Monday, December 17, 2007


Given the name of this blog, I should probably comment on the Mitchell Report. I hear that it is all that anyone is talking about. I am glad I am not there – I wouldn’t want to talk about it! Even when it was just speculation I didn’t want to talk about it. The Year of Mark McGwire was fun but then when it seemed tainted it wasn’t as much fun. I think the records should stand, without asterisks, and those with the numbers should make the Hall of Fame (I also think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, but that’s another story). For whatever reason, it bothers me more to hear about performance-enhancing drugs in the Olympics than it does in baseball – maybe because the McGwires and the Bondses and the Clemenses were talented enough before doing what they were accused of doing, and the ones who get caught who you haven’t heard of weren’t elevated to all-star status because of something they took. I could go on, but as I said, I don’t want to talk about it.

Much more fun to talk about who won the post-season awards and free agent signings and who might be traded – traditional hot stove stuff. It’s hard to think hot stove here – because it’s so cold! Actually, it’s hard to do because trades don’t make the headlines that I scan. I listen to podcasts of a sports talk show (Pardon the Interruption) and glance at Sports Illustrated (which I cancelled because they were piling up – how can it be that even here the magazines pile up?) and get updates from friends and that’s my sports news.

And that’s enough. I am a baseball fan from way back – I tell people the ’73 Mets are my team (I think my first baseball game was in ’69 but ’72-’73 was when I really started to follow it) and I went to games when I lived in New York and Boston and Philadelphia (I remember in ’83 when someone in my business school class said, “you want to get World Series tickets?” and we said sure and he went to the box office and just got them – that wouldn’t happen anymore!) but it was when I moved to Chicago that I went over the edge. This probably coincided with my getting cable, so I could watch ESPN (at the end of the season where the Braves and Giants each won over 100 games – ’89? - when both were in the NL West and there were several pennant-race games on ESPN, I went to someone’s house to watch and thought I might have to move if my building didn’t put in cable – and then they did). Sports became a time-eater for me – it really takes a lot of time and energy to be so involved in it! I had a fantasy team for a while but gave that up a few years ago, but I still woke up to Sportscenter and, thanks to TiVo, always had a game to watch and/or listen to as background.

Here in Morocco, I am happy with the news I get, was happy when I finally got the feed from working so I could listen to an occasional game, listened to as many playoff games as I could, but when it got to the matchup of the World Series and to its lopsided games, I was able to turn them off or not even turn them on – in the recent past I would have wanted to watch every inning even of uncompelling post-season games. I think this is healthier and I think when I get back I will still love baseball but that maybe it won’t be as central to my life.

On a larger scale, I’ve been thinking about balance and simplicity and how I can bring those to my post-Peaee Corps life. I’m wondering if I can ever work in an office again and how much time and energy I want to devote to my job. I’ve never been that career-oriented, which is one of the reasons I ended up in marketing after business school (I had an impression that it would allow for a life outside of work, unlike the more lucrative consulting or investment banking). I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what comes next yet, not in any concrete way anyway, but I do think that baseball might take less of a role. When I think about that, though, I think of all of the baseball friends I have and all of the baseball discussions I have with them. Will those fade if I am not as into it? I don’t think so – after all, these friendships may have baseball as a source of bonding and conversation but we always have so many other things to talk about (in fact, that’s one of the reasons I like baseball – you can talk about other things and still pay attention to the game). So don’t worry, baseball friends, I do not want our friendships to fade!

Another time-eater for me has been my volunteer involvement, especially in Princeton things. When I get back, do I want to jump back into all of that, or might I want more balance there too? I left in the middle of the Presidency of the Princeton Club of Chicago, and though things are in good hands, I still get copied on all of the minutes and some of the discussion and I know that there are many things to be done; and if I don’t live in Chicago again, wherever I live will probably have a Princeton Club (or one for me to potentially start!). I am still Class Co-Secretary, and this year I am putting together the columns for the Princeton Alumni Weekly (I didn’t last year because I was unsure of my internet status and I won’t next year because of uncertainty halfway through, but I’ll probably do it again in ’09-’10). I like doing that – and then our 30th Reunion will be coming up – surely I’ll want to work on that? And a new capital campaign began this fall – surely I’ll want to take a volunteer role in that? And I miss alumni interviewing – surely I’ll want to resume that? Or - maybe I want to take a step back? Yes, each city has a Princeton Club – each also has an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) group, that has meetings and events and community service – might I want to get involved with that group instead?

Or might I want more time to myself? I really like the days I have here to write and to read – might the scales be tipping to more of that? Or might I actually find someone and settle down and want to nest? Or might I want to do more travel and therefore be less able to follow baseball and have community commitments? What about the bigger picture? Part of the reason why I am here is that in my trip to South Africa I saw how much there was to do and saw that one person can still make a difference. Is being here in a developing country the beginning of working in international development? Is being in a Muslim country going to lead to working on furthering peace and understanding? Is working with artisans going to lead to further work there – or towards expressing my own artistic side? Working with Peace Corps staff and on volunteer support have led me to think that there might be some interesting possibilities there too.

