Connie in Morocco and Beyond

These are my travel experiences beginning in 2006 with my Peace Corps service in Morocco. At the request of friends and my own desire to document, I continued blogging my journeys to other countries as well as in the U. S. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in South Africa. The content of this blog is mine alone, and does not reflect any position of the U. S. government or the Peace Corps

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Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

The Big Sky country of Montana is home sweet home!

Friday, September 12, 2014


On 9/11/2016, I was headed to Morocco for 27 months with the Peace Corps. The plane was fairly empty, and it was a strange feeling to be going to a Muslim country on that day.

As part of that experience, I was involved in training new PCVs and made several trips to Ouarzazate (near the Sahara)...a 90 mile drive (from my village) that took 3 hours in a passenger car...longer by public transportation.  There was a recent article about this road that showed up on FB yesterday.  Here tis:

Thursday, September 11, 2014


As I have not a lot to do at work, I offered to help Kai, my landlady who has contracted with the Department of Ed to help run the Spelling Bees, for a few days.  Here is a photo the three top finishers (out of 39 sixth-grade competitors), along with a couple of officials, and Kai at the podium.  As always, it was fun to see the wide variety of physical sizes of this age group.  It was very exciting when it got down to the elimination round. The short little black girl was the winner.

It was very cool that she introduced me as a Peace Corps Volunteer from America who was also a volunteer with Operation HOPE.  Nice when both of those orgs get publicity for what they do.  This is the first ever for South Africa, so there were some glitches but it ran pretty smoothly. Next is the Nationals in October but I'll be on holiday with my American friends at that time.

Monday, September 01, 2014


Although I make it a point to walk about an hour a day, it became very clear to me yesterday that my walking was not what it was back home...that is, it's been more like a stroll here!  I did a 10K with a friend, and with her encouragement to go my own speed, walked faster. I met my goal of doing it in 90 minutes, but discovered that now the 15-minute mile is quite  hard work, which it hadn't been so much a year ago. And, I am sore today, primarily in my hips.  So I guess competitive walking is likely no longer in my future.  What's the point if it makes my hurt?  However, there were a lot of older walkers ahead of me, so not sure I'm ready to give  up the ghost yet...(who?  me?  competitive?!)   I'll be posting the official results of the walk when they get them online to see just what the outcome was.

Otherwise, at work I have made the revisions to the adult curriculum except for the case study, which I'll complete this week.  Am trying to set up a week in Limpopo (where I did research) with PCV Gilbert to do the program at the adult learning center there with him either this month or in November.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


One of the teachers here has been doing the Operation HOPE financial literacy program for a number of years, and we were invited out to do a "Financial Walk for Freedom" which was done elsewhere on Mandela Day, but since they were on holiday at that time, we did a delayed talk/walk on Monday afternon.
This is the lobby entrance to the facility. The school is located way out in the middle of nowhere, intentionally, to deter tourists, I think.  After all, it is simply a boarding school and not a museum or tourist attraction, but with Oprah's name on it, it is bound to attract the curious.

Ubuntu means "I am because we are."  This is a verse of their school song.  The school's motto is all about Education Is Our Tomorrow.

Two of the learners were the emcees, and wore the uniforms of green and gold.  The other students wore their casual clothes, as there has been a water shortage in the community lately.

Tshidi doing her presentation.
The audience.  The enrollment is about 270; this presentation was just for certain grades; probably about 150 in attendance.

I got a few minutes to talk about the Peace Corps.

Finished up with a walk around the circumference of the property.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Here's the two great women that were the class for the pilot program of the new adult curriculum in financial education I just completed.  Tshidi (my counterpart) and I co-taught the class and we got lots of good feedback from them, realized where to make corrections/adjustments...just like a pilot is supposed to work.  Emily is a church member and a special ed teacher, and Romy works in H. R. for a bank.

Now I'll make those changes and get it out to the many Peace Corps Volunteers who attended my recent presentation so they can take it out to their communities.  Progress!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


After distributing about 100 flyers here and there as well as talking to a lot of people, we ended up with only two people attending the first session of the "Managing My Money" class held at my church last Saturday. The primary purpose was to pilot the go through all the modules and revise as needed, and it was very beneficial for that reason.  The two women attending were very engaged and interacted well.  The second (and last session) will be this next Saturday.  Approval of my draft from the U. S. office of my NGO has been extremely slow in coming.  There are PCVs who are eager to start using it in their communities, so we likely will provide the materials to them as reviewed/revised from these two sessions.

Next is to get a pilot set up for the NGO management basics course I wrote.  Hopefully that will occur in September.  Not sure what work I'll be doing after that.

