Monday, February 19, 2007


With trips to Rabat and Marrakesh and the move and guests to talk about, I haven’t talked much about work lately. Of course, with all of that, there hasn’t been much time to work! Well, I do consider GAD to be part of my work, and Marrakesh and half of the guest time were on weekends. In fact, when I was walking around with Rose and Janeila, many people came up to me to say hello and I introduced them, and they were impressed by how well I know my way around now - Azrou is not the same place it was in training – and by how many people know me. Community integration!

And then my counterpart had a death in the family, so he was not around; this allowed me to spend more time on my home than I might otherwise have, and I still have a long way to go before it feels like home. Last week he had an assignment that took him out of town, so he asked me if I would mind going to see the Tamizart Sewing Cooperative without him. Not at all! Waiting for him to have the free time to go with me had been somewhat disheartening – but, as he told me, nothing happens quickly in Morocco.

Monday I missed the window of time to see them, running around post-guest to the post office, phone company for DSL (no, I don’t have it yet, nor does it appear that I will have it anytime soon), souk for food and plastic goods. Tuesday I went by – nobody there. Wednesday I went by – nobody there. Would I ever meet them?

Thursday I had my first thoughts of “maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Am I just not imaginative or creative enough, or is it really okay to be spending all this time saying hello to people and making myself part of the community without actually helping anyone? There are three goals to the Peace Corps – one is offering technical expertise in order to help people help themselves, two is sharing American culture with people in other countries, and three is sharing culture of other countries with people back home in America. I think I have written about these before – or referred you to the Peace Corps web site – but every so often I have to remind myself that I am actively working on goals number two and three and will have more of a chance to work on goal number one as time goes by. That didn’t stop my negative thoughts – I hope I don’t find myself thinking that too often – and then I found the cooperative open and people there working! I sat down with them for a while. One of the members showed me a book of the different embroidery things that they can do. I was impressed! The things that Motasim had shown me were all right but didn’t seem especially well-made. These women have some talent! And they have some orders, but are looking for the next round of craft fairs in order to get more orders. I can help with that, and I have to spend more time with them in order to see what else I can help them with. I could make myself understood and could understand them, but one of the women speaks a little English and would switch to English sometimes when I was trying to work out the Arabic. I need to process, or I will never learn. This is an issue I have with tutoring too – I really want to take some time off to study and process, but I feel use-it-or-lose-it pressure, so I keep going, but I question how much I am actually learning. During home stay I couldn’t stay home to study, but now that I have my own home I hope to be able to spend more time on it – I haven’t had that time yet, but I am still settling in and adjusting.

I went back on Friday too and had another “maybe I’m not cut out for this” moment. Again, I don’t want to think those thoughts too often, and twice in one week is definitely too often! I hadn’t made any progress on the hot water heater front. I can sleep on the ponge indefinitely while my mattress gets sun, can live out of suitcases indefinitely while I decide how much to work on my dresser – first it’s been airing, second my ponge friend is lining the shelves with fabric, and now I’m deciding whether to coat it or to leave it in its somewhat Charlie-Brownish state - I can live without bookshelves until I get a paint job, which I decided I must have, I can live without the DSL, but I am looking forward to getting it. But living without a hot shower…well, I guess I can do that too, but I do like to bathe, so I went to the hammam on Friday at lunchtime. The hammam is warm and steamy, and even though I am not crazy about it, I found it relaxing – or tiring – and I didn’t have the energy to keep up my end of the conversation. They work only in the afternoons, and by late afternoon I kind of run out of steam language-wise even without being warm and steamy, so I may have to change my schedule in order to give the cooperative more enthusiasm. It was kind of nice to watch them sew, using machines powered by foot-pedal, producing a trousseau (though I’m not sure that’s what it’s called here – I understood “things for a bride”). All I’m supposed to be doing at this point is chatting and observing anyway, but I will ascribe the moment to the relaxation (fatigue?) I felt and not to any deep-seated fear that I am not cut out for this. When I think about it now – feeling still clean but not as weary, I think I’m well-suited to the Peace Corps!

Fatigue came not just from the hammam but also from some interactions. After hearing complaining from others, I don’t want to complain (especially in a blog!) but I do want to share, so I will mention briefly….I already talked about not being allowed to go to the conference in Errachidia. Last week I was going to go out to Ben Smim and the Program Manager called and told me I couldn’t go because there was a volunteer there. So we’re not allowed to work together? I still think I can help her – working on the marketing materials for the medicinal herbs cooperative just sounds like too much fun, and something that I can really help with! – I just have to do it on weekends and not go out there during the week. I also couldn’t go because I have to stay in my site and integrate. What about Ait Yahia Oualla and Sidi Addi, which I thought were to be my primary artisans but are not in Azrou proper? I was told to send an e-mail; that has not yet been resolved. Katie is getting similar resistance for working on the GLOW camp; I was brought onto the steering committee with the thought that I would be one of the people in charge next year, but seeing what she is going through does not make me want to organize one for next year. I went to a GLOW meeting this past Sunday in Sefrou and that didn’t make me feel any better about it, though I am glad I went to the meeting, I like the people on the committee, and I think that the camp is a good thing.

