Wednesday, September 23, 2009


At the conclusion of Ramadan is the L3id ftir, or the small holiday. It is a celebration of the end of the month of fasting, observed by Muslims. The day was a particuraly action packed for me, so here is an account of the day:

5:45 am, wake up, go to my host familys.
6:00 Wait around at my host familys while people get ready for the days festivities.
6:30 My host dad, some neighbors, and I walked around to different peoples houses. At every house, tea, cookies, and a milky sort of pasta is served. Its a chance to visit people and eat food after a month of fasting. People were in a good mood and said nice things to me about fasting.
8:00 I went to three more houses after I finished walking around with the group. These were people who had invited me to come over the day before. I went to the fkeihs (religious leader) house, Unasrs house, and my good friend Driss ou abess house. More tea, cookies, and milky pasta.
9:00 I went to the center of town and talked with the men. It was a sunny day and maybe thirty men were standing around, chatting. The call to prayer went off and a lot of the men went to make their L3id prayers (outside).
10:00 I went inside and started doing some fall cleaning. My house was badly in need of it.
Noon I went back to my host familys house for lunch. During Ramadan, I had only been eating break fast food with them, so this was the first time in a month that I had eaten a tajine (traditional moroccan dish). I cant say that I missed it. But It was good to sit with my host family and chat with them while they were in such a good mood.
1:30 Went back to my house to finish cleaning, read a little bit, and take a nap.
4:00 After waking, I left my house and went back to the center of town to hang out with people. I played this game that people here call fili, which is a board game. Its a complicated game and I still lose most of the time, but Im hoping to master the game before I leave. While we were playing, an argument erupted. The commune had set a bunch of sugar and tea (typical government give away) outside for people to take. I guess a bunch of wealthier people in town helped themselves. Buaza got really angry and started yelling at those people. He said that they should leave the giveaways for the poor people. It was starting to get ugly, so I went to Saids house.
5:00 Saids daughter is the most educated female in my site. She is nineteen and starting her first year at university. She majors in English, which she speaks pretty well. Said asked me to come to their house on a regular basis to help her. Im normally oppossed to English tutoring, but this girl is very motivated and I like helping her. We have very honest conversations about gender in Morocco and sort of honest conversations about religion. I learn a lot from her. Pretty soon I will devote an entire post to our conversations. While there, I also spoke with Said about people in Agoudim. He told me that there are people who have hundreds of thousands of dirhms (maybe 30000 dollars) in Agoudim. There are some poor people, but there are also people who are rich from herding huge flocks of sheep. I always have a difficult time guaging the wealth of my village and this was an interesting conversation. Saids wife, Itto, and I also had an intersting conversation about womens attitudes towards birthing in my village. I will probably try to get her to come to the training that Im holding.
7:15 I left Saids house and ran into my friend, Driss ou abess. He started telling me about his difficulties sleeping, which result from stress. It was the first time that a Moroccan had opened up to me about their personal problems. I felt like it was a big step in terms of the level of trust that he had in me. He has been trying to start a little hotel place for tourists, and he was just venting his worries about getting that going and balancing that work with all of his farming responsibilities. It was heart to heart.
8:00 Driss and I started walking to a syba (big dinner to celebrate a birth; most men in village are invited). On the way we ran into a group of young men, walking the opposite direction. They told us that a fight had broken out. Apparently Driss ou Kajoj had approached Moolay ou Atman and struck him. Some other people got in the middle and were hurt as well. All people were saying was "the guy is crazy. the fight was about nothing."
8:35 Driss and I arrived at the syba. Lots of older men were there and everyone was talking about the fight. People were saying some pretty negative stuff about how bad people were in general. There was a metaphor about how life is as a dark as night. The fkeih starts the prayers (typical at a syba). We have some food. People were really nice to me, telling me how good I was at Tamazight and how much a part of the community I was. Assou told me that if there was a foreigner Tamazight test, then I would be the best. After food, the fkeih started talking about the correct way for people to do their prayers, and everyone was getting really into it, asking him questions and arguing with each other.
11:00 Back home, read, write, sleep.

