Friday, December 08, 2006


Still working my way through the rest of training. We spent the three days before swearing-in at Immouzer du Kandar, a beautiful little town between Azrou and Fes. It was hard to say goodbye to the Auberge - at least I know I can come back and visit my neighbor, the owner (who can also help me find things in town), but it was also a farewell to being together as a group and to our newness as trainees. I know there were people who couldn't wait for it to end and to get started on their own at their sites - well, I was not one of those! I enjoyed the camaraderie and getting to know everyone a little bit and some people relatively well, I enjoyed the classes (I've always liked school!), I enjoyed the summer camp/freshman year atmosphere.

Immouzer was the YD training site, and we rejoined our companions there. Funny, in Rabat I had taken a liking to some of them and was looking forward to seeing them again, and while I was glad to do so, I have so much more appreciation for the SBDs now that I still spent most of my time with them. Over the course of our time there, I did talk to the YDs who will be nearby or who may pass through Azrou to make sure they know they are welcome. The seminar site there is a resort - last year the SBDs who came from the Auberge were awed because it was plush in comparison. But between last year and this year the Auberge doubled its size (our room of 4-6 people had held 11), added the conference room, hooked up wifi - and even while we were there improvements were made in response to our requests (e.g. doubled the clothesline space and added clothespins). So coming to Immouzer, with green grass and ping pong, pool and grass was like paradise last year; this year, with bungalows for 16 (two rooms, four bunk beds to a room, with a bathroom in between that did have hot showers but was plumbing-challenged, was a step down. It was a beautiful town to walk around - took a couple of walks to the old medina and beyond - I feel I talked about this already when talking about swearing-in day so I'll concentrate on the end of training and up to Thanksgiving.

A little aside - on the way to the cyber the other day I saw three girls playing jump rope. But the two girls holding the rope weren't holding it in their hands and moving it - they were standing there, with the rope around the backs of their knees (as you might be holding string in your hand before starting cat's cradle) while the third girl was jumping. Just so I know it wasn't a fluke, I saw other girls doing the same thing yesterday.

And I should mention some successes - one of the PCVs (he supposedly has a great blog - Cory) said that in the first few months its important to celebrate those (as long as you don't get caught up in, "I talked to someone at the post office and they understood!" every day). Yesterday I finally had a chance to sit down with my counterpart and talk about a work plan. As Lee had mentioned to me, there are a couple of rural communities with weavers who are forming cooperatives that he would like me to regularly visit, and several individual artisans here. As I kind of already knew he would say, he said if I have any of my own ideas I was welcome to work on them (I started to talk about some but it turned out that this wasn't the meeting for that). Then I went to have tea with the carpet store man with whom we had tea on that nice Sunday - his store is so inviting and he is so nice! With a cape that he lent me around my shoulders and a cat purring in my lap, we looked at a book put out by the Ministry of Artisana showing crafts from the various regions - if the Peace Corps has this book, they didn't have it for us in training! If not, they should get it! As I looked through the pages I was pleased to recognize the wood and metal from the artisana in Azrou. It's nice to know that the products are distinct. There were also shoes distinct to the area and he said that he would introduce me to the artisan who makes them. Then we looked at the carpets in that book and in some other books he has. There are many regional variations and I told him that maybe by the end of my time here I would be able to look at a rug and say that I know what region it was from, but that I certainly couldn't now; he said it was hard. I'll go back some time and look at his carpets again and learn more about them.

Today I went to the artisana - Hoceine gives classes in English and he invited me to join. I got there a little early, just as a busload of kids and their chaperones were filing in. I thought this was an educational field trip but it turned out it was a shopping field trip! This is the first time I've been at the artisana where there were more than a couple of actual customers and the first time I've seen a lot of people buy anything, so I watched eagerly. The boys gathered around the wood and metal artisans and the girls around the jewelry case (the jewelry is not made here and I forget where it's made - I know Lee tried to get labeling and product information onto the displays and I hope to try to also!). Later the girls looked at the wood and the boys at the jewelry. I think that the big sellers were the jewelry, wood figurines, and some of the pottery - vases and candlesticks and spice bowls (they don't have salt and pepper shakers here but rather bowls from which you take a pinch) - some of which is local and some not. It was very interesting to watch but not a time to talk to customers - they were on a timetable - in, buy, back on the bus. Then I went to the English class but today he was giving a test to the students so he said if I have something else to do I would see him Monday. I always have something else to do - that might be a defining characteristic of me - so I did some work-related e-mails, now am writing this, and later will go for tutoring (Friday afternoon is not a good day for that, I know, but the week went by...). This weekend I have my first excursion, to Fes and Sefrou, and next week I think I will start looking for a house. The picture is of the courtyard in the Riad in Fes. It doesn't really go with the narrative, but that way I can include more Fes pictures! More on the balance of training, Fes and Sefrou, and househunting to come! And I still have to address gender roles and go back to add some pix - I can also address other topics on request! Just in case I don't get back to the cyber until next week, have a good weekend!

The jump rope game sounds like Chinese jump rope, which I loved so much as the kid. Was it?

It sounds like you're really getting involved with the people and the artisans, and becoming part of the community. How marvelous!
I never played (or heard of) Chinese jump rope! Must be a New England thing, like jimmies! But maybe then it's not so strange...

I do feel I'm getting involved, and it'll be even better when I have more command of language! For now, a quick hello is about it...
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