Sunday, March 19, 2006

It is tradition for the females to roll down this mountain to find their husbands. Whatever direction I am facing when I stop rolling is the direction of where my husband lives. haha

Me finding my husband

One of the students form the hand washing class

Nature Hike in the area

Nature Hike

Nature Hike

More of the beautiful landscaping of Tinjdad

Environment Day-The nature hike

Guys and Girls Leading Our World

I recently returned from an adventure in the desert, in a small southern town called Tinjdad. I worked at a GGLOW camp, also know as Guys and Girls Leading Our World. It is a program that encourages empowerment amongst the youth of Morocco as well as encouraging gender equality. Peace Corps implements this program in all sectors throughout Morocco. I was really proud of the turnout and how successful the camp was. We got tons of work done and covered some really important issues.
For starters we held a class for the older women of the community. We showed a video in Arabic about proper family planning. We addressed many problems that the women in Morocco face. After the video, we talked about a variety of issues such has going to the hospital to have your baby, not having an obscene amount of children and of course stop having children once you are older. We also touched on sensitive subjects such as protection and the usage of birth control. I was surprised to find out that many of the women were taking birth control. I also found out that many did not understand how to properly take the medication and were still getting pregnant. We opened up the room for discussion and allowed the women to ask any questions they had.
We also worked with teenage youth during this camp. With this group, we tackled the ever so sensitive subject of HIV/AIDS. For this class we had to split up the males and females. It is such a "hush hush" topic here, we simply couldn’t hold a discussion with the males and females together. I was really surprised at how open the females were and what they were willing to speak about. I felt the discussion was a huge success and was so proud of the students.
The camp continued with a hand washing class for the smaller children and a discussion of women’s rights in Morocco. Many of the smaller children spoke about their mothers and what they wished for them. The camp ended with an environment day that included an all day hike through the desert and a leadership day. For the leadership day, we invited several professionals from the community to come and speak about their jobs. We had an artist, several teachers and an association director attend the seminar. Each spoke about their education and what it took for them to become successful in their lives. The students were very responsive and had so many questions. It was nice for them to see successful professionals from their community who started in the same places they are . . . often times poor and destined to marry young.
Overall this was a great weekend and it was fun to work with youth in another part of Morocco. I left that camp feeling like work had really been done and differences were made.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Global Art Project

Hello everyone. I apologize for not writing sooner. I was busy and . . . lazy! Things are going really well here and I am keeping busy. I am still working at the youth center, women’s center and preschool. I love working at the preschool and have rearranged my schedule so I can spend more time with them. They are so refreshing and energizing.
We are currently working on a project called "Global Art Project" for peace. The association is based in the United States, but has participants from all over the world. The objective is to create a work of art expressing your vision of Global Unity to exchange with a person in another part of the world. I am doing this project with my preschool students in March and we are the first group to participate from Morocco. I have four classes, so we will be doing four different paintings and exchanging them with four different groups in the United States. Each painting will express their ideas of peace, love and friendship. In April, we will then hold an exhibition to display our art and finally, exchange it with our American partners.
To get my students thinking about all these issues, we participated in another project with the same association called "Let’s All Join Hands". This project encourages the celebration of diversity and peace. I felt this was an excellent stepping stone for the art project. My students each traced and cut out their hand while we discussed the above topics. They then wrote their name, country, and personal definition of peace on their hand (in their native script). I am mailing the hands to the association where they will join thousands of other hands from around the world.
Recently, the director from Global Art Project wrote me saying she has so many inspiring hands that she wants to create a book, The Handbook for Peace. However, she didn’t have any hands with Arabic so she is excited to include my students paper hands in her book.
I was so proud of my students during our discussion regarding peace. They are so young, but yet so insightful. Their answers were simple and genuine.
"Peace is when we are not fighting." -Youssef Elykiri
"Peace is love, friendship and helping one another. Also, it is friendship between friends and the world."- Nasr Abo Dayya
"Peace is having good relationships, cooperating and everyone has the same face." - Maha Elkoche
(He was trying to say that we are all equal no matter where we are from. We all have a nose, eyes, etc).
"Peace is when I love my mom and dad." -Imade Dana
"Love and Peace is working together." - Yousera Amar
"Peace is helping one another and love." -Ali Labyad
"Peace is love and respect." -Fatima Ben Driss
"Peace is no war and love and helping others." -Yassine Ahabechane
"Peace and tolerance in the world." -Fatima Zaher Elhasnaoui
My co-teacher is Moroccan, so the session was conducted in Arabic and they wrote on their paper hands in Arabic. I roughly translated the hands into English. However, it is a bit difficult to translate because there are words in Arabic that don’t translate into English.
I am digitally documenting the art project and will keep you all posted. I encourage you to check out the Global Art Project website at
Until next time . . .

