Friday, December 28, 2007

Bahalo, working, feelin worse and feelin better

16 December 2007

Bahalo is Tam for grandpa, though I’m writing this next part for my dear American grandpa; he’s one of the most awesome people in the world, for those of you that don’t know. Here’s some excerpts from his last e-mail, just to give you an idea:

“Ever since you said how cold you were I have been trying to think about things that could be done it that situation. . . it seems to me that dried droppings from goats and sheep could make good insulating material for walls. . . However, if there is a pretty good stream available locally, it may be possible to tap into the water flow and use it to generate power. The power could be used for heating or any other use, depending on the local priorities. . . So next time you add to your blog, how about giving us a run down on the assets you have locally to work with such as streams, rivers, trees, animals, structures, etc. Also take some pictures that we could use to get a feel for the total environment in your area. The easiest thing might be to produce a list of problems/difficulties that us engineers in the family might be able to do something about. I know I might be jumping the gun in wanting to help as soon as possible. But you have such fun projects you get yourself into I just can't resist wanting to get in there and help. So if you can, give your poor old grandpa a problem or two (or ten) to look into.”

So this is for him, pictures forthcoming! There is a small river nearby but I don’t know how I could harness energy from it. I’ve also noticed some solar panels throughout my travels which is great; the intense sun here is a way underused resource. For reasons none of us understand, all new buildings are made of cement. They used to all be made of mud which is bad because it’s obviously a little, well dirty, and bugs like it, but its good because its warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Cement is freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer; essentially, a place you don’t want to be at anytime. Apparently, they are building with cement because it’s cheaper, but it’s far more expensive to heat. While a cement house in the winter is much like walking into a fridge, a mud house is like any other unheated home (picture broke college student refusing to pay for heat, like me) it’s cold too.

There are three ways to heat. There are electric heaters, which are quite safe, but electricity is very expensive and they heat only within about three inches. Then there are butagaz heaters, which I haven’t seen in person, but I hear they are great except the whole blowing yourself up risk- Peace Corps strongly discourages this option for safety reasons. The last and most common is the inferno, essentially a basic furnace near the middle of the room, with a “chimney” through the roof. This provides decent heat to one small room, but while most of the smoke goes outside I’m still having some lung trouble. And wood is a bit expensive and only available in certain areas and at certain times of the year. I’ve also heard a lot of the wood comes from protected lands which I’m not okay with, especially after working at a land conservancy.

Windows aren’t common, especially big ones. I assume glass is expensive, but I’m not sure. I have no backup on this, but I would imagine it could also be a privacy and modesty issue. When you walk through old medina’s you can tell which quarters were Muslim and which were Jewish my whether the balconies faced inside or out. Now that I think about it it would probably be very shameful here, at least in a small village, to have windows people could easily see into. Much like a girl wearing a short skirt and a tank top- here that is seen as asking for trouble, does anyone else see the possible connection?

And then there’s my favorite floor of every building in Morocco - the roof. The roof is very much an underused resource in America (people really need to get going on more green roofs!), its rare here to have a building that doesn’t have roof access. And as long as its not windy it’s the best floor to be on! You get maximum sun exposure; great for drying clothes, corn, nuts, bread, clipping toenails, etc etc, or just daydreamin’ and warming your own little body up. Until my trusty ol’ grandpa comes up with another great invention I can implement, I plan on finding a mud house to rent, my village is old and rural so there are some left, and make it through the winter as best I can. I’ll also get a cat, maybe even/or a dog for my own personal bed heater and emotional balancer, and spending a good deal of time in bed during the winter. Is that enough to get you started?

And now, as promised - the work! Because of my weaving background, I have been assigned to work with a well established women’s weaving cooperative. It’s only a few years old but they had really good NGO funding for awhile and were given amazing looms and weaving supplies; shuttles (single and double), bobbin winders, a bobbin winding machine, a sewing machine, umbrella swifts, louet spinning wheels, tons of reeds, etc. from all over - Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, etc. I really don’t know much yet about the co-op’s history or how it’s all worked up until this point, but I will put in a word about charity, because it’s good and bad. Though the women had a lot of support from the NGO, a lot of the business knowledge wasn’t transferred, and without the NGO they’re a little lost and scared. Someone did come in and show the women how to use the new looms and they are very skilled, and from what I can tell know fairly well what the consumer wants. They make just about anything needed - bread cloths, jellaba fabric, capes, shawls, rugs, pillows, and on and on.

However, many of the extras they have been given are unused because they don’t know what they are or what to do with them. During my site visit I discovered four beautiful louet single pedal spinning wheels sitting dusty and unused in my host mothers shed. According to the volunteer I replaced, they’d been sitting there since they were donated. So I pulled one out and tried to teach my mom to spin - it ended up being really frustrating for her and she gave up quickly, but it’s something to work on. The women spin their own wool from local sheep with drop spindles sometimes, but only use it on their old wood and rope vertical looms at home - the looms at the co-op are only being used for fine yarns. The majority of the materials used at the co-op are synthetic and pre-dyed, because there’s not a lot of choices. And there’s a big problem with labeling here- most of the cones are unlabeled, wrong, or if I’m lucky just in French or Hindi or something I’ll just have to find someone to translate for me. I’d love to get some tencel up in here! So there’s a lot to do with product development, which I mainly see as changes in materials, not design. And of course how to use the modern equipment properly, they are really hard on the looms and the amount of broken threads would make my weaving teacher cry.

While I still don’t know what my work will turn out to be, for the moment I’m seeing it as something quieter than I thought before. I don’t have business skills, and haven’t yet asked them what they want from me, but I’d like to show them how important their work is in a world of mass production. Not to sound too much like the crazy artist I once was, but I’d like to see them in love with what they’re doing again. There’s a lot of fighting about money and materials, and when no one’s smiling I get the icky feeling I’m in a mini sweat shop. My host mom yells and beats the crap out of her loom at the co-op, and while she yells like a mad woman at home too, when she sits down at her vertical loom I sense an ease and comfort in her old way of weaving she doesn’t have on the fast looms. I think I was right when I said that I foresaw my greatest challenge and the one I hope to work on the most being the clash of times; how to preserve the old ways of working while bringing the people into the modern world.

There’s much work to be done here! But my two current and most important jobs are integration and language, both of which are proving more difficult than anything I could have imagined. I’m dying to weave with my artisans but can’t decide if it would be a really good or really bad way to integrate and define my working position with them. I have a great tutor for Tam and I mostly need to accept that I’m slow and keep trudging on regardless, and speak more, the damn shyness is really inhibiting. Integration is an even fuzzier area. It’s hard to get to know your community when you can’t communicate. One of the biggest Muslim holidays of the year is next Friday, l-Eid Al-Adha, which will include a lot of visiting and being visited so hopefully I start getting more tea invitations and some people more interested in helping the new village idiot.

So whats awesome about today? Talking on Skype with my mom, grandma, grandpa, Auntie Georgie and Uncle Lenny all at the same time, it was so great to hear their voices. And when I was chatting with just my mom we both have video cam and she decided to get up and take me around the house, showing me the huge black emu eggs due to hatch Jan 15, the kitchen I miss so much, waking my sister and her friend up to say hi (unsuccessful), her new outdoor office, hi to the dogs, and the wireless connection was lost on her way out to the peacocks and horses, but mashi mushkil, it was so great! You gotta love technology sometimes.

