Monday, November 05, 2007


Before we left for Rabat, Kellye and I climbed the big rock, or azrou, that is the town landmark. I had started up it when I was in training last year but just had a bad feeling about it – bad guys do hang out there sometimes, and people tend to use it as an outdoor toilet, which is unfortunate – but it was a nice, sunny day and with Kellye to protect me we made it to the top and savored the view. And then it was off to Rabat! After being in the car and taking the autoroute, squeezing into a grand taxi and then another grand taxi and taking the slow road brought me back to reality. We got to Rabat and met up with Jen, the chair of GAD, and walked to get ice cream. She had been in town to take the GREs and had stayed at a quieter hotel than the one where we stayed for GAD; we went to get her luggage and came back to the hotel and started talking and never left – so I didn’t get to the medina at all on this trip to Rabat. Still have pent-up Rabat medina demand! We did go to a nice Italian restaurant with the whole group – I really enjoy the other people on the committee.

There’s so much that the GAD committee is working on, too, and we spent the next two days discussing it and moving ahead with projects in smaller groups. Some of them include:
- Creating a resource guide so that GAD and GLOW information is all in one place – we divided up the sections; I’ll work on GAD projects for the SBD sector and on listing resources available in the Peace Corps library and on-line
- Distributing a harassment survey to all volunteers – I’ll hand them out to my stage-mates at mid-service medicals, and I volunteered to tabulate all of them
- Organizing a conference planned for the spring
- Debriefing on Middle Atlas GLOW camp and the new initiatives enabled by the leftover funds
- The trainings to SBD and YD PST and the upcoming ENV and HE IST (I just decided to throw in as many acronyms as possible)
- Peace Works (I coordinate the GAD portion of the newsletter and – as I do as class secretary for Princeton – am always looking for news)
- Women-to-Women – an endeavor to research women in other countries and share insights with women here – someone not on the committee is spearheading that but I am the liaison
- Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes – we had worked on this at the last meeting but met again to finalize them
- This just came up at the meeting – the YD program manager wants to plan a Harassment Awareness Week, cross-sector, at the Dar Chebabs, leading up to International Women’s Day
- Elections – I’m the new Vice-Chair (which is the office I wanted)

Also, I was invited to present GAD to the YD PCTs later in the week, since one of the YD committee members couldn’t go. When I texted my program staff to tell them, the program manager called and asked me if I still wanted to present KSA to the SBD trainees. I said yes, though I feel frazzled about it – how can I do that when I feel I have a lot to do before my next guests come? And what if it’s during the week that my next guest is here? I decided that as for the lot to do, I can always do it later, and if it’s when my guest is here, we’ll adjust, and since I didn’t get called for GAD I shouldn’t worry about it until I get called for this.

The GAD meeting took two solid days; I did find some time to visit the PCMO and got my flu shot – the healthy GAD committee members who had the flu shot felt worse afterwards; it may just be a coincidence but after I had the shot I finally felt over the illness that I suffered through the week before. We did have some social time – nice lunches with interesting discussions and dinners out on the town (and for some, a cocktail after that – but the first night I was tired from the travel and then I started reading a book and wanted to keep reading it). On Monday night, Jen and I went out for sushi with the head of administration, one of the three Americans on the Peace Corps staff. The sushi was really good! I hope I can persuade stage-mates to go back there for mid-service medicals. Tuesday night, a group of us went to the Goethe Institute, a Rabat favorite.

There’s an English bookstore in Rabat and an American bookstore in Rabat; I had been to neither. On Wednesday morning we decided to look for the English bookstore, but upon leaving “Toast,” we heard that they were filming a movie with Russell Crowe and Leonardo di Caprio just down the street by the post office, so we decided to check it out. I have seen my share of movie shoots on Michigan Avenue, but it was still kind of fun, with some stereotypical Hollywood types using their walkie-talkies. No sign of Russ or Leo; we thought about walking back and forth as they were shooting so that we could perhaps be in the movie but some of us had to get going. With no train to catch, Jen and I went to the English bookstore. I had gone to the Peace Corps Library twice with no intention of getting more books and found a book to take home each time, but somehow I managed to have some willpower in the store.

