Apart from four hours of language per day (at this point, two 2-hour sessions per day) we also had "technical" training, though weeks later at this writing I can barely remember most of those first sessions. Something about an iceberg being 75% under water, something else about "coping strategies" though what we're supposed to be coping with, I have no clue. And so on.
However, Thursday began to loom on our calendars because that was the day we would find out where we would have our Culture Based Training, or CBT. CBT is where we travel to a village or town to learn to integrate into a community. We stay with a host family, who provides us with meals and is also a good source to practice language and observe various cultural practices. The parents of my family, for example, are religious and yet liberal, so through that juxtaposition I have learned a great deal about two different strains of Moroccan culture. We also have the requisite language training, as well as our first opportunity to interact with local youth at what is called the Dar Chebab, or youth center.
Most Dar Chebabs, or in Darija dar sh`bab, or "youth center" loosely translated, are actually not that different from what you might find in America. Their setup is very much like what you would find at a traditional community center. For example, for my UVa crowd, if you were to go to Newcomb Hall, imagine somewhat the level the Pav is on, with a few little all purpose rooms, an administrative room, and bathrooms. For the Vienna crowd, the community center there (minus the basketball court) has a similar layout. The one here in Fez (pictured below) has a half-dozen classrooms, some offices, a computer lab, a cafeteria, dormitory, and lounge. Most all have a game closet as well, with ping pong, cards, chess, checkers, and the like.
During CBT, our schedule looks roughly like this:
9:00 - 1:00: Language
1:00 - 2:15: Lunch
2:15 - 4:30: Technical Training/Language
4:30 - 8:30: Studying/L-ftur/Self-Directed Learning
8:30 - 10:00: Dar Chebab
It's a pretty full day most of the time. Self-Directed Learning can be whatever you make of it, such as wandering around the community, playing sports with the local kids (which has been my big draw), going to a café after L-ftur for coffee or tea, talking/practicing language with your homestay family, etc.
Anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself. There are three major times during training to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) when there is a considerable amount of stress, and they all relate to what you'll be doing next. For example, in Philadelphia we were stressed about language. For CBT, part of it is where you will be stationed, and the other part learning to fit in to a foreign culture. Lastly, for assignment, it's about where you'll be living for the next two years of your life.
So we were now come to the point where for CBT, we would be finding out where we would be living, learning, and eventually, working, for the next few weeks. Everyone was anxious not only about where they would be going, but who they would be training with, and which Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF) they would have. And let me just say up front that my group is awesome. Three weeks later, I can say that we've gotten a lot done, and we have a lot more planned for our final two weeks and a bit here.
Now, I can't tell you where my CBT site is on here, because I'm still living there. However, here are plenty of pictures to give you an idea!
As you can see, we're down in a little valley, and it's pretty temperate here usually. Imagine California weather, where it gets between 80-90 during most days, and then plummets down into the 50s-60s. There are a couple of thousand people here, and the Peace Corps deems this a "medium-sized" site for volunteers. There are lots of cafés, which deserve an entry all to their own. This is a big football town, and when we got here, a big tournament had already started at a field near my house.
And no, you're not seeing things. The field really is built into the side of a hill. Besides football, there is also a little bit of basketball played here, and in the salon des jeux, or kind of a game room, the kids are ravenous for fussball and gouvaseur (pool.) The Dar Chebab hosts a variety of events, from clubs and associations to game nights just about every day of the week. Its hours are pretty wacky during Ramadan, but during the school year it can get pretty packed once the school day is over.
Overall, this looks like a place where I could really fit in. Football, cafés, a quiet pace, and a family eager to take an American under their wing and help them learn about their culture. I don't want to get into too many details and spoil upcoming entries, so for now enjoy the pictures!