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Peace Corps Morocco 1969, 1970 and 1971 50th Anniversary reunion
September 17-18, 2021
Hyatt Place Washington DC/US Capitol
33 New York Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., 20002-3325 United States
+1 202 289 5599

Compilations of memories and life histories by attending and distant volunteers

Marie and Rich Jones
Morocco 1970-72  TEFL, Oujda

When we returned to the US at the end of our service, we responded to the inevitable queries about “How was Monaco?” by clarifying that it was “Morocco, you know, like Casablanca?" We went on to say that we had had our ups and downs, and the downs won. Being married and dressing conservatively did not immunize Marie against unwanted attention given to female nessrani in this socially conservative city, closer geographically and socially to Algeria than to Western Morocco. At the time at least 30% of the city’s population was of Algerian origin. The suspicions and resentment of foreigners generated during that country’s bloody eight-year struggle for independence still bubbled below the surface in Oujda. We loved the teaching English, and the many friendships we established, but when we left it was more with a sense of relief after three home break-ins, that unwelcome attention, and a prolonged student strike during our second year.

It took some time and Marie’s solo return to Oujda in 1973 to put the experience in perspective. Warm memories of the good times we had there gradually pushed the lingering disappointments into the background. Even today, our dinners are often animated by vivid recollectionsof Moroccan, French and American friends, or stories of an embarrassing faux pas or travel escapades in Algeria. And of course, the discovery of the glorious Moroccan cuisine.

Those two years kindled our interest in learning more about the culture, language and history of North Africa and the broader Muslim world. We enrolled in graduate programs at Princeton (Marie in Politics, Rich in Near Eastern Studies) where we were joined by fellow Morocco RPCV Brink Messick. We chose to do our dissertation research in Tunisia (’75-76), one of the few Arab countries at the time where American researchers were welcomed. Our Moroccan derija only provoked laughter. Rich abandoned his formal studies in 1977 with his dissertation half finished to take an opportunity to use his cross cultural and linguistic experience at a Chicago bank seeking to build its business in the Middle East. During interviews at one New York bank, Rich ended up meeting the former PCV whom Rich replaced at the same Oujda lycee. Marie earned her in PhD in 1979 and took a tenure-track position at the University of Chicago. Rich traveled frequently to the Middle East in the early 80s, mostly to Egypt as it opened up economically and occasionally to more challenging locales like Sudan and Libya. In 1983, he was transferred to London traveling mostly to Nigeria and Algeria. Both of our children were born in London.

We returned to the US in 1987, settling in a leafy suburb just north of Chicago. By then Marie’s gradual loss of hearing made it difficult to continue teaching, but she soon found her niche in administration at Northwestern University from which she retired in 2016 after more than 20 years as an associate dean. As opportunities in international banking waned in the early 1990s, Rich was getting antsy for something new. Marie suggested he apply for a fund-raising position. He landed where Marie had gotten her professional start. About to begin a $2B fundraising campaign, the University of Chicago needed to attract funding support from corporate America but was unclear how to proceed. Rich’s career in both higher education and business made him “bilingual and bicultural” - Just the mix for finding common ground between the arcane subcultures of academia and the business world. He retired from the university in 2013.

We were caught by total surprise in 2018, forty-six years after leaving Oujda, to receive a phone call from our closest Moroccan friend, Krim, an administrator at the lycee. His welcoming family helped us ride out the tough times and his mother’s cooking never failed to restore our spirits. Not long before the end of our service, he took a job with Royal Air Maroc and subsequently traveled the world. We eventually lost touch but he managed to find us via the Peace Corps alumni network. He now lives in Agadir--better climate than Oujda he says. He asks us every time during our monthly phone when we are coming to see him. Finally, we bought tickets for a March 2020 visit but had to scuttle those plans and wait for the all-clear to reschedule our flights. We will see him again one day. In Shallah.


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