So it was a full day. I felt as though I reached a new level of connectedness with my community and that I learned a lot about the comings and goings. Very rewarding. Other than that day, Im busy preparing for the maternal and child health training thats happening in a week. Im going to the provincial capital tomorrow to get final approval. Dont expect a post this weekend.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Climate Change Articles

Foreign Affairs recently published 3 articles on climate change: "Copenhangen's Inconvenient Truth," (Levi) "The Other Climate Changers," (Wallack and Ramanathan) and "The Low-Carbon Diet" (Kurtzman. The fact that the 3 articles were prominently featured in a journal such as Foreign Affairs is a good sign that the issue is being taken seriously by the right people. Unfortunately, the articles themselves expose just how much work there is to do. And how dire the situation is.

Levi writes about plans for Copenhagen negotiations in December with the primary purpose of lowering expectations for the summit. "The odds of signing a comprehensive treaty in December are vanishingly small."

Many difficulties will prevent a worthwhile agreement from being signed. Greatest amongst those difficulties is the gap between the developing and developed world. Economic growth is seen as an important way that nation-states project power; any talk of disrupting that growth will be met with opposition. The developing world (naturally) wants to enjoy the same prosperity as the West - it believes it ought to be able to pollute as much as the West did in order to achieve its prosperity. Unfortunately, without significant reduction in emissions from the developing world (primarily China, India, and Brazil) any agreement amongst the West is worthless. Complicating matters is the fact that developing nations "lack the capacity to robustly monitor their entire economies' emissions." There is no point in setting emissions targets at this point, because they cannot be measured or verified. The final difficulty is that it is doubtful that the West has the political will to lead by example on this issue, especially with the current "crisis."

While a comprehensive global agreement sounds nice, it is unrealistic. Instead, "An approach to dealing with climate change based on hundreds, if not thousands, of individual policies and measures may be messy, but the complexity of the problem requires it." This statement is right on, but its consequences are daunting. Climate change demands a bottom-up approach. Thousands of solutions, both governmental and non-governmental will be needed to change the behavior of billions of individuals. There is no magic treaty to sign.

Thus, expectations for Copenhagen are low. I agree with Levi when he says that the best thing that could come out of Copenhagen "is an agreement on measurement, reporting, and verification" for developing countries. That way, future negotiations could ask for verifications of emission cuts. Other than that, "it may take many years before [Copenhagen] results in a meaningful, legally binding agreement."

Wallack and Ramanathan address emissions of black carbon. The result of incomplete combustion, black carbon significantly contributes to climate change. Unlike carbon dioxide, black carbon leaves the atmosphere quickly: "only days to weeks." Thus, if black carbon was eliminated, there would be an immediate impact on the climate. (It will take decades - centuries for carbon dioxide to be reabsorbed).

The problem is that "65% of black carbon emissions are associated with the burning of biomass." This is exactly the issue that im trying to address (anti-deforestation). IT IS NOT EASY.

Wallack and Ramanathan say that "households tend to shift away from [biomass fuels] as soon as other options become available...the challenge is to make other options available." Gas ovens exist in my town, but people cook and bake with wood because it is free. Getting the developing world to make significant change will take a lot more than investing in technology. Once again, bottom-up tactics will be needed to find appropriate, cost-effective solutions for thousands of different communities.

Every article that mentions black carbon calls it "the low hanging fruit." Months ago I responded to a New York Times article that used this same term to talk about black carbon. The analogy implies that these changes will be easy. They won't. To make the analogy correct, the fruit may be hanging low, but there are thousands upon thousands of unique fields that need to be "harvested." An army of workers will be needed to pick those fields.

Finally, Kurtzman's article is the most hopeful. Kurtzman believes that market forces, if correctly shaped by the government, will change emission habits. And he believes that cap-and-trade is the most effective way of setting-up those market forces.

Cap-and-trade is a very elegant solution, which naturally makes me skeptical. Emissions are capped. Polluters that exceed their cap are heavily fined. Corporations that are under their cap can sell their polluting permits to other corporations. Thus, polluters are punished. Clean companies are rewarded. Money flows to companies and technologies that are successfully reducing emissions.

In the US, 85% of cap-and-trade permits are given away. This is essentially giving away money. If, hypothetically, a company shuts down its factories after receiving permits, it can sell those permits for a profit. How can government allocate all these permits? Given the difficulties that Democrats will have in getting the legislation through, you think that they might have to give away some political favors? For example, might Appalachian Democrats in the pocket of Big Coal sell their votes in exchange for permits for their constituents?

