Grateful: parte uno

November is one of my favorite months.  It’s my birthday month, it’s not freezing cold yet in the States and Thanksgiving.  Everyday I always try and think of 3 things to be grateful for.  These things are pretty unimpressive.  It usually consists of a random act of kindness, the fact I wore comfortable shoes, finding a taxi the first try, remembering to eat, etc.  In following the Facebook trend, I have complied a list of things that I am grateful for.  This is part one and mostly silly.  I’m sure the second part will be much more serious.

Coffee: I would be an awful human being if I didn’t have this daily caffeine supplement.  Really society should be grateful that there is coffee, so they wouldn’t have to deal with a cranky me.

Rainy days: It rains a lot in Boston and Casablanca.  It can rain for days, but it makes the next sunny day glorious.

 Sweet Potato Fries: Really anything involving sweet potatoes.  I lived off of them in grad school, especially the fries from Trident Cafe on Newberry Street

Post Secret Website: I check this site every Sunday (if I can remember).  It’s a nice reminder that you’re not too weird or alone.

Pets: I love animals.  I think the thing I am most excited about when I go to the States for the holidays is to see the dog and cat.  Ironically, I miss my Game of Thrones fish tank the most. I guess that’s what I get for not having a TV, so the tank would be the consistent form of entertainment in the 30 Harris St house.

Roommates: I have had awesome roommates.  Sure, it was cramped living with 4 other people for a combination of 5 years, but the memories and friendships have lasted.  Also it was really nice having a solid support system when it came to either a) killing spiders or b) getting the landlord to remove the angry, caged squirrels from the wall.

 Boston: This city is great and I’m so thankful I lived here before moving to Casa.  Boston gave me my city legs and I got to perfect my “don’t-you-dare-bother-me” walk.  The things I loved and miss the most are: the Buddha room at the MFA,  the booksmith, the docks on the Charles, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Public Gardens and my running routes.

Pecometh: I grew up  during my 8 summers working there. I have met some of the most inspiring people there, who have been a constant support.   And I’ve traveled enough to know that the best sunrises and sunsets are at Pecometh.

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photoshop not needed

Education: Yes, it was a lot of work and money, but it was worth it.  Also I love explaining over and over again that, “Yes, you have to get a Master’s degree to work in a library.”

Job: I have a real life, genuine grown up job in the field that I studied.  It may not be exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I am the luckiest library school kid.

Maya, Maia and Gabriella: These are the girls that I was lucky enough to nanny for.  I learned so much from them and their families. I learned that the definition of family isn’t a cookie cutter shape.  That a family can come in all shapes and sizes. Also they showed me such unconditional kindness that will never be forgotten.

Neil Gaiman: C’mon. This guy is amazing and highly entertaining.  He writes awesome stories (Anansi Brothers, American Gods, Coraline, Stardust…) Have you read the Sandman series? Go and read it now… I’ll wait.

Health: I am so grateful to have my health because this hasn’t always been the case.

Technology: When technology works, it is amazing! I love that I can Skype and Viber my friends who are living all over the world.  I love that I can download music and movies in no time at all. I love that I can feel connected to my parent’s when I’m living in Africa.

 Music: I always have an inappropriate song in my head.  In October I had Stephen Lynch’s “Halloween” in my head constantly.  It’s really entertaining trying to talk about Halloween to little kids with that on repeat.

I’ll finish this list sometime soon…hopefully…

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Lisboa and Porto

For October break, I went to Portugal for 6 days.  I love Portugal.  Back in 2010, I backpacked through Spain, Portugal and Morocco with one of the best people I know, Maria.  We only spent a short 2 days in Lisbon since it was our last destination before flying out of Madrid, but I fell in love with the city instantly.  They have delicious food and pastries, the people are very friendly, the city is beautiful in a gothic and worn down sort of way.  Also Maria and I spent one magical filled day in Sintra and Cabo da Roca.  We frolicked around this fairy tale town all day, taking photos, getting lost in caves and drinking coffee.  How can you not fall in love with a place like this?

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The most western point of Europe: Cabo da Roca

When I was considering the CAS job and moving to Morocco, the main point my mother kept saying was, “You can travel! You can go to France! You can go back to Portugal!”.  Sold.  So clearly I knew where I was going for my first break- Lisbon and Porto.  

