Thursday, May 03, 2007


It’s hard to help people help themselves. I went to the artisana and the sewing cooperative had brought the computer grant application back to my counterpart and said they would fill it out next week. But the deadline was this week! We may fill it out anyway – nothing to lose – but I thought I had made it clear (since I had my tutor with me) that it was due Friday. Friday I went to the weaving cooperative to get their application with all of the supporting documents. I asked how we were going to handle the faxing, which would be around ten dirhams a page. The woman there said that she wasn’t authorized to spend the money. I said I would just do it – even though that is not capacity-building – and my counterpart said no, you are a volunteer, they have to spend the money. Then the woman from the cooperative and my counterpart got into a heated argument (sometimes it’s good not to know enough language) and he herded me from the room and they kept arguing and he took the application and she took the documents. I wrote down the fax number for her in case they change their mind, but I think that might be the end of that. I received another computer grant application from another organization – this one can be returned in the mail – I think I will give it to them and just leave it up to them. Well, no, it’s in French and they probably can’t read French, so I will go back and explain it to them (I might be able to do it without my tutor). Again, nothing to lose.

More evidence that it is hard to help people help themselves…. Monday Rose took a vacation day (remember I said Jong was coming up and we were going to have a TimHdit three-quarters reunion? She never received her mandat so she didn’t come. More on the weekend in a bit) and we went to the artisana – I wanted her ideas on how to redo the display of the artisana showroom. I have plenty of my own ideas, but she was a museum curator, and two heads are better than one anyway. We were talking about organizing vignettes and somehow (I wouldn’t have done this had she not been there – would have put a proposal together first) we offered to set up a few samples and put it back if they didn’t like it. They were about to close for lunch, so we shopped, ate and rested, and then spent all afternoon at the artisana. There are three display spaces in the back of the showroom; if you scroll down a couple of entries I uploaded a “before” picture. With this entry is the “after” picture – we hung one rug as backdrop and had one rug on the floor, had a central piece of furniture and accompanying accessories, used the side niches to display items from elsewhere in the showroom. Each vignette ended up with a unifying color scheme and a theme. As we were putting up the last one, people came into the second one to look at the pricing of an item, evidence that customers recognized that the items were for sale. We were so pleased! I still want to put the proposal together – with our before and after pictures and also pictures from the Marrakesh, Fes and Meknes big-city artisanas, to show how improving the display can mean more sales. We went to Sefrou on Tuesday and looked at Rose’s artisana and brainstormed on what to do with the display room there. We fantasized about going all over the country, redoing the artisanas in each provincial capital. And I got back to my artisana on Wednesday morning and they had put everything back. Good thing I have the photographs – I can still put the proposal together – and I still think it’s a good idea. But people are slow to embrace change and need to be convinced that improving the display will improve their sales. Meanwhile I have my eye on a couple of items that have been there since I arrived in September and that I predict will still be there when I leave…unless I can persuade them to use my expertise. For example, there’s an Ifrane rug that nobody will ever buy. My suggestion is to put it in the Ifrane tourist office with a sign directing people to the Azrou artisana (Azrou is in Ifrane Province and doesn’t have its own). Or it could go in one of the hotels there. But it will never be bought! Having Rose there helped, but I was pleased with my ability to pick out items that would look good together and with my ability to know when a space was finished rather than continuing to clutter it. I guess my interior design consultation and my own home improvement project have come in handy! Maybe I’ll be an interior designer next! After I go through the boxes…

Without Jong, the weekend just wasn’t the same, but it was fun. I hiked on Saturday and met up with some of the environment trainees who were on site visit in their sites nearby. I remember my site visit and how sad I felt at the fact that everyone went off to all corners and they were still here. Their experience is different, since so many of them will be in the area, but they were still adjusting to the reality of where they were going to live for the next two years and what their actual work may be – it was interesting to listen to them. I really am a sophomore now, and they are still freshmen. They are full of energy and enthusiasm – was I like that, and now I am jaded? Hmmm…. As with my own group, it takes a while to sort out who will be friends, who I will see just because they’re nearby, who I might not see even though they’re nearby, and who I made a bond with and might travel to see – I do like them though! I went to present to them again, this time doing an informal VSN talk with Amanda – actually I played the role of listener and I also talked about VSN training and how it has helped me so far (which it has). I might go on another hike with some of them this weekend, too. It’s been fun having training here!

