Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Week In Rabat

Hello Everyone.
After my eventful trip to Spain last weekend, I decided to stick around after teaching this week and enjoy a peaceful weekend here while most of the other volunteers headed to Fes. Although on Friday I did head to Casablanca for a day trip with my student and friend ElHassan. I had not been to Casa yet and I felt it was necessary to go due to all the history or hype from the popular film. I only wanted to make it a day trip since most people here in Rabat have said that Casa is busier and bigger and for that matter smoggier and less likable. Casa is also only a 45 minute train ride away so it was very feasible to see a good bit of the city in an afternoon. ElHassan and I went around the central parts of the city and then made it to the Hassan II Mosque which is the largest mosque in the country and the fifth largest in the world. Needless to say it is massive and pretty powerful to stand underneath. Looking up the minaret is like looking up to a skyscraper and to see that all the designs and colors are mosaic-styles done by hand is very impressive. ElHassan was great travel partner because he spent half his childhood in Casa and he knew plenty about the city. Before we left we went by ElHassan's cousin's house and were able meet his family as they pleaded with us to stay for the night furthering my experience of extremely friendly Moroccans. I definitely enjoyed Casablanca but I think the more urban style of the city makes it less appealing then my experiences in Marrakech and other cities. I am going to try and upload some photos of the trip and since ElHassan was once a photography student he felt the need to turn the trip into the Aaron Price Photoshoot and everywhere we went he wanted me to strike different poses and then show me his expertise. Haha So there are plenty of photos of me along with the sights in Casa.
On a side note this is the end of my fifth week in Morocco and all is still running smoothly. English classes are going great still and the new volunteers who came in last week seem to be great folks. Some will be here even after I leave so it is nice to know there will be some consistency in the house from here on.
I miss you all.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hello Hello

It has been a while since my last post, but I have been trying to keep busy with new volunteers, lesson plans, and student ventures. Since my last post I have gone once again to a Moroccan home from infamous Friday Cous-cous. I have also spent some time on the beach in the town of Temara, right beside of Rabat where most of my students live. Not to mention this past weekend I ventured to Spain for the first time in my life. I am not sure how to describe it but I enjoyed every second. Traveling there I assumed would be pretty simple although it took a substantial amount of time, especially when we missed our first train.
The plan was to catch a train from Rabat to Tanger, then a ferry across the Mediterranean Sea to the Spanish town of Tarifa. The next morning we would head up to Sevilla by bus in order for my travel companion, another volunteer named Zenia, to continue her journey elsewhere in Europe and for me to visit with my dear friend Caitlin who is studying in Alicante. Except for the missed train we traveled somewhat flawlessly, which does not necessarily mean comfortably. The port of Tanger isn't an especially friendly place and at night it can be best described as "sketchy". You cannot tell who works there and who is necessarily official, and I am pretty sure the metal detectors and security machines do not work since I found my pocket knife in my pocket after going through. The ferry was incredibly nice though and everything in Spain proved to be fantastic. The people are very friendly even though my Spanish is terrible, luckily Zenia is close to fluent. Sevilla is a beautiful town and I wish I could have stayed longer although I had to leave on the first bus out Sunday morning in order to reach the ferry, to grab the train and get to Rabat by 9pm.
I was glad to see Caitlin and meet a friend of hers but it was sad to say goodbye to Zenia who I have lived with the past month in Rabat. I am sure she is still relishing the Spanish experience. I don't doubt I will return to Spain soon, as long as I manage my money correctly.
Sadly I was there for such a short while that I didn't even get to break out my camera but did snag a picture from Caitlin of all of us near the University of Sevilla while we walked around the town on Saturday.

