Thursday, December 07, 2006


I came home for lunch yesterday and the sheep had ceased to exist, sparing me the choice of whether or not to watch the ritual. Lunch was couscous – not on a Friday, because my host father doesn’t like it and he wasn’t home yesterday. Traditional couscous has six or seven vegetables – carrot, turnip, pumpkin or squash, onions and I’m not sure of the others, actually – and then meat – in this case, chicken and it was delicious! You make it in a special couscous pot – the vegetables and meat in stock in the lower half and the couscous in the upper half, getting the flavor. I also had couscous on Saturday at Amanda’s fiance’s family’s house, a special treat since a brother came in from Rabat. The Moroccan way to eat it is to take some couscous and vegetable or meat and roll it into a ball in your right hand and then pop it into your mouth. I have always been given a spoon – and I have never been the only person eating with a spoon. I haven’t watched the entire couscous process but it’s possible I’ll never have to cook it, since I keep getting invitations. I am starting to learn about other things though – there’s an excellent peppers-and-tomato dish that I wrote down the recipe for as my host mother was making it (well, kind of a recipe since there are no measurements). Substitute eggplant for the peppers and then I have another dish. This week we’ve also had a great lentil dish that I think I could make (perfect for a cold day) and a ground-meat-and-tomato dish that I might be able to reproduce.

It was cold and rainy yesterday so I had the idea of working from home in the afternoon – finished “The Roles of the Volunteer in Development” earlier this week and moving on to “PACA.” I’m also slowly but surely working on my dictionary. I thought I would do some of that but first read some of the columns my friend Debbie sends me (The Ethicist, On Language, Tuesday Morning Quarterback – I’ve just added some Slate columns to my list of requests too!). Then rather than work I decided to go to the hammam, because I just wasn’t warming up, even in the room with the cozy wood stove. I had just gotten back when Amanda called to ask me to coffee – she had been working on site development and I wanted to hear about that. And then it was time for the party! Luckily I had read a lot of Peace Corps reading and worked on the dictionary over the weekend (no more self-directed days after training!) so I didn’t feel too guilty. Actually I met some people while walking with Amanda, which counts as community integration. Today I bought some of her cooperative's medicinal herbs. I offered to help with copy for their brochure - it sounds interesting!

I think the party is sbor, not sbae. My host mother gave me some Moroccan party clothes to wear and I went downstairs with her mother-in-law; she had to tend to the men upstairs who were reading the Qu’ran. First we visited with the mother and baby for a while – the mother had a C-section so was unable to get out of bed. But there were plenty of sisters making food and tending to guests and to the baby. I thought of bnat xti (literally girls-sister-my) and how they would have liked to see the new baby. I had a conversation with one of the sisters, and she said my Arabic was very good – a needed boost, since I felt discouraged when I made the rounds of artisans yesterday and felt discouraged at my lack of vocabulary (I know I was saying the right thing to the weaving cooperative – but they just told me I should wait for Hoceine to get back and then we could talk. Amanda reminded me that people here are not used to foreigners trying to speak Arabic so they don’t all try to listen).

The kids were in one half of the living room, dancing and playing (again, I thought of my nieces – I think they would have had fun!). I sat with the women and mostly listened (also made faces at a little girl who was on her mother’s lap and kept staring at me – she enjoyed it). First we had tea and cookies and I didn’t realize how much else was coming so I had several cookies. Then out came the sheep. I wonder why I don’t want to eat sheep. For a fleeting moment and image of Shari Lewis and Lamp Chop floated in my head – is that it, an image from childhood? I slowly ate a couple of prunes, hoping nobody else would notice, but they did and they pressured me to have some meat. And then I remembered why I avoid it – I just don’t like the taste. After that, yet more food came out – one of my favorites, couscous with carmelized onions and golden raisins. I had a few bites, but a) I had filled up with the cookies, b) the Moroccan belt my host mother gave me to wear was snug and c) it was late, so I didn’t want to eat too much (the men had the same except maybe not as wide a selection of cookies; sometimes the men get an extra course, too). Then there was fruit – I rallied to have some pomegranate, and then it was time to go. I had brought a present for the baby (and one for the older sister so she would get some attention too) but I don’t think the other guests brought presents. I have to find out more about this – do they just not give any or do they give them at another time? We got little baby party favors – a little baby carriage with sweets, wrapped in tulle, and some candied almonds also wrapped in tulle. It was a treat to witness this tradition! We had been told we’d be invited to parties and I wasn’t sure that would be the case, but I’ve now (including the ones we gave at the end of CBT) I’ve already been to four! Five, if you count the going-away party!

The picture is of the capr I ordered from the weavers of Ait Hamza (their CBT group was very enterprising in bringing products to sell and taking orders). Nice colors, no?

Thanks for the honorable mention - just reading your blog as this week's columns print-out ... then off to my weekly visit to the Post Office (which doesn't take a long time!!!'ve made me appreciate the USPS - hard to imagine ;-)!
Dear Sharon. I hope this works. Got your blogadress from Paul Iread it with interest. Souds very good to me, except for you being cold all the time.
Also the food sounds good. We like Maroccan food, but do not often make it.
Here it's cold and rainy, nothing to be happy with.
Eveline and Jo
I just had two short trips to the post office myself today - early in the morning at the post office near my house turns out to be a good time to mail letters, and at the post office where my box is if all I do is pick up mail (three letters today! Hooray!) it doesn't take a long time...

And one of the letters I mailed today was in response to the letter I got yesterday from Eveline and Jo! (I mailed something to Debbie too!). God to hear from you both via mail AND blog comments! (and other media!).
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