Welcome to our home!

You may have noticed, since it has been included in 4 out of the last 6 posts, that our house is pretty important to us. Today we’re dedicating the whole post to it by taking you on a tour! We’ve been lucky to inherit lots of furniture, books, food, and other miscellaneous stuff, so that’s why these rooms are already so full (well, by Peace Corps standards anyway).

First is the most important room in the house… the kitchen :). Ours is a little small but it does have a balcony – that’s a rug hanging to dry on the railing of the balcony in the back of the picture. We also have a fridge and an oven that didn’t fit into the picture. We inherited lots of seasonings and baking supplies from previous volunteers so we’ve been having a good time jumping back into cooking.

This is our kitchen (that's a rug hanging to dry on the balcony in the background)

View from the balcony off the kitchen

View from the balcony

Next is our bedroom. We love the cross breeze that these two windows create (although we might feel differently once winter comes around).

Our bedroom

View from the bedroom window

View from the open window of downtown Azilal

We also have a second bedroom, which is mostly empty except for these massive closets – hooray storage space!

IMG_1564

Last but not least is our salon, or living room. This is where we keep the computer, and consequently its where we spend most of our time when we’re at home. You can see our Ohio State flag sitting behind Matt on the couch – once we figure out how to hang it, this is where it’s going!

Looking into the sitting room from the entryway

Looking in from the entryway

IMG_1605

So that’s our little American sanctuary in the middle of Azilal. So far we’ve been concentrating on cleaning and organizing – next comes decorating and really making it feel like home. We hope this gives you all a little bit of a visual of what our life is like here… and we hope you can also see we have plenty of room to host any visitors! *wink, wink*

Life After Homestay

Big news — after nearly 3.5 months of living with families here in Morocco, we finally have a home of our own!  (Pictures will come soon.)  It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for months and we’re really excited to have finally moved in.  Don’t get us wrong; we’ve been extremely fortunate with our amazing host families, and we’re really excited to continue to enjoy couscous Fridays with our family here in Azilal… but there’s something about living on our own terms that is really, really nice.

For example, we can cook for ourselves again! We’ve both really been enjoying getting back in the kitchen and having control over what we eat again. Cori is glad to decrease the amount of bread she eats from approximately 2 Moroccan loaves daily to maybe half a loaf, Matt has been enjoying having eggs for breakfast every morning, and we’ve both been glad to get fresh fruits and veggies back into our diet. This also means that we can finally translate all of the Moroccan recipes that we (kind of) learned during homestay into American measurements and instructions and share them with you!

Other examples of things we’re excited for include not having to live out of our suitcases anymore, being able to read or watch tv shows without feeling super rude, listening to music out loud, working out, having time to relax on our own, and generally feeling like adults again. It’s amazing how much easier it’s been to get up and go work at the Dar Chebab when we know we have our own place to go back to.

We did have a bit of a reality check yesterday that reminded us that moving into our own apartment won’t be as easy as we kept making it out to be. We went to the big weekly market alone for the first time, and it was pretty overwhelming. There are tons of food stands, all selling more or less the same thing, and tons of people shopping at all of them. We have the language to ask for what we need, but it’s tough to use in a stressful situation like this one, with Moroccans constantly coming up next to you and interrupting (the concept of a line is a very foreign one here). In the end, although we’re not sure if we got any kind of a decent price, we got most of the food that we needed, and that’s good enough for week one.

Market trip aside, life after homestay is going pretty well so far. We’ll definitely face more challenges related to living alone, but we also now have a personal space to go home to if we need to. And our trip to the market does mean that we have all the food that we need to make tacos tonight to celebrate a fake American holiday – Happy (late) Cinco de Mayo!

Our First Month in Azilal

We’ve been away from the blog for a bit since we’ve been working at a Spring Camp here for the last couple weeks, which has taken up a lot of our time (although we are now experts at sitting around not knowing what’s going on). Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve been up to:

Tuesday the 9th – Monday the 15th was our 1st camp. We were tasked with teaching English for an hour each afternoon, which went pretty well for the most part. We also helped with some time filler activities, including a STOMP-inspired activity which was actually pretty cool (we even showed the video from JI-row in the Red Bull Tum Tum Pa competition that some of you might remember – the kids loved it). We got lots of practice in writing quick lesson plans, teaching to students with a big range of abilities, and playing camp games.

Fun quotes of the week:
“I’m going to go to America and sell perfume until I’m rich. Then I’m going to move to Italy and become a murderer.” (This was definitely said as a joke).
“Obama has the blood of the pharaohs in him.” (This was definitely not said as a joke).

Last Tuesday we took advantage of a much-needed day off and visited a current volunteer (Vandy) living in Ait M’hamed, a small town a little bit further into the mountains. That Tuesday there happened to be a Moroccan horsemanship festival going on that was pretty awesome. As far as we could understand, it was a celebration of ancient warfare techniques and the aim of the group of horsemen is to maintain a straight line while first having their horses trot and then charge in unison, with the charge ending in a synchronized gunshot. We had a great time getting to know Vandy, eating some delicious street food, and getting up close and personal with some very excited horses.

Cori and Vandy enjoying the freshly cooked amazing street food

Cori and Vandy enjoying the freshly cooked amazing street food

Right next to the horses... whoa.

