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Natives beginning to understand Peace Corps volunteer

Summer is arriving quickly in the desert south of Morocco.

Luckily, today a nice cool breeze is gilding through the air and making it feel like a truly lovely spring day.

However, I won't be fooled, I know that summer is just around the corner and the sun will be pouring down its heat soon. Shortly you'll receive word that I've melted away into the sand of my desert town.

Beyond my fear of the inevitable summer heat, life is good. I've reached a point of comfort with my existence here. The people of Tiznit finally seem to understand why I'm here after nine months of explaining my reasoning to them.

The human infrastructure I need to get work accomplished is finally in place. In collaboration with my Moroccan counterpart, several activity ideas are being to roll.

As a monthly event we are organizing a "Talk and Tea Party." Communication is a key factor in development work and creating a situation for people to get together is where I'm trying to start.

Since my work focuses on youth and women's development, we are trying to pull together individuals from the community who have interest in these topics. While sipping on mint tea, we'll chat about different issues related to these topics. Inshallal (If God wills), the individuals involved will respond positivily to the issues that arise in the meetings.

More good news, my exercise classes are still hopping and rolling. The girls of my class seem to be getting more and more enthusiastic about participating in sports. Some of them even want to join me in my training runs for the marathon I eventually would like to run. I'm up to 13 miles and feeling great!

On April 7, if all went as planned, I will have run in my first race, a half marathon in Casablanca. However, I'm having trouble setting a date for my actual marathon. Seems as though all the full marathons in Morocco have been canceled until November. That's a long time away and would require me to train in the boiling heat of the summer. Hopefully, I'll find a marathon to participate in before the 120-degree heat arrives!

I may be feeling healthy and strong from all the running I'm doing, but I must report on the troubles my eating habits here have caused me. Seems as though all the sugared mint tea I drank in my first couple months in Morocco has taken its toll on my teeth.

Next week I'm headed to the dentist to have my first cavity of my life filled. All of you thought I was just kidding when I wrote that sugar is the staple of the Moroccan diet; now I have proof! Yikes! Happily, though, I've learned the tricks to avoiding that third cup of sugary tea and extra ton of cookies they used to pile on my plate. This is a very useful skill for me to have for the 18 remaining months of my service in the country.

Speaking of food, I have survived the annual Grand Feast of the Islamic calendar. On March 6, all across this Muslim country, sheep were slaughtered in celebration of the holiday. For the weeks leading up to this holiday every family was purchasing sheep.

What a sight it was to see these sheep being herded home in a modern sort of way. I've seen sheep squeezed into the trunks of cars, strapped onto the back of scooters, and shoved into the back of taxis.

On the actual day of the feast, sheep across the nation are slaughtered before the evening prayer call that echoes through the air around sunset.

Luckily for me, I arrived back from my second trip to Italy to visit with Dave, on March 6. Hamdulia (Thanks God) I arrived after sunset, therefore missing the actual slaughtering. Being that I am a vegetarian, watching the slaughtering might have made my tummy turn a bit too much. However, I did get to enjoy the overpowering stench that ran through the air for the two days following the holiday. As part of the tradition of the feast, the heads of the sheep are burned, coloring the air with a horrid smell.

The holiday came and went though, and air now has a fresh scent of blooming springtime flowers. I've done my spring cleaning already, and am enjoying the new fruits that have appeared at out weekly outdoor market. My life here is comfortable and happy.

Hamdulia (Thanks God!) Hoping all of you are happy and healthy, and that springtime has arrived in your little corner of the world too.

Rebecca Goldenberg's family has lived in Carson City for four years and she is on a two-year Peace Corps assignment to Morocco.

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