Thursday, April 26, 2007
I missed a no-hitter. As a friend of mine said, 27 months without baseball also means 27 months with the possibility of missing a no-hitter. Mark Buehrle, White Sox, last Tuesday, 2:07. I went to as many of his starts as I could last year because he’s my kind of pitcher (get ball, throw ball). A lot of no-hitters happen in April, since it’s cold. And it was cold last week – 40 degrees. So would I even have gone? Only 5000 people were there. Not only was it a no-hitter, but he faced the minimum. If I can figure out how to get the mlb.com windows media player download working, then maybe I can listen to it. I love my apple, but sometimes it doesn’t download applications on the first go.
I had two trips to Fes in the past week to go to the dentist. I went for a cleaning and also because of the sensitive tooth. And somehow in the past couple of weeks, my jaw seems a bit out of alignment and it’s hard to open my mouth. I was extremely proud of myself for managing to convey to this to the dentist, mostly in darija. He focused on the jaw – the least of my problems, to me – and told me to see radiologist to get a panoramic x-ray. This couldn’t be done until the afternoon; so much for in-and-out and back to Azrou. I had some spaghetti bolognaise and – well, since I had the time – a quick trip to the Fes Marjane. By the time I had the x-ray, had it developed, went back to the dentist and got some of my teeth cleaned, it was touch-and-go as to whether I’d make it home by dark. The medical office told me to stay in Fes and have fun – but I really wanted to go home. I had my toothbrush and toothpaste with me, but didn’t want to stay. There were no taxis going back…but then, as I was walking away from the taxi stand dejectedly, all of a sudden not only was there a taxi but there was one place left in it. I made it back!
For some reason, I had brought my night guard with me – I hadn’t when I went to Rabat. Well, maybe I knew the jaw was an issue. Again, I was proud of myself for understanding what the dentist was trying to tell me - that I needed a new one – though I didn’t get all the nuances of why (he told me my old one was tired). And one week later, I was there in the morning for the cleaning but had to go back in the afternoon for the new night guard and the sensitive tooth treatment. I had more spaghetti bolognaise – it’s just a thing now, but I think it’s good to get a little meat into my diet, and except for the dinner party I still haven’t made any at home. This time, instead of going to Marjane, I took a long walk. First I went to Fes El-Jdid – new Fes (only 700 years old – old Fes is I think 600 years older than that). I had gone to the UNESCO-restored synagogue with my family, but not to the Jewish cemetery; sounded interesting in the book. Lonely Planet describes its “blinding white tombstones” - they looked like peeling white tombstones to me, but it was interesting. I didn’t know Ashkenaz left stones and Sephardic burned candles. The tombs of the rabbis are embellished with tile, and there’s a tomb of a martyred teenage girl who refused to convert to Islam. There were once 24,000 Jews in Fes; 12,000 are buried in this cemetery, and people are still dying to get in (couldn’t resist – that is, people are still being buried there). Now there are 100 Jewish families in Fes, no longer in the mellah but across on the other side of the hill. The Jews were – believe it or not – the jewelers and goldsmiths. The word mellah comes from salt – I read in one of my books that the Jews used to salt the dead, but that isn’t in every book. Anyway, just at the end of the mellah was a potato-chip guy that we had found when my family was there, so I had potato chips (oh, I wish potato-chip guy in Azrou was still making potato chips!). I then walked to Fes El-Bali, the old medina – total walk was over 5K – it was great. Now I have a better sense of Fes – and I caught a petit taxi and got back to the dentist just in time! I have a sleek, new, smaller, bottom-teeth night guard. My sister thinks I should wean myself off of it with self-talk, yoga etc. – I will try. Both last week and this week I had wanted to visit the Fes artisana, which is not near anything, but I ran out of time – however, I have to go back to the dentist next month so I can try again!
