Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I got a package the other day that just filled me with joy – it contained socks, toiletries and other items that I took out of my suitcases at the last minute because it was bulging too much. I can’t believe how happy it made me to see socks! I also can’t believe how much stuff I took out of my suitcases at the last minute! How did I close the suitcases with all that stuff? Well, with big bulges! Of course, I was also happy because the socks come not a moment too soon – nice, thick, warm socks. But I think what made me happiest was that the box was a reminder of its senders, Edie, Fred and Julia.

I picked up my jellaba that day – turns out the fleece-like fabric is in fact fleece, and the jellaba is toasty warm. Almost immediately upon picking it up, it warmed up here in Azrou and has been beautiful ever since! But I wore it for l-Eid, at least part of the day, and no doubt will have plenty of opportunity to wear it before winter is out.

Saturday would have been a great day for a hike, but I will hike when I’m out on my own; this weekend I felt I should spend it with my host family. I still do more listening than talking, but I am understanding more, so I do feel my language is progressing (and I am not one for resolutions per se, but a major language leap is a goal of mine for 2007). Lalla was going out to do some errands, and I asked to go with her. She was afraid she wouldn’t understand me if I asked questions, and I said I would just be quiet. But I did say some things in darija and she understood – and she pointed out things such as the knife-sharpening men; I didn’t really understand that until the next day. You need sharp knives for sacrifices! I still have a lot more to learn. For example, at the souk I saw a table with teeth and thought it was strange that someone would be selling teeth. I mentioned this to my host mother and she said the teeth are on display to show that the man removes teeth for customers – right there at the souk, without anesthesia. Oh.

Sunday was l-Eid – off we went to Ait Yahia Oualla, the family home of my host father. His mother lives with three of her sons – they counted as a family, and my host family is a family, hence two sheep. First rope was secured to the roof – so the sheep would “hang like Saddam Hussein,” as my host mother said (which, by the way, is the most anyone has said to me about that – they wanted to make sure I knew about Gerald Ford but haven’t said anything in front of me about Iraq, and Peace Corps discourages us from talking about it – fine with me). Then the sheep appeared; then the knives. At the moment of truth, I couldn’t watch – and my parents wanted me to be a doctor? I did watch them blow up the skin for easy skinning, and I watched that and the removal of innards and the carcass hanging…. My host family asked me what I thought and I said it was very respectful because they use the whole sheep (not the horns, but later a relative from Fes said that in that city they make jewelry out of the horns).

The women set to work cooking organ meat…the men went visiting. At lunchtime somehow they were back. Out came a plate of skewered liver wrapped in fat – I couldn’t. Out came a stew of miscellaneous innards – I couldn’t. Out came grilled heart and kidney – I couldn’t. I realized I was the only woman in the room and went upstairs to the kitchen, where the kids and women were eating. I asked if this was a family where the women ate separately from the men and was told yes (there are lots of those here – I’m different because I’m a foreigner; I could eat with the men – but I felt uncomfortable and not just because it was organ meat – though everyone was very nice of course). I had had rice (maybe orzo, but they called it rice) with milk when I got there in the morning, pre-sheep (and pre-many-family-members-going-to-mosque; that’s part of the holiday too but they weren’t there long). It’s a nice hot cereal, though when Terry used to have it in California I thought she was weird. I was offered some again at lunchtime and had two bowlsful, and was offered some again at dinner – this time men and women ate together – when everyone else had heads and feet. At lunch they had encouraged me to try; at dinner they just laughed because they knew I couldn’t. In between lunch and dinner there were many people coming over to visit; quite possibly the whole village. I shook hands and kissed cheeks – and worked on some knitting I had started the day before, so I could participate in conversation and still do something.

On TV we saw fireworks for New Year’s in Taipei and in Sydney Harbor and that was as close to acknowledging New Year’s as it got. People do it (I wished several people Bonne Annee on Friday and vice versa!) but by host mom won’t. She won’t celebrate birthdays either. My host brother turns 10 tomorrow and is now obligated to start praying. I got him some potato chips today (not from potato-chip guy, who I still haven’t seen) since I know he likes them – she said I could give them to him today but not say anything about birthday. And she said she would like to celebrate mine but she won’t. I told her I’d still like to get pastries, to do something, but will get them tomorrow. The owner of the Auberge also has a birthday on Thursday and I told him I would come over to visit (he seemed okay with that - I certainly don’t want to be culturally insensitive). So, on Sunday I went to bed before midnight (I have talked about that for years but always stayed up for fireworks – finally did it!) and am set for an uneventful birthday too – no problem! I’ve had plenty of New Yearses and birthdays and I will have more (this does not mean you have to fill the comment section with good wishes – I know you have them for me). Plus, I pick up my carte de sejour that day so it will still be momentous. Another milestone – official documentation that I can work here! I am glad I went to Margie’s last year – I have not had ice cream since I left the U.S. And I am glad I didn’t turn down many chances to go to California Pizza Kitchen while the chances were there.

