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!

Hi Sharon! I was struck by your comment about getting past the list-making about what you should be doing and actually starting to do it. I can really identify with that. There's no doubt that I have to make the lists -- they help clear my mind. And then, at the oddest times (in the shower, while I'm driving home from a dinner, while lying in bed trying to sleep), the action plan emerges and I'm really to start "doing." So don't feel bad about taking the time your psyche needs to get ready for action -- I'm betting the action is more productive when the plan has been stewing around for a while.

Miss you!
I miss you too! Was just thinking about you, in fact, since I hadn't heard from you in a while. I am glad you feel the same way! I don't know if I told this story already, but at IST, we had an exercise where we talked about our top five good things, bad things, coping mechanisms etc. I listed my coping mechanisms as talk, write, read, exercise and organize. Everyone else in my group said. "ORGANIZE?" They were more inclined to drink. I said I could add chocolate to my list....I think in the past I was able to make the to-do list and just start working - now, I think, as you said, I need to build up energy before I can start doing - everything takes more energy here - but I do feel better having turned the corner. I haven't re-read what I posted yesterday but I know I felt that it might have been a little too stream-of-consciousness. I'm glad that at least one person got one salient point out of it! Thanks!
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