Hello, Nils here. We’re over halfway through our CBT experience, and I figured it might be good to let you know what we’ve been up to for the last couple weeks, as well as what a typical day during CBT looks like.
First off, a quick recap on how Peace Corps training works: when Peace Corps Trainees (we’re not officially Volunteers until we finish training at the end of November) first arrive in country, we get put up in a swanky hotel outside of Rabat for 10 days of orientation. We learn everything from how to use our medical kit to Moroccan governmental structure, with language sessions sprinkled throughout as well.
After we finish orientation, we get sent to our CBT sites. CBT stands for Community Based Training, and is the backbone of the 11-week Peace Corps training we receive in Morocco. Each CBT group consists of about 5-6 trainees and a LCF, or Language and Culture Facilitator. During CBT you live with a host family, study Darija at your LCF’s house, and practice your technical skills (i.e. teaching) at a Dar Chabab or other suitable work site. There are 20 CBT groups in our staj of 110-ish people, and each CBT group is assigned to a town or village in the Fes-Meknes area. Some towns that are particularly large, like Azrou, have two CBT groups instead of one.
Every couple weeks during CBT we have what’s called a Hub, where all 20 CBTs come together for a couple days of group training. This year the Hubs are in Meknes, as were the ones last year, but they might be somewhere else in the future. Hubs are very similar to orientation week – we get put up in a swanky hotel and attend sessions on various topics, with our evenings free to explore the city. We’ve had one Hub already, and our next one will happen soon. Because we’re basically not allowed to leave our CBT sites, most trainees (us included) look forward to Hubs as an opportunity to get out of Dodge for a few days – plus use a Western toilet, an honest-to-goodness shower with hot water, and eat Pizza Hut!
So what is Azrou like anyway? Here’s a couple pictures from some hikes we’ve taken around the area, plus a sunset picture from the roof of our house:
Azrou is situated in the foothills of the Middle Atlas, the mountain range that separates the fertile coastal plains from the western edge of the Sahara. A city of a little under 50,000 people, Azrou has a lot of resources that other CBT sites do not. We have tons of 7anuts (little corner stores that sell everything from soap to Pringles), a bunch of pretty nice cafes, cell service, multiple Dar Chababs, and much more. Azrou and the nearby town of Ifrane are also one of the only places in the world where you can see the Barbary Macaque. Once found all over North Africa, the macaque’s territory has dwindled to the point where they can only be found here, on the Rock of Gibraltar, and some place in Algeria. I don’t have any good photos but you should look them up, they’re pretty cool (also to double check my facts, that’s what people have told me but I have no idea if it’s true).
If you’ve read any other PCV blogs you might know that CBT is pretty intense, and ours is no different. We wake up every day around 7:30, eat breakfast, and walk to our LCF’s house for school at 8:30. We then have language class until noon or a little after, with a short break around 10. Then we head back home for two hours for lunch (lunch is typically the largest meal of the day) and then back to school at 2 or 2:30. From there it varies a bit: sometimes we have cultural sessions, sometimes we have technical sessions, and sometimes we go to the Dar Chabab and teach English. Depending on what we do that day, we might get home anytime between 5 and 8. Once we get home we eat Kaskrut (the all important tea and biscuit snack between lunch and dinner) and then work on any homework or lesson plans we need to do for the next day. Dinner for our family happens around 8:30-9, although some families don’t eat until 11. From there we might watch TV or keep working on lesson plans until 10:30, when we try to go to bed. We do that every day except for Sunday and occasionally Saturday afternoon, which we have to ourselves.
A brief disclaimer that this doesn’t represent everyone’s day-in-day-out CBT experience, even within our little group of six people. I have no idea how other CBT groups spend their days, although I imagine it might be somewhat similar to ours.