Sunday, April 26, 2009

It’s All Downhill From Here

First to respond to Patricia. Thank you for you comment. I would love to ask you some questions about your work. Can you email me at

It’s All Downhill From Here

Assuming I serve 27 months in Peace Corps Morocco, I have just passed a big milestone. At the end of April, I will have been in country for 14 months (and almost a year in my site), a little over halfway through my service. It’s a good feeling. Plus I’m taking a two week holiday to America to go to my brother’s wedding. So it seems like a good as time as any to take stock and reflect on my time in Morocco.

Mostly, it’s been good. I’ve had my ups and downs. In Peace Corps training, we’re warned that we will have long periods of time where we feel down. For example, one might feel generally down for a couple of months, but then pretty happy for the next few months. I haven’t experienced that; my ups and downs are more day to day than month to month. The single greatest factor in determining how I feel is how my work is going; if I just done a cool project or if there are exciting projects on the horizon I am much happier.

My most difficult period was my first 3+ months in site. I was living with my host family for longer than expected (2 months is normal) because of difficulty finding alternative housing. My host family is wonderful, but living with them for such a long time was not easy. I didn’t like the food that we ate. At that point, the work I was doing was very limited and small in scope. I had a difficult time communicating, which was frustrating (although the challenge of learning the language gave me a goal to work for). But the most challenging part of the first 3 months in site was being sick a lot. I had something like dysentery twice. Having dysentery entailed a week of illness. I tried to stay active during those times and get outside, but it was hard. In between those spells, I was sick fairly regularly. I lost weight. I also was experiencing disturbing dreams. In a half-sleep, I would dream that I was laying down in the very position that I was sleeping, but that I was in someone else’s house, in a group of people. It would dawn on me that I needed to walk home, but the fact that I was wearing my pajamas would panic me. I would slowly realize that I was dreaming and snap out of it, but the thin line between being awake and sleeping was a little frightening. It was difficult to tell if I was dreaming and hallucinating, because I felt awake during the dreams. Someone later suggested to me that these dreams were a result of stress. However, I don’t want to make the first three months seem terrible. They were also a time of constant discovery. It was exciting. Everything was new. I could feel language ability improve on a regular basis. My community’s comfort with me also changed noticeably. And I also had a great support from fellow volunteers when I needed it.

Which brings me to another point of reflection: the volunteer community. I probably ought to devote an entire post to this sometime, so this will just be a brief discussion. Fellow Peace Corps volunteers are my best friends in Morocco. This is simultaneously disappointing and wonderful. Disappointing because my expectation of Peace Corps was that my best friends would be Moroccans in my village. Wonderful because the volunteers closest to me are great people that I am thankful to have met. Sharing a difficult experience like Peace Corps with someone is bound to bring you closer to them. Fortunately for me, the people nearby me would be my friends regardless of the environment. They have made everything so much easier for me.

Reflection on Morocco: it’s an incredible country that I haven’t begun to explore. I recently made a list of all the places that I want to visit before I leave. I was trying to be selective and limit the list to places that I couldn’t leave the country without seeing. But the list is long and I won’t be able to see everything even after two years. There is so much diversity in this country: culturally, geographically, linguistically, socio-economically. Anyone who says he/she knows the “real” Morocco doesn’t know the first thing about the country.

Reflection of my service as PC volunteer: the Peace Corps has three goals. 1 Increase other people’s awareness of Americans. 2 Increase Americans awareness of other cultures. 3 Community-level development work. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job with the first two. My integration into my community, however, isn’t as deep as I would like it to be and it probably never will be. One reason for this is that work is taking me out of my site more and more. People in my community tell me that I leave too much. Another (more disappointing) reason for this is that I don’t spend a lot of time with my community even when I am here. Men in my site spend nearly all their free time in public spaces, talking and passing the time. Simply put: I don’t find their conversations interesting and I don’t like doing nothing all day long. I spend some time in public spaces, but not as much as other men. I’m not good enough friends with them to enjoy their company for long periods of time. On the plus side, I spend a lot of time at my host family’s house and have a good relationship with them.

As for the development aspect of Peace Corps, it’s up and down. On the whole I’m happy with what I’ve done, but as you’ll see, the bulk of the work that I hope to do in Morocco is during the second half of my service. So I have a lot left to do if I want meet my goals.

