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Cover photo: Waves, Harhoura by Jessica Wamala

Garrab by Christopher Castelli A collage depicting the traditional Moroccan water vendor who can be seen in many marketplaces... especially during the hot dry summer.

THE STAFF Executive Editor: Jane Bruyere Production Manager: Ryan McFarlin Literary Editors: Adelia Gray & Alexander Levin-Epstein Photo Editor: Ben Zapchenk


Letter from the Editors

Welcome to the Spring 2017 issue of PeaceWorks, the final issue from the Staj 97 Editorial Team. For decades, PeaceWorks has provided a literary and artistic outlet for volunteers serving in Morocco. We have immensely enjoyed continuing that tradition. Everywhere we look in Morocco, from a surprise desert rainstorm to a steaming tajine shared with neighbors, we find a world that inspires us. This issue features many works that document such moments of inspiration. On our cover, you will see Jessica Wamala’s photo of the beach in Harhoura, one of the first breathtaking sights in Morocco for both Staj 97 and 98. Inside our pages, you will find pieces exploring diverse volunteer experiences, from Steven Howard’s insightful reflections on Religion and Friendship to Julie Sherbill’s punchy musings on imperial feminism. We hope that as you read this issue, you will find yourself transported to the unique lives of other volunteers throughout Morocco. While our time here is temporary, how lucky are we all to have singular moments and inspirations that we can hold onto long after our close of service. Regards, The PeaceWorks Editorial Team

Feel Alive by Christine Brenner A collage done at the Youth Center to introduce university student-participants to collage techniques.

Have something to submit to PeaceWorks? Email your writing, pictures, art, ideas, recipes, and more to peaceworks.morocco@gmail.com PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘17

“I am continually impressed at how young leaders, who are devout Muslims themselves, are stepping up to address injustices in their society”



Let Girls Learn by Jennifer Williams

Religion & Friendship in Morocco

Steven Howard

After completing three months of training, my colleagues

As a foreign observer of this culture, I am continually

and I headed over to Rabat, Morocco’s capital, to be sworn

impressed at how young leaders, who are devout Muslims

in as official Peace Corps Volunteers in April 2015. Holy

themselves, are stepping up to address injustices in their

Week had just begun, and I attended Palm Sunday Mass

society, many of which have been traditionally defended

at the magnificent Saint Peter’s Cathedral. Two days

through an appeal to certain interpretations of religion.

later, I found myself on the arduous 14-hour bus ride

As throughout many countries in the world, Moroccan

to the rural southeastern region of the country to begin

women struggle to find equal opportunity and rights

work at my site. I remember reflecting on how it would

and many of them, joined by many men, are fighting

be possible for me to practice my Catholic faith in such a

for gender equality here. I am inspired to see countless

remote area of a country that self-reports its population

citizens, such as my friend Bochra who recently

as 99% Sunni Muslim. Accordingly, I searched online for

represented girls’ education activists in a Let Girls Learn

parishes in my province and I found one in Errachidia,

event with First Lady Michelle Obama, stand as an

my town’s closest major city. However, when I arrived

inspiration for more girls in Morocco, particularly those

there Easter morning, I could not locate the church for

from rural backgrounds, to pursue a university education.

over an hour and grew panicked. As someone who hails from a religiously diverse place What I can tell you now, after worshipping in that parish

such as San Jose, I am inspired by peacebuilders, such

for over a year, is that our Catholic community is so

as my friend Mohammed, an elementary school teacher

small that a specifically designated church building is

near Fez who is passionate about preserving Jewish

unnecessary to meet our needs. Indeed, if it were not

history in Morocco, who are working toward building

for the local university, which has a large community of

improved understanding of other religions on the behalf

sub-Saharan African students, our congregation would

of Moroccans. In my own classes, I have had enlightening

only number seven, including myself. Consequently, we

conversations with students about religious liberty and

assemble in the salon of our priest’s home, which bears no

was encouraged to see that they not only unanimously

external resemblance to a Christian place of worship other

agreed to support a hypothetical arrival of Christian

than the worn-out words “Eglise Catholique” appearing

refugees to our town, but also said they would personally

less than half an inch in height next to the doorbell.

welcome them.

