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!