Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It feels different here now that it’s fall. The cold spell I mentioned a couple of weeks ago turned out to be just that, a spell. The days are hot again, but now the nights are chilly. It’s not the temperature that feels different though; it’s the night. I go to someone’s house before sunset for l’ftur and by the time I leave it feels very dark and quiet, even if it’s before 8:00. I realize that as of Sunday the nights are longer than the days, but having the streets be so quiet at night – all summer people were out at night after being inside for the hot part of the day, and now they are home at night, rushing home at sunset to finally eat and drink and then captive in front of the special Ramadan TV programming – made me remember that last winter, once I moved, the days were short and I spent long nights shivering, huddled in the kitchen and trying to stay warm. The busy part of the day now is late afternoon, when people are buying bread or shebekia or something else for that night’s meals. It’s mostly men who are out, because women are home making the fat bread or hard-boiling the eggs or preparing the late-night tagine. I knew that this Ramadan would feel very different from last year’s, when I was in training, and we had a set “school” schedule of nine-to-four. I was curious to experience the rhythm of it in real life, as it were, as opposed to training, but I find it disquieting, from the sitting around at the artisana to the late afternoons of men idling in cafes or doing errands, to the darkness after l’ftur. Home is ever more the sanctuary – where in the summer I felt I was at home in the afternoon to avoid the sun and heat, now I feel that at home I am doing productive work (this week, a quarterly report and some work on the web site). L’ftur is probably the going-out highlight of the day, but where my friend and fellow PCV Kareem is trying to have 30 l’fturs with 30 families in 30 days, so far I have been eating at home more than I have been going out. Still more than half of Ramadan to go, though!
Jessica has been here this week, working with one of the seamstresses in town. She has an advanced degree in patternmaking and has sewing skills to transfer, but not much opportunity at her site, so she got the work-related leave to come here. I didn’t come out and ask her if she was interested in cards or games, but I dangled some enticements, yet somehow I knew she wouldn’t bite. Instead, she suggested that we knit together, and I jumped at the chance. I used to love to knit. Had Sherwin re-teach me in training last year (and Sabrina re-teach me crochet) and I knitted a headband on the long day of l-Eid Kbir (between my servings of rice with milk) but I haven’t knitted much since – so this has really been fun. We also watched a movie, now that I’ve finally downloaded the software for that – “The Queen.” And have done some reading – she “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” me Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns – needed something else after “The Sheltering Sky,” which I am glad I read (learned that Paul Bowles is from Queens!) but found very disturbing. I also finished “Sahara,” a travel book written by Michael Palin (in his post-Python life he does travel documentaries for BBC and this coffee-table book came out of one). Now I want to see more of the Sahara, of course.
Pomegranates are back! And Jessica and I made fried eggplant with meat sauce (she the eggplant, from experience, and I the meat sauce, winging it – but maybe someday I shall make spaghetti Bolognese!) – and now I have a new dish that I can serve to guests. I like the collaboration with other PCVs. I haven’t worked too much with this seamstress but now that Jessica is here I think this is a possibility. And I have been working to get Gavin’s baskets, from near Essaouaira, to the artisana as well as some of Carolyn’s Tiznit jewelry. She suggested that I return to Tiznit to work with her on that, which I think is an excellent idea! So I may be working on a proposal for that.
I also went to the souk this week with Jessica. I hadn’t been since the spring - it’s crowded and I prefer shopping in the stands and stores in town and in Marjane – but I do enjoy going every so often. I realize that there are still things I could get for my apartment – food storage containers, for example – though other than some foam sleeping pads, for overflow when I have more than three guests, I didn’t get anything this week. I’ll go again before months go by this time – maybe. Jessica and I also went to the artisana, and I showed her some things I might like to buy before I leave; today I bought some – why wait? Got a big ceramic bowl, since I need a fruit bowl for here anyway, and some plates with the Berber symbol on them, since I need some more plates for here anyway. Did that satisfy my pent-up shopping demand for the time being, or only whet it? Hmmm. I went to visit my host family today and had l’ftur with them. I told my host mother that I would like some cooking lessons – pleased as I am with the meals I cook here, I would like to be able to make some typical Moroccan dishes when I get home. In home stay she told me I didn’t know how to do anything and didn’t let me help her, but now that I don’t see her often she seemed happy to be asked.
I was describing to Youssef some of the things that were in the boxes that have not arrived and when I mentioned my suede Merrells, which I had intended to wear all last winter and was holding out hope of wearing this winter, he identified those as the reason the boxes have not arrived, saying that someone in the system is very happy to be wearing those shoes now. They were not new – far from it, which is why I had designated them to be sent here – but there is a brisk used shoe market here, and even on-the-way-out Merrells are probably better than the new knockoffs available here. In a different conversation I realized that shoes may be one of the aspects of returning that I am least looking forward to – I am very happy in my Chacos and Keens and Merrells, dirty as they always seem to be (I really noticed that when I looked at pictures), and I do not want to wear professional, or even casual professional, shoes again, even though I had recently found some comfortable enough for my surgically-reshaped feet. And even though most of my clothes are a teensy bit stretched, slightly stained, lightly faded or otherwise showing signs of wear, I like my Peace Corps wardrobe and don’t miss wearing my other clothes.
On the first day of fall I noticed a change in the baseball standings on mlb.com – so many teams eliminated and just a few still contending – and realized with a shock that it’s the last week of the season. I had already realized that the playoffs begin next week and had started to think about how to adjust my schedule in order to listen to as many games as possible, but somehow had not made the connection between that and the last week of the season and the excitement of some races going down to the wire. I had been thinking more about what I would be doing during the games – some work on the artisana web site, some written correspondence, and now I’m in the mood for knitting. Now I have a little more of the baseball in mind. Last year I remember how thrilled I was to get updates from my sister or from early-morning borrowed-computer internet peeks at the scores of the games from the night before, but of course I had followed the season stateside until September. This season, even though I have the means to follow what is going on, I don’t feel connected – so while this blog name may not hold to the letter, it does somewhat resonate in spirit.
Another sign of fall – all summer the trees by the big mosque were full of birds, so full that you had to watch your head or pick up your pace if you walked under them (some kind of egret, I think) and just recently I noticed that they’re all gone. Wonder if they flew south or north?
