Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Resource Depletion in Morocco

For those of you that don’t know, there are 4 different sectors in which Peace Corps volunteers work in Morocco: health, environment, small business development, and youth development. Health and environment tend to be more rural, while SBD and YD are generally in bigger towns and cities. There is a fair amount of overlap between health and environment work as water and sanitation are two issues that concern both sectors.
65 km to the North of me is a town called Boumia, where an environment volunteer is placed. Most environment volunteers have vague job descriptions (like health volunteers), but this volunteer has a very specific goal for his work: preserve the forests in land surrounding his town.
Morocco is currently faced with a number of environmental challenges. There is the big issue of climate change, which has a drastic effect on people here. Things here are getting drier, making it harder to be subsistence farmer. A few people in my village have told me that the river used to have much more water than it does now. But global climate change is something that rural Moroccans have done nothing to bring about and can do nothing to reverse.
However, the issue of overgrazing and harvesting too much wood from the surrounding land is a micro problem that Moroccans can affect.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Amazigh (Berber) people of this region lived in a sustainable fashion: not taking more from the land than it could reproduce by the following year. However, in the past 50 years, the population in Morocco has gone from 8 million to 30 million, with a large part of that growth coming in the rural areas. Like elsewhere in the world, this population growth is due partly to the green revolution. Modern fertilizers and pesticides dramatically improve agricultural output, allowing the land to support more people. Unfortunately, this increase in population has taken its toll on the surrounding environment.
For many Amazigh people, sheep and goat herding is their primary source of income. A full-grown sheep fetches something like 700 Dirhams ($100) at market, which is a tidy sum in these parts. So people naturally gravitate toward herding sheep. I haven’t seen it, but apparently there are flocks as big as 1,000 sheep. You can imagine that when 1,000 hungry sheep are driven through an area that they eat anything and everything they come across. There is no regulation for grazing and some areas are getting damaged severely.
The second major problem is the harvesting of wood. Most people here cook using wood-burning stoves. They bake their bread using ovens that burn wood. They heat their homes with wood-burning stoves too. And one of the biggest users of wood are the hammams (public baths), which are like saunas that heat up large volumes of water (using wood). This adds up to a lot of wood and a lot of trees cut down. Entire forests are in jeopardy.
Finally, the result of overgrazing and chopping down too many trees is soil erosion. With nothing to stop it, the topsoil is flowing away.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this poorly organized post, there is an environment volunteer nearby whose job it is to hopefully reverse this process. But what can be done? Our training has taught us (correctly or not) that Moroccans do not think of the environment as something to be valued; that it is merely valuable for the resources that it provides. Thus, the first part of the process involves educating Moroccans on the damage that they are causing and the impact that it may have on them down the road. According to my colleague, the timetable is something like 10 to 20 years before the resources are so depleted that it starts to affect everyday life here. However, in order to reverse the process, change must start now. So a little forward thinking is required.
One way to mitigate the effects of over grazing is to simply regulate it. If there were some sort of grazing rotating “schedule,” some areas would be off limits for a year or two, allowing them to recover. As it is now, infant trees are eaten before they reach adulthood. Unfortunately, there is no institutional infrastructure in place to govern the migration of the nomadic herders. In order to get them to leave some areas alone for years at a time will take excellent organizing along with some intellectual leaps. It would also be helpful to convince herders to find alternative sources of income (such as fruit production), but that’s a hard sell as well.
The issue of wood harvesting is also difficult. People need to eat and be warm. There is a wood-burning stove available that is twice as efficient as the ones being used now, thus reducing the amount of wood needed. Another option is to get people to switch to gas-burning stoves for their cooking. However, this demands a little more out of their pocketbook, thus making it a hard sell. Generally speaking, people are slow to change in these parts. Traditional ways of living have been unchanged for centuries and people are stuck in their ways.
So quite clearly, this is a collective action problem. As far as I can tell, there are many similarities between the micro crisis here in rural Morocco and the macroclimate crisis that we are dealing with on a global scale. Massive population growth has led to over depletion of resources. Some sacrifices are required on the part of all parties in order to reverse the trend. However, there is no institution that has the authority to govern resource use. Thus, the onus is on individuals to independently make the sacrifices and hope that their neighbors do the same.

