First impressions

marHba, kulshi! (Howdy y’all!) I’ve spent the last 6 days in what is known as PST, or pre-service training. Day 1 was in Philadelphia, where I met a few people, did some paperwork, learned a bit more about PC policy, and ate at an amazing asian fusion place called Buddakan.  I really don’t know how to emphasize how sinfully delicious this place was. We paid an arm and a leg, and it was totally worth it – particularly since it was only about a third of the allowance PC gave us for our remaining time in the US.

On Tuesday, the 71 (!) of us boarded two buses and headed for JFK airport in NY. When we arrived at the Royal Air Maroc ticket counter, it took at the very least an hour for all of us to get through.. then, once in the terminal, we had at least a good 5 hours to wait before our flight took off. I had a yummy turkish cheese and spinach pastry (I can’t remember the name of it) and played Phase 10 (someone else brought it, not me!) while waiting for the plane. The plane ride was not memorable, which is good for a plane ride, and we landed safely in Casablanca at 7am Wednesday morning, 7 hours after takeoff. Once in Morocco, we boarded another two buses to Marakesh, where we stayed in posh bungalows on the edge of town. We met some of the people in charge of PC Morocco (Country Director (CD) and medical officers (PCMOs)), learned a little more about the country and PC policy, and got a little time to wander around before settling in for the night.

The next morning, we left for our current location – undisclosed due to PC safety policy – that I can say is somewhat south and a little out of the mountains. I’m loving where we are right now. The food is fantastic – Friday is my new favorite day, because Friday is Couscous day. No joke. However, my favorite single food (couscous is more of a combination, really) is pumpkin spiced heavily with cinammon. Heavenly. I’ll need to take some food pictures. 3240, 3243 Once we got to our current location, we started in with classes – language, policy, culture, safety, etc. We’ve had a lot of classes. We’ve also gotten to wander around town a bit to try our Darija (Moroccan Arabic), and a fellow Trainee and I have made friends with an herberist (not herbalist here) in the market. This guy made us the most amazing tea I have ever drunk – can you say saffron tea? We also joined some guys playing the drums and castanets in a shop, where they made us sit on little stools – “at a berber party, everyone sits.” They contradicted this later, though, when they talked about all the dancing that goes on with the drumming and singing at their village – they know how to party it up in their town.

Today, I found out that I will be learning Tamazight (that last ‘gh’ is sort of a gargling sound… think a voiced x, but in the throat). It’s one of the main berber (or “amazight”) languages in Morocco – the other two are Tashelheight and Tarufit. Other PCTs are learning Tash and Darija; no one learns Tarufit. Tomorrow all 71 of us are heading out in groups of 5-6 to take part in community based training (CBT). My CBT is about an hour and a half away from us, and there are four other environmental Tamazight-learning Trainees in my group. Each of us will be living with a host family, but we’ll meet each day for at least 4 hours of language training as well as general PC, environmental, education, community development, and other training. We’ll eat lunch together as a group (couscous, of course, on Fridays). We will get one day of the week off each week, and occasionally we’ll come together again as a larget PCT group. This is how I’ll spend my time from now to when I swear in (inshallah) in May.

Since I started writing this entry, I’ve learned how to tie a head scarf and some people have started throwing around a frisbee… time to head out. Bslama (goodbye) and layla sa3ida (goodnight).

Update:  Pictures were going to come with this post, but I played frisbee and Ring Around the Rosy with a bunch of kids, then did a little more drum circle… and I’m impatient with being on the computer. Trust that the pictures are good, the times are better.


One response to “First impressions

  1. Edit, upon coming across this entry quite some time later: Berber language is called Tamazight. In some areas of the country, notably parts of the Middle Atlas, people actually say they speak Tamazight. In the north they say they speak Tarifit (some claim ‘Jbela’, which essentially means ‘of the mountain’), in a small part of the Middle Atlas they claim to speak a dialect of Tamazight called Marmoushen (spelling questionable), but then in most other places they claim to speak Tashelheet (I do not even know where I came up with the spelling Tashelheight). In some places they do make a funny vowel sound at the end of Tashelheet; it can sound a bit like Tashelhate, or something untranscribable in English. Anyhow, the final dialect is Tasuseet, which is what people in my area say that people in the area West and South of us speak, but people who live there also claim to speak Tashelheet – so who’s to say? And that’s all for today’s linguistics lesson.

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