I was in Fes on Sunday too! Back at the Palais Jamai, the luxury hotel where I stayed with my family (I am writing up the trip – really!). It was nice to be back there – I felt right at home! This was for the long-awaited Princeton Journeys trip talk – their “Princeton exclusive” chance to meet a Princeton alumna who is currently in the Peace Corps. I knew only one of the guests – he was the head of the Alumni Council Executive Committee when I was on it. I remember a memorable evening at the Nassau Inn when he told us “the real story of Chappaquiddick.” I mentioned this to Amanda, who hadn’t heard of it – I guess Chappaquiddick is yet another one of those generational things. Anyway, he didn’t remember me, but his table (three friends from ’59, who have been friends for 50 years now, and their spouses) was my favorite. I spoke about the three goals of the Peace Corps and the approach to development, some fast fact statistics from the web site, Morocco and the four sectors, and Small Business Development and what I do. When I had interviewed the rock carver last week, he said he was working mostly on collections now while he builds up some capital. He said he is known for his collections because he uses glass that doesn’t break easily and quality tape to seal it. I asked him why, if he’s known for them, he doesn’t put his name on the back so that people can order more. I then ordered 25 collections – half sealed with orange tape and half sealed with black tape (even though 25 isn’t divisible by two) – with his business card included. So I was able to give all of the guests a sample of an artisanal product along with a sample of the kind of small business suggestion I can offer. I got a laugh when I told them I was hoping they would come to Azrou so they could “shop – er, see the artisana,” and when they asked if they could contribute somehow (being the good Princetonians they are and therefore being used to being asked for money) I told them I would get back to them if and when I worked on a grant proposal! They loved my orange-and-black jellaba and the orange and black Moroccan blouses I had bought for the occasion (and for Reunions – and for the future). I then sat with each table, rotating with each course, and fielded questions. The group was extremely attentive when I was talking – perhaps the most attentive audience I have ever spoken to – and they asked very interesting questions, about language, culture, religion, the artisans and more. At breakfast the next day, I spoke with one of the spouses, who had grown up (Jewish) in Casablanca, and she had interesting things to say as well. I am really glad I was able to join them!
Big Princeton week – today is the day of the Princeton Club of Chicago Annual Dinner, at which my little computer-produced movie introducing Jeff for his award will be shown. Maybe because of all of the Princeton things this week, I dreamed of Donald Rumsfeld last night – eek! Actually, Monday was a tough day – hard to go back to reality after the delight of the Princeton dinner. A little culture shock? My sister thinks I will feel culture shock when I go back for Reunions. I told her that Reunions is so different from the rest of the year that it’s its own reality…but maybe she is right!
Monday was also tough because of a phone call from Peace Corps staff, which sounded to me as though they were checking up on me. I understand that for safety and security it’s good to check up on people every once in a while and see if they are really in their sites, but the tone of the call seemed untrusting, almost accusatory. I was tired from getting up early, drained from my big talk, and sad to leave the group – but the phone call caused one emotion too many and as the day wore on I got upset and – well, I cried, in front of my counterpart, who was actually quite nice about it, and maybe it made our relationship take a step forward. I know I shouldn’t take these things so personally – and I later realized that this two-year period is a good opportunity for me to learn not to cry at things bosses might say. I’m glad they let me go to the TimHdit meeting and the Princeton dinner, but I expect no for an answer most of the time, so I don’t even want to ask for things, and I guess that kind of disappoints me and isn’t what I expected. But I have probably said enough, if not too much, so I’ll not go on.
Other quick news – I finally had the chance to write some cards, though I still owe a lot of correspondence, and will write more soon, inshallah. The environment trainees got their site assignments and I am very excited about the people who will be in sites near me! I think there will be six who will have Azrou as their counterpart city – so I have a lot of potential coffee dates (or, I hope, hiking buddies – wonder if any of them play cards?), and there are a handful of others who I think are in day-trip distance. Of course, with so many of their sector-mates nearby, they may not need me as a friend, but we’ll see. I finally finished the living allowance survey – no surprise that the mandat does not cover what I spend in a month; I do keep going to the bank – the extra seems to stem from eating out and from the weekend trips. So be it! This week – in addition to what was mentioned above – seemed to rank high on the socializing scale, with PCVs in town for coffee and dinner and lunches and a trip to the hammam and a GLOW camp meeting; I seemed to drift from social to work to errands and have very little downtime. This weekend will be a reunion of three of the four TimHdit CBT mates – Jong is coming up and Rose is coming down! We may even go to TimHdit…more on that to come! Need to add some pix to recent entries, too....