I just finished reading The Dharma Bums, by Kerouac. It was an entertaining read. The best part for me was that he describes some hiking near the San Francisco area when he hiked Mt. Tamalpais, through Muir Woods and down to Stimson beach. Colton and I did the same hike last summer! Next I’m going to try and read Ulysses, which is very intimidating for me.
The work is going well. A 2nd year volunteer in the region has organized a training for traditional birthing attendants. There is a high rate of maternal and infant death here in rural Morocco, so this training could do a lot of good. So my job right now is to identify potential trainees and persuade them to go to the training. Of course this is pretty difficult because I’m a guy and all the trainees would be women.
Also, more and more people in my village are starting to come to me with problems. They’re starting to trust me and they see that I’m here for good. So I’m starting to get a better picture of what’s going on in my village. I had an extremely satisfying moment when one of my villagers told me (without any prompting) that a big problem they are facing is the same overgrazing and over harvesting of wood problem that I described above.
It’s a little hot here, but not unbearable. If you step out of the bright sun, the temperature is quite comfortable. The closest volunteers to me (a married couple) and I are planning a little hike for next weekend. So I’m looking forward to sleeping under the stars and having a little escape. Hope all is well in the States.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Morocco vs. USA

Morocco vs. USA

A few venerable readers have requested that I do an entry about culture in Morocco and how it can differ from that in the United States. Although it’s a serious topic that I think about a lot, I’ve decided to write an entry that treats the subject lightly. I hope all of you know me well enough to see this entry as something of a joke (while still trying to address some issues of culture). I also hope that my overgeneralizations are seen as intentional. Alright, enough prefacing. The format of the competition will be a best of seven series.


In Morocco, people spend a lot of their free time outside, hanging out with their neighbors. Everyone in a village is seen as family, even if they’re not blood related; I call every older man in my village uncle. In many villages there are public spaces where people congregate and talk. Neighbors spend a lot of time in the space between their houses talking and relaxing together. In contrast, Americans spend more of their free time in their houses, with their family (it’s also noteworthy that they have less free time, but that’s another round). Americans are friendly and polite with their neighbors, but they aren’t necessarily friends.

DECISION: Morocco, friendliness is good (MOROCCO 1, USA 0)


Americans work more hours per week than most other people in the world. There are plenty of anecdotes about Americans, driven by material success, sacrificing quality time with their friends/family for work. Contrary to what many outside observers may say, Moroccans do work hard, just not as much as Americans. I’ve been working with doctors the past two weeks and they would work from 9 or 10 until 2 or 3 and call it a day. Work on the farm is obviously different from white-collar work, but I think the same attitude can be applied to blue-collar work in Morocco. 4 or 5 hours is a solid day’s work.

DECISION: Morocco, Americans work too hard (MOROCCO 2, USA 0)


This is an easy decision for me. A lot of people decry sexism in America (and rightly so), but it’s nothing like what Moroccan women face. Women belong to a different caste in Morocco. If I get invited over for a meal at someone’s house here, I almost always eat with just the men of the house. The meal is often bigger than we men could eat and at first I thought it was because the family was trying to show off their wealth. But then I realized that the women of the house ate whatever we didn’t. Women in Morocco often get the leftovers. That’s just one example of the divide between men and women.