Basic health education (dental hygiene, hygiene): I’ve done lessons in three different schools. My favorite thing to do is handing out toothbrushes and following up with education. It’s difficult to tell if I’m changing behavior (mostly I think not). It’s hard to get kids to brush their teeth without their parents support. But one positive sign is that people in my community ask me for toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Mother and child health: The midwife training that I did last year was very successful. We trained 20 women to be effective midwifes and community health leaders. Getting them to do education in their communities about what they learned in formal settings has been difficult, but I think there is a significant amount of education happening informally. There is just no way to measure that education. Coordination with the Ministry of Health has been difficult and insufficient, but I’ve started working with a nurse in a nearby community on this project, which is promising. We hope to do another training this fall.

Water treatment and supply: My big water infrastructure project is slowly progressing. Construction should be starting around the time I return from America. On an individual level, getting people to treat their water is more difficult (no success yet). I haven’t devoted as much time to that as I would have liked.

Deforestation, erosion, and other environmental issues: This is the area that I’ve accomplished the least in, but has the most promise. Another volunteer and I hope to have a meeting with hammam (public baths) owners in late June about the prospect of converting their ovens to more efficient ones. There is a lot of work to do before then if the meeting is going to be successful. We are collaborating with an agency within the Moroccan Ministry of Energy. If the hammam project is successful, we going to do an assessment of individual wood use in the area. Hammams account for perhaps a fifth of wood use in the region, while individuals use approximately two thirds. It’s difficult to change many individuals’ behavior, but there is greater potential for reducing wood use.

STI and HIV/AIDS prevention: So far, I’ve had a minor impact on people’s behavior in terms of safe sex. It’s a difficult topic to discuss and it’s harder to change behavior (and impossible to evaluate the success of your work). Another volunteer and I have an ambitious project planned for this summer. We hope to get gynecological exams for local sex workers and then enlist 40 of them in a sort of study. All this is very uncertain, but we hope to provide half of that 40 with free condoms for the summer. At the end of the summer, we’ll provide pelvic exams again and compare the sexual health of those women who used condoms against the control group. It is unlikely that this project will happen, but we’re going to try. It’s difficult to get Ministry support for something like this. Fortunately, the volunteer and I have very good connections in the population that we are targeting, which could make the project possible.

Building capacity of local groups: This is really the core of Peace Corps’ development mission. The idea is that volunteers can empower locals to do development work so that it will be sustainable. I’ve done a little work on this on an individual level, talking to association members about their projects and how to develop them. I’m hoping to have a formal training for all the local associations in order to build their capacity. This training will hopefully happen in the fall.

As you can see, my service is back heavy. I’ve used the first year to identify problems and set up ways to address them. Hopefully I’ll use the second year to implement the projects successfully. As I’m here longer, I get a better idea of the issues that I should address and of how to address them. I’m sure I’ll only get better at this as my service progresses. Two years is not enough time for a volunteer to have maximal impact on his/her community. 10 years would be a more reasonable time frame.


Some local associations, another PC volunteer, and myself hosted an HIV/AIDS testing event in a nearby town. It went OK. The biggest disappointment is Moroccans’ continuing inability to say what needs to be said about transmission of HIV. An association member talked to a group of women for 10 minutes about HIV without once mentioning sex. The more I am exposed to the culture, I believe that this shame over talking about sex is self-imposed. People who come to these events want to learn the truth. I’ve found that if you say the shameful stuff with a straight face and without feeling embarrassed about it yourself, it’s fine. Another disappointment related to the testing is that the people who came to the testing nearly all older, married women. Men are the ones making the decision about whether or not to wear a condom, but don’t seem to be interested in the subject.

A local association member and I went back into the prostitution district of the town to encourage women to come to the training. This man wrote his master’s thesis about the sex industry in the town and so knows the women well. Walking back in the prostitution district was like stepping into another world. It was weird seeing sexuality flaunted like that in such a normally conservative society. Unfortunately few prostitutes came to the testing. One interesting note about the how people referred to the prostitutes. I mentioned before that unmarried females are called girls in Tamazight, regardless of their age. However, people called the prostitutes women, even though they’ve never been married. So apparently marriage isn’t what turns a girl into a woman.

I’ll know more tomorrow, but there are rumors that the transportation strike is going to start back up again. Nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get transit to the airport for my Friday morning departure, I’m going to go to Midelt, where there is some transportation to Rabat that is unaffected by the transportation strikes. I’m thankful to people in my village who alerted me to the possibility of the strike starting again and telling me to get out of here so I don’t miss my flight.