All of my students paper hands

One of my older students



More Hands

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Some of my younger students at the school with their teacher.


More kids at the preschool

My older kids at the preschool I recently started working at.

Another student at the Nedi Niswi

Students at the Nedi Niswi (women's center)

My aerobics class at the Nedi Niswi

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Holiday Season-Bitter Sweet

As the days go by and the months add up, slowly I am finding my place in my small Moroccan town. A town I can now call home. When I walk down the street I am ambushed with hugs and kisses from both young and old alike. I truly feel loved. But, during the holiday season it is somewhat bitter sweet.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be in Morocco and I still have another year of experiences yet to come. However, during the holiday season I cannot help but be overwhelmed by homesickness and a longing to be on American soil. To no avail, I have been compulsively playing Christmas music trying to create a holiday atmosphere. However, it is not the same celebrating Christmas alone in a Muslim country where the holiday does not exist. Last year, during the Christmas season, a French cell phone company played “Jingle Bell Rock” in one of their commercials. The first time I heard it, I reacted as though I had just won a million dollars. I jumped from the sofa and proceeded to belt out the lyrics. My host family just giggled and considered it another “crazy American” moment. It was amazing how one commercial was able to connect me to home, even if it was only a few minutes. Family and friends sent gifts and I even had a stocking. Unfortunately, a thousand gifts and hung stockings cannot create the sounds, smells and feelings of Christmas. Christmas is not the presents that pile up under the tree or what seems to be an endless shopping list. Christmas is the indescribable feeling lingering in the air. Christmas is being with those you love. Christmas is in the heart. I suppose it is easy to get tangled up in the glitz, glamour and tinsel of Christmas. I myself am guilty. It has become so hard to look beyond the boxes and ribbons. Beyond what seems to have become a materialistic and commercial holiday that simply exists for the benefit of retail. However, beneath the shiny ornaments and pretty wrapping paper is the true meaning of Christmas. I believe Calvin Coolidge said it best when he stated, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
With the holiday season quickly approaching and thousands of miles between my loved ones and me, I am trying to keep those words in my heart. Christmas is a time to celebrate freedom and peace. Spending the past year in Morocco has given me a greater appreciation for the liberties and freedoms I have in the United States. I grow to adore my beloved country more and more with each passing day. While I have been blessed to live in the beautiful country of Morocco, there is no country more beautiful than my own. I am so proud and thankful to be an American. So, with those words sitting on my tongue, I will celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year with a sense of joy. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Another school year begins . . .

Well, I made it through Ramadan relatively unharmed. It was a long month and I have to admit, I had my days when fasting just didn’t happen. But, it was a good experience and I am glad I gave it a try. So, with that being said, it’s back to work. I am really excited about my work schedule this upcoming school year. The people of Sidi Allal Bahraoui are finally figuring out what the hell the strange American is doing in their town. I will still be working at the Dar Chebab (Youth Center) teaching English. I am also working at the Nedi Niswi (Women’s Center) teaching English and aerobics. However, the most exciting addition is the fact that I have become a preschool teacher. Who would have thunk it! Anyways, starting next week I will be teaching English and fitness to kids ranging from 3-7. I am kinda nervous, but kids are forgiving and I hope will be patient with my new found career. I am also working on a couple of projects for the upcoming months. In December, I am having a doctor speak at the youth center about AIDS. He will hold a question and answer session and I plan to hand out information and red ribbons. AIDS is a very sensitive topic here and often times is not even addressed. I hope this open forum will give everyone the opportunity to educate themselves without feeling embarrassed. Also, in the spring, I am working with another volunteer to have a health fair for girls. I envision this fair being a day for the mind, body and soul. I want to provide these girls with basic health information, but also empower them. For example, I want to have university applications available and someone to help explain how to apply. I also want to have a strong and independent woman speak. I simply want to show these girls that dropping out of school, getting married young and having babies is not the only way to live. So, that’s what I am doing over here. I will keep you posted and will let you know how my new days of preschool teaching goes. Yikes!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Vacation Pictures

Sorry I didn't get these posted sooner. Here are a few pictures from my vacation. Enjoy!



A kasbah in Chefchaouen

The beautiful city of Chefchaouen where everything is a mystic blue

Soaking in the fabulous view

The beach in Al Hoceima

Jonathan and I hanging out on the beaches of Saidia during our vacation.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hanging out with a couple of the new volunteers, Bart and Moshay.

Me and the girls during PST in Immouzer