On that unique Easter morning, I was blessed to have

After serving in Morocco for 24 months, I encourage

found a taxi driver who knew of the church’s location, told

all Americans to befriend Muslims and welcome them

me to hop in and then drove me there for free because he

into our diverse nation because of the ethical lives Islam

said I would not be able to find it searching on my own.

inspires them to live. That taxi driver who drove me to

Indeed such an action defies negative stereotypes of not

church for free was one of many strangers I continue to

only taxi drivers worldwide, but also of Muslims in the

meet in Morocco every day who treat me like a member

eyes of many westerners. Furthermore, after 24 months

of their family and who any American would be blessed

in Morocco, experience after experience has reinforced

to call his neighbor.

to me how blessed I am to have Muslims in my life.



Photo of Lake Islli (bride) or Tisli (groom) in Imichil by Allen McConeghey

Old Grainery in Figuig by Allen McConeghey



The line that separates my two homes – hearts - Strait of Gibraltar by Rosana Zarza-Canova

Somewhere between Essaouira and Agadir, Health Peace Hike 3 by Allen McConeghey



Magical, Musical 3ashura Katie Bercegeay

3ashura, the Islamic New Year, is celebrated on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed that Allah created Adam and Eve, heaven and earth, life and death on this day. In Morocco, 3ashura is magical. Blessings are found in both fire and water, the effects of which are said to last throughout the year. Hence, bonfires light up in towns throughout the country, and children sing and play their newly gifted drums in the streets until very late into the night. This is the story of my first 3ashura in Morocco. The sun had just set when it started. Drumming. The beats mixed. There seemed to be little organization to the sounds that came from every direction. With excited haste and each a traditional Moroccan drum in hand, my little host siblings propped open our front door and set out a lawn chair for me to sit in on the concrete street. It was only a moment before the neighboring children flocked to us, all adorned with their own drums of various colors and shapes. I felt like mom on the street, but the kids, ages 3 to 10, thought of me differently—and more accurately: as a shiny, new person in town to whom they needed to demonstrate the spirit of 3ashura. So they played, and it indeed was magical. Even the 3-year-old Marwa from across the street gestured for me to play with her, so I learned. Or, I tried to learn. For someone who considers herself to have decent rhythm, Moroccan drumming, I learned, is somewhat beyond me. It felt like jazz in the way I’ve heard it described by a friend from New


Grass Roots Soccer Ball by Christine Brenner PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘17

Orleans: “It’s like someone decided to put a handful of people playing completely different things in the same

room and somehow the world regards the product as

As I looked around, somewhat nervous at being the

music.” This is Moroccan drumming to me. Confusing

entire street’s center of attention, I noticed the

and phenomenal.

immense and undeniable joy each woman and girl

Half an hour into the jam session on my doorstep

exuded as they played and chanted. They were wild

(Scenes des Jeunes, if you will), our ears were abruptly

and free, and they welcomed me into their circle to

ambushed. We slowed, then stopped, and listened. It

experience that same wildness and freedom with

was apparent that we were being outplayed by a larger

them, I realized. With this reflection, I let loose and

gathering down the street. The music quickly increased

begin to dance, still in the middle of the circle with

in volume several fold. Our ears and eyes curiously

all eyes still on me, but as if no one was watching.

searched for the source from our perch until we set out to find it. Even the adorable 3-year-old Marwa

When I was summoned to go home to have dinner

was able to walk down the street with us without a

with my host family, I was thankful and ready. My

parent or older sibling. Well, this would never happen

energy had been depleted, but I continued to dance

in the States, I thought to myself as I offered up the

my way out of the circle and away with my little

experience to all the anxious moms back home.

host sister, much to her amusement, I think.

My posse of children and I walked

All is good and settled, I

up to a much smaller drum circle

thought. It amazed me how

than I expected, but it was absolutely dynamic. All women and




were simply stationed in a circle against the wall of a neighbor’s home. I swiftly greeted a few of the ladies I see everyday on my way to and from language class,

Suddenly, I was the spotlight dancer leading a parade of drummers down my street en route to a satisfying meal.

a mere 20 minutes of fun in this new and different context completely drained me. But, I thought such a thing too soon. My long-time dream of starring in a real-life musical began to take shape in that moment.

per usual. Salam. Labas? Labas. Hamdullah.



mzyan, hamdullah.