Everything is well. I’ve been thinking about coming home to America a lot recently, which has made the time go by slowly. I can’t imagine how hard the last month of my service will be next year, when I have the prospect of returning to America for good on the horizon. Hope all is well. See you all soon. I wont be posting while Im in America, so there wont be a new post until mid or late May.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Response to NYT Article

My Dad sent me this article from the NYT. I found it interesting and applicable to my situation here so I thought I’d respond.

I’ll do a quick summary of the article. Soot from wood-burning stoves is the second-leading cause of climate change behind carbon dioxide emissions. The article claims that CO2 is responsible for 40% of climate change while soot is responsible for 18%. The article goes onto say that, “In fact, reducing black carbon is one of a number of relatively quick and simple climate fixes using existing technologies — often called “low hanging fruit” — that scientists say should be plucked immediately to avert the worst projected consequences of global warming.”

People in my village burn wood for a variety of purposes. In the winter, wood burning stoves heat houses. Throughout the year, they are used as the primary stove in the house. And people have bread ovens that burn wood to heat the oven.

As the article notes, in addition to being a cause of climate change, burning wood for heat in the home is a cause of respiratory illness. The article has a picture of an open fire that a woman is cooking over. Fortunately, stoves in my village are contained fires, which mitigates slightly the impact on the respiratory system. Nonetheless, it’s a problem. Another negative impact of wood burning stoves is deforestation.

So what to do?

Although the conclusion of the article talks about some cultural barriers to converting stoves, it seems to me that the thrust of the argument is: getting people off of wood-burning stoves is a relatively easy way of reducing climate change. It seems that their argument is that the cost of these conversions is low compared with reducing carbon dioxide emissions in more developed parts of the world.

While the actual cost of switching a stove may be low, the article misses a huge point. It dramatically underestimates the amount of human capital necessary to convince people to make conversions. Getting people to switch stoves in my 400-person village would be a huge accomplishment. Although it is a goal for my service, I don’t think that it will happen. The available alternatives all have significant obstacles that prevent them from being viable. Natural gas is too expensive. Solar cookers are too slow and wouldn’t cook food in a way that people are used to. But the biggest obstacle is that people are relatively satisfied with wood stoves and not concerned with preventing climate change.

If, after two years, I can’t make an impact in this arena in a village of 400, what hope do we have of convincing hundreds of millions of people all across the globe? This is NOT “low-hanging fruit.” It’s a cause worth fighting for, but it will not be easy. The climate change argument is not a reasonable one to make with people who are living day to day. In my village, the issue of deforestation is more pressing to people and that’s the argument that I make here. If converting stoves worldwide is a goal, than each individual community may need an argument that is specific for their situation in order to convince them. Furthermore, different cultures will need an individualized stove that suits their needs. As I said above, this will require large amounts of community-level development work in order to tackle appropriately.


All is well. I have gotten the money for my running water project and will be presenting the project to an auction of potential contractors on Monday. Hoping to have that project running smoothly by the time I leave for America. It’s very exciting.

I hope all is well. Looking forward to coming home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Transportation Strike

In my last post I talked about the difficulties of traveling during the transportation strike, but neglected to mention anything about why the strike was happening.

The strike started on the 8th of April. It is supposed to affect all public transportation. Anyone who makes their living by driving (even transporting goods) is on strike. In small villages like my community, our local market transit is partially affected. Our transit driver went to and from Tounfite on Saturday and Sunday, but has not gone other days. I’m not sure what governs his decision.

Transportation workers are striking because they are upset with new laws imposed by the government. There are several new laws, but a couple that people talk about a lot. One is that anyone who kills someone else with their car (regardless of fault) will go to jail for upwards of ten years. Most of the other laws concern fines for traffic violations such as speeding (1,000 Dhs) and running a red light (also 1,000 Dhs). The government is making these laws in order to reduce the number of deaths on the road in Morocco, which is currently high.

The effects of the strike are far reaching. In big cities, local taxis are affected, which transport many people to and from work on a daily basis. For people in the countryside, the greater concern is traveling between towns/cities. My host dad has to travel to Tounfite in order to collect his quarterly retirement pension from the post office. He went on Monday morning, but could not find return transport so was stuck in Tounfite for… Other people have to travel to and from places like Midelt for business, but are unable to.

