In Morocco, you cannot escape tea.
As it turns out, I can cook (Tiyb), more or less.
I’ve never truly been in a situation where I’ve had to Tiyb for myself. College is a big exception, but even then I had many options – healthy and otherwise – to eat outside my dorm or apartment. Another exception is when I worked at the Oregon legislature and lived in a small house nearby. I had a functional kitchen, but I shared it with two others, and I still had delicious options on the legislature’s campus and elsewhere.
Now that I’m in my own house, my kitchen has become a little home within my home. Though I do have several little food joints in my site, I am trying to use PC as a way to learn to Tiyb.
My first full-on meal took three hours to make. Enjoy the recipe below!
Pollo Asado Fries on February 3, 2017
- 1 buta tank (125 DH for the initial purchase, only 50 DH for refills)
- 1 valve with rubber washer (15 DH)
- 1 extra rubber washer (0.5 DH)
- 1 two-meter buta hose (8.5 DH)
- 2 valve clasps (1 DH each)
- 1 pan (25 DH)
- 1 three-burner stove (200 DH)
- Lighter (free, leftover from previous Volunteer)
- Leatherman multi-tool ($65, bring with you from the US; optional)
- 1/2 chicken (30 DH)
- 3 avocados (~15 DH, bought in bulk)
- 1 extra-large potato (~2 DH, bought in bulk)
- 1/2 red onion (~0.5 DH, bought in bulk)
- 1/2 tomato (~1 DH, bought in bulk)
- cilantro (1 DH for one bundle)
- olive oil (45 DH for 1.5 liter)
Recipe (serves 3 or one very hungry person who didn’t realize how much food he actually had):
- Purchase and transport buta tank from the local 7anut to your house (allow for 30 minutes).
- Open buta tank’s safety seal (allow at least 30 minutes for first time; don’t give up! It’ll get easier with future tanks). You may need to saw it open with your Leatherman. Feel free to listen to the whole soundtrack of Spring Awakening while you work.
- Attach one end of hose to the valve and secure with valve clasp (1-2 minutes).
- Attach other end of hose to the stove and secure with valve clasp (20-30 minutes, depending on your strength and tenacity).
- Screw valve onto buta tank (2 minutes max).
- Make guacamole by adding salt to three pitted and mashed avocados, diced tomatoes and onions, and finely chopped cilantro (20 minutes). Store in fridge if you have one yet.
- Slice up chicken – breast, thigh, leg – into bite-sized portions (15 minutes).
- Tiyb chicken on stove with leftover onion, tomato, and cilantro, and add salt and any other spices at your disposal. Chili pepper and cumin work wonders (20 minutes). Set chicken aside.
- Cut potato into thin strips and fry in olive oil with a little salt. Bonus: this is a great way to determine whether your PC-provided smoke detector works (15 minutes).
- On a plate, make a bed of guacamole. Place chicken on the guacamole, and top it off with fries fresh from the pan. (3 minutes).
- Enjoy with potentially tainted water from your faucet or boxed, unrefrigerated, ultra-pasteurized 0% milk.
Total price: 470.5 DH (around $47), not including the Leatherman.
Total prep and Tiyb time: 2-3 hours, depending on how fast you realize you can saw the safety seal off the buta.
A few weeks back I went to a place called Tifunassine (“cows” in the Tamazight language) with my host sister and Kelly, another PCV near me. Here’s what we saw.
Volunteers in Peace Corps Morocco have a mandatory eight-week stay with host families in our final sites.
This is to enable us to maintain a level of comfort and safety while we integrate into our communities. Following the eight weeks we are free to find a place of our own or continue living with our host family. Most PCVs in my staj are moving to new homes, while others are renting apartments owned by their host families.
Me? I’m moving out. I love my host family and I don’t think I could’ve had a more welcoming, understanding, funny, progressive family in my site. But there are benefits of moving out; namely, location. The video below explains more.
Matt is a single, out-of-his-element Peace Corps Volunteer looking to rent a home in his permanent site. Though he understands he will need to be flexible in his search – as amenities vary greatly from place to place – he is hoping for a relatively private house in the center of his new city.
Which house will he pick? Find out on February 1st.
Before my Christmas post, I hadn’t contributed any content to my blog for nearly a month. I’d like to say my negligence is due to my intense attempts at integration into my community, meeting leaders and forming strong bonds with the youth, but… that’s not really the case.
Mainly, I’m just really 3iyan – tired. (For an explanation of how to pronounce this word, see my first language post.)
There is a lot on my plate right now. I can’t deny that. But in all honesty I have a lot of time to do everything. That includes napping two hours a day.
Lesson Planning. Using the information and techniques I learned through PC training, I prepare lessons each week for two formal English classes at my dar shabab and a basketball-based English class at my sports complex. Usually one lesson plan takes an hour to write in addition to assembling or making necessary pictures, drawings, and activities for the lessons.
Lessons. Then there are the lessons themselves. The two English classes are one and a half hours each, once a week. In the beginner’s class there are around 15 students, and in the advanced class there are usually closer to 20. I should mention that these classes are actually Steven’s, the other volunteer in my site who has been here for two years. While he is on Christmas vacation in America, I am substituting for him. The basketball-based English class is mine, however, and I expect around 20 young boys to participate each week.