So whats not so awesome about today? As I bid my online farewells and walked over to the taxi stand to find a ride home, my host mom was suddenly at my side! Apparently I miss communicated, as usual, when I would be home and I guess she came to get me, I have no idea how long she’d been waiting and/or worrying, but she kicked a guy out of the next cab to our duwar so we could both fit, because if she didn’t get the American home before dark there’d really be hell to pay! Oh my, I felt like shit, on top of already feeling like I hadn’t been integrating well, I go an act like a runaway teen, or at least that’s what I felt like I’d done. But luckily there’s a magical way to make any Berber woman happy and that’s eating, and I think I replenished my status and showed my family I love them tonight by finally eating. That last post by the way was only the beginning of what turned out to be nearly three days of, I’ll spare you the gory details, but far worse tummy issues than I’ve ever had. As bad my pain however was that put upon my family at my refusal to eat. After four days of refusing food, and even, gasp, tea! They were really freaking out. About halfway through I managed to ask for a banana (I always crave bananas when I’m ill, luckily they’re bountiful and delicious here), anything beyond bananas and water made me nauseous. Within an hour there was a big black bag of bananas in my lap, needless to say I had five that day. Back to briana banana, haha. But tonight I managed to feel alright, and by some grace unknown dinner was essentially an oil free tajine- so weird! Which I ate aplenty, and of course a banana for dessert. My host mom and sister beamed with pride and relief as if I’d just gotten married (comparable to my family in America’s pride and relief as I graduated college J)

And then, since I can’t seem to post anything without talking about Ashley, I had homework. For practice, my tutor had me write a story in Tam about a past event. Wanting to make it useful I wrote about Ashley’s trip to Cali this summer as if I was explaining it to my family when I break out my little photo album. It was actually fun, nostalgic and sad, especially writing that my favorite part was just hanging out our last night and how much I miss her. Though I certainly can’t memorize it, it felt good to write something I feel in another language. A PCV who’s been here almost a year was telling me that while he can know a lot of vocabulary, and multiple languages (he knows a fair bit of French and Spanish too) part of what will always keep him with English is that there’s just no way to really express himself in another language. It seems so obvious when we really think about it though, for how can we really say what we mean in words we haven’t grown up with. You grow up with words just like people and experiences. Hmph. Much like dating someone with a different first language, which I tried twice, I hate to say it but it really does make it nearly impossible to feel like you’re really communicating. I just hope to internalize this language enough to be comfortable living here as a citizen for two years.

Ah it’s really been a pretty depressing week overall and maybe its cuz I had my first caffeine this afternoon in awhile, but I’m feeling a lot better tonight- physically and mentally, yay! And more refreshed, ready and wanting to work. Oh and happy holidays everyone, no matter what you’re celebrating, everyones got a holiday goin on sometime this month!

Also, fun fact for the night-

Time I’ve been at site: nearly 3 weeks

Times I’ve bathed: 2

Thursday, December 13, 2007

i love packages

12 December

It is incredible how much I miss home being sick. Was in bed from 7pm yesterday to 2 pm today with extreme agony throughout my torso and a migraine in my head. I forgot I was in a cement room in Morocco and began picturing my mom coming home and the crackle of Vons shopping bags and her bringing me ginger ale, milk toast and talking to me like I was a baby. Oh and sick bear! Ha-ha, haven’t thought about that thing in years. Upon realizing where I actually was I half imagined, half wished I was sick at grandmas house and the way she would frantically be trying to make me better through cantaloupe or juice or some nasty vitamin concoction that would surely make me better, in fact, if I’d been taking all my vitamins in the first place I never would have gotten sick . . . though her efforts may have made me feel worse at times, there is so much love in her care and I miss that! And then I thought of being up at my dad’s and my little sisters giggling outside the door no matter how many times my stepmom told them not to wake me up, but seriously, by noon its really time to play! And my dad bringing me some ridiculously expensive starbucks drink I’d always insist I didn’t need, but so glad he got it cuz it’d be so good. Ah and then Ashley, and her crazy morning hair as I begged her up on Sunday mornings to watch George Stephanopolis. She’d eat leftover bowtie alfredo- our specialty, and I pass through 4 bowls of cereal and instead of going to studio we’d blow off the morning with movies and going over to-do lists. Wow how many worlds away that all seems! Sick or not, the transfer from my warm bed to my warm people is what I truly miss.

Ah, and the culprit of physical agony? My family insists it’s because I only wore one headscarf after the hamam the other day, not two, but it could be anything; could be the fact that 90% of my food diet is bread and 90% of my liquid diet is sugar, or the fish and kafta meatball tajine we had a couple days ago (fish is iffy here unless you live on the coast), or the questionable sandwich I had yesterday with the pink ketchup and partially uncooked egg, or the styrofoam my family decided to burn to get the inferno going last night, or the overall stress of this awkward beginning in my site and my general inability to adjust to moving from extreme cold indoors to hot sunshine outside. I wish there was a better way to put it but it truly is the cold land with the hot sun.

But despite this great ulcer of a night I’ve had I continue to love Morocco. (some days I mean that and some days I just say it, but either way- I love Morocco) The PCVs up here are great; a couple from my staj and a bunch of environment volunteers, which is what I always wanted to be! Environmental Studies ranks top of the list of things I’ve always wanted to do but fear I can’t. The class on Environmental Ethics and Policy struck me to the core and was my favorite class throughout all of college (which is funny, considering it was the only class I took outside my college) the clash of science and philosophy- my two worst subjects! I was talking to another PCV yesterday about what we wanted to do and after talking about my passion for environmental studies as well as fiber properties, perhaps there’s a place for me to do a study on fibers and material sustainability, something like that. Ha-ha, I’ve thought about that before, but I can’t even put a name to it yet. I think I’m in a good place to explore the idea as the focus of Peace Corps work is supposed to be sustainability and I’m near environment PCVs and the co-op I’m working with could certainly work with better fibers, hmmm it will all come together somehow. Two years is a long time and though as of right now going back to school is the last thing I want to do, I think I will want to sooner than I think. Weaving is my passion, but not my life’s work.

So then, after long mental ramblings with myself and the sickness finally drifting, I got myself out of bed and went to the post office, enjoyed the fresh air and the beautiful mountains and this tiny duwar I’m trying to call home and walla! A package from my mom and a package from Ashley, I can’t think of anything that could have brightened my day more other than their actual presence. Awesomely warm clothes and Reeses from my mom and my dear Ashley, among other things- a 13 page letter! I nearly cried reading it I was so happy. I then managed to get to the Co-op for the last couple hours of the day, and my dad called and I got to talk to my nana and my stepmom! Though last night was one of my worst yet in Morocco, today was one of the best. Except for three little Reeses I just enjoyed I haven’t eaten in over twenty-four hours and haven’t even felt a tingle of hunger. Yikes. Hopefully my body’s health will catch up with my mind and things will balance out a bit by tomorrow. Still friggin freezing though.

Monday, December 3, 2007

my pee steams; that's how cold it is here

27 November

I’m wound up in my warm cocoon, consisting of my down sleeping bag, a heavy fleece blanket, a heavier faux wool blanket and a real hand-woven wool blanket that I swear weighs more than I do. Only my fingers are exposed to the freezing air because I want to write. Tonight is my first night in my new home, for good. First night away from any English speaker, the first night I am alone with myself and my thoughts since I left America. Quick recap- the LPI, Thanksgiving, swearing in, and beginning my life as a volunteer. . .