A little bit of sadness today. I had offered to write a piece, both last year before I left and this year when I was at Reunions, for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. The editor sent me some guidelines along with a sample article that happened to be by a classmate, written a couple of years ago. Her article was really profound. I’m not sure I have anything profound to say about my time here. Informative, entertaining, maybe even pithy but not profound. I’m not sure I have anything that profound to say about anything that’s happened to me! So I felt I had to tell her I could not complete the assignment. I mentioned this to Jessica and she asked about the requirements – the editor had asked for something reflective. Jessica wisely pointed out that reflective isn’t necessarily profound and that I should reflect a bit more before saying I couldn’t do it. Good advice. Sadder still – I found out that someone else from my stage is ETing. Again, not official yet so I’ll say no more for now, but it’s as if people are saying to themselves, “I’ve been here a year; that’s enough.” YD lost two people recently as well. To balance out the sadness, this week two people have asked for a refresher on PACA tools (Participatory Analysis for Community Action – i.e. Community Mapping, Daily Activities, Seasonal Calendar and, my favorite, Needs Assessment and Priority Matrix). This is one of the trainings I had volunteered to do – Peace Corps didn’t take me up on it but maybe the universe did and sent these questions my way.
I had them pick up my bicycle last week, too – I felt a little sad but it didn’t seem fair to hold on to something I hadn’t even taken the plastic off of. I wanted to want to use it but with weather, hills, bad roads, traffic and general unease, I felt if I hadn’t used it yet I wasn’t going to, and with new people coming in, that’s one extra they didn’t need to order. It served me well as a clothes hanger, but it was also clutter – I immediately rearranged things to fill the space it had taken up, and now my guest sheets and pillows are more accessible, which is good, because I get them out much more than I thought I would when I set up the prior arrangement.
A final note – in an entry last week I mentioned that the 3:00 am Ramadan drums, waking people up so that they eat before the first call to prayer, so loud at the Auberge and in TimHdit, did not seem to come around my neighborhood. I take it back – they don’t seem to be around every day, which I can’t explain, but they do come around – somehow more when I have had overnight guests than when not…. The picture is another holiday candidate that didn’t make the final cut, taken from the Café Hafa in Tangier.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
“Don’t marry a Moroccan.” Those were some of the last words of the Country Desk Manager as we were preparing to leave Philadelphia (she added that she was telling this to the younger women and might as well tell me too). I thought this was less than inspiring (how about, “have a great adventure” or something like that?). But then I learned the reason why she said it – several of the volunteers here do end up marrying Moroccans.
Religion and culture both contribute to the gender roles here. The roles of men and women are different – and, we’ve been told, even if they seem unacceptable to us, they are accepted by people here, so it is not our job to change things but just to make sure everyone is heard. I’ll mention some of what we’ve learned and some of what I’ve observed. Keep in mind that there’s a wide range here – in dress, education, rural/urban – and that as Muslim countries go, Morocco is seen as relatively liberal and relatively secular.
Men and women have very separate roles. In some households they are physically separate, eating in separate rooms; I haven’t seen that. I do know that a the party I went to in TimHdit no men were allowed and that the women would not have danced in front of men. At some weddings, the women and men dance separately and in separate rooms; there are more modern families that dance together.
Women do all of the housework and the cooking. And there’s a lot of cooking – making homemade bread for every meal, making tagines that require food preparation and slow cooking. It doesn’t occur to either women or men that the men should pitch in and help – it just isn’t part of the culture. At a young age (maybe six or so), girls are expected to help and they learn to do all of these things. Boys watch TV – but they also do errands.
The king started a women’s rights initiative – women can get educated, and there are women in high positions in government and business. Women can initiate divorce and women can refuse to marry someone who their parents may have picked for them. But the reality seems to be that opportunities for women are limited. Many women are illiterate, women often do not have a say in their communities, even women who have an education often stop working when they get married so they can focus on home and children. Family is central in Morocco – people wouldn’t dream of not having children and don’t understand that people don’t have them or might not want to. Women do almost all of the child care, too….
I wrote all of the preceding words last year, when I was in CBT and without computer access, but I got back to the world of computer access before I considered it finished, so I didn’t mail it off for posting. I mentioned back then that I would write more about gender roles, and though I may have mentioned most of the above at one point or another, and will undoubtedly talk more about it in the future, I thought I would post it now as written. It was based on what we were told, and now that I have been here a while, my personal experiences and observations have been different, so I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast.
Amanda and Youssef are a good couple, very much in love, but I have also seen that some of the romances here happen because volunteers are lonely and Moroccan men can be charming (though so far I find them quite resistable). And though this may sound jaded, there are those who will do what it takes to get the green card. I think many volunteers are also here at a time of their lives where they are ready to be married. There are a few Peace Corps-Peace Corps marriages as well, but more, there seem to be relationships that come and go. I can appreciate why the Country Desk Manager said that – there are a lot of cultural differences to overcome – but in the case of Amanda and Youssef I think it made them talk things out whereas we might have implicit assumptions. And I also know American couples in traditional roles – but maybe it is easier to accept those when they are chosen as opposed to unchallenged. I still think those weren’t inspiring words to leave for the airport with.
I have mentioned that Azrou is a liberal site and I am happy to be here. Other volunteers have spoken about working with women who can’t leave the house. What I didn’t talk about above but believe I have mentioned elsewhere is the public/private difference, where in public women are quiet and covered and don’t make eye contact but in private are affectionate and fun-loving and participatory. There still isn’t equality, but I think the same could be said of our own country. So I guess that everything I wrote still applies; it was interesting for me to read it a year later because while I still notice and question many things about this culture (as another example, the trash along my walk to the Artisana seems to be increasing and I feel sad every time I see it), there are not many cultural things that genuinely surprise me anymore. I’m glad to be on the Gender and Development Committee and to be thinking about these things. This week I’m finishing up the GAD column for Peace Works, and I gave some input to the people in charge of the next conference and the resource manual we’re putting together.
One of the highlights of the past week was a phone call. I was happy to get Harry Potter and read it voraciously, but was troubled at times because it seemed blurry. I mentioned it to the PCMO, inquiring as to whether we’ll get an eye exam at mid-service medicals. The answer was yes, but as I kept thinking about it, I kept wondering if it could require more immediate attention, so I called my eye doctor in Philadelphia. The mere fact that I continued to see him while living in Chicago for almost two decades indicates how special he is, and it was great to talk with him. He asked good questions and told me that yes, I can wait until then to see the doctor here. It was also nice to talk with him about the Peace Corps and what I’m doing here – he’s heard about a lot of my woes over the years and it reinforced that I feel it was a good move for me to come here.
