Sunday, October 07, 2007


I usually read the New Yorker when I am in a grand taxi – I can look around and appreciate the scenery and also absorb what I’m reading – and the irony was not lost on me when I found myself reading the Food Issue this weekend. Just the thing for Ramadan, descriptions of exotic foods and marvelous eating experiences. Even more ironic was that one of the articles I read yesterday concerned fasting spas. People here tell me that the fasting during the day is good for your health; there are religious people here who fast two days a week year-round. And there are extra fast days that my host mother observes – I think it may put you on the fast track to heaven. But I have also heard that people gain weight in Ramadan because they chow down at night. All I know is that for the past week I have had a persistent headache. I do enjoy the lfturs that I have been to, but I won’t be sorry when Ramadan ends. It occurred to me this week how much time I spend at cafes here – having a ns-ns (half coffee, half milk) or a juice (fresh-squeezed orange in season, or a banana smoothie anytime), and I even miss the mid-afternoon tea that I have when I stop by to visit people. That routine will start again soon!

Yesterday I went to Meknes, which I have been saying warrants further exploration. Sabrina came to meet me there – she spent a lot of time with the person who ETed this week, Julia. Julia ETed because of harassment. She had a tough site – had her phone stolen three or four times and some grabbing – but she also had some grabbing here in PST and in her CBT as well. I feel sad that that’s why she’s leaving – they had offered her a site change but she didn’t want to start over. She just decided it was time to do something else. Mid-service medicals – the next time we’re together as a group – is the first week in December. I wonder if more people will leave between now and then? YD recently lost two people as well. On the medical front – we just got a notice about flu shots, which will be given regionally. Here I thought we had had the last of the shots at IST but no, there’s another one (I wonder if I will get one next year or if that is so close to when we go home that they will assume we will go right home and get one? I don’t want to think about insurance and all that yet, but I seem to recall that there’s COBRA-like coverage available…).

No, not quite ready to think that far ahead, though filling out my Annual Report this week did allow for some perspective. In a way I feel good about what I’ve done so far, but I guess my overriding feeling when I filled it out was one of ennui. I want to be inspired, motivated, enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and I feel that way with my little victories such as labeling the artisana, but when I look at the big picture and put it in writing, I am somewhat disillusioned. I still have more than a year to accomplish something I feel proud of, and I do have ideas, but I also think I could easily find myself saying the same thing when I fill out next year’s Annual Report. I know I’m not the only person here feeling this way, and in a way that makes me feel better, but in another way I think back to the book “Keeping Kennedy’s Promise” that I read months ago – the program is flawed if the people who really do something meaningful are in the minority. What would it take for me to feel better? Maybe it’s another little victory – or something as simple as not having a headache. Maybe it’s making some progress on the web site, but more than that, finding someone here who would be interested in working on it; after all, it’s all about sustainability. Maybe it would take an invitation to training or some other recognition of the work that I am doing. Or maybe I have to spend more time actually working with artisans.

Have had some language ups and downs this week too. At the early-Ramadan lfturs, my hosts weren’t watching the Ramadan TV programming that was such a part of last year’s cultural integration, but this past week they were. Last year I felt happy when I picked out words. This year I can pick out many more words – in some cases even the majority of what someone is saying – but I still don’t really know what’s going on. By next year will I actually be able to follow a TV show? I was hanging out with the ladies at the artisana on Friday while the men were all at prayer. Again, I could understand most of the words they were saying but when they asked me if I knew what they were talking about all I could say was swiya (a little). They laughed, not necessarily at me, but I just don’t find that motivating. So I started thinking that maybe I had given it as much energy as I was going to and that I could just get by for the rest of my service; after all, I can get by. But then I went to Abdu’s house for lftur - he of the carpet shop that is my favorite spot in Azrou other than my home – and he was helping me with my language and then I felt more inspired to keep at it. Maybe I will even study! I have not been tutoring during Ramadan, and that practice does help. Part of me wants to switch to French for the remainder of my tutoring time – we get tutoring money only for the first year. I could pay for it myself after that, of course. I have to think about it. I do think that getting better at darija would be helpful and appreciated here, yet starting French might be nice because I do have the time and the opportunity here – most people use French when speaking to me, assuming all foreigners speak French, until I ask them to switch to darija, so if I did start to learn it I would have the chance to use it. And ultimately probably have more use for it later in life….

