How to Contact Me

Life on the central plains can get awfully lonely at times, so feel free to drop me a line! Here's how:

D'Abravanel, Jed
B.P. 6



Monday, March 24, 2008


The casbah of Rabat. Thats right - the Clash's Casbah.

Sunset in my CBT site - my host family owns the Hainout on the right.

The human blob infront of the Medina of Ouarzazate. From top right, counter clockwise: Liz, Elizabeth, Mel, Brian, Odyssey and Alex.

A shot of my CBT site at sunset.

Morocco Jed in front of an old abandoned Casbah (fort) at my CBT site.

My She Iron Dwar

The first CBT (community based training) of four is done, and I’m back at base camp in Ouarzazate – showered, shaved, rested and surrounded by English speakers – surreal surroundings after a week in a remote village nestled in a river valley carved into the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The valley is a sea of green with fields of wheat bordered by almond, fig, walnut and peach trees. More then by trees the fields were defined by roses – for my CBT site is located in the Valley of The Roses. The roses (lord in Tamazight) have not yet begun to bloom, but with every field surrounded, when they do the imagery will be stunning.
What brings order and life to this oasis surrounded by jagged peaks, sudden mesas and distant snow covered ranges is an intricate system of irrigation troughs that channel the water from the river (asif in Tamazight) to the farthest fields more then a mile away from the entry point to the irrigation system and half mile inland from the river. The traditional irrigation system of the valley is managed by a figure known as the Ahlm, it is the Ahlm’s role to call for community workdays to maintain the irrigation system as well as arbitrate disputes over water rights, which may emerge in the use of the system. In my week at CBT I didn’t have time to meet the Ahlm, but I hope to in the coming weeks, I feel he’d be both a vast store of knowledge on the village as well as a useful community contact in working to investigate, discover and address the health issues of the village.
But enough setting of the scene, time for some anecdotes. The people of the village are just as wonderful as you would expect to find in such a setting. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t managed to be in some completely ridiculous situations among them. My first night in the village (douar in Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic) my family had couscous, which in Morocco is traditionally eaten with the hands. As a guest and as a foreigner, my family thoughtfully provided me with a spoon – believing that I wouldn’t be able to artfully make a couscous ball in my hand and then gracefully arc it into my mouth as they can. I of course was having none of that kind of treatment, so I dug right into the communal couscous (souksu in Tamazight) platter with my right hand and proceeded to attempt to mimic the actions of my host brothers and host father Mohammad. This course of action quickly led me to discover that not only does ones shirt become a piece of pop art if one doesn’t know how to roll a couscous ball but that, American hands are in no way prepared in day to day life for the steaming inferno that is a pile of couscous. I exited this situation in the only way I knew how with zero language skills: laughing at myself, getting the rest of the room to laugh at me and then saluting my host father and calling him “chief f souksu” (chief of the couscous) in honor of his perfect couscous ball making skills.
As for my host family, after that introductory anecdote I should probably describe them to you. As best as I can figure out 13 people live in my house, though numbers do very – from a high of 18 to a low of 8 during the five days I was at CBT. These people share the house with various animals, including: one mule, two cows, six cats, roughly a dozen hens and half dozen roosters, two goats and six sheep. The people though have names and identities, while the animals do not – so I’ll explain a little more about them to you:

Mohamed: My host father, a twinkle-eyed man, always to be found in a djillaba and white turban. He spends most of his time outside of the family hanout (store).

Mohl: My host mother, without a doubt the backbone of the house. She’s the president of the village tapestry association, and a mover and a shaker in the local community. She is always very concerned over my well-being and asks me many questions which I can only answer by saying: “ur fhmq” or I doubt understand. Which is my issue not hers.

Khadija: My host sister, she makes some great kahwa (coffee) in the morning.

Hadijia: My host sister-in-law, she’s from Casablanca so she speaks French and no Tamazight – whereas I’m from the United States and speak a little Tamazight and no French. We have a lot of very interesting, slightly exasperating and frequently hilarious moments.

Miriam: Hadijia’s four year old daughter. She’s a terror on two feet and is in love with me. I have a backpack pocket filled with seeds she kept on bringing me, enough said.

Hamid: My host brother, Hadijia’s husband and Miriam’s father. He disappears for long periods of time – I assume to work – my language isn’t their yet. He is crazy according to Hadijia and likes couscous – Hadijia doesn’t like couscous. I think that might be related to why he’s crazy.

