The answers to “How was it?” and all your other questions

The answers to some common questions we’ve been getting since we’ve gotten back. If you have more questions or want to chat more with us about our experience, feel free to get in touch!

How was it?

Cori: Short answer – It was often difficult, but overall it was great. Long answer – If you want the long answer, read the blog!

Matt: Challenging but fulfilling.

Wait… how long were you gone?

Cori: 2 years and 3 months… and it felt like it.

How are the people there? Did you have any friends?

Matt: The people are great! Honestly not that different from here. The majority were incredibly friendly and welcoming but of course there were a few that tried to rip us off or take advantage of us. We had lots of friends; host family siblings, pick-up basketball friends, friendly students, some great work associates, etc.

Are you glad you did it?

Cori: Yes. Even though it was really tough at times, and I was often looking forward to coming home, I am glad I did it. I learned so much and I really think it was a unique and valuable experience that I’ll be able to draw on for the rest of my life.

Matt: Definitely. It was a huge challenge that really pulled me out of my comfort zone over and over again and pushed me to get better at things that I never thought I’d do well. It was also an incredible opportunity to integrate into a different culture to the point that I felt at home by the end. And I can’t forget the travel opportunities – we explored nearly every region of Morocco, a place that we might never have gone otherwise.

Would you do it again?

Cori: Would I do it a second time? No. Would I do it over again? Uh… yeah, I think so.

Matt: I think so. I’ve always thought it would be a great thing to do once we’re finished working.

What was the best part?

Cori: This is a tough one – I think it’s a tie between the times I felt like I was really making a connection, regardless of language, with a Moroccan; and the times I could go hike and travel out in the middle of nowhere and feel confident and competent enough in the language to go with only Americans.

Matt: The opportunities that opened up once we learned the language.

What was the worst part?

Cori: Some days I just felt like I wasn’t doing anything useful, and that my language skills were awful, and that I was a bad volunteer for any number of reasons. Those days when you get really down on yourself are definitely the worst part.

Matt: The slow times. I had a really difficult time during Ramadan our first year – I was trying to fast for the first and only time of my life and work was basically non-existent. Without those external energy inputs I just started to wilt.

Are you glad to be back?

Cori: YES.

Matt: Definitely! While it was a great experience, it feels great to be back in a place where I always (usually) know what is culturally acceptable and where it’s easier for me to join conversations.

What’s next?

Cori: Traveling and visiting more people during the summer, attending a bunch of weddings, and then finding jobs in the fall. I’m going to start looking into refugee and immigrant resettlement work, probably out of Columbus.

Matt: I’ll be with Cori for the rest of the summer, of course. Then hopefully I can find work in ecological restoration.

So that’s it, and thanks for following the blog! We’ve enjoyed keeping you all updated thoughout our journey, and we love getting your comments after each post. Talla f raskum (Take care of yourselves)!

— Cori and Matt

Back in the USA

Well, it’s been about a month since our last post on the day we left Morocco, and a new post on the blog is badly overdue. I had plans to write a nice summary of what I was looking forward to and what I would miss before we left Azilal, but I ended up being a lot busier leaving town and traveling around afterward than I anticipated. So I’ll give you a quick update about what we’ve been doing since we got back, what we’ve enjoyed, and what we’re missing.

Oslo – We were here for 3 days immediately following Morocco. We enjoyed the cleanliness, quietness, the proximity to beautiful fjords and forests, and the ability to wash our hands with soap and warm water even in public restrooms. We did have some price shock though, considering Oslo is one of Europe’s more expensive cities.

Hiking outside Oslo

Hiking outside Oslo

New York – We flew into NYC, where my parents and sister met us to welcome us to America. We had a great time eating and drinking our way around the city and getting to see my family, but we missed hearing Arabic – even in Oslo we’d heard some on the streets, but none in NYC.

Mom and Rachel welcomed us with an improvised napkin sign, Dad welcomed us with a beer :)

Mom and Rachel welcomed us with an improvised napkin sign, Dad welcomed us with a beer 🙂

Boston – We had a great time visiting friends, but were sad to be back to cold weather (spring in Boston – we probably should have expected it). We also came to terms with indoor heating, indoor and outdoor temperatures being different, washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers.

Friends and beer!

Friends and beer!

Philadelphia – Visited some former PCV friends and got to pick their brains about the readjustment process. Enjoyed going to a summer street festival and brunch for the first time in two years.

Friends and beer and food!

Friends and beer and food!

Washington, DC – Had a great stay with Matt’s brother and his family and enjoyed sharing some stories about our experiences with his kids. We also marveled at how clean the subway into downtown was, while simultaneously being outraged at the price. It was also a nice feeling to celebrate our return to America by visiting the capital.

Matt getting some quality time with his nephew Nathan

Matt getting some quality time with his nephew Nathan

After DC, we flew to Columbus, visited Matt’s parents in Dayton, and are fortunate to be able to continue to travel around the state and the country this summer to visit more friends and family. We’ve been really enjoying seeing everyone, eating food that we’ve been missing, drinking beer, walking around outside without getting stared at, hanging out with pets, and lots of other things.

