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

My Photo
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

The Big Sky country of Montana is home sweet home!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

OCTOBER HOLIDAY! (a work in progress as photos come in from others)

Susie and John arrived first on Thursday night.  We rode the Gautrain to Pretoria on Friday and saw the Voortrekkers Museum and the Union Buildings, then back to Joburg in time to greet the next group:  Pam and Terry, Dale and Jackie, and Ann..  Saturday we did the Red Bus, seeing the city/area, visiting the Apartheid Museum, then going to Ellis Park for rugby.

Rugby game was a hit with my visitors!  Springboks vs New Zealand.  Same teams as in movie "Invictus" and it couldn't have been a more exciting match~

Deane and Rufo arrived late Saturday night, then Sunday morning our driver picked the ten of us up and we headed to Hoedspruit to a game reserve near Kruger Park, called Tshukudu.  Saw lots of antelope, water buffalo, petted cheetahs and leopards, saw a few elephant and giraffes, rhinos.

Cheetah resting in a tree

Twin termite hills.  Lots of very large termite hills all over the game reserve.

The game reserve owner/driver Chris would rev up his engine a few times, then the lion would roar back in response.  We could see the energy it takes to roar, using the entire diaphragm, but he did it in a very non-threatening way, just laid there and roared.

(to post: photo of Jessica the hippo)

After two nights there, we flew to Livingstone, Zambia, staying at a not-so-great backpackers facility.  Our river safari to Chobe Game Resereve in Botswana was spectacular, seeing hundreds of elephants, water buffalo, many crocs, lots of birds and always, antelope.  The game drive in the afternoon was okay.

Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe side.  Look closely and see the people in Devi'ls Pool.  I chickened out before we even got there and believe it was a wise decision!

Victoria Falls near Devil's Pool - Zambia side.  Devil's Pool is behind me.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Operation HOPE was asked to do the new adult curriculum for a group of young adults who are attending numerous courses on Saturday mornings that is sponsored by a religious organization to help them achieve a better life.

I presented to twenty-eight 19-20 year olds, covering the first three modules of the program:  Dignity, Values, and Goals; Wants vs. Needs and Trade-offs; and Money and Budgeting.  They were a great group of young people and it was such a pleasure to do Peace Corps' goals on a direct basis!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Stop Hunger is a local NGO that provides food to needy, including day care centers.  Tshidi has been doing some financial literacy sessions for many of the owners/teachers in a township, and they asked for a training on NGO Management Basics, the other program I designed but not yet tried.

There were 12 women participating, and after they warmed up to me and the content, we had a pretty lively session, ending with their desire to have us return to do more in-depth training on some of the areas we skimmed over and/or didn't have time to cover.  Always leave them wanting more, right?  It was rewarding and I hope to be able to go back in November.

Otherwise, it's been pretty "quiet" (aka boring) both at work and play.  In the evenings and weekends, I watch lots of movies/TV programs stored on my computer, read on my Kindle.  I think my social life/friendships is pretty much with the characters in my stories!  Am seeing some good movies at the theaters for about $4 and don't mind going by myself.  Knowing I'm getting to be a short-timer helps curb my loneliness.

I tend to walk 8-11 hours a week, which is a good thing.  The yoga studio where I went to classes (on a great Groupon deal)  was supposed to have moved and hence closed for a period of time, but sadly, she never re-opened.  I rather enjoyed it and felt it was beneficial to my aging body.  I do have some yoga videos so need to get motivated to do it at home on my own.  My eating during the week is pretty minimalistic and healthy, then I indulge in treats on weekends, same as in U. S. Gotta have some sort of pleasures/rewards here besides good workshops!

Enough mundane stuff for today!  We have a big training on Saturday for a NGO for about 36 young adults.  Will report on that next week.

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).