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
This past weekend, I went to the Todra Gorge. I had seen Frank’s pictures when I was in Erfoud in January and have been wanting to go there since then. Got up early for the 6:30 am bus – which didn’t get to Azrou until almost eight. I don’t sleep well when I have to get up early, and the reason I got up early was to get there sooner, so to spend over an hour waiting – shivering the entire time, no less – was deflating. The bus ride to Tinerhir wasn’t easy, either – first, I was cold, and then, once we got to the south, I was hot. I knew intellectually that it would be hot in the south, but it has been so chilly in Azrou (and in my apartment) that I couldn’t bring myself to dress for hot. On top of that, I didn’t drink enough – the buses do stop so that people can use the facilities, but so far I have tried to just limit my water intake, and this time I think I limited myself too severely – I had quite a headache when I got there. For a brief moment I wondered if it might have been a mistake – as 3:00 and then 3:30 passed and I still wasn’t there – but once I got there (the gorge a short grand taxi ride from Tinerhir) I no longer felt that way!
I had arranged to meet two friends there, Jong and Rachel. Jong is my CBT-mate who lives way down south – so this was kind of halfway but not really. Rachel was my roommate in Philadelphia, the person who taught me the card game Nertz, and one of the people who switched sites – her new site is close enough to the gorge that when I mentioned it she said she was interested. Along the way, coming from separate directions, Jong met up with Laura and Rachel with Jessica and they joined us for the day. While I was on the bus, Rachel and Jessica did the hike recommended in the Lonely Planet book – up a donkey trail, past some Berber tents (the book says they might invite hikers for tea – and sure enough, Rachel and Jessica had tea!). They were just finishing their hike when I pulled in – perfect timing! Meanwhile, Jong and Laura were hanging out at a café they had found. Rachel, Jessica and I somehow missed the café and walked the entire road inside the gorge, and were on the way back to look again when Jong and Laura found us. So here we were, surrounded by high rock walls and tinkling river sounds – very peaceful.
We went back to the café and had some tagines for dinner. I had such a headache that I really couldn’t eat or even drink, but I was eager to hear how everyone was doing, and I think I kept up my fifth of the conversation, even when I had to lie down for a while. We ate outdoors, under a Berber tent, with a panoramic view of the gorge. The café was also a little auberge – we looked at a three-bed room and it was quite cozy – and only 25 dh a night! After dinner, the auberge owners (and whoever else was hanging out there – it was never really clear) jammed on some musical instruments for a while in the salon – it was nice to sit and listen…and finally I felt a little better and then just kept drinking more and more water – and then I felt well enough to play some Nertz!
Then we all – all the guests (there was one other at the hotel, a handsome Spaniard, and us) and all of the owner-hanger-out-not-sure-who-they-were guys – went for a walk, to see the stars. The gorge walls were narrow, but still, the sky was full of stars! With no moon to speak of, there were even more! We sometimes had the flashlights of cell phones to see by, but mostly we just walked in the dark, with the river and the walls and the stars. We stopped for tea at the terrace of the gorge’s fancy hotel (Frank’s recommendation) and then kept walking. It was late when we got back, so we didn’t get up super-early to do anything ambitious, but that night walk was really special. I got up in the middle of the night too (all that water) and then saw the Milky Way! I have seen it before, but I thrill every time I do.
The next morning, we had breakfast on the sunny terrace and then walked down the gorge – the book says it is nicest in the morning, when the sun penetrates down to the bottom. I thought it was nicest with the stars, but that’s a secret best kept out of the book! We looked at the crafts for sale and I bargained (weakly) to get some jewelry – why not. I wanted to do a little bit of the donkey trail hike just so I could get a feel for it – of course, I loved it and would like to go back and do the whole hike! I think I could do it without taking a vacation day as long as I get there a tad earlier – or the sun sets a tad later. There are plenty of hikes in places I haven’t been yet, I’m sure, but Todra Gorge is a place I would go back to – it was beautiful and I felt happy, and it was a good meeting place for all of us, so maybe a good place to meet again.
