The King is Coming!

The King is coming to visit Azilal this week, and it’s the most exciting thing to happen here since it snowed that first time in February. Preparations have been going on since last week – first the big dust field where the events happen was watered, flattened, and covered in gravel. Curbs and fences all over town were repainted, along with key buildings and street lines. Tents and crowd barriers have now been set up in a couple locations, and every government building is covered in red and green banners. Flags or banners fly at every store, house, and street corner in the main area of town, and taxis and mini-buses drive up and down the streets boasting their own flags. Matt and I have really been enjoying the atmosphere, and we even took a stroll around town yesterday to see and take pictures of all the new decorations.

I remember Obama coming to Ohio State once, and the preparations that were made for him don’t hold a candle to what’s going on right now in Azilal. I think it’s because the King is a much bigger part of daily life here than the President is in the States. For example, his picture is in every house, store, café, and building. It’s on the sides of buildings and in the streets. Upon entering the center of Azilal, a small billboard of the king is one of the first things you see. Additionally, as the spiritual leader of Morocco, the King is shown on TV every Friday praying at the mosque after the mid-day call to prayer. Government works and projects don’t begin until the King attends an opening ceremony (this is part of the reason he’s coming to Azilal). Morocco’s official name is the Kingdom of Morocco, and its motto, which is written on hillsides across the nation for the King to see, is Allah, Al-Watan, Al-Malik, or God, Country, King.

Morocco’s current king, King Mohamed VI, is the third since the country gained independence in 1956. He ascended to the throne in 1999, after his father passed away, and has been considered one of the more moderate leaders of the region. During the Arab Spring in 2011, Morocco avoided large-scale unrest by adopting changes to the constitution in which the King gave up some of his power. I honestly don’t know much about his policies, but I am excited to see him when he comes anyway. More accurately, I’m excited to see how people react to him. I’m not sure if the extravagant preparations reflect the attitude of the general public – the only people I’ve talked to about the King’s visit are my English-speaking students, who generally tell me they don’t care about it at all – so I’m interested to see what the atmosphere is like when the King actually comes.

Due to security reasons, the King doesn’t announce which day he’ll be visiting, so I can’t tell you when exactly it’ll happen. It’s been a little bit hard to plan our schedule for the week, because you can be sure whichever day he does come, we won’t be getting anything done. But I don’t mind the uncertainty of the timing – it kind of makes the whole week feel like a vacation. And what better timing than a week before our actual vacation? Plus I like to think that the King’s visit is actually to come see us off on our trip home to America. 🙂

 – Cori

p.s. I do have lots of pictures to go with this post, but for whatever reason WordPress won’t let me upload them. Hopefully I’ll get them up soon!

Transition

The group of PCVs I came to country with is in the midst of a transition period right now. The volunteers that were here when we got to our final sites are all about to leave – they’ve finished their service and they’re heading for home. At the same time, there is a new group of volunteers that just finished their training and are arriving at their final sites to replace the old volunteers who are leaving. And my group is stuck in the middle – we’re missing the excitement and the bittersweet feeling of a big change… but I’m actually glad to be in this position.

Yes, of course I’m insanely jealous of the PCVs who are leaving to go back to America; to their family, friends, pets, steady jobs, and Chipotle. But we get to go back to visit soon anyway! I’m not going to lie, I can’t say I’m excited to come back after our visit and return to working at the Dar Chebab. But I am excited to come back and finish traveling to all the places I haven’t been yet, visit fellow PCVs I haven’t gotten a chance to visit yet, and show some friends who are planning to visit around Morocco. And who knows, maybe I’ll get a successful project or two in before I leave for good. I’ll be here, feeling jealous, as my former-PCV friends rediscover America. But I’ll also be here as they miss Morocco at the same time, and I’m hoping that hearing about that aspect of returning to America will help me really appreciate where I am for this last year of my service.

Matt and I will also get to be that steady presence for the new volunteers that I remember counting so much on when we first got to Azilal. We offer them an escape from host family, advice in finding a house, hope for their future projects, recommendations for where to travel, and delicious taco recipes. Matt was even recently appointed as Warden for our region, which means he is literally the contact person for these new PCVs in getting settled into site and finding a house – he’ll travel to visit all of them to approve the houses they find, which is a role I know he’s really looking forward to. Anyway, we’re the “old” group now, which is actually a really nice feeling. It’s like when my family came to visit and we suddenly were able to see how much we’d learned in the year since we’d last seen them. Seeing the new PCVs reminds me of how I felt when I was in their shoes, and realizing how far I’ve come since then.

Matt and I are feeling a lot of things right now – we’re excited for our friends who are leaving, but we’re also sad to see them go, and sad that we can’t go with them. We’re excited to meet all the new volunteers, and empathetic to the craziness they might be feeling right now. But despite all of these feelings, we’re actually in a pretty solid place right now finishing up our work for the year and getting ready for our visit home to the States. And that feels pretty good. 🙂