Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Last weekend there were two holidays, which created another four-day weekend. Monday celebrated The Revolution of the King and the People – on August 20, 1953, France exiled the King (grandfather of today’s King) after he refused to disavow nationalists. There was a spontaneous uprising that eventually led the way to independence and the King’s return from exile a few years later. Tuesday was the birthday of the current King, Mohammed VI. He turned 44. The four-day weekend was for me an opportunity to travel to a place too far to get to on a Saturday overnight – in this case, Essaouira.
In the Phoenician days, the islands off the coast were the attraction, with seashells used to make purple dye for royal robes. Now those islands are protected because a rare bird (Elanora’s falcon) nests there. In the 18th century it was a free port for Europeans and their Jewish agents engaged in trans-Saharan gold, ivory and slave trading. Designed by a European engineer, the streets are wider and straighter than in most Moroccan towns. In the 20th century, it was used by Orson Welles in the film “Othello,” and there’s an Orson Welles Square in his honor. It was also a hippie haven; Jimi Hendrix had a home here. Essaouira is probably best known now for the annual June Gnaoua festival, a music extravaganza; Gnaoua is a combination of African, Berber and Arabic music, with strings and drums and costumes and dancing. When I was there, it happened to be “mini-Gnaoua,” where bands not established enough for the big festival played each night; the prize-winner would get a slot in next year’s festival. It’s also known for its wind – the Atlantic there is a magnet for windsurfers and kiteboarders. And it has nice jewelry, though I didn't really look at any on this trip.
I took the CTM from Azrou to Marrakesh. CTM is the national bus line and it costs more than the souk buses– for that you get buses that more or less stick to a schedule (though it arrived in Azrou an hour late), don’t make too many stops, don’t make long stops, have assigned seats (in this case, front row) and are air-conditioned. I think I prefer the train for a Saturday night overnight to Marrakesh, just because with the train I get there a little earlier and have more afternoon, but since I had a four-day weekend, I thought it would be nice to sleep late and roll down the hill to the 8:00 CTM rather than buy out an early taxi to Meknes for the 7:29 train. Plus, after the sauna on the way to Tangier, the air-conditioning was welcome. Paula, from Environment, traveled with me. She doesn’t read on transport, and I had been looking forward to reading, but it was nice to have her company, and over the course of the ride I had a chance to read, we talked, we dozed, and we looked out the window. I met one of my stagemates at a rest stop, going in the other direction for the weekend – that was fun!
When we got to Marrakesh we met up with a health volunteer from Paula’s stage and went straight to the Essouaira grand taxi stand. We were all eager to get going, so we each agreed to pay two fares so that we could buy all six spots and just get there. And by the time we did, it had taken all day. One of the local health volunteers met us at the taxi stand – over the course of the weekend I ran into a bunch of first-year health and environment volunteers, who had all decided to converge on “Essa” for their first post-homestay treat. Many volunteers choose to stay together in an apartment, sleeping on whatever furniture is available, cooking group meals, and watching DVDs. I had made a hotel reservation in a riad, given the holiday weekend. And as badly as I slept in Tangier, I slept well in Essaouira! My room was quiet and comfortable, my hotel right off the main street of the medina. I got a restaurant recommendation from the local volunteer (the group was not mobilizing to eat anytime soon) and had a chicken Caesar salad (!), and then went to the main square to listen to some of the festival music.
Saturday I had a disappointing breakfast in a café recommended in my book – can’t win ‘em all – and I decided to head to the beach. The wind was pretty stiff, and when my stagemate Gavin texted that he was available to meet, I gladly turned around. His site is a very small douar (Moroccan word for a country village) about half an hour away; he was in town because his artisans were participating in a craft fair outside the ramparts. In his site, he has no running water, so he bought a donkey for his daily trips to the well; I would have liked to meet “Uncle Rico” but after seeing Frank’s pictures I feel I know him. I’d like to feel I’ll get back there to see his site too, but it’s far; I don’t want to think I won’t get back there but I wonder if I will (this week, Gavin sent pictures of his new additions, two live turkeys, a.k.a. Thanksgiving dinner). We went to the craft fair, where I bought some straw baskets made by his artisans – the baskets are very nice, and Gavin has been working on product development and on finding new markets – he’s a little far from other people in our group, but he has a great product to work on, industrious artisans open to suggestion, and a location half an hour from Essaouira! I also bought some of the wood products that Essaouira is famous for. You can get some of the very same items at the Azrou artisana, but I tried to find things that I can’t find at home (such as hair sticks), and I like buying directly from the artisans.
Then Gavin took me on a little tour. First I wanted to see the blue fishing boats. I had seen photos of them at the Ann Arbor Art Fair last July, and while I was unable to duplicate them (the boats in the art fair photos didn’t have fishing gear in them – when I was there there were big plastic tarps and fishermen working) I took a bunch. We went to the Portuguese ramparts, where there is a hole through which the tourist-brochure photos are taken. I took one too, and I think I will attach it, even though it’s not centered. It’s a wonder that so many of my pictures come out as well as they do, given that in the sun I can’t really see what I’m taking a picture of. I’ll talk about the castle in the sand when I talk about Sunday – I didn’t get a centered picture of that one either (but if you look at that Global Voices article I mentioned a couple of entries ago, Cory’s blog has a nice picture of it!). I guess I have to go back after all, if only to take more pictures! Or maybe the mental picture will have to do. Another Essaouira image is one of seagulls – men clean the fish by the blue fishing boats near the ramparts, so you can get seagulls by the boats, seagulls by the ramparts, seagull and cannon or seagull through the hole! We also went to the cannons, all very picturesque, and through the medina; I walked Gavin to the taxi stand; I had a nice time with him one-on-one on his turf. I then met Paula and another environment volunteer, Emily, for sunset by the cannons and dinner. I then went back to listen to more music.
Monday morning, I found the right breakfast place, Chez Driss, perhaps the second-best patisserie in Morocco (the Escalade in Azrou is the best, of course). It’s an institution (since 1928 or so) and its advantage over the one in Azrou is seating. Saturday’s environment volunteers and a couple more came along – I am glad I met them during training – and I walked around the medina for a bit with them. They left to start for home; I wasn’t ready to. I took a long walk along the beach to the ruins of the former sultan’s palace, which seem to be slowly melting into the tide; it inspired the Hendrix tune Castles in the Sand. There were also horses and camels for hire along the beach; something to do next time? The wind didn’t seem so bad – until I turned around to go back into town. What a workout! I had lunch at a French crepe place (!) and took a last look at the ramparts and the ocean and then took a grand taxi to Marrakesh. I went from being chilled by the wind and the ocean breeze to feeling as though I was broiling in the taxi, and perhaps that led to my feeling under the weather – it could be the temperature differential or just the long, hard travel in general. When I got to Marrakesh I was tired, but wanted to take a little walk – and I ran into the environment volunteers who had left earlier, on their way back from Marjane! We hung out for a little while, none of us with any energy, and then went our separate ways. I met Rob the next morning, but at that point was not feeling well, so I didn’t have much in the way of breakfast, but it was nice to see him. I bucked it up for the train ride (which was actually fun – the women in my compartment were singing and drumming and dancing – the mini-festival continued! And I also had a chance to read) but when I got home I slept for a couple of hours, showered, and slept lots more.