On the bus, I read a book called “Keeping Kennedy’s Promise - The Peace Corps: Unmet Hope of the New Frontier.” It was written in 1978 and then updated for the Peace Corps’ 40th anniversary. An excerpt from the introduction:
“More than 65,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served abroad. Many have had a real job to do; many have been qualified to do those jobs; and many have had the cultural curiosity, language facility, and unwavering commitment to do those jobs well in spite of the often intimidating physical and psychological challenge.
Many though they are, they are the exceptions. For the great majority of volunteers have been sent abroad without sufficient skill, without sufficient language ability, without sufficient cultural awareness and without a clear or critical job assignment. They are the unmet hope of the Peace Corps.”
Wow! The Peace Corps has had the same issues, from the beginning – and the same issues exist today! It was interesting reading. One part that I found pleasure in was the authors’ recommendation that more people with specific skills be recruited – such as marketing or small business development. I had wondered upon arriving here why we weren’t all working on basic needs, and the authors felt that the Peace Corps should be going more in the direction of knowledge/skills transfer (there was a lot more English teaching back then). So I felt good about that – actually, I felt good about the whole thing. The book was critical and complimentary and constructive at the same time. Good read. I also read a Peace Corps book on ongoing language learning, which gave me a motivational boost to keep plugging away at language, along with some tips.
And then I spent most of the next two days with English speakers! On Monday morning, I had coffee with two “English birds.” These young women knew someone who met Lee on a train. They went to fashion school together and were looking for someone in a developing nation to execute their designs in a fair-trade way. Lee at first connected them with the sewing cooperative here in Azrou, but that was just before they disbanded for the summer-through-Ramadan, so he then found some seamstresses in Ain Leuh who could make the clothes. Check out amana-collection.com – buy something if you like, and tell ‘em I sent you! I want some! They were meeting with the producers to go over the next collection and were just coming through Azrou on the way out – but they may use my cooperative, now that it is running again, for an embroidered piece, and they are looking for a knitter; I think I can find one.
And then Kellye came; she’s one of the environment volunteers on the GAD committee. She lives near the Cascades d’Ouzoud, Morocco’s best waterfalls, so you can expect to hear about a journey there one of these days. We went to lunch, and then we went to work on the Power Point that we had put together last week – deciding who was going to present what, working on slide transitions and on sliding copy in and out (oh, Bill Gates…), figuring out a warm-up exercise and scenarios for a mid-presentation group activity. We finished just in time to go down to the Auberge for dinner – but because we had some handouts to print there, we missed conversation with the trainees. I haven’t been back much since training – it’s a little bit like going back to school after graduation. Things are different - the conference room has more comfortable chairs, there’s an awning between the two halves of the building so people don’t get wet, the room I stayed in is now the storage room, other rooms have different bed configurations – home, but not mine anymore – I’m all set to go back for Reunions, and my sister keeps telling me I will get culture shock when I go back. It was a little bit of culture shock just going back to the Auberge where I trained – just a few months ago - in the same town where my final site is! Hmmmmm…
Monday night I didn’t sleep well – just before I went to bed I saw a big bug. Beetle, I think. Big. Woke up in the middle of the night with some sort of bug bite – not beetle, but not good. Went to get anti-itch cream from the medical kit, and saw another big bug. I had told myself okay, there was only one – but no, there was another. Did an apartment inspection and found another three – for a total of five, in four different rooms (two in the zen room). I didn’t sleep much after that. It was windy, so maybe the wind blew them in. It blew in two days of rain, so I haven’t seen any since. Realistically, I expected and expect bugs to be a part of my Peace Corps service, but that doesn’t mean I will sleep well when I see them. At least I am in too cold a climate for scorpions; this past weekend, Jong had a picture of one she found in her apartment.