Ahmed: My host brother, he teaches me Tamazight, I teach him English – it’s a good system. He can also roll a perfect couscous ball. Like his brother Hamid I have no idea what he does during the day. I think it involves Tea at the local cafĂ©.

Ishmael: Either my host brother or nephew, he is the cool kid on the block – and is amazing because of it, for a variety of reasons too numerous to list here. He is also my shadow, meaning if the strange American wants to go for a walk he follows me to make sure I don’t get myself into trouble.

Rashid: My host brother, he’s a little shy and is somewhere into his teens. He humors me and my poor soccer skills by letting me play – at an altitude of a mile and a half – for about 15 minutes at a time, when my lungs and heart explodes.

And Naima, Ali, Mohammed the Younger, and two others with whom I am still working on names.

To be provided after my next CBT update…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

CBT Site

I know my site – well my CBT site at least. I’d let you know where, but seeing as how the interweb is public space the Peace Corps in its wisdom has ordained that I can’t post its location. But I can tell you that it is 150 klicks east of Ouarzazate in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. What does this information mean?

Among other things, it means that I am learning Tamazight, the most widely spoken Berber dialect in the nation. While not Moroccan Arabic, I am stoked! Why? Because, as I most emphasize, Tamazight is the most widely spoken of the three Berber dialects of Morocco: Tashlaheet, Tamazight and Tarifitt AND most importantly with Tamazight I can end up in the Mountains and NOT the 120 F desert where Tashlaheet volunteers are normally sent.

I guess at this point I should explain what CBT means, though I should explain firstly that no organization I have ever been involved in has as complicated an alphabet soup as the Peace Corps. Anyway, CBT stands for Community Based Training, which is a method of training that involves living in a rural village with a host family (more about my host family later) and nine hours of language, cultural and technical training Monday through Saturday. Also in this village are four other trainees and an LCF, or Language and Culture Facilitator, which is Peace Corps speak for a HCN (Host Country National aka a Moroccan) whose job it is to help us learn how to survive our two years of service.

So, Sunday I leave for my first CBT, which will last for five days, ending next Saturday. Over the next nine weeks I will do four visits to my CBT, each of increasing length, hopefully at the end reaching a Novice High level in Tamazight – so as to avoid ETS, Early Termination of Service.

Next time the first installment on life with 13 Moroccans and six cats…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


To kids and men from the fourth planet I am from the arabic world - this is what I have learned over the past three days in Ouarzazate. I know this from two hilarious interactions with HCN's - that's Peace Corp speak for 'host country nationals' aka people who live in the country - anyway the first included a group of Moroccan children who when introduced to my friends and I in the square had a hard time with me being named Jed and with ,me being 'mirikan' and not 'maghreb'. With my arabic - thats an enormous complement! The second incident was on the edge of the old casbah of Ouarzazate, this one included the man greeting me with bonjour, my replying with assalam alaykum and his *naturally* assuming I was tunisian or Algerian! Another great moment in intercultural communication.Which i'm continuing right now - making friends with my local cyber owner Amin! I think he's inviting me to atay - tea in arabic - as I type - not today but maybe another.Anyway - i should get going, but don't forget to write those emails qnd letters! I love getting every one!


Saturday, March 8, 2008

First Impressions Of Al Maghreb

Been here for four days and already the US seems a distant past. From the way books smell when printed in Morocco to the sound of the Muezzin - call to prayer - at dawn. A call which acts as a universal alarm clock - echoing from neighborhood to neighberhood as the mosques each take up the call in turn. An action made all the more stunning by the silence which encompasses Rabat - for example - before the call to prayer. A silence whose presence is only sharpened by the periodic crowing of the family roosters nestled beneath me in the sea of satelite dishes which dot every rooftop - clumped together as though seeking protection from a fierce storm with their brethren.
My first night in Rabat - between jetlag and a bakery in my stomach turning out thousands of knot shaped pretzels an hour - I had trouble sleeping. This is what made it possible to experience the call to prayer - as well as another astonishing ritual of Morocco: the collection of garbage.
To those of you in the states this may to seem like an interesting subject. But the paradox's of Maroc made it a delightful experience for me to witness. Modern garbage trucks' pulling up to the streets - collecting garbage - and unloading a man at the corner of the street with a palm frond and a garbage can. To do what you ask? To sweep the streets with the palm frond of course - next to a 150000 dollar brand new garbagee truck.

Anyway I have to go - i'm at a cyber cafe at an arabic keyboard - so excuse the spelling errors. Next time though i'll introduce you to Ouzerazate and tell you why George W's buddy - Ambassador Riley - thinks i'm pretty up on my game.

Until then