Monday, October 02, 2006


Community-Based Training began last Friday - it was a long nine days, with no internet and no exercise, but other than that, it was good! TimHdit is a small, dusty town 32K from Azrou (so we were the first back this morning and first to the laundry buckets). As for my host family, I feel like I was at the Four Seasons. I'm staying with the Sheikh, the second-in-command in the administrative government of the town. He has a nice house - my room, in the back, might be as big as one of my teammate's whole house for four people. We have a western toilet (though you have to flush it by throwing water down it) and there's almost always hot water for the bucket bath, a washing machine, a refrigerator and freezer, a garden with fresh mint (for the tea). The sheikh, my dad, is nice - he definitely is an authority around town. My mom, Halti (Auntie) Halima, is really nice. The amount of time she spends cooking and cleaning is amazing. She used to be a weaver and showed me some of the beautiful rugs that she made. She spends the most time trying to understand my Arabic and trying to converse with me so that I can understand. My sister, Malika, is 30 and helps her mother a lot. She is leaving soon for Italy to get married and is sad about it - she will miss her family. And they will miss her - I kind of wish she were staying until the end of my homestay because I don't know what they're going to do without her! They let me do simple things like dry dishes or peel hardboiled eggs or squeeze orange juice, but that's about it! My brother, Youssef, speaks some English but is gone in Azrou for high school all week and just home on weekends. There's also a regular dinner guest, Hamid (he is from somewhere else but is working in TimHdit and Moroccans won't let anyone eat alone so my family kind of adopted him). Katie, the Peace Corps Volunteer in the town, is also a frequent guest, since this was her host family when she moved to the site. Every night we have some conversation (until I got sick and just went to bed) and we all watch TV (usually I do homework while the TV is on, but I am catching on to some of the words...and it's funny talking to everyone else because we ALL watched the same programs with our families - a candid-camera-like show, a taxi-sitcom, and another family-like show with the dad talking to the camera all the time).

One of the people in our group left in the middle of the week. Left left. At the end of the day she said she would be going home the next day. She had had second thoughts from the get-go (she's very religious and this isn't a place to be very religious if you're not Muslim) but her decision did seem a little sudden. We were the smallest group as it was and now we are down one. But we're learning at about the same pace, working together well and having fun. One of the group members is living with the sister of the sheikh, one with the daughter of the sheikh, and the one who left was with the brother of the sheikh, so we visit each other a lot.

TimHdit is in the middle Atlas mountains, and we met with weavers. Since this is what I thought all the SBD people did, in a way it makes sense that this is what I'm doing, at least for CBT. If this is what I am doing for my permanent site, though, I did not pack warmly enough nor did I designate warm enough clothes to be sent nor did I gain anything by leaving Chicago - apparently winters are severe and snowy and there's no heat.

We went to the souk on Thursday - the weekly market. This was a bit of a shock. You can get a variety of stuff, true, and you can get everything you need, I suppose, but a lot of it is what I might term low-end or dollar-store or plastic-junk-type stuff. I don't want to sound like a snob - it just wasn't quite what it was sold as...or I misinterpreted.... there were also nice jellabas and some nice produce and everyone in town was there so it was fun to run into some artisans...but all of a sudden Azrou, which in itself was an adjustment, looks like the big city where you can get anything you want.

It was hard being without internet for nine days (which I know I already said). I'm here until Thursday, and then back in TimHdit (and out of touch) for another six. I'm getting my own computer (though trying to have the patience to wait to see if I at least have electricity at my site) and will soon get a Moroccan cell phone too. I sent some longhand blog entries to people who volunteered to enter them, but if I have other volunteers, let me know - I don't want to burden people, but I do want to write! Thanks!

I hope that you feel better.
Sabrina and I were looking at hotels in Morocco and Marakkesh has some very nice ones. She was very excited about the architecture and we are looking forward to our March trip. I had an idea that we could come back next year for Thanksgiving. Perhaps to Morocco or maybe somewhere else nearby - so leave next Thanksgiving open!
I keep meaning to tell you that there is a Sabrina here! I think Thanksgiving is a good idea for next year too - and don't forget Spain and Portugal. I am looking forward to nice hotels and Marrakesh too! Hopefully I will get to the latter before March if not the former...if not, we will all explore together!
P.S. I feel all better now.
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