Perhaps the greatest effect that the strike has is on supplies. Like America, Morocco is dependent upon transport to distribute goods throughout the country. According to the television, ships are currently docked in Moroccan ports with goods to unload, but are unable to do so because there are no trucks to deliver the goods. Hitting closer to home is the shortage of vegetables in my market town. Fruits and vegetables are transported from the agricultural centers to the rest of the nation. The quality of vegetables this past market day (Sunday) declined noticeably. And the prices skyrocketed. Onions that are normally 3-5 Dhs/kilo were 10 Dhs/kilo. Given my generous Peace Corps salary (2,000 Dhs/month), this increase in prices is not a hardship and did not affect my purchases in any way. But for people who normally spend more than 50% of their income on food, having the price of food double has a dramatic effect. People in my village won’t eat as many vegetables this week as they normally do. In addition to food, there is a shortage of other important goods such as gas for stoves. People will get by by borrowing from their neighbors or using alternative methods of heating (wood stoves).

So what do Moroccans think of the transportation strike? Well I hardly have a representative sample here, but I have heard both sides of the story. My host mom says that the government is in the right for imposing the new laws; something must be done to decrease the number of deaths on the road. A local teacher and a friend both expressed a different view. They say that the new laws will have no impact on the number of deaths on the road. According to them, right now, if a taxi driver is stopped by the police for a violation (say a 400 Dhs fine for speeding), the police will simply ask for a bribe less than the cost of the fine (say 100 Dhs). Therefore, according to my friend and the teacher, the increase in fines will only allow police to ask for more from their bribes. (Although it seems to me that having to pay a larger bribe to the police might be a greater deterrent). They both say that Morocco is always trying to solve its problems with new rules and laws, but what it really needs is better enforcement of the existing laws. The teacher also argued that the best way to reduce traffic accidents is to improve the quality of the roads, which I have to agree with.

The strike dominates most conversations that I’m apart of and headlines the news every night. People speculate about how long it will last (a strike three years ago lasted seven days) and how much things will cost on the next market day. Although it was a pain in the neck for me when I was trying to travel back from my site, now that I’m here, it’s not a big deal (except for my host dad being stuck in Tounfite). And I enjoy having an interesting topic of conversation readily available. However, for some people here, it is a hardship because of the shortage of supplies.


Coming back to my community after 2 weeks in Fes and Rabat was a bit of a shock. Its so conservative here. But its good to be home. Ive got some work to wrap up before I leave for America, but mostly Im just enjoying being back.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Traveling in Morocco

Traveling here can be easy, frustrating, cheap, expensive…pretty much everything. There is currently a transportation strike going on (really no transport other than trains and hitch hiking anywhere) so it seemed like a good time to write about the issue.

Local vans. This is my primary means of transportation around my site. These are big vans that seat maybe 12-15 people comfortably. However, they are more often filled to the brim. I’ve seen 30 people in a transit like this, with 10 more riding along on top. My transit is generally reliable. I find the driver the day before and ask him what time he will be leaving the next day. He’s normally within fifteen minutes of his estimate. Sometimes, however, he is wrong by an hour or two. This is particularly frustrating when I wake up at 5 am and it’s the dead of winter. These transits are fairly inexpensive: my transit costs 10 Dhs ($1.20) for an hour ride.

Grand Taxis. Grand taxis are big, old Mercedes that typically fit 6 people plus the driver (four in the back seat, two in the front passenger). This 6 people rule is more of guideline, however, as more can be squeezed in depending upon demand and the driver’s willingness. Taxis run between big towns/small cities. They compete with buses, which normally run between the same cities (although buses go much further distances than taxis). Taxis are faster than buses, but more expensive. A taxi from Boumia to Azrou (about 1.5 –2 hours) costs 40 Dhs ($5).

Buses. These are pretty similar to buses in the states, except a little older and a little dirtier. They run long trips all over the country. They’re kind of slow sometimes because they will pick up anyone standing by the side of the road with their thumb out and drop people off wherever they want. But their cheap and you can get anywhere in the country with them.

Trains. Trains only run between the biggest cities in Morocco (Meknes, Fes, Rabat, Casablanca, Oujda, Marrakech). They are the most comfortable form of transportation. They are also by far the most expensive. I recently took a train from Fes to Rabat (my first train!), which is about a 3 hour ride. It cost me 76 Dhs. A bus for the same route would probably be around 45-50 Dhs. But the train is nice because you meet more interesting people and it’s comfortable.