This past weekend was a quiet one – I needed it, after the two packed holiday weekends! It was Amanda’s last weekend in Morocco and I ended up spending a lot of time with her. I made a chocolate cake in her honor, went to the hammam with her (what she wanted to do), and just hung out while she used my computer to jobhunt. When she left, we gave each other a quick hug – no long goodbye – as if I were going to see her later this week. One of Youssef’s brothers got engaged last week, and if she gets a good job, she may come back next summer for the wedding. Today I was looking at the State Department web site to help Youssef with his visa application – you really have to be in love with someone to do all the paperwork!
I also had a chance to go to Cedre Gourard, a big tree about 8K away. I had hiked towards it with one of the six-pack a couple of months ago, but turned around; of course, now that I have been I see that we were almost there, but I was ready to turn around when I did. The tree is one attraction, hiking is another, but the big reason to go is to see monkeys – now I know where to bring people. The monkeys probably aren’t always there, but a sighting is likely. There were a lot of them, running around, swinging from the branches, being otherwise very entertaining in their Barbary-Ape-ness.
And this past Monday I went to Fes to go to the dentist for a cleaning. He looked at my mouth and pronounced my teeth clean. I asked for polish and he told me I didn’t need it. I asked again and he did the bottom front. I then called the Peace Corps Medical Office to have them tell him that I wanted them all cleaned. Why is everything harder than it has to be? The rest of the day wasn’t hard though – I had scheduled a massage at the Palais Jamai! It was very relaxing. And I went to Marjane! Two Marjane trips ago I noticed corn chips but didn’t think that I needed them. Then I was talking with my tutor about what I might do in the U.S. on a Saturday (one of the questions on the Language Proficiency Exam) and I mentioned chilaquiles, a breakfast dish that all of a sudden I was in the mood for. So on the last Marjane trip I looked for corn chips – and didn’t find them. Found them in Fes and have made chilaquiles twice this week already! I also saw some second-year SBDs and YDs on their way to Close of Service conference in Rabat – two in Azrou as I was on my way to the taxi stand, four in Fes. One of them told me about other people who were in Fes, so before I went home I had some juice with them! Seeing all of those people made up for the struggle at the dentist. I know why people think Morocco is so hot though - they visit in the summer, when it is hot! This weekend Jen, the second-year SBD who is the chair of GAD, is coming to visit on the way back from COS conference. I like her and am looking forward to spending more time with her!
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Oued Eddahab Day celebrates the day when Morocco got back that province, in Western Sahara, in 1979. For the holiday, I joined what seems to be most of Morocco and traveled. On Friday afternoon, I was catching up with Rose via IM and I talked her into joining me – in retrospect I have mixed feelings about this, because she wasn’t feeling well (and only got worse) and she spent money she didn’t have (and then got her purse stolen the next week), but at the time I was very glad she came with me and I had a great time with her.
Tangier is relatively close and easy to get to – grand taxi to Meknes and then the train; the trains don’t run all that often so we couldn’t get an early start, but we still got there mid-afternoon and had plenty of day. Stepping out of the sauna-like train, seeing the ocean and feeling the cool breeze, seeing modern high-rises, we felt instantly that we liked Tangier. It was hard to get a petit taxi though – as I was scanning the streets looking for one, I spied McDonald’s. I’m not proud of it (especially after starting to read “Fast Food Nation” the following weekend), but I was hungry, and I have to say that the McNuggets, fries and especially the caramel sundae hit the spot. We then walked to the beach – I always like to feel the water – and walked along it for a while in our search for a petit taxi into town.
I had wanted to stay in one of the little hotels where Paul Bowles and other literary figures stayed; now I know that advance reservations are essential in August. We did find a place, in the Ville Nouvelle; now I also know that hotel prices are high in August. After the hot train ride (and walking with our bags) my next step was to jump in the shower – with all my clothes on. We then walked around the Ville Nouvelle a bit, ending up at a Spanish restaurant, where I think I finally satisfied my desire for paella. I enjoy the northern formerly-Spanish part of Morocco – maybe because I get to practice my Spanish, but maybe the people seem more relaxed and happy than in the formerly-French parts. And then…we went back to the room and played piffle. There really isn’t a lot to do in Morocco at night, even in the tourist destinations. No cultural events, nothing to see. Moroccans stay at home, have late dinners, and watch television. I think that’s it for nightlife. And then we had one of the worst nights’ sleep I’ve had since I’ve been here (or ever) – only to be surpassed the next night – when car horns honked on our street all night long. August is the month of weddings, weddings happen late at night, and I guess in Tangier it is tradition to cruise up and down the main streets honking horns in celebration, but oh.
I think that I used to think of it as Tangiers, but all of my books call it Tangier. I’ve also seen it spelled Tanger, which I think is the French spelling. A location of strategic interest, right across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain, it was attacked or occupied by Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Visigoths, Arabs, Berbers, Portugal, Spain, and England, finally becoming an “international zone” in the early 20th century and remaining so until independence in 1956. It was a haven for artists and writers, probably the most notable of whom are Henri Matisse and Paul Bowles (I still have not read any of his writings but feel I must before I leave) along with many Beat writers.
Sunday was our day to really explore. We walked along the Ville Nouvelle’s Boulevard Pasteur, stopping at the Idler’s Terrace for a view of Spain, and then idled at the El Minzah hotel, once a haven for spies and now one for celebrities, just in case friends or family want to stay there sometime. Lovely courtyard for breakfast, inviting-looking pool, spa. We then went on to the Church of St. Andrew, built to serve British expats. A traditional church with pews and hassocks, it also has an Islamic arch and the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic, and it has an interesting cemetery. And then we passed the souk where the Riffian ladies sell their vegetables twice a week. We were chastised for taking pictures, but not before we got some good ones. The Grand Socco (Spanish for Big Souk) is a plaza with a fountain and a nice open space outside the medina.
