Whether you have questions about what to bring or what daily life might look like at site, the answer is probably here!
There is also a lot of great information under For Applicants & Future Trainees and For Americans!
1) Packing Advice
Where can we find packing lists?
Can we buy blankets at PST? Or do we NEED to bring a sleeping bag? *I have a sleeping pad
Does Morocco get cold in the winter, shall I bring warm clothing?
Should I invest in a 20 degree sleeping bag? Would you recommend bringing a phone?
What would you say is the most essential thing to pack?
What kind of phone do volunteers usually bring?
What are the 3 most useful items you'd recommend an invitee bring with them from the states?
What products, if any, did you bring a 2 year supply of? Are you happy you did?
Should I leave the denim at home or are jeans acceptable?
What kinds of clothes are we expected to wear our first week in country? Is it business casual?
Would you recommend a travel backpack or a hiking backpacking backpack?
Did you bring anything from home that you have loved?
What is one thing you wish you'd packed?
What’s the most important thing to bring? Besides computer and phone?
What is something I could pack to benefit the youth/community?
What is the most important thing to keep in mind when packing/helpful packing tips?
Are books in English (esp. kids’) easy to come by in Morocco? Or would this be a good thing to bring?
What’s the one thing you regret not packing/bringing?
2) Life at Site (Language, Host Families, Integration, Travel, etc.)
What do volunteers like to do to destress while trying to adjust to a new life?
How is the homestay dynamic? I'm curious about a few of your experiences.
Are Moroccan cell/data plans affordable and useful for PCVs?
When sharing U.S. pictures abroad, should the pics be as conservative as they are?
Are our paychecks meant to cover rent to our host family? Do you pay rent when living with a host family?
Will we be with a host family at our permanent site, or have our own place?
What is the best way to travel with money… credit card, cash?
Are we able to have visitors around Christmas time?
Is there good backpacking/camping in country?
What is one advice you would give when living with a host family?
What’s your favorite thing to do in your town?
How has adjusting to a conservative culture affected you?
How do you find community before being able to effectively communicate?
What has been the best form of communication with family back home?
What are a few suggestions for help overcome any hardship during service?
How long did it take you to feel comfortable with the language?
Where have you visited on your vacation days?
What has been your favorite part of service?
How often are most PCVs in Morocco able to get internet access? What’s the speed like?
What are some good ways to integrate into your community at your permanent site?
How often do you use French?
What was the hardest part of service for you?
How well do you get to know other volunteers?
What do Volunteers do for exercise?
Why are you happy you picked Morocco?
Is it common for legal clearances to take this long? Is there anything I can do?
Still waiting on medical clearance & I depart on Sept 8th...can I start freaking out yet?
How much money should I save up before I leave?
Have you gone to prayer at the mosque? Did you go alone/friends/colleagues/host family?
Did you get any say where you were placed for service or were you just assigned after training?
By Jamie, Volunteer (Staj 100)
“Why am I doing this?” I think again as I’m peddling with all my might into a dry, desert headwind with a slightly flat front tire and an empty stomach from Ramadan fasting.
I bike two miles four-days-a-week from my town to the local Dar Talib and Dar Taliba where kids from duars off the main road attend in my area. These dormitories sit next to the lycee, college and 9ida (administration building), and there is a constant traffic of bikes, school vans, and walkers hiking up and down this trek.
At first, I hated the ride. The way there is mostly uphill, drari constantly yell “Bonjour” in my face like it’s a challenge, and students sharing the road leer at me as I pass. I constantly stress that my knee-length dresses are riding up over my leggings and wonder if my butt is too provocative for my site’s standards. I can’t enjoy taking in the lustrous date forest adjacent to my twirling wheels, or marvel over the crumbling kasbahs peppering the black and white highway. Sometimes the social taboos are just too overpowering to take in the beautiful uniqueness of my home.
