In four months, I will be settling in to my training routine in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. This will begin my 27-month Moroccan adventure. It is hard to prepare for such a journey; there are just too many ways I can ready myself and not enough time to do it. For example, I want to learn the language. But which language do I learn? Currently, I am focusing on two. For Modern Standard Arabic, I am working through Mastering Arabic 1 by Wightwick & Gaafar. And for French, I am working through Ultimate French by Living Language. Even so, MSA, while widely understood in the Arabic world, is not the language spoken by Moroccans. Instead, most Moroccans speak Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija (or Derija (or Darja)). In the cities, they may speak French (or even Spanish). In rural areas, they may speak a Berber dialect, the language of the indigenous people of Morocco. To complicate matters further, I've read that while French-speaking Moroccans can understand foreign French-speakers, the reverse is not always true, due to the Moroccans' thick accents. Ultimately, I may spend the next four months poring over these languages only to arrive in Rabat understanding nothing of the language around me.
Recently, I spoke with a Peace Corps volunteer who recommended I not think about language so much, but rather focus on the cultural aspects of the country, and the attitudes of people groups toward one another in particular. To this end, I have a short reading list to get through which will hopefully provide me with some foundation for understanding. The first is called Lords of the Atlas: Adventure, Mystery, and Intrigue in Morocco, 1893-1956 by Gavin Maxwell.
In Morocco, I will be a youth developer. The responsibility implied in the job title is a great weight on me, and I want to prepare myself for it spiritually. Thus, I have on my reading list Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Besides teaching these kids English, I'll be allowed a secondary project of my choosing. This could entail anything from theatre to a volunteer club to organized sports. My jobs at the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center and Dillon Nature Center have interested me in perhaps starting up a naturalist society or astronomy club with the kids. There are just too many possibilities, and I'm afraid I'll just have to trust that I'll know better once I'm over there.
In addition, I'd like to become stronger before leaving, for obvious reasons. I've been rather lax these past months with my fitness regiment, but if I turn up the discipline I may be able to leave in late March with a confident physique. Also, it would be nice to learn Moroccan cooking before going over there, also for obvious reasons.
Ach! So much to do in so little time. Help keep me accountable, readers. I'll post at the end of each of these next four months to report my progress. Wish me luck!