Rabat: First Day with CCS

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
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Trip End Oct 26, 2010


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Where I stayed
CCS Home-Base, Hay Riyad

Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Penny Lane: I've made a decision, I'm gonna live in Morocco for one year. I need a new crowd. Do you wanna come? 
William Miller: Yes! Yeah. 
Penny Lane: Are you sure? 
William Miller: Ask me again. 
Penny Lane: Do you wanna come? 
William Miller: Yes! Yes. 

- Almost Famous


Salam from Rabat!

I'm now in the Cross-Cultural Solution Home Base in Morocco's capital city of Rabat, to start my three-week volunteer program.

We just wrapped our first Arabic lesson and I learned the useful skut! (shut-up), safi! (enough) and ghali bezzaf (that's expensive!). There are several languages spoken in Morocco - Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, three dialects of Berber Arabic (the indigenous people of Morocco's Atlas Mountains), French, Spanish up north, and many know English. My pathetic high school French is getting me by, but we can forget about the others.

I had a quick over-night in Marrakesh, then a train back to the Casablanca airport to meet Lori before arriving yesterday. I met Lori during my CCS trip in India and it's great to have her here. We arrived at the CCS home-base late in the afternoon, but just in time for dinner.  Most of the group had already arrived, and it's a big one. There were only four of us in India, here we have 28. Pretty mixed group of mostly women, five men, of all ages and from all over. Everyone's background, careers and hometown vary, but everyone is like-minded. My little life experiment pales to many of these people here. 

There are kids who just graduated high school and put off college for a semester to spend 6-12 weeks volunteering. Including 18-year old Jordan, going on 30, who's here for 12 weeks, already served five.  He was temporarily assigned to the special needs youth in the orphanage and after bathing, feeding and changing diapers on dying 23-year olds with cerebral palsy, he can't imagine changing placements. There's Becky from Long Island who's applying for an education program in grad school and has been with CCS in South Africa for five weeks, now here for four more, teaching English. There's 50-something year old Jill who has done five CCS programs and has the goal of doing all 14, at least one a year. Chad from Arizona is more or less committed to his family business and does a CCS trip yearly to have something of his own. Maryam wants to be submerged in an Arabic community to better learn about her own Iranian heritage. And then there's 50-something year old Frank who is taking an eight week sabbatical from work. He was in Tangiers twenty years ago and witnessed young street kids fending for themselves, yet speaking several languages. It's an image that stuck with him for decades, and here he is. Some are CCS alumni, many are world-travelers, some have never left the country before. Everyone has their story. I'm lucky to be among them. 

Our house is incredible and huge.  It's the former home to the Spanish Ambassador to Morocco. Many rooms full of bunkbeds.  I share with Lori and Christina and we scored with one empty bunk.  No bucket showers here, full-on shower heads! The yard is gorgeous and we are in the posh side of town in the Hay Riyad neighborhood. Lots of cafes and shops a pretty walk away, a grocery store and gelato shop down the street.  The streets are lined with pink and purple bougainvillea, red hibiscus, and white oleander. We have 'round the clock security and it's all very comfortable and safe.

The staff is phenomenal.  Mohamed, the program director, was a language instructor with The Peace Corps for six years. Abdellah is our placement director, also a former Peace Corps Cultural Facilitator and was a translator for a bunch of American movies, including Rules of Engagement.  We have two cooks who only speak French and make a feast for us three times a day.  The food so far has been fantastic and fresh.  As soon and lunch is over, you see them prepping dinner, and soon the house smells of onions and Moroccan spices. 

Today we had orientation and learned about rules, customs and our placements. I will start at the Children's Hospital in the cancer and asthma wards tomorrow with Maryam, Cindy, Arlene and Frank. More to come on that. Other placements include a women's empowerment group and an orphanage for kids from babies to seven years old. These children have been abandoned and taken in. If they are not adopted they are placed in a new facility around eight years old where they are put in school. There is also the special needs ward where people live out their lives, usually until their early 20s. There is also a group that will work with street kids. These kids have families and homes, but are pulled out of school to work the streets with their mom to beg, much like India. A local reporter went undercover and panhandled for a week.  She made roughly 150 dirham a day, which is about $7K USD a year - close to double what the average minimum wage Moroccan worker makes in a year.  I hope to visit at least one other placement for a day or so during my time here. 

We have a lot of free time and CCS takes us on nearby excursions and hosts speakers and cultural activities for us.  We have our weekends off and I've already planned my first - this Friday I will take off for the Sahara Desert for a sunset camel trek, dune hiking and camping under the stars.  I am beside myself.

For now, I may join the group on the patio who's sucking on a huge hookah. Goodnight, or as we say here - غودنيت! xo   

House Pics:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=292072&id=633950714&l=288d977944

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Comments

Auntie on

Kristin, you sound very happy and at home. Your colleagues are very impressive and so are you. Your strong sense of service and compassion for others is truly remarkable and inspiring. Love the bunk beds and the flowers. Good luck tomorrow. xoxoxo

Kelly Ladyga on

Amen to what your Auntie said above. I hope you also get to spend time with babies and children in the orphanage - I'd love to hear about that if so (and think of Makenna!). Sunset camel trek sounds other-worldly and divine. I'm already imagining an Omar Sharif type riding in on his black stallion. :)

Mary Stein on

Hey sistah, sounds great. Love the updates, keep them coming. What?! Camping in the desert, I'm jealous. See ya soon.

lekings322
lekings322 on

I am getting chills reading your descriptions of the people you are with and the work you are doing. I wish I was there!!!

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