Sunday, November 7, 2010

Parade

Every culture celebrates weddings differently. And here in Morocco it is a full on party mixed with a lot of culture.  Everyone here tells me I need to go see a wedding, and I hope that before my two years are up I will have the opportunity to see one. I do not know all that a Moroccan wedding entails, other than it starts late at night and goes into the early morning and it is a big party. But one thing my Moroccan friends left out was the parade that goes on the afternoon prior to the wedding. I discovered this one afternoon when I heard music outside. I went out to my balcony and this is what I saw. Apparently a girl around the corner was getting married. The parade goes around the city and ends at the house of the bride-to-be. Stacy, how would you like to have a parade before your wedding?







video

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Essaouira

Last weekend we had a much needed and deserved 4-day weekend, so 7 of us rented a couple cars and drove 5 hours south to a town called Essaouira. This town was an old Portuguese port on the beach. Along the drive we stopped at a town called Oualidia for lunch.
Oualidia   
After stopping in Oualidia for some fresh fish, we stopped in Safi where we got a tour of a place where they made pottery from hand.
The guy mixing the clay with his feet

Hand sculpting the clay

more sculpting

All the pottery was hand painted    

 After looking at pottery we got back into the car and drove a few more hours where we finally arrived in Essaouira. We stayed in an apartment located in the Medina and overlooked the ocean.
The words on the bottom corner say, "From Morocco to the rest of the world."


These cannons were used by the Portuguese. This was also the view from our apartment.

The square in the middle of the Medina

Oh yeah, we rode some camels along the beach



We went to a restaurant and when we asked for the bill the waiter brought us a calculator and the menu and told us to add up our bill. We all started laughing and so the guy brought back a larger calculator.

And we watched the sunset over Africa from our rooftop terrace. 



The weekend was great! We saw some amazing scenery and met some interesting people. While talking to the locals and telling them that we are teachers, they told us they went to the school of life. We learned a lot about the school of life, and how it isn't what is in your pockets, but the love, happiness, and family that you have.  Overall, a fantastic time getting out of the hustle and bustle of Casa. I cannot wait to go back!
 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Couscous - Traditional Moroccan Cuisine



The first week here during orientation the director had us all over for a traditional couscous dinner. In Morocco couscous is traditionally served every Friday and during special occasions. It takes about three hours to make, and it is made in a special couscous pot. I also found out that when a Moroccan says couscous they are talking about a whole meal, not just the couscous portion. You will see from the picture below that it contains vegetables and meat. We also learned that the traditional way to eat couscous is with your hands. However, many families generally eat couscous with a spoon now. When couscous is served or when any dish is served it is served on a large communal platter and placed the middle of the table for all to eat out of. 
During dinner we were given a lesson on how to properly eat couscous with our hands.  We learned that you roll the couscous up into a ball and try to quickly get the couscous into our mouths without having too much fall onto the table. This was easier said than done. By the end of dinner there was couscous all over the table, down the front of us and all over our faces. The couscous was delicious and it was nothing like the instant Trader Joes stuff I bought back home.





Sunday, September 5, 2010

My New Home

It has been three full weeks since I have landed here, and I have now started to settle in. I am still trying to get my apartment to be more of a home, as you will see in pictures below there is not much to it.


 My street
Mustapha Menfelouti



The Entrance to my apartment building


















Entrance to my apartment

My dining area

Living room
Notice the bare light bulb sticking out of the wall. Apparently they don't cover light bulbs here, they leave it for the tenant to choose their covering and cover the light bulbs themselves. They hang from the ceiling uncovered as well.

