Wednesday, November 29, 2006


On November 18m I predicted a whirlwind week ahead. It was that, but Sunday, the 19th was a bit of calm before the storm. While still a full day, it was also relaxing and fun and maybe my favorite single day yet. My friend Orianna had offered to help bring my luggage up the hill to my host family; everyone going far had to pack for shipping via CTM bus. I hadn't seen the family since site visit but this was one time to take advantage of the fact that my final site and the seminar site were the same. I was actually hoping for a ride, and just as we were about to roll everything, Aziz, the owner of the Auberge, appeared and gave us a ride! We then had coffee with my host mother and she invited Orianna to come to visit anytime (she has mentioned that before - I think any friend is welcome as long as she is a female friend).

We then went to the Artisana, where Orianna wanted to buy some rugs that she had had her eye on for a while. They are indeed nice - different shades of green with a diamond pattern, woven by the cooperative in the Artisana (and I now know why Lee didn't work with them much - they do well on their own and don't need small business development!). Orianna is a bargainer and they gave her a good price - because of me, they said, knowing I was the new volunteer. So keep that in mind when you visit! We had to go to the bank to get cash out for the rugs and the bank was right near Lee's - so as we started walking over there I started texting him to see if he was home and by the time I did both we were right outside and he stuck his head out of the window because he heard us (he said that dropping by was a good thing to do to get into the Moroccan spirit since people here do it all the time). We went up to his roof (SUCH a nice roof) and talked and had some clementines. Then I took them both to lunch - to his favorite soup place. They have just one kind of soup, all day long, called pisara (sp?). As far as I can tell, it's made from fava beans. And it cost four and a half dirhams - I had planned to take them both to lunch, and I got away with spending less than half of what my pizza cost the week before! The pisara place is right around the corner from the rock carver, and it is also across from a beautiful carpet shop (another place I would take visitors) set in the old caid's house. You go through a narrow hallway to get to a big room, decorated with beautiful carpets and Moroccan antiques. Lee had promised himself that he wasn't going to wait until his last week in Morocco to get his souvenirs to bring home, and here it was his last week, and he wanted to buy about eight rugs. We went into the shop and had tea with Abdu, the son of the owner. Lee found us each capes to wearm and Abdu lent Orianna and me scarves to wear too while we were having tea. Being in the shop was like being in another world, far away from the Auberge and even from the medina right outside. I had thought we'd drop off the luggage, get the rugs and go back to study, but we were just having such a nice time! With Abdu, we went to the back room and went through piles of rugs, sorting them into yes, no and maybe. And then he took the yes/maybe piles and brought them into the big room, under the light of the skylight, until we narrowed down the choices to eight (or eight plus one for Lee himself). What a treat that was! We parted ways, and as Orianna and I were on the way back we saw Abdu in the shop next door, eating something out of a glass. We asked what it was and he gave us a bite and we had to have some for ourselves. It's called rayb and it's fresh yogurt with the consistency of custard. Yum! I'll have that again (while I'm on that subject I should mention something else I will have again, perhaps daily - had some on the way here to the cyber, in fact - fresh potato chips, from a stand by the mosque that is there most days but not every day, unfortunately!).

We then went back to the Auberge, ostensibly to study for the LPI (Language Proficiency Interview) the next day. I reviewed all of my notes but I also felt that I wasn't going to know much more than I already knew. I had a practice interview with Mina, the LCF, and felt discouraged. The fact is, there were days when I couldn't put more in my head that was there and there were days when I wanted to play cards or write in thg blog. So could I have studied and practiced more, yes, but I didn't want to at the expense of doing other things. As I write this, I hear the echo of my father's voice freshman year. He told me that if I got all A's he'd be disappointed because that meant I was studying too hard and not taking advantage of the extracurriculars and other things. I needed to remind myself of that when I felt discouraged that Sunday, but it turned out there wasn't that much time to be discouraged anyway, since there was a wedding that night! Note, that also meant there wasn't time for too much more studying either!

The mock wedding was kind of a farewell to the Auberge. Two couples volunteered to be the brides and grooms, one in modern Arab gard and one in traditional Berber garb. There was a band from Azrou with drums and six-foot-long horns and finger cymbals and a big tambourine. The band came down the stairs first, followed by the "wedding party," followed by those of us who hadn't gotten downstairs yet, and we all assembled in the big salon, the couples in the front of the room under traditional capes. There was a big cone of sugar in front of each couple (for fertility and a sweet life) and each couple exchanged milk, honey and dates (all for a sweet life). They then went around the room, offering sweets to all the guests, and then there was a lot of dancing. It was hard to be discouraged when the music was so lively and the dancing so much fun (even though, I will admit, I didn't do much - Halloween was my dancing pinnacle of training....I enjoyed watching from the sidelines, talking with the other sideline occupants, and visiting Jong, my TimHdit colleague who skipped the dancing to print out our brochures). I don't know if I will attend any weddings while I am here, but they often are multi-day affairs. In some, the men and women dance separately but ours was everyone dancing all together. There were too lines and one repeated what the other one did - or went down while the other line went up - or danced around in a big circle - or individuals paraded between the two lines - and at some point some of the trainees and the Training Director took over on the instruments...The day began with the joy of spending time with a couple of people I really like and ended with the joy of attending a party with a whole bunch of people I really like!

glad Ramadan has to hear about the food! (what a surprise for me to feel that way ;-) )
Oh, there was always food - just not during the day!
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