On top of this, communication and engagement are lax at the Dar Talib/a. Several times I’ve shown up and found the buildings closed (due to teacher strikes or school holidays) or the girls and boys napping, unaccounted for roaming the town, or just not in the mood for me and whatever lesson I’d pulled from the internet for the day. I’ve tried PACA, and simply asking the students or mudir/a, “What do you want to do today?”
“Whatever you want to do,” is the constant reply. Or sometimes the typical, “a movie.”
I’ve never been more confused about how to engage a group of kids who don’t seem to want to learn English, laugh at yoga, or sit silently at any life skills activity I attempt on them.
I ask myself again, “What am I doing here?”
Nevertheless, the Dar Talib/a are still my main, somewhat regular work in (or out of) site. I’ve tried starting classes at the Dar Shabab in town and quickly burned out from the lack of community support, inconsistent attendance, or harassment from students.* I know that when I show up to the Dar Talib/a there will be a group of kids hanging around with several adults present to support. For these reasons, and so that my mind doesn’t go completely insane here for the next two years, I get on my bike and make the trek several times a week to “youth develop.”
Prior to Ramadan, I struggled to find a program that engaged the kids, something they got excited about and would want to make their own. PACA priority ranking consisted of a regurgitation of their mudir/a’s priorities, which in itself was perhaps a regurgitation of the wizara’s priorities for their institutions- communication, sports, writing. Plus, there has always been the problem of space. I was psyched to start a life skills/volleyball club after noticing the interest hitting my ball around with the youth a few times. However, neither workplace has a playing field and there are two beautiful courts sitting next door at the college and lycee, unused, but unable to be used by us for liability reasons. English died a slow, hard death as I felt more and more impatience, side-conversations and rolling of eyes the more I stood at a board, no matter how fun I tried to make it. The only thing that seemed to work was games.
So Ramadan, I decided, would be the month of games. We had only one more month before school exams and then summer break. Might as well do something lighthearted and fun to kill the time until fatour. Usually I tried to make these games somewhat educational- put English words on a memory card set, Ramadan word searches, and head’s up in English. However, the only game the youth really latched onto without fail, was UNO. The girls and boys alike could not get enough of UNO. They cackled when they caught their friends forgetting to say the word with one card in hand, or cracked up over the similarity between the word “Uno” and “Weenu,” which means “mine” in Tamazight. They loved to pile on cards to their neighbors by adding multiple “add two” cards until one unfortunate soul ended up with 8 or 10 “add two’s.” They’d argue heatedly over rules and throw their hands up, flaunting their victory, when they won. Every time is like watching a professional soccer match.
So why am I peddling this bike miles every few days in 100-degree heat and blistering headwind to play UNO with a bunch of teenagers?
I enjoy it.
I think that playing Uno consistently twice a week with each group has finally built a sturdy relationship between me and them. I am humbled and overjoyed by the smiles I see on their faces when I show up now- proud of the polite handshakes the boys make now rather than rolling past me, snickering. I’ve managed to capture the girls’ attention, now they listen to me and join me when I arrive. Playing UNO, while not the most creative or educational activity, is still engaging the boys and girls to bond over a fun activity. It keeps them inside the building instead of roaming the boundaries of the school or hanging around the hanut. And it’s drawn me closer to them as well. I look forward to seeing them each day. The alternative would be sitting in my house, sweating out the last few hours before the call to prayer to break fast.
I still don’t know how I’m going to turn this card game into a more proper program next year. I stress that I will show up again after summer break finding that UNO is still the only thing they want. I have high hopes to try GLOW and BRO, a yoga life skills program, a volleyball club or an environmental club. Ideally, I’d love to break down the separation between the Dar Talib/a. Getting girls and boys to interact with each other, treating each other with respect, is a huge need in this area.
This was exemplified perfectly in our attempt to present our community maps to each other. It was like pulling teeth to get to boys to walk over to the Dar Taliba with their maps and key; same with encouraging the girls to get out of bed and walk outside. Both groups stood facing each other like war combatants, making sure not to get too close, forgetting all their points until I prompted them with questions- “What is this building? What does this circle mean around the school? Do the girls also go here? What do you want in the future in your town?” The boys hightailed it out of there as soon as we were done and the girls turned to me, asking, “Can we play UNO now?”