The drum circle followed us. All the way home. Suddenly, I was the spotlight dancer leading a parade of drummers down my

In a single moment, I lifted my gaze from my last

street en route to a satisfying meal. Women in

greeting and immediately met eyes with whom I

each home curiously flung open their shutters in

instantly knew was the ringleader of the drum circle.

almost choreographed fashion to look down onto

Suddenly, it seemed all of the eyes present in the circle

the street at us, a roaring spectacle. I indulged

gazed back at me. “Shnu smitk?” the leader asked

in the uniqueness of the moment, and my sister

me. What’s your name? “Kiri!” I yelled back, stating

was completely wide-eyed. I wished to know her

what my host family understands my name to be. A

thoughts in that moment. Surely, she was either

brief moment of unexpected pause passed before the

enchanted or terrified.

drumming began again without noticeable cue. All 30+ women and girls present began to chant my pseudo-

Once at our front door, my sister and I paused for

name as I was simultaneously thrown into the middle

a brief goodbye to everyone, young and old, and

of the circle, given a seat and a drum, and instructed

the parade, not without ensuring our safe arrival

to play along. All eyes still on me. Well this is new,

and satisfaction, continued on down the road and

I thought. Must. Embrace. Shiny and new status.

throughout the town without us. But we followed

Must play drum. Make friends with neighbor ladies.

along in spirit, the spirit of 3ashura.

Integrate to new town.



Trayvon Joshua Eugene Griffin The world will never know what you could’ve been You were killed over suspicion I’ve seen your face on CNN and even Fox News I wish I could turn off the tube and pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming But I’ve walked down streets too with the hoodie up An Arizona Ice Tea in one hand and skittles in the other The spotlight must have been on me Because I felt And still feel, the judgment being burned into my skin Judge those before we get to know them I don’t believe myself to be Moses I’m sick of the American view of minority youth But when I walk through the mall I too have tattoos Crowds of people part like the Red Sea But that doesn’t mean I belong to a gang Security must be walking in my shoes I’m an art collector because they’re following my every step Whose story can be read through skin Purses always seem to alternate hands Believe it or not . . . I guess you could say, that’s a trait of being a black man I DON’T HAVE KIDS!!! I’ve seen children run and hide when I come near I treat women with respect It’s as if I’m the black plague Dr. King once spoke of a time when he had a dream Or a man they’ve seen on an episode of cops Is this it? But this poem isn’t about me If he went to the mountain top, and looked down, It’s about the boys who’ve laid dead in the . . . would he be proud Fruitvale Station Of America’s current state Florida Morgue We live in a nation where grown men can murder And Ferguson Streets the youth by claiming self-defense Parents who live in a world of darkness If you come at me with a gun Because their sons can’t rise from the dead Aim for my head, or you’ll end up dead The countless lives that never made the news I’d claim self-defense too They would rather live fast and die young But I’m bi-racial But there’s no coming back from death So I’d be looking at LIFE So in death we’ll know: So this poem is about me Trayvon Martin Because I could be . . . Oscar Grant III Trayvon Martin And Mike Brown Jr. Oscar Grant III Side to the story Or Mike Brown Jr. We’ve been fighting the same fight since before the revolution Maybe tomorrow I will be RACISM, it’s the elephant in the room I’ll end this piece with a question . . . It’s what we’re conditioned to do DO I LOOK SUSPICIOUS? ? ?



Oued Beht, Trainees Jesse Altman and Ariana Gould by Jessica Wamala

Photo by Allen McConeghey





A house without a TV in Morocco Rosana Zarza-Canova Fahija misses her Indian soap operas. There’s a big space that was left behind by the TV that broke in the Zuwedi’s house. Now there’s a small clock on the TV stand or sometimes the bread basket gets placed there. I went over to see Hajiba but she had stayed in the duar for the night. There was a crazy, friendly old aunt or cousin visiting who looks as if she is about to die. We sat around talking about everything and nothing, looked out the windows, Fahija told me all about the neighborhood dogs, Ikram came with Fatima’s diaper—she had gone to the “bad neighborhood” to purchase it at the cheapest price, and then we ate leftover couscous—yummy! Afterwards, the women started talking in an accent I didn’t understand, like witches or even tribal, telling stories, and I left with a piece of homemade bread wrapped in a cloth.

