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Teaching and Living in Morocco - Part 2

Joy Campbell from Michigan

Joy shares more journal entries of her time in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

Joy sitting in the Sahara desert
Joy sitting in the Sahara Desert

July 1998
Here I sit in an Internet café in Er Rachidia (the nearest city), mere hours after sleeping on the dunes of the Sahara. We took Land Rovers to Merzouga, then hiked in a couple of kilometers to a ridge on the dunes and set up our sleeping bags.

It was so cool—we just hiked in and plopped down. No fees to pay, guides to bribe, no one to shoo us away. We arrived just as the sun was setting, and the dunes were a rusty gold. The moon was nearly full—it stayed bright enough all night that we didn't even need flashlights. We saw several shooting starts—wow.

This was a fun lesson. This was the eighth time I'd seen this group, so they're a bit used to my approach. If I'd tried this the first week, no one ever would have come back! They're breaking out of their molds a little bit, but I think they think I'm completely daft. I gave each student a playing card as they walked in, to split them into groups.

That in itself got them all riled up, because they have different playing cards here. So we had to spend a minute talking about the King, Queen, Jack ("What's a Jack, Teacher? Is he like a prince?" "Ummmmm, a Jack kind of helps the King and Queen."

I'd never thought about the Jack before! What the heck does he do?) But I digress. I wanted to break up their little cliques and get boys mixed with girls, so I had each suit (another short vocab lesson—this one aided by illustrations on the board: ? ? ? ?) sit together.

(During Ramadan, the holy month of religious fasting in Islam) The ultimate in irony today. As the US geared up for its third consecutive night of airstrikes in Iraq, I sat with my Muslim family for three hours making shebakia (a special Ramadan pastry).

February 1999
(After I asked some students why so few returned to classes after Ramadan) A communicative teacher's nightmare. They said that no one comes anymore because I do new things, instead of just re-teaching or pre-teaching what they learn in the lycée. That's apparently what they want: review of the grammar they learn in school.

Carpets for sale!
Carpets for sale!

So basically I killed myself thinking up fun stuff, crazy props, memory tricks and the like for three months, and they want me to lecture on grammar and give them exercises.

How frustrating! I've been trying so hard all year to come up with creative lessons that require them to think critically, break out of the mold, stretch their minds, and now they tell me they want grammar!

[During the holiday commemorating the coronation of the King] Headed into town for Throne Day festivities. Rich was hopping! Women, children and men swarmed downtown (I use the term "downtown" loosely!), live music was played, and carpets were spread on sidewalks as makeshift outdoor cafés.

We headed to the dar chebab for a kiddie program—adorable munchkins, boys in white djellebahs and red fezzes, girls in frilly white dresses with red vests. Looked like every Christmas pageant I've ever seen: Abdullah forgets his lines, Hakima hides behind her dress, Saïd runs around disrupting, Aïcha sucks her thumb, and so on.

(Written during a camel trek out of Zagora, in southern Morocco) The camels. How to describe them? These were four of the saddest, mangiest most flea-bitten critters I've ever seen. You've heard of "The Ships of the Desert"? No, no. These were maybe Dinghies of the Desert.

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