Baby it’s Cold Outside

Hey y’all,

I didn’t expect Morocco to get this cold so fast. Someone send a raven to Kings Landing because one of the things George Martin got wrong was when winter was coming. Hint: it’s early. Before I left, I read blog after blog and was told “pack for Alaska, not Africa” so I came prepared with a winter coat, winter hat, thermal underwear, a sleeping bag, and gloves. I am SO glad I did. But I was still very surprised when I woke up to a blanket of snow a few days before Halloween. My training site is high in the mountains so we got a bit more snow than surrounding sites – 8 inches in total I think! See pictures below.

My 11 year old host sister Hibba got excited by the snowfall and pulled out her English textbook to a picture of a snowman and asked me if I could show her how to make one. I put on some warm clothes and ventured with her out onto the roof and together we rolled three large balls of snow in different sizes and stacked them together to build a snowman. She ran inside and grabbed a whole carrot for the nose and two olives (welcome to Morocco!) for the eyes. We took my hat and placed it on the snowman’s head. Once we took a few photos of our masterpiece, however, I quickly grabbed my hat and put it back on my head because my ears were starting to get very cold. We threw a few snowballs at each other but, due to my height and the multiplicity of low-hanging empty clotheslines, she was able to move freely while I was stuck in-between the lines. She outmaneuvered me. She got the best of me. Her mom called her in and we went inside.

Snow is certainly one of the good things that the cold brings. Another is sipping hot tea and coffee with my family next to the small wood-burning furnace in the kitchen. We stretch out our wet hands and let the heat warm them as we chat about our days – or, rather, they chat about their days and I occasionally repeat words they say and nod my head, pretending to understand. Since the furnace is the only source of heat in the whole house, we have stopped eating meals in the saloon and instead move everything – breakfast, lunch, kaskroot, and dinner into the kitchen. In the saloon the seat of honor was the corner seat of the L-shaped couch. In the kitchen it is the stool closest to the furnace and my family gives it to me every. single. time.

Also with the cold brings more incentive to curl up under a blanket with a cup of hot Moroccan mint tea and a good book during my free time, which is usually after class in the evenings. I’ve recently finished Orhan Pamuk’s Silent House and Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, both of which I borrowed from fellow Peace Corps Trainees. Thanks Ilana and Miranda! I just started Les Miserables – should keep me busy for a while, but I am loving it so far. I am obsessed with the musical so I decided I should get acquainted with the source material.

But the change in weather also brings some significant downsides, foremost of which is the fact that other than a few brief moments of glorious warmth, I have been straight cold for the last couple weeks. The temperature usually hovers a little above freezing, even inside the house. I’m cold when I wake up. I’m cold when I go to class. I’m cold when I eat. I can see my breath as I fall asleep and in the morning as I wrap my hands around the hot coffee my host dad makes me every day. Honestly, however, I feel like I’m kind of use to it at this point. Sometimes I find myself remarking to myself, “oh yeah, I’m cold. My feet still hurt.”

However, there have been a few ways I’ve been able to combat the cold. The furnace in my kitchen and my teacher’s space heater knock the edge off when I’m close to them. Café’s are generally pretty warm. I travelled to Azrou yesterday, which is a bit down the mountain and it was actually 60 degrees Fahrenheit! We ate lunch on the roof of a café and was it felt good to be in the warm sun again. My sleeping bag is an absolute life saver. When I sleep my shoulders down are actually very warm, as long as I am wearing my thermal underwear and winter hat. However, I haven’t quite found a way to stop the cold from biting my face. Maybe I’ll just lose my nose. Who knows.

Don’t let my complaining however paint too negative a description of my time here. I really am doing well. All of us Peace Corps Trainees have our up and down days. On extra cold days its more likely I’ll have a down one, but I’ve been able to keep things in perspective and, despite what I’ve written above, it’s really not bothering me that much. I’m learning to just accept it as part of my life here and move on. The Moroccans deal with it year after year. I can too.

I find out my final site – where I’ll be serving for the next two years – in about 10 days. I’m excited. I’m nervous. But I try not to daydream about where I’ll be, because it is more than likely that it will not be what I imagine. I’ll go wherever they send me, whether its down south in the middle of the Sahara desert or a small, snowy mountain village, or a larger suburban community outside one of the major cities. Every community will have unique challenges and luxuries. I’ll spend my energy learning Darija now, so I can spend my energy serving my community later.

I’ve made a lot of language progress recently. On our trip to Azrou, I was able to communicate with the taxi driver with minimal difficulty and was even able to call him and ask him to come pick us back up. We even were able to have a real conversation with him during the ride. I realized later that I had been using a lot more Darija and it had been rather easy (at least compared to before). I’m understanding a lot more when my family talks, even to each other, and my repertoire of vocabulary is expanding rapidly. I have LOTS to learn but I do feel like I’m progressing.

Oh yeah. I ate sheep stomach, intestines, and lung the other day. Not bad going down, but it sat on my stomach a little strange.

I think that’s it for all. Please stay in touch. Look at the pictures below. I miss you all.

Love,

Jacob

Hibba and our snowman!
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After the snow started to melt!

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Our kitchen furnace: featuring eggplant!
Sheep intestine
Sheep stomach
Sheep lung
A little much needed sunshine in Azrou
Sara trying to get warm
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