Another problem is offsets. If, for example, a polluter gives money to Brazil for reforestation, they can can pollute more without paying a fine. They get credit for reducing emissions in another part of the world while polluting as much as they always did. Most emission proposals want to see the developing world reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. If they can just buy offsets in other countries, emissions won't come down. Furthermore, how will the US government verify that emissions are reduced in the Amazon (to continue the example)? They have a hard enough time keeping track of emissions in America.

But the real problem is that everyone thinks cap-and-trade will be easy. Sure, big industry will agree to cap-and-trade when the goals for reducing emissions are negligible and permits are given away. In order to meet the goal of 80% reduction by 2050 (80% of 2005 levels, not 80% of 1990 levels, like needed) stringent caps will have to be imposed. Why delay those cuts? Because it is currently politically impossible to make real cuts. Why will it be any different 5 years from now? At some point, this legislation will demand sacrifices from people and industry to be effective. I can't see our Congress passing any sort of deal given the mess they are currently making of health care.

So, all this adds up to a grim situation. Since the publishing of these articles, things have only gotten worse. US Copenhagen negotiators were hooping that cap-and-trade legislation would have passed through Congress before December so they could point to concrete steps taken by the US. But Obama and Congress are currently grappling with health care - it seems unlikely that they will find time fore cap-and-trade.

Even if the fanciful cap-and-trade targets were met and the low-hanging fruit was plucked, the climate would still get warmer. It takes hundreds of years for CO2 to be removed from atmosphere. We have started positive feedback loops that may spiral out of control. Thus, adaptation must be considered. Disease patterns will change. Agriculture will be affected, particuraly in the poorest parts of the world. Rising sea levels will displace millions of people. In addition to humanitarian concerns, climate change will destabilize the global political situation. Action plans need to be made now.

My computer is out of commission. Hopefully I will be able to fix it. But until I do so, the quality of my posts might drop. I wrote this one by hand in my house and hurridly typed it at the cyber.

Ramadan is over Sunday or Monday. I had break fast at my doctor's house the other day and it might have been the best food ive eaten in Morocco. There was: pizza, custard pie with apples, apple and pear juice, homemade Moroccan pastry, delicious soup, dates, and tea. Wow. Makes me wish I spent more time with city Moroccans, eating their food.

I went to the health clinic the other day and the door to the exam room was shut. I waited for like 15 minutes before people came out. A woman had half of her head bandaged and it was obvious there had been a lot of blood. She had gotten into a fight with another woman and been struck with the tool that they use to harvest grass and wheat. It looks a lot like a scythe.

Yesterday I was talking with some young men outside. They started telling me that the European economy was better than the American economy - their proof was that the Euro is stronger than the dollar. I didn't know how to say in Tam, "The numerical value of a currency is arbitrary. It says nothing about the purchasing power of that currency or the state of the economy." But I explained that if a Moroccan went to America, he/she would get much more for his/her dirham than someone exchanging yen. But the Japanese economy is much bigger than the Moroccan one. It was the most complicated concept that I have ever explained in Tamazight. Success.

All is well. The maternal and child health workshop that I've been planning for months now has a date: October 7th, 8th, and 9th. I won't be writing a grant to ask for money on the PC website, but if you have interest in donating, your money will be well spent and appreciated.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Volunteer Community

I have written a lot about Moroccans and Moroccan culture because I figure that’s what is new and interesting to the reader. In doing so, I’ve neglected one huge part of the volunteer experience here: spending time with other Americans.

There are about 200 Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco. There are a couple volunteers who are very isolated from other volunteers (more than 3 hours), but most volunteers live within an hour of another volunteer. That means that we congregate and see each other pretty often.

There are two volunteers that live in Tounfite (one hour away), my souq town. There is a third volunteer who shares Tounfite as his souq town. I see the three of them once a week when I go in for souq (unless they’re traveling). I have to go to Tounfite to use the post office and Internet, so I often see them on days other than souq. In addition to the four of us in Tounfite, there are seven other volunteers within four hours of me. I see some of those seven maybe once or twice a month.

Having Americans nearby me is very important to staying sane. When volunteers get together, we cook American food, vent about the troubles we are having in our site, and relax. It’s impossible to forget that you are in Morocco, but spending time with other volunteers lets you ignore that fact.