We liked the medina – the usual twisty, turny streets, but the main one wasn’t so narrow; the shops were inviting and the shopkeepers mostly not too aggressive. At the Petit Socco we saw a sign for iced coffee and decided to have an early lunch. Iced coffee in plastic cups with plastic dome lids! A Morocco first! We talked to the owner for a while and then Rose noticed Rachel, one of our stagemates, walking towards us. She was on vacation and was waiting for her brother, due in on the ferry from Spain that evening, so she spent the rest of the day with us. We went to the Kasbah (where we got to the museum just as it closed – next time?), the old neighborhood at the high point of the city. Past Barbara Hutton’s old house; we didn’t get to Malcolm Forbes’s old house but we did get to the Café Hafa, an institution, serving mint tea since 1921 and frequented by all of the artists and writers and the Beatles and Rolling Stones. None of us could muster up the enthusiasm for mint tea, but we stayed quite a while, enjoying the view of the Strait and of Spain, only 12 miles (or 17, depending on the guidebook – hmm, could it be that one says miles and one km? Of course I can’t find that now) away. Rachel then went off to meet her brother and Rose and I went to the Galerie Delacroix, which had a contemporary art exhibit, the Café de Paris, a literary favorite, and then to Casa Pepe, a food store with things that can’t always be found elsewhere, and then had pizza and made it an early night. We had gone to the Librarie des Colonnes, a bookstore with English-language books and another favorite of the literary crowd, but never found it open. One cool thing we learned is that people from Tangier are called Tangerines! That's how the fruit got its name as well.
The next day, we met Rachel and her brother and went to the American Legation, the only National Monument not on U.S. soil. It was given to the U.S. in 1821, and contains art, rugs, old maps, old posters, photographs, and two tableaux of Malcolm Forbes’s toy soldiers. We had tried to go on Sunday and stayed later than we otherwise would have on Monday morning just to see it, and were glad we did. We left some things on the table – most notably Cap Spartel, the very northwest corner of Africa, and the Grottoes of Hercules, but then it was time to go to our next destination, Asilah. Once again it was a challenge to find a petit taxi (maybe it was just high season? If not, it’s a Tangier “con”), but we found one, and then our grand taxi took us along the coast to this artists’ colony. We arrived and immediately liked the feel of it – it’s much closer than Sidi Ifni, so maybe Asilah is the place for a little coastal relaxation/magic.
Asilah has an art exhibition every August and we headed there first. It’s nice to see art, and the Hassan II exhibition space was impressive. The artists who exhibit (and others as well) paint murals on the town’s whitewashed walls, which is a nice touch. We walked around the medina looking at them and at the doors and the shops, feeling the vibe. In a nice synergy, the artist whose work was in the gallery in Tangier had done one of the murals – we recognized his style! My camera battery ran out of charge, so a return is mandated. How could I have let that happen? My phone ran out of charge too. The Portuguese ramparts of the city make for some dramatic views of the ocean. One jetty (inaccessible) is where the pasha used to make people jump to their death on the rocks. The other one I called the Mallory Square of Asilah – every night, crowds gather to watch the sun set. We joined them, and then found a restaurant in the main square, where we had a suspect fish dinner. Rose had more of it than I did, already had been run down, and was not doing well. Two health volunteers from the south were visiting the area; Jong had given them our number. We met up with them, and they very gentlemanly walked us back to our hotel.
The next morning, Rose was still not well, and just wanted to sleep, so I met up with the health volunteers, Aaron and Mic. Aaron was the person who introduced Piffle to Jong, and he happened to have some cards with him, so we played half a hand while they waited for their breakfast. Jong had shown me pictures of his house – he had painted the Peace Corps logo and the Red Sox logo on his outside wall. How could I not like him? Mic was nice too – I haven’t met that many people in the health sector so it is interesting hearing about their work. We sat at an outdoor café for a while and then went to the town beach to dip our feet in the water. Then they gentlemanly agreed to walk us to the train station and carry Rose’s things (and mine as well – I wasn’t sick; they were just nice!). The walk to the train took us along the main beach and was a nice farewell walk. But the 11:43 train was full! In the back of my mind I had thought that since it was busy season we might want to get out tickets in advance, but I thought we might want more flexibility to take a bus or grand taxi, so I didn’t do it. Now I know! Unfortunately, train was the best option, and there weren’t other trains. We could have bought tickets for the 2:45 to Rabat, but then we’d have been in Rabat. We took a petit taxi to the bus station – all buses sold out until late in the day – and then took a taxi back to the train station. Rose was sick. I stared at the train schedule, hoping a brilliant idea would materialize. We then sat on the floor and had a snack, preparing for a long day. The 11:43 arrived, people got on it, and then it sat in the station for a while. We sat there. It sat there. Finally, I said, “let’s just get on the train.” Rose said, “you want to?” And I said, “yes, - they’ll either sell us a ticket or kick us off, but maybe they won’t get to us until we’re almost home.” In Meknes and Marrakesh, they don’t let you on the platform without your showing them that you have a ticket. In Asilah, that control wasn’t there. So we got on the train. A brilliant idea! We didn’t have seats; a nice young man noticed that Rose didn’t feel well and gave her his seat, and eventually someone who was tired of sitting gave me one too. And the conductors sold us tickets with no questions asked. We made it home later than planned but before dark (I even had time for Marjane in Meknes). So, not the perfect end to a great weekend, but not a disaster, just another Morocco travel experience, and in fact it was a great weekend! It was tough to choose just one picture (maybe I will go back through all my entries and add more pictures) but this is the Grand Socco with the entrance to the medina – I think it captures the sunny feel of Tangier.
There’s also a religious holiday on the fifteenth of this lunar month (which means I don’t know exactly when it is, but I’m told I haven’t missed it yet). The month before Ramadan is called Sh3ban and the holiday is Sh3bana. From my language book: According to legend, this is the day that Allah “registers all the actions of mankind which they are to perform during the year and all the children of men who are to be born and die in the year.” Traditionally, barren women gather in homes in the neighborhood and cook a couscous meal with special spices; they hope that this will help them to give birth in during the upcoming year. Youssef said that there’s a spring here in Azrou where barren women go and leave liver and chicken because they think that will help them as well. I would like to go, just to see this (not for myself – pregnancy in the Peace Corps gets you medically separated), but without a Moroccan to go with (I’m not sure I know any barren women) I think this is something I won’t get a chance to do.
Friday, August 24, 2007
It’s Friday afternoon and I’m just back from the artisana – I had wanted to have tea today with either Youssef the rock-carver or Abdu in the carpet shop, but I decided to head home instead. First of all, my tummy isn’t feeling quite right and it hasn’t felt quite right all week. It hasn’t been a major issue, but it’s inconvenient. Second of all, it’s thundering and sprinkling. It rained one day a couple of weeks ago (more on that in a bit) and it was a welcome sound and feeling, but I thought it might be nice to take my clothes off the line lest it actually start to rain. And third of all, today’s walk included more than the usual amount of harassment (or maybe I just wasn’t as tolerant because I don’t feel well). Not only that, but I haven’t written in a while and have lots to talk about! There have been holidays the past two weeks, which for me meant two four-day-weekend trips, but before I discuss those, I’ll catch up a bit on life here in Azrou.
Lee, my predecessor, is currently teaching disaster preparedness in Dominica – this is something he was doing prior to the Peace Corps. This past week he sent along some pictures of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dean (along with the reassurance that he himself was all right). The photos are amazing – so much water, so much damage. And I have been reading and getting accounts of rain and storms and tornadoes and destruction in the Midwest. Meanwhile, the news here is that it rained here a couple of weeks ago, and only for a little while. I was told that last summer it thunderstormed here nearly every afternoon in August, including some severe storms.
