Saturday, April 27, 2013

El Jadida Spring Camp

Last week, the first big heat wave rolled through Morocco, sending temperatures soaring into the 100s, but I was thankfully not around to suffer since I spent last week on the beach, working at spring camp.  I walked around comfortable in jeans during the day and wore a wool hat and a hoodie at night.  It was pretty great.  The rest of camp was pretty great too.

Every April, the Moroccan schools have a two-week spring break, during which Peace Corps and the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports run English camps.  This year, I spent a week working in El Jadida, a coastal city about two hours south of Casablanca.  Camps are, okay, camps are crazy and hectic and non-stop and a lot of work, but they’re also really fun.  This was my third camp in Morocco, and I’ve really enjoyed them all.  The El Jadida camp was incredibly well-run and the Moroccan staff were excellent, making this the easiest of the camps I worked.

Technically, the spring camps are English camps and we teach English in the mornings, but things are pretty relaxed since it is the kids’ spring break.  I taught the advanced students, which, wow, teaching kids who already speak English is a totally different experience.

The first day of class, I propped a whiteboard against a tree next to our table and Widad wailed, “Oh no, teacher, are we the bad class?  Only the bad classes have a whiteboard.”

“Well,” I said, “what do you want to do instead.”

“We just want to talk,” Maryam said.

“Talk about what?” I asked, since usually getting my students to speak is about as pleasant as pulling teeth.

“What about what we would do if we were the opposite sex?” Omar suggested.

“Well, okay then,” I said and they proceeded to have a thirty minute discussion about gender inequality in Morocco and what exactly a girl looks for in a man, a tangent spearheaded by Omar who was CLEARLY trying to figure out how to get himself a girlfriend.

The PCVs also taught clubs in the afternoon.  I taught a creative writing class, which meant I mostly had my English class again.  I had a bunch of Pixar shorts on my computer, which I used as prompts.  The first day I showed them "Jack-Jack Attack" without the audio, and the kids wrote what they though was happening.  At the end of the class, I played the video with the audio, and a bunch of them were worried that they had gotten their stories "wrong," since they were different than the audio, and I had to assure them there is no "wrong" answer on a creative writing assignment.  On the last day, I showed them "Lifted" and had them write what they thought happened the next day.  I've never taught writing before, although I've taken a few writing classes, and I mostly emphasized show, not tell and encouraged them to use dialogue and use their imagination, for the love of God, there is no correct answer on a creative writing assignment.

El Jadida Spring Camp 2013 
My creative writing club: Omar, Sami, Ayman, Maryam, Widad (from r → l)

Like all Moroccan camps, there were also activities every evening that lasted until almost midnight.  (By the end of the week, even the kids were looking a bit exhausted.)  There were two talent shows (Moroccan youth have a lot of talent to go around) and game and trivia nights, and so many dance parties, many of them impromptu.  One evening, Carrie and I walked out of the auditorium, only to find ourselves caught in a flash mob dancing to C'est La Vie.  My new goal is to learn the dance for Logobitombo and Balada Boa before I go to camp this summer.

El Jadida Spring Camp 2013 
C'est La Vie flashmob
El Jadida Spring Camp 2013 
Wheelbarrow race one evening
El Jadida Spring Camp 2013 
Doha building a pyramid out of plastic cups held with sticks during game night.

The PCVs were asked to participate in the talent show, and in lieu of any actual talent, we performed a short skit in Arabic, about how I threatened to draw a mustache on my more inattentive students and Sherry made her students walk around holding their chairs because they wouldn't stay seated.  It got a lot of laughs, although I suspect it was mostly our accents.

El Jadida Spring Camp 2013 
It was a good week with a great group of PCVs

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lost in Translation

The spring camp where I’m spending the week working has a small library of French and English books.  One of the campers, Khawla, was reading an English biography about Mary McLeod Bethune in English, and she asked me to define slave.

“It’s a person who was taken from Africa to work in America,” I told her.

“I don’t understand,” she told me.

“Umm, it’s a person who has to work, but isn’t paid any money,” I tried.

“Oh,” she said, comprehension dawning.  “Like you!  Mutatwi3in (volunteers).”


Luckily, another PCV knew the French for slave, which cleared things up.