There is no such thing as environmentalism in Morocco, at least not that I’ve seen. As will be the subject of a subsequent post (tune back in Wednesday!), there is a problem with the unsustainable use of resources in Morocco, and few people are aware of the issue. Although not as pressing as using resources unsustainably, Moroccans treat the world as a giant trash can. In many cities, there aren’t public trashcans for people to throw their trash into; you just toss your trash wherever you feel. The streets of my town are littered with trash. Periodically, on trash burning day, the stench of burning garbage fills the air. In America we (or some of us) believe that the environment has an inherent value beyond the resources that it can provide for us. The ideal of conservation is perhaps most evident in our numerous, expansive National Parks. On the other hand, as a nation, we’re responsible for most of the damage wreaked upon this world by humans.

DECISION: MOROCCO, Americans care more about the environment (or say they do), but do more damage to it. (MOROCCO 3, USA 1).


Mostly I created this category to make the scorecard a little more even. The idea of a balanced diet in Morocco doesn’t really exist. Linguistically, there isn’t even a way to say that you ate nutritious food as opposed to simply being full. People here eat a lot of bread and have little variety in their diet. When vegetables are served, they’re often cooked to death and deprived of any vitamins. As I’ve mentioned before, people drink a ton of sugary tea. The worst part about it is they think it’s good for their health. In fact, a lot of people have diabetes (because of the tea) and constant headaches brought on by caffeine dependency. Getting people to cut back on tea would be a major health victory, but it’s so entrenched in the culture that’s practically untouchable.



Time is much more flexible in Morocco. Most people use the five daily prayers (which are governed by the sun) as their clock. If you ask someone what time an event is happening the next day, they’ll most likely say “morning” or “afternoon.” If you’re lucky, you might get “early morning.” Some people wear watches, but the time on their watch is not accurate: maybe plus or minus one hour. The attitude toward time has been highlighted by the recent time change in Morocco. For the first time ever, Morocco did daylight savings time. Some people changed their clocks, some didn’t. So now there is the confusion whether people are talking about the “old” time or the “new” time. But I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who’s frustrated by this ambiguity.

DECISION: USA, I hate it when people are late (MOROCCO 3, USA 3)


Families are bigger in Morocco. Unlike the States, people are expected to live with their families until they get married. I’ve told a couple people in my town that I intend to move out of my home stay family’s house when I’m permitted by Peace Corps and they can’t believe it. I would say that the Moroccan extended family is also closer than the American one. Kids go to live with their aunts or uncles in another town if there is some sort of opportunity for them their. And this isn’t seen as “moving out.”

DECISION: MOROCCO, Ironic that the guy who moved to far away from his family for two years would value family ties, right? Sometimes I wonder too.


There you have it, Morocco’s better than the States.

Update and Quick Story

I hope the light tone that this post has taken communicates my mood. Everything is well here. Home stay is supposed to the hardest part of the Peace Corps service, but I’m halfway through with it and doing fine.

However, there was one unfortunate event in my community that warrants sharing. To be honest, I thought about not posting it because it would worry my parents.
On Monday night, I was hanging out with a group of guys in my town, when we were approached by another member of the town (whom I’ve never spoken to). About 20 feet away from me, he announced loudly, in French, that I had to leave the town. It had something to do with me not being Amazigh (Berber). A number of people told me that he is crazy as a result of his military service.
The next day the Sheikh (local authority figure) called me up and invited me over to his house. I recounted the event to him and he told me to tell the police. I told the police the next day and they went and arrested the guy. I had to write a declaration (in French!) and everything. The guy is now in prison or a psychiatric hospital; it’s unclear how long he will be there. Apparently he’s caused a number of other problems in town, but the police only did something about it when it affected an American.
This would seem to be a very discouraging event, but actually it’s been great. I was worried about being vilified as the foreigner who got a guy sent to prison, but it’s been the opposite reaction. Everyone in my town has been very supportive of me. They all say things like, “Anything bad that happens to you, it’s like it happened to us.” Also, a number of community leaders that I had been trying to have one on one conversations with now wanted to meet with me. They were supportive and it also led to talking about what I’m doing in their community, which is what I’ve wanted to talk about all along. So in the end, it worked out well. I do feel pretty weird about being responsible for a guy being in prison, however.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Updated My First Health Lesson

I forgot to bring my USB drive last time with my real blog update so I wrote a half hearted entry. Here is the newest entry, in full.