The LPI, or Language Proficiency Interview, is the oral exam we all take at the end of training, pretty self-explanatory. Bring together the fact that I am terrible test taker, a slow learner and have allowed the stress of this entirely new planet I’ve landed on as somewhat of an excuse for me to not put in 100% and you get my current level of language skill. I was one of the very few to score so low on my LPI that I am now on what feels like a kind of academic probation. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and in a way I am thankful for the extra push. What is important is that I want to learn the language and I’m in this for the full term. I also no longer have any distractions or excuses - no one in my town speaks English so when I need something I have to find a way to tell them myself.

On Thanksgiving the YDers and a few SBDers and the kitchen staff prepared and unbelievably wonderful and accurate meal, which made the holiday even sadder for me; I was tasting thanksgiving but not seeing family. Everyone says the holidays are hard when you’re away and I never wanted to believe it but it’s painfully true. It was also hard because Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in my family as a great excuse for a reunion and taking over half a park in Los Angeles. I’m so glad I went home last year or I’d be going on five years away. On top of that, I walked by a black Ford Focus while wandering around Fes that day and it made me miss Ashley all the more as the other three of my past four Thanksgivings were spent with her- once with our favorite college professors, once by ourselves (well, almost), and once up in Wisconsin with her grand family.

A couple days of more lectures and last minute treats like McDonalds passed and then training was over! As of yesterday I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer, sworn in with my staj of 67- the largest ever for Morocco and the first in I don’t know how long to have no one leave yet. Mbruk! Congrats! Overall, Fes was hectic and not the city I'd pictured, Ouarzazate and the “dirty south” will always be dear to my heart as my first home in Morocco. And then we all left, in staggered goodbyes, to do what we came here to do? . . .

I found myself more okay with leaving Peace Corps Training as the forth taxi I took on the relatively short route to my site wound up the mountains. Sandwiched between the rickety door and the other four people sharing the back seat with me, I somehow had 40 minutes of real peace. As the window grew colder and the mountains turned white and grew bigger, I felt comforted. Mountains are always home to me. There is something so beautiful and unattainable about a great mountain; the same moment I feel protected by its presence, I feel afraid of its power. It is such great mass of something and reminds me of a figure in childhood I can’t quite place. And then the taxi ride was over and now I’m here, at home.

Though it was an alright day overall, this evening I received some very unwelcome news and with no one to vent to, and really not wanting to think at all, I began reading. I have no idea when the last time was that I picked up a book and just read for the hell of it, but it’s been at least a year. Reading is so wonderful. My good friend here told me I had to read Eat, Pray, Love and it’s the only book I have, so to take my mind off all the many worries tormenting me, I began reading. What weight can be lifted from such light tasks! Ah, and you know when you put on some music just to take your mind off of things, then hear the lyrics and wonder how the hell you could pick something so randomly and have it say exactly what you need to hear? Well that’s what Eat, Pray, Love did for me tonight dammit! It was inspiring, reassuring and allowed my mind to fall back into place and being sensible. The hardest thing about reading enjoyable writing is that it breaks open again and again my deep desire to be a writer. Though I love to write, I hate to make sense and writing is just about the most frustrating and worrisome process in the world for me. Much like dancing and stand-up comedy and teaching; I love these things but I’m just not made for them. I will find a passion I’m good for, inshallah.

So what’s the consensus in this moment of calm after two and a half months of whirlwind? That I’m only myself... as often as I’d like to think I’m different or growing into another person, and for my time in the Peace Corps I’ve certainly tried; really I’m just the same. And being better at that is really what I’d like to grow towards, not away from. How funny we all are; sorry but I just crack myself up sometimes when my minds on a rampage of thought. After years of withholding, I tried some indulgence, and am settling back into something more like me. I know my instincts are right, the difficulty now is remembering to follow them. In a nutshell, don’t you hate it when you have to tell yourself “I told you so!” In moments of revelation I feel I begin to sound more like my mom (the one who gave me the name Briana, not my adoptive Moroccan mother). Though I often fight it because her beliefs are frustratingly intangible and ever-changing, they always come from the heart, which is often why it is so painful. And I miss her like a bricks been thrown at my chest tonight, but I’ll be fine, because I can already hear her voice saying, so annoyingly, “its okay bri, the universe is with you.”

It is now nearly 2am and I have a big day tomorrow of getting to know the artisans, with my limited language, attempting to find my mom’s package of warm clothes, finding a tutor . . . oh I’ve got a to-do list going now that puts even those during finals week in college to shame. I have a lot to do, but I have time to do it. I’m going to be tired tomorrow, but when your head needs to be cleared, there’s no stopping it. Tonight I miss my mom, maybe instead of nightmares about random things, I’ll go horseback riding with her in my dreams, actually I bet that’s what she’s doing this very moment.

28 November

Okay I admit it, I’m avoiding. Not that anything bad is going on, besides my lack of any communication, I just can’t stop reading. Twenty four hours after I picked up the book and began, I am now 147 pages in, oops. But it’s a good book and I’ve been overwhelmed and quite helpless. After working on my to-do list (and by working on I mean perfecting and adding to the list, not actually accomplishing the tasks on it, as usual) and being embarrassed by sitting there like a dumb rock while my family wonders why I can’t talk, I dove into my book. Speaking of rocks, that’s also the way I feel right now- stone. It has only been one day and I am cold to the bone. It burns it’s so cold. I just haven’t found the little ways to get warm, and I’ve never lived in constant cold before. Don’t worry and think I’m gonna die of cold; it’s just a strange thing to deal with. It makes me not want to do anything, particularly the daily unavoidable tasks like going to the bathroom, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, changing clothes, moving around. Eek. And somehow no matter how many layers I have on, my body doesn’t seem to want to heat them up. For a moment I’m fantasizing that I have fur, and am jealous of sheep. Or maybe if I rub hot peppers on my skin it will burn me warm. I think part of my brain may have frozen too.

Ah and while I had a rare night without nightmares and though I didn’t dream of horseback riding, I did dream of weaving (I couldn’t find the shed even though it was only plain weave!), an old high school friend I haven’t thought of in a long time and feeling beautiful. Odd but refreshing dreams. Suppose the elevation could be getting to me too, I’m nearly even with Denver.

29 November

Since I haven’t been able to post this yet, I may as well keep adding on! Cultural fun for the night: food. In America I might enjoy oatmeal with cinnamon, sugar and raisins for breakfast and maybe some pasta with butter and salt for dinner. In Morocco I may be served oatmeal with salt for breakfast and pasta with raisins, sugar and cinnamon for dinner. Food for thought?

I will talk about the cooperative; ya know like, my job, soon, I just don’t wanna quite yet. And I’ll have more pics up on my picasa site once I gather them from other volunteers. Here's one from swearing in, look out-fresh volunteers!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Alright, alright!

