Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adventures in Transit: Sheep in my face, squatting between cactus plants, and a need for Depends

Part of being a Peace Corps volunteer is having the opportunity to travel to other parts of the country in order to collaborate with fellow volunteers. I recently was invited by Tyson, an environment volunteer in my region, to help him with the health workshop that he had organized for his community. My fellow youth development volunteer Christopher and I headed off for Tyson’s site in hopes be of some help as well as have a learning experience for ourselves. I must say that every experience for me here in Morocco is a learning one. I get the opportunity to learn about the country and learn about myself.
Early in the morning I caught a taxi to a city where I was meeting with Christopher. After which we hopped into a taxi together with an unexpected friend included. We rode in the back seat of a station wagon with 2 other women and their cargo was loaded in the hatchback behind us. Their cargo happened to be a sheep. First his butt was in my face. Then when he got restless he turned around to put his face next to mine. I was hoping that this sheep wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t want to eat my hair as an early morning snack. Meanwhile the woman next to me, from behind her Coke-bottle classes, found it necessary to stare and me from time to time.
Tyson’s site is far different from any I have ever been to before. In Peace Corps Morocco youth development and small business development volunteers are usually placed in urban cities while health and environment volunteers are normally placed in rural communities. Driving into “the middle of nowhere” is a beautiful thing. There is so much open space to explore and natural wonder to admire. It is so clean because there aren’t enough people around to mess it up.
Christopher and I met up with Tyson as well as 3 health volunteers. Within a couple minutes of meeting other Peace Corps volunteers you become fast friends. Just the fact that you have already shared so many similar experiences you have a glue that binds you automatically. It always helps when you have other things in common, like state of origin. One of the volunteers present, Nicole, is from Michigan like me and attended University of Michigan. We even had mutual friends in back home so we hit it off immediately.
Tyson had organized a venue for members of his community to get inexpensive eyesight exams and diabetes screenings by area medical professionals. The health volunteers wanted to participate by doing dental health demonstrations. The problem was these 3 volunteers all speak Berber languages in their sites and the members of this community all speak Moroccan Arabic. Tyson had invited Christopher and I to help with translation.
Me translate? After only 3 months of learning a new language. It’s been proven to me that sometimes you don’t have the guts to do something until you are forced into doing it. This was the case here. Another volunteer Meagan wanted me to ask the people gathered around our table when you would brush your teeth, how to brush your teeth well, and also bring up how much sugar is healthy. I was really glad that I got the opportunity to be put in this position because when faced with the challenge I can safely say I stepped up to the plate. I truly enjoyed talking to these new and different people about dental health and they clearly enjoyed meeting me as well. By the end of a couple hours I had multiple women telling me I was their new friend and were begging me to come to their houses for tea
Work travel is not always about work. It is such a nice opportunity to see different places and meet different people, both American and Moroccan. One of Tyson’s Moroccan coworkers invited us all to his house to meet his family and most likely be talked into some dinner. On our way to this man’s home I became overwhelmed with the feeling of having to use the restroom (not number 1). I thought I was in a very small town so I figured the drive would be short so I just kept quiet, suffering in silence. When the trek got longer and longer I had to ask Tyson just how long it was that we had to go. He said it wasn’t far. Being me I was trying to be as lady-like about the whole thing as possible but as I already know bathroom stories are never a taboo subject among PCVs. Seeing as bathroom facilities are so different here in Morocco we all need moral support using them. After a couple minutes my fellow PCVs understood what was happening to me. Tyson’s friend was having a really fun time driving us, singing songs and showing off his English skills, he seemed in no hurry to get home. I didn’t want to be rude but I finally had to just tell him that I was sick and everyone helped me reinforce that. When this man finally understood my urgency he proceeded to pull over and gave me some tissues in order to go outside. I left the car but just couldn’t do it. I already had gone beyond myself earlier that day by taking a wiz outside because I had no other options. Them most private place being wedged between 2 cactus plants. I had to be quite careful. 

I told him to just get home as soon as possible. He found it necessary to call his wife ahead of time and tell her that he was bringing someone home that was sick in order to prepare for my arrival. When we pulled up I made a b-line from the car to this man’s bathroom. I was surprised and thrilled to see it was a Western style toilet so it made riding myself of this terrible sickness that much more comfortable. But what happened afterward was I wouldn’t figure out how to flush it. In fact I broke it while trying to flush. I had to call someone in to help me because this flushing mechanism was different that any I had been used to using. 

After my date with the bathroom I knew Tyson’s friend was going to do everything in his power to make me better. He was attempting to feed me this mystery liquid medication when I had to actively refuse. I wasn’t sure what it was so I wanted to be safe and not sorry. But later gave me hot water with herbs in it for settling of the stomach and I drank it willingly figuring it could do no harm. 

We were all looking forward to getting back to Tyson’s place because Meagan had promised to lead us in making her family’s Christmas chicken soup. I was glad to have this to help me feel better. The 3 of us girls and Christopher worked until the middle of the night preparing thick noodles from scratch and chopping veggies for this delicious soup. It was midnight before we were able to eat it but it was surely worth the wait. It was so delicious and tasted even better because it was made with so much love. While eating the soup we all watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on Tyson’s computer. 

The rest of that night and the following day I was experiencing stomach cramps so I tried to take it easy. It’s really hard to tell what sent my digestive system into frenzy, but it is a good excuse to get people to take care of you!