During the Mexico trip, Corey, (volunteer and VP of Operations) shared her experiences and photos from her experience on the ground.
We want to continue that new tradition and share live-as-possible volunteer stories during our Morocco trip! For the first installment, let’s join Avni, the President of Kids on Computers!
We are in Morocco! Fareeda, Randy, Chase and I arrived safely on Sunday morning/afternoon.
My flight from Madrid to Marrakech was 2 hours before Fareeda’s – when I got to Marrakech, Randy and Chase had already arrived (around 9am). They had spent the morning getting food and a SIM card (priorities!).
Sasa and Jake met us at the airport and arrived about 5 minutes after I got through customs – Jake was wheeling in a new bike he just bought in town. Sophie, a friend of Sasa’s from Massachusetts who is visiting Morocco for a week was with them as well. We then moved to a cafeteria style seating area for food and drinks and to wait for Fareeda.
Sasa then went outside and brought back 4 more people – Fatima, who presides over the girls at the boarding school, Mustafa, who presides over the boys at the boarding school, her Arabic teacher who spoke English very well, and the driver of our fourteen-person van (that the boarding school let us use for the 3 hour ride to Ouaouizegth. She hadn’t seen these folks in six months as that was when her Peace Corps service ended and she moved to Marrakech to take a job at a women’s center.
It was great to have such a warm welcoming crew greeting us at the airport. It made us feel pretty special to have 7 people greeting the 4 of us at the airport.
After Fareeda arrived, we made our way to the van and got ready for the trek up the mountain.
We first drove 2 hours to Beni Mellal, the town where the equipment store was. Randy and I realized that we needed more peripherals (voltage converters, headphones, and ethernet cables) than we had anticipated, so with Jake’s help, we negotiated with the store on equipment and price. We ended up buying 7 instead of the ordered 8 computer systems along with peripherals. The store agreed to drop all of the equipment off tomorrow morning at 10AM. Jake explained to us later that this was in Moroccan old time (daylight savings time, perhaps?), so they really meant 11AM.
After the trip to the store, we were feeling pretty exhausted. We drove another 40 minutes to get to Ouaouizegth, where our hotel is. The road to Ouaouizegth is mountainous and windy. Sasa described it as being like Narnia in the day time – driving through the forest and then opening to a beautiful clearing and lake.
After a quick stop at the boarding school, we made our way to the hotel and checked in. Each room has at least 2-3 beds. The hotel owner seemed baffled that we wanted 3 rooms for 4 people and kept asking to confirm the number of total people thinking he had misheard us. (“you have 6 people? 5 people?”). The hotel does not have internet. I almost cried.
After putting our bags away, the owner and chef called us for dinner. They prepared a feast for what felt like 10 people. We had a lentil soup with thick bread, a tajine of vegetables, potatoes, and chicken. The tajine was some of the best food I have had in a long time.
After dinner, we went to the cybercafe so we could check email and let Chase’s parents know that he was safe. We all had some trouble logging into our respective email accounts (partially because of the french keyboard layouts and because most sites were asking for verification since we were international). Randy was only able to log into his twitter account – so he ended up tweeting his wife to let Chase’s parents know that Chase was doing well and requesting a response from her to know that the message was received. Afterwards, we all crashed in our rooms for the night and planned to meet up at 8AM to make our way to breakfast and the Ouled Moussa Dar Chabab (DC).
The culture is very welcoming and eager to show their appreciation. During meals, we are frequently told to eat, eat more. They prefer to wait until we have finished eating before they eat; we have to ask them a few times to join us. I am getting to use quite a bit of my French here. Most people speak some French though they prefer Arabic.
Big thanks to Sasa Tang (former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Ouaouizegth currently residing in Marrakech) and Jake Stern (current Peace Corps volunteer working in Ouled Moussa where the DC is located) for arranging all of the logistics and working with local folks to make things smooth and easy during our stay here.
Hope you enjoyed Avni’s story! Does this sound like fun? Want to join us on the next trip? Join our mailing list to get the latest information about our trips.