I hope everyone is doing great and I can't wait to speak to many of you soon. It is wild to think that I have been here a month already.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weekend in Marrakech


I have finally been able to receive some consistent internet signal so I have been able to postsome pictures from this weekend when I went to Marrakech. Marrakech was fantastic! Plentyof tourists which was both comforting and a hassle since everyone around you in the medinatries to sell you anything, and I mean anything. There is one picture of me with a snake charmer, in which he tried to sell me, you guessed it, the snake. At the time I was trying to take a pictureof one of them with a cobra when a man with a water snake ran up to me and threw it over myneck.
We spent most of our time in the medina, but went out Saturday afternoon to Les JardinsMajorelles. It was a very nice and peaceful period compared to the intense bazaar of the market. I actually would love to return to Marrakech since we weren't able to see too many of the sightsoutside of the medina. The train from Rabat is only around 4 hours and just around 14-20 dollars US.
The only downside to Marrakech is that you had to bargain for pretty much everything. Notjust products in the market, but taxi rides especially. We had one moment in particular where a man was trying to help us get a good price for a ride but since there were 5 of us, we had to takea larger taxi. A larger taxi pulled up and wanted to charge us more than the helpful man wantedus to have to pay. They soon began yelling at one another in Arabic and when the driver tried topull off our "friend" slammed his hands on top of the taxi while running beside it. We soonvacated the vehicle while the men began sharing some words outside while we escaped toanother driver and a better price. Everyone is out to make a buck, and to try and get to a decentprice proved to be exhausting at times. But of course that is all part of the experience.

Marrakech does indeed have a lot to offer but it was pleasant to be back in our house in Rabat onSunday. Back in a place where the taxis have meters with flat rates and the people want to helpforeigners rather than exploit them.

Everything is going great with my work placement as well, spending the morning teaching andthe afternoons interacting with volunteers and some of my students.
I also have picked up a Moroccan cell phone and feel as though I am adjusting quite nicely to mylife here in Rabat.

I hope to speak to you soon. Enjoy the photos!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Moroccan Birthday and Chellah Tour

Hello To All.

This Tuesday was my birthday, which was an interesting feeling to spend my first birthday away from family and friends but not at all in a bad way. I had a great time and even though I tried to not spread the word about remembering my day of birth, all seemed to know. In fact the ladies who cook for us made me a cake which had my name in Arabic script on it since they do not speak much English. I felt very loved and appreciated here by all the volunteers and staff but also those who wrote to me on facebook, etc. Even a few of my students gave me things, including a necklace and scarf. I thank you all for making February 1st a special day no matter where I may be.

Yesterday we got to check out the Chellah Ruins, which is basically an old fort/settlement inhabited by many over centuries beginning with the Carthaginians then the Phoenicians, Romans, Muslims, etc. Now it seems to be ruled by storks because they were literally on any high surface throughout the area. I hope to post some pictures of them as soon as possible but the internet connection here at the house has proved to be difficult to work with.
All is well with the English classes and I am picking up some more Moroccan Arabic, even if it is little by little.
I am headed to Marrakech this weekend with some other volunteers which should be a fantastic time. I hope to post more soon.
I hope everyone is keeping watch on Egypt as well as the other Arab countries and keeping those who are fighting for their freedom in your thoughts.



Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Great Sahara

I have just returned from a weekend trip to the Sahara Desert where after an 11 hour ride both ways landed us on camels to camp under the stars in the desert. This was by far one of the coolest things I have ever been able to do. We were escorted by our great guide, "Hamza", who narrated our ride through the towns we passed and were able to stop at; even stay the night Friday, midway through the drive at a mountain hotel. To get to the Sahara from Rabat we had to drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, where at one point we were over 7000 ft. above sea level (Comparison to ASU Campus: 3,330 ft approx.). It got chilly to say the least.
It is hard to describe all that happened this weekend because the desert is a place you are truly in awe of. Riding camels is a neat experience in itself but especially when you ride in during the sunset and ride out the next morning as the sun rises. Sadly my camera battery died Saturday night after we arrived at our "campsite", which was incredibly nice. We were accompanied by some men from a Berber tribe who played drums and sang to us around the campfire after dinner as well as take care of the camels, etc. Once the sun died off it became a little chilly but not cold enough to keep me and a few others from choosing to sleep outside of the tents in order to stare at the stars while we dozed off. The amount of stars you could see was truly unreal, even if it could be captured on a camera, it still wouldn't do it justice. I found myself staring at the sky, completely engulfed in the amazement above me. That alone was worth the 22 hours of travel in the two and a half days. The ride home today was long but eventful when we stopped again along the Atlas Mountains to see and feed the Barbary Apes, a monkey indigenous to those mountains as well as areas like Gibraltar. They look a lot like the arctic monkeys who live in hot springs but these guys survive on just about anything including bark off of the trees. I wish I had a picture to show you but I suppose you will have to take my word for it since I couldn't sneak one back on the van.
It is wild to think I have been here a week, the time seems to have passed slowly because of everything I have been able to experience and learn. I hope all is well wherever you may be.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rabat and My Moroccan Lunch

Hello to all. It is Wednesday of my first week here in Rabat and although I still have some lingering effects of jetlag I have been having a great time. The house, the staff, and fellow volunteers continue to be a great part of my experience so far. A very eclectic group with plenty of personalities makes for entertaining meal times and outside travels. This weekend we will be heading North to the Sahara Desert for a camel trek/camping trip which I am very excited about. I hope to have some great photos and memories to share with you soon. I have spent the last few days teaching English for the advanced students at the foundation in the mornings and then becoming familiar with Rabat in the afternoons. Rabat is definitely full of "hustle and bustle" and seems to be a completely new world. I have been able to practice French plenty while being bombarded by Arabic as well. It can be exhausting trying to communicate at times but hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to converse with ease while exploring. I haven't had time to fully explore the Medina and downtown area yet but some areas feel like Chinatown on steroids. It is hard to describe the culture other than by saying it is rich and full of life, almost like the city has its own personality with many different tongues and faces. I am eager to travel to other areas as well but I know in the remaining weeks I will have plenty of time.

Yesterday one of my students, Al Hassan, invited me to his house for lunch which was an incredible experience. Moroccans are extremely friendly and practically beg you to eat and drink everything. I was also warned by the staff not to say you like anything in a Moroccan's home because they will want to give it to you and "no" is not an acceptable answer. Al Hassan brought out a ridiculous amount of food, followed by fruits, teas, yogurt drinks, coffee and more. I was able to meet his mother, brother, niece, and "stepmother" as he called her. Basically his father has two wives which he explained necessarily rare in Muslim culture. His mothers only spoke Arabic but Al Hassan translated to tell me they were saying "Thank you for coming" "Our House is yours" "Today is a great day that you are here". Although you can receive awkward looks on the streets because you are obviously western, you will find that when you interact with Moroccans, they're are some of the most overwhelmingly friendly people I have ever encountered.

I will post more pictures as I take them



Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Have Arrived

I am currently in Rabat sitting in Cross Cultural Solutions home base. So far everything has been great, including my fellow volunteers and those Moroccans working with us. The food especially has been fantastic. Tomorrow we will have our orientation where I will be told more about my placement and what exactly I will be doing. From what I have heard from a fellow volunteer at La Fondation Occident (East-West Foundation), it may be sort of chaotic. When she leaves in a few days I imagine I will take her place in helping teach a class of Moroccans and even some refugees from other African countries how to master their English skills. From her perspective it sounds a good bit like the classes I was able to assist in Haiti, many students some days (up to 66) and only a handful of people other times. And all with different skill levels.

The house we are staying in was the house of a former Spanish diplomat, able to accomodate up to 25 volunteers although right now it holds maybe 15-16.
I hope to take some pictures soon of the house and put them up here but I want to wait until we have some sunlight and I get some shut-eye.

I am very appreciative of all the love and attention that has been sent my way the past few days.
I hope to speak to plenty of you soon.