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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Updates and Protests

Hello readers,

Ugh, I am probably the worst person to maintain a blog.  Sorry to those of you who want to see more posts.  I will get my act together!

Anyway, I have started to develop and initiate some projects with cooperative Najah, the wood carving cooperative that I am assisting.  Currently, I am planning on performing a site renovation project, since cooperative Najah's work conditions are in need of some serious repairs.  Through a personal donation and strong exchange rate, I should be able to greatly help Najah with some needed improvements.

I also started developing an Artisan business management application, so that Artisan's in Morocco, such as cooperative Najah, can manage their customers, inventory, events, and finances more effectively.  With a push of a button, the application runs in French, English, and Arabic.  It works with all operating systems that have a web browser.  Lastly, it doesn't need to be installed, but rather just copied on to any computer, since I wrote it in javascript with sqlite.

I plan on working with cooperative Najah to better understand their needs regarding technology and Artisana business in Morocco.  Najah currently has a website that was created by a previous volunteer.  The url is as follows:  I am in the process of obtaining a grant to get the coop a computer so that they can maintain their site more conveniently and use the business application that I am building.  Additionally, I will be teaching English to women at an association that makes beautiful rugs.  Also, I am planning on building a literacy application.

All last week, I attended a week long Peace Corps seminar in Azrou.  It was nice to follow up with the other first year volunteers and collaborate on project ideas and upcoming events.  After the seminar, when I returned to my site, I found that the middle Eastern unrest had spilled into my city.  Some of the banks in my city were severely vandalized, as well as other buildings.  Currently, there are protests, but they appear to be peaceful.  In all, people in my site seem to be going on with their days, as if this will shortly blow over.  This is definitely very interesting and eye-openning.

Thank you,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Random Pictures

Hello Readers,

I still haven't posted any pictures of Khemisset, but I do have some pictures of Mehdiya, Morocco.  I took these pictures with my iPhone during a morning run on the beach in late November.  Mehdiya's beach is magnificent!  I ran out for an hour and a half and did not see one house or building, just beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  I lived in Hawaii for four years, but never experienced beach front property like this before.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Final Site, Now Home

Hello readers,

Happy holidays!  I am sorry for the long delay.  Now I see why many PC blogs take awhile to get regularly updated.  I think it is apathy or maybe just laziness, although many PCVs don't have regular access to the internet.

Anyway, I am just now completing my first month at my final site, which, by the way, is not Guercif.  I now live in a city named Khemisset.  This city is much larger than Guercif and a bit more developed.  Also, Khemisset is only an hour away from Rabat.  At first, adjusting to the city took some time, since I did not get a chance to visit while the previous volunteer was available.  However, aside from sheer size, Khemisset was pretty easy to acclimate to.  I now know my way around and have developed some relationships with the residence in Khemisset.  I already have a tutor and I will be moving into my own home shortly.  My host-family in Khemisset is very nice.  Although it is hard for me to practice my Darija, because my host-father speaks English.  Best of all, Khemisset has a fairly large gated park for running and exercising.  The park even has a quarter-mile track, although the perimeter around the park almost equals a mile.  I just run around like a hamster in a wheel for a couple of hours free of dogs!

I have met with a cooperative that I will be working with during my stay in Khemisset.  The cooperative is named Najah and they specialize in wood carving.  Their products are really nice.  The previous volunteers assisted the cooperative well during their volunteer stint, so I hope to do the same.

Prior to moving to my final site, I attended the official PC volunteer ceremony in Rabat.  I am now an official PCV.  It was an interesting experience, leaving the training environment, and immediately departing to a new location alone; such mystery, such intrigue.  Now, it's no sweat, although I still speak like a bumbling idiot.

Happy holidays!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Post Final Site Visit

Hello readers,

I had a great time visiting my final site, although there were some logistical problems.  Basically, I ended up staying in a hotel for most of the visit.  My final site is in the city of Guercif.  The city is pretty large compared to my current training site.  My impression of Guercif was that it was well developed.  Compared to my training site, Guercif's roads are fully paved, there are large buildings, and the people seem to be much more exposed to foreigners, although I don't think many Americans visit Guercif that often.  Plus, it was really hard for me to find someone who spoke English.

The great thing about Guercif is that there were no wild dogs.  Its funny, but after I returned from Guercif last Sunday, I was chased by two dogs while I was jogging.  I realized that the dogs here are not wild, but rather dogs owned by people who live outside of the city.  Luckily, I shouldn't have this problem in Guercif.