It was getting quite nice and warm, even in my house,, but then came much needed rain and it cooled off quite a bit, but spring is here!  With it, my first cold/illness since I've been here. I will make use of the cold meds I brought with me (not knowing I would be living in  place where they have most nearly everything!) At least I don't need to worry about having a lot of things to do if this cold gets me down!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


 On Friday the 8th I caught a ride with people from a Rotary club in Boksburg (a Joburg suburb)  to go with them to Laura's village for their project to help furnish the creche (day care center) Laura's host father helped start in an old church.  I had a long discussion with him during my previous visit there, which was mutually beneficial, as it gave him many factors to consider and helped me understand NGOs (non-governmental organizations) here and to write my NGO Management Basics class, which I've just completed.   One of the member's sister works in a nearby clinic, and staff from there did numerous classes.
Connie, Arthur (the community leader) and PCV Laura

Flossing demonstration.  The woman on the right is the creche director and the Indian women work at the clinic.  

Mothers listening on health care for small children.  Arthur served as translator.  He is a retired professional and his English skills are very good.  A wonderful man.  His wife is a delight as well.

Kids at Laura's host family house.  No smiles for the camera...

Always, the motivating factor...come, and you get food!  Vast amounts of "pap" (a corn-meal staple in the village diet) along with chicken pieces (no heads or feet) and gravy. Not bad!  We ate with our fingers along with everyone else.

The Rotary and Rotaracts (a club for younger members) in front of Laura's house, joined by some local children.  There was one other older couple not in the picture. 
The covered porch at the Nxasa guest lodge where I stayed with 9 Rotaracts.  It was a lovely place...Each couple had their own bathroom, there was a fully equipped kitchen.  We had a braii (BBQ) using coals from the wood fireplace, with tons of wonderful steaks, music, dancing, etc.  (aka drinking).   I did the "sokkie"  which is like our jitterbug, and think I surprised them that this old American woman could dance like that!  My roomie was Jessica, an accountant and perfect match for me...she went to bed early as well and didn't drink much.  :)   It was so rejuvenating to have this socialization!
Sunrise as viewed from the porch of the lodge.  Most of the guests who stay here come to do the Battlefields tours...The infamous historical fights between the Zulus and the Anglos (Brits).

Sunday, August 03, 2014


Big beautiful tree near a stream on one of my walks

I've been spending more than a little time planning a two-week vacation in October with nine friends who are coming here from the U. S.  Due to numerous circumstances beyond my control, it has been challenging, to say the least, but is finally coming together and should be all sorted out (as we say here in S. A.) this week. I'm lucky to get a roommate; a friend of a friend that I've met casually but like most all else, has an adventurous spirit, and she seems up for most anything.  We're going to Kruger Park, Victoria Falls, and Cape Town, among other things.  Really looking forward to it!

It's starting to warm up a bit here, and wouldn't be surprised to see it get up to 60 in my house fairly soon, which will be heartily welcomed. Am making good use of my two pairs of long underwear (worn simultaneously) that I brought, as well as fleece!

Monday, July 28, 2014


A huge event in Joburg is a walk (running not allowed!) that attracts about 50,000.  It is a fund-raiser for charities and this year also a celebration of the 20th year of democracy, with a 20K race walk, a 20K walk, an 8K and 5K.  It was our intention to do the 20K walk, but a disconnect between the person who had our bibs (mandatory at the gate to the start line, and we were 30 seconds too late, so waited an hour to start the 8K.

It was still fun, as these two women were of good spirit and it was nice to just walk at a leisurely pace. There were 18,000 doing the 8K, but amazingly enough, it wasn't too crowded or stressful.  Afterward we went to the rooftop African market where I handed out flyers to the vendors about workshops scheduled for August at a meeting room at my church.  A great weekend!

Saturday, July 26, 2014



I had the opportunity to once again travel with PC staff to a facility near Polokwane in the Limpopo province, this time to present to 28 volunteers and their counterparts about my NGO, in order for them to decide if they would like to use our program as a side project at their site.  I did five 90-minute presentations.  It was very fun and fulfilling.

View from my room at daybreak.

I so enjoyed seeing Gilbert again, with whom I spent about two weeks when I was doing research, and to meet many great new Volunteers and other NGO people

Also had the opportunity to observe monkeys close up and personal.  They hover around the lodge, and very bravely hop on to outside tables and take food from diner's plates!  Here's one chomping on an apple, with a rusk (kind of like biscotti) in the other hand.  Entertaining!
younger one hanging around

Six of them monkeying around in a tree near the main meeting room...