 Front balcony

And then my view 

kitchen


1st Bathroom


2nd Bathroom (it is called a squat pot)

 My bedroom 

 Guest bedroom


Back balcony where the laundry dries 


View from the back balcony



First Week of School


Wow! The days have been going by so fast. I can’t believe that I have been here for three weeks now; it seems so much longer than that.  I have been busy getting situated as the new Special Education teacher, as well as redefining the department and developing a program for all of the students who are talented and gifted.            
Monday was the first day of school, and the halls were bustling with 555 students in preschool to 12th grade from all nationalities. Walking down the hall I hear accents from North America, Morocco, and parts of Europe and Asia. Going into a classroom I am blown away by the 100% participation that occurs during class discussion, and how every student is excited to learn. It is so different from many classrooms in the States where it is like pulling teeth to get students to participate.
The majority of the students come from very wealthy families, and as mentioned come from all over the world. For instance, one of the high school students happens to be the Prince of Saudi Arabia. He lives here during the school year with the Queen of Saudi, and will one day be the King of his country.
Overall, I am really enjoying my new job.  I could not ask for a better situation right now. The people I work with are amazing and fun to be with. However, even though things are going great, as any new situation there are always setbacks. Such as lack of materials, which makes me have to be really inventive when needing to make sensory objects for some of my students.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I’m Not in Oregon Anymore

This week has been the longest and one of the best weeks I have ever had. I have been staying extremely busy with orientation, exploring the city and getting situated in my apartment. With this being my first week here I was bound to encounter some culture shocks, and culture shock I have encountered. I was prepared for some and others were a definite shock.

As soon as I got off the plane I was bombarded with the fact I was no longer in the States. Going to any country one knows that the written language would be written in the native language. So, naturally everything is written in Arab and some also in French. Seeing as I cannot read either language I depend on the pictures to identify what the product is. For the items that have no pictures or the picture is ambiguous, well… I guess and hope it is what I want. For instance, Morocco is known for many things, but one thing is their pastries. So, I went into the bakery to buy a little pastry. After a few minutes of being overwhelmed with their vast selection of pastries I made my decision. I picked out this circular flaky pastry that was stuffed and sprinkled with powered sugar. There was a sign next to it that had Arabic writing, which naturally told what it was, but that was no help to me. There was no one who spoke English who could tell me what I was buying, so I got it. I gave them my 4 dirham’s and said “Shokron” meaning thank you and left. I walked my 2 blocks home and then I took out my pastry and bit into it. I was hoping for some sugary delicious filling maybe a fruit or berry center or something. Instead I bite into a pile of ground beef and nuts. It was very good, but I was disappointed, as I wanted dessert not meat. Just one of many stories and I am sure more to come that makes me wish I knew Arabic.

“Enshala” the word that is very common around here. It translates to “God willing,” but the staff at the school and I refers to it as the ultimate copout for doing something on time or at all. It is used rather than giving a yes, no, or maybe answers. I have encountered this with getting my work computer fixed, and small apartment fixes, such as a broken back door. If someone wants anything done it will get done “Enshala.” This has been a real shock as things in the state are usually very punctual. You ask for something to get done and it will get done. Here, things will get done in weeks or even months down the road. This has been an adjustment for my co-works as well as myself as we expect things to get done on time.

Morocco is a very relationship based country. It is considered rude to immediately ask for something. Rather, one has to say hello, ask how they are, what is new and how their family is prior to asking for a favor. I have been struggling with this one as I am running around like crazy trying to get ready for the start of school. I would go and ask a person a question and have to remember to ask how they are doing and how their day is going before I can even begin to ask what I originally wanted. I usually go to ask a question where the whole conversation should only last a minute. However, almost 5 minutes later I have the answer I came for and was able to leave.

Ramadan is a Muslim holiday that lasts for a month once a year. I will be explaining more about this in later posts, as this holiday affects my daily life. During Ramadan all Muslims are required to fast from food, water, smoking, and many other things. They are able to drink and eat after the sun goes down, and has to stop once the sun rises. Since it is Ramadan Restaurants are closed during the day and many are closed for the whole month. Many stores are also closed during the month too. The other day some of my friends and I wanted to go out for dinner. We waited until about 9 when restaurants were open and then we went. By this time we were all starving. We walked past many cafes and noticed that everyone was drinking coffee and eating pastries. We finally go into one café and started to look at the menu. After talking to a local we realized that restaurants do no serve food during Ramadan just coffee and pastries. As the hunger pains started to grow we settled on gelato for dinner. It may not have been the dinner that we were hoping for, but it was the best gelato I have ever had. And now we know for the next few weeks we wont be able to go out for dinner.

