Life with a View

Date Palm Valleyphoto by Nick Karnezis

 


Home is Wherever I’m With You

I think this song rings true for Brittany and me. We’ve both moved around A LOT and lived in many different places in our lifetime… whether it be different houses (same city), different cities, different states, different countries, or even different continents. We were joking around the other day that we were like nomads always traveling and never settling in one place for too long. It’s fitting here in Morocco since there are actual nomads still living their traditional lifestyles to perfection. Anyway, I’m happy to have my wife and best friend along with me on this grand adventure.

We’ve officially been living in Morocco for one year at this point, and I can definitely say that we’ve definitely learned a lot about ourselves and of course the culture of Morocco. It has not always been easy, but it has also been wonderful at the same time. We have done a lot of work and good things that I’m proud of. I actually feel bad that I don’t share the successes more often. Even just having an amazing and thought provoking cultural conversation with a Moroccan is wonderful, but it is very hard to share and properly convey the importance of that moment to others. So anyway since we are not terribly active bloggers, I hope you don’t get the impression that we’re not doing much here. Because we’ve done a bunch, and I’m happy about our action-packed service so far. This next chapter of our Peace Corps service looks quite promising yet different. Here’s to fourteen more months!

Cheers,
Nick


Whistle while we work…

… And lose track of time.

Well, these last couple of months have flown by. We had a wonderful time celebrating the holidays, and now it’s already almost March or “month 3 (shar tleta)” as we say in Arabic. I really can’t believe how fast everything has flown by. Just looking at the last post about the English conference is a perfect example of how fast life keeps on truckin’.

Since then we have been teaching more classes at the youth center along with many other things throughout the community. Whether it has been teaching women at a women’s center for Brittany or myself working with a local small business, we have further embraced community integration. Even just grabbing coffee with some local Moroccan friends has been quite rewarding and exciting for me. Who would have thought our schedules would be so full? To be honest, life is sometimes quite tiring at the moment, but I think it’s definitely worth it. 

We have also been busy helping other PCVs with projects like a fun weekend of mural paintings with kids from a youth center in a small town nearby. This place was one of the prettiest places we’ve been to recently… surrounded by palm trees, beautiful mountain cliffs, and plenty of donkeys/goats (both of which can be quite loud).

We also traveled to the nearby sand dunes of Erg Chebbi or simply known as Merzouga (the closest town name) to most people. These sand dunes are what our region is famous for, and now I understand why. The huge, red sand dunes are quite unique and beautiful, and you can check out photos from my Flickr account (also right sidebar).

Anyway with all this said, I must depart and prepare for my next class today. That along with the fact that we have to hand wash everything…. clothes, dishes, etc. A quick tip to brighten your day maybe… Do not take automatic dishwashers and washing machines for granted! When we return to the States, we will definitely not. This is especially true in the winter when the water and everything is so cold. 

-Nick


Success! English Teacher Conference

This past weekend, Brittany and I completed our first big Peace Corps project, and we are happy to report that it was a success! Since returning from Iceland, we had been focusing most of our attention on organizing and preparing for it. (As well as teaching our normal English classes and clubs.) We invited all the high school and middle school English teachers from around our region in Morocco to attend an international English education conference! International which meant that we combined the minds of both Moroccan and American educators.

80 teachers from around the region attended the event. We both managed and planned the event, but we also had enormous support from others including the local Ministry of Education, local English teachers in the region, nine other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), and some Peace Corps staff.

Questions after a lecture

Questions after a lecture

Workshop from PCV

Workshop from PCV

This event was a great opportunity for attending English teachers to receive rare professional development from experts in the field by learning new methodologies, learning practical teaching tools, and by sharing/collaborating with each other about their experiences. The conference included lectures from two experts in the education field from the United States, eight lectures from Moroccan educators, and a selection of nine different workshops led by ten PCVs (and one other English teacher from the US). Along with the content, the event included three nights of lodging, all meals provided, a beautiful conference venue, a photo/videographer, and all conference reference materials. These aspects of the project were made possible by the community’s contribution (Ministry of Education) and a fully funded PCPP grant, which we wrote earlier this year.

Lecture

Lecture

Tea and Snack Break

Tea and Snack Break

The attending teachers had a positive learning experience according to exit questionnaires, and they are now better equipped to teach their students English. They were extremely excited to participate in the event and also want to be even more involved in future conferences, which makes this very sustainable for years to come. The end result of the conference is that the youth of Morocco in this region will benefit from their teachers’ professional development and dedication towards teaching English.

Group Shot

Group Shot

Certificate Presentation

Each teacher received a participation certificate.