The pictures are up now! The link on the right that says Bri’s Pictures now actually has pics, but only up to about two weeks ago. I’m currently in bed typing under many layers of heavy hand-woven wool covers for I am on a site visit of the place where I will be living and working for the coming two years, listening to my music and oh so content for the moment. If you need my actual city and address you’ll have to contact me directly. All I can say is that I’m in Boulemane Province, high in the mountains, in a bity village but thankfully not too far from the usual comforts. It’s VERY cold here, as many of us say, a cold you can’t escape, if anything it only gets worse when you come home. Oddly enough the preferred home is mud rather than cement for its sooo much warmer. I’m not gonna get into the work cuz I haven’t really started and I’m trying not to form any strong opinions about it yet. But I will say I’m obviously working with weavers, an incredible co-op. I miss my family in my CBT site so much and it was hard when I got here to imagine accepting yet another mother, but I can’t help it, I love my new family as well. And they’re so different I don’t have to compare them. I live with my mother, her daughter in law and her two ADORABLE kids, a year old boy and a four year old girl, they’re irresistible. I’m actually replacing another volunteer who’s COSing (close of service) as I swear in. She’s lived with the host family her whole service. There’s so much more I wanted to write but it will have to be later, I’m exhausted. But my Skype and other messengers work now and the cyber is relatively close to my site, so once I atually move here at the end of the month we can all talk for free once a week, inshallah.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Catchin up

Wow, I’ve only been in Morocco for just over a month- it feels so much longer. Despite what you may have feared, I am alive and well! Sorry for taking so long catching you all up, but it has been a whirlwind here. I was having a hard time figuring out what to call this post, as it will be so horrendously long, so I will divvy it up into short-ish chapters. If one sounds interesting, read it, ya don’t have to suffer through the whole thing. Aw, and before I forget, I do have a cell phone now, so if you want to call me e-mail me, or for a more prompt response, my mom for the number. When I get to my final site hopefully I’ll have more time online. It’s not working right now, but hopefully I’ll have a bunch of pictures up soon, (the link is also on the right)

Bri became a Berber (who knew?)

Some things Peace Corps loves: acronyms, handouts, PowerPoint lectures, and shots. I’ve had 11 shots so far, sat through countless lectures on everything from diarrhea to Moroccan economy, and have more books on health and PC policies than I can count. Without delving into an entire explanation of PCT (Peace Corps Training), I will briefly explain what’s going on so you’ll know where I am and why. PCT is three months long, designed to prepare us for two years of successful service. So us 38 SBD (Small Business Development) PCTs were split up into groups of five or six and are sent to CBT (Community Based Training) sites within two hours of Ouarzazate for short stints with an LCF (a Moroccan Language and Culture Facilitator) for language, culture and technical training. Meaning, half the day is spent learning the language, half working with the artisan association in the village and seeing how we can work with them, then the evening and night we spend with separate host families- which is the real training. So on September 21 I was told I would be learning Tamazight and living in a small Berber village named Hdida, and that was it.


Two hours away from Ouarzazate, which was already beginning to feel like home, I was in another world. I never thought to take the term “oasis” so literally, but wow, absolute nothingness to lush, green wonderland in the blink of an eye. Hdida is a beautiful little village of about two hundred, nestled between the mountains and along a beautiful asif (river). Don’t try and find it on the map, it’s too small to be on there, but is very close to Kelaa Mgouna. I should also mention that “Berber” is often a derogatory term, the real term is Amazigh (singular) or Imazighen (plural), so I’ll try and use that from now on. So we went from 38 Americans, to five, to one; after only a couple hours in Hdida and a very short Tamazight lesson, our new families arrived to pick us up- eek! I was shaking. They immediately gave us all Amazigh names, sorry mom, my new name is Neddia. I don’t know what it means, and I love my real name, but it’s kind of neat to answer to something else. My family is wonderful; though we are somehow related to everyone in the town, there are four who I live with consistently. Mma Aicha, my host mom, is what I see as a quintessential Amazigh woman-quick, loud and strong. She has the traditional tattoos on her chin and can carry more feed on her back than the two years worth of luggage I packed with me. She has one daughter still living with her, who is the same age as me, she’s very sweet, if not overwhelmingly loving that I am here. Then two of mma Aicha’s grandkids, from her daughter (who just gave birth to another boy last week!) down the street live with us too, they are two of the cutest boys I have ever known. One has rhythm like you wouldn’t believe and I keep picturing someone coming into town and “discovering” him, making him famous and then he’ll tell his story on VH1 about growing up in this unknown little village in Africa. Aw, we’ll see.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite

One of my fellow PCTs pointed out that he never thought that saying could be meant literally, but it’s true! It’s a wild world here! I don’t have a bed, but do have an infinite number of big wool blankets, and nightly critters. I managed to seal off my window, so at least my room is now fly-free, unlike everywhere else. But I do have mealworm looking things and big ants, which if I don’t manage to squash before they reach the bamboo ceiling, they get tired and fall onto my bed during the night. There are also feral moths, giant beetles and scorpions (though I’ve only seen one, and it was dead). So don’t be scared, though I’m covered in little mosquito bites, overall it’s not so bad. Because of the asif, there’s also a great abundance in Hdida of frogs, toads and geckos, which I love cuz they eat the other little pests.

Tsh tsh! (Eat! Eat!)

Food is of course on everyones mind, for I know none of you had faith that little Mac n Cheese Bri would ever survive here, wrong! I’m actually doing fine so far. Food is one of the top ways in which you will find cultural integration, as it is a huge part of the culture here. Refusing food is like a slap in the face. As one of my friends experienced, he had food in his mouth, food in his hand ready to put in his mouth and his family was still yelling at him eat, eat! What do you want from me?! Haha. I haven’t been forced to eat too crazy of foods yet though, for Ramadan only just ended (more on that later). Sugar is what’s an issue, I love atay (tea), but it’s more like sugar with a little mint and water in it, same with la qwa (coffee). The sugar actually comes in cone shaped blocks, which they hit with a hammer and put as many chunks as will fit into the bitty teapot. I think I will just tough it out during training, and return to my comfort level of foods when I have my own place. However, I must say, Moroccan produce, veggies and nuts kick the ass of any I’ve ever had. It is incredible here. I didn’t know fruit could taste any better, but it’s ten times better here. I’ve tried so many new fruits, and squash, even figs (though I don’t like them). And I’m so sorry Ashley, but it is absolute pomegranate heaven here! Oh and the nuts! Me oh my, fresh off the tree, almonds and walnuts are to die for. Lmakla tatfut! (the food is delicious!)

Ass backwards

What comes in must come out! Part of the PC experience is sharing information with each other that you would never have shared within your normal realm. Bodily functions and issues rank top of the list, next to where to get good cyber or a cold coke. I have been fortunate enough, though I say this quietly, to not have had any big illness or issues as of yet, but the lbit lma (toilet) is an eerie experience on a good day. We are blessed to have sit-down toilets in our hotel in Ouarzazate, but nearly everywhere else you find the turk, or the squatter, whatever you want to call it. The Turkish toilet is basically a hole with two steps on either side, very simple design, for a simple purpose. Not so simple of course for the leisurely westerner used to the grand sit down toilet. If you want to stay limber in your old age, get a turk! So in all honesty, it has been a challenge, but the other day my CBT mates and I had the most exciting bathroom experiences ever, as one girl found out that we were simply all doing it backwards! (the things PCVs get excited over are relative) haha, so the turk is getting better. And to go even further into what I’m sure none of you want to know, I must share with the ladies how exceptionally wonderful the Divacup is, and the only way I think I could handle that lovely monthly friend here. If you don’t have one, get it, use it, love it. Ah, and other hygiene issues. Well I pretty much don’t shower in Hdida; the bucket shower in the lbit lma is something I’m still not understanding, I’ll update more on that another time.