Being in Morocco has gotten progressively easier, meaning that my first six months were the hardest time. Back then, the only other Americans in Tounfite were a married couple: David and Kristin. They were very generous with their house and I felt welcome there anytime I wanted to unwind. They would cook me good food and we would talk or watch some American TV show on their computer. They joined Peace Corps a year before me, so they were already established in Tounfite by the time I got there. Thus, they were also helpful in giving me advice on how to manage difficult cultural situations and introducing me to people. I was very lucky to have them close by for the beginning of my service.

Living in the developing world, away from your family and friends for two years can be difficult at times. Sharing those difficulties with a small group of people naturally brings them close together. We are experiencing things that are impossible to completely share and explain with those back in America; we’re the only ones who understand what we’re going through. The isolation of Peace Corps means that a lot of the problems that people have are personal. When you’re alone for so much of the time, you learn more about who you are. It can be very intimate watching your friends struggle with that challenge while you are having your own struggles. At the same time, that makes sharing successes and happy moments all the sweeter.

While Peace Corps programming staff tries to put volunteers who are compatible with one another close by, that’s a difficult task (especially because Peace Corps has volunteers from 4 different sectors with 8 different bosses). Pretty much, you’re just thrown in this intimate environment with random people. It means that you don’t get to choose your friends. If your best friend during training was placed on the other side of the country, you’re probably not going to see them but a couple times during your service; you have to make friends with the people who are geographically close to you. Inevitably, that means that you have to be friends with people whose personalities may not closely match yours. Nonetheless, I think it works out pretty well in most cases. I like all the people that I live close by.

I was at a gathering with five other volunteers a couple weeks ago and it was an interesting experience. Five of us have been in the country for at least a year, so we’ve gotten to know each other. I think we were all, simultaneously, going through a bit of a rough patch, although some more than others. People were acting pretty weird; collective insanity is a better way to put it. Being in another country means that volunteers become de-socialized to behavioral norms. Such an evening, where people were so open (unintentionally open) with their personal problems, would be rare in America. But here, it wasn’t that far out of the norm.

The only downside to the volunteer community is that volunteers spend a lot of time with other volunteers. Being with other Americans is a lot easier and more comfortable, but it’s not why any of us came to Morocco. It’s difficult to find that balance between maintaining your sanity and spending the quality time in your site.


Man I feel like that’s the least interesting post I’ve written in a while. I’ll stick to Moroccan topics from now on.

We have been getting a ton of rain over the past couple days. Rainstorms here are normally short and light. But we had a 24-hour long storm that was quite intense. My mud roof held up quite well and I only had one leak. All the water coming off the nearby mountains means that rivers rage and flood their banks, eroding fields and destroying crops. People ask me if that happens in America and I tell them no: we have soil to absorb the rain – there are only rocks here. It makes sense to people and lets me drive home my environmental message.

Ramadan is still happening, believe it or not. Sunday is the 23rd day in Morocco (out of 29 or 30, depending on the moon). I’m spending a lot of time reading and writing, still. Ramadan is boring. I’ve also been doing some exciting work; another volunteer and I, along with three Moroccan counterparts did HIV/AIDS and STI education with 20 sex workers. The primary language for the education was Arabic, but I was still able to participate in a productive way.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


First, response to the replies. Thanks for your input. Jillian, I don’t think we really disagree at all. Our differences on your first point result from where we live in Morocco. On the second point, I agree with you: misogyny is an appropriate label. I think we witness the same thing. I was just trying to put a new label to the behavior.

I was kind of disappointed that no one responded to what I thought was my most controversial claim: that some volunteers are racist. Is no one going to take issue with that?


Ramadan is the month when Allah (God) revealed the Koran (Muslim holy book) to Mohamed (God’s prophet). The Muslim calendar is lunar, so the month of Ramadan moves forward a little over a week every year.

All observant Muslims fast from sunup to sundown during Ramadan, the holiest month in the year. Fasting means no eating, drinking, smoking, sex, thinking bad thoughts, saying bad words. It seems that people are more diligent about making their prayers (Muslims are supposed to pray five times per day) during Ramadan. At the least, more men make their prayers in the mosque as opposed to the home. Ramadan is a month of prayer, reflection, and religious study. In the cosmic count that determines every person’s eternal fate after death, prayers made during Ramadan count twice as much in the good column. (In comparison, prayers made in Mecca (Islam’s holiest city) during Ramadan count for 100,000 times as much as normal prayers). So there is an incentive to be diligent about your prayers during Ramadan.

