Language, Culture, Peace Corps and Fishing….
(Hello, Peace be upon you!)
Kulshi Mzyan? (Is it all Good?)
Kulshi Mzyan… (It is all Good)
La Bas? (It’s Not Bad?)
La Bas…(It’s Not Bad)
Hamdallah! (Thank God)
That’s the basic conversation that I have 15+ times a day here in Morocco… Aside from that, I can talk about age, work, where people are from, the weather, colors, and any number of verbs that describe my day in the past and sometimes present tense. I’m also getting pretty good at figuring out what people are talking about provided I have some sort of context to work with. That’s pretty much where I’m at with Darija…. Not as far along as I would like to be, but not as bad as I thought.
I’m a person that tends to pick up things fairly quickly. This is at least partially attributed to the fact that I will avoid things with which I don’t have a natural inclination. Language is something that I do not pick up quickly…. I don’t know why as I tend to retain all sorts of pointless information about politics and sports, but language has always been a struggle for me and this time around is no different. It’s a character building experience though and good training for future situations where I might get frustrated. It’s been hard to get study time and even harder to stay awake when I finally get a half an hour to study. Why is it so hard to find study time?
Well…. there would be two main reasons for that:
As an individual from the United States, I am fond of personal time and feel as though it is a necessity of life. This is not the same perspective that Moroccans have! This is a VERY communal culture. Everything revolves around 3 main categories; family, religion, and community. To a Moroccan, personal time doesn’t make any sense as it is not in one of the 3 above categories. So… as a stressed out American that studies all day this can be a serious problem. I find it a bit hard to study when I have a couple small children running around and the TV blaring (quick aside… I watched Super Troopers on TV last night with Arabic Subtitles and they did not understand why I was laughing when I was).
I guess I forgot that I was working for a government organization but I shouldn’t be surprised that I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork as the “track” my progress in training. It’s really not so bad but I do spend too much of my time filling out forms that say (Observations and Hypothesis).
That said…..the Peace Corps is doing great things…. it is refreshing to see Americans interacting in such a positive way with members of another country! In particular, it is great that I have a chance to interact and integrate within a country that is 99% Muslim. Here is a little story to illustrate why I think the Peace Corps is so invaluable….
Rachid and I are walking home after a trip to the local café and he asks me how I’m doing and how I like Morocco. I tell him that I am enjoying Morocco and that everything here is great! I tell him that I hope my whole experience goes this well and that I’m glad I’m happy and healthy (I wasn’t the week before, but that’s to be expected when traveling). I asked him if he was healthy and happy and he said “Hamduallah! Thank God!”. At this time, I told him I hope all the people in Morocco are happy and healthy and he responded that he hopes all the people of America are healthy and happy, particularly my family.
Later in the week, I met Rachid’s brother-in-law and family since, and proceeded to have a very awkward conversation about Israel that involved me tip-toeing around the topic of U.S. support of Israel. Rachid’s brother was not shy about his HATRED of Israel.
I think now, of how amazing the conversations that I had really were. Moroccans get so much of the information about the United States and Americans by watching television…. It is apparent in the English that they know and the perceptions that they have. In a month, I, and the 39 Americans that arrived in Morocco with me, have changed those perceptions and made personal connections with literally hundreds of Moroccans… that is more powerful than any show of military might or economic dominance.
It’s at this point that I’d like to tell you a couple of quick statistics (hat tip to Kathy for these)
- In the 50 years of its existence, Peace Corps has spent less money on operations than the U.S. currently spends on defense in 2 days.
- The annual budget for the U.S. Marine Corps Band is larger than the annual budget for the Peace Corps.
Just something to think about….
I did get a chance to go fishing “Moroccan Style” this last week and had a good time. “Moroccan Style” is where you place a net in the river and proceed to chase the fish into the net that you set.
The net has soda bottles on top and rocks on the bottom to keep it floating and open. You set the net in one place then walk slowly up the river a distance and then turn towards the net and splash around trying to scare the fish into the net. The soda bottles shake as each fish hits the net and gets caught. It worked rather well as we went home with 21 fish! Sadly, the fish was my least favorite thing that I have had thus far, tasted kinda like trash…. Anyway, here are some pictures of the process and some other random pictures of sunsets and the walk to and from the river.
Much love to all and don’t forget to take some time to make your life what you want it to be. Please let me know how things are in your life! I really do want to know!