Updated My First Health Lesson

On Thursday the 12th, I gave my first health lesson in Morocco. It was very satisfying, after three and a half months in country, to do something other than observe and learn.
I was able to do a lesson ahead of schedule because of special circumstances in my douar. Two doctors from Meknes have been sent to my community to do evaluations and check-ups of school aged children. My community is very lucky to get this special treatment and they will greatly benefit from it. Talking to other volunteers in rural locations, this seems to be out of the ordinary, to say the least. Unfortunately, from talking to the doctors, it seems like they only have the time and resources to spend time in the central douars in my commune, leaving the outer douars untouched. But it’s better than nothing.
During the check-up of the children, each child goes through a different part of the evaluation with a different nurse or doctor (eye exam, height and weight, respiratory exam, etc). To do my lesson, I just latched onto the end of the exam cycle, so I was able to talk to each child individually. I sat them down, and basically said, “There are microbes on everyone’s hands, that cause sickness. You need to wash your hands with soap and water before you eat and after the bathroom so you don’t get sick.” A few of them didn’t understand me very well, probably a consequence of my poor language skills and them being to frightened/excited to listen very well. However, I think most of them understood me, as I was able to get them to repeat back to me what I had said.
The big question, though, is not whether they understood me. It’s whether or not they will change their behavior. Honestly, I don’t think that a single one of them is going to wash their hands on a regular basis as a result of their two-minute talk with me. Microbe and disease transmission is a totally foreign concept to most of the kids, so it’s going to take a sustained effort. When the kids go back to their home, no one else is going to be washing with soap, so even if they remembered what I said, they’re not likely to call attention to themselves by doing so.
In order to actually get behavior change amongst the kids (just like kids in the states), there has to be an authority figure (parents) constantly reminding them to wash their hands. Unfortunately, that leads to two problems. First, the parents aren’t likely to wash their own hands with soap before eating. And second, mothers and other women are in charge of childcare and I don’t have much access to women, given social taboos.
One idea I have to help me break into that social space is to enlist the help of my host mother. Our household is very casual and open. At a lot of households, the men eat separately from the women, but we eat together at my house (which may have something to do with the fact that there are only three of us). My unstructured plan of the moment is, sometime down the road, to give a full on health lesson to my mom, with the help of the female nurse from the health clinic. Maybe if I can stress the importance of spreading this information, she will help me talk to other women about it, or do so herself.
Another idea for educating women involves waiting a while longer. At first, when I walked around my douar, I was lucky to get a response from a woman passing the other way. Generally, the women are still unsure of what to make of me, but more of them are friendly with me. It also helps that my host mom thinks I’m a saint and surely says good things about me to all her friends. If I’m patient, my relationship with other women will probably improve, possibly giving me an opening to speak with them about health care ideas. Or maybe that will just never be a possibility for a male volunteer in this site. For now though, the doctors are here for another week, so I’ll keep telling kids to wash their hands. It’s good practice for me and, if nothing else, will get people in town to associate me with health care.


Things are going well and it’s good to have a little routine and real work reintroduced into my life, thanks to the work with the check-ups with the doctors. My language is coming along pretty well and I can definitely communicate now, but people still have to slow down their speech and help me out in order for me to understand. My own patience for my language ability is wearing a little thin. It’s frustrating that the three year old next door speaks better than I do.
I’ve been playing soccer with some guys in town, which is pretty fun. It’s nothing like soccer back home, but it’s a good way to interact without having to speak or listen. In other exercise news, I’ve started running again and have got my sights set on the January marathon in Marrakech. My biggest obstacle will be motivating myself to keep running on a regular basis, which is hard with out someone to run with. In literary news, I finally finished reading Manufacturing Consent, a Chomsky book that I recommend. Thesis: the American media present the news with the interests of the state and big corporations in mind; they’re not the objective “watchdogs” that they make themselves out to be. It’s also got a whole lot of political history in it, so I learned a lot. Now I’m reading a book called “The Nine,” (thanks Dad and Joyce), which is a retrospective on the last 12 years of the Rehnquist Supreme Court. It’s well written, interesting, and informative. I’m having trouble putting it down; in fact I think I’ll go read a chapter now…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Language in Morocco