It is hot, though. Now I know why people think Morocco is hot – most visitors probably come in the summer, when it is hot. I also know why people escape to the coast or the mountains – it’s less hot. I live in the mountains…so you might be able to guess where I went on those four-day weekends (not that there aren’t other and higher mountains on my list of places to visit). Note to those who keep asking how life in the desert is – I don’t live in the desert! Not all of Morocco is desert!
Josh and Sabrina stayed at the Auberge while they were working their camp – an arrangement that I think worked out well for everyone (I know I appreciated it and I am fairly certain they did too) but I still saw them almost every evening – they came over for dinner and conversation. I cooked once and, again, in an arrangement that I think worked out well for everyone, they cooked the rest of the time. I am not sure I have eaten better since I came to Morocco – maybe while I was traveling with my sister and her family, but only maybe. We had pasta with tomato alfredo sauce, enchiladas with guacamole, meat tarts (Josh bought yeast and made the dough), baked bruschetta topped with cheese, and homemade pizza. I watched carefully and after they left and I had a different set of guests I prepared what might be my finest pasta sauce to date. Sabrina also encouraged me to try prickly pear, the fruit that is most plentiful these days. I don’t like it – it tastes like mango with rocks inside. It’s a taste I don’t care to acquire. I acquired something else while they were here – a set of dominoes, from one of the woodcarvers at the artisana. Josh and Sabrina knew how to play (is it popular among 20-somethings these days?) and they taught me! The set has uneven pips and if you really tried to you could memorize the wood-gnarl patterns on the backs of the dominoes and know what you’re picking up, but that is part of the charm, I think.
On the rainy day, I was wet and therefore it was another day I decided to head home rather than visit in town, and I met Abdu outside his carpet shop and he seemed to really want to see me. I followed him in and he gave me a present! It’s a tent-pole cover (when I get the word for it I’ll add it in) from the High Atlas. I admire them every time I go into the shop – to get one as a present really made my day.
With all of the guests and the travel, I estimated (when I actually count, for some reason I keep getting a different number) that I have had five evenings to myself since July 17. That’s a lot of company for someone who has lived alone for most of the past nineteen years. I’ve enjoyed the company, but I also am used to a lot of time to myself, and even though I had nothing pressing to do, it was disrupting to the routine I’ve established for myself. I brought most of my guests to the artisana and my other haunts, so that counts as work, but I still feel this need to achieve and while I have been working on the copy for the brochure and web site, I could be farther along. I was ready for a break after working so hard on Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (and when Cross-Culture KSA was sent via email for volunteer feedback, I sat down and spent some time on that), and certainly playing cards with Jong for several hours a day was a good use of time, and it’s hard to be super-motivated when it’s so hot and when so many other people aren’t working, and there’s still plenty of time to accomplish a lot, but…at least I can say this, I have kept up my tutoring this summer and feel much improved.
And at least I did one major work thing this month from which I can get a sense of achievement. I finished the tourist questionnaire in English and French, printed and copied it, made a box for people to put questionnaires in, made a sign asking people to fill them out, and left it at the artisana while I was away. I would rather have been there to hand out questionnaires and talk to people, but I didn’t want to wait. To my surprise, when I returned this week, the box was full of filled-out questionnaires! Even more remarkable, the pen I had bought to leave with the questionnaires was still there! I’m going to wait for more questionnaires before I tabulate the results, but a sneak peek is interesting – most of the tourists who filled them out are from Morocco. Some are just in for the day and some for a week or more. They are staying in the hotels, eating at the restaurants, going to the cafes – all things I was hoping they would say, because then I can go around to the hotels, restaurants and cafes with brochures that tell people to go to the artisana! My counterpart returns from a three-week vacation next week and then it’s back to photography and to more time spent working – I think! While I have been writing this, someone texted to ask if she could stay over tomorrow night, a YD volunteer who had been in Chad and gotten evacuated and then came here texted to ask if friends of his from Chad could stop by this weekend, I’m expecting an RPCV from Mongolia to stay over one day next week, and the head of GAD may stay over next weekend!
In the meantime, something I wrote in an earlier post was used in an article on the web site Global Voices. It looks like a very interesting web site – Global Voices is a “non-profit global citizens’ media project…shining light on places and people other media often ignore.” The full article, which can be found at http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/08/19/morocco-an-introduction-to-peace-corps-bloggers/, highlighted comments from several Morocco PCV blogs. What it took from mine:
“27monthswithoutbaseball also touched on the experience of a PCV, saying: I’ve also been struggling with issues of belonging and acceptance – again, issues identified by the career coach as something important to me in my career search. I don’t feel that I don’t belong in the Peace Corps – I still feel it was a great choice for me at this point in my life – and I don’t feel I don’t belong in Azrou; I feel quite welcomed – but I am still dealing with the issue of my relationships with other volunteers. This is something I didn’t expect to have as an issue – something they don’t tell you about in training!"
How did I find this out? The Country Director sent it to everyone in an email yesterday. In other words, every volunteer saw that the volunteer in Azrou is dealing with the issue of relationships with other volunteers. I could only laugh, and am still shaking my head. Although I do find myself kind of hoping that most people don’t read the emails he sends…and/or that they feel the same way and I just expressed it for them….
I reviewed Amanda’s resume this week and gave her some tips on internet job search. The Peace Corps gives you a book about jobhunting at the COS conference (which is three months before COS – the second-year SBDs and YDs are going next week! Time flies!) but that doesn’t seem like enough. Not that I am focusing on that now, but it is something that has occurred to me. Speaking of COSing volunteers, I saw Katie yesterday and met her tutor. He and his wife, a nurse at the hospital, run an association that gives out school supplies every week. I think I may try to join them sometime – I’d feel good about that. Amanda leaves next week, to go home to California. Youssef hasn’t heard about his visa application yet – it’ll probably be another two to four months – but I will miss her and then him, to say the least.
At least I have movies now! One of the PCVs I met last weekend has an apple and told me about software that worked! Now to find some time to watch them…. The picture is one that I sent to the High Atlas Foundation. We got an email from the Peace Corps librarian that the foundation was looking for photographs to put on some invitations. There are professional photographers in my stage, but I decided to submit some of my own anyway (maybe they didn’t read the email!). Of the ones I sent to them, this was their favorite – it’s one of mine, too, taken in Tiznit.
And looking at the moon has more significance these days. It’s waxing. And then it will wane. And one day it will be new. And then the next there will be just the tiniest sliver of moon visible – and that is when Ramadan will begin.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
News flash - thanks to my "tech support" friend Brett, I can finally listen to baseball games on mlb.com! I can listen to any archived game (and think I will find Buerhle's no-hitter) but for now I think I will listen to the dulcet tones of Bob Uecker and Milwaukee at Colorado (1:05 Mountain Time start, 7:05 here - i.e a few minutes from now).
