Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Boring Details and Culture Shock

As the title of this blog so eloquently states, I'm going to Morocco. I've signed up for a 27 month commitment with the Peace Corps (PC). They don't tell you a lot about what you'll be doing or where you'll be doing it, but here's what I know so far. I'll be working in a rural village at a health clinic, teaching locals about water safety and general disease prevention techniques. There might be those of you saying, "But Duncan, you don't know anything about health care." To those people, I say, "You're right." Fortunately, the PC provides three months of training prior to service, which includes job training. Three months doesn't seem like a lot of time to learn about health care, but hopefully it will be enough.

The first part of my PC assignment starts March 1st when I report to Philadelphia, PA. We're in Philly for two days for very basic training and meeting one another (there will be 60 volunteers heading to Morocco at the same time). On March 3rd, we fly from JFK to Casablanca, then take a bus to Rabat (the capital). In Rabat, we have another 5+ days of training. After this, I will go to Ouarzazate, to live and train for 2+ months. During these two-three months, I will be living with a Moroccan family in order to help me practice the language (either Moroccan Arabic or Berber - keep your fingers crossed for Arabic) and assimilate to the culture. After three months of training, I will be reassigned and go off to live some place for two years of work. Crazy, right?

While I would be thrilled to communicate via email, I prefer snail mail. Here is my address for the first three months of service:

Duncan Gromko
Corps de la Paix
2, Rue Abou Marouane Essaadi
Agdal, Rabat 10100

Once I'm reassigned, I'll get another address and post it.


When I got back from Spain, everyone asked me if I was experiencing culture shock. I said no; when I first got back to the States, it was a little different, but I didn't feel weird or uncomfortable.

But over the two months that I've been back in the States, I've been experiencing something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Being in the States now, in comparison with my life in the States pre-Spain, has felt really different. Night and day different. And it's just little things. For example, I'm completely enthralled by TV, unlike ever before. I also have loved being able to walk downtown and eat at a restaurant, get a cup of coffee, or buy CDs. I'm excited about going into town and I live in Bowling Green, Ohio, which doesn't excite anyone. These are just simple things that I took for granted before.

When I was in Spain, I was bored a lot of the time and we didn't really have much to do. We didn't have TV and there was nothing commercial in our village. If I wanted to go to a town, I had to ride a bike 30-40 minutes...and the only thing to do there was go to the Internet cafe. I'm not complaining - it was a good bored. But that's why I'm so easily entertained now.

So I think that's what culture shock was for me. It made me think about my life at home and all the conveniences (like having a car or a grocery store nearby) that I was accustomed to. It's made my life different. Maybe this realization is unsurprising to anyone who has lived abroad, but it was new for me. And that's one reason that I'm so excited to go to Morocco.