Friday, November 27, 2009


Jim (Muriel's son) and his partner Nick have just returned from a trip to Morocco.

Click here to see the photos.  


AARP magazine recently published an article about the Peace Corps
with a profile on yours truly.

Here's the link.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2009



Tuesday, October 20, 2009


We had all 8 of us piled into a taxi for our return trip to Emmy's house where we were staying for our training session. It was Ramadan and close to sundown and FOOD for those fasting was riding in our trunk. So everyone was eager to get home. 8 PCVs and a driver were already loaded when another devout fasting Muslim pleaded to join us. He climbed on our laps in the back seat & off we went over hills & valleys,and across streams, laughing & joking. Arriving just before the magic hour, we unfolded from the taxi all 9 of us and went to the trunk for our pizzas only to find 2 more "brothers" in the trunk with our Italian treat

Lo and behold we are finally off and running. October 15 marked the special day we, Brian, Blake and me, had a program at the primary school, MSMOEAT LMDRASA TANANT. We had met with the Director of the Ministry of Education and he was most gracious and gave us immediate authorization to work in all the schools in our towns, and called the permission so we could act at once. Fortunately we met the school's Mudir (principal) at the store and made arrangements to visit is the next day - October 15th! He took us to 6 classrooms where we talked about the 5 critcal reasons for hand washing with soap: Water alone does not kill germs, Washing with soap prevents the spread of germs, The most important times for washing are after using the bathroom and before eating, Children are agents of change and can influence others to use this practice, Many lives are saved, Lots of money is saved. We made our demonstration to 191 students! We plan a follow up next month.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Thank you all for the greetings on my birthday. We were at a training session for the Volunteer Support Network which counsels those who are having problems. There were 6 of us and 2 trainers all staying at Emmys house in Imintlt which is south of Essaouris on the Altantic coast. The water situation was pretty bleak, but she had a "waterboy" who twice a day refilled our water containers. The rest of it was a hoot. On my birthday they baked a large brownie topped with candles that wouldnt blow out! Nearly set fire to the Place amid gales of laughter. I had 44 emails, most of which I answered, and numerous text messages including one from our Director David Lille. The 8th was supposed to be a travel day homeward bound but I went with Kaitlin to the beach at Essaouria. And that was a treat. We bought ice cream cones and watched the ocean while we ate pizza. I spent the night at her house and returned home on the 9th, pooped but pleased with my 85th

Monday, August 17, 2009


The following is from an email was sent to a dear friend, Fabienne Gauthier, who was inspired to become a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco as well:

A lot depends on your site.  The first 2 months are intense training in culture, customs & language.  (You might want to study Moroccan Arabic before you come.  You'll probably learn one of the Berber dialects but Arabic is helpful.) With site assignment you will know better what the options are.  Some of my buddies have been assigned near cities and others are at really remote sites with water & electric only a couple of days a week.  I am lucky because I have everything at my fingertips: water, electric, hanuts, sibtar, souk, Cyber, hamman, post office, and cafes, only thing missing is a bank.
Because of my language lack I haven't made any "friends" but everyone is welcoming and affectionate.  They are amused with my stumbling tashilheet, but encouraging. Many of them, expecially tradespeople, understand a little English so we get by. Each day I study language, read a little and shop.  Right now my project is on hold until school reopens and Ramadan is past in October.  
Normally I have tutoring twice a week for two hours which takes most of the day since I have to travel an hour to the tutor and wait for transportation.  Some of my best hours of meditation are spent in taxi stands.  Right now the tutor is on vacation.  
There is a certain amount of washing of floors & clothes - the dust is wicked - and the heat is debilitating, so napping is a major thing for me.  It's quiet here at night.  Sometimes I sit outside with the neighbors & chat, or just read. Food is no problem.  Fresh fruits & vegetables are plentiful and cheap.
The apartment boasts two plastic chairs, two wooden tables, a fancy bed! and some kitchen stuff.  No blender, pressure cooker, or couscous pot and no refrigerator as yet, but mashi mushkil, no problem.  Just have to shop everyday.
And that's the scoop.  Keep the faith.  love Muriel