Last year, I fasted 30 straight days. I was very careful not to eat or drink. One day I accidentally ate, but it was an honest mistake. I’m being much less diligent this year. The first day of the fast I was traveling all day, got thirsty, and drank. With the month halfway elapsed, I have cheated on two other days. I considered not even fasting at all after a conversation I had with a Moroccan who does not fast. He said, “Why fast? You’re not Muslim. Be respectful, don’t eat in public. But there’s no reason to fast.” He’s definitely right, but I’m (half-heartedly) fasting anyways.

The hardest part of fasting for me isn’t being hungry or thirsty, but just being low energy for most of the day. I’ve been waking up at 9 am, taking a nap every afternoon, and going to bed at 11 or 12. Some days I wake up at 3 am to eat a snack and go back to sleep. There isn’t as much going on outside, so when I am awake I spend most of my time reading and writing. Ramadan is boring and passing slowly.

It’s impossible to write about Ramadan without writing about people’s generosity. I have not cooked a meal in my house for the entire month, and I don’t expect to. I get an invitation to someone’s house for the break fast almost every day. If I don’t get an invitation, my host family has extended a permanent invitation, telling me, “If no one else invites you, come to our house. Don’t eat in your house.” There was one day where I accidentally accepted too many invitations and got in trouble for forgetting to go to someone’s house. I really appreciate the invitations. It’s nice to get to know people in their houses. It would be miserable to fast and not be able to break fast with other people. Break fast is definitely my favorite part of the day and I start counting down the hours until sunset everyday around noon (only 7 hours left!).

Men stand outside in the center of town in the few hours before the sunset prayer. Time passes a little faster talking to other people and forgetting to check your watch every five minutes. The people who don’t pray in the mosque walk to their houses a few minutes before the call to prayer. In my host family’s house, I go in and say hi to my host mom and dad. The call to prayer goes off and they both make their prayers. I stare at the food, impatiently waiting for them to finish their prayers so I can eat. We break our fast by eating a date (as instructed by the Koran). We stuff ourselves with greasy, sugary food and sit back to watch the special Ramadan programming on TV.

The unfortunate part of Ramadan (for me) is that the month puts religion in everyone’s mind. I get at least twice as much harassment during Ramadan about converting. Several times a day, people ask me to convert. Everyone asks me if I’m fasting. When I say that I am, the next question is: “Do you pray?” My skill at deflecting these sort of questions is getting better, but some people can be persistent. As I’ve noted before, it’s normally the least observant people who give me a hard time. Some people tell me that Christianity and Jesus are bad and that Mohamed is the only path. I’m amazed at the lack of empathy that allows people to tell someone else (their friend) that their religion is bad. Everyone wants to know how I pray. I try to emphasize similarities (common God, common values) rather than reverence of different prophets. It’s unbelievable how persistent people are; after more than 15 months of living in my site, the same people are still trying to convert me. Last night, however, I was having the typical discussion and a couple guys were giving me a hard time for not being a Muslim and two others told them to leave me alone. They made arguments about how Christians and Muslims were similar, not different. That was nice.

The strange thing about the constant requests for conversion is that it turns me into a vehement defender of Christianity. I frequently end up arguing things that I do not believe. For example, Muslims think the idea that Jesus is the Son of God is absurd and I happen to agree with them. But I feel that I have to defend this position in order to maintain the myth that I am an observant Christian (a Christian is acceptable, although inferior to a Muslim. An atheist is a deviant who would be ostracized).

Thank God, there are exceptions to the harassment. My host family is the most respectful of anyone that I’ve met. My host dad has said a couple times that I should think about converting, but never insistent and always respectfully. Once my host mom walked in on him telling me that and she said, “Don’t bother him about that. We’re all the same.” End of conversation. The families that I am closest with in town don’t give me a hard time at all. I appreciate that there are some people who don’t make in issue of religion.

One huge difference btw Morocco and America that I always forget about is how pervasive religion is here. People use God phrases ALL THE TIME and they say them in total sincerity. They are constantly thanking god and appealing to him for things. Example: on the taxi from Tounfite to Boumia yesterday, the woman sitting next to me whispered to herself “adi rbbi ster” the entire time continuously. That means “God protect.” I didn’t even think it was weird. Can you imagine someone doing that in America? I can’t.


