The perfect example of Moroccan hospitality: today, while hiking outside Azilal, a family saw us walking past their home. Despite never having met us before, they immediately asked us to join them for lunch. After we accepted, they led us inside and told us to relax while they prepared the meal.
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.
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.
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!
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!
“Brrd” in Darija means cold, and this week has been pretty cold. I think it may actually be the coldest week we’ve had in Morocco so far. The high today was about 44 F, both inside and outside. Luckily, the rest of the winter has been relatively warm and it’s supposed to warm up again in a couple days. But I wanted to share with you some of my favorite and least favorite things about the cold.
My least favorite things:
- Washing my hands. We do have a water heater, but it takes long enough to turn on that it seem silly to turn it on for something that takes so little time. So I wash my hands in cold water, and it’s awful.
- Sitting on the toilet seat. The shock of the cold seat is just terrible, especially since I do a pretty good job of keeping myself warm while I’m at home. It’s times like these when I wish we had a squat toilet instead of a Western (and that’s something I pretty much never wish).
- Getting out of bed and changing clothes is really, really hard. Additionally, I think I could sleep like 15 hrs per night if I let myself. I do not like feeling so lazy.
- Doing anything with my hands, like typing, writing, crocheting, cooking, or playing guitar. It’s hard to get your fingers to move right, and after a while they just hurt. My solution is to just not do them. Matt’s solution is more admirable:
My favorite things:
- “It’s too cold” becomes a legitimate excuse for everything. I’m pretty sure I could skip work and tell my supervisors this and they’d be fine with it (no, I have not tried it, give me some credit).
- The old men wear these big hooded cape-like things to keep warm outside, and younger men start wearing jellabas (traditional robe-type garments). In warmer weather traditional Moroccan clothing isn’t as popular, so I love seeing that people still wear it in everyday life in the winter.
- Getting all bundled up inside. Today I’m wearing thermal underwear top and bottom, pants, two sweaters, gloves, a hat, and a blanket on top of all that. It’s very cozy! Plus it’s fun to count the layers and feel absolutely ridiculous.
- The snow on the mountains in the distance is gorgeous. When it snows in town it’s even prettier, but I don’t have any good pictures of that.
While I and my fellow Ohio State fans anxiously watch the National Championship tonight (go Bucks!!!!!), the rest of Azilal will be celebrating a different holiday. I forgot to mention this holiday last year but nonetheless it’s something I find fascinating – the Amazigh New Year, which takes place on January 12.
The Amazigh New Year is celebrated among the Amazigh populations of North Africa, which are concentrated in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya but also reach into the other countries in the region. The celebration itself is nothing too special – it mostly revolves around eating food and spending time with friends and family – but the history and the conflict surrounding the holiday are what I find most interesting.
This year the Amazigh people celebrate the year 2965. According to some, this commemorates a victory of an Amazigh leader over the Egyptian Pharaoh that led to a unification of the Amazigh community (in our calendar that first year was 950 BCE). It’s also sometimes recognized as the beginning of the agricultural year.
Although there is a fairly large Amazigh population in Morocco, the Amazigh New Year is not recognized as a national holiday, which leads to conflict every year. Amazigh activists across the country use the holiday as an opportunity to protest that while the Amazigh language was recently recognized as an official language in Morocco, the government has a long way to go with actually recognizing and embracing the country’s Amazigh heritage. I saw a couple different protests in Azilal last year; even the high school students staged a walk-out in protest of the government’s lack of recognition of the Amazigh people and culture.
This year, I’ll just focus on the celebrating. Happy 2965! Asggas Amaggaz 2965!