I’m still trying to decide if PACA really works or if it’s just another silly American experiment I’m putting them through.
Regardless, the fact that the boys and girls put aside their insecurities and discomfort for long enough to follow me and talk to each other shows improvement and the trust we’ve built from day one. I can’t imagine this ever happening in my first month with this crowd. It’s a start. And all of it is thanks to UNO and some uphill bike rides.
*However, I have had luck more recently at the Dar Shabab with planning workshops or events with community members and advertising excessively on social media prior to the event. These activities were a huge win after months of disappointment, but still leave me free most of the week.
By Jacob, Volunteer (Staj 100)
I had just gotten home from my region’s book club when Said called me,
“Come over to my house so we can talk about next week.”
“I don’t know where your house is.”
“Just ask, tell people you’re looking for where Said the barber lives.”
I had asked Said a few days before this if he would come with me to the Peace Corps’ Project Design and Management training (PDM). Back in February, I had learned that one of the barbers in town was also a prize-winning painter. Intrigued and excited to introduce myself to a potential collaborator for youth activities, I went to visit his shop. Behind the bakery, a set of rocky steps leads up to double steel doors painted sky blue that on market days are flung open wide to display the word “barber” painted across them in yellow paint. When I arrived at the threshold, Said welcomed me warmly and motioned me to a bench inside with his razor. I joined a group men and boys at the back of the small room. Some were half watching the Bollywood movie playing on the tiny TV suckered to a shelf near the ceiling, while others were chatting with Said as he worked. The conversation instantly shifted its focus towards me as I sat down. Said frequently paused as he buzzed fades and lathered chins to ask me questions: where was I from, what was I doing here, could I speak Shil7a. People have asked me such questions before with a barely concealed sneer of mistrust, but Said’s curiosity was genuine and friendly. We chatted animatedly for a solid hour. I told him about how much colder the weather was back home. He asked me where I had traveled in the world. I explained how fried insects in China are mainly sold for the benefit of adventurous foreigners. He complimented me on my Arabic and told me to keep coming back so he could teach me “authentic” Shil7a. I left his shop delighted with this new gregarious acquaintance. I hadn’t mentioned his painting at all, not wanting to immediately pressure someone who was still getting to know me to become a work partner. Later that day however, I ran into Said again on the street, and it was he who asked if I would be interested in starting painting workshops for the youth of the village. I told him I would be thrilled, but that I was about to leave for a week-long training in Marrakesh, and that we should talk when I returned.
Almost four months have passed since our first meeting. I had visited Said’s shop occasionally in the interim to hang out and chew the fat. Unfortunately, there had always been an upcoming training or the beginning of a holiday preventing us from starting any serious discussion of art classes. A week after Eid Al-Fitr, after a few unsuccessful attempts to call his service-less phone and a day when I visited his shop three different times hoping to catch him during a lull, I had finally managed to explain PDM to Said and ask whether he would be interested in coming with me. He had agreed. Now there was some paperwork to fill out, which is why he needed me to come over.
Read the rest of the blog post here:
By Audrey, Volunteer (Staj 99)
I had spent all day scurrying around my village’s new Women’s Sewing Educational Training Center assisting the women with their sewing problems such as replacing broken needles, helping remove sewing thread that had been jammed in the bobbin case, changing presser feet, running around handing out scissors, paper, zippers, needles, and fabric, helping with basic sewing, and encouraging them. I was pooped! Women commonly ask me over to their homes at the end of the day to gossip and have tea. No offense to them, but after such a busy day, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I needed some solitude, so I made a beeline to my house, grabbed my headphones, put on an audio of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming”, and started walking though the farm fields.
