The 9-hour Dance Party


Last weekend, we traveled with a group of almost 45 to visit the eco-museum at Toubkal National Park as part of a week-long environment camp. During the more than 9 hours that it took to drive there and back, the youth had no trouble entertaining themselves with a continuous dance party – check out the video! Despite the months of planning beforehand and the exhaustion afterwards, this trip was one of the most fulfilling days of my Peace Corps service so far. -Matt

Culture Shock

We’re back from our trip to the States! We had a really great time seeing everyone and are really glad we got the chance to go back and visit. It was surprisingly easy to adjust to life in America and then readjust to Morocco, but in the first couple days of each visit I definitely experienced some culture shock. I thought it’d be interesting to share the top 3 things I noticed after each arrival. 

America: Reverse culture shock

1)      Prices. Ouch. Part of the reason they seemed so high is because we were still in our $600-per-month mindset (which is comfortable in Azilal, btw), but still… ouch. I was at a farmers’ market one day, and I was flabbergasted at the price of strawberries because I could have gotten twice the amount here for about a quarter of the price.

2)      Suburbia. I grew up in a pretty nice suburb of Columbus, and that really hit me on this visit. Just realizing the time and money it takes to make everything look so nice was a big reminder of how different life is there versus Azilal. It’s also really spread out – Matt and I wanted to go to the post office at one point, and I laughed when I realized I couldn’t just walk there in 5 minutes. Nope, gotta drive or bike pretty much everywhere.

3)      Diversity. This was the good variety of culture shock – coming into JFK Airport and seeing the racial diversity everywhere. Yes, it’s an international airport, but I noticed it even among the staff at the airport. I see a little bit of diversity in the bigger cities of Morocco, but in Azilal pretty much everyone looks the same, so it was nice that one of the first things I saw after landing was a reminder of how diverse America is.

Return to Morocco: Culture shock, 2nd time around.

1)      Time. In the sense that being on time is not really that important. I had conveniently forgotten about this aspect of Moroccan culture while being back in America – old habits are picked up easily again, I guess. But never fear, I now remember after encountering it many times in our first week back – the most notable being during a camp field trip, where the 3 hour drive turned into 5 hours thanks to pulling over multiple times for dance parties.

2)      Community. I noticed this on the aforementioned field trip – Matt and I showed up to the vans with books and mp3 players in hand, ready to entertain ourselves for the trip. The kids didn’t bring anything – they just turned up the radio and danced together pretty much the entire time. And they even wanted to share the atmosphere with everyone we passed – they would hang out the windows waving jackets and scarves, dancing and yelling.

3)      Rules. Again, in that there are fewer of them. In America, we got a parking ticket within approximately 5 minutes of our meter running out. In Azilal I’m not even sure there are any parking rules in the whole city. Seat belts? – no one wears them. I mentioned the kids danced the whole time on our trip to Toubkal, and I mean they literally were standing and dancing for 5 hours in a moving van. Another instance was at customs – we flew into Marrakech, were not given a customs form on the plane, and after going through passport control we proceeded to walk through the customs office without seeing anyone. We found slips in our baggage saying that TSA had searched them on the way out of the US, but no one searched them on the way in.

Despite the initial culture shock, we’re pretty much back to normal here. The camp that we helped out at was an environment camp that Matt secured funding for, and it was great to be back to watch one of our most active community associations lead it successfully. Next, we’re focusing on watching the World Cup – go USA!