Language and Laughter

I am trying to keep posts on the brighter side, for life here over all is positive, but I don’t deny it’s already the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s incredible the swings I’ve been in, like puberty all over again! Learning Tam has been the most challenging aspect so far, it’s just not sinking in! Generally, if I can remember or understand a phrase or two a day I feel some level of success. It’s hard because Tam isn’t a test I have to study for and then I can forget it, learning Tam is a huge portion of my job here. I feel bad when I get home from class, exhausted and don’t even want to try to practice with my family. Everyone wants to talk to you all the time, and it’s a universal mistake everyone makes; if I don’t get it, raise your voice while saying it over and over, and then maybe I will, ugh. Ultimately it takes the age old patience, practice and time. However, I LOVE script. I’m slow, and it’s difficult, but I actually get it and enjoy it, so days that end in script lessons are the best days! But laughter has been my true savior. Laughter is a universal language, past the awkward, I don’t understand you, but you’re laughing so I’ll laugh, that is. I don’t consider myself a particularly funny person, but I made a great joke the other day with my host sister and we laughed for a good half hour- it was exceptional bonding. I also introduced my family to Pop Rocks, which was a huge hit and prompted another half hour of laughter.

Ah, and then its back to Ouarzazate, and another kind of laughter, like being home, the laughs and smiles I have with my fellow PCTs. I knew it would happen, but am still surprising myself to find such great people here, and loving America and Americans again. It was very intimidating at first to hear about all the great things people have already done, but here, were all just regular people trying to find a place and do the work. I haven’t laughed like this since Ashley and it feels good and refreshing. I really do hope the Peace Corps will be one of the great experiences of my life. Looking back on college and still feeling like had I known what it was going to be I may not have done it is not a good feeling. Whether the Peace Corps presents me with the opportunity or I have to seek it pout myself, I hope that I am mature and intelligent enough to take it on fully and look back with pride. No matter what, this experience will inform what happens next. I honestly have no idea what I want to do next/for life. What still freaks me out is being where I’ve always planned to be, I don’t have a plan for after. My job is to be here now. I actually think I’m doing a better job of it than I had expected. There’s no longer time for living up to things, just living now. I was afraid I’d get here and be ultimate serious, no smile face like I used to be, but I’m actually enjoying myself- which as we all know makes the work so much better!

I’m not missing too terribly yet, but of course my family is always on my mind, and not being able to share my daily life/ ins and outs with Ashley is still hard, I miss her so much! I’ve also got a mad craving for mac n cheese- the best comfort food, peanut butter, Swedish pancakes, etc. But all in all, life is good, and I’m happy to be here. I have to say again, I love and miss you all very much, wish I could hear your voices, see your lovely faces and give you big hugs!

P.S. ugh, I wrote this a few days ago and need to catch you all up on l-Eid, not being allowed to dance and my first trip to the hammam, but I’m too tired, and need to go get dinner, now that I’ve finally figured out how to get my comp to work (p.s. Vista sucks!) I will hopefully be online more regularly. I still can’t get my Skype to work, but will be in cell range for the next 3 days if ya wanna call me!

Monday, September 17, 2007

dariya day two

lots of other people need to use the computers and iùm having enough trouble as it is cuz its all in french) eek! but everythings goin good: trying to learn dariya ( moroccan arabic) and all about islam! im happy to be here; and am kept busy enough to not think about how much i miss everyone back home. and making new friends is fabulous; i honestly havent laughed this much sincezz the good old days with ashley and it feels good. and i get to meet my new family and rzeally test my dariya at the end of this week: ack gotta go!
nshoufk mn bعd

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm alive, and Peace Corps Morocco rocks!

Hey y’all, just droppin a line to let you all know I’m alive, and for now, quite well! Its all been such a crazy blurr I don’t even want to try to explain it all. Staging in Philly was cool, lots of long meetings on safety and security, tra la la. But the best part of course is all my fellow PCTs! (Peace Corps Trainees) There’s 67 of us, he biggest group ever for Morocco. A little over half are in SBD (Small Business Development) like me, and the rest are in YD (Youth Development) . eek, and very few guys. No offense girls, but after 3 years of Fiber with 99% females, I’m pretty tired of estrogen. But thus far, everyone seems awesome. After much travel, delays, waiting, blah balh blah, well I’m here, actually I’ve been here two days now. I’m in Morocco, but I don’t even know what time zone I’m supposed to feel like I’m in so tiredness just comes in odd waves. This post will be crazy sporadic by the way, for I have 64% battery left and have to be at the end of the hall in the hotel to get wireless- which is quite lucky!

Still haven’t quite realized I’m in Africa. Arriving off the bus from the airport in Casablanca to the Peace Corps headquarters in Rabat- completely exhausted (sleeping on a plane is a joke) I had one of my first wonderful moments with the Peace Corps. The staff quickly introduced themselves, and then our country director, who is awesome by the way, spoke. He talked about the mission of the Peace Corps: “to promote world peace and friendship” and I felt the full intensity of what I was doing. I felt it again today, as the US Ambassador for Morocco came to speak to us.

I am talking about the steps, these small steps, small villages, this small person that I am and the few people I will come to know and work with over the next 27 months and how it is such an important and meaningful course in my life and the world as a whole. All politics aside, the Peace Corps offers an opportunity. We all need a lot of help in doing the work we want to see done in this world, and the PC offers such a great ground to grow on. With the complexities of our world and all the inner workings, I am so amazed such an opportunity exists. After art school I feel I became so cynical and afraid of passion, like being full heartedly excited was only a naïve idea. It’s a complicated subject I will always wrestle with, but I now see how silly it is to try so hard to not believe in more of the good in things out of some kind of fear. I am so excited for whatever is going to happen in the next 27 months, and beyond! I thought about all of this so much more eloquently earlier when I of course had no pen or paper, oh well.

Anyhow, tomorrow is our last day in Rabat, Friday morning YD leaves for Fes, and SBD leaves for Ouarzazate, which I hear is about an 8 hour bus ride- sweet. I cannot wait to meet my host family and begin learning the language, ah! I haven’t gotten sick yet, but I certainly expect to soon.

“Life is calling, how far will you go?” (that’s the PC slogan) Well I am here, in Morocco, and will take that as far as it will go. I love you all, keep writing, and don’t worry too much. I'll probably get internet again tomorrow, but then wont for quite awhile.


Friday, September 7, 2007

off to philly

today is the day! i'm exhausted, its been a whirlwind my whopping 30 hours or so back home. visited old friends, rode the horses, went to the hotsprings, all of which happened between packing, and yet i still didnt compact my life into 75 or so pounds of luggage until a few minutes ago. no of course i didnt sleep, but i'm hoping i will on the plane. my momma made my favorite dinner last night, and is makin my favorite breakfast, or favorite food for that matter, SWEDISH PANCAKES, as i dozily type. then we are off to lax. . .
i'm too tired to feel sad about leaving, but yesterday i had a hilarious episode in the car, on my way home from the last of my errands: i was belting it out to Guster, full of glee (and a bit high on caffeine), which then turned to tears, but as i couldnt quite figure out if they were good or bad tears, and knowing how ridiculous i looked, i started laughing hysterically as well.
so note, it is possible to drive, sing, cry and laugh all at the same time.
and they were tears of joy, it is such an incredible feeling to be so passionate about something again. i always have been, but all the preparation is over, i'm here!
love y'all, goodnight, or morning, or something like that

Monday, September 3, 2007

Two Points For Honesty

Yup, the Guster song is making me feel the need to be all weepy, don’t know why particularly. Otherwise, I’m up much too late, indulging in the internet after not having it for, gasp, three days! I was camping in Oregon with my dad, stepmom and two sisters, it was great! I think I could live the tent life for a long time before tiring of it.