Rooftops of Meknes by Jessica Wamala



Love Poem

This is NOT a love poem This is me standing on a dock Gazing at the horizon I wonder . . . Will a ship ever come? Because I’m willing to build a foundation Of brick mixed with universe That way our relationShip would withstand time I’m drowning From thoughts of what could have been I sewed my mouth shut, caged my tongue, bared love Joshua Eugene Griffin I was told a song never sounds the same, after the first time you hear it Yet, you’re a song who never ages I could read the same page of your HERstoy, and find something new about you You’re the sun setting over Lake Chelan 93 million miles away, but I still feel the warmth of your rays Your beauty reflects various shades of blue While your eyes illuminate the evening sky Blind to all but always there I think to myself . . . An imaginary friend If this is heaven, don’t wake me Who keeps your secrets safer than the gold in Fort Knox Let this moment be a photo of forever These arms would be the atmosphere A scar which reminds me of emotions once felt Protecting you from evil that escaped from Pandora’s Box I’d tattoo this pain, These hands would be Rose But it could not mirror the agony of a broken heart Who promised Jack she’ll never let go . . . So I chose to ink my life on the walls of my journal A soul colder than absolute zero Hear my prayer Runs from love I want to be air I know It’s always been you From the first time I saw you I didn’t know what to say . . . Till the last time I walked away I wish you could read the words on this page No other women has passed through my mind As many times as you . . . Were like breath, And you left, Me breathless . . . This is goodbye I’d write you a love poem But our ship would sink Our foundation would crumble I still haven’t found the words Nor the one, to express the love For a love poem Ramadan Pears by Christopher Castelli So this is NOT a love poem An oil painting done at home during the Ramadan school break. This is me standing on a dock, waiting . . .




One day walking home from the dar shebab in the rain Rosana Zarza-Canova Her brother keeps asking me on the street for a soccer ball so I ask to be taken to his home but I didn’t know she was his sister. We go upstairs to a room with a hasira, thin ponj, and a table. There are papers scattered all over the floor and books piled on the table. Nadia sits down, puts her hands on her head, and moans: “I hate Economics. I hate French.” I find a dried orange peel where I sit next to her and pick at it. She had told me this story times before: “I don’t know if I should get married or go to university.” I look at papers with equations or Chinese next to me on the floor. I pick up a blank piece of paper and we go through the pros and cons of the situation—get married or go to university, study Economics or English. The answer is university and English, of course, but she still says “I don’t know,” even though her parents want her to be happy, and so do I.

Ain Asserdoune by Christopher Castelli A collage depicting a local landmark; it was done to demonstrate collage techniques to the participants at the Youth Center.



Put Yourself First for Him Julie Sherbill

I read about the term “imperialist feminism” in the past, but I had no idea how much this theory would permeate and complicate my thoughts as an American woman living in Morocco. Imperialist feminism seems like an extreme term that wouldn’t actually apply to my experiences. Some quick googling tells me that it is... “an ideological framework… based on the idea that the West is a superior culture because it believes in democracy, human rights, secularism, women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, and a whole host of other liberal values, whereas the Global South is barbaric, misogynistic, driven by religion, and illiberal. From this follows the ‘white man’s burden’ and the ‘white woman’s burden’ …to ‘liberate’ less fortunate women in other parts of the world.”



Print by Alejandra Álvarez



he Peace Corps might have even emerged from these same assumptions that propagate imperialist feminism. But since I’ve been privileged to never experience war or systemic oppression, imperialist

feminism for me means the eagerness of people at home to hear about the plight of women here. In reality, how patriarchal norms operate on women anywhere depends on a whole host of factors in addition to gender. Without acknowledging that our society is patriarchal too, discussions around global women’s rights become a way to orientalize other cultures and reaffirm United States superiority. Indeed, despite the fact that I’ve had every freedom in terms of choice and economic mobility, I’m still negatively impacted by a form of patriarchy that, from what I have experienced so far, doesn’t exist to the same degree here in Morocco. I’m sure there’s another academic word for it, but for now I’ll call this form of internalized patriarchy “defining-womanhood-and-beauty-not-from-within-ourselves-butrather-in-competition-for-the-male-gaze.” It’s succinct, I know.

Why Are We So Obsessed With Body Image? So rewind a little bit. During CBT, I was sitting in my living room in my host family’s house. (This is where a lot of my stories start.) My host mom was just staring at me, and suddenly made a move towards my face. She touched it lovingly, and goes…

“Julie ghalida!!!” That means, “Julie is fat.” My host mom just told me I’m fat. My face turned into a frown. I hoped that she was just kidding. So I asked her, “What? I am?” She

I want to be able to feel like a woman, and feel beautiful, without comparing myself to someone else or entering into a competition that’s on someone else’s terms.

replied with a laugh—“just a little, in your face, from my Moroccan bread!” My host family seemed to think that my appalled face was some sort of a joke, so they put air into their cheeks and point to me, laughing some more. Let me just clarify something, by the way. There is no possible way I haven’t gained a considerable amount of weight here. I eat like, a loaf of bread every day, and right now, it’s so cold that I don’t even want to move. So yeah, my face is definitely a bit rounder and my clothes a bit (okay, a lot) tighter. But why am I so hurt by being called fat? My weight gain is just a stupid fact. There’s lots of scholarly evidence that the American definition of beauty for females usually includes someone who fits a particular (skinny) prototype, and how the normalization of this body type has varied, detrimental effects on women. If you happen to feel like your body doesn’t fit this ideal, there’s a whole host of mediums, from magazines to weight-loss TV shows to societal perceptions, that are telling you that you won’t be wanted, attractive, or enough until you lose weight. Also, think about how many words there are to avoid calling someone “fat,” since it’s become this static insult in English. In Arabic, it’s just an adjective.

