- Where will you be going?
Morocco, the northwesternmost country of Africa. It boarders the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Algeria, and Western Sahara or Mauritania* to the south.
- Have you ever been there before?
Nope. I've only ever been in Africa for a week, when I visited Egypt with my sister last January. (See the 11-27-07 timeline post for details). But I got a taste of Morocco last night, at a fantabulous Moroccan restaurant. If my experience and/or food in-country are anything like my experience last night, I'll be a very, very happy person. :)
- What will you be doing?
Environmental Education and Community Development. As for what that means...it varies. (Check out the 1-16-08 post for details.)
- What city will you be in?
I'll fly into the capital city, but shortly thereafter be transported to another town, whose name and location I don't know, for three months of training. At the end of training, I'll learn where (barring unforseen circumstances) I'll be volunteering for the next two years.
- What language do they speak there?
The national language is Arabic - though Moroccan Arabic sounds quite a bit different from everyone else's! Morocco was a French colony for years, though, and one effect of that is that French is still required in school. There are also three Berber dialects that are common, especially in the more remote regions of the country.
- Do you speak it?
I studied French from 7th grade through a semester of college, so that will be my primary crutch. I've been working on Arabic, but it's still pretty rudimentary. Also, I've been learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is the equivalent of learning English with an Ohio accent and then going to back country Tennessee: folks there can understand me, thanks to TV and radio, but not necessarily vice-versa. (And if you think I'm kidding, you don't know anyone from the mountains of Tennessee, where "f'n'a" is the future tense and "on" rhymes with "hone".)
- How's the packing coming?
(inserting fingers into ears and babbling frantically)
Seriously, there's a lot to do, not least of which is stockpile thermal underwear and hiking equipment, since the odds are that I'll be in an unheated cement building in the mountains, with sporadic electricity and indoor temperatures in the single digits. General appeal to blogreaders: if you have thermal layers or hiking garb that you never use, could you shoot me an email or hit the comment button below? Thanks!!
- What else do you have to do before you leave?
...a whole lot. I have to square away finances and legal stuff to be handled in my absence, say goodbye to everyone I know - and hug as many of them as possible, which means a lot of traveling, give away most of my belongings, schlep the rest into my parents' basement 1000 miles away, find a home for my pet snake...
- Why are you getting rid of so much stuff? Why not just store everything?
The most reasonable answer is that moving is difficult and expensive, and very little that I own would cost more to replace than to relocate it. But there's more to it than that. The vast majority of my belongings hold little sentimental value; it's just stuff. Stuff that can be useful, like a bed and dresser and toaster oven, but which won't get used while accumulating dust and rust and moths and mold, awaiting my return. Also, nearly all of it came to me as the product of someone else's love and generosity - usually my parents'. It seems more in keeping with the love that brought this stuff into my life to share it with folks who need it, than to hoard it away for my own future use. And, finally, it's an act of faith in a just and benevolent universe: if I help meet someone else's needs now, my needs will be met in the future.
* It's complicated.