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 – 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.

It's not up to you to decide what is profound in what you write! And it is not necessary that it be profound in the first place.

You need not compare yourself to others - your unique perspective is all that is needed.
The Cubs magic number to clinch is three....
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All the same, I think I will feel better telling them I can not write the article, at least for now. I think I am at a point in my service where I can be reflective compared to expectations and/or training but not necessarily in a life-changing way.

As for the Cubs - why not take it down to the wire? Good to hear from you, MMW!
Never mind the Cubs - the Mets and Phillies are taking it down to the wire! Turned down a l'ftur invitation to listen to the game(s) this evening! There is no tomorrow! Well, unless there is....
By the way (since it is not clear) the previous post (and this one) was/is being posted on Sunday afternoon of the last day of the regular season...
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