Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This has been a whirlwind few days at seminar site; tomorrow we got back to TimHdit for CBT phase four. I walked back here mid-morning Monday and did my laundry. Slowly but surely people filtered back and told their stories. The desert is extremely hot but beautiful. Friendly people and lots of flies. The high Atlas mountains have snow-capped peaks and the road through them is twisty and turny. The people over by the Algerian border identify themselves more with their city than with Morocco. Group members had different host family experiences -one woman's host mom would not let her out of the house alone, one felt threatened by her host father, one was put in a shed with the artisans and their silicon dust, one killed a snake, one saw a scorpion. The one who killed a snake also had to walk three extra hours because the bridge to his town was washed out by a flood. And we heard varying stories of the potential work situations - meetings with all sorts of artisans and all personalities of counterparts - and stories of varying degrees of success meeting with the government officials. There were some people who came back disappointed but we were told before we left not to judge the next two years by the site visit. There still may be adjustment to do, but everyone seems prepared to make the most of it, at least at this point.

On Tuesday it rained all day and got cold - mind you, my laundry was still on the line. It had been beautiful all last week but cooled off just in time for everyone to come back! We had an unscheduled language session in which we spent most of the time talking in darija about our sites as opposed to learning new vocabulary. Then the big group got together in a circle (almost everything else has been classroom style) and filled out site-visit questionnaires - both factual information and reflection. Then we went around the room and talked about our sites - both viisually and talking about the artisans there, so we can see if there are opportunities for collaboration at some point. It was interesting hearing the stories in public vs. in private the day before - everyone put a positive spin on their prospects and everyone made their sites sound very interesting.

We then had flu shots and medical consultation. I'm all better with the antibiotics, but I have a lingering dry throat, cough and runny nose (my nose runs at meals, when my hand is touching food, and it's hard to wipe my nose, so it's awkward). the doctor said it's just a matter of getting used to the climate, not allergies. I also asked for a dental cleaning, since I have been going every four months for years. And for a place to buy a good mattress, now that I know my site. And if he knows of a place for a massage - I need one (I also need highlighting but I didn't ask him if he knew a good place for that).

Yesterday we spent a lot of time working on the brochure for the TimHdit weavers. It looks great. We have an English version and a French/Arabic version. I don't think I can attach it here, but if you're interested I can e-mail it as an attachment! We still have finishing touches to put on it tonight, but we also have to pack, I have a potential Scrabble appointment, I want to learn lower body from the somatics teacher, and I want a crochet refresher from one of the people here (I got the knitting refresher on Tuesday night).

Yesterday we had a session on administrative issues (how we get paid, rent money, tutoring money and other things like that, vacation days and other policies/procedures). At the end of some of the sessions there have been quizzes with candy as prizes. Well, at the end of this session there was bzef (a lot of) candy being thrown (by someone who understands that EVERYONE should get candy, not just the winners - kind of like a five-year-old's birthday party). I had some M&Ms and some mini-Reese's. Didn't realize quite how much I missed Reese's. We also had health sessions yesterday and today - unwanted attention/harassment, alcohol awareness and abuse, STD and HIV. All very important - easy to say it can't happen to me but with loneliness, culture shock, need to fit in, need to feel loved, whatever, many volunteers do succumb, let their guard down, etc. I still don't think it can happen to me - if all my years in the alcoholic beverage industry didn't get me interested in drinking I am not going to start now, and as for the other, I'm not planning on getting involved but if I do I promise to be careful. They showed a video featuring former PCVs who got HIV in-service and who were willing to share their stories; it was very moving. Then most of today there was an all-day workshop given by the AIDS committee, on how to give AIDS trainings in our sites; hopefully we'll all get involved in that. The incidence of HIV/AIDS is very low here, but of course it was low once in countries where it is now an epidemic, so the focus is on prevention. There are many cultural taboos on discussing it here, so we had strategies on how to bring it up and discuss it. I was in a couple of skits - once I was a man who didn't want to be educated and once I was a Berber woman who was embarrassed to talk about it. We had a scarf-trying tea talk last night, just in time for my costume. We also elected a representative to the committee. When we had the Gender and Development election nobody was prepared for it - this time people were, so it was a lot less awkward. The woman who won is the farthest from Rabat, in the southeast part of the country (about a block away from Algeria) so I am happy that she will get to travel. And they just found out today that they are getting funding from Bill and Melinda Gates's Global Fund (the GAD committee has no funding so we will have to be creative, I found out after I joined it).

So - on to packing or the brochure or Scrabble or somatics or crocheting and then TimHdit - back next Friday. I saw that I have a lot of e-mail too, and if there's time tonight I will answer some, but more likely it will be after I return...and I might not get to it right away then either, but I will get to it.

Sabrina wants to know if you have seen a pizza hut. They would like to know about the candy as well.
What a great concept- bzef m&ms -
Everyone is a winner! vingt des,vingt des!
I have not seen a Pizza Hut but I hear they are in the big cities. Both Fes and Meknes have big McDonald's signs - not so Pizza Hut.

As you can imagine I have been doing a study of the candy here. They have Bounty bars (similar to Mopunds but with milk chocolate)and Twix (the caramel, not the peanut butter, which I prefer), Maltesers (like Whoppers) and Kit Kat but, sadly, no Reese's. The M&Ms and mini-Reese's that the administration manager brought were from the commissary, and we do not have access to that. I have found fruit chews that come in singles and are similar to Starburst - a good pick-me-up when you just want one thing. I have found the locally-produced chocolate to be a bit disappointing. Marjane has more and has imported chocolate so when I go there I might get some. Actually, for some reason I fid myself more interested in cookies here - some of my favorites are Prince (a sandwich cookie with chocolate in the middle), Tango (vanilla and chocolate sandwich with I'm not sure what's in the middle) and, my new fiund, Tutku, a vanilla and chocolate swirl with filled chocolate. All the cookies come in snack-sized packages. I am a frequent shopper at the supermarche!
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