Anyway, Tuesday was the presentation and it went quite well! The warm-up exercise got everyone moving after lunch. We split the group up and assigned roles – Moroccan men, Moroccan women, American men, American women – and the Moroccan trainers were Moroccans. We read several gender-related statements to them (such as boys should get more education than girls, a woman’s most important role is to be a mother, men are more rational than women) and had them move across the room in a spectrum from totally agree to totally disagree. The point was to get them thinking about gender and to realize that there is a gender component to much if not all of our work here. We then went through the gender and development theories, broke up into small groups for the scenarios, and described the GAD committee. I thought that the committee and election had been poorly introduced (i.e. sprung upon us) for my training – even though it worked out in my favor because I won – and I wanted to make sure it was explained better. The election was interesting – three people were nominated or self-nominated. The first one said that he was spreading the term SNAG around – “sensitive new-age guy,” and talked about why he was interested. The other two candidates talked about how they thought the first candidate would be really good, and that they were interested too. Interesting campaign, eh? Perhaps it’s no surprise that the first candidate won. I’m glad – he seems really nice and it will be nice to get to know him better in the course of being on the committee with him (I would say he’s cute, too, but that seems un-GAD-like). We also kind of needed a male so that we would maintain some gender diversity on the committee! Actually, I thought all of the people who ran were nice – the whole environment trainee group seems nice! One of those trainees will replace Amanda in Ben Smim, and there will be two others close by and two more not much farther, who will be coming into Azrou for cyber or for counterpart meetings – they find out next week. I could potentially spend a lot of time with any or all of them for the next 20 or so months – I’m eager to find out too. Went to dinner with Kellye and a few of the trainees.
Today it was back to the artisana, and then working on the next presentation – I am meeting with the group of Princeton alumni who will be in Morocco for what used to be called an Alumni College (http://alumni.princeton.edu/main/education_travel/princeton_journeys/journeys/1025morocco_07/index.xml - this might be a good overview-of-Morocco itinerary for anyone considering a trip to visit me, except that the group doesn’t have time to stop in Azrou and you should!). This presentation will be more informal – no Power Point – and I will leave lots of time for Q and A; Princetonians like Q and A. I’ll join the group in Fes for dinner on Sunday and stay at the same luxury hotel where I stayed with my family a few weeks ago – yes, yes, writeup coming. I’m also going to Fes tomorrow, to the dentist!
Friday, April 13, 2007
I lost a staredown with a sheep this week. I was on the way to the artisana and passed through a flock of sheep. There are often sheep grazing nearby, and donkeys, and while I don’t walk past them as if I had grown up with them, I try not to stare, either. I think they’re cute. I love the sheep and donkey faces (we do get goats around here too, but their faces aren’t as endearing to me). Well, one caught my eye and wouldn’t stop looking at me! I might have won, except that I had to keep going, so I blinked first.
Other goings-on this week: I made peanut butter. You take peanuts and roast them for ten minutes, stirring constantly. Then, while still warm, you take off the skins. Then you put them in the spice grinder that comes with your blender (do they come with blenders in the U.S.? I like mine! Used it to grind some herbs from the medicinal herb cooperative too), add honey to taste, and do it some more (the spice grinder grinds only a little at a time). Why am I telling anyone who can just go to a supermarket and buy a jar of peanut butter how to do this? Will anyone out there actually do it? I don’t think so! It is good, and certainly all-natural, but Skippy it aint (which reminds me, I dreamed about finding a jar of Skippy in Marjane last week…alas, only a dream). I guess I’m telling you because it took two hours and that is how PCVs sometimes spend their time. It isn’t that I was craving peanut butter, either – just that I had the peanuts for guests and the guests didn’t eat them, so I thought why not. And then I made peanut butter brownies (added chocolate powder to the recipe – it seemed to be calling for it – easier to get here than chocolate chips, which are climbing my list of all-time great inventions) and peanut butter cookies – another evening accounted for! I might make peanut butter sauce for pasta next, too – kind of a PCV satay sauce (not in the Peace Corps cookbook but maybe it should be!). Other things I have done more than usual of this week are skypeing and talking on the phone with friends – e-mail and text messages are effective and cost-efficient, but every so often it is nice to hear someone’s voice. I also made more homemade sage incense sticks - I think they're good gifts for when I take trips to see other volunteers, as I will this weekend.
I think I mentioned that I am the alternate warden for the region – meaning I help to coordinate things with a group of PCVs if there are safety and security issues – meaning that if we have to get consolidated or evacuated I help coordinate…and I had my first official warden duty this week, since the other PCV was on vacation. There were some terrorists arrested and killed in Casablanca (or maybe just killed, now that I think about it) – suspects wanted in conjunction with the bombing last month – and I had to call everyone and let them know. At the time that I made the calls, they thought a tourist had been killed, too. It was harder to make the calls than I thought – you want to be chatty and see how people are doing (I had to introduce myself to some and wish I could have said more than hello, and the ones I know I am friendly with and would have liked to catch up with) but you also want to get to the point and get through the list of calls as quickly as possible.
