo! I had to teach a class on Wednesday, so our celebration was limited to finally setting up our oven and making pizzas for dinner (might not seem like it, but this is actually a pretty big deal, especially since we got to use the pepperoni that my parents sent – thank you)! But yesterday we used one of our days off to celebrate a little more by taking a little hike up one of the nearby hills, then setting up Matt’s hammock and having a picnic lunch. It was a really nice way to get outside but still have some time to ourselves (except for when a group of Moroccans saw us playing cards at our picnic site and came over to join us).

Enjoying the view outside Azilal

Enjoying the view outside Azilal


Picnic lunch! Yes, our lives revolve around food.

Picnic lunch! Yes, our lives revolve around food.

In light of our anniversary, I’ve been thinking a lot about serving in the Peace Corps as a couple. The classic image of Peace Corps (for me, anyway) is one of a lone volunteer, working through personal challenges brought on by living alone while also bringing positive change to her community. I realize that’s not really a practical way to look at Peace Corps service, but I still find myself feeling a little out of place as one-half of a couple. We are able to support each other in all of our personal and work-related challenges, and at times our life here doesn’t feel that different from life in the U.S. (of course, that’s only until we step outside). It’s a world of difference from what it seems that many of my single PCV peers are going through, and it never fails to make me feel like I’m somehow cheating the system, or not having the true Peace Corps experience.

But of course this is a ridiculous attitude to have, because there is no true Peace Corps experience. The Peace Corps exists in so many countries and so many different urban and rural situations that the true Peace Corps experience can’t be anything besides what you yourself experience during your service. The Peace Corps gives us some really good (albeit impossible) advice when they tell us not to compare our service to that of other PCVs. I think it will be a constant struggle to not compare our experience as a couple to the stories we hear from our single friends. I still feel guilty when I talk to a fellow volunteer about loneliness and isolation and realize I can’t empathize because I haven’t experienced it to the same extent. I still feel behind when I hear about how much time other volunteers spend integrating and speaking Darija with new friends, whereas Matt and I naturally spend a lot of time together speaking English. But living and working together in the same community requires a lot of teamwork and compromise (all on very important topics, like who gets the computer next, and what movie we’ll watch tonight). We don’t face many of the issues that single volunteers face, but we do have the challenge of maintaining a healthy marriage through all of the difficulties that come with serving in the Peace Corps. Serving as a couple is certainly not the same as serving as a single volunteer, but instead of seeing it as less of a challenge, I’m working on seeing it as a different challenge. And in the end (even though he drives me up the wall sometimes), I’m so grateful to be serving with Matt – I wouldn’t want it any other way.

– Cori

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