Once again, life can be so annoyingly predictable. I’m just at the point anyone would be in my shoes at this moment, less than a week before leaving everything I know and everyone I love for 27 months. My minds amuck. I’m tossing between reflection, preparation and no thoughts at all. It’s been one crazy summer. I have made so many mistakes; hurt people who never deserved it and allowed people to hurt me who I should not have allowed the chance. For that I am sorry and can only attribute it to a complete denial of all that I know and am. I suppose the best of it is that this summer concludes with me being ready to go. I am just where I need to be; there is nothing here holding me back and nothing I need to run away from. I spent so much of the summer looking for something to go wrong, maybe a test? That icky need to do something wrong because I’m the one that does everything right. Well too bad, couldn’t accomplish that. I wish I could have just enjoyed being in just the right place at just the right time more often.

I may always be someone that holds onto a lot of regret, but all there is is forward, and forward is a good place! It’s just as I knew it would be; in my last days simple moments are held much deeper and clearer in my memory and pull at the heartstrings a bit tighter. Up here in Washington I’m still on a sort of vacation, but when I go home to California I’m sure I will just completely fall apart into tears over anything- but I’m happy for those funny moments. I’m having the nervous dreams of completely forgetting dumb things like socks or very important things like my entire suitcase, or forgetting to pack altogether! Now I must get some sleep and anchor my mind to these few moments I have left here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I am so ready to go

thats all for now, i'm just so ready to leave. no i' not nearly finished packing or saying my goodbyes, just me, myself and i are ready.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Despite interuptions to scratch the multipe mosquito bites I recieved at work yesterday, I slept 12 straight hours, eek. Can't remember the last time I did that. I got bad news about a friend with cancer, so I'm dealing with the struggle between being thankful for being alive and healthy, and feeling the pain and sadness of a wonderful life cut so horribly short.
I hope you're all well, and I love you so much!
(mm, and I hope none of you are near the blazing summer fires of California, the sky is dark with smoke and the sun is nearly bleeding)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Rock the Kasbah

Well the pre-departure depression has finally faded away to giddiness for all that is to come! My birthday is in one week, my best friend in the world will be here, plus my huge Bon Voyage party, some more friends coming into town, last days of California, last days in Washington with my dad’s family, then two days back at home to pack up and depart for Philly! Eeeek! I could hardly focus on entering coordinates for the easement monitoring we’ve been doing at work today as it all suddenly hit me, and I couldn’t jump up and down with it!
Also, I’ve recently found out that my training will most likely take place in Ouarzazate, rather than Azrou. I must admit I’m a tad bummed; after researching Azrou I was getting excited about the little town. Ouarzazate sounds great too though, if not a bit ritzy. Putting it into perspective, it’s inland of the Algerian border, where the Atlas Mountains meet the desert, and between the Dades and Draa Valleys. This future three-month home of mine is also home of the world famous Atlas Film Studios (think Lawrence of Arabia, Kundun, The Mummy, Babel, etc.), as well as the Tiffoultoute Kasbah. Never in my life did I imagine I’d one day happen upon a Kasbah.

p.s. I think I may also be super hyped on life right now for my near-disease experience at work today of us hiking into a site for easement monitoring, only to find ourselves covered in ticks! I’ve learned a lot about lime disease today and am immensely grateful I do not have it, and fully intend on never getting it! (Is it a bit of a messed up mindset to be afraid of getting hurt or sick, not for the pain or discomfort, but because it would defer or deny my placement with the Peace Corps!? Ha, funny how perspective changes as our purpose does)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

by land and by sea

Began the day by land: After working the trailhead, we hiked a little over half a mile in to cut up a tree that had fallen across the trail, and it was much bigger than we thought. No I didn’t do any chain sawing, but I’m a fine wedger! I got to thinking on the way back about the things we know as facts and the way we know things by experience. So often I feel like education is about leading up to what we will experience and we sometimes forget to just go out and play, fall down and feel the pain so we know why it’s better to avoid it. I was thinking mostly about the simple fact of how much wood weighs. Trees are so massive and great and I know they weigh a lot, but maybe it’s because the whole mass of the earth is holding them up and I don’t often picture them leaving it so am not required to imagine how heavy they must be. But oh, they are. Sometimes my job just makes me feel weaker, but the next moment ever stronger. Quick sum up- trees are heavy, don’t try and pick them up alone.
Finished the day by sea: After work and finishing packing my life-to-be-forever-stored into a total of seven plastic containers, I went to the beach for a run. I love running in the shallows, how did I never discover this joy until my last months here? I ran towards one of the most beautiful sunsets ever (though I’ve been saying that about every sunset I’ve seen lately, I actually took the above picture two days ago, but at the same time and place). There is this way the ocean makes me feel a part of this world like nothing else does. This immense expanse, and the way the setting sun shines a direct path on the water toward you, no matter where you are. And then I couldn’t resist, I jumped in. I think this guy walking his dog thought I was crazy, but the water was fine. I ran some more, then jumped in again, tee hee. I need to remember those moments of childish glee, before the absurdities of adulthood fall so completely into place. Then at home I watched “Shallow Seas” from the incredible Planet Earth series, and was further rejuvenated. Last but not least, I climbed into my dark tent, and when I turned around to zip it up the big, beautiful, nearly full moon faced me directly, perfectly placed between the trees. Time spent with both the sun and the moon always makes a more complete day. I taste like salt right now and I love it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another Fine Monday

(I’m going to try not to edit these posts too much now, the one from July 17 was edited down from 6 pages, and I don’t know if it makes any sense anymore) I took the 101 from Camarillo to Ojai at night with the windows down, no one lets me do that and it was so nice (but I still hate driving). The past couple days I was mildly inspired by my boredom and procrastination of other immediate to-do’s and began consolidation, not of my loans, but of my stuff. Those who know me know I’ve always been a major pack-rat, but over the past year I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at throwing things away. I guess the 80 pound total luggage limit for the Peace Corps is influencing the rest of my life as well, plus never knowing where my mom might be in the near future. So I’m basically unpacking all my old and new boxes, getting rid of as much as I can and carefully cataloging and packing what’s left. I’m hoping to fit it all in under 10 plastic tubs, think I can do it? I’m getting distracted by all kinds of nostalgia. I swear there has got to be more pictures of my first year on this earth than the rest of my life (including the future) combined. And it’s creepy that I make the same contorted expressions today. I also found some really old pictures of my mom, silly letters between friends from high school, and about twelve journals and ten or so sketchbooks I’ve done over the years. By going through pretty much everything saved over my lifetime I can see the growth a little clearer. Does that make sense? Like wow, almost 22 years have passed and now there’s this big person. Since watering young human-planted oak trees has been part of my job this summer, I’ve been noticing how we take a long time to really establish ourselves, much like they do. Only they live so much longer than us . . . I’ll write more on oaks and how my faith is always found again in nature soon. My mind is all wrapped up in Moroccan Arabic too, from the practice lessons PC sent out; I can make most of the sounds, but can’t remember what any of what I’m saying means except, peace be upon you, and are you fine? So tomorrow I will be hauling and chipping wood at work all day and then I am going to finish my horribly and embarrassingly overdue thank-yous, I fear they are so late people will forget what I’m sending them for. But now I’ve posted it publicly, so you’ll all know if I don’t do it! ooo, and Ashley arrives two weeks from today!

