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Blogging Rural Morocco: Peace Corps Volunteers

Morocco has an active and healthy blogosphere. Bloggers write in Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Amazigh, covering a wide range of topics and issues. The one negative about the Moroccan “blogoma,” however, is that the majority of its adherents are clustered within major cities (Casablanca, Rabat, Fez) and abroad; little is blogged about the rural areas.

That's where the Peace Corps and Fulbright bloggers come in; as many are stationed in remote areas of Morocco, they are able to paint a picture of the other side of life in the country. And although they are not native to Morocco, they interact daily with Moroccan people and often blog about the issues facing their neighborhoods and villages.

Duncan Goes To Morocco is one such blogger. He recently discussed dental hygiene in his rural community, saying:

From my Western perspective, dental hygiene is a problem in my community. I wish that I could do a preliminary survey and find out how many people here brush their teeth, but I don’t think that is an appropriate thing to do. If I had to estimate, I would say that in my entire 450-person community, maybe 5 people use toothbrushes on a regular basis. But there’s really no way for me to know and it could be as low as 0. It’s not just my community; I’d say that the idea of dental hygiene is one that is fairly new in Morocco.

He then explains how he is addressing this problem:

In the schools I’ve been talking to the kids about brushing their teeth. Basically I tell them that if they don’t brush their teeth, their teeth will rot and fall out, just like the older people in my community. I try to be very blunt about it. I brought in a hard-boiled egg soaked in Coke, which made it turn brown, and then had the kids use toothbrushes to clean the egg. I also brought in a model clay mouth for the kids to practice brushing teeth on. (Side note, hands-on education is not apart of the teaching pedagogy here; it’s all about rote memorization.) Since doing the education, I’ve been coming into the school on a regular basis during their recess and having all the kids brush their teeth in front of me. It’s pretty funny to watch 30 kids slobber spit and toothpaste all over themselves and realize that this is my job. I think that an activity like teeth brushing is something that, if you’re a child, you need to practice doing over and over and over again until it becomes a habit.

He also explains his feelings on the subject, and shares a bit of his thoughts on being a health volunteer with the Peace Corps:

Balancing these two conflicting feelings, I guess I want to believe that people will change their behavior. There are many things working against me, but if I concentrate on this issue, some people will come around. Even if people don’t immediately change their behavior, introducing the idea of dental hygiene is the first step towards ultimately changing things. Change might not come immediately, but maybe I’m laying the foundation for behavior change in the next generation – at least that’s what I tell myself. Some volunteers are very negative about changing Moroccans behavior and I think they let that negativity limit what they try to do. I came here to do health education and I’m going to try and do it. Plus it gives me something to do and some feeling of efficacy.

Emily and Jon in Morocco is the blog of a married couple who are both new Peace Corps volunteers. In a recent post, they share their thoughts on a few cultural differences they've encountered. An example:

Another differing topic is the concept of space. In a typical rural Moroccan household, there are no separate bedrooms. There is generally a sitting room (living room), a salon (a room for hosting guests, which is generally bigger than the sitting room), a kitchen, and a sleeping room (where any combination of family members may choose to sleep). Sometimes, family members sleep in the sitting room. The bathroom may or may not be inside the house. Sometimes, it is an attached structure with its own entry. Families generally store their clothes together and designate a room for changing clothes. Furthermore, there isn't a whole lot of “stuff” that family members own. There aren't piles upon piles of toys for children. There is no clutter that takes up all the room in the house. It just doesn't exist. The family ties are more important than the individual; there is less emphasis placed on individualism and more emphasis placed on collectivism. Living with a Moroccan family has helped us understand how materialistic, individualistic, and direct our own culture is. Not necessarily bad; just different. Its interesting to consider that we don't really know who we are unless we step outside and look around for differences of which to compare ourselves

For more information on Peace Corps bloggers in Morocco, this site has a list of bloggers. Global Voices has also covered the Peace Corps Morocco blogosphere previously.

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