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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Overseas Phone Call from Morocco (Andrew)

Peace Corps Volunteer Andrew Welsh Talks With the Henry Street School for International Studies

Once a year a few Peace Corps volunteers get to talk by telephone with U.S. classrooms they've been communicating with. We've recorded some of those conversations. Today, the Henry Street School for International Studies in New York City speaks to Andrew, a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Morocco.

Ron Tschetter
Hi, I'm Ron Tschetter, Director of the Peace Corps. For more than 45 years the Peace Corps has helped communities around the world. Volunteer Voices is a collection of audio stories from just a few of the more than 182,000 volunteers who have served since 1961. For more information on the Peace Corps, go to peacecorps.gov.
Student
Hi, my name is Jasmine. My first question is what project are you working on now as a Peace Corps volunteer?
Andrew
I'm working on a few projects. I have a building and bathroom project in a local school further out from the village from which I live. The school was built without bathrooms because of water and electricity deficiency in that village—which to this day still persists. There is still no running water or electricity. I'm a volunteer in the environment sector, so addressing sanitation and human waste issue would meet some of our goals. I'm working in the local school where I live with 3rd through 6th graders doing science and environmental education—before school, after school, sort of school thing—trying to do some science experiments. For me, the big difficulty is conveying the lesson in a foreign language. But so far, so good. I've been enjoying it. I'm working with a local women's handycraft center that volunteers before me helped develop and eventually get built. We're trying to come up with ideas for things that they can sell to tourists and locals so that the women of the village have a place to meet, a place to learn, and most importantly, a place to make a little bit of money. Working with the potters on improved cook stoves, developed by another NGO, and we're trying to introduce it to this area, providing potters with another product, sort of addressing deforestation and natural resource consumption.
Student
What kind of religion is in Morocco?
Andrew
Morocco is a country of Muslims. I can tell you that there probably are Christians, and Jews, and Hindus, and Buddhists—the range of world's religions are in Morocco. But percentages would tell you that it is effectively almost 100% Muslims, but that being said, I don't want to make any comment on how religious people in Morocco are—it is more expressed as what kind of religion is here, more of a question of things of the culture that would define that. So the king claims the prophet Muhammad as a direct descendent. National holidays that are celebrated are events in the Islamic tradition that are recognized. You hear the call to prayer five times a day. Women commonly wear the veil. Friday afternoons are typically quiet because the men and women have gone to the mosque or the weekly sermon. Those are all things that happen, and, I would say, are a result of Islam being the national religion. But they say very little about how religious people are because, like in America, there's a whole range of people that follow the Koran strictly and there are people that, perhaps, do not follow the Koran very strictly.
Student
Did you fast during Ramadan?
Andrew
Yes, I fasted during Ramadan. Obviously, from my last answer everyone in my little town, or the town that I have now come to call home is a Muslim and they all fast. Trying to be respectful of their culture, I wanted to fast because it's obviously not an easy thing to do to not eat all day. It's an experience, it's fun to try those things. Yes, I fasted during Ramadan.
Student
A lot of my classmates would like to know, do ya'll wear sneakers?
Andrew
No, I do not wear sneakers. I wear sandals. It's warm all year round, so the need for sneakers is not necessary. Sandals are much cooler. There is also a cultural reason. When you go into homes, it is appropriate to take off your shoes. Sandals are obviously a whole lot easier to remove and put back on. With shoes you have to lace up and it takes a little bit more time. Sandals are much more convenient.
Student
Hi, my name is Hussan. Do Moroccans criticize each other when they speak different languages?
Andrew
No, Moroccans do not criticize each other for speaking different languages. It is very common for people to switch between Arabic, French, and a local language even in one sentence. Here, in my village, people speak a language called Tachelhit. The local language has an alphabet, but very few people know it. It is not a written language, it is learned strictly through speaking. It is the language of the home. As soon as the kids go to school they learn a second language, Arabic, starting in first grade. When they reach 3rd grade, they'll start learning French. By the time people reach their teenage years being fluent in three languages is very common. Often times in high school and college, people will learn English, or German, or Spanish. The range of languages here is huge. There's no criticism for speaking different languages.
Student
If you say the greeting for a man to a woman, what happens? How do they react?
Andrew
You get laughed at pretty much basically is what happens. So for a non-native speaker like me, if I am talking to a group of women I use a certain conjugation of all verbs. My brain, at that time, is accustomed to speaking with women. If I move to another setting where it is men that I am talking to, if I do not tell myself or tell my brain to switch conjugation between the feminine and the masculine then I end up initially using the feminine endings. I get laughed at.
Close
Thanks for listening. Are you in a classroom? Do you want stories written just for your class? Enroll in the Correspondence Match program in Coverdell World Wise Schools. We can connect your class with a Peace Corps volunteer serving in any region of the world. For enrollment and program information visit us online at www.peacecorps.gov/wws/correspond.