We were happy with the turnout, and we are very thankful to all the people that collaborated with us in making our teacher conference successful. On the last day of the event many teachers told me that they are already looking forward to another conference next year, which is great to hear.

Until next time,

-Nick


The Brrrrrd is Back

Since returning from a dream vacation in Iceland, we must have brought back the cold and rain to Morocco….

Iceland, by the way, was a magical land full of volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, snow, music, coffee, and wondrous local and international cuisine. The contrasts of colors around the island between the black lava rocks, green moss/grass, deep blue ocean waters, and white glaciers were out of this world. Needless to say, we want to go back for seconds. Also during our brief stopover in England, we received our share of junk food, James Bond, and English speaking.

Now back to Morocco and the “brrrd” (cold in Darija)….  Honestly, we just stayed in the winter clothes that we were wearing off the plane in Iceland and England. Changes in Morocco, both hot and cold, happen within literally a couple of hours sometimes. The heating power of the sun is amazing, and I miss it at this moment. Now I am huddled in a blanket wearing a coat, scarf, and wool hat.

The actual temperature isn’t even that cold yet… According to the internet,  it’s only in the low 40s now, yet in our concrete home (with no insulation), it feels like maybe 25 degrees. This means soon, when we actually hit freezing outside, our whole home will be an electricity saving refrigerator. Of course with all that said, since I can’t see my breath, I shouldn’t talk just yet. That image reminds me of how cold Ifrane was during our initial training period. A cold you could never fully escape, no matter how many socks and blankets you put on.

Anyway, thanks for reading my quick weather update. We have a ton of work to do right now, which we are both very excited about, so hopefully we will talk again soon.

Cheers,

Nick


Beef Coma

Beef Coma… Or Kefta (ground meat in Darija) Coma. After many lentils, eggs, beans, noodles, and a variety of vegetables, we decided to venture back into the world of beef! Meat is pretty expensive here on our budget, so this not something we can do every week. With that said, on this particular week we must have been on some kind of subconscious mission to eat meat, and eat… we did.

BEHOLD… Three nights of pure beef deliciousness.

ImageNight 1 – GREEN CHILE CHEESE BURGERS (thank you parents for the NM green chile!)

Image

Night 1 “Dessert” – PEANUT BUTTER, CHEESE, & HOT SAUCE BURGER

ImageNight 2 – SPICY BEEF CHILI (thank you Brit’s parents for all the chili powder!)

Image

Night 3 – TASTY BEEF TACOS

 

-Nick


Fall, Minus the Changing Leaves

I’m constantly reminded that our time in Morocco, though long, will feel short-lived. The “oldest” group of PCVs in Morocco is in the midst of their Close of Service, many of them already back in America. As we have become close with some over the past 6 months, it’s a very odd feeling knowing they have left town like high school seniors after graduation. As newbies, Nick and I are still freshmen. We have 18 months until we drive cars again, eat true Mexican food again, become anonymous faces in the crowd again. And yet, if these past 6 ½ months are an indication, the next phases of our service will fly by without leaving much time to even process all that’s happening.

The hottest summer of my life has passed, though not without fanfare. We’ve just returned from almost a month straight of travels and trainings, and we’re ready to ring in the change of season. In fact, our city’s feeling more like fall everyday, even though the temperatures don’t necessarily have anything to do with it. It has been raining a lot, and there’s a change in the wind that just feels like autumn to me. Some days I desperately wish to go to the nearest coffee shop, order a pumpkin coffee drink, get in my car, and drive into the mountains listening to music with my windows open. And though that is an impossibility, I do enjoy the time Nick and I can go downtown, sit in a coffee shop for hours, and people watch from the porch.

In Morocco, the return of fall means the return of productivity (for the most part). Our classes have begun full swing in the Dar Chabab. We are teaching two beginner English classes, two intermediate, two advanced, a film and writing class, a business class, games club, homework club, and American flag football club. Beyond classes, we’ve been asked to help with a women’s co-op about 10 miles from our city because the current volunteer is returning to America. The women make jewelry, rugs, clothes, and blankets, and we hope to be able to help them market their products and sell them in more commercial areas, like our downtown market and local festivals. We are also in the middle of coordinating an English teacher training workshop, which will take place at the first of December. This is the first project that we’ve done in our PC service, and it is a very large one. We hope to invite around 150 English teachers in the region with the goal of inspiring them to utilize new and more innovative techniques in the language classroom. With such a large project (planned in another language) comes the potential for a lot of stress, so I hope to find a way to successfully plan the workshop and have a fun and semi relaxing time doing it.

So, for those who’ve been commenting on our relaxed, summer lifestyle, fear no more! We are beyond busy and happy to be able to feel more a part of our community and work places. Please keep us updated with your lives, too, as nothing makes us feel more at home than hearing all about home.