Meknes – Sabrina and I walked around the medina and went to visit a metalworker that she met and has been working with on her own time, since that is not her site. He makes Damascene work, metal with inlays of silver thread (the process is originally from Damascus but I don’t think it is still used there). Very nice work – maybe we could bring some to the Azrou artisana! He gave me a bracelet and a ring and I bought another bracelet so I could pay for something; I thought the bracelet would make a good present for someone but I am not ready to part with it – I like the look of two…. We then went through some of the tourist things that I had said I’d wanted to do in Meknes, but I didn’t bring my guidebook pages with me so we just kind of wandered randomly through the old palace, the tombs, and the long, narrow walk to the stables and then to the current palace – but now I have to read up on what I saw. We then went to the artisana there – which, to my surprise, was not much nicer than the one in Azrou. The showroom is smaller and while it has Damascene work, it doesn’t have anything else that Azrou doesn’t have. The displays were different but I wouldn’t say better – Fes had much nicer displays, especially with the lighting, and Marrakesh seemed more impressive. The Meknes artisana seemed sad and it made me think that the Azrou artisana is sad too. That four-page memo of suggestions I had, beginning with a coat of paint, now seems sad – it’s not the Azrou artisana that needs a coat of paint, nor the Meknes one – it’s the whole system. Meknes has a lot of space for working artisans, but most of the space in empty, and the occupied ones are not really making items for tourists. It was a sobering visit. But in another way inspiring – I can keep plugging away; who is going to plug away at the Meknes artisana?

On to Marjane – where Sabrina, like-minded and equally light-headed (that long, narrow walk was maybe a little more activity than I thought) suggested buying some water and sneaking into a corner to drink it. Great idea! Got some cheese, more peanut butter, more corn chips… I guess I was always a big fan of cheese, but there’s no doubt I have more peanut butter here than I do at home, and now that I have discovered the corn chips, one bag per Marjane trip seems in order.

Looking for a 2008 calendar? Go to They have an international calendar featuring photographs from Peace Corps countries; I just submitted some (you never know!). The money from the calendars goes to Peace Corps Partnership Programs (grants to current volunteers) and to good works in the Madison area. I found out about this at the reception for Chicago-area invitees last year and since then have been looking forward to submitting photographs! One of the ones I submitted accompanies this entry; it’s from Azrou. Some of the others have already appeared here.

As for baseball, everyone whose eyes don’t glaze over when I talk about it knows that in the post-season, I want there to be the maximum number of games possible – that is, every series should go to the max. I especially don’t like sweeps, figuring that any team who gets this far should get the chance to savor at least one victory. So you can imagine my distress as I drifted in and out of sleep last night with the computer on, listening to the teams I was rooting for and emotionally attached to get swept. With the possibility of two more sweeps tonight, I am already fretting and thinking about listening to last post-season’s games, archived on

And I have been making a list of the things that were in the three boxes that are (probably) never going to arrive (I still have a little hope, but I know I have two chances….slim and none). When I set these things aside I did it knowing that I had to be okay with them not arriving – but I broke down this week and ordered a couple of the books that I actually did want to read. Not sure what if anything else I will replace or find substitutes for. I’m still more of the mindset of getting rid of things I have in storage than of replacing or holding on to things…. Though I am also accumulating some Moroccan things! It stresses me out to think about how I am going to get them back, so I am trying not to think about that either.

Today I went to Ait Hamza, another rural village/PCV site that is not a tourist destination, taking the opportunity to visit Deanedra, the PCV there, before she COSes. She lives with her host family and it was very nice to meet them, especially her little sister (though she was sticky and I hate sticky!). We visited the cooperative building – this was a CBT site last year and I already own a shawl that I ordered in PST – and I bought another shawl and a blanket. Ait Hamza is a Berber village, mainly agricultural, with a stunning mountain backdrop (maybe some hiking if I get another chance to go there but after the long, narrow walk yesterday, no exertion when I can’t drink water!). I found my desire to knit just in time – Deanedra gave me a lot of yarn that she is not going to take home with her! I don’t know that I can use it all either, but I will use some and share some. It was a nice day – two nice day trips this weekend!

Just noticed the link to the Artisanal website - is this the one you did?!?!? Awesome. It may not seem like much to you, but I think it's great. Before there was nothing, now you are a tourist destination. Keep up the good work!
Wow - eagle-eyes! It is the one I am working on, yes, and I decided that I've made enough progress to post the link, though I have much more to add. I was going to point it out in my next blog entry but you found it without my pointing it out! Later, I will have the challenge of directing people (other than blog-readers, that is) to the site, but before I tackle that I have a lot more uploading to do. Thanks for the compliment!
Eagle-eyes was actually my family's nickname for me as a kid.
I used to be called that too sometimes....
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