Finished with Harry Potter, I’m now reading “The Sheltering Sky,” by Paul Bowles. One of the definitive Morocco novels, I could tell from the get-go that this is not my kind of book, but I am going to keep going. Kellye last weekend told me that it was one of the worst books she’s ever read, and that when she was finished she threw it against the wall because she was upset that she had wasted her time on it, so I picked it up with low expectations. Of course, there are those who would think it a Great American Expat Novel, and after visiting Paul Bowles hangouts in Tangier I thought why not. I had requested his Fes book, “A Spider’s House,” from the Peace Corps library, but that was out when I was in Rabat two weeks ago and this, the more famous one, was available. Who knows, maybe I will want to read that one too. But so far it seems more good-for-me than good, to me.
The stage-mate who ETed stayed with me last night and went on to Rabat this morning. Her cooperative had a lot of infighting – to the point where the Caid told them to cease operation - and she felt too emotionally involved to be objective. She decided to leave while she still felt positive about her experience. She’s ready to start the next chapter in her life. It’s interesting that there are people who are miserable here and yet they remain for some reason, and here she was enjoying her experience and still decided she had had enough. We made pasta with vegetables and also had shebekia and acer (smoothies – in this case banana and avocado). When I bought my blender I thought I would make these all the time, but instead usually have them when I go to cafes (and will have more now that fresh orange juice is harder to come by). Of course, now is the time to make them at home since the cafes aren’t serving during the day. We played some rummy for old times’ sake, and she had perhaps one of her last occasions of wearing the same clothes for days in a row and of not showering. I will miss her.
And now I will mention something that has heretofore not been discussed in this space - the last time she was here was right after IST, when I was in the middle of this, and it was nice to have her back now that it is in the past. I think in May I mentioned that there were Junebugs (or Maybugs), big beetles that came inside; though Amanda said they were harmless, and though I did not expect Peace Corps to be bug-free, they disturbed me. Turns out that was nothing compared to what visited me in June – some different kind of beetle - or perhaps giant cockroach. It seemed that everywhere I turned, at any hour, there were one or two; luckily never more than that. And they were easy to smash with a shoe, leading me to think that someone in one of the other apartments had sprayed and that they were coming upstairs to die. When I came back from IST she and her friend were waiting for me, so I didn’t have a chance to scan my apartment before she got here; I warned her that there might be a lot of bugs, and there were. I was afraid that it would be the case all summer long – but that was the end of it. I had Youssef look at it (what will I do without him!) and he thought they might have come up through the outside drain. He covered that drain with some of my mosquito netting, and while I am still bracing myself for next June, I feel relieved that it’s not ongoing.
This is a rare quiet weekend at home – yes, I did have a guest for part of the time, but I’ve also done some reading and writing and fasting and thinking. On Friday I cleaned the floors and washed my clothes; later today I’ll do food shopping and yoga and maybe photo organizing. I am tempted to do some more work as well (though all of the above are a part of my job here, as I see it) but think I will resist the temptation. I did tally the questionnaire results and have those to bring in, prepared the Artisana labels and will print those out and install them this week, and contributed some success stories for the new SBD newsletter. Next on the horizon is the Annual Report that goes to Peace Corps headquarters – time to really reflect on and account for what I have done. I briefly looked at the format, but not enough to know what is in it – I’m actually kind of proud of myself for putting it away until tomorrow and not worrying about it at all for the time being.
The picture is of henna that Amanda did on my feet before she left for Agadir – a candidate for my holiday photo but it didn’t make the final card. I hung out with her for hours but it never dried so I had to wash it off before it really set; all that remains are the colored toenails.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I haven’t heard anything about training yet. Which means they don’t need/want me to train the new volunteers on PACA tools, something I had volunteered to present and which I think is being presented this week. I am disappointed but not surprised – after all, I am not a favorite, and I am far from the training site, so it would be expensive to bring me to training, especially for a topic such as PACA that other people know as well as I do. Something makes me wonder if there isn’t also some ageism as well – the SBD Program Manager had said that this new group skewed young, so maybe they want the younger PCVs to do more of the presentations? I still hope to present GAD, since I am on the committee, and have volunteered to do some other trainings, but if I don’t get the opportunity it’s not the end of the world. Of course, I was disappointed in the first place when I heard that the training would not be in Azrou, because I was looking forward to helping out and to meeting the new people!
On Friday I had a glimpse of what the month ahead would be like. There is nothing going on at the artisana – not a lot of work, not a lot of visitors, just a lot of sitting around. I sat around with everyone for a while and somehow the topic turned to food – what cuisines I like, what I like about Moroccan cuisine – and after a while it occurred to me that the reason we were talking about it is because it’s Ramadan so there’s no eating or drinking during daylight hours. Then stop talking about it! I didn’t bring it up. I was there again yesterday and again, food came up – this time, what I can cook. I decided over the weekend that I can make the most of the sitting around by working on the labels for the artisana display tables and cases – where the items are from and any information about the artisans – since the showroom staff isn’t busy with customers, and I can finish the photography. But I can not just sit around! Again, I have told everyone that I am trying to fast – which they really seem to appreciate – and that I think it will be hard for me not to drink water. And that’s as much as I’m going to reveal! People here say it’s good for your health to fast all day – I don’t know about that.
To refresh your memory (or so you don’t have to look up last year’s entries) – during daylight hours in Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat, drink, smoke, have sex, gamble (which they should not anyway), speak ill of someone, wear makeup (last year I didn’t but this year I have so far, but now that I remember that, maybe I won’t; I guess it’s easy enough, and it’s respectful). As the white thread and black thread held up next to each other are indistinguishable (or as the sunset call to prayer is heard), families gather for l’ftur (breakfast – literally, breaking fast) – hard-boiled eggs, bread, dates, figs, acer (a fruit smoothie, basically), harira (complicated chick pea and tomato soup), shebekia (honey-coated twisted pastry/cookies), zmeta (sesame paste – I think) and assorted other goodies (sometimes fish, for example) for variety. Lee described it as Thanksgiving every day. Families will then eat late at night – eleven or so – but last year I told my TimHdit family not to wake me up for that; l’ftur was enough. Around 3:00 in the morning, drums and horns sound around the town so that people can have another meal before sunrise. My TimHdit family did not wake up for this – and I wouldn’t have either. The horns and drums don’t seem to go by my house here – which is kind of a shame, though it means not getting woken up in the middle of the night by them. I have had some l’ftur invitations but don’t feel I need to go out every night – my scrambled eggs will do!