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Just returned from 2 weeks training in Azrou were the weather was delightful and the hotel quite plush.  A little shopping area was close by and we walked to town for treats.  Some of the others returned with me to my home base to visit their host families. I entertained my first company who cooked supper for me and slept on my roof.  
Rachel, another PCV, convinced me to accompany her the next day partway to her site with a stop in Marakeech.  What a hoot. Getting off the bus into hordes of tourists left me bewildered and I was happy that Rachel was an experienced traveler and speaker of Tash. We taxied to the medina, center of the old town.  Here we wandered in and out of a warren of lanes until we found the hotel Rachel had chosen, Hotel Aday. We booked space on the roof - yes on the roof 3 stories up a narrow staircase and finally a ladder - and left our gear at the desk, all for only 30 durhams. 
We wandered around enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells.  There was every kind of kiosk imaginable, from ice cream stands to fancy carpet shops.  We looked at a variety of exotic jalabas and Moroccan slippers.  I bought some spices.  Rachel looked for a program for her computer and finally found what she wanted, but the cost was almost a whole month's allowance! So forget that.  We continued our wandering and I spotted a gorgeous woven silk bag, but again unaffordable.  But it doesn't cost to look and that we did. 
The medina in transformed at night into a noisy, crowded wonderland with flashing lights and clashing music.  The center is filled with food of every sort.  The juice dispensing stands are lined up in a row. The oranges stacked behind the counter form a long lines of their bright color as the stands blend one into the other.  Behind them are tent covered tables, all numbered. Here you can order you favorite food from shish kabob to French fries, and everything in between. Time spent people watching can fill an entire evening.  A what a show it was for this village oriented PCV.  Every mode of dress, from short shorts and halter top to complete coverage of a hooded jalaba and face veil.  Hikers, hippies, all sorts of tourists and families, from grandmothers to infants swarmed the medina.  The crowd was friendly and noisy and really, really BIG.
With full tummies and tired feet we headed to Hotel Aday and the 3 flight climb to the ladder that led to our resting place.  With pillow, mat, and blanket we snuggled in under the stars.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I was at the Cyber internetting when suddenly there was big excitement outside--drums, hooting, and yelling. We all rushed out and there was a donkey-pulled cart loaded with presents, followed by neighbors, friends and relatives, touring the streets of town to announce the wedding of Fatima's daughter. I rushed home to don my jellaba, fancy white scarf, and Arabic sandals--gifts from the host family whose daughter was celebrating the wedding! I hurried over to the house just in time to see the donkey being unhitched from the cart. Salaams, kisses, and hugs were exchanged. Then my host's daughter Rasheta, hurried me inside to what used to be my bedroom.
Ensconced on a high throne at the end of the room was the bride, dressed in forest green satin damask heavily embroidered with gold and gems. Her hands and feet were outstretched and painted with henna in intricate designs, her head was crowned with an elaborate sculpted hairpiece studded with glowing jewels. Mint tea and sweet bread were served to those assembled in the room. Then two attendants came with a gold basin and pitcher to wash the henna from her feet and hands, leaving the stain of the henna designs on her skin. She was carried from the room. Now Rasheta rushed over to me, grabbing my hand and motioning me outside. A huge tent (maybe 40x60 ft) had been erected. The inside was carpeted with matching dark red Persian rugs, partially covered with round tables bearing a white underskirt and a dark red or gold topper. All the chairs were completely encased in red damask covers. Each table seated 12 and there were enough to seat 200, with an open wide center aisle. A band consisting of a keyboard, drum, and a violin played in an upright position balanced on the knee. There was also a lead singer. The music was fairly loud but relatively good ( or else I just getting used to the sound) We seemed to wait endlessly, but finally in came the bride, balanced on the shoulders of four men dressed in a white cape-like garment and white harem pants, sporting red pointed caps. The bride was elegantly dressed in another colorful beaded gown and crowned with a gold tiara (there were so many outfits I lost track of the colors).