The cooperative where I will be conducting business development appeared well organized.  It was real interesting to observe their daily operations and see their products.  Also, the members of the co'op were incredibly nice and very patient with my lack of Moroccan Arabic (Darija).

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Guercif is a new city for the Peace Corps, so I am really excited about building strong and lasting relationships, especially for future volunteers.  Here are some pictures of Guercif and of a near by reservoir.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Final Site Visit

Hello readers,

It has now been well over a month and training seems to be going well.  The dogs are still annoying as ever, but that should soon change.  On Friday, I was given the location of my final site, and I am pretty excited.  For security reasons I will not include the name of the city, however I was told that this city was new to the Peace Corps.  Next week, I will be spending a week at my final site with another host-family.  I have to take a train to the site, which should be fun.  Also, I heard that the city is fairly large.

In all, I will be able to check out the city, meet the Artisana association that I will be working with, and get acquainted with my surroundings.  I will make sure to take many pictures and post them at the end of next week.  In the meantime, here are more pictures of my training site and Azrou.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week Four

Hello readers,

Well, I am now completing my fourth week in Morocco, and things are going pretty well.  My Darija is getting much better, and I am making more conversations with the locals.  Last Sunday, I jogged out of my town for about seven miles, and enjoyed every minute of it.  The road that I was jogging on was no wider than the Burk Gillman trail in Washington, so it felt like I was running on a regular trail.  The scenery was amazing.  Unfortunately, I had to turn around due to a bunch of dogs.  Luckily the dogs were afraid of fake rocks, or at least some of them were.

My group and I began performing some business and operations analyses on a local association in our town, to prepare for future business analysis procedures at our final sites.  The Artisans here are very talented.  The association even taught a little bit of web technologies.

Once I get to my final site, I will be meeting with a local Artisan association to determine their organizational needs, and institute a project or projects to meet their needs, and hopefully transform the project into a sustainable program.  This is no small feet given the language and cultural barriers.  To imagine, in the states, even in an organization where everyone speaks the same language, projects seem to never come to fruition.  If I can execute a worthwhile program here in Morocco, I guess this will be a great accomplishment.  I have to applaud the current and past PCV's who have successfully implemented worthwhile projects and programs for the Artisan's here in Morocco.

Anyway, as time goes by I will continue to comment on my business development activities.  I am here for two years so time is really just a frame of mind.  That is about it for new news, just lots of training and cultural immersion with a few crazy dogs on the side - ha ha.


Friday, October 1, 2010

First Week

Hello readers,

I think I am finally finding my voice for blog posts.  I usually do not write journals, so my posts may appear a little dry.  Hopefully this will change as I progress through the months.

Anyway, my group and I have successfully completed a full week of training, and are steadily completing our second week.  Training is going very well.  We are learning Darija at a very fast pace.  Some days, we will go out to the market and try out our Darija, however our accents really inhibit our capacity to bargain.  Also, we spend time speaking with random strangers, in order to hone our language skills.  I think what really helps us learn Darija is our daily interactions with our host families.  Everyday, I am able to have much more in-depth conversations with my host family, although I revert to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) often.  It is amazing to me how common it is for Moroccan families to speak and read Darija, MSA, and French all within the same households.

I am finally getting acclimated to my new home.  During a typical day, I will wake up at 6:00 AM and run for an hour.  I then take a bucket-shower, eat breakfast, and go to training by 8:00 AM.  Training gruelingly goes until 6:00 PM.  After training, I head back to my host family's house and practice my Darija.  During Sundays, my group and I get free time to do other things.  The city is surrounded by miles and miles of foot hills and magnificent ridges.  This Sunday, a few of my group members and I are going to do some serious hiking.

I haven't experienced anything too negative except for kids throwing rocks at me and another group member.  The kids were around 6 or 8 years old.  I almost turned around to chase the kids, but decided to just grin and bare it.  The Peace Corps briefed us on situations like this.  Another interesting encounter or situation that had occurred more than once was the locals not believing that I am from the US.  They assume that I am from Africa.  In my opinion, I think US media is basically transmitting crap to other countries.  I've seen the commercials played here in Morocco, and they are just grossly ridiculous (i.e. they do not portray an accurate representation of the US).  Oh well, I suppose this is an issue within the US, as well.  Other than that, things are going steadily, albeit incredibly slow.