I started a hiking club last month, with the goal of promoting healthy behaviors through physical exercise—one of the Youth Development Project Framework’s objectives. I was inspired by two Peace Corps volunteer friends, Anthony and Bri. I saw photos of their excursions on Facebook and it looked like something fun and easy to do. I also hope that participants will gain a different respect for the environment. In my town, there is garbage everywhere! There is a system of garbage pick-up and clean-up, but I still notice many candy wrappers, plastic bags, etc on the streets, in the parks, and in the forest. We plan on meeting once or twice a month, and eventually we will plan for environmental awareness events around Earth Day in April.
The first outing was to a gazelle forest nearby that follows the train tracks (Marrakesh-Benguerir-Settat-Casablanca, etc). We saw two trains pass by and waved! We weren’t able to enter the gazelle forest, because we need to request permission in advance. We met at 9am at the youth center and I was surprised that everyone was on time because Sunday is the only day students have to sleep in during the week! They were ready to go with sports clothes, water bottles, and a snack. The boys and girls had a really fun time walking, talking, and singing camp songs. They don’t have many opportunities to hang out with friends outside of school, and I think they also made new friends on the excursion. One of my English students, Nassira, made chocolate cake for everyone! When we stopped for a break and snack, everyone shared their water, yogurt drinks, and egg sandwiches. It was a very friendly atmosphere, with such well-mannered boys and girls! At the end of the excursion, they all said thank you very much and asked if we could do it again the following week, but we decided to wait until their school vacation.
The second outing (during their school break) was this past Sunday to the mountains outside of town. The group was smaller because there were theatre workshops happening at the youth center in preparation for a festival later this month. We found an abandoned factory from the French protectorate in one of the valleys and many caves and holes. They used to mine phosphate and other minerals there. We found lots of cool rocks. The walls of the building had drawings on them, including a cowboy and horse! Hahaha! We also found a snakeskin, and my students Mohacine, Abdulwahed, and Mustapha, who live in a farming village near the mountains, told us that there are scorpions, too!
Next time we’re going to hike to a stream on another side of town. I’m so excited! I have always really enjoyed spending time outdoors, because I like the beauty and peacefulness of nature. I can’t go out hiking alone for safety and security reasons here, but I did get the ok from the Gendarmarie to go bike riding along the main road, which I do once or twice a week. Sometimes I go bike riding to the surrounding duars (farming villages) with my friend Samira.
I always try to get my neighbors to take walks and get out and exercise, but they are more comfortable at home. Many of them are overweight but they say their husbands find that attractive. They say “Rosana, you’re too skinny.” “You need to get fat.” “Kuli, kuli, kuli!” (“Eat, eat, eat!”). They have taught me how to make delicious Moroccan dishes like couscous, tagine, and Moroccan salads, and we enjoy watching dramatic Turkish and Indian soap operas as we dip homemade bread in olive oil. I have managed to get them to sit at the park on our street and take short walks around the neighborhood, but my attempt to start a woman’s walking/running club failed. It has been difficult to get women motivated. However, the young people love the excursions so I will continue working with them!