Four other men in the same outfits danced around the group bearing the bride. All the while the bride was being spun around and bounced up and down, trying to maintain her balance while smiling and waving to the crowd. She was finally seated on a double throne covered in white satin beribboned with bows and flowers. Then the groom was brought in and treated to the same spinning and bouncing entrance. After they both were seated came photo op time as one group after another vied for a chance to pose with the couple.

This procedure was followed at least six times over the course of the evening. I lost track. One time the couple fed each other a sweet and a cup of tea from a gold cup. On another they exchanged rings. In between there was dancing by the guests, not as couples, but individually including all ages and both men and women, boys and girls. We were again served tea and a sweet, later bread and tajines holding three roasted chickens were delivered to each table, followed by a tajine of lamb covered with prunes. Both these dishes were eaten by dipping small pieces of the bread (the bread is like pita bread only plate size) into the common bowl and securing a piece of meat as well as the juices. This is quickly transfered to the mouth. Bottles of orange soda, Pepsi, and water were placed on each table. Dessert was a huge watermelon cut into serving slices and surrounded by honeydew melon chunks. And the music and dancing contined and the bride came again in another outfit, followed by the groom. At one point small decorative boxes of those cookies the women had been baking for two weeks in 3pm to midnight marathon, were given to each guest. And the dancing continued. Actually it's not dancing by out standards. The women raise their arms and swivel their hips in a senuous movement, all the time hollering and clapping in time with the music. The bride finally came in again. This time elegantly gowned as a bride, but with the same swirling around--his time as she stood. After that display the party seemed to wind down a bit and it was my clue to go home. Unfortunately I forgot my cookies, but when I left the tent I was surprised at how light it still was. I had arrived at eight o'clock and it wasn't dark yet. Arriving inside my door, I was extremely to discover it was six o'clock in the morning.

Monday, July 6, 2009


It's July and I'm on my own, in my own rent-paid apartment.

The bitelma was newly enlarged and tiled half-way in soft blue design tile, and half painted a soft yellow. There is a large window with an unobstructed view of the distant moutains. The center room floor is tiled black and white and has the same view. Of the two small rooms in back, one is on the same side - the other has a westerly window. On the other end of the apartment is a large room the length of the building. The kitchen is in the middle and has a tiled sink counter on one side with a stainless steel sink and a drain for the running water! The floor is also tiled. But there are no shelves or cabinets. The place is TOTALLY BARE. not even a hook. So shopping is my game and confused is my name, to paraphrase the Bingo slogan.

Yesterday Brian, the volunteer from the next town, came to help me get my stuff - suitcases and books and sleeping bag, etc.- to the new location and to help me get a stove and some bedding. I have to sleep on the floor until I can get a mattress, hopefully tomorrow when I go for tutoring. I will have to bring it home by taxi and get a local cart-boy to deliver it to my house. The boys wait at the bus stop and taxi stand with their homemade bicycle-wheeled carts and tote your load for a couple durhams.

An old Berber saying is: Little by little does the camel go through the eye of the needle. I have calendar pages to tape to the walls and family photos to brighten my eye. And so I will fill the space with treasures.

Bought some paint to brighten up the doors in my pad. Only to find out when I opened it that it was half empty. I brought it back and the guy just shrugged, put it back on the shelf and gave me a different one and a refund of 10 dirhams. Morocco!

The temp now reaches in the high 90's most every day, but cools off after 5pm a little. By sleep time its quite comfortable.