I arrived late on Wednesday night (sans suitcase) to my hostel in Lisbon.  When I was checking in, it was actually time for the family shot.  The hostel mom said that I should just have a seat, have some port and after the toast I will be checked in.  Already off to a great start.  So i awkwardly introduced to myself to some American students (Americans!!!) and enjoyed free port.  This is a thing that Portuguese hostels do.  They provide a home-cooked meal with drinks for a small price and then invite everyone in the hostel to meet at 11pm for a family shot.  I really think that America should get on board with this type of hospitality.  

The next two days in Lisbon were spent shopping and wandering around.  One of my goals for this trip was to find a tree and park and just enjoy the greenery because Casa is devoid of any green and family friendly parks.  This was accomplished my first day when I stumbled upon a huge park with a huge Portuguese flag waving in the wind.  The next day I took the tram to Belem and toured around the monastery and the Belem tower.  Many coffee and pastries stops were made.  

I then took the train up to Porto.  I didn’t know anything about Porto besides the myth that Porto was made there.  Yes, that’s right, a myth!  I learned while doing a wine tasting in Grahams Port cellar that most port is made outside of the city of Porto.  The delicious wine got it’s name because the wine would be shipped to Porto for taxing and shipping and it would be stamped “Porto” when it arrived into the city.  Viola- the name of Port.   

I stayed in a great hostel and had 3 male roommates who were all students.  One was from Germany, the other from Brazil and finally from Japan.  The city is just enchanting.  Porto is on one side of the river and Gaia is on the other.  They are connected through 6 bridges.  Porto itself is in a valley, so everything was  up hill. I took two walking tours with a guy named Pedro.  He was great guide and had fascinating stories about the history of the city.  I think what drew me to Porto was the romance of the history.  For example, there are fountains located throughout the city because central plumbing wasn’t available to everyone until about 25 years ago.  One fountain, called the Virtues Fountain, was known for magical powers due to sulfur content.  The good people of Porto would line up to drink from this fountain and there were people whose jobs were to hand out glasses, so they can take a drink from it.  The story went that if a boy really liked a girl, he would pay the attendant to drink from the same glass as his interest.  Very romantic.   

All in all, my trip was great.  Very restorative and it was nice hearing English everywhere.  

My next trip is going to be in the beginning of December.  My friend Melissa and I are going to go to Paris for a weekend.  It’ is definitely crazy, but will be worth it.  

Also I booked my tickets to the states for Christmas!  I arrive in NYC on December 21st and leave January 5th.  So, I’m looking for New Year’s plans that is in Maryland or Delaware! 

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The city Porto and across the river is the city called Gaia

quirks

Today is my one month mark for arriving in Casa!

Huzzah.

It’s been a very intense month, but overall I would rate it as good.  I’m slowly settling down into a routine.  Last week I joined a gym and that has helped tremendously.  Every Wednesday, I go out with two friends for Sangria and Tapas.  And I hired a housekeeper a few weeks ago and she is the best.  This morning I forgot my bottle of water and she ran after me with it.  If only I knew Arabic for “Thank you oh so much. I would have died of dehydration if it wasn’t for you”.

Since I have been here a month, I have started noticing certain quirks about Casa and school.  For example, sometimes the supermarket called Acima smells like livestock. Now not all of the time and not of the fresh fish or meat kind. No, no, no.  It’s like “there-must-have-been-a-goat-in-the-cereal-aisle” kind.  Why yes, I would like some goat with my Muesli. Thanks!

Also the traffic is just ridiculous.  Casa is the largest city in Morocco, so traffic is expected.  Boston has nothing on Casa.  The cars honk at you to either indicate the following a. don’t you dare cross the street or I will run you over b. hey the light turned red, so go! c. do you need a ride in this taxi? d. hey car, you are too close for comfort.. the options go on and on.  It is kind of like how the honking system is in Rome. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s really loud.

Finally the last quirk doesn’t have to do with Casa, but more with my students.  They love touching each other.  I realize this is a child thing, but man.  They are grabbing onto each other’s arms when walking in “line”, sitting for a story, eating lunch, doing work at their seats.  I’m almost impressed by the touching frequency.  I guess this is a quirk to me since I have my space bubble (which no longer exists).

I am looking forward to the end of the month because the school has off for Eid.  I am going back to Portugal! First I’m staying in Lisbon for a few days and then taking the train up to Porto.  I backpacked to Lisbon back in June 2010 with Maria and absolutely loved it.  I’m excited to spend a few days really seeing the city and drinking quality wine.

Week One – Check

I’ve officially been in Casa for a week!  I’ve been trying to think of how to describe my first week and nothing particular comes to mind except this exchange I had with a coworker earlier this week:

Her: “So, are you lost yet?” 