We may have almost gotten trampled…

Synchronized gunshot at the end of the ride.

Synchronized gunshot at the end of the ride.

Wednesday the 17th – Sunday the 21st was our 2nd week of camp. It turned out to be basically all of the same kids as our first camp, so we got lots more practice writing new lesson plans for our afternoon English lessons. This camp was a little bit shorter and it included a field trip day to a beautiful waterfall just outside of Azilal (not the famous Ouzoud falls – a smaller more local one called Ifrane) that was a really great opportunity for us to see some of Azilal’s surroundings and to hang out with the kids informally. We even both ended up swimming – Matt in a pair of shorts and Cori in a full t-shirt and pants.

Fun quote of the week:
Our test question: “What color is the teapot?” (Answer: red)
Student’s written answer: “What hat what.”

Cori in front of the Ifrane waterfall.

Cori in front of the Ifrane waterfall.

Youth at our spring camp.

Youth at our spring camp having a good time.

This week we’ve been preparing to start classes at the Dar Chebab while also spending lots of time with the current volunteers here. We visited Ait M’hamed again to see Vandy and went on some great hikes with him before he left this week, and we’ve been working on setting up our utilities and running other house-related errands with Donna, the volunteer who lives in the apartment we’ll be inheriting in Azilal. She is leaving for the good old USA next week, and while that means we finally get to move into our own place (woohoo!), it also means we’ll be the only Americans in Azilal (yikes!).

Our first month here has been pretty busy and full of ups and downs. Camp was a big challenge, but now that we’re done with it we appreciate it as an opportunity to get to know some of the kids at the Dar Chebab. We’ve had a great time getting to know our new host family – they’ve been super welcoming and our host sisters have been fantastic at showing us around Azilal.  We’re looking forward to keeping close ties with them after we move out. We’ve also had a great time getting to know Donna and Vandy here and learning all the important secrets of Azilal from them, like where to buy soy sauce and which butcher knows the word for “steak”. We know we’ll have plenty more challenges associated with moving into our own place and starting classes at the Dar Chebab, but we’re pretty happy with what we’ve accomplished here so far!

Got to see our first Scorpion on our hike with Vandy - zoom in on the photo and check out the needle on the end of his tail.  Scary!

Got to see our first Scorpion on our hike with Vandy – zoom in on the photo and check out the needle on the end of his tail. Scary!

View from our hike in Ait M'hamed

View from our hike in Ait M’hamed

… Is this Peace Corps?

We swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers a week ago today, which was a nice end to our training period. We swore an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, and by doing so agreed to abide by the core expectations for all Peace Corps Volunteers.  The one that we’ve been thinking about most this past week is #3: “Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.”

We arrived in Azilal last Thursday, and have been excitedly exploring ever since. So far, this city seems to be exactly what we asked for, and we find ourselves asking “… is this really Peace Corps?” Azilal is in a valley in the High Atlas Mountains, and while the city itself is a lot flatter than we expected, there are some great views in the distance. We’ve spent our days going on 4-5 hour walks with our host sisters, who are more than happy to take us out exploring. We’ve found tons of gorgeous little places, and lots of paths that we’re looking forward to exploring further on future walks, hikes, and runs.

We’ve also been spending a lot of time with the current PCV who is living here for the next month. She’s been helping us out with all kinds of stuff, including letting us use the wi-fi that she has set up in our apartment and helping us transfer all of the utilities to our names so we can move in when she leaves. We almost can’t count the number of times we’ve turned to each other and said “seriously… this can’t be Peace Corps.”

But of course this is all just our first impression. We know it’s inevitable that we’ll run into hardships; for example, the current PCV was telling us all about winter in Azilal. She said this past one was a pretty mild winter because they got a meter of snow in November and that was about it (and yes, still no heat in the houses here). We laughed in dread, assuming we’d have all of summer and fall to prepare ourselves. Then, of course, we experienced our first cold spell today, which included hail. We’re back to wearing long underwear and two sweaters inside… so yes, this is Peace Corps.

We had this point driven in further on Monday, when we decided to go to the nearest city to pick up our bags that Peace Corps had shipped there. After we took a taxi for an hour and a half along the winding road out of Azilal (with Matt sitting next to a dude who got a little queasy and had to ask the cab driver to pull over so he could vom), we got into town, picked up our bags, had lunch with some volunteers who live there, and were considering our trip to be pretty successful. We decided to go back to Azilal a different way so we could stop by a nearby town and meet another volunteer who lives there. It wasn’t until we got dropped off in that town and our cab drove away that we learned that there was a taxi strike going on there, and we wouldn’t be able to get home that night. We ended up having a great time getting to know the volunteer there, and we’re both pretty glad we got stranded that night. But between the partially understood phone calls back to our host family in Azilal and the process of finding a ride home the next day after we discovered the taxi strike was still going on, we realized again that yes, this is definitely Peace Corps. And maybe we should chalk it up to the fact that we’re brand-new volunteers, but we’re still pretty excited about that. 🙂

Swearing-in - 95 trainees came to Morocco and all 95 are new volunteers!
Swearing-in – 95 trainees came to Morocco and all 95 are new volunteers!