Everything is a little harder in Ramadan, and by the end of the day and the end of the month people get testy. Work hours at the artisana (and at the Peace Corps office) are 9:00 – 3:00, with no break. I have to adjust my routine accordingly, after getting used to spending the middle of the day in my apartment, and I haven’t figured out how I am going to do that yet. I think my current strategy (visit nearly every day, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon) works; I just have to adjust the timing.
Travel is harder during Ramadan too, but I decided to go away for the weekend anyway! This past weekend I went to the Cascades of Ouzoud, the biggest waterfall in Morocco. Along the way I passed a big pipeline and a big dam – this single hydroelectric project provides about 25 percent of Morocco’s electricity. I know, not everyone would have their spirits lifted by a big pipeline and a big dam, but I did. The river going into the dam was pea green and the lake on the other side a Mediterranean blue. The canyon on the river side and the mountains on the lake side were picturesque as well, with red soil and dark green trees. The wonders of nature! And this was before I got to the waterfall!
Which was beautiful. My friend Kellye, an environment volunteer who is on the GAD committee with me, met me in Azilal, her souk/cyber town, and together we went to Ouzoud. It’s a small town with a few buildings and a few hotels. There’s a path lined with tourist stalls, cafes and campsites that only a few weeks ago was extremely crowded (per Kellye) but was for Ramadan extremely quiet (which was kind of nice). The path led to a overlook rock ledge which had benches and trash cans – very impressive (though Kellye told me they just dump the trash on the other side of the town; oh well). Even more impressive was the fact that someone had built a staircase down to the bottom of the falls – lined with more tourist stalls, cafes and campsites. At the bottom were some small boats, one of which is owned by her host dad; he wasn’t there but the friend who was rowed us over to the spray next to the falls. The Maid of the Moroccan Mist, as I dubbed it, was made of wood and decorated with plastic flowers – those also decorate most Moroccan homes.
The real treat was that Kellye had invited me to stay with her in her mud hut. I was prepared to stay in a hotel because I don’t like to impose, but I remember reading that one of the joys of being a Peace Corps Volunteer was visiting other volunteers in their remote villages where the tourists don’t go; this was reinforced for me the day when the second-years came for lunch on their way back from COS conference and gave me a list of “must-see” places to go to before they all COS, and now I want to try to get to them too! Ouzoud is part of her site, but her village is nestled in the mountains a 40-minute hike away. We hiked the rocky, fairly steep, undefined path down to a creek that we crossed (rinsing our feet in the process) and then back up a fairly steep hill – this after going down and up all the steps at the waterfall! She does the hike three or four times a week – or she can also hike out along a dirt road; in the off-season taxis will pick her up at the dirt road but in tourist season they fill up so she hikes to Ouzoud to get a taxi out.
Her site – for security reasons I’ll not name it - is a Berber village with about 100 houses and 700 people – all of whom seem to know Kellye, whose Arabic name is Karima. It was founded around 900 years ago by a descendant of the prophet who came along with his family and some black slaves; to this day there are two distinct families, a white one and a black one. The founder is buried in a Zaoiat, or marabout – a white, domed shrine where people still go to pray for special favors. There are still 12 traditional large grindstones in the town, used for olives, and olive agriculture forms the economy of the town. Kellye is working on a latrine project (half the houses there don’t have any), women’s literacy, and tourism, and next spring may do some tree-planting. It was a treat to see how acquainted she was with the people we passed – I always see people to greet in Azrou but I see way more people who I don’t know than people that I know; that’s one of the differences between a small site vs. a bigger one. Her mud hut was much more well-appointed than I expected – she has one big salon/bucket bath room/kitchen/dining room, a smaller but not tiny bedroom/stuff room, and a bathroom. The mud is solid, if in fact it was mud, and her house is rectangular, not hut-shaped. In other words, it looked like a house interior. The dirt floors she talked about are covered with plastic mats so therefore not too dirty. She has electricity but no running water; last year, when I thought I might not have those I wondered which I would choose if I had to choose one – and I kept coming down on the side of preferring running water and thinking I could live without electricity if I had to. Obviously you make do, and Kellye pays a kid to fetch water with his donkey and is very sparing and resourceful with her water use.
We had l’ftur with her host family, who insisted on teaching me the Berber words for everything; they were really sweet. The next day we hiked out – that is, down the steep hill and back up the steep rocky path, seeing the Cascades ahead in the distance. And then it was a long trip back with two taxis and two buses. I had brought with me “Dreams of Trespass,” by Fatima Mernissi, subtitled Tales of a Harem Girlhood – recommended reading for those who want a flavor of gender roles in Morocco. She did not grow up in the kind of harem with a thousand concubines but in a household in which there were no windows overlooking the street, only the courtyard, open to a little patch of sky, and the women of the house could never leave. While there are no harems per se today, there are still many places where the women cannot leave the house, are not allowed to go to school, and are kept separate from the men. There are new laws for women’s rights here – raising the marriage age, allowing women to initiate divorce, saying that men can take a second wife only if the first wife consents and the like, and one of the things that some of the PCVs do is hold workshops for women so that they can learn about these laws (called the Mudwana), but there is far to go.
On a lighter note, have I mentioned all the baseball hats? Many men wear traditional hats but it seems that the majority wear baseball hats – or maybe I just notice them. The most common seems to be NY. I asked someone about that and they thought it was solidarity for September 11, but it occurred to me recently that those hats may have been bought by Americans out of solidarity for September 11 but that Moroccans bought them from a used clothing souk and may or may not know what NY means. Every so often I see a (White) Sox hat (maybe on the same person), I’ve seen a smattering of Bulls stuff, and once I saw a Blackhawks hat! I seem to see a lot of Michigan gear as well, and Vanderbilt for some reason, and every so often a random P but never an orange and black one. Haven’t seen any Cubs or Red Sox – I guess those fans never donate their old hats to charity! Of the NY, Yankees colors overwhelmingly outweigh Mets colors but both are outweighed by a generic NY. Sometimes women wear baseball hats too – over their veils. They do keep the sun off your face.
Friday, September 14, 2007
How time flies! I arrived in Morocco a year ago this week – almost time for an Annual Report! That, however, will be in the mail, so that people who are not blog readers can hear from me too. For now, though, this will cover mid-June through mid-September.