Now it's a little later, and while I listen and wait for my dinner to cook (rice today) I can add the note that today is a good day for my baseball audio to work - it's the anniversary of what was to be the first night game at Wrigley Field, 8/8/88. I already had tickets for 8/9/88, which was to be the second night game at Wrigley Field, and I was kind of hoping for rain (my father's favorite word was schadenfreude - pleasure in the misfortune of others) so I could go to the first official night game at Wrigley Field. There was all sorts of pageantry on 8/8/88 - Harry Caray and Steve Stone wore tuxes, for example. I was sailing on Lake Michigan that night prior to going home to watch history (this is while I could still listen to Harry Caray). Lightning flashed all around us and our sail was cut short. The game started but was ultimately rained out. I don't think my wishing made it so (but maybe if I wish hard enough my boxes will come?).
Now it's a little later and that didn't last very long! The rice was still cooking when I heard the horns and drums of a wedding procession coming up the street. When I went out to buy my vegetables earlier today, I noticed a tent going up on the street in front of the building next door. Amanda's wedding was on the roof and when I told my tutor about the tent today he asked if it was on the roof - based on that sample size of two I was about to say that weddings are usually on the roof, but I realize that I don't really know that. Thought about taking a nap this afternoon because I suspect there will be loud music from the wedding all night long (literally - until after sunrise; a typical Moroccan wedding can be three days long), but instead I decided to visit my host family. My landlord just came upstairs to invite me to go to the wedding with his wife....I guess that's all part of community integration but it'll just be getting started around my bedtime - plus I have Josh and Sabrina coming over for dinner! Not that I won't end up going to the wedding - but I am so tired!
Ah, Coors Field - I left the computer for a few minutes to talk to the landlord and to watch the wedding procession and it's 8-0 (not sure who has the 8 and who has the 0 but maybe this wasn't a good first choice of game - I prefer pitchers' duels to slugfests - I would have thought I'd be happy with anything after trying off and on since Opening Day to get this software to work...at least I'll be able to turn it off without regret when my dinner guests arrive!).
When I went to Maroc Telecom yesterday (I should mention that when I get my bill I cannot just go and pay it, for reasons I can't understand - they always tell me to come back in a couple of weeks. Can I pay early? Apparently not. And the woman who I give my money to always asks me to come over to her house - I think - but since I can't understand her I don't know why she keeps inviting me. I got the idea yesterday that she wants to show me a house that I might want to live in, not that she was inviting me over for tea. Whatever she's saying to me, she's not all that friendly about it, so maybe that's why I don't understand her) one of the environment volunteers was there trying to get her cell phone number - her phone has been taken from her bag at souk. I haven't been to souk in months (it was too cold, then too rainy, now too hot) but I know that I have lost some vigilance when I walk around Azrou (though I am careful in crowds and in tourist spots - and even in Azrou I have a good grip on my always-zipped-up bags) so this was a good reminder to stay aware.
Now it's much later (close to 11 pm Morocco time) and the party is not yet in full swing - some live music and (men only) dancing was just now followed by the James Bond theme and the Looney Tunes theme. Dinner has not been served yet, and after that the real party will begin. I do think I will go for a little while - good community integration - but maybe I will shower and nap first. Meanwhile, I posted a picture of the wedding procession. The truck bed in front contains all of the cookies and I think the other ceremonial things - the milk, dates and sugar that the couple will share, to represent the hope for a sweet life together. The small cart in the picture contains the sheep - i.e. the dinner that I think I would just as soon skip. In the back of the procession (left side of the picture) is the band - drums and tambourine-things and horns. It should be noted that I have no idea who is getting married - nor have I seen anyone (from my balcony) who is dressed in wedding garb.
My reading of Real Simple yesterday was timely - it had some tips for hot weather. I already knew about some of them (such as putting a bowl of water in front of the fan - not that I have done that yet) but there was one that was new to me that I found very intriguing. Take a sock and put some uncooked rice in it - put that in the freezer for a couple of hours and then put it between the sheets for the hot-weather equivalent of a hot-water bottle. I haven't tried it (I had enough rice to make the Spanish rice but not enough for that and the sock - plus the height of my freezer shelf is just a little higher than an ice cube tray - or a Magnum bar - so I don't know how much, if any, rice would fit into a sock in the freezer - maybe using the refrigerator coolness would be good enough? - but if nothing else, maybe I can submit these tips (with proper referencing, of course) to the next issue of Peace Works...
How might having baseball audio change my routine? Well, with baseball as background, I might write more letters...or get back to work on my Arabic dictionary and get that up-to-date...or drown out the barking dogs (the white noise generator actually did a good job of that, but Jong took her voltage converter with her so I'm awaiting the arrival of one from my sister)...or edit previous blog posts (adding spaces between paragraphs, for example - I have a lot of pictures in iphoto to edit and label too; I really could never leave the house and stay very busy!)...or have somewhere to turn when I feel those moments of being too sensitive or too sad or too aimless...or maybe I will find that I don't listen all that often since I have managed so far without it (though I expect to tune in for the post-season, the next morning if not live).
Now it's a little later (I don't usually blog "live") and I have showered and my head hurts swiya and I think I am tired enough to sleep through the music (especially knowing that the construction will start at 7:15). But if it turns out that I can't sleep, I may just go down and join the party!
And now it's the next morning. My swiya headache turned into a bzef headache - aspirin and sleep helped, but when I woke up after sleeping a little bit, I realized that I needed more sleep. The music was loud, but not unpleasant; I must have fallen asleep during a band break, because when the music was live, there was no way to sleep. It was kind of like staying in the dorm for Reunions - really loud music right outside the window, and then it stops in the wee hours (the wedding ended at four a.m. - before sunrise but after the call to prayer) and you finally sleep a little, and then all too early there is more noise - here it is the construction (there are partially-built buildings all over Azrou and the one across the street from me seems to be the only one which is consistently (daily!) worked on; at Reunions the noise begins around six a.m. when the crews come to set up breakfast tables and food - as loudly as possible. For a while I thought this would seem like two years of camping, but now I feel at home in my home. It's not like two years in the dorm, either - my bed is more comfortable (now that I have the featherbed and duvet), my bathroom isn't shared and doesn't require a walk down a hallway or a staircase. The hanging out of my recent guests (especially one day where Jong and I played cards, Gavin napped and Dominique used my computer) does remind me a bit of college life, but maybe that's because so many of my cohort is just a few years out of college. All right, time to get moving - have breakfast, rinse the laundry I have soaking, work on my Arabic homework and on the tourist questionnaires, read up on this weekend's destination...
P.S. Just got an email from Arlene saying that the game I was listening to was one off the Rockies' record for hits in a game and that there's an afternoon Mets game today. Thanks, Arlene!
