Wednesday, October 03, 2007


So much of this experience – and I suppose of all of life – is the attitude you bring to it. I generally have a positive outlook and feel happy and fortunate. I do have my ups and downs (most of them chronicled in writing here), but I usually don’t wallow; little things can lift my spirits and I’m never sad for long.

Sunday afternoon I got a text message from Jennifer, the second-year SBD who is on the GAD committee. She had been asked to do harassment training and gender roles training and thought that GAD might be at the same time but wasn’t sure. I, of course, was not only hoping but expecting to do the GAD training with her, since last year she, the first-year committee rep at the time, co-presented with the second-year at the time. When she got to Ouarzazate she found that my name was on the schedule for Monday’s presentation - but I had never been contacted (and still haven’t). So much for the GAD training. For a while there all of the disappointments I have had since I arrived here (well, all of the disappointments since swearing-in, since PST was still a time of creating expectations) seemed to loom, and I could easily have started to list them, but instead I chalked it up to opportunity lost and – after several texts to sympathetic friends, half a bag of corn chips, some chocolate and some peanut butter – I felt better, and I thought I would further indulge myself by listening to some baseball.

Glavine vs. Willis for the NL East title – I would have missed that had I gone to Ouarzazate. My intention was to shower before the game but in mid-shampoo the water was cut off and by the time it came back on and I rinsed and conditioned and rinsed and toweled off, it was 4-0 Florida and the season was over for the Mets, the collapse from seven games up with seventeen to go complete. So the baseball didn’t necessarily make me feel better, but I continued to listen – to the Phillies victory (I do have a fondness for the Phillies, after living there, so I couldn’t feel too disappointed) and then to the games with wild card implications. I look forward to the playoffs, though with the time difference I won’t be able to listen to all that many games live, and I notice that what in the past was a weekend with a possible four games on Saturday and four on Sunday (one of my favorite weekends of the year!) is not in the schedule this year – only two games scheduled for Saturday, and both at night? What’s up with that?

On Monday I worked on my Annual Report. It doesn’t make sense to me to do an Annual Report now after only nine months at site – a year at site makes more sense – especially when the first six months were for integration and not major projects – but I managed to match the various accomplishments I’ve had with several of the SBD sector objectives. Again, the disappointments loomed, as I reviewed my early monthly reports in which I thought I was going to work with rural weavers and then was not allowed to take work-related leave – wait, I’m not going to start to list them. Actually, while I may not win Volunteer of the Year (not that there’s a prize for that) I’m kind of pleased with my Annual Report – when I put it in writing, I do have some accomplishments under my belt and ideas and plans for more. I’m going to let the report simmer for a couple of days and then tweak it before I send it in. It was a good break from working on the web site, which was frustrating me last week (I’m not going to say whether or not I found that disappointing).

And Ouarzazate would have been inconvenient, because I had invited all of the PCVs in the province, along with any others who happened to hear of it and want to come as well, to Games Weekend. I realized that I have told the six-pack of Environment volunteers that they are welcome at any time, and they’ve all come, to drop off stuff and pick it up at the end of the day, to shower, to use my computer, or last week to have a meeting (since meeting at a café during Ramadan is awkward), but I hadn’t actually invited them over. Five of them came, along with a Health Volunteer in their stage whom I had met before, and Kareem and Leslie representing the SBD sector, since the two SBDs in the province (other than I) were unable to make it. I had plenty of food for those not fasting as well as space for those fasting – the food included brownies, banana-oatmeal cookies, coconut cake, pasta, eggplant (I duplicated what Jessica did earlier in the week), crustless quiche, breakfast nachos (a.k.a. eggless chilaquiles, since the person who brought the corn chips doesn’t like eggs), fruit, nuts, raisins, dates, shebekia and then some food that some of the guests brought. And lots of games were played, both all together and in smaller groups – Piffle, Rummy, Boggle, Scrabble, Dominoes (a new kind to me, Mexican Train), several new card games to me (the ones I learned were Speed and Egyptian Rat Trap), Taboo (which someone had brought) and I might be leaving something out but all in all I think everyone had a great time – I sure did! It was nice to spend more time with them, too – the people here can be very interesting when you get to know them. Stories, backgrounds, experiences – I tried some yerba mate and learned the ritual behind it.

The games continued Sunday with some more Piffle and then a hike – it was too nice a day to be inside for two days in a row. I suggested that since it was Games Weekend we should play a game while hiking, and Josh introduced, “I like coffee but not tea.” I have played similar games (I call it “I’m going on a picnic,” though there are different ways to play that one) but for whatever reason it took me a very long time to discern the pattern (as it did the other hikers) and we were silent, thinking, for much of the hike. I was afraid (as was Josh) that the hike would end without my figuring it out and that I would go home all bothered (I wonder how I would have reacted to the news about missing out on the GAD training had that been the case) but the light bulb appeared over my head and it turns out that yes, I like coffee but not tea! The water being cut off during my late-afternoon shower was the third of “everything comes in threes” – on Saturday morning the shower butagas ran out, and since it was Ramadan the stores didn’t open until almost noon, so the PCVs who came early for a shower were thwarted. On Sunday morning the batteries that provide the spark that lights the gas to set it aflame and heat the water died – so once again anyone who came over wanting a shower had to wait. Interesting that both the butagas and the batteries would pick a weekend where I had invited lots of people over to run out…. Kareem and Leslie and I had some extra Piffle time (the decks Jong and I played with having since been retired and replaced, a third deck is now showing serious signs of wear) and made stuffed peppers – another winner that may find a place in the rotation.

