Friday, May 25, 2007


It’s hard to believe that next week at this time I’ll be walking on the Princeton campus in my orange and black Moroccan duds. I leave next Thursday, and there are two reasons why it is becoming more of a reality – one, I am trying to nail down plans for ice cream dates, walks, card-playing et. al. and two, I am starting to pack. Chestnut, the rocking horse made of walnut that looks so good in my tiled room, has to be packed to go to his new home in New York, and trying to figure out how to do that has been quite stressful. I finally called Youssef, Amanda’s husband and my go-to guy – he made the ponges and ponge covers, painted, found glass tabletops for my tables, righted my leaning refrigerator with blocks of wood, fixed my oven door handle, etc. – and now he is wrapping Chestnut in some ponge filler and ponge fabric and then will make a protective cover out of souk bags. I hope Royal Air Maroc is okay with this! I was planning to pad Chestnut with presents for people, but he wasn’t getting padded well. So I put all of the presents in my big suitcase – expanded. And I wish I could bring back more things for more people! I went to the artisana today to finish off the purchases (i.e. no more will fit in the suitcase). I still haven’t packed my clothes, but they will have to fit in the carry-on! There’s an obvious benefit to bringing an entire suitcase full of presents, of course –I can fill it with things for myself (and others here) on the way back! My sister brought me a suitcase filled with things in March and then filled it with things to bring back – this is a whole new way to pack and travel! The only thing I really need to buy while home is running gear – the hiking-shoes-that-you-can-run-in you really can’t run in, and the running shorts I brought are not appropriate, so some real sneakers and pants and then I can start training for January’s Marrakesh Marathon! Or perhaps the half. That may be all I need to get, but I will manage to fill the suitcase anyway – with groceries, toiletries, other shoes (Azrou is hard on shoes) and gifts to bring back for people here.
This was a busy week. Tuesday I had a PCV marathon, if you will. In the morning, Nico, the YD volunteer in Immouzer (closest YD to me), came to Azrou with his family and asked if I would show them the artisana. Nico’s father works for the State Department in France, helping to facilitate American companies’ doing business in France. This is similar to something I had been looking at for both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois – is it something I could do on an international level in the future? Hmmm! After tutoring and a little downtime, I met environment volunteers for lunch – two who are about to end their service next week and five who were sworn in on Monday. I still feel closer to the beginning of my service than the end – even though I am past concentrating on community integration I am still doing more information-gathering than actually accomplishing anything – but I am not as fresh-faced as those newly sworn in; nor am I as worn out as those about to leave!

As I write this, there is a chorus of howling cats outside - very distracting. Usually there is a nightly conference of barking dogs, but there have been more howling cats lately. I think that the cats might be worse than the dogs. At least the construction across the street, that I am still afraid will obscure my view, has moved into a quieter phase. Speaking of which – there is a half-finished museum that had not been touched since I got here for training in September. It’s right in front of the artisana – if and when it is finished it could funnel people right in, to shop. I mentioned it in my report to the delegate about suggestions for improving the artisana – even though it is a different ministry and there is nothing they can do about it. Well, yesterday they removed the fencing that was around the site and today there were men working on it! Is it possible that my ministry delegate mentioned it to the delegate from the other ministry? I may as well take some credit for it in my monthly report – I don’t know if the pruning of the artisana garden would have happened anyway had I not offered to do it myself, but they did start reducing the overgrowth after I mentioned it, and the display room does look nicer, even if they took down the “after” displays Rose and I worked on. So maybe my suggestions are resulting in helping people help themselves after all?

After the environment lunch, two of my stage-mates, Rose and Kareem, came to stay over, with one of Kareem’s artisans, on the way to a craft fair in Zagora. Craft fairs were a big part of the job of the PCVs in the past, and I thought I would be going to a lot of them with my artisans, but now I am not so sure I will. First of all, they are no longer being funded to the extent they had been for the past couple of years – Aid to Artisans supported many of them and has removed that support, and when the artisans have to pay for their own travel, food and lodging, they are not as eager to go to the fairs. Second of all, I am not sure I have the right artisans for craft fairs. The only artisan I have who consistently goes to them is Youssef the rock-carver, and he is so self-sufficient that I am hesitant to ask for work-related leave to accompany him (I think I could learn about craft fairs by going, but I don’t know that I can help him with selling skills, display etc). I think the sewing cooperative had been to some with Lee, but they are in a cycle where they need to make sales in order to produce more inventory to have product to sell at craft fairs. The individual artisans at the artisana don’t leave their workspaces to do fairs, and I am not sure about the weaving cooperative. Though I would like to see Zagora and this would have been a good way to get there, I was also worried about the timing, with friends last weekend and a trip to the U.S. next weekend – at the time when I had to sign up, it wasn’t clear how many days I would have to be away, and I couldn’t take the risk. I am glad that the rock-carver was able to go – he was cut from the final list due to lack of space and then was reinstated after I pleaded. Still, I felt a little sad seeing the bus of artisans and volunteers off the next day. I think that in addition to sales, these fairs are a good opportunity to see other volunteers and artisans, to know what other people are working on, and to exchange ideas. There will be other opportunities, but I think I also felt a little sad because I don’t know how many I will be able to go to, if any. At least it was nice to see the people who came through Azrou, and I think I will be hosting them on the way back on Monday night, too.