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I admitted at the time that my recipe for homemade peanut butter (roast the peanuts, take off the skin, put in blender spice-grinder – if blenders even come with spice grinders in the U.S. – add a little oil and grind, grind, grind until you get the consistency you want) is not something anyone in the U.S. is likely to duplicate, because peanut butter is so readily available. Even I haven’t tried to make it again, stocking up on Jessy’s Peanut Butter Crunchy whenever I go to Marjane. But now I have developed a new recipe that you may be interested in. I call it Mocha Java Frappuccino – though I hope I’m not violating any copyrights with that. Nescafe, a little Nesquik, a little sugar, boiling water, milk. If you like, make two cups and drink one right there – Mocha Java hits the spot hot or cold! But the ingenious recipe I developed last week involves letting it cool and then putting it in a bottle in the fridge. It tastes just like the bottled (not the fresh-made) Starbucks mocha frappuccino! Very nice and refreshing on a hot day, especially if you need a little pick-me-up. Another nice hot-day discovery is Lemon Tang. Mix it with cold water and it tastes just like - lemonade made from powder! I had a bunch of people over, so I made some of that and I baked a chocolate-coconut cake (and then I had more people over so I baked a coconut angel cake – I didn’t realize how much coconut half a kilo would be when I requested it, so I am going to make even more coconut things! Maybe I will find a recipe that uses coconut, oatmeal and cinnamon, since I have lots of all of those). I found the recipes on the internet and improvised – either I didn’t have sour cream (not sure I have seen any here) or there weren’t enough eggs (and didn’t feel like going back out) or I approximated the amount of butter (the stick of butter, with its wrapper that has the measurements on it, is a wonderful thing about America) or the temperature (I have an electric oven, which does have a dial, so it’s not as unpredictable as a butagas oven, but it’s not as if I can turn it to 350 degrees) – and both cakes were delicious, even if they turned out different from the way the recipe writers intended. I’ve also become a big fan of tomato paste. Mix it with milk and you have a tomato cream sauce. Mix it with olive oil and spices and you have a marinara. Mix it with rice and your have Spanish rice. I include vegetables and sometimes cheese in my pasta and rice, so that I get some vegetables and sometimes cheese (I still haven’t bought any meat, but I do eat it when out, so I get some meat); tomato paste is something I could see myself using more of when I get back. I think at one point I also mentioned that I hadn’t opened the soy sauce yet – now I mix it with the peanut butter and a little olive oil or butter and voila, a peanut sauce for my pasta. That and breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions (scrambled eggs) and I am quite pleased with my fare – I hope it doesn’t come across as sad.
As for sad, though – I have been feeling somewhat sad lately. Or maybe just too sensitive. Or maybe thinking too much about negative thinking. When I worked with a career coach, I realized that I always felt that I should be doing more, and that thinking that way, instead of spurring me on to greater achievement, was actually negative. Being armed with that awareness helps me recognize it for what it is, but it doesn’t always help me overcome it. Working on Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes took a lot of time, and underlying that was a sense of uneasiness that I wasn’t getting enough done for Azrou. Then I hosted Jong, which meant lots of card-playing (not a lot of guilt about that though! I knew it was temporary – and, as Janeila pointed out, it’s summer – expectations are lower – but actually, nobody expects more of me than I do anyway, especially here – the card-playing was a very good use of time, I thought) and, while she was at camp, I was catching up on things and making a to-do list so that I can move ahead, but I didn’t actually feel I was moving ahead. This morning I feel I finally broke out of it – instead of fretting about how much I was or wasn’t doing and how much I want to accomplish, I started to think about my artisans, wondering if the weavers would be open to giving tours when people come into the room with the looms. I bring people to the artisana and show them the looms; some of the women are friendly and some are shy. But if they themselves could explain the weaving process and the cooperative to visitors, maybe have a little canned speech, visitors might be more inclined to then buy. Maybe when the artisana opens again post-lunch I’ll go over there and talk with them. It’s not a big deal, and this is the group my counterpart told me I didn’t have to work with, but the small deals are part of the process here, and thinking about that made feel happy.
I’ve also been struggling with issues of belonging and acceptance – again, issues identified by the career coach as something important to me in my career search. I don’t feel that I don’t belong in the Peace Corps – I still feel it was a great choice for me at this point in my life – and I don’t feel I don’t belong in Azrou; I feel quite welcomed – but I am still dealing with the issue of my relationships with other volunteers. This is something I didn’t expect to have as an issue – something they don’t tell you about in training! A bunch of volunteers from my stage and from the environment stage went to Ain Leuh this weekend for the festival of Berber music. I went along for the day but was eager to get home – there was too much hanging out without other activity or even a lot of conversation (most of the music was at night, and I had to get back before then) – I’ve never been good at just hanging out (in fact, I just asked my sister to send Scrabble and backgammon). We went from sitting in one spot (which at least involved a hike up to it) to sitting at another (which at least involved lunch) to sitting at a café (which involved a lot of bees) – and when the group started half-heartedly and indecisively moving to yet another spot for more hanging out, I decided it was time to go back to Azrou. I know it’s just the way it is – you have more to say and do with some people than with others, and there might even be people you don’t like, though that doesn’t apply to anyone I saw this weekend – but in this fishbowl world, I’m still too sensitive to it. I know I’ll keep coming back to this and that there isn’t a resolution per se – it’s just the way it is. Once again I find that I enjoy spending time with other volunteers in small doses – one, two or maybe three at a time – rather than in a large group. Sunday, back in my own place, was more fun for me. People came over in ones and twos, played cards and had cake, and yes, even just hung out, but I was more comfortable.
While I was in Chefchaouen, Gavin and Dominique, who were working a camp nearby, came on Saturday night to stay here with Jong. They brought with them Jarvis, a water seller doll, and entertained themselves by taking pictures with it on my computer. Now any and all visitors are encouraged to have their pictures taken with Jarvis – apple’s Photo Booth feature makes it very entertaining. Rose and her friend, the RPCVs, Amanda and Youssef, Rachel, Sherwin, and some of the environment volunteers have since been photographed with him; maybe I’ll make an imovie featuring him and learn that feature of my computer. Two more people from my stage, Sabrina and Josh, are here for two weeks working the next session of camp. They are not staying with me but I’ll see them during their camp downtime. In addition to having pictures taken with Jarvis (and since I still can’t figure out how to watch downloaded movies) we entertained ourselves with the pcvmorocco yahoo group. When I was applying to the Peace Corps I didn’t think about looking for blogs or discussion groups; pcvmorocco is for current volunteers, friends, family (so you can join if you like), former volunteers, future volunteers….right now there are a lot of questions from incoming volunteers about what to buy and what to bring. It’s interesting seeing their questions (and entertaining thinking about sarcastic answers). I wonder who joined it last year from my group and what questions they had? I’ll have to check the archives. Anyway, it doesn’t take much – communication with a friend from either here or home – to make me feel less sensitive about the other relationships I have here, so once again, there’s not a lingering sadness. I actually feel better already – maybe I just needed a good night’s sleep alone in my own bed instead of keeping company company on the ponges – I am already looking forward to seeing fellow volunteers again. Time to see my host family again, too, and to make some tea rounds – I’ve visited around town this past month, but not at tea time except for last week with the RPCVs in my favorite carpet shop, so it’s time for some longer visits.
