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June 17, 2008 My mud hut ;)

I got an email from one of my cousins, saying that she was hesitating to send me M&Ms because she had visions of my mud hut overflowing with them.

This made me smile.

In fact, I have yet to receive an M&M [Update: Got a bag from Mom! Thanks, Mom!], and my home is far from being a mud hut. :) Before I joined Peace Corps, I had visions of mud huts in sub-Saharan Africa, but the reality of my PC experience is very different. I’m currently sitting in my bright, sunny bedroom. (Whenever I’m using my laptop, I come in here, because MaHallu lives in the big common room, and my lappy makes her uncomfortable. I leave the door open, though, and sit facing it, so that people feel free to wander in and out. They don’t, usually, but once in a while, one of them – especially one of the little girls, my little sister or my cousin – will come in and hang out with me. It’s the best compromise I’ve come up with for being able to work on my computer and not feel completely antisocial.)

The walls are brightly painted solid cement, about 18” thick. The ceiling is incredibly high – which is very common in Moroccan architecture – and looks higher because everything from the doorframe up to and including the ceiling is solid white. The walls, from the top of the doorframe downwards, are solid yellow. Across from the door is a big square, south-facing window, about a meter on a side, with two sets of shutters: heavy wooden folding ones, for protection from winter storms, and translucent glass ones that open into the room, hinged like doors. Right now, all four shutters are open, so I have lots of fresh air and can hear the bees buzzing around the rosebushes that are ~20 feet from me. :) The overall effect is a bright, airy room that always feels full of sunlight.

But I live in the guest half of the house. With the cement walls, tiled floors, expensive furniture, giant kitchen, and big bathrooms. (Of course, the family uses the bathrooms and the kitchen, too, which is why they’re outside my door so often. :) ) The family half of the house is made of mud bricks, and you can see golden flecks of wheat (hay? dried grass?) in the walls. I’ve been told that mud houses are warmer in the winter, but they’re also more prone to leaky ceilings and vermin problems, of the bug and mouse variety. Of course, given that winter is about 8 months long in this mountain village, being warm counts for a lot. So there’s an ongoing debate about which is “better” to live in. The house that I’ll (almost certainly) be moving into on August 1, when my homestay ends, is a cement house. I’m planning to hang blankets or rugs from the walls; people will think it’s odd, but I’m hoping that it will work the same way it did in medieval Europe, to insulate the walls and make the home significantly warmer. That house is owned by my host parents. They were the landlords of the previous volunteer, “Zahra.” In fact, it was Zahra who recommended that they become a Peace Corps host family. (Thanks, Zahra! :D )

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps