We got back yesterday from our field trip where we visit and work with a Peace Corps Volunteer in the field. I and one other girl went to a village in the Zagora province, which is mostly desert. Our host was great, and it's certainly an eye-opening experience, since most of our training takes place in cities. This is our first chance to observe what volunteer life is actually like.
It is also becoming more and more clear why we are needed here. Walking through Rabat or any other big city you see Chanel and D&G boutiques, and you wonder if you are actually in a developing country. But the rural areas... it's like night and day. The clinic for our village has one nurse, no doctor, and the nurse only works 12 hours a week. This clinic serves a region of 11,000 people!! The medical waste is dumped outside the clinic, so the ground is covered in used needles. Much of the village smokes, but people claim not to be able to afford toothbrushes. Clean water has finally come to the middle school, but it isn't enough to make the latrines functional. The potential for improvement is certainly there.
We got to participate in our volunteer's projects, including working with an association of handicapped people. There is much misunderstanding here regarding people with disabilities. Namely, the belief that if you have a physical handicap, it is because you have done something wrong and Allah is punishing you. The association works to dispel those myths and improve living conditions. At the school, we visited the student Health Club, assisted with teaching an English class, and began a mural of a map of the world. Children here, we found, had little understanding of geography - they could pick out the United States on a map, but had no idea where Morocco was located!
And just so friends and family back home can stop worrying, the living conditions of volunteers here is quite comfortable. Our host lived in a one-room adobe hut with concrete floors, and he had an electric light and a water pump outside. We ate well, too - fresh fruits and veggies are very cheap, as are pasta, beans, rice, couscous, bread, eggs, and cheese. So far I haven't had too hard a time being a vegetarian here. It will be easier when I have my own place and can control my diet, though. While we were at our host's site we were invited to lunch with the school officials and the menu was couscous with vegetables... cooked with cow ears and cow brains. Quite a delicacy. I did my best to eat around it, but I still felt a little ill afterwards.
All in all, best part of training yet. Pictures to come!