If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned much about the actual work I do on a consistent basis. This is partly because relaying some aspects of my work would be incredibly mundane to read. The other reason is because for my first 3-4 months in site, I wasn’t really doing a whole lot of work in the traditional sense.
But allow me to back up.
What defines ‘work’ in the Peace Corps?
Well, it depends on who you ask. But most volunteers would agree that you’re ‘working’ in any setting in which you engage with host country nationals, or to put it more crudely, anytime you leave the safe cocoon of your house.
Taxi ride? Work.
Shopping at souk or the hanut? Work.
L3id Kbir? Work.
On any given day I might put in 4 hours of face time at the Dar Chebab itself. But every other interaction I had that day, whether it be exchanging greetings with the women I pass by on the street or buying bread from my nearby hanut- I consider to be work.
As I’ve mentioned before, I wish I was exaggerating when I say that being in the Peace Corps is kind of like being a D-List celebrity. I am the only American, let alone foreigner, living in my town. This means I always have to ‘be on.’ People watch where I go, who I talk to, what I buy, and ask me personal questions. Once a girl showed me photos she had taken on her phone of my Facebook page. (We’re not Facebook friends.)
In the Peace Corps we call this kind of work ‘community integration.’ The idea of getting to know your community well enough to feel like a contributing, included member.
But I also clock some hours at the Dar Chebab, high school, and a local cooperative as well. In theory, I’ve got 3 Beginning English classes, 2 English Conversation classes, Music Club, Girls Club, Boys Club, an ‘Open Door’ session where I help with homework and answer questions, and participate in the ACCESS program over at the high school.
I use the words ‘In theory’ because things change day by day in Morocco. Next week, this could all look completely different.
My typical schedule sees me at the Dar Chebab Tuesday-Saturday from 10-12 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., except for Thursday afternoons when I go to the women’s cooperative to teach and hang out. Most Sunday’s that I am in town I help out at the high school too.
I work with a variety of different people. High school boys, middle school girls, children from the primary school, middle aged women, 20-something men, etc.
Sometimes it boggles my mind that I’ve been in Morocco for 9 months. I still feel like I’m getting my bearings and trying to make sense of things. I often wonder if I will ever feel like I’ve got it all figured out. I still feel so new.
But when I look back on this summer and how difficult things were workwise, I realize how much progress I’ve made. How now, I can hardly walk through town without saying ‘hello’ to someone I know. Or about how this week I’ve got 2 lunch invitations lined up, not to mention the fact that I’ve dined or spent time with families at least once a week for the past two months.
That’s huge. And I’m so grateful.
I just hope it lasts.