A new phase of work this week – doing PACA with the artisans. I went over the questions I wanted to ask with my tutor, but brought him with me so that I could be sure I understood the answers. I had taken March off from tutoring because I felt that I was asking for words that I had already asked for and not spending time processing or practicing or studying at home. Now that I am back to tutoring, I remember why I wanted the month off. This isn’t working for me. I have to do something else – maybe change tutors – but for now it was (mostly) helpful that he came with me. We interviewed one of the woodcarvers and the president and treasurer of the carpet cooperative. We talked about daily routine, seasonal differences and what their needs might be (I skipped community mapping because they spend the mornings and the afternoons at the artisana, so for all intents and purposes that is the community). I was glad to be telling them that I am working on the web site and catalog – something that I can offer them - because they didn’t come up with all that many needs. More interviews to come. I did some “old phase” work too – the usual rounds of hellos and teas, and going to the souk with my artisan success story, Amanda’s husband Youssef, who saw the drawstring sack that Joy had given me and, light-bulb-like, we realized together that it would be good to make them out of ponge fabric. He ultimately didn’t buy any at the souk, but got ideas on patterns and style, and I bought some antique coins while I was there.
And I also spent a lot of time working on the computer, again in a new phase. I wrote up my TimHdit trip – trip reports are good. I worked on a Power Point for GAD; another volunteer and I are presenting GAD to the environment trainees next week. – Power Points are good. I went down to the Auberge to review it with the Program Assistant there, and we started talking about other things that GAD can do – somehow we got into a discussion of strong women portrayed in the Koran, which in a way was interesting and in a way I wasn’t sure what to say. I worked on my homestay follow-up survey, complimenting my host family and recommending them to host again (though could they improve on me as someone they take in?). Still have the living allowance survey to do – that’ll take a block of time. The end of the week is the Peace Works deadline, and I am coordinating the GAD input - I had expected news to come to me, which I would then edit and compile, but I should have known from past volunteer experience that I would have to dig up news, remind, cajole, and in the end go with what I have even though there is more out there that never got to me. Maybe for the next issue. I also set up my printer (it came free with the computer and was hand-carried by Amanda when she went home at Christmastime) and printed out the guide and catalog that had been done by other volunteers, so I could show my counterpart. All was going well until I had a paper jam and a little torn piece stuck in the printer. A fork seemed to be the best use of available resources (after unplugging the printer), but I panicked, thinking I had broken the printer on its first day. Luckily, I was able to get it going again, but it was scary.
Speaking of scary, my CO detector went off again. I really don’t know what to do. For weeks it had been quiet (or had least not gone off while I was in the house) and then it went off while I was showering (which was not comforting) and again while I was washing dishes. Again, door open enough to let in fresh air. I don’t know! And further on the home front - I had had my eye on a refrigerator for weeks - right size (small), right color (white - the other small ones I have seen are faux wood grain). Only one of its kind in Azrou - left a visit with my host family early to finally buy it - and it had been sold! I hesitated, I lost.
And then the lights went out. All of them – in my house, and outside as far as I can see. The only lights I had were the light from my computer screen and the teeny flashlight on my cell phone. At least I had those! This happened to a friend of mine in his town and he could see the Milky Way – I cannot see stars because it has been rainy all week! And cold. I guess I am used to cold and rainy (or snowy) Aprils and should just be glad I am not shivering at a ballpark now. The lights came back on, and then they went back off, and it was close enough to bedtime that I decided to go to bed.