“I’ve been struck again and again by both the promise and vulnerability of young women in our world” said Michelle Obama. She went on to describe her “Let Girls Learn” program, which worked with USAID and Peace Corps focusing on young women, the importance of their education, and creating better access to education for them. I felt like Michelle Obama was talking to me!! I started clapping my hands yelling, “YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!” as I was thinking of the 42 women in my village managing to find time for themselves to learn how to sew.
This past January my counterpart and I opened our doors to 42 village women to our six month training program. (Thank you to my family and friends for donating money to help jump start our Women’s Sewing Educational Training Center. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!)
Read the rest of the blog post here:
Now, it's my turn to give a long-winded speech that could have been an e-mail.
I want to start by saying, from all of us, thank you. Thank you to the Peace Corps staff for putting up with 100 naive, ideological Americans with so much time on their hands, and so desperate for meaning that they travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos. Thank you to our LCFs, to the people back home, and to our host families. Thank you to the communities who have welcomed us, and those about to welcome us. For many of us, this was a dream years in the making, and it’s hard to overstate the role that each one of you played in getting us here.
We are Staj 100. We arrived in Morocco on September 11, 2018, and have now completed CBT after having many fantastic experiences and going on many great adventures.
Or, at least, that's how it is on paper.
The truth, though, is that I can't speak to our collective experiences in CBT. Each group, and each individual found experiences and formed relationships so special that it would be an insult to even try. The things that we experienced weren’t unique (after all, this is the 55th year that Peace Corps has been in Morocco), but our CBT experiences weren't special because they were unique. They were special because they were ours… and unless we are like Ty or Kylie, it is the only time we will ever get this experience. Our CBTs have been, for two months, our homes, our families, our friends, and our centers of work, play, attention, and love.
So, because I can't speak to all of our experiences, and because I am a naive, ideological American with so much time on my hands, and so desperate for meaning that I travelled halfway across the globe with the simple goals of changing the world and getting some good Instagram photos, I will just speak to that last part - love.
Love, sits near the core of each of our individual reasons for being here. It is something that we each express in our own way. Some of us absolutely glow with it, and are unafraid to dangle it out in the open. For others, it is something that we hide deep within ourselves, only showing it to those we are truly comfortable with. In whatever way you may express it, don't forget that it is there, and don't forget to let it guide you, no matter what you do.
Love those who are close to you, those who will support you no matter what.
Love your friends, your host families, and your fellow PCVs.
Love the person who will never be more than just a face you wave to across the street, or one that greets you from behind a counter.
Love the ones who are easy to love, and the ones who desperately need it.
Love people, even if that means blocking them with a piece of wood so that they won't go out on a wet tin roof to fetch a pair of shoes.
Love the people who won't love you back, the ones who cause you trouble.
Love, even when that love is only expressed through the phrases, "no, you can't," and, "because I said so!"
Love the ones who don't want you to love them, and the ones who will hate you for it.
Love the ones who throw rocks at you, who spit on you, who touch you and call you names.
Love them, even when you know the awful things that they've done.
Love the ones who don't deserve your love, because sometimes we won't deserve theirs.
Love, even when it is boring and difficult, when you are tired and you want to quit.
Love strongly and sensibly, and remember that, though our experiences are our own, we are, Moroccan and American, all in this together.
Call your mom, brush your teeth, wash your clothes after three wears... but most importantly, over the next two years, remember, more than anything, to love.
We're wrapping up our #55YearsOfFriendship campaign. We sure are grateful for the past 55 years of Peace Corps in Morocco and all the friends we've met along the way, and we're excited about all the future years and friendships awaiting us. Thank you to all that contributed to our campaign by sharing stories, pictures, videos, memories and support. Here's to #ManyMoreYearsOfFriendship here in Morocco.
Don't worry, we will still be updating this page with more stories and photos of the continued friendship our volunteers foster.