Wednesday was another day of photography with Barbara – we now have all the woodcarvers and the metalworker documented, but not yet the cooperatives, the rock-carver or the artisana showroom itself. This project could take a while! I kind of wish I were working on it myself, though – she has worked as a professional photographer and she has a better camera but I think I take good pictures too – at least good enough for what I am going to do with it. Working on this (and looking at the photographs that some of the other people have taken) has made me realize that I want to learn more about photography and to get a better camera. For the former I want to take advantage of the expertise of people here, and as for the latter – I think it should wait until I get back. It clouded over, and I was tired from having a late night and an early morning the day before, so we called it a day, which gave me time to get a haircut (last week it was just color) and some food to cook! I hadn’t really bought any since before I did that kitchen inventory, over a week ago. I’ve been happy to be cooking again this week!

Yesterday I had tutoring again – I like the new tutor. He has lesson plans, he enunciates, he corrects me. He believes I should read and write, so we have spent most of the month on the alphabet, and on spelling things out. I don’t know if I need to know the months of the Arabic calendar or the numbers spelled out in Arabic script (whenever numbers appear in print they use the number…at least I think so, but then again, maybe there’s a style convention similar to ours and the numbers from one to twenty get spelled out). I think this is probably a good way to learn the language, but I don’t feel that I am getting the jump-start I was looking for in speaking. I am more or less enjoying tutoring, though, and I didn’t with tutor #1, but I still think I am going to use yet another tutor for the summer. Aziz is one of the LCF’s (Language and Culture Facilitators) who worked with the environment trainees. He is spending the summer in nearby Ifrane and seems willing to come into Azrou twice a week. He knows the Peace Corps curriculum, he knows English (tutor #2 doesn’t) and he knows how to teach.

I spent the afternoon with Katie, who I hadn’t seen in weeks. We went to my favorite carpet shop so I could pick up some items to send to Chicago for next year’s Princeton Club silent auction. They gave Carol and Mike a good price when I brought them in earlier this week, but they gave me a VERY good price! I picked out some very interesting pillows, too – almost tempted to keep them. We then went to the office of an NGO that works with women in Morocco – I had been there with Lee early on but now that I have an idea of who I am working with, it was interesting to hear about the business training that they offer.

Today was a mostly-quiet day, mostly at home. I went through my to-do lists, crossing things off and adding things and making new lists. This is one of my favorite things to do and it makes me feel very productive. I didn’t make any Big Picture lists, but at least I am calmer about the weeks ahead. Amanda came over for a while to use my computer, Youssef joined her to pick up Chestnut for packing, and later Amanda and I took a walk. I needed this day – and I need more days like it. I did go to the artisana, too, so I didn’t completely ignore my (self-imposed?) obligation to be out. I meant to visit my host family, too, but ran out of day. Next week, inshallah.

This weekend I am going to Marrakesh. I think I have mentioned this before – the people I see a lot of and the people I want to see a lot of are an intersecting set. I have always been willing to travel to see more of the people I want to see more of, and even though this will mean a long trip, I am glad I am going. I’ll have lunch with Rob, Janeila and Dominique and then go back to Rob’s site. Marrakesh is full (only five PCVs can be on the log to be anywhere overnight at one time) and there’s a nice-looking auberge in Tameslohte (he can’t host me because it’s a conservative site – no mixing of sexes). It’s another splurge, on top of last week’s splurge, and I suppose you could consider my trip to the U.S. next week a splurge, but I am all for treating myself right now. The various happenings this week left me a bit blue, and I am getting stressed about the upcoming IST (In-Service Training). Getting ready, but also getting stressed. The auberge has a nice-looking pool – though it’s cooled off this week (more so here than in Marrakesh but it may not be pool weather) and I might not have time to use it. It would be nice if we could leave on Friday or come back after nighttime on Sunday and have a real weekend – but we can’t. When I accrue more vacation days I can use them to take longer weekends, when other visitors from the states come, to travel around with friends I’ve made here, and to see more remote parts of Morocco – again, possibly an intersecting set.

Monday I have the dentist in Fes and then the post-Zagora hosting…. Tuesday I am going to meet with my counterpart to review what I have written so far for IST…. Wednesday may be more photography…. Somewhere in there I want to do laundry, wash the floors and finish packing…. Thursday I leave. It’s conceivable that I won’t have a chance to write again until after Reunions. It’ll a whirlwind trip – I return here Tuesday, June 5. Culture shock? Jet lag? Sleep deprivation? Probably, but also looking forward to seeing loved ones!

can't wait to see you--have a safe flight--a80
Really sorry to miss you... The NJ weather was wonderful this weekend.
A - This is how I feel today - I have this image of myself being dragged onto the plane back to Morocco as I cling to the jetway, clawing at the carpeting, and finally spread-eagle myself against the airplane door, screaming, "please don't make me go back." I hope I don't REALLY feel that way a week from now. In other words, I can't wait to see you either.

And if the weather was wonderful this past weekend, that must mean thunderstorms next weekend!
i'm hoping that you decided not to go back...i was so happy to see you and i feel awful that i didn't listen to rob and invite you to come for dinner on friday. you always seem to have plans so i was SURE that you were busy friday.
I am back, of course - and didn't have to be dragged onto the plane. I had a wonderful, almost magical weekend and now it's back to reality, but refreshed and renewed and ready. Don't feel awful about dinner - I had a lovely one - though I do not feel that I had enough time with you! I like our plan of doing our own lunch next year! Thanks for keeping in touch and for caring - but don't worry!
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