Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Happy Valentine's Day! I am at the cyber with a big chocolate bar. This is usually the time of the year when I finally stir from some January depression - because right about now pitchers and catchers report! Meanwhile, on another continent, the narrative of my past week continues...

When you don’t feel well, nothing seems easy, and when something isn’t easy to begin with, tears can follow. Thursday morning I had tutoring, and it was hard to think. It might have been better to spend the day in bed, but I didn’t have my bed yet. The new ponge is firm and comfortable, so good for sleeping, but I have to readjust to the sound of dogs barking all night. And after tutoring I went to get my bed and bed frame – and I had added ponge frames to the order. The frames keep the ponges off the floor and are usually decorated, some quite elaborately. I got minimalist frames – no panel of wood facing the room – the Moroccans think they’re unfinished and therefore ugly, but I kind of like the look.

However – when I took the plastic off the bed it smelled mildewy. I ordered a special size, you may recall, so I don’t know if I can exchange it. Oh, and I didn’t mention that my hot water heater wasn’t making the water hot. It was warming it up, so nice for washing my face, but barely acceptable for a shower. So – mildewy bed, warmish shower, not feeling well, and I still felt badly about leaving my host family as if I were the Baltimore Colts stealing away to Indianapolis in the middle of the night – I went to see them and broke down in tears, just managing to say “I miss you” before the tears flowed. They sat me down by the wood stove and gave me some clementines. My host mother said to put the mattress in the sun for a few days – that’s the Moroccan way – and maybe that will take care of it. And she said she would go with me to the plumber – but in the meantime she invited me to tea at the house of a neighbor who had had a new baby. Sign that I was really not feeling well was turning down the proffered cookies. I had said I would meet Katie (she had brought back a Reese’s for me but forgot it when she brought the suitcase) but I didn’t see a way to leave the tea – and my host mother said she would shop with me some more, so the Reese’s and Katie have to wait. We went to buy fabric for the ponge covers and pillows – not quite the purple and yellow I envisioned but something with purple, pink and gold that caught my eye – and then she drove me to Youssef’s shop to drop it off there. We also bought acrylic mink blankets (I love that), the soft ones (the not-as-soft ones remind me of x-ray blankets). Naturally the acrylic mink blankets are more expensive, they are nice and soft. And then we bought a dresser – I asked them to put an extra shelf in so I said I would get it the next day if it wasn’t raining. It was good to see the family – I did miss them! She was going to come over to check out the bed and the hot water heater but didn’t have a chance – which is okay, because I was just tired.

Friday was rainy too – not a day to put a mattress in the sun or get a dresser. I had more tutoring and then got a buta for the forno (the burners) and some pans. Moldova had gone to the hammam the other day, and while he did that I got some cooking utensils, liquid soap for the sinks, the Windex-like stuff and other things, but still hadn’t found silverware I liked so wasn’t quite ready to make something for myself. When I get back, one trip to a department store or a Bed, Bath and Beyond could take care of everything, but here I feel lucky to get one thing per shopping occasion and/or daypart (or day!). Of course, in storage in Chicago there are Positano plates and bowls and airline silverware galore. Amanda met me and we went to the carpenter, from whom I ordered wood to put over the Turkish toilet when I shower (the Auberge had that), bookshelves and kitchen shelves. I want him to make me a desk too, but I don’t know what I want yet. Or was that another day that we did that? They’ll be ready next Monday – that much I know. We looked in some other stores, but didn’t buy anything else. I think a trip to Marjane might be good this weekend – I can fill in some blanks. No time this past weekend – more guests!

Rachel, my roommate from Philadelphia, might have been the least happy person coming back from site visit. She was in a small rural site near (but not near enough to) the Atlantic coast. Well, she was being moved due to lack of available housing – on to Errachidia, one of the biggest cities for PCVs, in the desert south – in other words, about as different as can be. And Azrou was on the way, so she came to stay the night. She had been determined to make the best of her experience, but hers was a site where the women were not allowed to leave their houses – they had a beautiful building built for them that they did not use – so her work situation was also unhappy. She had a lot to get off her chest; she had held some in when she thought she would have to deal with it for two years, and now that she could move on, she had to let it out. She is also the person who taught me the card game nertz, so we went to dinner, talked, and played cards. She was going to leave on Saturday morning but decided to visit her old host family in Aih LeuH so to spend another night with me.

Instead of a shift change, therefore, I had an addition – because Janeila and Rose had planned to come for the weekend. Janeila’s situation was similar – rural site with no real work and no place to live – and she too was being moved, to a place on the map, near Marrakesh. Rose and I are sad that she is moving so far away but happy that she will be in a place with more opportunities. It was actually good that Janeila and Rachel overlapped and had a chance to talk, over coffee on Saturday morning and then again at dinner, because their experiences were similar. Janeila, to keep from going crazy (or because she was) started to hunt for unusual rocks; Rachel took notes in her Newsweeks. And it was good for me to hear their stories, because I never had that anticipation of the unknown when I went to my site visit, and I will never know first-hand what living in a really rural site is like. And having coffee with them was a reminder of just how good the pastry shop here is and how nice it is to live in a liberal site where women can go to a café.

