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, 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.

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