Tuesday, February 13, 2007


No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth! My week: moving, cleaning, guest, guest, sick, with some artisana squeezed in as well as trying to buy home things, then guest, guest, guest, and repeat sick, cleaning, artisana and trying to buy home things. I have the week before last to write about too, but I’ll start with this past week and work my way back.
Last Monday we had planned to do more photography at the artisana, but I was eager to get my stuff moved. It all worked out, because both my counterpart and Barbara were no-shows, so I went home to move (leaving a note in case they showed up, and returning later to check that they hadn’t).

I found a cart guy to load up my stuff and transport it up the hill – this is how things get moved around and delivered in much of Morocco. I had moved a few boxes during the week when I had the keys, and everything else fit snugly in one cartload. What had seemed a cluttering accumulation in my room at the host family home is now taking up a corner of the zen room – I am looking forward to having furniture and putting everything away.

Before I could look for more furniture, the first order of business was cleaning. I went out to buy a bucket, squeegee, broom, sponge, and cleaning soap. I spent the evening cleaning the walls and floors of this already-clean apartment. That is, it was clean when I looked at it and clean when I moved in, but now having cleaned it it still doesn’t seem clean enough. There are marks on the walls that only a coat of paint will resolve – should I have it painted? I wish I had worked this out with the owner beforehand. Perhaps I can live with it for two years – after all, I am in the Peace Corps – and perhaps I can’t live with it. The tile in the bathroom and in the kitchen can get only so clean, and I look at them and they don’t look clean. Is it the sponge I used (do I need the abrasive side of my Scotch Brite)? The soap (I bought this all-in-one that does households and dishes and laundry, according to the pictures on the side)? Or is it as good as it can get? And I can’t get the windows clean either, despite buying a Windex-imitation and my favorite, paper towels. Maybe I just have to keep cleaning and one day the layer of whatever will have been scrubbed away.

My host family was away for the day that I moved and I went back to welcome them back and say goodbye, but after waiting for a couple of hours I felt that it was no longer home and that I should go to my new home. As it happens, they got back very late, so I did the right thing, but I did feel weird not seeing them before I left. When we shopped for the furniture the week before last, I had said I didn’t want a big farewell and that I wanted to see them often; well, so far the no big farewell has come to pass! My landlord brought up a ponge and frame for me to sleep on – very kind of him. I was prepared to sleep on the floor and eat La Vache Qui Rit cheese until I had things more in order – I didn’t have to do the former but I did do the latter!

Tuesday morning a PCV from Moldova, here on vacation, came through town. He had written to someone here, who posted his interest in meeting up to the yahoo group; I wrote back to say that if he was coming through he was welcome. I thought he would be coming through later in the week, when I might be more prepared to host, but this worked out. On my own, I didn’t have to go back for lunch – I could go out! – and I didn’t have to be back for dinner – I could go out!

We had coffee and talked about his impressions of Morocco so far, about Moldova, and about the differences in Peace Corps life here and there. It was interesting for me to exchange information (especially after hearing what began to sound like too much complaining and negative energy from the PCVs in Rabat, but that is a story for another day). Moldova is a small country situated between Romania and the Ukraine; they speak both Romanian and Russian (most of the PCVs learn Romanian). Romanian is the Romance Language that always gets listed last when you list them – it sounded beautiful when he spoke some. Moldova is the only former Soviet Republic that re-elected the Communist Party after the USSR broke apart. I remembered that the RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) in my non-profit classes told me not to go to Eastern Europe or anywhere where the people were depressed because I would get depressed; she had said to go to a sunny place because the people were happier. I asked him if the people were depressed and he said yes! There is an element of nostalgia for the old ways, when people were given things, and just about everything is falling apart and not going to be repaired. There are 130 PCVs there. He’s working on Community and Organizational Development in a village near the capital. He was impressed with our Turkish toilets (they use holes in the ground) and was stunned to see street lights. On the other hand, they have pipes built into the wall so that the whole house is warm – and the winter is harsh there. Our out-of-site policy is about the same (and here everyone seems to gripe about how restrictive it is – so maybe the grass isn’t greener!) but they had some nice things like an all-volunteer meeting around Thanksgiving, a July 4 celebration with the ambassador, and a volunteer-mentor program where current PCVs write to new ones before they leave the U.S. and then mentor them through training.

Amanda joined us, so we had the perspective of me just starting, her about to finish, and him halfway through. Somehow it became lunchtime and we went to lunch, at a place I had not been to but will go back to (actually, I have already been back to it). It has a bunch of rotisserie chickens turning at all times. For 20 dirhams you can get the body part of your choice, seasoned rice, fries, I think a drink, and something I can’t identify so therefore didn’t eat (Amanda mentioned liking liver so it might have been that, in sauce).