My response: “I’m so lost that I don’t even know if I’m lost!”  

And that is the truth.  

Let me start with my apartment and such.  I am living in the Gautier neighborhood in the city center of Casa.  I am near a lot of stores, markets and fellow teachers.  I know where the grocery store Acima is located and the market closest to my house in not even a block away and the place to get good fruit is the next street over.  I also know where the bus stop is to pick me up and drop me off for school.  All in all, I am covered for the time being.  

I have a 2 bedroom apartment with a balcony to myself.  It is strange having all of this room without any roommates (or 4) to share with, but this is something that I am quickly getting use to.  

I live about a 20 minute bus ride (or 45 min depending on traffic) from the school.  Ironically they take us to and from the school in yellow American school buses.  We definitely stick out.  I do like the school.  A good part of the staff are new, so a lot of people are still trying to figure things outs.  The students are absolutely adorable. Some speak English, most speak French and/or Arabic.  They call the teachers “Miss Miss”. They are tan with dark curly hair and dark eyes.  I have no idea how I am going to learn all of their names.  And all of the boys look like my nephew David.  

I am definitely liking the library.  It has a warm feeling to it and has more books in the collection than I expected.  I walked in on Monday morning and saw the 37 boxes of new books that need to be processed before putting on the shelf- yikes.  I have a wonderful assistant who knows all of the procedures and the parents.  She will be my lifesaver.  I have also learned so much in just 5 days.  I think my inexperience is a bit of a blessing because I don’t know how things should just be, so I just go with it.  

On Friday night, a family from the school hosted a dinner party for the school staff.  It was amazing.  There house was an exquisite Moroccan mansion.  They hired caterers and a live band.  They served cookies and cakes before dinner.  I had a ginger lemonade that I promptly tried to get rid off for my hatred of the ginger spice.  A Moroccan feast was served under white tents in the back yard.  There was dancing and singing and socializing.  It was unreal.  

And now I am winding down after running some errands and sleeping this weekend.  I am having episodes of homesickness and culture shock, but I know that these will pass.  The last month has been so fast paced and life changing.  Now that I am operating at a normal pace, I am starting to process and reflect what has happened. 

Okay, Au revoir! 

from the beginning

I am moving to Morocco in about 6 days!?!  How did this occur? Randomly. Very randomly.  

During my last semester in library school, I took the required evaluation class.  This was basically a thesis writing class without having to collect data.  Also it was an evening class, so my attention wavered frequently.  During the lecture, my professor mentioned that she was a school librarian in South Korea and did it through http://www.tieonline.com/ So in between frantically searching for a job to keep me in Boston, I signed up for the site, added a photo, some references, my resume and so on.  Then I forgot about it.    

Fast forward to late August.  I was at my parents house in Maryland getting ready to go to the beach.  I received an email saying that they were interested in talking with me.  Honestly, my jaded self internally said “Yeah right” and replied with a short message.  Next thing I know, I was having my initial interview in front of a beach house in Bethany Beach early Sunday morning.  Then I had a follow-up Skype interview the next Tuesday that ended with a promise of an offer. A week later I signed a two-year contract.  Yes, it happened that quickly.

 I’ve always wanted to work in Africa.  I got into the Peace Corps when I was 20 to teach English in Sub-Sahara Africa, but decided that I wasn’t ready for it.  My admissions essay to get into library school detailed how much I wanted to open libraries in third world countries, particularly in Africa.  I realized that I wouldn’t get another opportunity, so I decided to go for it.

So in the last two weeks I have packed up my Boston life into two  and a half suitcases, sold my furniture, found someone to take over my lease, quit my awesome nanny job and say goodbye to many, many people.  I have been THAT crying girl on the T.  You know, the girl sobbing and everyone wonders if she has just been dumped or someone died.  No, I just had said goodbye to an amazing little 9-month old girl that waved good bye to me for the first time.  That alone justifies my crying for days. 

So I will be the lower school librarian at the Casablanca American School in Morocco for the next two years!  I will be responsible for the grades K through 5 library.  The school also provides me a furnished apartment (with no roommates!), insurance, flights to and from Casa and daily transport to the school.  The school instructs in English, French and Arabic, so I will get to learn two new languages!  I also have a few breaks, so that means traveling¡  I am definitely going to try to get to Sweden and Switzerland and South Africa and….

I do not have my flight or address yet, but will inform friends when I acquire this knowledge.  I will also attempt to update this blog often, since it is going to take me some time to transition into this new life and acquire a mobile and internet.