Friday, July 20, 2007


i am leaving 7 weeks from tomorrow. at the moment i feel wonky, but psyched. i am already in love with a life i dont know yet, isn't that a tad dangerous?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Runner's High

Endorphins speaking, hurray for today! One of those days I have been needing for, hmm, the past month or so? Today was the first Santa Monica beach day with the fam, not too many people, but it was wonderful. Everyone made fun of my sweet tan line (note- I work in the sun all day in hiking boots and shorts and a t-shirt, you map out the white areas when I switch to a bikini), so I evened that out and swam and had a nice dinner with my sister and grandma. Then my sister and I went for a run (I know, what?) along Ventura beach as the sun was setting. Oh my goodness it was so nice, and I am no runner.
So after an extended period of discontent, mounting into an utter breakdown, and settling into new realizations, today is the day when things make more sense by becoming simpler. Circumstances may not change but I can somehow deal with it all again. The wonderful thing about a breakdown, no matter how painful, is that it wakes you up and forces you to focus on just what’s up (note: crying and driving don’t mix well. Could I get ticketed for reckless driving? It’s like driving without the wipers on, at least in hindsight its funny). I also love that frustrating, yet equally reassuring place where you realize you’ve known all along what is right, we so often don’t give enough credit for how great our instincts are.
So why the big breakdown? I’m calling it pre-departure depression, and oh my how awful. Yes apparently there is a reason why people who want to remain sane don’t work 14 hour days, but it was more than that. The problem with working so much in a job that only requires your body, not your brain (I’m speaking mainly about the camp), is you are allowed a lot of time to think and analyze, but no time to write and record. I don’t know about you, but I go nuts if I don’t journal enough. I know I wasn’t working just to save money; I was working so I could avoid thinking about all that was changing and how I felt about it. I somehow figured I could put off dealing with and feeling everything until, oh, mid August or so. Not! I have realized I have reached a very odd place- I am exactly where I want to be; the very point I have worked so hard to get to. I graduated college, and have my dream job beginning in less than two months, my family is overwhelmingly proud and supportive, and all I’ve felt like is shit. I can’t remember ever being at a point where I was exactly where I planned to be, maybe the beginning of college? But even then there was a great deal of uncertainty.

There remains a good amount of my “only comfortable in chaos” complex from childhood, where I learned to always have a plan and be prepared for any possible crisis. I could read people better than a book and was completely focused on survival and keeping people, particularly my mother, at peace (though we never really reached it). The lessons of childhood certainly sparked my interest in the Peace Corps, but the naïve idea of just helping others has come far and grown into a much more mature goal for the betterment of this world. One of the oldest proverbs, “give a man a fish and he will eat today, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” I know, I know, painfully obvious. But my point is, like many others, I am most comfortable when there is a conflict to deal with. For when there is peace and silence, what can you do, but look at yourself? This presents the realization that I have not only neglected to have a good relationship with myself, but with anyone else as well. The ability to develop healthy relationships, meaning, equal parts of you and me, is new to me. In all my past years I believed I didn't need anyone very close, because in my view, those close caused pain and suffering. I now know of course that those close invite all kinds of suffering, but even more happiness, and just like any other dumb animal, I am in deep need of my own species. The reality of this lag time before Morocco is I have felt a great loneliness I find hard to explain and am focusing on accepting time off, and with myself, as well as better relationships in general. Turn off the shyness, eh?!
How so? Well yesterday I got brave and quit the camp, long story, but it’s a huge weight off my shoulders, and I will be working a normal, 40 hours a week at the OVLC (I have many stories I want to share about that job, but they will have to come in another post)
And lastly I want to send out an apology for being a grumpy, depressed, workaholic, bitch, mess, etc. I haven’t gotten much done or been very nice or allowing lately. But onto better days! I’m off to plaster my very red body in aloe vera and get some sleep. Lyla tov.

Monday, June 18, 2007

so much for a light summer

Yea, the plan has changed a bit. I'm now working at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy full time and at the camp, well, all other hours in the day. Essentially, 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Unlike most people, I have a wonderful case of the Mondays- as it is my only day off. Come mid august however, both will be over and I'll have almost a whole month with no job. Though the free time scares me more than the 14 hour workday. Not to worry about me becoming big-headed with money, I'll be spending it as fast as I'm making it. Heres a list of what I still need/want thus far for Morocco:

15+ down sleeping bag . . . $250

new camera and memory card (grrr) . . . $250

smartwool long underwear and socks . . . $150?

fixing my computer . . . $140

external hardrive . . . $100?

new shoe insoles . . . $40

day pack/secure travelling purse . . . $50?

Chacos/Tevas . . . $40-$50

So just over a grand, hmmm. Some of it I've already gotten, some I know I wont get, and some of it I actually get at a discount for being a Peace Corps Volunteer! Yay!

So California is wonderful, I moved into the tent which I love, but I'm still a bit of a mess, just feeling so odd about everything lately and not in a routine yet. I'm afraid to get used to anything or enjoy anything because I don't want to be sad about leaving, and yet I want to be sad too, ugh, just on a little bitter steak I guess, it'll pass. I went for a long horseback ride in the mountains yesterday. It was so beautiful, and I still had to focus myself on relaxing! Later today I'm going to get myself out of this house, or tent rather, and go to the beach with the dog.

And back to work tomorrow! If you're interested check it out, I love my job, straining as it is, and its a wonderful conservancy.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

3 months

Thats right, my Peace Corps service begins exactly three months from today.
Sooo my first few days back home in California haven't exactly been ideal-I've been horribly sick and I hate it. I can't imagine there being another ounce of mucus left in my body to blow out. Sounds gross, but I've gotta get used to it; from what I hear most conversation between PCV's is about bodily functions, since that's what goes to hell first when entering a new country. And you know how picky I've always been! I somehow believe its the days when I honestly don't know if I am capable of actually doing this that make me know I can. I have been so careful all of my life-this is my chance to trust the unknown, and it's oddly comforting.
Back to summer-I cheated my sickliness yesterday and went to the beach. It was nice, until I stepped in a big lump of tar! And of course passed it onto my other foot while trying to get it off. If this has ever happened to you, then you know as well how hard it is to get off. I haven't stepped in tar in probably ten years! Then there's that awesome sound of your flip-flops NOT flip-flopping, because your feet are stuck to them! Ugh, guess my body was trying to tell me I should have stayed in bed. Though I still sound like an angry mule with a plugged nose, I felt much better today and went on a horseback ride with my mom, ah, and it was glorious!
My summer overall is going to be different than I originally planned, but for the best I hope. I got the job with the Ojai Land Conservancy, which I am very excited about, but due to the hours I won't be able to work at the camp much. What I'm bummed about most is that I won't be waking up at 4:30am and walking the two hilly miles to the camp- I love that walk. Instead I'll actually be working in the mountains I love so much, in the 90+degree heat! It's gonna be a sweaty summer.
hmm, I should also probably crack open that Moroccan Arabic guide and practice. . .

