I believe it is obvious to all that I am not so great at this blog thing. There is no real reason why I don't update as often as I should. However, the more time passes, the less motivation I have to actually write about my life in Morocco. Atlas, the time has come when I've downed 2 cups of coffee, and have forced myself to sit and update my friends and family. It's been months since my last post, so let me try to break it down for you.
My grant for my woman’s' center was approved. It took a few months to hear back, but I finally received the funds to make the project a possibility. Starting things from scratch is not always easy, and this has been proven to me over and over again. Ever since I told my association our grant was approved, MANY problems have arose. First, they told me it wasn't enough money. The frustrating part about this is that they think I can just call up the Peace Corps and ask for more. It's difficult to explain to anybody about the grant writing process. The hours I spent writing up the proposal, the days it took to get an accurate budget using this strange foreign language, and talking to community members about an action plan. After withholding my sudden urge to throw rocks at their children and taking MANY deep breathes, I did my best to explain that was not possible. I am certain that $5000 is enough to build a 1 room center, and told them this is all we have and must work with it. The second issue was finding a space to build. The only land available is literally a rock cliff where they have to bulldoze the land to flatten it. However, the bulldozer isn't cheap, and wasn't included in the budget, so we had to figure an alternative, which I think was decided last week. Third is that now it is summer. It is time for the harvest, and Ramadan is only a few weeks away. Therefore most of the men who will be building this center are too busy to begin at the moment. That and the fact that my counterpart is gone for the summer, I highly doubt we will begin building until September. At first I was disappointed and exceedingly frustrated. However, I accepted the fate of my project, told myself it was out of my hands and I literally did everything I could have possibly done, and haven't let it bother me since. Such is life.
In addition to this project, I started a girls club that I LOVE! We meet 4-5 days a week. I teach them English, talk about empowerment issues, and they also color. Every day right on schedule the girls bang on my door, with their notebooks and motivation to learn, and tell me the classroom is ready. The other day all the classrooms were locked so I held class in my tiny house. After we finished I turned on some Daddy Yankee and started dancing, mainly moving in a way that a girl shouldn't in a Muslim society. They mocked everything I did, so I started to booty pop. It was by far the funniest thing I've seen in my site. Thirteen young girls in their scarves and long skirts, booty popping to reggaeton. I'm certain it is something they will never forget, nor will I. It's moments like these in a Peace Corps service one has to cherish.
At the end of May began my summer of fun. Part one: One of my best friends from college, Brian, and his lovely girlfriend, Lauren, came to visit me. The visit was only a few days, but it was absolutely wonderful to see them. I think the funniest part for them was to watch me speak Tashlheet. They even took a video of me bargaining. It was amazing to show people I love from home around Morocco. Part two: Visiting Spain with my dad and little brother, Matthew. We stayed in an apartment with a washing machine, ate ridiculous amounts of cheese and pork, and just sat around together while drinking beer and wine. Matthew and I went out on the town with some people I met on the airplane as well. We drank beer in the center, and went to clubs where we shook our booties until 3am. Words cannot describe how refreshing it was to be around my family. It was heavenly. The only regret I have is that I didn't hug my dad enough. Part three: This will be happening next week. Something I'd like to call my dream vacation. My wonderful friend Sara, who lives in Abu Dhabi, is getting married in the Maldives in 2 weeks. She asked me to be her maid of honor. I will be flying to Abu Dhabi for a few days to hang with her, then we fly to the Maldives for a week for her wedding. I will be staying on an island resort where I'll lay on the beach, drink mimosas before noon, and my biggest worry for the day will be whether I want to go diving in the morning of afternoon.(for those interested I will be staying here: kuredu.com) After this I am meeting my friend Hanna, who I volunteered with in Honduras, and we will explore India for a little over a week. For as long as I can remember, India has been my top travel destination. I couldn't be more excited that my dream is becoming a reality and I get to share it with Hanna. So yea, lots of good things ahead!
May 25th marked my 1 year anniversary as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. Now the countdown to coming home begins. Only 10 months left, and I know they will go by quickly. I remember 2nd year volunteers telling me many months ago that you just have to get through the first year, survive through all the BS, and your 2nd year is your gift. Now that I am at this point of my service, it makes sense. Through all the tears, overwhelming feelings of self doubt, frustration, homesickness, coupled with Veronica Mars TV marathons and devouring way too many candies sent to me in care packages, life here has suddenly become easier. I'm not saying every day is rainbows and puppies, but Morocco has become familiar, and the anxiety of stepping out my front door has slowly faded.
I often like to reflect on how much I've learned since arriving to Morocco in March 2011. I think that the most important thing I've learned thus far is patience. Sitting and waiting for hours for a bus to arrive does not faze me. There are times where I just stare at my wall, and am completely content. I've also learned to not feel so guilty. One thing Peace Corps drills in your head during training is to be as social as possible. I used to feel like the worst volunteer if instead of having tea with my community, I would sit in my house all day and watch an entire season of Dexter while eating ungodly amounts of popcorn. However, now that I am completely comfortable in my tiny village, and have developed strong relationships with much of my community, I allow myself to stay inside every now and then, guilt free. Another thing I have noticed is that I am no longer the strange foreign girl living by herself. I am just Leila (my Moroccan name). This, I believe, to be a great achievement. Two of the three Peace Corps goals are to help promote a better understanding of the American people AND to help promote a better understanding of others to American people. It took me a while to believe that having tea and going to the fields with my community was actually work. As Americans, we often need something tangible to measure our levels of success. This is one reason why the first year for many volunteers is so challenging. There is nothing we can actually touch to show us our job well done. However, these past few months I've noticed people that I've never spoken to greeting me by my first name, children stand on the hills in my village as I'm walking home yelling for me to come have tea with their families, and whenever somebody cooks cous cous, I'm always invited, as everybody knows it's my favorite. So, maybe my woman’s center project isn't going as smooth as I hoped thus far, however, whenever I feel frustrated and wish my mom was here to rub my head and tell me it's going to be alright, I step outside, revel in the serenity of my village, and enjoy the moment. Because before I know it, 10 months will have passed, I will be back in America the beautiful, and my life will never be as simple as it is now.