Taxi from Rabat to Meknes – a couple of hours (plus wait time). Taxi from Meknes to Azrou – about an hour (plus wait time). A shower, unpacking, repacking – I hadn’t planned to go to the YD training. Taxi from Azrou to Immouzer – forty minutes (plus wait time). Taxi from Immouzer to Sefrou – another twenty minutes (plus wait time). I left Rabat somewhere between ten and eleven and got to Sefrou at five. Brian, the second-year YD who was presenting with me, decided to visit his CBT host family in Sefrou rather than stay the night with the trainees in Fes, and since I didn’t know the way to the seminar site without him I asked Rose if I could stay with her – and it was so nice to see Rose! She had friends from the states and we had a nice chat and then Rose and I talked until late.

Presenting GAD to the YD trainees was fun – it was rewarding to see them get motivated by the theory and then break up into small groups to brainstorm practical applications. This is why I wanted to do the trainings! My goal now is to present to Health so I will have presented to every sector but my own! Actually, I do hope to present to SBD next year. It was nice to meet some of the new people, too, though I didn’t have a lot of time to talk with them. Back to Azrou, where I was asked to make some (non-emergency) calls to my warden group, and then I made pasta sauce for Katie, Jehan and Lauren, who were coming to stay the night.

Katie, Jehan and Lauren worked on some trainings for the cooperatives and other artisans in the Middle Atlas region in March – covering subjects such as networking, goal-setting, marketing, basic accounting, product development, skills transfer and action plans. I didn’t get to attend this because there was no room for my artisans, but they expressed an interest in handing it off to me to organize for next year, and I have an interest in doing so, so we talked about everything over dinner, and when the SBD program manager happened to call me the next day (about the work-related leave form for the Fes training) I mentioned that I wanted to work on this. Right now there are some potential collaboration issues but I hope they can be worked out because I think this would be a great project for me to work on.

Katie, Jehan and Lauren were touring the Middle Atlas, interviewing the cooperatives and artisans who were trained, to find out what they remembered, what they used, and what they would like further training on. I went with them on Friday morning to interview Rajaa, the seamstress who relocated to Azrou. She had been inspired to help others as a result of the training – she is very motivated, but she saw that some of the cooperatives weren’t, and she wanted to teach others to be motivated. Wow – what an impact! That made me all the more excited about the possibility of working on this.

K, J and L went on to their next stop and I went back to my mystery book. Debbie gave me a couple of “coffeehouse mysteries” when I saw her in June and then she sent the rest to Martha and Susan to bring with them. They’re fun - but what was interesting was that I had just read a New Yorker article about the global seed bank and about copyrighting new hybrid plants, and this mystery involved a new hybrid coffee plant that one of the characters wanted to legally protect. I recently read a New Yorker article about the Beat Generation, and I picked up a book in the Peace Corps library that chronicled the artists and writers who went to Tangier in its heyday, and some of them were Beats. There was something else I read in the New Yorker recently that came up in another context too, but I don’t remember it now. That’s part of the reason why I will never give up the New Yorker, even if I can’t keep up with them. So many interesting articles!

Did laundry and had a coffee with Youssef to plan itineraries of the next two visits – when we planned for Martha and Susan’s it was with the thought that his visa might come through before the next guests came, but it doesn’t look that way now, and I am glad, because he will again be driver and guide. And then it was more packing and going to bed early to be up early for the next trip!

Jen, the head of GAD, had invited me to her site, and I wanted to visit before she COSes. She lives in a small village in the High Atlas – until this February she had no electricity, the site just got cell phone coverage this spring, and she has running water for maybe an hour a day, which she spends filling containers. I had to buy out two taxis in order to get to Rich in time for the one reliable transit that goes to her site every day; she had told the driver to look out for me. I met her host father, we took a walk by the fields with a dramatic mountain backdrop, we had coffee with one of her artisans, and then we made macaroni and cheese. The visit was all too short – we had to get up at five in the morning to get the one reliable transit back to Rich. I am glad I live in a site with good access – that was one of the things I had hoped for (water and electricity are nice too). In Rich, we met some of the other PCVs for whom it is souk/cyber town for pastry and coffee (they have a usual place), and also the new SBDs, who were on their site visit. I had a chance to walk around Rich a bit – the picture is of some Berber ladies wearing traditional Imilchil-area capes. I had seen these capes in pictures but not on too many people! I bought a traditional cape from Jen’s artisan; she was so proud of bringing in money for the cooperative that I bought it even though I wasn’t planning to; the people in her site are a different tribe, so it is different in color and pattern from the Imilchil ones. And then I taxi-hopped back home. I returned at a reasonable hour, which was good, because my internet was down and I wanted to go to a cyber to catch up on emails. It was down all day today too - but I can’t let it bother me too much after seeing how Jen manages!

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