Language in Morocco

Linguistically, Morocco is a diverse country. French is the language of the universities and government. Children learn French early on in school and are more and more saturated with the language as they advance in school. Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is the most widely spoken language. It is the most common language on television and a conversation between two Moroccans is most likely to take place in Arabic. Then there are three official Berber dialects, Tashelheit, Tamazight, and Tarafit. The Berber dialects are mostly spoken in rural areas: Tashelheit in the South, Tamazight in the Atlas Mountains, and Tarafit in the Northern Rif region. Finally, there are even a few places where Spanish is the dominant language. This linguistic diversity is the result of colonization and recolonization by the French, Spanish, and Arabs, of the Amazigh people.
That’s the simplest way to explain the linguistic breakdown of the country, but it misses a large part of the story. In practice, there aren’t such rigid boundaries of language as most people speak at least two of the languages. Furthermore, when someone is speaking, in French for example, they are not going to stick to French. Both Arabic and Tamazight words might be thrown in at any time. I had meetings with Ministry of Health people in the provincial capital (Khenifra), which were conducted in French. But the ministry people used lots of Arabic words. The other day, I went to a neighboring douar (community) and met with a guy who invited me in for tea. I told him numerous times that I didn’t speak Arabic (only Tamazight), but he peppered his speech with Arabic words, nonetheless. And he used French whenever he could recall a French word (although that was surely for my benefit and atypical).
The thing is, even when someone isn’t throwing in Arabic for the heck of it, Tamazight is full of words from other languages (mostly French and Arabic). “Tomobile” is the word for car. “Lbosta” is the word for post office (a derivative of the French word). “Jacketa” is jacket. “Lsac” is the word for a backpack. The Berber languages aren’t particularly complex, so we often use an Arabic word for more sophisticated or academic topics. For example, they use the Arabic words for economy, nation, politics, and many, many others.
(Warning: huge generalization coming). When people speak in Morocco, they just use the first word that pops into their mind, regardless of the language. Since different regions tend to know different languages, there are huge distinctions in language between places. But rather than being boundaries, there are linguistic gradations (is that the right word? I’m losing my English). Language is fluid in Morocco.
This is especially the case with the Berber dialects. The breakdown of the language into the three dialects (Tashelheit, Tamazight, and Tarafit) is marginally helpful for understanding the differences, but it fails to capture what’s really going on. If you can imagine the South of rural Morocco being one Berber linguistic extreme and the North as the other extreme, there is sort of a gradual change from the Southern dialect all the way up through the mountains until you finally get to a different language in the North. (People here tell me they can understand Tarafit (the Northern dialect), but that they can’t speak it.)
One other important aspect of language in Morocco is the status implications that it carries. French is obviously the language of the educated and elite. The nurses in my health clinic will often switch to French when they are talking to each other and patients are around so that the patients will not understand. Most anyone who has been to school through sixth grade can speak Arabic, even if it’s not their first language. But there are some people (especially women) who haven’t been to school and don’t speak any Arabic. On the other end of the status spectrum, are the Berber dialects. My nurses, from and educated in cities, don’t speak Tamazight very well (we speak to one another in French) and possibly disdain its use. When officials were in from out of town because of a pending visit from the king, people in my village spoke to them in Arabic (even though both parties spoke Tamazight).
However, people here also take a lot of pride in speaking Tamazight: it’s their history and their culture, which has survived constant invasions. I’ve said this before, but when I meet new people and talk to them in Tamazight, their faces light up. They say, “you speak Tamazight, do you know Arabic?” They can’t believe that I would know Tamazight, but not Arabic. There are some words and phrases that highlight the difference between Tamazight and Arabic. One example is “Bu-Itran” (literally, owner of the stars…which by the way, I prefer) as opposed to the most common Arabic word for God: “rbbi.” If I use these historically Amazigh words instead of the more frequently used Arabic ones, people here are amazed. They say, “He knows. He knows Tamazight. He is good and respectful.” When I was first assigned to Tamazight as opposed to Arabic, I was disappointed because it’s not practical outside of Morocco. But now I’m very happy to have it because it is an instant way to win trust and friendship in the communities that I live and work in. I can’t say this enough: people here love it that I speak Tamazight.

