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 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!

Hi Sharon,

Do check out what's happening in Chicago in your absence:

or if that one's not up any more by the time you get to it, try this one:

Most amusing! :-)

Hope your tummy feels better soon!

Can't wait for the vacation update!

Have fun!
I don't really have much of a chance to find out what is going on back home, so I am glad when people send tidbits!

My tummy seems fine - I have gotten a lot done so far this week! Not the vacation writeup yet, though...still a lot of catchup to do....but in the meantime, I am having a burst of energy work-wise!
Hmmm. Your social life in Morocco bears a vague resemblance to your social life in Chicago: lots of weekend trips, lots of friends; lots of get-togethers. But how great to be able to do it all in the context of such great work in another country!

Be well!
Yes, and my work life is starting to resemble more my consulting life - though not my corporate life, and I wonder if I can ever have a nine-to-five (or more) job five days a week in an office again. The big difference might be my alone life - less ESPN/other TV, no regular exercise routine yet. Well, that and no movies, orchestra, art fairs, Art Institute...
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