First month in Goulmima


1 month has passed since I have been posted to Goulmima. That means that 2 months have already passed since I came to Morocco. Time really flies!

I have been posted to Goulmima as a rural community development officer. That is a very vague job title. Basically, as a rural community development officer, your role is to do anything to help the rural communities of your assigned area improve their living.

My expected activities in Goulmima are the following:
*increase the income of women by developing new handicrafts and exploring business opportunities
*provide literacy education and health education in order to raise the living standard
*explore the ways in which inequalities between rural communities and urban areas of Goulmima can be mitigated

So I started off working with one of the women's associations in the rural commune of Ghris Essoufli.

To be honest, since I have been posted here in Goulmima, I have not been doing much. I mean I have been doing some work but I would say that I am not making much difference in the community of Goulmima yet. If I understood correctly, I think I am officially the first JICA volunteer to be assigned to work in the rural commune of Ghriss Essoufli, which is located on the southeast of the central Goulmima (there  have been a few JICA volunteers assigned to the other side of Goulmima though). That means that I have to start almost from the scratch. I have to firstly spend sometime understanding the community well before deciding appropriate actions for the community.

I have conducted a community participation workshop once with the committee members of the women's association that I work with in order to understand the problems that the community is facing, and the actions that the association is taking to tackle the problems. Then I suggested some actions that I could take to help the association create a better community.
Committee members of the association doing
a community participation workshop
So now I have clearer ideas about what kind of problems the rural community of Ghriss Essoufli is facing and what kind of actions that I could take to mitigate the problems. But there are still a lot of things that I don't know about the community so I am going to spend a bit more time trying to understand the community better before implementing actions. That is what I meant by saying "I am not doing much". But hopefully I will be able to start taking some actions soon!

You might be wondering what language(s) I use when working in Goulmima. Goulmima is a Berber (Tamazight)-spoken area of Morocco so most of the local people speak Tamazight when communicating with each other. But I don't understand anything in Tamazight so I try to communicate with the local people in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and French. My Darija is nowhere near sufficient to be able to communicate smoothly with the locals. Therefore for my work when I have to talk about complicated things more than just buying a fruit at a market, I use French with the committee members of the association. However, the women and girls who come to the association do not speak French as many of them dropped out of school for various reasons. That means I really have to use Darija (or even Tamazight) when communicating with them. This has been very tough but people around me have been very patient with me and I think I am gradually starting to understand Darija better...

People of Goulmima in general have been absolutely kind! Everyone is really friendly to me and often they invite me to come to their houses to eat couscous or tajine with their families.

It has become my habit to have some Moroccan tea with a grandpa called Ahmed who runs a little clothe shop as a tailor in front of my house everyday. It is actually really relaxing to have some tea with him and his friends, feeling the evening breeze in front of his shop. This is a really good way to get to know people and also learn a bit of Darija (and Tamazight) as a lot of people stop by at Ahmed's shop.
Grandpa Ahmed at work

People at the association that I work have also been amazing. The girls there are always very friendly and even though I really struggle to have communication with them in Darija or Tamazight, they always call "AICHA! Aji aji!" ("Aji" means "come" and Aicha is my Arabic name) and invite me to join what they are doing.

Also there are two American volunteers of Peace Corps in Goulmima and I have been hanging out with them from time to time. It has been great to be able to share our experience of Morocco and we are now working together to do a summer camp on how to prevent HIV/AIDS at the association at the beginning of July. They speak really good Darija and I am always really jealous of them when I see them speaking so fluently with the Moroccans! It gives me motivation to work harder on acquiring the language! When I am with them, I use English so sometimes my brain gets mixed up with switching the languages between French, English and Darija.... but I'm so glad to have the opportunities to practice English again.

Last but not least - the nature of Goulmima.... Well, it's absolutely beautiful!!
Goulmima is in an oasis with palm and olive trees, surrounded by rocky bare mountains and deserts. I think it is a gorgeous little town with picturesque countryside. There are still a lot of beauties of Goulmima that I am yet to discover so I will keep posted on this blog and/or on Facebook.
An oasis  - a panoramic view of Goulmima from a nearby cliff
A view on the way to work
Tifounassine - outskirt of Goulmima
A view on the way to the souk (market)

Overall, the more time I spend in Goulmima, the happier I feel that I have been posted here. There are still a lot more to discover in this area and of course the rest of Morocco, and I look forward to spending two years here!
Berber culture -  an embroidery that women wear
when going out in Goulmima

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