It’s been two weeks since I swore in and came to live in my site. People here are getting used to me being around and ask where I was if I’m missing for a day. I spend a good amount of my time just hanging out in the center of town where people sit around when there’s nothing to do. My language is improving, but I still don’t understand a lot of what is going on, especially when people are talking to one another, and not to me. Fortunately, I found a tutor in Tounfite (my souq, or market town). I’ll be going in there once or twice a week to get tutored, check email and mail, and hang out. There are two other volunteers there, a married couple, and they are generous to me and I like them a lot, which is fortunate since I’ll be spending a lot of the next year (when they finish PC) with them.
I have been trying to meet people in other douars (communities) as well. Basically what I do is hike along the road for a while until I come to a clump of houses. Then I walk around, greeting everyone I see, hoping to get invited in for tea or food. I kind of feel like a charity case, but my method hasn’t failed me yet. I’m meeting people and establishing contacts in other communities. I feel like this work is especially important because these other douars that I’m visiting are poorer and have greater need than my douar, which is a little more centrally located. One of the people that I met said to me, “help us, we are very poor.” It’s hard to hear that because there are no big changes with Peace Corps. I think the most important and effective thing I can communicate to the people in my commune is “wash your hands after you use the bathroom and before you eat.” But that’s not really what a guy who eats bread for three meals a day wants to hear when he asks for help.
On Monday, I’m going to try and give my first health lesson. There are currently two doctors from out of town (Meknes) who are here for three weeks to do check-ups with the children in school (ages 7-11). This means that there are a bunch of kids in the health clinic, playing around in the waiting room. My plan is to get groups of three children to come into an adjoining room and give them a quick hand-washing lesson. It’s a really simple lesson to do, so I think it’s a good one for me to start with. My big concern is that their behavior won’t change if no one else in their house is washing their hands either (which is the case). Nonetheless, it’s exciting to try to do real work and it will be a good learning experience for me.
One other thing is that last week, for the first time ever, Morocco moved its clocks forward in a daylight savings sort of thing. The only thing is that no one in my community (and I’m assuming many other rural communities) understands or follows it. The school, health clinic, and government building all follow the new time, but no one else does. They all know that the change has happened, but there’s no reason for them to do it. I changed the clock in my house, hoping to have my family be the trendsetters in the village. But their daily schedule is just like it was before the change – it follows the sun, not the clock. And now, whenever my mom says a time, she says the old time, followed by the word for old. For example, she’ll say, “the transport is coming at seven tomorrow – the old seven.” Then she always laughs because she thinks it’s hilarious I changed the clock.

Finally, happy 20th birthday to Franny! Not a teenager anymore; you’re so old! Miss you and everyone else.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Peace Corps and Development

As I’ve talked about earlier, the Peace Corps has three basic goals: 1 development, 2 educate foreigners about Americans and American culture, and 3 educate Americans about foreign culture. So basically the PC is a development agency plus a cultural exchange program. The cultural exchange aspect is controversial for different reasons, but right now I’ll just talk about the development aspect of PC and development in general.

A lot of development resources have been but into Africa and other parts of the developing world since decolonialization with disappointing results. It’s something that was often discussed my Political Science classes: aid to the developing world isn’t as effective as one might hope. A common scapegoat is the governments of those countries receiving aid. It is said that they line their pockets with aid money instead of distributing it to the people who need it. Yet that isn’t the only problem.