I came back from IST (In-Service Training) and the mini-vacation that followed it full of energy, enthusiasm, new ideas and renewed appreciation for being here. So both the training and the getaway did what they were supposed to do! I then spent a week in Rabat for a warden meeting (wardens are PCVs who are part of the emergency action plan, should that need to be invoked) and a GAD meeting (Gender and Development). Always good to be in Rabat – it feels so cosmopolitan – and the meetings were a chance to contribute. I returned to go to Amanda and Youssef’s wedding – the social event of the season and a Moroccan experience (though I missed a lot - it went on past dawn!).
And then I dove into a project I had volunteered for at IST – KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes). The Peace Corps is revamping its trainings and competencies and wanted to design them based on the KSA every volunteer needs to be successful; the aspect I worked on was for the Small Business Development Program. What was good about this was that I had a chance to use a strategic part of my brain, to coordinate a team of PCVs, and to influence the direction of the program. What was bad was that it was time-consuming, team members dropped out, and by the end when it was a matter of inputting it into a standard format, it became tedious. That said, I am glad that I worked on it.
And then what followed was a lot of people! When I signed up for the Peace Corps I expected loneliness and isolation. I hoped for a site that was accessible to other places and one where other PCVs would come through. And boy, did they! While at times I was reminded of one of Katie’s sayings, “be careful what you wish for,” (her other is “you get used to it”), I was really glad to be able to host people. First Jong came and stayed with me for two weeks while she worked a camp. While she was at camp I would go to the artisana or do other work (and sometimes she came to the artisana with me) but most of the time, or so it seems, we played Piffle. Piffle is a fast-paced multiple-solitaire (more than two can play) game and if we were doing PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) Daily Routine it would be - wake up/breakfast – piffle – camp/work/lunch – piffle – camp/work/dinner – piffle – sleep. We had some interesting discussions while shuffling and dealing, and also had some walks and enjoyed cooking together (lots of hash browns and scrambled eggs). I wish Jong didn’t live so far away!
Josh and Sabrina then came for a camp. They stayed at the Auberge, but came over almost every night for dinner and conversation. They are both great cooks, and I ate very well that week. And learned to play dominoes! Other guests came for a night or a day on the way to somewhere else – I won’t name names just to name them but I easily had over a dozen guests, and perhaps five evenings to myself in five weeks. I enjoyed everyone’s company – all are welcome! Through it all, I managed to visit the artisans, often bringing my guests with me, talking about new products and production methods. My more substantial work for this quarter was designing and implementing a tourist questionnaire for the artisana and developing a rack card and brochure in English and French. I also worked with a new tutor this summer and feel I have made quite a leap in my language, though I still have a ways to go. I have some other things in the works too (on the work front as well as the personal front) but will wait until they are further along before I write about them. As for “extracurricular activities,” I worked on fundraising for the GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp and continue to contribute GAD, VSN and personal items to Peace Works, the Morocco PCV newsletter. I also am back to doing Class Notes columns for the Princeton Alumni Weekly this year, and have been getting back into the swing with classmates. And I’ve had some VSN (Volunteer Support Network) sessions with people who needed to talk; I am glad I had the training.
Amanda and Youssef traveled a lot this summer, but when they were here I spent a lot of time with them – exercise walks, cooking and baking and having coffee, getting hennaed, shopping or other errands, going to the hammam, doing “filing” or other work while she used my computer, going to a sbu3r (baby party) for an in-law, officiating at their ring ceremony. Amanda went back to the U.S. at the end of August – I miss her but am grateful to have had not just a sitemate but a friend; I look forward to spending time with Youssef as he waits for his visa, and I do think we will keep in touch. I visited my host family and had lunches and teas with other Moroccan friends and associates. And I read a lot of books this summer! Plus, I finally got the right software and now I can listen to baseball games on mlb.com, just in time for the pennant races and post-season. There are still not enough hours in the day – returning correspondence and organizing pictures are things I’d like to do more of – again, somehow I thought I would have all this time on my hands, but given my nature, I don’t know what made me think that. I should also mention washing the floors, doing laundry by hand, shopping for food, and cooking – all things that I spend a lot of time on!
I also did a fair amount of travel this summer – I know I won’t see all of Morocco while I am here, or even all of the highlights, but I do like to explore. This quarter saw a mixture of day trips and weekend excursions. The day trips included several trips to Fes, either for some medina shopping or for a café stop after lunch in Sefrou or for the dentist. Journeyed back to Volubilis, the Roman ruins, and also Moulay Idriss, a sacred town built on two hills. Hiked on a forest path in Ifrane – it feels so different from other places I’ve been. Picnicked by a lake near Timhadite (and swam!). Hung out for a day in Ain Leuh, catching some of its Berber music festival. Cedre Gouraud is close to Azrou and has some pretty entertaining (and, given the peanut vendors, overly domesticated) Barbary Apes – good place to bring people who want to make sure they see the monkeys of the Middle Atlas! And on the way back from several of these trips, I went to Marjane, the hypermarche that has things I just can’t get in Azrou; there’s always some treat there.
There were some long holiday weekends this summer – the heat and the crowds made travel even more stressful than it is during the rest of the year – but having the extra days allowed for travel to destinations farther than I can get to with just one overnight and/or destinations that warranted more than one day (well, they all do, but I do what I can). I went to spots that some consider magical and enjoyed traveling with friends and meeting new fellow PCVs. Chefchouan is indeed charming and known for its bluewashed walls and Rif mountain setting. It was a nice place to just be, and to walk through the medina, photographing doors in various shades of blue. The picture is from there – Berber women in the Rif wear these colorful cloths around their waists; they can also be used in bread baskets or as table décor. Tangier was exotic and yet to me not mysterious – somehow a combination of welcoming, for those coming to Africa, and yearning, with Europe so close it feels as though you could touch it if you had a longer reach. Asilah a small oceanfront artist’s colony with murals on the walls and a nightly ritual of sunset-watching. Essaouaria many people’s favorite Atlantic town, a fishing village that is attractive for its Gnaoua music, its shopping (I bought straw baskets from artisans who a fellow PCV works with, as well as some of its famed wood products), its Portuguese ramparts and cannon, its seagulls, its beach and its wind. That last one might have been too much for me, and I came home exhausted and sick and still don’t feel 100 percent.
