A Heads Up

I had wanted to write something witty or philosophical, something deep to think about, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided to keep it simple instead. So, I wanted to give my friends back home a heads up on what’s happening with me these next few months, and hopefully later, I’ll have pictures to add as everything starts to happen:

1) I’m leaving my site on Friday to go Rabat for a training on HIV education in preparation for the Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira. I’ll be traveling with my comrades, Caity, Avery, and Nicole, and we’re stopping in Fes briefly to drop by the Red Crescent to discuss a First Aid Awareness for Rural Communities near my site. We’re hoping that the Red Crescent can teach CPR to illiterate communities where Caity and Avery live and work.

2) Not long after that, I’ll be headed to In-Service Training, a week-long event north of Rabat in Mehidya, the same beach town I went to when I arrived in country and just before I swore in.

3) A few weeks after IST, I’ll be heading to the Gnaoua Music Festival for seven days to help educate youth, especially, about HIV/AIDS and other STIs.

4) After that, I have four weeks of camp, dates and locations TBA. Two of those weeks were originally supposed to be in El-Jadida, but I hear the location has moved (no one knows where). I’m hoping for another beach town. After that, I’ll have another two weeks, hopefully, of what’s called “SOS Camp,” which consists of two weeks of hanging with Moroccan youth in an orphanage.

All of that should be packed in between now and late July.  August is Ramadan where all you do is sleep and fast (more on that later).

Finally, here’s five interesting things happening right now that are worth reading:

– Peace Corps in Morocco currently has approximately 60 or so Youth Development Volunteers, most of whom live in urban communities and have access to regular internet and running water.  The remaining 200 or so volunteers live in rural communities, often without running water and some without electricity.  They work for Health, Environment, and Small Business Development.  Peace Corps recently decided that Morocco would “focus in and focus up” with all of its efforts and energy going toward Youth Development.  As a result, they will bring in one staging group of 120 volunteers once a year and serve only urban communities.  Contracting with the Ministry of Youth & Sports should save Peace Corps lots of money in light of the recent budget cuts as Washington continues to cut Foreign Aid.

This article from the Economist mentions the Minister of Youth & Sports.  Considering the paragraph I wrote above, it’s worth reading.  The article also notes that Morocco is in a critical stage of reform that could escalate to violence like we’ve seen in other countries if all doesn’t go well in June.

– Regarding the issue of Foreign Aid, perception and reality are two different things.  A recent poll says the average American thinks 27% of the Federal Budget is allocated for Foreign Aid, that it should be far lower (more like 13%), when in reality, only 0.6% of the budget goes toward Foreign Aid.  Washington, in order to make Americans happy, continuously cuts the Foreign Aid budget, and that affects the kinds of things I’m doing.  The amount of money spent on one day to wage war in Iraq is the same amount of money that funds Peace Corps in Morocco for an entire year.  Here’s a good PBS article concerning Foreign Aid (note: they round up on the numbers and don’t talk as much about perception, but it’s still intriguing).

– My parents recently purchased a plane ticket from Madrid to Memphis for December.  Now I just have to figure out how to get to Madrid.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in six months.

– I’m hoping to see my sister before then.  She’s talking about coming to visit in September or October, as are my mom, Kristen Barber, Greta and Katie Frensley, and Patrick and Lindsay Drake in 2012.  If you’re thinking of coming to visit Morocco, you need to let me know soon so I can start planning that out with you.

That’s it.  Hope everyone is doing well.

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