Yesterday I went to the post office and the photo place and the printing place and to the Artisana, where I finished labeling the displays (I am very pleased with how it looks – right now just the city and just in English, but I just wanted to get started – can add more info and more languages, and I do highlight Azrou and regional artists and the women’s cooperatives) and I noticed that the leaves are turning. Came home and did the guest sheets and towels and by the time I finished a good, steady rain had started (or as I like to think of it, an extra rinse cycle). It hasn’t rained this much since last winter, and we need it. Seemed like a nice afternoon to stay at home and read a book. I did go out for lftur, though, to get some more of the Ramadan food and camaraderie before going into de facto hiding (if I can) for the rest of the week for the playoffs. Although now that I look at the schedule, many of the days have only late starts (four-hour time difference to the east coast, and more to the other time zones) so actually I can go out for more lfturs. Just not today or tomorrow or Sunday (if nec.).

I had been only to my host family’s lftur last year in TimHdit, and they had a huge repast. None of the families I have been to this year have all of the foods that the Sheikh’s family had every night, although I have had all of my favorites when I combine all of the lfturs, fat bread in one house and hard-boiled eggs in another and zmeta in another, for example. I mentioned that to Katie, and she said that she has a theory that people are cutting back on lftur this year – either because the drought has led to crop failure, or because there were price increases just after the elections (there were riots last week in Sefrou, Rose’s site, which sounded very scary – she kept me updated with texts and emails – and after that the government scaled back the increases), or because Ramadan is so close to the August travel month and wedding season and September back-to-school, all of which are major cash outlays, so people don’t have the money to spend on Ramadan that they may have had last year. Which means that people might cut back even more next year, when it begins eleven days earlier (the days will be that much longer, too). So what happens when Ramadan is in August? I seem to recall asking that question last year and that the answer is that those years the weddings and travel take place in July, but I think I will confirm that. I hope to get to TimHdit before the end of Ramadan to see my host family there, but don’t know if I can. Last Friday almost all of the stores in town were closed, and Jessica and I took a walk through the quiet streets – she mentioned that she had heard it was a holiday because Ramadan was half over; I’ll have to check on that. I asked my counterpart and didn’t get a clear answer.

I did get a new name though. We were talking about the Arabic names of various volunteers. Mine is Shereen – Katie gave me that name last year when Sharon turned out to be too hard for my host family to pronounce. There’s a beautiful Egyptian newscaster with that name, or so everyone tells me. My counterpart said that it isn’t really a Moroccan name, and besides, since I am in a Berber region I should have a Berber name. My favorite Berber name is Itto, but someone already has it (I think – or there was some other reason it was dismissed). My counterpart suggested Rebha, which means success. As it happens, my downstairs neighbor is Rebha and the neighbor on the ground floor is Rebha, so I kind of liked the idea of having an entire building of Rebhas. And I liked the idea of having a name that means success. But what I’d really like is for people to continue to call me Shereen. I’m used to it – I know to answer to it - and I like it.

Yerba mate? Is one of your friends from South America? Or is that a Morrocan delight as well?

In Argentina they drink it hot, with a little sugar. In Paraguay they normally drink it ice cold with no sweetener, but often with medicinal herbs.

I have quite a bit in my cupboard even as we speak...
It is a Moroccan delight - a fellow volunteer is not from South America, but spent time there, and had the cup and the little straw thing (I learned the names but did not retain them). We had it with hot water and no sugar. I am glad I tried it and I could see having it again but I am not going to seek it out!
that is, it is NOT a Moroccan delight - oops!
I like that your name was on the schedule and that you ended up not being there. Great to be asked and in retrospect best that you didn't have to make the trip. Keep looking for that silver lining!
Well, I'm glad it came across that way. I actually did go through all five stages of grief - maybe not in the right order - but at least I did go through them quickly (Angry that they didn't call me - disorganized? on purpose? Denial - okay, maybe I will get another chance to go to training; this couldn't have been my one chance. Bargaining - well, if they call now I can get on an early morning bus.... Depression - now I will never meet the new people who could be potential new friends, sigh. Acceptance - nothing I can do about it anyway- more chocolate!).
In South America the straw is called a "bombilla." There are different ways they call the "cup." Sometimes they just call it a "mate."

We'll have some next time you come visit!
I almost bought some chicory at Marjane yesterday, just to have something else exotic for my guests. I haven't had any since the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans years ago!
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