Newly sworn-in PCV Lauren Bullock spoke to her fellow trainees at the Volunteer Swearing-In Ceremony on November 29, 2018. Here is her speech:
Every place on this earth has a spirit of its own. A spirit that makes it unique. We are no different. Each of us came to Morocco with a unique spirit and our own set of gifts, not because this country needs saving, but because of our need to make a complete mess with our passion and love for human connection. The time we spend here is about how well our spirits and gifts connect with the people of Morocco and the essence of this majestic place.
As we transition into the next phase of our service it is important for us to understand that just as sure as there will be high days, there will be low days as well. Days that we may feel defeated, unneeded, or overwhelmed by our experiences here. But, I encourage you to find the opportunities that exist within the low days.
The work we do does not allow us to operate in spaces of comfort, nor does it allow us to be small. Instead, we are met with constant challenges where we are left to rise to the occasion and it is within these spaces that growth, self-realization, and inspiration take flight.
So, embrace your low days just as much as you embrace the highs because both are necessary and both give you perspective. Examine yourselves and your hearts constantly because out of them flow the issues of life and we give those the power to fuel our service for the better, or the worst. After all, it is how you get back up when you fall that will define your legacy as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.
Youssef, for my first five or six months of service, was simply one of the young men who hung out at the youth center, or dar chebab, regularly. At that time, I was still learning who was who and what their roles were as I slowly but surely integrated. When it came time to invite a counterpart to accompany me to the Project Design & Management workshop hosted by Peace Corps, the local youth I talked to advised that I take Youssef, currently the president of the Hope Association for Culture & Sports. "He’s reliable, available, and savvy," they said. A year and a half later, I feel so fortunate to have been pointed in his direction.
Our primary project together was Creating Leaders in the Mountains & Beyond (CLIMB), a dynamic outdoor leadership program that benefited at least 40 Moroccan youth from two Peace Corps sites and has been a major part of our work for the past 10 months. Aside from CLIMB, Youssef has reliably helped me in nearly every aspect of my service and life here in Morocco. From bargaining for my life-changing washing machine and welcoming my mom and aunt during their week-long trip to Morocco to helping me cope with security incidents, literally pulling me up Mount Toubkal, and being there for everyday dar chebab life, he has been an ideal counterpart and a wonderful friend--not only to me, but to other PCVs and PCTs as well. As my service comes to a close all too soon, I’m feeling extremely grateful to him and to countless others who have made my time in this place--my second home--impactful, happy, and unforgettable.
By Rachael Diniega, Multimedia Committee Member (Staj 99)
They thought their work wouldn’t sell, that people would doubt their abilities and demean their success in creating a women’s cooperative—and yet in October 2018, the women of Cooperative Nahda in the Middle Atlas town of Oued Ifrane cheered and clapped when artisan leader Mustapha Chaouai announced their most recent sales success through the online platform of the collective Anou.
I met with the cooperative at the request of a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) living in their town, Jan Sojka (Staj 98), pictured above, who worked with them during her two-year service from 2016 to 2018. “My overall experience in Oued Ifrane has been filled with generous hospitality and a familial bond with many of the locals in this Amazigh village, “ she said. “Throughout my two years, I was met with endless invitations for meals, tea, henna, and celebrations. Throughout my service, I was lucky to encounter Cooperative Nahda, which is a group of female artisans who specialize in carpet weaving and are assisted by a talented, dedicated blacksmith, Mustapha Chaouai. They quickly took me under their wing and were always willing to host visitors and participate in various activities, such as design workshops affiliated with Anou or study abroad programs with American high school students. I have observed them to be a hardworking group that also has a great sense of humor and lively spirit. It is easy to see why they are identified as one of Anou’s strongest cooperatives.”
Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) of the 100th group of volunteers in Morocco sat in on our meeting with the twenty women of the cooperative and Mustapha to learn more about life in their training site. Said PCT Anna LaRocco Masi, "I have met the women of the co-op several times, and each visit, I grow more impressed and inspired by what they are doing. They do not give up even when they run into business-related obstacles. Meeting them is an amazing cultural experience because I got to see what local Moroccan women are doing on a daily basis to succeed for themselves and their families."