In the past few days I have both heard and read stories of people whose lives were leading them to what they should be doing, and that when they got there, they realized that that’s where they should be. I have yet to come to that place – but I do know that here is the right place for me now, and that it will lead me to something else. Whether that next thing is the thing that I should have been doing and the thing that I am meant to do, or whether it is just another stop along the road for me, remains to be seen. Well, I turned from the Mitchell report to cosmic philosophy very quickly! It all dovetails though – I really don’t know what is next. I won’t abandon baseball, or Princeton, or my basic nature, but I may rearrange the pieces.

One of the people who was talking about ending up where he was supposed to be came over this weekend – his name is Gregg, and his expertise is in weaving and natural dyeing. I had met him when I was in Rabat for GAD – he had just arrived in Morocco on his way to surprise his host family in Sefrou. He was the volunteer there, loved it and decided to extend for another two years, but then family circumstances forced him to go home – and that paved the way for Rose to be the volunteer in Sefrou. He is here for four months, and I have invited him to assess the weaving cooperative here in Azrou and to do a workshop with them. We talked yesterday about his doing a natural dye and weaving workshop for all of the volunteers in the area, so that we can gain from his knowledge before he takes off again. He had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia in the ‘60s, teaching math, and has a background in information systems. During a sabbatical, he started weaving, and he realized that that was where he should be, eventually both weaving and teaching. He joined the Peace Corps again after September 11. He’s inspirational, good-hearted, funny, and interesting, and I am glad to have crossed paths with him. He and Rose came on Saturday night and helped bake for the brunch yesterday.

Saturday was a fun day in Fes with Youssef – finally doing some shopping of his own after watching my friends and me shop our way through Morocco (not quite but there were days when it seemed that way - such as in El Jadida, where I bought the rug shown, after admiring several rugs in that style for months....I just saw this one and decided it was the one....). After our pastilla lesson, he came by with a surprise for me. In Morocco when you give gifts people don’t open them right away – they put them away and wait until later – and when he came over he told me to open it later. It was a tagine – a small one, perfect for one or two people (as opposed to the big ones that families here tend to own). I had been talking during our travels about wanting to learn to cook and not owning the staples here – tagine, couscous pot and pressure cooker – and I was really touched by his gift. It’s a good thing I didn’t open it in front of him, because the emotional impact of his leaving hit me when I did. I am happy for him starting his new life and joining his bride, but I will really miss him, and even though he is making sure that there are other people who will help me if I need help, and I know that I have other Moroccan and PCV friends here and of course lots of friends elsewhere, he is a gem of a person and I will miss him a lot. I’m getting teary-eyed as I write this so on to the brunch description.

We’d talked about having a warden group get-together but never managed it with the old group. Some have COSed and some new PCVs are now in the group, and we also lost and gained some people through “redistricting,” as some PCVs were put into another warden group to keep the group sizes even. I decided that a little pre-holiday party would be nice too – today the travel ban for l-Eid started. Last year l-Eid was on New Year’s Eve; this year with the lunar calendar it is eleven days earlier, or actually ten – it’s Friday, so it coincides with the winter solstice! Watching the moon grow every day gives visual reminders that it is getting closer (l-Eid is ten days into the lunar month) – as does watching the sheep activity here. On our travels, we saw a LOT of sheep grazing – Steve read that 5.5 million sheep are sacrificed in Morocco for l-Eid. Last year, leading up to it, Baa – Baa - Baa I heard all the time and then afterwards – silence. I might go to souk tomorrow to see all the animals.

Anyway, I invited the warden group – and the people who used to be in the warden group but were redistricted – and the new SBD volunteers in the area – and a couple of other PCVs in another warden group who had heard about the party from their new SBD sitemate – and ended up with 20 people – environment, SBD and YD in both first year and second year (and of course the environment people are six months off of the SBD/YD track so we had people from every stage of newness and seniority), plus Youssef and my tutor, Aziz. It was potluck, which is always fun. I think we ended up with six kilos of clementines! But also a nice variety of other foods. I had contributed some of the clementines, and baked brownies, banana bread and chocolate chip bars (using two bags of the precious chocolate chips on this one event!).

I had also wrapped some presents to put in a grab bag – some food items, DVDs, candles and other miscellaneous things I had gotten from COSing volunteers, blouses I was done with, maps from Lee, magazines, toothpaste (I am still hoping my tooth sensitivity goes away so I didn’t give away all of the Colgate Great Regular Flavor that the support team sent me way back when I first got here, but I did give away some of it) and other random things. We decided to do a Yankee Swap – I had done something like this before but I think it was called something else. Everyone picked a number and then you went in order. When it was your turn you could go to the grab bag for something wrapped or take something away that someone with a lower number had previously opened. It was a lot of fun. It was interesting watching the groups gravitate from the kitchen to the Fes room to the Rabat room to the Marrakesh room, forming and reforming as people mingled with different people. I think I will do this again! Everyone made it home before nightfall, and I ended up with a supply of yogurt and clementines to get me through the week (no leftover baked goods though!). This morning I washed the floors, and this week the catching up and moving ahead will continue.

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