I was going to start to write about my vacation, but somehow, talking about the sheep and the peanut butter and the CO and the lack of electricity, it seems as if talking about luxury should go in a different entry…
I've uploaded a picture of one of the display areas at the artisana - I will load an "after" picture when I write an early May entry.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Back from vacation – of course, it was great! I will write more about it, but some thoughts in the meantime….lots of sports to think about, as today I watch the Masters leader board on-line. I can hear the music now and envision the azaleas. I was in two NCAA pools this year – one that I’ve been in for years, run for fun by a fellow Princetonian, and a yahoo-group one set up by one of the volunteers here. I did not follow college basketball at all this year, so I made my picks based on feel and on seeding. I did not fare as well as I have in the past, but ever since the See the World Tour started following my nieces’ spring break schedule, tearing me away from the television for all but the first weekend, I have gotten my Madness via internet scores and International Herald Tribune articles – not as dramatic as seeing buzzer-beaters live, but now part of the tradition, so this year didn’t feel very different. Golf and hoops aside, though, there was Opening Day! Sabrina is quite the Met fan, and when I realized they were playing the first game of the season, she too took an interest in the outcome. When I saw that Tom Glavine had won his 291st game, I had a moment of thinking about when he might come to Chicago or some other city for me to catch his 300th win. After all, I saw Tom Seaver’s and Nolan Ryan’s and would have seen Greg Maddux’s and Roger Clemens’s if they had been a little more cooperative and won when I was in the stadium. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that it didn’t matter when Tom Glavine was coming to Chicago because I was in Morocco. I think I only allowed myself to get that carried away because I was with my family; had I been here in my chilly apartment I think I would have realized that I was not going to see it.
Unless! I didn’t think I would have a computer here, but now that I do, I can sign up for am mlb.com package – radio for $19.95, TV for about ten times that much, or premium TV. The only reason I haven’t done it yet is that I have to figure out the difference between the two TV options and then see if my computer is compatible. Though I’m thinking radio feed might be nicer anyway (not to mention much less expensive). So it doesn’t really have to be 27 months without baseball – to be honest, I think I am going to go to a game after Reunions in June, too – however, the blog name will remain unchanged. In future I may come up with a list of other things I am doing without for 27 months, just in the spirit of seeming deprived while in the Peace Corps. But coincidentally (or not), while I was away I read an article in the International Herald Tribune by a person who lives in St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida) and yet kept his Brooklyn cell phone. The author said that having his friends a cell phone call away might have deterred his (to use our term) community integration, while at the same time it was a big source of comfort (and telemarketing!). I have said more than once that I am glad I am doing the Peace Corps in the age of cell phone and internet – even though I am a great letter writer and could have kept in touch by mail, I am glad for the increased options and especially the immediacy. I may have already mentioned the reaction of the person in charge of the outplacement firm I was working with, who had been in the Peace Corps in Chile in the ‘60s and had even met his wife there – he felt as though he had been isolated from his friends and family for two years (the reason I think I said this already is that he used the specific example of not even knowing who won the World Series those years). Well, I can find out – and this year, even listen to it, though with the time difference I think I would like to find the package that allows me to listen to games NOT live. I don’t think having these modern conveniences has hindered my community integration. If anything, I just don’t feel lonely, though as it is I brought so many loneliness-stave-off-ers and have enough people around me that I don’t think I would be lonely anyway! And even though I may have modern technology in some aspects of my life, I am still constantly reminded of how grass-roots development my life and work here is – an interesting contrast.
So – the vacation writeup is for another time but I will talk about what I have done since my return. Wednesday was a great day – I went to TimHdit to attend the meeting where the women weavers became an official, legal cooperative. This was the culmination of a lot of work on Katie’s part (though this does not mean she doesn’t have a lot of other things to do with them!). She started over a year ago holding meetings to determine who was interested in forming the cooperative – up to 80 women attended the first meetings, and she ended up with ten who demonstrated the commitment and ability to work together. They were pooling their raw materials and their proceeds when we worked with them in training, but they were not official. One of the things they had to do – perhaps the last; I’m not sure – was hold this official meeting. There was a representative from the Caid’s office in TimHdit, a representative from the Ministry of Artisana (my counterpart) and a representative from ODECo, the ministry that registers all cooperatives, the ten women, Katie and me. Katie had asked me to take pictures, so I had a purpose, but the real reason I wanted to go was that the president of the cooperative invited me and seemed to genuinely want me to be there. How could I not try to go?
