In my last post, I offered you a little glimpse into what Peace Corps calls pre-service orientation. Now, you will be granted an equally unsatisfying glimpse into the world of real training, the 2-month phase Peace Corps calls Community Based Training, or CBT.
Here is how it works:
After the trainees have had enough time to form intense emotional bonds in Rabat, Peace Corps cruelly separates everybody into groups made up of six trainees each. These six people, plus a Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF) (a Moroccan, of course) are the trainees' new family. All of the CBT groups are divided into three Hubs: one around Fes, one around Azrou, and one around Immouzer. As mentioned previously, my CBT landed in the Fez Hub.
What this means for me is that after nine wonderful days of togetherness at the Hotel in Rabat, 2/3 of the group will be largely out of reach to me. Of the remaining 1/3, about 40 trainees, I will see only my five site-mates on a daily basis. However, three times during CBT, all 40 convene in downtown Fes for "Hub day." We have had two Hub days already.
Hub days are really great for me, because while I love all five members of my CBT group (and my LCF), I have many other good friends who are in other Fes groups. Besides the two Hubs, I have managed to connect with them for several outings (which will be mentioned in later posts).
The Point of CBT
CBT is meant to accomplish a number of things: first, it immerses the trainees in the language (Darija) by sticking them in a Moroccan home with a family that doesn't speak any English. In addition to the endless confusion at home, we are treated to more confusion for several hours a day in the classroom as our LCF attempts to learn us some real good Moroccan Arabic.
Secondly, CBT introduces the trainees to a Dar Shebab (house of youth). All six members of my CBT meet in a Dar Shebab here in Z------- nearly every day. Ours held a Spring Camp recently, which attracted a modest group of youngsters, and so my colleagues and I put some English classes together, and we put some activities together, and we did our best. During Spring Camp, I was able to teach a class about the planets in which I took the youth on a 1 km walk through town, placing scaled-down planets at appropriate intervals. I was also able to work in a line dance lesson on one afternoon. The Moroccan youth learned the Virginia Reel, complete with old-timey music and calls.
The third overall goal of the CBT is to introduce the trainees to cultural differences. Our LCF has taken us out on several "community walks," in which we drop in at a local shop, police station, or what-have-you and start talking to strangers. Other times, cultural training means sitting in the classroom and placing cultural features on a drawing of an iceberg. Despite Peace Corps' best efforts, I do manage to learn a meaningful thing or two about Moroccan culture.
A Typical Day
Now that you are intimately familiar with the essence of CBT, allow me to lay out a typical day:
7:30 wake up; think to self, "Oh my God, I'm in Morocco."
7:35 wonder how bad I'll smell later in the day
7:40 get out of bed; imagine taking a shower; get dressed instead
7:45 go into kitchen and start coffee; wash face; brush teeth
7:50 sit down in kitchen to breakfast of bread, oil, olives, oil, and bread
8:30 head to dar shebab with fellow trainee who lives down the alley
8:40 learn language; become frustrated; learn language some more
10:30 coffee break at sketchy place across the street; then, more language
12:30 head home to review language and eat lunch (and more bread) with host family
2:00 head back to dar shebab for afternoon session: usually culture
4:00 coffee at that freakin sketchy place again (I swear to god, they've got ties to the mafia)
6:00 head home for awkward language times with family
8:00 a meal of sweet tea, sweet-cakes, and bread
8:30 think about all of the sugar I've put into my body that day; study; try to communicate with host-brother; fail
10:30 dinner; perhaps soup or fried fish, always bread... dear god, always more bread
I keep this agenda every day except Saturday, in which classes end at lunch, and Sunday, which is either a free day or a day of being with my host family.
As you might have ascertained from the above schedule, I don't take showers at home. Moroccans generally don't shower every day like we do in the USA. I'm told the typical Moroccan might shower once every 3-4 days, or if they go to the hammam, they might go once a week. Judging by my family, this is a pretty liberal estimate. I've been running on my family's hygienic clock, and I've been the public bath only three times since March 29.
All in all, CBT is effective. My language skills are improving dramatically, I'm getting a good feel for the way I should be assessing my community needs, I'm integrating myself into Moroccan culture, and I'm doing it all without losing too much of my mind.
Soon, I'll post about my family, friends, food, and fun around Fes. Jesus, what a lot of alliteration.