Moldova (he does have a name, but we’ll call him Moldova) wanted to go to the souk, having read that Azrou’s is one of the best in the region, and I wanted to go to the souk, having needs in the household goods section, and Amanda wanted to go to the souk, for food. I bought some baskets, some buckets to do laundry in, some plates, some glasses, and a knife and cutting board. I didn’t see pots, pans, silverware or bowls that I liked, so I wasn’t at that point ready for food. Azrou’s is a big souk but I am over the charm of them – actually, I didn’t see much charm in them from the get-go, but I do think they are something visitors might like to see. He liked it. We went to the artisana, where I thought I had a meeting – that one was postponed, because the delegate was in from Meknes! He’s the one who wanted the report. We set a time to meet this week. And Moldova bought a table from one of the woodcarvers.

We came back to my place and sat and talked – we moved the table and chairs into the kitchen: it’s cozy, and I see a lot of sitting and talking in its future. Because I didn’t have much in the way of sleeping options, he went to stay with Amanda. Her husband came to go with them – and, unexpectedly, brought two of the ponges he made for me, finished! So Moldova could have had a place to sleep…but I don’t know who may be watching me, and better he stayed with a married couple than with me on my second night in the new neighborhood. I’ll have men stay over, but I would like to establish myself a little more first rather than do anything that might impact my community integration (side note – yesterday I saw a man and a woman walking down the street holding hands. She was dressed in jellaba and veil, so presumably is Muslim, and he looked Moroccan too. I guess I have gotten used to things here when a sight like that shocks me!).

The next morning, Amanda, Moldova and I went hiking in the forest to look for Barbary apes. I went on a hike my early in training but didn’t get far – we were still adjusting to the climate and altitude. And I haven’t been back since – when back at seminar site, I didn’t want to be away from the Auberge for so long and instead did walks around town. When with my host family I felt I should be with them, and nobody brought up the idea of a hike. I kept saying that I would have plenty of time to hike when I moved to my own place, and again, the timing of his visit was good! We went up past the Panorama Hotel, through fields, past an abandoned technology school, over the ridge (there was still some snow up there) and into the forest. Amanda said her job was done when she brought us to the place where the apes usually are, and I told her it wasn’t done until we actually saw some – and there some were! Up in the trees, moving from tree to tree, and sometimes moving along the ground. I am used to the squirrels and pigeons of urban wildlife, and when I have gone for hikes in nature I’ve seen chipmunk and deer and maybe a fox once or an opossum. Monkeys are quite entertaining in comparison, and we watched for a while. On the way back we saw another – pod? Pack? Flock? Band? - group of them, along the ground turning over rocks. We sat down – quite near them – and watched for a while. Even without the monkeys, the scenery is beautiful – trees and rocks and green and a view of Azrou down in the valley. There are all sorts of hikes in the area, to lakes, or you can even walk along the ridge all the way to Ain LeuH – I look forward to more hiking while I am here. There are a few mountain guides – I mentioned working with them in my letter to the delegate, since tourism and artisana fall under the same ministry – maybe I will get the chance.

I had to get back to the artisana for the meeting that had been postponed from the day before, only to find that my counterpart had had a death in the family and would be out for the rest of the week. I had to go back there anyway, to get the suitcase that Katie had borrowed for her trip to the U.S., and saw Katie too. Again, more time hanging out in the kitchen, and then out to dinner with Moldova. He went on to Marrakesh and met other PCVs there, I went on to get a cold from the combination of too little sleep, too much running around, and no way to get warm in my apartment. And then it rained for the next two days – being wet and cold does not help when you don’t feel well! But I’ll stop here for now, and pick up next time on a rainy, wintry, sniffly, sneezy Thursday morning.

Glad to see you're ok! We were wondering. Sounds like a busy but productive time.

Happy Valentine's Day!
from Wikipedia...The Barbary Macaque is a gregarious monkey, forming mixed groups of several females and males; the troop of 10 to 30 individuals is matriarchal, with its hierarchy determined by lineage to the lead female.

So, I'm going with troop of Barbary Apes (properly known as Barbary Macaque.)

But more importantly, glad to "hear" from you. Sounds awesome.

Miss you! Happy Valentine's Day --- Have Fun!
The pent-up writing demand was getting to me, but trips and visitors are (almost!) always good things.

Thanks for the Barbary info! We were asking questions about exactly the kind of info you provided! Now next time I go for a hike I will have that much more expertise!
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