Where are the Hamams in DC? This whole “fear of fat” disguises itself as society’s paternalistic care for our health as women, but the way we talk about weight and weight loss has nothing to do with health and everything to do with judgment. These weight norms didn’t come from American women, but instead from this “defining-




fellow campers wanted me to dance


with a boy, since it was just time,

Man, I (Kind of) Feel Like A Woman?

competition-for-the-male-gaze.” At

I guess. After realizing that some

For anyone who identifies as a

the same time, many women in the

boy’s super-fun dancing times were

woman, they might be able to

United States, including me, have

not going to happen with the other

relate to this desire: I want to be

certainly internalized these norms.

girl whom he liked, he settled for

able to feel like a woman, and feel

me. We talked for about five seconds

beautiful, without comparing myself

That is why, if I could guess, a hamam

on the dance floor and then got to

to someone else or entering into

in my community at home would not

the serious business of mixed-gender

a competition that’s on someone

be popular for women, even though

dancing, which we so accurately

else’s terms. While I’m physically

it’s a gender-segregated space. Even

defined as “grinding.”

in Morocco, I have internalized

if we’re not in front of the “male gaze”






Since this nausea-inducing grinding


women I know would have a hard

session at sleepaway camp, I have


time being naked in front of each

avoided any sort of dance that

male-gaze” from the United States.

other because, simply put, we would

might express my femininity, even

judge each other. We sexualize the

if I’m only with other women.

I’m still trying to be okay with

female body, and (problematically)

Flash forward ten years: I am at


once we sexualize it, we’re putting

a Moroccan wedding, waiting for

dancing without reliving my days of

it back in front of the male gaze and

the ceremony part to start. We’re

sleepaway camp socials. My ultimate

conditioning it with weight norms.

in a gender-segregated space and

goal is being a “strong, independent

someone brings in the stereo set

woman.” I feel like I have the

Sometimes I joke athat everything’s

and almost every girl and woman—

“strong, independent” part down

a competition with Americans, but

from 4-year-olds to grandmothers,

pretty well, but I’m still working

in my experience, it’s kind of true.

of all sizes, heights, and levels of

on removing the “woman” part

In Morocco, no one really cares

makeup—starts shaking their hips

from the unrealistic, sexualized,

about being naked in front of each

and behinds in the most confident

and competitive expectations that

other. Your body doesn’t define your

and skillful way.

conditioned it back in the United States.

Especially when we’re in a gender-

I want to say that I can’t dance like

I’ll get back to you when I’ve

segregated space, none of that stuff

them because it’s just not in my genes.

succeeded, but for now, I’ll drown

is a competition anyway. On the

I don’t come from people that dance

myself in spoofs and commentary

other hand, in the United States,

this way, so it’s not my fault that I

from body-positive female comedians.

there are many workout classes,

can’t do it, right? But in reality, for

They remind me to laugh in the face of

youtube videos, and magazines that

me, whenever I try to dance like that,

this elusive “male gaze” that makes

make money on promising American

I feel like I’m entering into some sort

us feel anything less than worthy.

women their “bikini body,” so

of competition for sexiness, and it’s a

I have to laugh at these problems

they can win an unannounced

competition that I definitely don’t feel

because in reality, we women have

competition of looking the best at

beautiful or confident enough to win.

more important and serious things

the beach (or on Facebook).

If my first encounter with dancing

to do than be held down by them.




sexuality, beauty, or womanhood.

were in a space that had nothing to do

You Must Be This Hot to Dance

with capturing the attention of men,

For me, not just my body, but also

I think I’d feel more comfortable

the way I move it, has been made

with it today. Just like our bodies

part of this competition under male

don’t have to be naked for someone

gaze. Now please rewind again,

else, dancing doesn’t have to be sexy

this time to ten years ago. I was at

for someone else.

a sleepaway camp social, where my PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘17



Carte de Sejour by Jennifer Williams





Profile for PeaceWorks Morocco

PeaceWorks Spring 2017  

Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer publication of essays, poetry and photos

PeaceWorks Spring 2017  

Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer publication of essays, poetry and photos