House Hunting. While I continue integrating and developing relationships, I am also looking for houses. I must move out of my host family’s house on February 1st. So far I have seen four options and will see the fifth next week. Stay tuned for a blog post specifically about house hunting!
Bureaucratic Work. As part of my work, I must monitor, report, and evaluate my activities. So far this hasn’t taken much of time because I am just beginning, but soon I will have to supply PC Morocco headquarters with detailed information about the number of youth developing or enhancing skills. This eventually will reach PC’s Washington, DC headquarters and then Congress.
Multimedia Committee. I was elected by my staj to serve on the newest of PC Morocco’s committees – the Multimedia Committee. Three others and myself will soon take over for the previous staj and run the upcoming PC Morocco Facebook page, make short videos about Volunteer initiatives and lifestyles, design technology handbooks, and help our fellow Volunteers with any ICT (information, communication, and technology) requests.
So… yes, ana 3iyan. I am tired. I am very tired, but it is so worth it.
The Christmas season in Morocco is a strange time. I say strange because Christmas really is just another day for Muslims here. I say strange because I didn’t spend it with my parents. I say strange because I traveled more than usual.
And yet… everyone I’ve run into in my site knows about Christmas and its significance to Christians. This does stand to reason: Jesus, in Islam, is recognized as a prophet, while in Christianity he is the son of God. In fact, Muslims and Christians believe in the same god, they just worship him differently.
Other than religious purposes, of course, Christmas is significant in American for cultural purposes. Perhaps that is why my host family didn’t have any questions when I told them I was celebrating l-3id noel with volunteers in another city. The following weekend – the actual Christmas weekend – they didn’t ask any questions when I said I was celebrating again in another city with other volunteers.
And what a pair of Christmases it was! The first weekend was full of cookies, pasta, Christmas music, ornament drawing, and tree decorating (see photo above). The ten of us did a white elephant gift exchange; I got a French press! Christmas weekend was quieter – I and three others sat around, watching movies and TV shows, eating far too many knock-off Oreos, and singing pop song karaoke.
While Christmas in Morocco can’t quite compare to Christmas in America, it was comforting spending it with other Americans who were in the same situation as me. Here’s to the upcoming New Year!
Fun fact: The earliest call to prayer happens before sunrise and is the only one of the five that includes the words “Prayer is better than sleep.”
5:40 AM. Call to prayer.
Much like how church bells signal the beginning of a service, Islam has a call to prayer called adhan. A muezzin recites the adhan – often over loudspeakers – five times a day from the minaret of the mosque. The logic behind this is that minarets are typically one of the tallest structures in a city or town, so everyone will hear it and be reminded to pray. The adhan itself is a brief summary of the Muslim faith; it includes the takbir (“God is great”) and the shahada (“there is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger”).
Of course, as in many religions, there is theory and there is practice. Though prayers are mandatory five times a day, I have never seen a Moroccan recite prayers immediately following every adhan, neither in public nor in private. It is possible that many men do visit the mosque each time as the koran demands, but clearly many are not doing so. That said, Islam permits people to skip prayers if they absolutely cannot perform them, as long as they make up for it later in the day.
I think I have only slept through this call to prayer once or twice in my first two months here, particularly because I can hear three calls to prayer from my room.
6:30 AM. My host brother’s alarm.
My host family lives in a two-story townhouse above a one-story apartment. My host mom and three host sisters sleep on the top floor as does my younger host brother. I sleep on the lower level in my own room, and my older brother sleeps in the salon next to my room. Because the entrance to both my room and the salon are curtains, I hear his alarm go off every morning at 6:30. Mine is set for 7:30.
The catch? He is a very heavy sleeper. I’m not. And I’m lazy in the mornings. So when his alarm goes off, I don’t go over to turn it off. I just deal with it for about 20 minutes until, without fail, my oldest host sister screams his name from above in order to wake him.
In conversations with other PC trainees, there seems to be a common theme in our host families. The men typically bring in the money while the women tend to spend the money. In this way, the women (in my family, my oldest sister) prioritize purchases and determine what is best for the family. My older sisters control meal times, they keep the house clean, and they make sure both my working brothers wake up in time for work.
7:07 AM. Chickens.
There are two chickens in my house. My oldest sister calls them “monsieur” and “madame”, which we both find hilarious. What I don’t find as hilarious is how loud they get in the mornings. They stay in their cage (read: a box with a grill on top) at night, and they really want out as soon as the sun starts peeking under the front door. Their clucks echo up the stone-and-drywall-lined staircase, under the lower floor’s door, and through my bedroom curtain.
Chickens are relatively cheap (I hear you can buy one for 50 dirhams, roughly $5), and eggs can get relatively expensive, so it makes sense for families to own one or two. I don’t yet understand why my family owns a rooster and a hen, but at the very least we get a few eggs a week from “madame”. Perhaps my family sells chicks but it isn’t yet mating season. If any of my readers know anything about chicken breeding, feel free to weigh in on this topic in the comments section.