Rose came to Azrou on Sunday and we went out to Ain Leuh, a pretty mountainside town, just to have a little excursion. Barbara, the volunteer there, was away for the weekend. We climbed the steep, winding street to the carpet cooperative, where we saw the beautiful carpets on the looms, but there wasn’t much finished inventory to look at. We saw a little waterfall further up the hill, and then explored the ruins of the old French garrison. There we found a sunny rock overlooking the town and we sat there and talked for what might have been hours, until it was time to go home. Monday was a workday for me and a busman’s holiday for her. Tuesday was a holiday for both of us. Cloudy, chilly and damp (on May 1 – sigh, I’m used to that) so rather than explore Sefrou (interesting mellah, medina and Jewish cemetery; next town over, Bhalil. has caves where people live) we watched “Little Miss Sunshine.” I had deleted all of my movie-downloading software the day before, resigned to the fact that I can’t download the right software in order to watch it (I still can’t listen to a ballgame, either, despite following’s instructions twice), and it was nice and cozy to watch that movie, so maybe I will try again. And then we went to a casbah (old, walled-in part of the city) and the waterfall, and to her artisana to brainstorm.

When I hear about how other people are doing (and I don’t mean Rose, even though I spent three days with her) I feel I am working too hard. That is, I spend a lot of time outside my house, be it at the artisana or with other people around town. I need to spend more time at home! I feel there are a lot of things I could be doing at home and a lot of things I am behind in, such as writing this, writing letters, reading, organizing and ordering pictures, GAD and GLOW projects I said I would work on, filing (yes, even in the Peace Corps there is filing, sorry to say). So I am going to spend more of the month of May at home, catching up on things and trying for more balance. IST is coming up – yes, another acronym! It stands for In-Service Training – and I want to work on my presentation and my language as well, both of which require work/study time at home. I started with a new tutor this week – the one Lee used. He doesn’t know a lot of English but he knows how to teach. Inshallah. I can use the old one for the interviews I am still doing and for other translations and therefore maintain that relationship. I am still working on PACA – mostly concentrating on needs assessment but also getting some daily routine and seasonal calendar as background – and then I have to do SWOT, which I think I will do only for the artisana itself and the two women’s cooperatives, not for the individual artisans. I have tourist questionnaires from the 2003-evacuated volunteer that I have been meaning to tabulate for months and just haven't done yet; want to do that and revise the questionnaire so I can give it to tourists visiting this summer.

I just read that Wally Schirra died. He was my favorite astronaut. I guess that’s another generational thing – I don’t know if I should ask the volunteers around me if they have heard of Wally Schirra! He did those cold remedy commercials….then again, a lot of people think of my generation think of Joe DiMaggio as Mr. Coffee. I saw Buzz Aldrin once, when he dedicated a moon rock that was going on display at the Tribune Building. I realized that the number of people who have walked on the moon is one of the smallest collections of people (I think even fewer than unassisted triple plays, for those who read the comments) and it is cool that I once saw one.

I asked for a Saturday night out of site to run the Marrakesh Marathon – they have an exception to the five-volunteers-in-one-location rule for that but I wanted to get my dibs in. Now I have to decide on whether I will train for the full marathon or the half! Of course, starting to run would help as well – I will buy some running shoes when I am back for Reunions. Now that it's getting nice I can think more about exercising, both outside and inside. I have been walking a lot, so I feel fit, but I think now I need exercise for inner peace as well - I have not been sleeping well. Last week I told someone that I had a breakthrough, actually sleeping through the morning call to prayer (it's also getting earlier, so is perhaps being done when I am in the middle of deeper sleep) but it seems that ever since I said that, I have been tossing and turning and awake for it!

missed you! great update...setting up the displays in the artisana is equivalent to your display and trade show experiences...glad to see that all that marketing experience is still being put to good use - and if "management" takes a while to buy in, you know how to deal with that as well!!!
I would say from your mouth to God's ears, but that just makes me wonder if there is an equivalent expression in Islam! It was really fun to do and felt like worthwhile work - as did the list of suggestions I wrote for the delegate today - if we can get even a small number of the four pages of suggestions I had implemented I will feel I did something capacity-building and sustainable! Thanks for the compliment!
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