The work pace here is not. I have divised a plan to meet with the school director in the fall seeking to talk with the English teacher to meet wth her class and tell them about the PC purpose and introduce the toothbrush campaign. At least the plan gives me some purpose. I will talk in simple English translated into simple Tashilheet. Brian the PCV in the next town will help. In the meantime I go on Fridays and Sundays for 2 hour tutoring lessons. That is, providing the bus and/or taxi is working. Today no transportation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It is almost July 1 and the date of my moving into my own place. I stopped by yesterday to pay the rent - 600 dirham which is about 75 dollars and provided by PC. The landlady's son and a buddy were hard at work replacing windows. Much work had been done inside - an enlarged and tiled bathroom, a new wall in the kitchen, and paint everywhere. Think it going to be great. The son, who speaks English, told me he'll get a stove put in. Now I just have to worry about everything else--just like a bride.

Speaking of which, my host family is deep into wedding preparations. It's party time next month. Apparently the actual marriage took place when the bride and her family signed the contract specifying everything. The bride was living with her husband for a while, is home now. The celebration is in July so that all family members can come. July and August are very popular for wedding parties. The party goes on all day and night with people drifting in and out, sleeping, eating, dancing -men with men and women with women. Kind of like line dancing or just a general hula type of giration. Anyway, I will be invited.

I am the only PCV in this town, and not too many others are English speakers, so I am very alone. The second-year PCV in a nearby village, Brian, is going to help me with my project, and also with my move, since he speaks Tashilheet and French which is the official language, and of course English. He's a great guy and plans to continue his education as a city planner with his ideal being Cincinnati. his home town.

My life here right now is mostly studying the language, with tutoring twice weekly. My project is on hold since the schools are closed for the summer. All things in Moroccan time, Enshallah.

Talk to you soon. Love to all. imma, jadda, ngr jadda n jadda (mother, grandmother, or grandmother of a grandmother)

Monday, May 18, 2009


May 1--Last Wednesday was the swearing in of the Spring 2009 group of volunteers of the Health Group for Morocco. All 61 of us. Unfortunately my camera took the opportunity to suffer from dead batteries. I promise that I will correct this asap. Monday I travel to Azilal by Grand Taxi- not very grand and filled with at least 6 passengers-two passengers and driver in the front, sometimes 4-and 3/ 4 in the back. I can buy extra seats to insure a little more comfort. The price is 18 durhams, about 2 dollars I think. But we are supposed to live within our Peace Corps allowance which means like the local population and not in a grand style. In Azilal I can buy an adapter for Moroccan electric and get the charger going.

The ceremony was very serious with speeches given by David Little, Director of Peace Corps Morocco, and various other PC people, 3 volunteers who had best mastered their particular dialect, and finally by the acting ambassador. Then we took the oath to defend the Constitution; etc: etc. The was followed by a reception of tea and cookies. I wore the special outfit my host fimily had gifted me with, a black jalaba with embroidery down the front and on the sleeves revealing a lavendar lining. This was complimented with a white head scarf and black slippers covered with sequins. Very elegant. My friends have promised copies or emails of the photos.

Next day we all left by grand taxi, loaded with luggage, admist teary farewells for our new sites. I of course had minimal luggage and returned to my original site: One of the PCVs was going as far as Azilal and we traveled together: Joey was met there by Jeff a current PCV, who guided me to the taxi to take to the souk. The souk is the big market held once a week. Finally there were enough travelers to fill the seats and I arrived to what seems like home at 4:45 after leaving at 10 for what is a 3 hour trip as the crow flies. Wow.