Driving here is crazy! There might be 3 driving lanes of traffic, but there are 5 lanes of cars. The driving system here is interesting. At first glace it seems like there is an insane mess of cars as they are driving between the lines and are always honking. However, sitting back and watching the driving unfold one sees that there is a system to their madness. For example, the signals are placed in a difficult spot for the first car in the row to see, so the car behind the first car honks signaling to the car that it is green. The police do not drive in a car looking for someone to break the law; they are standing on the corner of the intersection. When you have ran a yellow light or are doing something illegal they walk out into the middle of the street blowing their whistle and signaling you to stop.

Crossing the street was scary at first. There are no pedestrian signals, and cars do not stop. When crossing it reminds me of the old video game frogger, or whatever it was called, where you are trying to get the frog across the street without getting hit by a car. I was never very good at that game, but now that I am the “frog” I am quickly learning. The first few days I would run and scream while thinking “I am going to die” as I cross the street. Now after much experience I am by no means an expert, but I am getting better as I am not running or screaming.

Having only spent a week here in Morocco, I know that I will encounter many more culture shocks. However, these were the main ones that I have experienced thus far. I am having a great time here. Keeping very busy with work and getting settled in. I am still trying to make my apartment a home, and I will put pictures up this week I promise. I have tried a lot of firsts throughout this week; however, this weekend I experienced my favorite first. Saturday I spent the day at the beach with some friends, and we had our very first surf lesson. A lot of things are very cheap here including my surf lesson. Where else in the world can you go and have a surging lesson, surf board rental and wetsuit rental all for only $25! I did not do very well on my first lesson, but it was great fun. Next week my goal is to stay on my board longer than I spent underwater yesterday. Today I went mountain biking up around the outskirts of the city though some of the different villages. It was fun to see the different areas of Morocco. Again, I promise pictures will be up soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day in Morocco

I have decided that it would be easier keeping everyone up to date with my life in Morocco by starting a blog, which will allow those who are interested in reading about what I am up to to do so. I will do my best to update my blog as much as possible about my life, adventures, and culture shocks I encounter. I hope you enjoy reading about what life in Morocco is like.

This adventure occurred after being offered a job as a Special Education teacher at an international school in Casablanca, Morocco for two years. After months of filling out paperwork, cramming my life into three 50 lb suitcases and two extra heavy carry on bags, and 27.5 hrs of traveling I am finally here! I arrived Sunday morning with about 10 of my new co-workers, where the administration picked us up from the airport and dropped us off at our apartments. I spent the next few hours soaking in my new life and unpacking. My apartment is large with 2 bedrooms a large kitchen with a propane tank stove, where I have to light a match for my stove to work. There is a large living room with a dining area. I was told my apartment has 2 bathrooms, but after entering the “1st bathroom” I realized that they consider a room with a “squat pot” a bathroom, thankfully the second one has a regular toilet and a tub/shower. There are also two large balconies on each side of the house, which is really appreciated at night when the temperature cools down. It is located in the middle of town on a nice side street. I am on the 6th floor with restaurant at the main floor called the Hippopotamus restaurant.

After touring my new home I started unpacking. I did not realize how much stuff I was able to pack until I realized that I filled 2 dressers and 2 large closets with clothes (one section devoted to shoes ☺) Thank goodness I have two bedrooms to fill up with clothes or I would not know what to do.

Later that afternoon the bus called “the blue bird” came to pick me and the other teachers up to go to the school and start our week of orientation. Arriving at the school we were met by the guards who guard the entrance of the school to make sure that there are no unwanted visitors. After going past security and thru the gates we were met by the administration once again. We were given a tour of this beautiful school. I was able to see my office, which I cannot wait to get setup.

After our quick tour, which left me lost and turned around we all went to the Director’s house for drinks and dinner. Upon arriving to this large beautiful Moroccan style house we were served a traditional Moroccan barbecue consisting of beef, chicken and vegetable kabobs along with roasted potatoes and a traditional vegetable stew type thing. It was all very delicious seasoned with spices I have never tasted before. We finished off the night with the traditional Moroccan mint tea.

Finishing the night there we were driven back to our apartments where I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Overall a great first day in this world that is unlike any place I have seen.