The non- sugar coated version.
1. If you’re actively trying to learn Darija, I’d urge you to stop.
In fact you should’ve stopped 2 months ago. Or better yet, never started. Dismiss my advice now, but you’ll be saying the same thing to new trainees next January.
I’m not kidding when I say it’s a waste of time to learn it beforehand, and odds are you’re probably learning it wrong anyway which might impede your actual learning during training. For most people, Darija is a difficult language to learn. But it’s a doable. When I arrived in country, I couldn’t even say ‘hello’ or ‘thank you.’ Now I can hold conversations. (Most of the time)
Seriously, put it away and go take a hot shower. Eat at your favorite Mexican place. Or get plastered on a Thursday night because you can. You’ll miss all those things.
2. If there’s one thing I wish someone would’ve told me before I came to Morocco, it’s that indoor heating does not exist. There is no insulation in any homes or buildings.
In layman’s terms: You will freeze.
So pack accordingly. I’m talking fleece jackets, winter coats, long underwear, hats, mittens, a decent sleeping bag. Anything to keep you warm. 45 degrees outside? Doable. 45 degrees in your home? Miserable.
There’s no escape from the cold. (Just as there’s little escape from the heat in the summer.)
3. Peace Corps is kind of like being in high school sometimes.
Yeah, I said it.
Which is something I hadn’t really thought about before I came here. There are cliques. Meaning there are your party kids. Your loners. Your overachievers. Your dreamers. Your hippies. Your athletes. You name it.
You’re not going to be best friends with everyone. You probably won’t even know everyone. But the diversity alone that exists in the makeup of Peace Corps volunteers is one of my favorite aspects of life here. You will meet all kinds of different people, from different places, with different backgrounds, and different ideas. It’s a beautiful thing.
Just try to stay ‘racket free.’
4. In the words of my wise Dad, “Action cures fear.”
Simply put, you learn by doing.
I can remember being terrified at the thought of having to figure out taxis and buses by myself for example. And now I’m fairly confident that I could get just about anywhere I needed to go in the country without any problems.
When in doubt, just do.
There’s a lot about Moroccan culture that you’re not going to understand. Some things or ways of doing things, might seem absolutely asinine to you.
Think about it. Analyze it. Talk about it. But in the end accept things for how they are. You’re a guest in this country and it’s neither your duty nor right to set about changing it. You can be an agent of change, but ultimately change comes from within.
6. Peanut butter, dark chocolate, and ice cream exist in Morocco. You’re welcome.
7. You will be asked about religion.
You’ll be asked what your religion is. You’ll be asked what you think about Islam. You’ll be asked why you’re not Muslim. You’ll be asked if you want to become Muslim. You might even be converted.
8. You will probably receive some form of harassment. Sorry.
9. Don’t be afraid to get excited about the little things. You told your host Mom you like her cooking in Darija? Awesome. You didn’t have diarrhea for the first time in three days? Loud and proud.
The seemingly ‘little things’ make it worth it.
10. Youth Development is Peace Corps’ way of saying they have no idea what to do with you. Oh, you worked at the YMCA? You were a summer camp counselor? You’re YD.
Thankfully, the YD program in Morocco is about as structured as can be for a developing country.
Odds are you’ll be probably be doing all kinds of different things. I hope you like kids.
11. The Peace Corps talks a lot about dressing appropriately in Morocco. No collarbones, shirts that cover your derriere, etc.
But one thing they don’t tell you is that in cities like Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, etc. you can dress a bit more liberally. Obviously, you don’t want to be parading around in miniskirts and halter tops. But dress tends to be a bit more relaxed in the larger cities.
And on that same note: If you wouldn’t wear it in the States, you probably won’t wear it in Morocco.
Just sayin.’ Just because dress is more conservative here doesn’t mean you have to dress like a paper bag. You’ll want to look/feel nice at times.
12. And lastly, try not to worry.
You won’t have all the answers. And you’re not supposed to. The best thing you can do is chill out and settle in for the ride.
Give up and give in. It’s a blissful way to make the most of this experience.
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