Yet I am up for September weekend travel! Last weekend I met Rose and Janeila in Rabat – it just happened to be the anniversary of our staging in Philadelphia prior to boarding the plane to come here, so it was nice to both catch up and to reflect, to walk by the ocean and in the Kasbah. As a bonus, I visited Peace Corps headquarters and had a chance to talk to people there. And now I am off to the Cascades of Ouzoud, the biggest waterfall in Morocco. Summer was hot here in Azrou and people were inside for hours during the day, coming out at night for shopping or a promenade around town. Now, just as things were getting into a summer’s-over-back-to-work frame of mind, Ramadan is beginning – that month brings its own routine. I was in training last year during Ramadan, so it will be interesting to experience Ramadan in my site. The new SBD and YD trainees just arrived in Morocco this week; when the Health and Environment trainees arrived in the spring we weren’t the newest volunteers anymore, and now we aren’t even the newest SBD and YD. Soon we’ll be the oldest – when this stage swears in at the end of November, the second-years will be leaving. It goes so quickly!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I had two meetings that could lead to interesting things. Madeleine brought the weavers of Ben Smim to the artisana along with some of their rugs. They priced the rugs and put them in the showroom, and my counterpart explained the process of becoming a cooperative. Amanda had talked about introducing me to them, but it was hard for me to get the work-related leave for it. However, if they come to Azrou occasionally, I might be able to work with them. And then I met with some exchange students from a school in the U.S. who are here for a couple of months and want to do a service project with artisans. I was encouraging them to create a web site for the weavers in the Azrou artisana, since I have been told that I am not working with them but would still like to help them, but they are thinking about the whole region, and something more theoretical than practical, so we’ll see where it goes. I met with them again last week and will meet with them again next week. I don’t pretend to know how everything here works, but it’s nice to share what I do know with them and to already know the things that they have told me they discovered. It would be nice if whatever they do is something I can use in my work – but it also reinforced for me that the Peace Corps is largely about the little things that then add up.
And last week I finally was in the right place in the right time and had a chance to hear Vin Scully on mlb.com. My intention in getting mlb.com was to have baseball in the background while I work, write, clean or cook – which is what I do with baseball at home – but for a few minutes I just closed my eyes and savored his voice.
Have you heard of St. Pierre and Miquelon? I hadn’t! When I was doing the French translation of the brochure with my tutor I glanced at my French phrase book, which noted all of the places where French is an official language. There are two islands off the coast of Newfoundland that belong to France. Who knew?
September 7 was Election Day here in Morocco. We were told to stay away from political demonstrations, not to get involved, not to photograph. Over the course of the week several went by – people marching and shouting and bearing placards. I didn’t stop to look or photograph. My host father is a politician and running for office, and my plan was to avoid my host family until after the elections were over. Naturally I ran into my host mother, and she invited me to spend Election Day with them, going between her house and the polling place, but I told her I couldn’t. We’re supposed to be apolitical. Just as well – my host father didn’t win. A while ago I dared to ask my host mother what that would mean, and she said he’d be home with the family more so that would be all right, but it has to be a big change in lifestyle for them. I haven’t been over there yet to visit, but Youssef told me not to bring it up until they do. What may also be of interest is that the Islamists, who in Friday's New York Times seemed poised to gain ground, did not.
According to my calendar, Ramadan began last night, but here in Morocco, it has not. The calendar here is a lunar calendar – meaning it goes by phases of the moon – which I think astronomers have been able to predict for centuries and which certainly now they can predict for centuries to come. So my calendar knows that it was the slightest sliver after the new moon. But here in Morocco the imams must see the sliver and declare it to be Ramadan; maybe it will begin tomorrow. I have told people I will try to fast but that it is hard for me not to drink water. All true – and if I do end up eating or drinking you won’t read about it here. People appreciate the effort, and I do want to be respectful. I have also told the PCVs around me that if they are in Azrou and don’t want to eat or drink in public that they are welcome to come over. I just remember those men sitting in cafes last year, no coffee or tea in front of them, unable to smoke, just staring and waiting for the day to end….
This past weekend I went to Rabat to meet Rose and Janeila. Janeila is on the SIDA (AIDS) committee and had a meeting on Monday and decided to travel early and invited us up. This also coincided with our one year in country (technically a year ago we were in Philadelphia for staging but still, that’s when it all began) so it was a nice celebration. Once again, I want to go to Rabat for tourism and shopping sometime – some other time; this weekend was more about talking and being together. We sat in a park and caught up with Janeila, who we hadn’t seen since IST. We ate some ice cream and walked through the medina to the Kasbah de Oudayas, the area with the blue walls and picturesque doors. We had tea and cookies at the Café Maure, set by the Andalusian gardens overlooking the estuary – a thing to do in all the guidebooks, but expensive. We took a peek at the ocean and then had to go – Rabat was full (you remember the five-person rule, right?) so we were on the log to overnight in Kenitra, a nearby suburb. Wide sidewalks and trees and, sigh, McDonald’s. It took us a while to find a hotel, and the one we found had biting, buzzing mosquitoes, so it was less than wonderful but still nice to be together. While I'm thinking about it, though, I should mention that I was plagued by non-biting but loudly buzzing mosquitoes back in May but that's it - May and Saturday night. I haven't had any bother me all summer in Azrou. Also should mention that Morocco is malaria-free.
Near the artisana I saw someone who looked familiar and we had one of these, "I know I know you from somewhere but it's not here, so where?" moments. He figured it out first - he was the wood artisan at the Essaouaria craft fair who I spent some time (and money) with. He'd told me I was good luck - when I walked into his booth it was empty and as I was there shopping and talking he got a lot of customers. It was nice to see him again!
The next morning Rose wasn’t feeling well, so we stayed in a coffee shop and talked rather than go straight back to Rabat. I will tell you about some of the things I have heard about lately – some but not all apply to Rose, and some but not all are due to harassment. Depression, not wanting to leave the house, anger, fear of leaving the house, panic attacks, so much tension while traveling that it is creating back problems, being followed by cars, stress, chest pains, nausea, having kids taunt and throw rocks, needy and negative sitemates, having a man follow you and make obscene gestures – actually that last one happened to me. When it happened once I was disturbed but the second time I was disgusted. Both times I was on the way to the artisana, which is across from the police station, and I just kept walking – if it happens again I will still keep going, into the police station. Anyway, I feel I’m leaving things out but after a while Rose felt better and we went on to Rabat. We called the PCMO and got permission for me to stay an extra day to accompany her home, and then Rose slept for the rest of the day.