It wasn’t easy – a transit strike had started the day before, grounding all of the grand taxis. I got to the bus station early and was turned away from some full buses (six people squeeze into the grand taxis here but the buses don’t take standees), and then, as I was thinking about Plan B, I got on one. I was underdressed – remember when I thought spring had arrived? It got really cold again right before my family arrived; there was snow on the ground on the way to TimHdit. The meeting was interesting – I couldn’t follow all of the nuances in Arabic but I could follow the gist, which was good, and each of the women had baked enough cookies to feed the entire town (I did my part by sampling most of the different kinds). I spent some time after the meeting warming up by Katie’s wood stove (this and other comments – especially by my family, who couldn’t believe how cold my apartment is, have led me to the conclusion that I should probably get one next winter) and we stopped by my host family house, but they were not home. I would have stayed longer, but we were concerned about how I might get back with the strike. What I would call a gypsy cab took me back to Azrou – I would never get in one in New York but here it just seemed par for the course.
I may have had too many cookies though – the next day, after a strong start, all of a sudden I was tired and had to nap – and then I was queasy – and then I had to nap – and finally I had to go to bed at 6:30, and I slept for over 12 hours. I was sick before vacation too – and not entirely on my game while I was gone. Friday I was still a little unsteady on my feet but went to the post office, Maroc telecom, teleboutique and artisana – and then back to the couch. This week I helped Amanda with her brochure for the medicinal herb cooperative, with a menu in English for our favorite restaurant in town (tourism!) and with “tip sheet” ideas for the Volunteer Support Network (best practices for common issues – e.g. host family, tutoring, sitemate, following a volunteer or being the first one at a site, finding and furnishing a house) so I did quite a bit despite not feeling well…
Yesterday I felt a little better – plus it was the first nice day since my return – so I washed the floors and my clothes. Always good to have a hot shower after hand-washing the clothes in cold water! And then Christine, the SBD volunteer in Azilal, called. I had not previously met her, but she had been with my host family in TimHdit the year before I was, and her picture was on their wall, so I had been hoping to meet her. She worked on a guide to artisans in her region similar to the one I have been asked to work on here, and I got a copy of that from Katie on Wednesday thinking I had missed her, but she was stranded because of the strike and stopping in Azrou on her way home. So we had lunch and looked into travel options and bought food and (she) cooked dinner (very nice guest).
Today I was planning to go to Casablanca – the woman I had met from the Sister Cities group in Chicago is in town! I had asked for some work-related leave to go to see her, but since it is not related to my primary project (and also because I have been out-of-site a lot – I didn’t realize that my weekend trips counted against me when considering work-related out-of-site requests, but I am continuing my weekend trips!) I was turned down. I looked at the train schedule and realized that it was possible to get there and back in a day – though a long trip – and that I could see her for lunch. However, when it looked as thought the transportation strike would continue through the weekend, I called with regrets. This morning, the strike was over! Perhaps I should have gotten up really early (which is when I would have had to leave) just in case – but it didn’t seem right to do that to my guest, and we were so positive last night that it would continue. Anyway, Christine left for home early in the morning, and I had an unplanned weekend day! I don’t think I have had one of those yet! First, another “load” of laundry – sheets and towels (but still in cold water). Then – sitting in the sun on the balcony with a book – a first! And then I got a text message from Katie – a group of PCVs who had been working the Fes Spring Youth Camp all week were coming through; would I like to join them for lunch? Yes! I had thought about working at this camp but didn’t want it to count against my out-of-site once I got turned down for the Sister Cities request (not that the two are related) – it’s just as well, because I would have been there for only half of the camp anyway, I was tired and then sick after vacation, and once I said no to the camp I had the opportunity to go to TimHdit (being turned down for other requests made it all the more of a treat that I was approved that one). Still, it was nice to have lunch with everyone and to hear about the camp – maybe next year I will participate in one. And this afternoon and evening I have been doing some writing and organizing. Just when I thought I might be finally better and ready to work full-steam ahead tomorrow, though, my tummy hurts.
Update - uploaded bedroom picture with items moved for photography purposes. Rug with Berber symbols and Tamizart (Berber wedding cape, double-sized for bed) are from the Azrou carpet store I most enjoy going to, poufs are from the Marrakesh artisana). The symbols on the rug include a door,a window and a crack in the wall!