For example, there are two other development agencies in Morocco that bear some similarity to the Peace Corps. One is from South Korea and the other is from Japan. Both send citizens abroad to live and work in development for two years. One big difference between these organizations and PC is that they are much better funded. They pay their workers much better, thus increasing their applicant pool. Additionally, their projects are much better funded than ours. They tend towards big infrastructure projects; for example, the Japanese organization in one of my fellow volunteer’s site has recently built a large community building for women to work and congregate in. In another volunteer’s site, they built a large and well-furnished high school.

However, the failing of these organizations (and many others like them, both governmental and NGO) is that there is no community involvement. The workers in these organizations live in a house, isolated from the community that they are helping. They don’t speak the language of the people – they often don’t even speak French. Since they don’t involve the community, the people in the community often fail to benefit from their work. The community building that I mentioned above has not been opened since it was finished two years ago. In another volunteer’s site, they built a water chateau, which has turned into the neighborhood trash bin. I don’t mean to give the impression that all of their projects are failures – the school mentioned above is well used and the volunteer in that site is benefiting from the infrastructure built. However, it is sad to hear of vast resources poured into a place that needs them – only to have them lay unused.

Ideally, the Peace Corps has solved these problems. We spend a lot of time in training talk about the PC’s perspective on development. A lot buzzwords that you could also hear in any college class on development are thrown around. “Capacity building, participatory analysis, and community investment,” are amongst the most popular. Basically, the PC is trying to avoid the pitfalls that have hindered other development efforts by getting the community involved in the development work. And this attitude is definitely a reaction to past PC failings. Years ago, volunteers went from community to community building and installing water pumps around community wells. Two years after the project, there was an assessment that found that all the pumps were broken and not used,

That’s why education is such a big part of the work that we are doing. PC’s attitude is: what’s the point of building a community a latrine if they don’t know how to use it? And instead of deciding what the needs of a community are, we’re supposed to actively engage the community with surveys and interviews to determine their needs and wants. PC also wants community backing of any big project by asking them to give some of their own resources for the project. The thought is that if they have invested in an infrastructure project, they will be more likely to see to its maintenance. All of these strategies are supposed to insure that once PC leaves a community, they are not needed anymore. If we can educate local associations to do the work that we had been doing, then we’ve really succeeded.

So that’s a pretty rosy picture of PC and development that I’m giving without any actual experience implementing the strategies. There are a lot of problems. Despite all of our cute academic buzzwords, it’s hard to achieve the goals set forward. Another frustrating part of all this is that means there are only very small steps. I may work in my community for two years and be a model volunteer, yet not be able to see any concrete evidence of the work I’ve done. There are not going to be any dramatic changes.


After nearly a week in the cities of Khenifra and Azrou, I’m back in site. I had meetings with the Ministry of Health in Khenifra and had to pick up some of my luggage in Azrou. For anyone planning a trip to Morocco, I highly recommend Azrou. It is really nice. It’s got some nice hills and lots of trees. A lot of times you’ll look around and ask yourself “am I still in Morocco?” Plus, I was with other PC volunteers for the whole time and it’s very relaxing to be able to speak English instead not understanding what’s going on around you.

The downside is that I get used to that comfort and it makes it harder once I get back to my community. So other than going to my souq (market) town (where there is internet), I’m going to try and stay in my site for a while. Right now it’s overcast and maybe 60 degrees. My work for the near future is meeting and talking with the leaders of the association in my town. I’ve also got to make trips out to the far douars (communities) that are apart of my commune to meet people there and show my face. Fortunately, everyone is super inviting and friendly. I get invited into everyones house for tea and food. The generosity is astounding, especially when you consider that the people often don’t have much to give.

Celebrated birthday in Morocco by eating an entire watermelon with one other person. Felt sick all next day.

Near my site

My site