Janeila and I took a walk along the ocean and sat and talked for a while next to the ocean, and then we took a walk along a jetty, and then we went to the Andalusian gardens, which we had not had time for the day before, and sat and talked some more. Then we went in search of what is likely the last Magnum bar of the season – fitting to have my first (at IST) and last with her. We also ran into Lisa, a second-year SBD on the SIDA committee; she took us to a nearby supermarket where I got some Oreos and M&Ms and spices. Rose felt better, so we went to dinner with the people in for SIDA and other volunteers in town for medical – Chinese food, which sounded good in concept but took so long to be served that I don’t think I need to go again. It also isn’t New York Chinese food, needless to say.
On Monday I went to the Peace Corps office and while some had medical and some had SIDA I worked on my brochure (wanted to see how it looked on a PC vs. my apple) and talked with some of the staff, busy getting ready for the new stage. I had a chance to talk about what I’ve been doing (my feeling last week that “it’s not about the brochure” was validated), the blog entry that went out to everyone about relationships with other PCVs (they were surprised to hear that this can be a stress), KSA and training and possible careers after Peace Corps. I felt really happy to be there. I did go to the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) and casually mentioned that I’ve been sick for about three weeks. They didn’t seem concerned or suggest that I be examined right away; they just said to be careful with food and water. I also said that my back was hurting – they suggested I get a longer handle for my squeegee (not sure I have seen any), raise my computer and support my hands (not sure how to do that) and do back stretches that they gave me to photocopy. I also learned about four people ETing – including one from my stage; perhaps more on that when it is official. I’m glad I stayed the extra day, both so I could travel with Rose and because I was happy to see everyone in the Peace Corps office, but I was also very happy to get home.
This week I have spent hours talking with people in the “six-pack” of nearby environment volunteers, who, it turns out, are not one big happy family. Tension had been building up for a while and I think talking about it helped (these active listening techniques can work!) and maybe they now have new strategies for co-existence. At the same time, I have thought more about my relationships with them. With my summer of guests over and Amanda gone, I want to see them more – for lunch or coffee when they are in Azrou, for an occasional hike. I have made it clear that they are welcome but haven’t per se invited them over. So maybe I will have a games weekend during Ramadan. My counterpart told me that we may get as many as five new SBD volunteers in the region at the end of training in November. That may be too many! Or, I could end up with additional interesting, nice, mature, independent, fun, self-aware, positive, enthusiastic, easygoing people around me.
And it’s cold this week. As “spring” went from cold to hot, “fall” seems to have gone from short-sleeve weather to jacket weather without pausing for ¾-length or long sleeves. I actually feel more comfortable here being more covered – I wore short sleeves this summer because it is a liberal site (checked with people first) and because it was hot but I know people who wear long sleeves all the time, and now that I am back to covering up more I realize that maybe I was a tad self-conscious (though still will do the same when it’s hot next summer). Still, I wouldn’t mind a few ¾-length or long-sleeve days before I go to jacket or jellaba full-time. It’s actually good that it cooled down for Ramadan; people won’t be so thirsty. It’s good running weather now, too, so maybe I can step that up (though for Ramadan I won’t take a water bottle with me because I won’t drink in public – so I have to think about it). At least I have been doing some yoga, with a DVD that my sister brought for me.
I also read two mystery novels this week. That’s work too – taking care of ourselves is of utmost importance, and reading is a good de-stressor for me. All right, maybe it wasn’t work, it was fun, but I note that I don’t have that anger and fear that other people have. And more reading is to come; Harry Potter finally arrived yesterday!
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
With all the guests and the travel, I just wasn't feeling good about the amount of work I’ve done this summer. I’m not sure which was bothering me more – wishing I had done more, or the fact that that is my usual negative thinking and it was bothering me so much. I have said this before – if I don’t learn to relax here, I’ll never learn it. I also have to be easier on myself – everything here is work, not just something that can be considered a project or something with a tangible result. I went to the artisana almost every day and talked to the showroom staff and the artisans. I talked with them about new product ideas, competitive things that I had seen, production methods. I observed tourists and what they looked at and bought. I worked hard on my language with my tutor and visited around town and had lots of tea. I brought my visitors with me, many of whom bought things. All of that is work! Amanda once told me that you can’t measure progress in the Peace Corps in days – it’s more in weeks or even months that things happen. Summer is a hot time and not a lot happens. Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes alone was probably a summer’s worth of work. And I need to remind myself that the sharing of technical expertise is only one of the three goals, and that I constantly work on the other two, sharing American culture with the people of Morocco and sharing Moroccan culture with the people of America.
All the same, I was glad to put the tourist questionnaire in the artisana; filled-out ones are still appearing in the box, but at some point this month I think I’ll summarize the ones I have and see what conclusions can be drawn. Actually, it didn’t take much to get me feeling better about things – I just needed a block of time, and this week I put together a card and a brochure for the artisana, that I can bring to the hotels, restaurants and cafes in town and also to the luxury hotels in Fes and maybe Meknes. As Edie put it, the copy was percolating in my head for a while, and once I sat down to write it, it just flowed. Inserted some pictures from the spring photography sessions and put together a map using Power Point (it would be nice to have Photoshop or Publisher and really put together something professional-looking, but doing it in Word makes it more sustainable – there’d still need to be someone with the computer skills to revise it if need be, but the software is available at any cyber). I worked with my tutor to get the copy translated into French and now I have to tweak it and then I have to figure out how and where to get it printed. This last part could be quite a challenge unless I decide to use my own money for it. We’re not supposed to, but I don’t want it to just sit there on a CD.
I also put together a GAD section and a VSN tip sheet for the next issue of PeaceWorks. The GAD section consists of a roundup of GAD activities that other volunteers are working on, along with any articles, quotes etc. that I come across that have to do with gender and development. I decided to look for articles about women in Islam and found a lot of interesting things, so I think I may turn it into a series; the one for this issue is How Progressives Look at Women in the Koran from a web site called womensenews.org. This issue’s PeaceWorks tip sheet is on homesickness – this issue will come out right around the holidays, just as the new stage is about to swear in and the old one about to leave. It’s not a reflection of how I feel at the moment! In fact, my friend Eric just asked me why I would come back at all, since I seem so much happier here than I have been. There are ways to keep going – another Peace Corps assignment, Doctors without Borders, Foreign Service…. My first thought was that it wouldn’t be fair to my friends not to come back. But I’ll admit that at this point I am not in any hurry. The thought of looking for a job again when I still don’t really know what I want to do or where I want to live when I grow up is enough to put me back in my funk, so I think I’ll have to change the subject! Actually, I do have a fantasy – after reviewing the resumes of Amanda and some of the second-years and helping Amanda get started with cover letters, maybe I can start the Peace Corps Office of RPCV Career Services. Then again, maybe there is one already. Really, I want to do more work here before I start thinking about what’s next.