Monday was also a beautiful day, and I had some rare time at home to myself while the family was out and about. I hung laundry (that and folding are two of the few things my host mom has let me do) and sat on the roof with my back to the sun, the way I’ve seen Moroccans sit in the sun, and wrote my 2006 year in review. A very nice day. This week is quiet (not just because there’s no baaaing) – schools are off and some of the artisans aren’t working – but I went to the artisana and to have tea with the third carpet shop guy. Lots of customers at the artisana, and it is interesting to observe them. I’m also hoping to work on a sign that the rock-carver asked for. Also showed my counterpart the report to the delegate that he asked for, and he made some changes. Which reminds me – I should explain that. I have Peace Corps bosses – the Program Manager of SBD and the Assistant Program Manager. I also have Moroccan bosses – the Ministry Delegate is technically my boss, I think. He’s in Meknes and asked for a report rather than my going there to meet him. My counterpart is the local HCN (host country national) who I work with. He’s the #2 guy at the artisana. He may or may not be a boss as well. In YD I think the counterpart is definitely a boss; not so sure in SBD, but he’s my main contact and I run everything by him and he’ll give me some direction, and maybe we’ll do workshops or trainings together.

I avoided the organs but there’s no way to avoid the meat – skewered meat every day for lunch, for what might be weeks…can’t avoid but I can minimize. I watched my host mother and her mother make something with lung and fat rolled up in stomach lining and tied with intestine; it’ll get dried on the roof for a month. That’ll be served with couscous – I’m not expected to eat it but “I’m missing something delicious.” My host mother said not to tell Americans about it because they would think Moroccans are crazy, but I told her that part of my job is to share Moroccan culture and that it’s not crazy, just different. Good and bad last night: The good – I had been secretly hoping for sffa, the pasta with cinnamon and sugar, just for a change, and we had it! The bad – there was a movie called The Skulls on last night – about a secret society in some Ivy lLeague university in Connecticut. It was painful to watch; thankfully they changed the channel. Why couldn’t that be on during the day when I have to go back out after lunch, and Star Trek: The Movie be on at night? Some PCVs get TVs and satellite dishes; they’re not expensive all things considered. I think I can live without one (of course, if it had baseball I would get one in a heartbeat0). To think I brought a short-wave radio!

Yesterday the Peace Corps office was closed for the national day of mourning for President Ford. But the volunteers had to work because it wasn't a Moroccan holiday. The Peace Corps staff has three Americans and over 40 HCNs. The volunteers are all American. This is the kind of thing that would bother some of my fellow PCVs, but I find it amusing.

I brought my computer to the cyber today and added some pictures starting with posts in early November, but I didn't make it all the way to today and now it's time to go. I hope to get another chance soon.

Hi Sharon:

In an effort to send you a Christmas card (check your email), I realized you had a blog . . . wow! Best wishes in navigating the cultural differences . . . I'm with you on the organs.

Susan Michaelson
Happy Birthday!

I'm not big on organ meats either, though liver is usually ok. The skewered meat, on the other hand...
Happy brithday Sharon! I have a postcard to send you but realize the address I have for you goes only through the 6th of November. Where should I send it????
PS--you don't know what you're missing on the organ meat. It's great. Also a specialty of Giovanni's home town in southern Italy. It's always the highlight of my trip when I go there.
just read the blog about the day you called. . . .Ah, we made you cry! Sorry! We weren't home from France yet. . .

Got on the blog to wish you a Happy birthday, although I realize it is now past that there. . .

Did you get our letter/picture?

love, Michael Tobi Noah and Willa
I know that in other cultures the organs are enjoyed, but I just couldn't (pardon the expression) stomach the thought, and I am glad my family understood.

The skewered meat is not bad but sheep is still too greasy for me...

Ruth, I e-mailed you my address privately.

Mike et. al. - not yet. Will let you know. Thanks!

Sigh - I just finished loading pictures and realized I wanted to do different size and right-hand side to be consistent with past postings! If anyone with a fast connection or with understanding of HTML to just go into blogger wants to fix that, let me know! Also if you know how to rotate the pix....
HI Aunt Sharen ,Did I tell you that I went to the last Mets game. Sabrina
Sabrina - you did tell me! I REALLY wish I could have gone with you! How special that you had a chance to go. I look forward to going to a game with you when I come back to visit! Meanwhile, I have started getting things together to send you for your birthday!
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