Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Spring Camp 09!
I cannot remember the last time I have been so excited to write a blog entry. Given the recent success of the spring camp coordinated by yours truly, I cannot help but boast.
Errachidia spring camp 2009 was indeed disaster free and full of positivity. I can't say that everything went as expected(this is Morocco after all), yet I can state that out of the 4 camps that I have now worked at in Morocco, it was by far the most cohesive and well put together. With a killer staff of pcv's (most of whom had never worked a PC camp before, yet seemed to make up for their lack of experience with an extreme eagerness to help) and a highly devoted Moroccan staff, we managed to create a rewarding experience for the local youth (and ourselves)that only comes around once and awhile.
Perhaps part of the appearance of success has to do with the fact that the camp began with conditions that upon first glance seemed pretty problematic. The staff(Moroccan and PCV) was short 5 people for 96 kids, and 4 of the 8 PCV’s helping had no knowledge of Moroccan Arabic, and could only rely on the chance of kids attending who understood the respective Berber dialects they had been trained in in order to communicate. Given the short staff, every PCV had to both teach an English class and help to lead a club(we had guitar, leadership, theater, art, and journalism) despite the potential problems in communicating abstract concepts. Luckily for us, PCV’s are some of the best charades players on the planet. As the only 2nd year youth development PCV I was put in the position of having the best Darija skills out of our group, which is something I have never experienced before, in that I was one of the slower language learners in my stage. This gave me the daunting obligation of translating everything that could otherwise not be interpreted. Needless to say, it was incredibly tiring for everyone, breaking from our typical lackadaisical and diffuse PC lifestyles and being on the go from 7am until about midnight every day.
Another factor that contributed to my initial concern about the camp’s well being was the planned field trip to Merzouga, a.k.a. the Sahara Desert. When I first heard the plan for this day it consisted of nothing more than taking 4 busses of kids into the desert and releasing them. However, to my relief, the day before the trip I learned that the plan was in fact more organized than this and thus less likely to result in lost, cannibalized-turned children in the arid vastness that is the Sahara. While the trip did in fact involve taking 4 buses of kids into the desert, it was surprisingly smooth(despite the incessant drumming and singing that followed us everywhere- yes, kids here carry drums with them everywhere, and yes, the human wave can be done in a moving vehicle). With the additional stops added to our trip by the Moroccan staff we were given only an hour and a half to roam the dunes, which turned out to be a perfect amount of time for kids to burn off energy by climbing a massive dune. We naively thought it would be a good idea to race up this dune, and were quickly humbled by Mother Nature’s intensity. As it turns out, running up a sand dune is comparable to running up a mountain with water pouring down in the opposite direction...difficult, yet an excellent outlet for youthful energy. Just to ensure that every last breath had been taken out of me, on the top of the dune I was challenged to a wrestling match with a member of the Moroccan staff who just so happens to be a 3rd degree black belt in Tai Kwon Do, and has been teaching the art for 15 years. Again, a humbling experience (yet apparently very entertaining for the kids-I do what I can).
The dunes were followed by a trip to the Dar Chebab in a nearby town, where we had a lunch consisting of a boiled potato, a small cheese packet, bread, and tea of course...probably my first and last potato and cheese sandwich. This was followed by a trip to a fossil museum, which was then followed by a failed attempt to visit one of the kings palaces (we were promptly kicked out), and then followed by a visit to the nicest hotel that I have ever seen in Morocco.
Another aspect that contributed to the success of the camp was the amazing relations between the PC and Moroccon staff. While in other camps I have attended, relations between these two groups has never been more than functional and professional, this time around the feeling was more of that of a family. This became evident during our stop for lunch during our field trip, when two PCV’s asked some campers of the price of a giant pizza-like food that we discovered in a town store- something that we had never seen the likes of in our southern region. After informing us of the price(which was pretty steep given our PC budget)and reassuring us that the store owner was not trying to rip us off, one of the Moroccan staff members rushed up to us and insisted that we didn’t buy it. While this confused us initially, it all came together later when I was approached that night by the Moroccan camp director and asked when we wanted to eat the pizza-like feast they had bought for us. Accustomed to typical Moroccan frugality, it was hard for me to make sense of this at first, before it hit me that they really liked us. We reciprocated the act of kindness of the end of camp when we had copies of the whole staff together made for everyone.
So all in all, it was a great week. Now I have time to rest, have my voice catch back up with me, and look onto my next big project which is getting a grant for 6 computers for a local association in my town (inchallah). Until next time...