Janeila brought warmth and sun with her, and it was a beautiful weekend. Rachel went on to walk to Ben Smim for some exercise and then to see her family in Ain LeuH. Janeila and I went to get another acrylic mink blanket and then to the artisana where we bought some wooden spoons, to the pisara place for soup (this is the place I went with Lee and Orianna, with the same one soup as the one menu item every day, for less than five dirhams) and then to the carpet place, where she started bargaining for some fabric that could be a cape or blanket or bedspread. As she was close to closing, Rose beeped that she had arrived from Sefrou, so we went to meet her. Went to another carpet shop just to check out the items and prices there – found more fabric that Janeila wanted and a bowl that Rose wanted. But first we had to see what might be at the artisana – Rose bought a painted decorative shelf – very Moroccan. She was a museum curator so she has an eye. Janeila does too, as an artist. We went back to the carpet place and Janeila bought the fabric there, and then to the other store and Janeila got the fabric there, and Rose the bowl. I still had my 10 dh wooden spoon from the morning! We do have fun together – even with Janeila moving, we’ll have to find places to meet for weekends, to shop and to talk! We were then joined by Amanda, and as we were sitting in another café (Rose hadn’t eaten yet) my host father came by. My host family really liked Janeila, and I am glad that at least he had a chance to see her, and she talked to my host mother on his cell phone. We then walked over to Youssef’s shop to check the status of my remaining ponge and the covers. And then we bought Amanda’s wedding dress! She had picked out material and her mother is making a dress, but then her neighbors made curtains out of the same material, so she had to get something new to wear to her Moroccan wedding reception in June, and the curtain fabric will be turned into a tighter-fitting dress for the U.S. reception. It was fun to see her try it on! She will look beautiful. We went home, followed by the ponges and covers. They look great! The pillowcases that Youssef made need to be stuffed, and maybe I will take a picture after that rather than wait for the room to be more furnished – deciding on big table (Moroccan cultural big table) vs. a few small ones (that I saw at the artisana and like) and what room to put a desk in (I thought that one but now I like that room with the three ponges).

Dinner was at a place I had been to once for an omelette when my family was away, and a place I had had coffee, and a place where I had seen spaghetti on the menu. The pizza place has spaghetti on the menu but no spaghetti…this place has spaghetti! I had pasta in Rabat and in Marrakesh and I thought I was over the pent-up pasta need, and I can make some for myself soon, but just to see what it was like, I had it here too. And then we all went back to my place – Rose didn’t mind sleeping on the mattress, which we pulled into the ponge room, so with four of us in one room it was like being back at the Auberge.

More pastry and coffee the next day (good thing I don’t make this a habit when I am alone – I think I’d gain weight). Unfortunately, I felt a bit unwell, so between restroom visits I came downstairs to bid farewell to Rachel – I owe her a hug – and she went to get the bus. I pulled myself together, more or less, but still felt somewhat shaky all morning. Rose had seen some fabric at the wedding dress store but before buying it I suggested we go to the store where I got my ponge fabric – and both Rose and Janeila bought fabric there! Then we went to Yatout, the fancy store in town (where I had gotten the liquid soap) and I bought a pot and some silverware, neither of which I had noticed the other day. We were going to go back to the artisana but I knew it was closed in the early afternoon, so we came back to my apartment to regroup. Janeila promptly felt unwell and took a nap, Rose took a nap, I washed my silverware. Janeila still felt unwell – I think she had major decompression to go through after two months at her old site; she had suppressed so many emotions. She had been planning to go to Sefrou, Rose’s home, and then on to Fes in the morning for the train, but she couldn’t get up. I walked Rose to the grand taxi station, went to the internet to look up schedules for Janeila leaving from here, and went to pick up my dresser. Janeila rallied and we up to the roof to watch the sunset. It was beautiful – I think I will try to make watching the sunset from my roof a nightly ritual. There were so many different colors in the sky, and the mountains of the horizon with the city below set quite a scene. We then went out to get a mirror for me and the same dinner we had had the night before. The picture is of the two relocatees, Janeila and Rachel - you can also see the tile in my front room (a.k.a. the room with six doorways); in the back is the kitchen with the table and chairs!

Monday morning early I walked Janeila to the grand taxi and then went to get more pastry – nothing else was open. All right, maybe I needed a treat; I was all alone and missing my friends already. Then to Maroc Telecom to order the DSL – I think it will be a while before I have it because another PCV told me I need a special Mac driver and they told me I didn’t. So that will probably require multiple visits, but we will see. To the artisana, to the post office –starting to reestablish my routine. Laundry – my first hand-wash since the Auberge! – and post-guest floor washing/squeegeeing (when I get to the point of no more workmen, then it’s shoes off!). To the Monday souk – for food! I made scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes (we might want to call this “the usual,” because I see myself having it a lot). And more plastic goods – additional clothespins, hammam chairs (one will hold shampoo and stuff in the bathroom and the other will provide a step up to it – and I could also use them in the hammam), dish drainer, stacking shelves that will either be for food or for toiletries. Visited host mom – we went to the plumber, who told me that my hot water heater was basically unsafe, in addition to not working well (he showed me a similar model that had caught on fire), so he is going to take it off the wall, she is going to go with me to exchange it, and he will install the new one – I may have to go to the hammam to wash my hair if this takes a few days. I spent midday Tuesday waiting for the plumber – my first chance to do something other than sleep or clean – it was nice to read and write. And I waited for him again last night. Sigh.

In between all that I was supposed to see the sewing cooperative on my own (I had seen the counterpart on Monday morning and he suggested that – when I had suggested that a while ago he said he would go with me but now that it was his suggestion it was a good idea) but missed the window of time to see them on Monday (they work only in the afternoons). Yesterday I went over there and the door was locked. I also put out an e-mail to my stage about International Women’s Day and have some other GAD-related (Gender and Development) work to do. More on that later – in fact, more on work later, and also on the Volunteer Support Network!

The tiles in your place look nice. Happy Valentine's Day!
The tiles are nice! The tiled floor is the best feature - but it is cold. So I need rugs, but it's a shame to cover up the tile! For now, heavy socks and slippers are working.
I wanted to add something about rugs - they do complete a home so I think I should get some. Not to mention that that is what I am working with! The owner of my favorite carpet shop said he would lend me rugs for the time I am here (smart business on his part) but I haven't seen him since he said that.
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