Mom and Rachel welcome us to Columbus with the real sign

Mom and Rachel welcome us to Columbus with the real sign

But we’re also missing a lot about Morocco. I miss the mountain view from our apartment, speaking Arabic, my Moroccan friends, my PCV friends, being 2 hours away from amazing hiking, having cheap public transport available to get to said hiking, cheap veggies, cheap herbs, cheap spices, cheap fresh meat, and walking everywhere in town.

So that’s what we’ve been up to in the past month. We’ve got a lot more readjustment to look forward to, and while that’s definitely an important part of the Peace Corps experience, we won’t be including it in the blog. Stay tuned for one more final wrap-up post, coming soon!

– Cori

Starting to Say Goodbye

We’re just about a month away from leaving Morocco, and the goodbyes have started. In the past week we’ve said goodbye to all our students at the Dar Chebab (youth center) and all my students at the Nedi Neswi (women’s center). We won’t have much time to work in the next couple weeks so we figured now was a good time to have our last visits to each of these places.

And because our students are awesome, they threw us a party at each place (although Matt had to console himself with some leftover cookies from my party at the women’s center, since he doesn’t go there). We definitely felt the love from all these people who we’ve worked with for the past few years, and I hope we were able to communicate to them that we’ve enjoyed it and will miss them.

At our party at the Dar Chebab we got serenaded and there were lots of short speeches from everyone who wanted to say something:

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My party at the Nedi was heavier on the dancing and the cookies, but no less meaningful for that:

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It feels both triumphant and sad knowing that we’ve completed our service in these two places, but also knowing we probably won’t see many of these people again. In the next couple weeks we’ll have to continue our goodbyes with Moroccan friends, host families, and our Peace Corps friends – wish us luck!

– Cori

Our Kitchen

In an environment where at times it feels like I’m not really in charge of what’s going on in my work and in my social life, I’ve spent a lot of time in my kitchen where I can control what I’m cooking and I can get really good at making it. The kitchen has become a kind of sanctuary for me, and at times for Matt, as well as a place where we can recreate our favorite foods from home when we’re really craving them.

Lentil burgers with fries

Lentil burgers with fries

We do get the occasional surprise when a bug crawls out of the peas we’re shelling, or we bite into a date only to find the tell-tale signs of a worm in there – we’re always glad if we can still see the whole worm (I’ll also never forget my family’s faces when they tried dried figs for the first time on their visit here and I told them to be sure they opened them first to check for worms). But this is just something that goes along with eating nice, fresh foods all the time, which I hope to continue doing in the States.

You might remember my posts on different Moroccan foods – I had a grand vision to post a lot more Moroccan recipes, until I realized that what really made me happy in the kitchen was cooking food I missed from home. Because really, no matter how happy I am with my harira recipe, I can go get a version that’s 100 times better at the soup stand down the street.

Once I get home and start missing Moroccan food, I’ll have to rely on this excellent website for my instructions, but for now I’m really proud of what Matt and I have accomplished in the kitchen despite the fact that we haven’t learned a ton of local recipes. Making pizza from scratch is second nature for us now, along with chili and cornbread, tomato soup, and macaroni and cheese. We’ve also learned how to make chicken noodle soup with fresh noodles, fry chicken, and make amazing tacos courtesy of Matt’s fantastic homemade flour tortillas.

Apple pie, homemade tortillas, and cinnamon-sugar swirls.

Apple pie, homemade tortillas, and cinnamon-sugar swirls.

I’m hoping to be able to keep this tradition of cooking good food from fresh meat and veggies alive once we get back into working real jobs. I won’t even mind if we still find the occasional bug in our food, as long as that means it’s fresh. I’ll just be glad if we can avoid a repeat of the time we found a dead cockroach in our bag of flour – yuck!

– Cori

Getting Ready to Go Home

It’s been 2 years and 1 month since we arrived in Morocco, which means our Peace Corps journey is about to come to an end. We’ve only got a couple months left, which in the grand scheme of our service feels like basically nothing, and it’s crazy to be able to say that. For so long this day felt like it would never come, but then of course it snuck up on us while we were making friends and working and adapting to living here. We’re still looking forward to coming home and starting a new chapter in our lives, but it will certainly be bittersweet as we separate from all our new friends.

We’re at the point now where we have to look at our calendars, to-do lists, and bucket lists and start getting things done. The last couple weeks we’ve been updating resumes and starting to look for jobs (yikes!) and also planning our last trips to see friends, say goodbyes, and visit cool areas of the country we haven’t gotten to yet.

This past weekend we got to hit our biggest bucket list item – visiting the sand dunes in Merzouga with some of our closest PCV friends that we rarely get to see. It was a really beautiful place to visit, and hanging out with our friends and seeing how far we’ve all come since we were together during training was a great bookend to our service. We had a great weekend stargazing, sandboarding, sharing jokes, and being warm!

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