Friday, December 22, 2006


I still haven’t been to the Azrou souk! Okay, I went briefly with my host mother for vegetables during site visit, but I want to walk around and see the crafts and the other items for sale. Combination of factors – tutoring, weather, health, timing, meetings. I was going to go this week when my counterpart said he had a project and he would see me at the artisana at 9:15. Turned out he had a project…that didn’t involve me! I don’t know why I had to see him then…he said hello and went off on his project. Maybe next week I’ll get to the souk. You have to go early to see the most, though had I needed something I could have gone mid-morning. It’s not close, though – a bit of a walk (or a petit taxi ride). But this week I had somewhere to be – Amanda, the environment volunteer whose site is nearby, was legally married on Tuesday and had a little lunch to celebrate! Her medicinal herbs cooperative, his family, and Katie and me. My host mother lent me a party jellaba for the occasion and I brought a cone of sugar and Katie and I went in on a ceramic platter from the artisana. Lunch was special – cookies and tea, chicken with hard-boiled eggs and almonds, sffa (the vermicelli with cinnamon and sugar dish), fresh fruit. Very nice! If it weren’t out-of-site at night, I could go to another wedding this week too. The brother of my host father got a job offer in the Emirates. He noticed on the form that he had to be married. My host mother thought of the sister of the neighbor downstairs, whom she had met at the party for the new baby. The brother and the sister met and talked for half an hour and agreed to get married this week! She said that’s how it’s done in Morocco, but the truth is that there are longer engagements too. [Addendum 12/25 - not quite. The father balked - she's too young, her brothers need to come in June, it's too soon - so it was on-again/off-again and is now on for the weekend after next.]

On to Rabat this week! Dental appointment – I requested cleanings more often than once during the two years and they agreed. I didn’t realize I would have to go to Rabat for them, but that’s okay! Once again, transportation is a deterrent to having a really good trip - the 8:15 CTM bus (the nicest line) was supposed to arrive at noon and when it hadn’t arrived by one I was really tired of being on it. First it was freezing, then it was way too hot. But I reminded myself that this is a developing country and transportation is part of what you have to deal with, and another is the distance between places – in order to see Morocco I will have to take long trips; that’s all there is to it. I think that’s it for the bus – it’s convenient to get to in Azrou but then you need a petit taxi to get into town. Town, though, is cool - it feels cosmopolitan yet is of a manageable scale. I could come again for one of my Saturday nights and explore – there’s a nice medina and an artisana and the casbah and the chellah, built by various waves of people who lived here, and a big was-going-to-be-a-mosque tower and pillars (the structure was not completed but what there was of the roof fell in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755) and the tomb of the last two kings and some other stuff that makes it worth coming back for tourism. Rabat’s sister city across the river, Sale, is supposed to be nice too – not cosmopolitan and not touristy, more for locals, so an interesting contrast. And there are museums – art and archaeological – to see. Now that I have read up on Rabat I know where we were when we first got here in September – the walk we took was along a key street in the main part of town, and we went by the medina on the way to the ocean – so I feel oriented.

Went to the Peace Corps office! It’s in a nice part of town but not near the center, in an old villa. Saw the program manager for SBD, who gave me a little tour, and said hello to people. Lots of work-related documents to print out in the volunteer lounge, but the printer was jammed. As long as I had to see the doctor to talk about my dental appointment, I had a little consultation too (I’d tripped on some air on Sunday in Fes, after we all parted ways – I guess I was thinking about other things – and cut my hand open when I landed on the sidewalk. Treated myself from the medical kit, but the doctor gave me some other stuff to put on it). I was really psyched to see the Peace Corps Resource Center, which is one of the largest repositories of English-language books in the entire country, and the librarian was out for the day! There were some second-year YDs in Rabat for mid-service medicals so I went to dinner with them, at what we would call a Middle Eastern restaurant but what here is called Oriental – the eastern part of the Arab world is the Orient here!

I had a little bit of a chance for a Rabat walk on Thursday morning, before the train to Meknes. Walked along the two main streets of the medina just as people were setting up for the day – many of the wares are products I have seen in other cities, but some weren’t – each region has its own specialties – so I will be back! Carpets are different and there were leather benches that looked interesting (not that I would get one) and there was a lot more jewelry than Azrou has (or maybe even Fes). The train seemed to work better than the bus (I prefer trains to buses anyway) though then I took a petit taxi to the grand taxi stand and then a grand taxi – I don’t think it was a shorter trip, but it was more pleasant (of course, I wasn’t sitting there knowing I was missing a meeting, either, and I wasn’t worried about the approaching darkness). I could also do grand taxi all the way to Rabat, which might work better some time depending on what time I have to get there. The picture is the "postcard shot" of the main street of the Rabat medina, Rue du Consuls (all the consulates used to be on that street).
Shortest day of the year! I always like the first day of winter because now the days will get longer. Here at this latitude it gets light around 7:00 am (the morning call to prayer wakes me up around 5:50, but it’s still dark) and dark around 5:30 pm (and remember, we don’t change the clock in the spring or fall).

While at the Peace Corps office I confirmed a rumor that I had heard the day before – someone else from our group ET’d (early termination). She went to Rabat after swearing-in for some medical, and never reported to her site. She was older (over 50) and never felt comfortable with the language (Tamazight). But she passed the test and when I last saw her seemed determined to give it a try. She was also the somatics person and an artist – an interesting woman. Not only did I learn that she left but I also learned something about the rumor mill – it took four weeks for me to hear and I don’t think it’s common knowledge yet. [Addendum 12/25 - heard from her and she had a different story - she left for intuition/health reasons; didn't want to go but HAD to go.]

Other highlights of the week – rather than see the delegate in Meknes, I have to write a report for him, and have to work with my tutor to translate it. I also had to interview the rock carver about the fair in Rabat, and I have to write that up. Homework! And I’m disseminating information about a Gender and Development conference to the people in my stage. It’s down south in January or February – a good time of year for someone from a cold site to go south, so I hope I get to go. I’m getting a cold – the only surprise there is that I haven’t had one yet. My tutor told me he saw quite a bit of progress, but when I get into an actual conversation I feel I have a long way to go. At lunch today, Star Trek – The Motion Picture was on TV, in English with Arabic subtitles. Spock had just arrived when it was time to go! Tempting to work at home this afternoon (I do have plenty do to there) but it seemed unseemly.... Got two packages today, finally! They were postmarked November 30 so I guess it takes three weeks. Janeila is using her other December getaway weekend to visit Azrou this weekend! I am looking forward to that.

You are really getting around! That is so wonderful. How expensive is intercity transportation?
Nothing is expensive, but it all adds up on the Peace Corps allowance! When you look at it in dollars, it's about $3 to get to Fes or Meknes, $10 to get to Rabat. The splurge hotel was $50, the budget hotels about $12. I'm dividing by 10 but the exchange rate is more like 8 1/2.
Wow! That almost makes it tempting as a holiday destination.
The flight over here can be expensive but once you are here your money goes far. Come visit!
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