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I suppose I should have posted this already, but whatever. May 19, 2007 I became a college graduate! Here with my best friend in the world, roommate, sister, yada, yada. Do i look ready for life? For Africa? Yup yup, see you soon.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Invited and if feels so good!

yay! I was invited via e-mail last week, but didn't consider it real until i got the hefty actual package in the mail this past Saturday. I called PC this morning to gladly accept the position, and am off to staging in Philly on September 8, and arrive in Morocco on September 11. As happy as I am to get my invite so soon, it couldn't be worse timing in some respects. I have to turn in my Aspiration Statement and resume to the Peace Corps, do two presentations, a paper, revise my senior thesis, put together my senior portfolio, get through my final review, my senior show reception, graduate, and some otherness I'm forgetting, all in less than two weeks! oh but its all good things. i cant wait to see my family!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Official Nominee and Sheep Rassler

Yep, though I've been a nominee for a few months, it's now official. Also medically cleared, and once I mail in one more form I'll be dentally cleared! Life's going alright for now. I've been weaving like a maniac for my senior show, have my venue all set up, reading a couple hundred pages a week for my environmental ethics class, teaching the elderly how to knit, bellydancing, etc. etc. and trying to research Morocco and small business development on the side. Plus going out and having a good time while I can :) I didn't know the last semester of college would be so crazy! It's kinda sad I've only started to really enjoy college in my last year. Also- I went sheep shearing yesterday! I don't think the sheep enjoyed it as much as I did, pretty awesome though.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mailed Medical

Finally! Way later than I expected, but I finally got everything filled out and complete, and mailed in my medical packet yesterday. Hurray! What a relief! Wish me luck on being cleared!
Also- school started yesterday. I love all of my classes/internships/jobs/life, except my major- ack!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fiber Attack!

hey, this is a send out to those who know what this semester was for me. A taste of small, private art school. I sent this to my professors and some other uppers in the school. It's a reminder as well to never be afraid to take action and don't always think those above you in the system are right. Disclaimer: there are my personal views and do not intend to reflect any opinion, bad or good, of the education provided at KCAI.


One of the greatest advantages of the Kansas City Art Institute over other institutions is the close faculty to student ratio, and how it allows for close relationships and an individualized program. Throughout the course of this semester, Fall 2006, and especially during my final review and evaluation I felt unheard and incredibly insulted personally and professionally. I am writing this letter to make up for my not being prepared to defend myself and my work in my review. I have worked harder and accomplished more this semester than ever before, in school and life.

College is a journey, within which a lot of changing and growing takes place. I never would have arrived at this significant point in my work had it not been for the previous three years at KCAI. As I grow, continuing to make the same work feels dishonest and forced, regardless of outside opinions. The conflict I felt between the work the department wanted me to make and the work that I wanted to make left me confused and frustrated. This frustration with the department as well as my work led me to a point where my only goal was graduation so I could get on with my life. However, with the help of friends, family, and mentors, I realized my other options and ways of using this school and my education to help me become the person and citizen I wanted to be. I realized there is a lot of work to be done beyond your major. I am a Community Arts and Service Learning student, a Youthfriend volunteer, an intern with Susan Lordi Marker, an intern at the Don Bosco Senior Center, as well as incredibly immersed in liberal arts. Also within this semester I have been through the grueling application process, and further, been accepted and nominated, for the Peace Corps in Morocco. I think it incredibly unfortunate that in part of my senior review and evaluation I have been accused of being anything less than professional or unable to bring my work to an audience, as that is exactly what I have focused on this year.

After much deliberation and investigation, I decided to master the techniques and processes I find most valuable, weaving and the study of fiber properties. Within the simple, ancient act of weaving I realized my connection to my own culture and history. My work comes from a place before Modernism, before the split between the artist and everyday life. It is only a very modern perspective of art that the concept behind the piece is more important than the piece itself. While this perspective is characteristic of our time, I find it trite and prejudiced. I think the following quote from Lonely Planet Morocco describes my quest best, “... the artistic scene in Morocco is an enigmatic blend of love and duty . . . artisans are not afforded the same luxury of passion as artists of the Western world whose craft is their voice. Here, the Moroccan artisan is a survivor first and creator second and craftsmanship is not viewed as an art but as a trade. This is not to minimize the emotional value of the work – most artisans are practicing crafts that have been the core of their family identity for generations and they are deeply proud to continue that legacy.” These scarves are gifts for very specific people in my life. Half of this project is the making, the other half is the giving. I am so excited for that moment when the recipients of my gifts receive them, knowing they will look at them entirely differently from those of the art world. My series is the concluding work of a four year journey, leading to the “real world,” but more importantly, where I want to be in that world.

My work is utilitarian, well crafted and beautiful. Art for me at this point must serve a purpose. I have felt from this department a pressure to have more meaning and concept behind the work than actual, tangible work. From that standpoint, my work might reference a Tallit, rectangular Jewish prayer shawls, received and worn at certain important events, and how I feel about my own Jewish identity, never having worn one. Or a Hijab, the covering many Muslim women wear over their heads and how I feel about the possibility of being required to wear one while working in Morocco. While my work might evoke such feelings, these thoughts are not the work; the work is tangible, simple, but profound. Just because I am no longer suffering doesn’t make me less of an artist capable of making important and meaningful work. Just because these scarves don’t have faces and figures on them doesn’t mean they don’t possess my identity.

In response to my review, I feel I have been unfairly evaluated on several accounts. Firstly, as I have previously discussed, my work is not only utilitarian and beautiful, but also quite meaningful if you take the time to understand my approach to art. While I agree that scarves could be made at home, I hope I have now conveyed to you that my series is much, much more than “just scarves.” While each project is an exploration of color, texture, and fiber combinations, and they happened to be composed in a format that will be used to keep necks warm, what they represent goes beyond their function. However, their meaning is not meant for an audience in the conventional “art world” sense.

Another area in which I believe I have been unfairly reviewed is my professionalism, in particular, documentation of my work. I requested to not be required to include slides of my work for two simple and valid reasons: I could not afford it and I had no need for slides. While I am quite capable of making slides, as I have entered in and been selected for various shows and competitions which require them, at this point in my life and in the foreseeable future, I have no need for them. I am entirely capable of any and all of the requirements of a professional portfolio, all of which I learned how to do outside the Fiber Department. I approached ----- with my issues with slides, and he personally encouraged me to defy the requirements and do what I wanted, and yet my grade was still lowered because of their absence. This is a very important series to me and I have been documenting every step I take, from raw material, to the dyeing process, measurements and calculations, the actual weaving, etc. the process of this series is the most important point of documentation.

I do apologize for my lack of communication to the department as to what I was doing. The reason for that was my previous bad experiences with doing so. In the past when I have tried to share my process with different faculty members, they continuously tried to change my ideas before I was even finished forming them. My experience has been that members of this department involve themselves much too personally to be of any objective help. While I have had to work alone without much guidance, I have completed more work this semester than ever before; I am constantly in an investigative study, research and making. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, and I don’t know exactly what my senior show will look like, but I wholeheartedly believe in the work I am doing. Allow me the time to keep working through it and I will.

While my plans for after graduation may not be conventional for an art student, I will be using my fiber art education in many great ways. I have felt so disrespected and unsupported, essentially, tossed to the side this semester and I hope my last semester will be different. So I ask you, please put aside for a moment your own definition of art and what you think I should do and what the work isn’t, and actually listen and look at what it is. I listened to every opinion given for three years, I have my own now, and confidence enough in myself to know what is right for me.

Thank you for your time,

Briana Godfrey

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Getting Antsy

eek. I'm away from Kansas City on winter break still. Having a good time but getting antsy about my medical packet. I just want to have it turned in so I will be on my way to being invited! Once I'm back in Kansas City I can finish up all my doctor appointments, cavity fillings, written statements, and get it sent off.
There's only so much preparation one can do. I don't want to let myself get too excited about Morocco in case it doesn't happen, too late! I feel like I'm there already. I downloaded the text Peace Corps designed and uses to teach Moroccan Arabic (Darija) from the Friends of Morocco website (see my links) and printed it at Kinkos. I don't expect to teach myself Darija, but its a great head start. There are some throat exercises to practice, since different languages use different throat muscles to produce different sounds. oooo, I cant wait.
ensha'llaah ("if god wills," many casual coming and going phrases in Arabic include a reference to god)