I arrive home to learn there was an on-going festival of horse racing by mounted Arab chieftans in full costume. There was a total fair-like air to the whole place: More later getting kicked out:

(A few days later)--The festival has been on since Thursday and still going strong. A series of tents surround the perimeter of a large field which has been denuded of vegation. Inside the circle are vendors selling everything from soap to sandals, and hundreds of people colorfully dressed in jalabas, caftans, jeans, and jackets marked with names of famous designers, and horses, horses everywhere. The horses are decked in regal saddles that look like fancy padded thrones, and draped with bright tassles. The people come by bus and van-with people hanging from the back and piled on the roofs-grand taxi, and car. It's the gathering place where everyboy greets everybody with s-salamu alayeakum, multiple kisses -man to man and woman to woman-opposite sexes shake hands. The babble of greetings fills the air as well as the deafening loud-speakered music, a monotomos beat led by drums, three tamborines, and a type of fiddle. My host family and I were there from five to closing at eleven. The afternoon had been really hot, but after sunset it was COLD. I woke up this morning with a stiff neck from fighting off the chill. The horse races continued with a galloping herd charging with shot-loaded rifles raised overhead and fired simultaneously as they reached the end of the enclosure. The whole event is carefully monitored by a host of uniformed guards. I was surprised at the orderly crowd. At one time the speaker system went out for about twenty minutes while the technician worked on it. They crowd waited patiently for the repair. In the US we would have had a riot. Love to all. Muriel in Morocco

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Wow this is it; Have finished basic training with a barely passing grade - i dont think anyone fails language - and now on my own: Cant even find the period. oh there it is. I will be with my host family for two more months: they are great: 3 sisters - one is getting married in July and is at home on engagement lockdown so to speak: She must be careful to observe all the cultural requirements: keeping her hair covered with a veil in the presence of a male not related; polishing her housekeeping skills - under her mothers eye,etc. It was a sort of arranged marriage, she could say no. The family met him at the brides home and arrangements were discussed,various prenuptial agreements. I met him as well. He is quite handsome, but lives in Rabat which is a great distance from here.

Yesterday the local doctor who has patients covering an area of 10,000 people, and has his sbitar or clinic here in Tanant, took me and Rachel and Kaitlin - 2 of my co-workers - to the famous falls in a town the name of I cant spell - oooz...something. The falls are amazing. We hiked in and over and up and down to cover all the best viewing sights and acted like real tourists taking multiple photos with each camera, with of various combinations of the group: It was a marvelous of a gift of his time and a sharing of enjoyment: He speaks a little English but mostly French and Arabic and Darshi - a local dialect. I think I will be working with him to help spread better health practices. I suspect he enjoyed spending time with us as Kaitlin speaks French and was able to translate. I do not think he has many to talk with in town. Also met with the local Ciad - like a police chief - who also speaks English somewhat and offered his help to me.
Have been trying to locate a tutor. So far its been all dead ends. Also need to find a place to live for 2 years. Saw a place the other day that seem a good possibility: Its on the 2nd floor with a western exposure -hot in summer - with 3 rooms, kitchen with a window, water faucet, and space for a frig, stove, and table. the other rooms are fair sized and have windows and overhead lighting. The views are great and I would have a shared roof with the widowed owner of the top floor. The roof is a great place to do laundry and for summer sleeping. And now I must go home and force some more Tash into my head: Enshallah xxxx

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1, 2009

just hi and life is good: All the people here have cells phones and TV which blast all day with soap operas; but only a spigot of cold water in the kitchen

Sunday, March 29, 2009

email of March 20

It is great and I love the life. Turkish toilet, no shower; weekly bath at the Hammam which is public bath; eating with fingers and hugs and kisses from my host family all the time: I do not believe me! Love Mother

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 11:40:13 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: RE: mom

Dear all.

safe and sound in Tannant, Morocco. My host family of 4 females is wonderful. The food is wonderful. My co volunteer, tom, is helping me with this technological challenge. Moroccan screen with french keyboard.&é''&

Picnic by a waterfall yesterday. Clinic visit today. Busy with language learning.

Love to all,

Mother/Grand Mother

Friday, February 27, 2009

only message from USA

Anticipating my departure Monday, March 2, 2009, for staging in Philadelphia, and then on to Morocco. Wow! Add in that famous quote "The first day of the rest of my life."

Thanks to all of you for your supportive messages and good wishes. Keep in touch.