I think I also may have felt down last week because I still wasn’t feeling well. I think I finally feel better. I have always been plagued by headaches so have spent a lot of time analyzing them, but I am not good at digestive issues. It is common among Peace Corps Volunteers to spend a lot of time discussing their poo – frequency, consistency, urgency, etc., but I don’t want to dwell on it, so rather than, say, call the doctor or take Pepto-Bismol I decided to just wait it out. It lasted longer than I would have liked, but I think things are back to normal. For another, even though I wasn’t used to all the company and may have needed a little more time to myself, the fact is that I like being with people and would always choose company over being alone, and once the guests left and I had a lot of time to myself on the horizon, I was a little sad! Piffle withdrawal alone could account for some of it. Amanda’s leaving put a finality on things, as did the fact that the second-year SBDs and YDs had their Close-of-Service conference last week – it’s hard to believe that their whole group will be leaving so soon. And even sooner a new group will arrive – this Saturday, the new SBD and YD PCTs have their staging in the University City Sheraton in Philadelphia. It seems I was just there! On Monday they will get on the plane and on Tuesday they will arrive in Rabat. This year has flown by! The Program Manager says the second year goes even faster!
Productivity helped, but I was already in a better mood – more guests came this past weekend, and I had a nice, relaxing time with them. Jen, the GAD chair, came following COS conference. I had lunch with her and Deanedra, another second-year, on Friday. Interesting to hear about COS conference – a lot of reflection, some thinking ahead to what’s next, preparation for the closure that they’ll need to go through in the next three months. When people actually COS, they trickle out – some travel, some stay longer, but they don’t all go straight home – so where we all took the plane here together, we won’t all leave together, which is one of the reasons COS conference is so much earlier than actual COS. Another of the reasons is that there’s a lot of paperwork and administrative stuff – I’m sure I’ll talk much more about it when it’s my turn, but it was interesting to hear about it now. Jen and I went to the artisana on Saturday and then spent Saturday afternoon by the pool at the Hotel Amros, just on the edge of town. This is something I’d intended to do all summer, and often, and somehow it took until September 1 to do it, once. The pool itself was a little chilly for our tastes, and there were no lounge chairs (though one could still lounge on two chairs put together), so it was not ideal, but the setting was peaceful and it did seem like a nice escape and we had lots to talk about, so it was a wonderful afternoon.
I also had some conversations – one ichat, one on the phone – with friends from home. I may not describe myself as homesick but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss people. Or things – I received several reports on the Chicago Triathlon, and I am listening to some (though not daily) baseball and for the first time looked at the Wild Card standings (Arizona?). Amanda e-mailed to say that she had Mexican food, and that started to sound really good (my own chilaquiles notwithstanding). In addition, Kristina and Jessica from my stage came up from the south on the way to Ait Hamza. We made pasta – Jen’s pasta-for-guests includes zucchini and eggplant, two things I have never cooked, in addition to my staple onions, garlic and tomatoes. Now I feel I can and will add those two vegetables into my repertoire. Jen also introduced me to tuna-and-tomato in a can. Why don’t they have that in the U.S.? We had it for lunch at a sandwich shop and I promptly went to the supermarche and bought two cans. Jen also introduced me to facebook; yet more 21st century technology. Lots of PCVs are on facebook; most of them are younger but not all, and it has some nice features. I could see it being a real time-eater, so I didn’t join (yet), but I did have her send me an invitation. On Sunday morning Jen wanted to take advantage of my internet access; she doesn’t have it at her High-Atlas site (until recently she had no electricity or cell phone coverage, and she still has water only a couple of hours a day), and Kristina, Jessica and I went around town. We spent hours in the carpet shop, looking at carpets and pillows and having tea. Then, Kristina wanted to buy a lotar. There’s a musical instrument maker just up the hill from the artisana, and I had thought about introducing myself, so this was my chance. The artisans there make instruments and also carve animals and there might be work I could do with them. We had leftover pasta for lunch and then all three left in the early afternoon; I spent the rest of the afternoon reading a book (which also made me happy) and then started my bout of productivity. I’d like to visit all three of them – in the course of my travels I have seen some other PCV sites but my recent travel has been to tourist destinations. Part of the beauty of being here is the ability to visit small villages where tourists don’t go but PCVs live. I already know I won’t have time to visit as many of the second-years as I’d like to before they leave, so I’ll do what I can and then hope to befriend their replacements! And I can see the time going by quickly in terms of visiting those in my stage too, especially when there are so many months when it’s too hot to visit.
Last Friday, my landlord came to tell me he was going away for the weekend and asked me to bolt the downstairs door at night. I don’t socialize much with my neighbors, but – gender roles being what they are – the women of both households (both named Rebha) are almost always home, and the thought that everyone in the building would be gone except for me was a little startling. I guess I didn’t realize how much comfort I took in the fact that someone is always here; I really keep to myself, but I am looking forward to their return!
On the way to the dentist last week I passed a television store and caught a glimpse of the World Track and Field Championships and had the passing thought of buying a TV and satellite dish for the Olympics next year. I don’t think I’m going to do it, but when the entrance to the carpet shop had them on as well, I told Abdu that next summer I was going to park myself in that very spot and watch all day long. I imagine my host family will be watching as well, and maybe Youssef’s family, who have made it very clear that I should come over anytime, even after Amanda and Youssef are both gone. I guess there’s always the internet as well…so if I’m out of vacation days next year when everyone else is running around the country using theirs up before COS conference, and if I don’t get the parade of guests next summer that I did this summer (everyone who did a camp said they wouldn’t do it again), then at least I’ll have the Olympics!
The picture is from Tangier, of the Rif women selling vegetables. This was either just before or just after someone gave us a hard time for taking pictures. I was trying to be stealth about it, holding my camera at my waist instead of in front of my face. Didn’t notice until I got home that one of the women put her hat in front of her face!