One of the environment volunteers told me that there’s a health volunteer, Samuel, who stayed here a couple of weeks ago, who is rating the showers of PCVs. I didn’t know Samuel beforehand but was willing to host him when someone asked me to, and he turned out to be an interesting person, so I was glad I did. When he left he told me my shower was #2 in pressure and #1 in temperature; the environment PCV told me that it is now being described as #1 overall. But more than that was on the line yesterday. I think I mentioned in a previous post that the cold water knob had fallen off. Well, as luck would have it, the hot water knob was on its way out, so when Youssef came over to do some decorative painting that I thought would be nice to have, I asked him to look at the shower first. Turned out he had to replace the whole mechanism (if I had plumbing terminology I could explain this better but what I mean is the thing that connects into the wall, the knobs, the hose, and the shower head – in short, all visible parts of the shower) and I can now shower with confidence, with pressure and temperature, and I can turn the shower off without worrying turning the knobs so hard to prevent drips that I strip the knobs…the kitchen sink might be next, because I have to turn those knobs quite a bit to stop the drips – I wouldn’t like drips anyway, but in this dry country, I really don’t want to waste water). I’ll have to invite Samuel back to see if the rating stays the same. While waiting for Youssef to get the supplies, I finished “Younger Than That Now,” the book by the Morocco PCV who was here in the early ‘80s. I didn’t like it that much – maybe that helped contribute to my sensitive mood. There were many things that I could relate to – the term Big D, for example – who knew it was in use back then? And Laughing Cow cheese was a staple back then too. But I didn’t enjoy reading about his experience, which seemed mostly negative and self-serving. So today I quickly turned to Real Simple, a magazine I always enjoy reading, to improve my reading frame of mind.
Small things really do add up here – I always feel better on the day I wash my floors, and this morning I did some handwash. Sunday I went through my medical kit to see what supplies I was low on (we can order lotion and sunscreen once a month, I was low on dental floss, Jong borrowed my ace bandage and I decided it was hers and requested a new one). Today, a breakthrough – I colored my own hair. In the U.S. I’d had it highlighted and lowlighted, too complicated for me, but since coming here I’ve bought a box and had a professional apply it. But the last time, the professional left a big stripe undone, so I thought I could probably do just as well myself. If I can, this could be a bigger money-saver when I return to the U.S. than making my own mocha java frappuccino!
I've heard about Bonds tying Aaron and about Glavine's 300th win; I'm listening to the Republican debate and reading the transcript of the Democratic one. I saw the news about the 35W bridge collapse - my roommate Amy did her senior thesis about the nation's crumbling infrastructure and it's still a problem! I am happy to have The New Yorker, always.
I guess this is either one of those slice-of-life what-it’s-like-to-be-here posts, or it’s rambling! My hair is almost dry, and it’s almost time for the post-lunch (actually, post-third-call-to-prayer) bustle in Azrou, so it’s time to get going. I went to the post office and by the artisana already this morning and tried to go to the tailor to get some things taken in, but he wasn’t there. So maybe he will be now…and maybe I’ll go talk to the weavers…and I’m going to try to meet Amanda for some orange juice. She leaves tonight for Agadir and when she comes back, it’ll be to pack and get ready to go home for good!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Last weekend was a three-day weekend, with a holiday Monday to celebrate Throne Day, the anniversary of the King’s 1999 ascension to the throne. In the big cities there are supposed to be parades; where I was, there were more flags out than usual, and as I passed by a television I saw the King giving a speech, but other than that I didn’t notice much that was different. It was, however, an opportunity to travel to a place that is hard to get to on just an overnight, and I went to Chefchaouen.
Chefchaouen is nestled in the hills of two mountains, in the Rif. It used to be called Chaouen, “the peaks,” and Chefchaouen means “look at the peaks.” The town was founded in the 1400s as a base to launch attacks on the Portuguese who occupied the northern city of Ceuta, and it grew as Muslim and Jewish refugees escaped the Spanish Inquisition in 1492; there is an Andalusian influence in the architecture. When the Spanish finally conquered the city in 1920, they discovered that a community was speaking a 10th-century Castilian dialect that had been extinct in Spain for over 400 years.
It is probably best known for its indigo-lime-washed walls and stairs – although it is also a backpacker haven where marijuana is easy to obtain (we didn’t get offered any but we did smell it all around us). Six of us converged there – Ren, Paula, Sherwin and I spent most of the weekend together, occasionally seeing Rose and her friend Mark, who was visiting from the states, and Nate and Jen, the YD married couple in our stage. Remarkably, there were never more than five PCVs in one place in one time (a married couple counts as a unit for five-person-rule purposes), so even though more of us were in town, we avoided being a target. I was afraid that the large size of the group would be unwieldy but we all got along well, explored at the same pace, more or less agreed on where and when to eat, had interesting conversations, and all in all traveled well together! We also celebrated Sherwin’s and Rose’s birthdays, Paula’s move from homestay to her own place (she’s an environment PCV from the new stage – the only mid-career woman in the stage, so she feels old, and we’ve befriended her) and Ren’s site change – from in the east by Algeria to Ouarzazate. She had been having a hard time with her counterpart and in general her community was not as receptive to the Peace Corps as her new site will be.
We walked the narrow streets of the medina in every direction, photographing colorful doors and walls. The blue supposedly keeps the mosquitoes away, but it’s also picturesque and peaceful. Artisanal shopping opportunities include red-and-white-striped woven fabrics that the Riffian Berber women tie around their waists and wear to cover their lower halves, and leather pocketbooks in a style unique to the area. I also bought some pigments and we bought face and hair masques to use while resting in our rooms in the heat of the day. Chefchaouen is also known for cotton sweaters; Moldova had one when he visited in February and I thought I would get one too, but I felt I didn’t need one. I did get cotton fingerless gloves, from a very entertaining (and very high) man who wanted to “make peace with me” – i.e. hug me; I told him I liked my peace from a distance. He was quite entertaining – we went back to his store more than once, and he did have some antiseptic for me right away when one of his cats scratched me (I have not felt any ill effects). There was another shopkeeper who sensed spirituality in me and I in him – he, I let hug me, and then he invited me to come back for tea sometime and to live with him. I did like him but I don’t know about that! We walked through the medina to a spring where women were washing blankets and kids were playing; a short walk further and we would have gotten to the ruins of a mosque built by the Spanish, but I couldn’t mobilize the group to go further. Always good to have something to go back for! I thought Chefchaouen would be a magic place like Sidi Ifni – there was charm to it but I don’t know that I felt magic – maybe too many tourists or too little customer service (a man in our hotel was verbally abusive, which at first was disturbing but then just became part of the story). Still, I really liked it – and once again, it was fun to use a little Spanish!