Another source of consternation has been VSN training (another acronym!). The Volunteer Support Network is a list of people you can call when you feel stressed, feel bored (again, not likely to happen to me!), want someone to talk to, need a hug etc. Because I am on GAD, I cannot run for VSN rep, but I could attend the training, which involves active listening skills and other things that I think would be good to be trained in anyway. I’ve always been someone people go to for advice, and I think the training would be helpful not just in supporting other volunteers but for life in general, so I pushed hard to attend. I offered to host, since it’s in March and my March Saturdays away are spoken for with the See the World Tour (hosting also gave me a date to shoot for in terms of furnishing my apartment). Hadn’t heard anything, so I started asking Nam and Amanda, who are on the committee. They put in a good word for me, which got me invited to Errachidia the first weekend in March. Problem – March weekends taken. I tried to take the first weekend in March as a February weekend and was told I could take the last weekend in March as an April weekend – but then when the Program Assistant learned that it’s a three-day training with travel days on either end, he said that was too much time out of site. That has since been resolved and I’m going (not to Errachidia but to Khemisset, Nam’s site, which is closer – and could include a trip to the Khemisset souk, which is supposed to be a great carpet souk, and Marjane on the way back), but it wasn’t without time spent feeling somewhat defeated.

And this isn’t an interaction issue but just another one of those things – my medical supplies were tampered with in the mail between the Peace Corps office and here, leaving me with one month’s worth of my prescription instead of the three that they sent and leaving me without the dental floss that they sent. And Peace Corps sends things registered, not by regular mail. Oh, and how could I have forgotten – my monthly mandat, the living allowance that we get, didn’t appear by the first of the month, as it was supposed to. I had to go to the ATM to get rent and tutoring money (I have since been back more than once for housing expenses over the 5000 dh we were given, but I knew I would be doing that). I went back to the post office more than once and it turned out that my space heater reimbursement had been put into the mailbox above my name instead of below and that my living allowance somehow didn’t have a coupon attached to it (the coupon is what they put in the mailbox so you know to pick up the money). At least they were friendly and helpful in the post office!

Travel is always a pick-me-up – I’m still thinking about what to do with my remaining February weekend, but in the meantime I took a day trip to Volubilis, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Roman ruins. If I’m not mistaken, they’re the furthest-south Roman ruins. Nam, Sabrina, Orianna and Josh came from the west and we all met in Meknes and took a grand taxi to Moulay Idriss, a white-edificed shrine town nestled between two hills, from which we walked the three kilometers to the ruins. I was uncharacteristically quiet for some reason, but I was very glad to see everyone. I had been to Pompeii last year in the rain, and it rained Saturday too – but at the point of most intense showers, we were near the one building with a roof, the olive press. Volubilis was indeed impressive, with tall columns and many mosaics and arches and roads and baths – and lots of spring wildflowers, though it feels weird to call them that when it’s only the middle of February. Some of the tallest columns had big storks’ nests atop them – complete with big storks. There were a couple of tour groups that came through while we were there and a couple of guides who tried to engage us, but we had the feeling of having the place to ourselves (I won’t mention who took that as license to cross the ropes...other than to say that it wasn’t I). I have plans to go back there when the See the World Tour comes, and I think that everyone will enjoy it. The nice thing is that it’s an easy day trip, and I can go back and see the flowers change and see how different the ruins look on a sunny day and maybe even take a picnic. We ended our time there perhaps prematurely because we saw another raincloud headed our way, and it was getting chilly. But it was time to go anyway if we were to have time to go to Marjane on the way home, and Sabrina, Orianna and I did. I got some silicone baking pans, a cheese grater, a decent knife, a measuring cup and some bowls – that’s about as much as I could carry back comfortably. Oh, I also got some tile cleaner and a heavy sponge, with the intention of cleaning the kitchen on Saturday night (I know, I’m making you all jealous – the glamorous life we lead!) but it felt a little cold so instead I just plugged in the space heater and looked through my Morocco books and tried to stay warm.

Hi Sharon,

Can I just say I think it's great that you want to do sight-seeing rather than spending time in a bar? There will be plenty of bars to go to back in the States, and certainly no Roman ruins to see here! I think everything you're doing is so enriching. You probably won't be able to appreciate all the changes you're going through until it's all over. But from my perspective, you're really meeting this challenge of being abroad, and I see you benefitting from it!

Miss you,
HI, Sharon,

It's my first visit. It sounds like you're having a wonderful, rich experience. I liked the picture. I have to go back through the archives and see what's been happening to catch up.

Have a awesome day!


Cindy B
I would rather sightsee than spend time in a bar at home, too! Or, as you know, play Scrabble or Boggle! Thanks for the compliments - I can always use some!

Cindy - good to hear from you! Thanks for checking in to the blog - there's a lot to read, I know!

Have a terrific vacation!

I really enjoyed the early holiday letter ... and the blog. What a rich and varied life you lead.

I really appreciate feeling connected with you over the years since Wharton. Thanks for staying in touch.

BTW, I wandered into a website and consulting group called Marketing NPV; turns out Dave Reibstein is one of the partners. I haven't had the pleasure of interacting with him directly on a webinar, but I expect it will happen one of these days.

Hope you have a lovely vacation.



Cindy Baker
Thank you as well for keeping in touch! Dave Reibstein was very influential - I think I will check out that website too!
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