In my reading time, I’ve been working on two very hard-hitting books. First is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Examining the history of the oppressed and downtrodden (rather than the political elite) in United States history, it presents a very different view of what our country has been through. According to Zinn, our history is one of violence, racism, sexism, and the powerful keeping the weak in their place. My favorite part of Zinn’s book is his admission, from the outset, that his presentation of history is biased. All histories are biased, he’s just the only one to say it.

The second is The Road to Hell by Michael Maren. Maren was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and afterward worked for USAID in Kenya and Somalia. He was extremely jaded by his experience with USAID and reading his account it’s no wonder why. Maren’s job at USAID was to monitor the distribution of food aid to Somalis. He started reporting massive problems in the distribution, but then found that none of the higher ups in USAID wanted to know about it. Food aid in Somalia was stolen by elites and sold to buy weapons and buy off political opponents. Free food removed Somalia’s incentive to regain food independence. Food aid programs taught people how to game the foreign aid system, not how to wean themselves off of it. Worst is the way USAID and other aid agencies were aware of the deleterious effects that their actions were having and simply looked the other way; if they canceled their programs, they were out of a job. The real demon in the story appears to be Save the Children. As characterized by Maren, Save is guilty of profiteering, exploitation, willful deception, and complicity in allowing their resources to be used by war criminals to perpetuate Somalia’s problems, rather than address them. Maren managed to obtain internal documents from both Save and the UN that expose the agencies awareness in the disastrous consequences that their programs were having.

Perversely, from Maren’s point of view, the root of the whole disaster of food aid is the agricultural lobby in the United States. Subsidies and protection from foreign imports encourage US farmers to produce far more food that can be consumed in the US every year. If the food were released into the US market, it would eat into farmer’s profits. So US agriculture convinced USAID to buy its surplus and dump it in African markets under the guise of a “Food for Peace” program. They don’t care how much food Africa needs, they just want the government to buy their food to keep prices high. Having cheap/free food come into Africa undercuts local farmers and thus creates dependency on food aid. Furthermore, some 75+% percent of “aid” contracts are mandated to go to US corporations. “Aid” legislation seems to be corporate interests fighting over the distribution of handouts. African politicians are stealing millions from their people, but it’s really nothing compared to the corruption in the US government.

It’s a must read for anyone joining the Peace Corps or hoping to work for any aid agency. Somalia is just one case and probably the one where foreign intervention has had the most negative effect, but the underlying reasons that foreign aid corrupted Somalia apply to any recipient country. It’s important to ask why countries that have received aid for decades are still the poorest countries in the world. Only one country (South Korea) has gone from being an aid recipient to an aid donor. Aid was important to South Korea’s development, but the real reason it has succeeded is good governance and economic policies.

While in Peace Corps I’ve read three other books that are critical of development (Dead Aid, White Man’s Burden, and The Village of Waiting). As a whole, the four books make foreign aid seem like the worst thing that could have happened to the “developing” world. As I see it, the three biggest flaws in aid agencies strategies are: 1) not understanding the situation in the country 2) their top-down approach and 3) agencies’ ulterior motives perverting the implementation of their program. Reading these books makes me think that aid workers ought to be required to take the Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. I’m struggling with a bigger question: Is it possible to spur development through foreign intervention? Working for the World Bank or another development agency is something that I am considering after finishing school. Is it possible to do good while working for such an agency or are you just a cog in the machine?

I don’t believe that helping the downtrodden is a moral imperative, but I do have compassion for those who are less well off. Is there any way to act on that compassion that isn’t inherently condescending? From The Road to Hell, “The more time I spent in the village the more aware I became of the connection between the desire to enlighten, to do development work, and the desire to rule.”

Another thing

The linguistic diversity nearby me is incredible. I was talking to a man from a village 10 km away. I can understand him well enough to communicate, but not nearly as well as I understand people from my community. People in my town say that people in other towns talk differently. There is a greater difference in language between my town and a town 10 km away than there is between boston and los angelos, separated by 5000 km. The linguistic variety suggests just how isolated these villages were until French colonization.

Besides these heavy issues, all is well here. We got a big rainstorm September 1st, marking the beginning of fall. Day time temperature is very nice. We get a rainstorm every afternoon and then evenings are cool.