- Brit

I’m finally posting a photo of our site for you to see. What’s missing in the photo is the insane amount of date palms we have, which aren’t pictured here for some reason. Also, it’s really not as green as it looks here. I hope to be able to discreetly take some in the near future, but people tend to not appreciate having their photo taken.

Image


Fall… Six Months In

Well it seems that the unbearable heat from the summer of Morocco is over for this year. It was a sudden change, but I am very open and happy for the refreshing new weather. It makes being outside more pleasant, and it reminds me of being back in Colorado. Riding my bike sounds quite appealing whereas before it was much more of a chore just to get somewhere in town. It also makes exploring the nearby mountains a much more welcoming idea, which makes me ecstatic! Though I have heard that fall is short-lived in Morocco, so soon I fear it will be blanket season.

After participating in so many different summer camps and Peace Corps trainings this summer, it seems unbelievable that we have been in Morocco for six months now. It seems like only yesterday that we were living and eating with our host families during our initial training period in country. Time certainly keeps ticking, whether you are paying attention or not.

And because we led so many English language camps this summer, honestly our Darija language learning has suffered a bit. Most of our students at camp wanted to practice and use their newly acquired English skills, so we embraced it. Not to fret, though. We have many more months to come, and most of our upcoming activities and project ideas will require more Arabic. The fastest way to learn is when you are forced to do so… I think? We will also start tutoring with a Darija language teacher soon, which will be wonderful.

Now is also the time for school to begin in Morocco, so we will be getting a huge influx of youth at our Dar Chebab hopefully. We just set our own schedules to offer a variety of classes and clubs for people, and they will begin in the coming weeks. We will be quite busy with a large upcoming event we are coordinating and with classes starting, so we should have some good stories to tell.

As always, thank you all for reading, and thank you “bizef” (so much) for all the wonderful care packages we have received so far. They have made certain days much brighter, especially when they include chocolate…

-Nick


Women’s Rights: We Deserve Them in America, Too.

I’m certain many of you are already aware of Representative Todd Akin’s comments recently on rape and rape culture in the U.S. In light of the story, I’ve been meaning to write about this issue and what it means for Nick and me as development workers who daily strive to empower women and young girls in Morocco. My sitemate has written this post dealing with this very idea, and I suggest anyone interested in how this story affects those outside the U.S. read it.

Please, please vote.

(Remember that my views, Nick’s views, and any other views posted on this blog in no way represent Peace Corps, the U.S. government, or the Moroccan government or people.)

- B


American Flag Football Camp

One of the camps that I did this summer was our American Flag Football Camp held in the Azrou-Ifrane area. We took about 30 kids (both boys & girls) from the desert regions of southeast and southern Morocco and took them north to the Middle Atlas mountains near Azrou. Combining those 30 kids with another 30 boys and girls from the Azrou area led to a great camp offering a new sport for the Moroccan youth that taught leadership, hard work, and team work.

The week consisted of intense morning runs, football skills practices, team practices, scrimmages, live games, and a final tournament day. The kids were also taken on field trips to Ifrane and Azrou to see the wild monkeys in the nearby forest and to go swimming. On the last full day, everyone played in an elimination tournament on a grassy, green field at the prestigious Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. I mention a grassy field since most of the kids we brought from the desert only play on either dirt, sand, or cement. Playing flag football on actual grass was a big hit. Right when we stepped off the bus, many of the kids threw their shoes off and ran with total joy to the grassy field. Some kids even jumped to the ground and rolled around in what looked like some sort of “snow angel” performance in the grass. Needless to say, they were ecstatic to be there that day.

Flag Football Team

My Team

All week long, each counselor ran their own team, and I liked my guys a lot. If camp was a classic football movie, we would’ve been the underdog story. On tournament day, we played hard against a team with the biggest and best player at camp. It was a high scoring game, and we took the eventual champions of the whole camp to overtime after a 7 TD to 7 TD tie. Unfortunately we lost the game, but we gained a lot more that day in confidence, leadership, and teamwork. Not to mention pure fun.

Championship Game – Ifrane

Once good-byes needed to be said, the kids were quite upset to be leaving. In the ten-day camp, the kids formed close bonds and friendships with each other and with us. Thinking towards the future, we want to organize more American flag football teams/games in new towns and create another camp next summer.

After camp was over, Brittany (who was managing her own summer day camp) met me in Azrou, and we were off to El Jadida to take part in a wonderful English immersion camp just off the beach of the Atlantic Ocean.

P.S.   Now I am definitely ready for college football and the NFL to start!

Until next time,

Nick


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