There’s a main square with a fountain – it’s nice to eat at one of the cafes lining the square or just to sit there. There’s a kasbah with a small but interesting museum of Rif ethnography, a beautiful garden, a prison with chains and a tower with a panoramic view. There’s a fondouk, or traveller’s rest, which is still in use, though it is mostly a place with tourist stalls. Chefchaouen really was just a nice place to walk around and to be; while it wasn’t cool, it wasn’t oppressively hot, either, as the inland cities are supposed to be in the summer. I hope to get back there during my service, but if I don’t, I feel I saw what I needed to see, did what I needed to do, and purchased what I needed to buy! The good news is that getting there and back wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. That may be in part because I had company – Ren came to Azrou on Friday night and we traveled together on the CTM, the nice bus, from Fes (I had a dinner party on Friday night with Ren, Jong, Amanda and Youssef – it was nice to entertain!). And all six of us went back together, filling a grand taxi to Ouezzane and then Meknes. Because it took less time than we anticipated, we had lunch together in the main square by the Meknes medina, and then went our separate ways (which for me included a trip to the Meknes Marjane!).
Most of the week since then has been taken up by piffle with Jong – or so it seems. The kids who she so inspired at camp last week started to wear on her, hitting her, demanding her attention, asking her why she has slanty eyes and if she knows Jackie Chan (both she and Sherwin get comments like that all the time – the “regular” level of harassment can be tiring enough, but the minorities here get so much more, my heart goes out to them. In Chefchaouen, many people said “konichi wa” to Sherwin – and I probably don’t need to say that Sherwin is not Japanese and Jong is not Chinese; first of all, they are both Americans, and second of all, they are of other ethnic origins). So she went to camp less and less and we played cards more and more. We did also stop by the artisana and talk with my counterpart and go to Frank’s favorite café. Gavin and Dominique came through, on their way back from working camp in Ifrane. They brought a friend for me, Jarvis, a water-vendor doll, and amused themselves by taking pictures with him with my apple’s “photo booth” feature. Now all guests will have their picture taken with Jarvis! It’s a good thing they amused themselves with that, because I struck out on the movie-downloading/playing software (actually it was only strike two but I don’t know if I will give it another chance!).
On Wednesday, Rose and Mark decided to come down from Sefrou – he wanted to buy some rugs, and after ten pressure-filled hours in Fes the day before, she talked him into the low-key, friendly, good-quality, good-pricing carpet shopping in Azrou. I had other guests as well – at lunch in Meknes on Monday we were practically the only people eating on the square, but there was a table of Americans near us. They came over and asked if we were Peace Corps, based on our Chacos and backpacks – they were three RPCVs, from Namibia, Tanzania and Paraguay: I invited them to see my site, and they came! They are all teachers, two in New York and one on Long Island. Namibia and Tanzania went to college together and taught math in the Peace Corps and are math teachers now; Tanzania and Paraguay are both in the same post-Peace-Corps masters program, and Paraguay’s second-grade class had been matched with one of the recently-COSed environment people here in Morocco (another plug for the World Wise Schools program – there are volunteers here waiting to be matched with schools, so anyone out there with school-aged children is encouraged to get their teachers to sign up! – www.peacecorps.gov/wws); all three were in their mid-20s and served in the Peace Corps earlier this decade. It was nice to compare experiences, countries, policies and country staff stories and to share Moroccan culture; once again I find myself grateful for the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables here. We went out to eat – unfortunately the pizza took a while to come, so we had to forego the Barbary apes. On to the artisana, and then to my favorite carpet shop, where tea was served and everyone bought either a carpet or a woven bag! I’m really glad I invited them. Yesterday was a quiet day…Jong went hiking with Gavin, Dominique and my tutor (who was Gavin’s host brother) and I went to the artisana and post office and then went to a café with Amanda and sat and talked for hours – and then went home and washed the floors and did some laundry.
I should mention that while all this is happening, the cold water knob on my shower fell off and is stripped. I can control the temperature by regulating the gas that comes into the hot water heater, but it would be nice if my guests were able to have a shower with two knobs. The shower drips, too, and the sink drips after everyone showers, and the kitchen sink knobs have to be turned really really tightly or they drip too (I am used to it but have to get up and turn the knobs whenever a guest uses the sink). In such a dry country I lament my leaks! Also, either someone leaned on my door or it just expanded in the heat and now the door doesn't really align with the frame, so my door is really hard to lock and unlock. I have left it unlocked a couple of times, but I don't like to do that. Yesterday Amanda stood on one side of the door and watched what was happening while I locked and unlocked it, so she diagnosed the problem - if I lift at the same time as I turn, it works, but the bottom lock is still really sticky, and I fear that the key will break in the lock. I have a key to the top lock and lock that most of the time, but that key cannot be duplicated in Azrou, only in Meknes or Fes. I had copies of the bottom key and the outside key made to give to guests and it has been working well with Jong (except for the day she spent an hour outside having a hard time and finally putting more oomph into it and opening the door). I think guests will not be able to come and go as they please unless I decide to replace the lock (or the door). Minor, but just more insight into life here.... And I haven't mentioned it in a while, but there are now three boxes of my stuff that I am still hoping to receive, sent by Joanne from Minneapolis in January, April and June. Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me not to be so attached to my stuff, and I haven't finished all of the books that did make it through so maybe shouldn't be so sad about the ones that haven't yet. I have described myself as a hopeless romantic and can probably use that to describe my attitude towards these boxes as well!
When it rains it pours – well, not literally – it finally rained a little bit today (which is Friday, though for some reason blogger thinks it's Thursday - same for the previous post, which I posted last Friday), but it did not pour (I did, however, do more laundry this morning and had things out on the line during the rainstorm – which is also when I was out walking this morning). Jong’s camp is finished but she is still here before she goes back to her site, and now Sabrina and Josh are coming in for the next session of camp (they have younger children so may have to stay on the premises; I shall offer them a place to stay if they need a refuge, but I am not sure I want to host them the entire time). Rachel is coming in, on her way to the Ain Leuh festival of Berber music. I wanted a site where people would come through, and I will be happy to see everyone, but I do want to get back to my work (which I thought I would get back to after handing in Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes – then again, going to the artisana and the carpet shops counts as work, and hosting the RPCVs is unquestionably goal #3 – so even though it may seem as though all I did was play cards, that is not the case) and I wouldn’t mind some more time to read (Ren lent me a book called “Letters to Mister Rogers” and I read that this week – full of wisdom as well as cuteness – my next book will be “Younger than that Now,” an RPCV’s account of his time in Morocco in the early ‘80s, which will, inshallah, be joined on the shelves some day by “27 Months without Baseball.” Speaking of which – this week an incoming PCT from the training stage that will start in September found my blog and we have exchanged emails about packing and other tips. I was hoping someone from the new stage would find my blog and ask me questions and am very glad that she did!