Hitch hiking. I hadn’t done too much of this before the current transportation strike. Normally it is no big deal as pretty much everyone hitch hikes. Most of the time when you get picked up it’s by a taxi driver, bus, or local van. Taxi drivers will even leave seats open for hitch hikers. You often pay a small amount; about what you’d pay a taxi driver for the same route. However, during the transportation strike, it was a different story altogether. No one was picking up and many people were trying to get rides. A quick summary of my hitch hiking adventure.

Thursday I left a fellow volunteer’s site, hoping to get to my site that evening. I got to the nearest big town (Gigo) to catch the 9:30 bus. The ticket guy said: “There’s nothing, try tomorrow.” I asked around and people told me about the strike. Apparently there was nothing. So went out to the main road in town and found a transit that was going to Timhadite. I felt I might have a better chance in Timhadite because it’s on a bigger road. However, after three hours with my thumb out, I gave up and went back to the volunteer’s house for the night.

The next morning (Friday) I went back to Timhadite and waited for about 30 minutes – hour before I got picked up. A big tourist bus was empty and driving people illegally. They drove me to Zeida. In Zeida I stood by the side of the road for about 3 hours with absolutely no luck (trying to go to Boumia). At around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I gave up and walked to the other road out of town to catch a ride to Midelt (where a volunteer lives). This is a larger road and it wasn’t as hard getting a ride. I got picked up in 45 minutes by some Casablancans on their way to Merzouga (the desert) for a trance music festival. They invited me to come with them and I was tempted, but declined. I got to my friend’s house in Midelt and stayed the night there

Saturday morning I got up early to try my luck again. Unfortunately, I had to back track to Zeida in order to get to Boumia. I stood by the side of the road for about an hour with no luck. Then some boys (maybe 16 or 17 years old) walked by and told me they were walking to Boumia and to come with them. It’s about a 44 km walk so I told them no. They kept trying to persuade me. They said that if we walked about 5 km out of town we would have a better chance of getting a ride. That was enough to convince me. We walked for about 10 km and finally got a ride to Zeida. In Zeida, we got some food, and walked out of town in the direction of Boumia. There is a large lake there so we took our food to its shores and rested for a bit. Then we started walking again, getting picked up about 5 km into our walk.

In Boumia (about 2:30 pm) we went to one of the boy’s house and had lunch. That was nice. They wanted me to stay the night, but I wanted to get to Tounfite for the night. So back to the road. Tounfite is about 37 km from Boumia, so it was unwalkable that late in the day. There weren’t many vehicles going by, so I had little hope. A friend drove by, but his car was full and he couldn’t take me. Finally someone with one spot left stopped and agreed to take me. So here I am in Tounfite. I was exhausted from my travels, but I slept really well last night (today is Sunday) and I’m glad to be home.


My two weeks of work, related travel went really well. I met some interesting people and learned a lot about Morocco. I’m on an incredible streak of having very positive interactions with people that I have just met.

My work also took a very promising step forward when I went to Rabat for a meeting. Another volunteer and I met with CDER, which is a renewable energy agency that is associated with the Ministry of Energy of Morocco. We have been coordinating with them on our conversion of hammam stoves. Although our most recent effort in hammam conversion didn’t go well, CDER is still behind the project; they gave us some good ideas for what to do next. They want to draw up a convention between CDER and Peace Corps that will solidify our responsibilities with one another and hopefully make the work more accessible to other Peace Corps volunteers. They also want us to do a study of personal wood consumption in our region. If the project goes well, then this will be a ton of work for the rest of my service. It’s very exciting.

One last thing: during the transportation strike I had a nice realization: I really wanted to get back to my community.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I am nearing the end of one of my best weeks in Morocco. I’m in Fes for an annual Peace Corps youth camp. All over the country, volunteers from a different sector (they work with boarding schools in bigger towns) put on an English camp for Moroccan youth (14-17 years old). Volunteers from other sectors come to the camp to help out.

I was assigned to the Fes camp. I’ve never been to Fes before, even though it’s not too far from me and it’s one of the most famous cities in Morocco. After this week here, I will definitely be coming back to the city.

