Monday, December 04, 2006


After the language test most people had the rest of the day off...but a few of us self-selected to prepare a presentation about SBD for the YDs. It seemed natural that at least one person from every CBT group would work on it and natural that I would be the one from our CBT group. I actually didn't do a lot of work on the presentation in the afternoon because I had a prior commitment, but I did help when I got back and managed to have some input (also took pictures of key places in Azrou while I was out, for inclusion in the presentation). The prior commitment was with Motasim, to meet the sewing cooperative he had spent a lot of time with while here. They stopped working in August because a lot of the members got married (and people are busy during wedding season anyway) and then kept not working through Ramadan, and had just started back up (they were not working when I was on site visit), just in time for me to visit with Lee. It was nice to meet the people there and to hear from Lee what he was working on. To list the small business development opportunities:

1 - they had 24 members and seem to be down to two.
2 - Hoceine told them that they couldn't take three months off or they might lose their status as a cooperative.
3 - They are in a building (I think I mentioned it before - padlocked in) of the ministry of youth and sports. Since it is borrowed space they cannot put up a sign or display any of their inventory. Actually, I don't know how a customer would know about it, find it, see what is for sale, or buy anything.
4 - There is empty space at the artisana that could be used for their display/selling and other empty space that could be used for their work space. The artisana said OK if the delegate said yes; the delegate said OK if the ministry said yes; now I have to ascertain status.
5 - Lee was teaching them some English related to customer service - how are you, things like that. He also taught them some branding (putting the name of the cooperative and Azrou on the items) and I think helped with product development too. I can build on all of that.
6 - There was a fair at the artisana last year in the back room. Motasim was away for the beginning of it and when he came in he noticed that there weren't any customers - so he made a few signs to let people know about the fair in the back, and then some customers came, including people from Switzerland who placed an order with the cooperative (and may account for their entire sales to date). Is this an ongoing relationship? Inquiring minds want to know, and want the vocabulary to ask the question.

That's just what I remember off the top of my head. The cooperative was helped by a Moroccan NGO that has offices in three cities in the country - and Azrou happens to be one of them! So we went to that NGO so that I could introduce myself. It helps all women - and I count as one of those too - I can use their space for classes and some of their expertise on things such as forming a cooperative. And on the way to the NGO we saw what looked like a school; someone he knew was in front of the school so we asked what it was and it turns out it's another place that teaches sewing to rural women, so is another possibility for me to work with. It has been there the whole time but Lee didn't know about it.

In my flexibility/willingness to do urban/rural etc. before site assignments, I thought there were advantages and disadvantages to following a PCV and/or to being the first volunteer at a site. Well, what I see now is that in my situation there are so many advantages! I feel really lucky to be following one, to be following one with whom I overlapped (the ones who had volunteers leave early have the advantage of their site knowing what Peace Corps is but maybe a jilted feeling or a sadness about the person who ET'ed), to be following one with whom I had the chance to spend so much time, and to be following one who seemed to be so well-liked in the community (if not in Peace Corps HQ - but whatever the story is there, I don't think it will reflect on me). I keep running into people I met through him - maybe Azrou is a small town, at least in the medina area. And the people couldn't be nicer - I have three outstanding invitations to tea (hope to start taking up some of those this week) and other open invitations. My goal was to spend as much time soaking up his wisdom as I could and that Monday afternoon there was a lot to soak up!

P.S. There's a sheep in the indoor courtyard downstairs. It has no idea what is going to happen to it. It's there for the seventh-day celebration of the new baby. I've read about the sheep-killing in my cross-culture manual - it's quite a ritual. Halal is very humane (can't kill it in front of other sheep so other sheep don't get stressed, feed it only water the 24 hours before e.g.). Other people in my group have seen it already and even participated (only men can participate so I am off the hook there). I'm undecided about whether or not I want to see it - good for cross-culture but, well, yikes. Then first only men will be at the party and then only women. If I don't see it now I will get another chance at L-Eid Kbir, when every family kills a sheep (this is the big holiday - Kbir means big - that has the travel restriction because this year it is somewhere between 12/28 and 1/8). More on the baby party if there is more to report...and maybe more on the sheep, too, but maybe not...

Pictured is a dove made by the metalworker at the artisana. I bought two of these to give as thank-you presents to Katie and Rose for their help in getting my computer to me (presents are in order for the other side of the pond but I haven't bought any yet...). The dove is a Peace Corps symbol. too. I might get one for myself! I do have a picture of the sheep but thought this was a nice one...

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