Before I get into gushing about how wonderful Fes is, let me first say that I am very happy to be in my tiny mountain village. I love the people there and I and if I had to choose a place to live for two years (in Morocco) this would be the place. I wouldn’t want to live in Fes and do this kind of work all the time.

That said, Fes is great. The people here wonderful. It’s a huge culture shock to be in this city; everything is so different. People are educated, open, and cosmopolitan. It feels like a different country. The language is different (Arabic, not Berber), people dress different, and people are wealthy. It has more in common with America than it does with my village.

Working with the kids at this camp is the most rewarding part. They are smart, engaged, and open. In addition to teaching English, I’m responsible for leading an HIV/AIDS and STI “club.” We meet for a couple hours a day to talk about these issues. In my village, it’s very difficult to talk about such sensitive issues, but here the kids are eager to talk about it. I am learning from them as much as I am teaching. I put a lot of time into preparing for the lessons. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. They have questions for me after class! So far the defining moment of the class was when a boy was explaining to the class that he would wait to marriage to have sex for religious reasons. When he finished speaking, a girl said, “That’s not possible! Every guy has sex before marriage – and so do most girls!” That may not be shocking to American readers, but coming from my village, it was astounding. Another amazing moment was the condom demonstration that I led. After I showed people how to do it, a girl came up and demonstrated for the rest of the class.

The girls at this camp are in love with me. And they are not afraid to show it. They flirt openly. One asked me, “So which of the girls at this camp do you think is the most beautiful?” When they talk to me, they touch my arms. It’s just how 14-17 year old American girls would act around a 23-year-old guy. It made me uncomfortable at first because it was so different from what I’m used to.

Most of the kids in the camp have girlfriends/boyfriends. They have little teenage relationship dramas and text one another constantly. (They all have cell phones with video cameras and the like). The kids dress hiply; much hipper than I remember my classmates dressing in high school.

Apart from the kids, there are other amazing parts about Fes. It is a beautiful city. We went for a tour of the medina (old city), and I was blown away. We visited beautiful religious schools with amazing courtyards. In these tile courtyards, the walls are lined with intricate woodcarvings. These ancient religious wonders are enough to make an atheist want to convert to Islam.

The people are great too. On Tuesday night I made plans to meet up with fellow volunteers at a hotel. They had transportation problems and were several hours late. The hotel was full (they already had a room), so I couldn’t get into the hotel until they arrived. I loitered outside the hotel and as the night got later and later, I started to feel uncomfortable. There were several sketchy looking characters smoking hash nearby. It’s the sort of situation that Peace Corps recommends that we avoid. But I ended up talking with the guys and I was amazed by how welcoming and nice they were. It made me feel guilty for my earlier wariness.

I’d been told that Fes is a proud Arab city and that people look down on Berber speakers, so with these guys I didn’t mention (at first) that I spoke Berber. But eventually it came out. To my surprise, it turned out that a couple of them spoke it. It wasn’t their first language, but they studied it and learned it, basically out of respect for the Berber people. They were thrilled that I spoke it. The guys who didn’t know Berber told me, “I’m jealous of you. You speak the language and I don’t. It is wonderful that you have learned it.” Coming in expecting hostility, I was (once again) blown away.

With these hash smoking, Berber speaking guys, I took a step towards understanding the religious views of people in the country. I’ve always been skeptical of the constant God phrases and just the omnipresence of God in people’s speech. I thought that having references to God so often cheapened the meaning of the words. And I assumed (wrongly again) that drug users wouldn’t be the firmest believers in God. But these guys were humble and just as firm in their belief as anyone else I met. We had a good conversation about it. They have a deep appreciation for the life that they have. Thanking God and doing everything in the name of God is just their way of expressing that appreciation.

The trip has strengthened by resolve to continue studying Arabic. I’ve met random people in cafes and on the streets who were welcoming and warm. I thought that with all the tourists coming through Fes that people might not be so welcoming. But I had good conversations with people that were limited by my language ability and not their willingness to speak with me.

Basically, in a week I’ve learned about this whole other world in Morocco that I am missing. The diversity in this country is unbelievable. Having not traveled very much, I’ve been ignorant to all the different pockets and niches where entirely different cultures and beliefs exist. The difficulty with traveling is that all the time that I spend out of my site hurts my ability to get work done. Nonetheless, I’ve just found out that I have to make the time for some traveling. It would be a shame if I lived in Morocco for two years and missed out on some of the wonderful things that it has to offer.