Friday, January 25, 2008


I haven’t been sleeping well this week. I think it’s mostly nerves about the ns-marathon (ns is darija for half; I usually have qhwa ns-ns when I go to the café – half coffee, half milk). I felt pretty good when I did my last long run last week, but I can’t help but feel I have not put in enough miles. I have been running here at altitude and Marrakesh is flat – that should help. I think just getting into the race atmosphere will help too – being with all of those other people should help carry me along. So should the memory that the last time I ran 10K (less than half of a ns-marathon, which is 21K or 13.1 miles) I had just swum 1.5 K and biked 40K, and I made it, though with lots of walking. If I have to walk this Sunday there’s no shame in it! I had a massage on Tuesday – here (as opposed to at the luxury hotels), the room is a little cold and there’s a little less modesty involved than I’m used to back home, but it did help loosen tight muscles. I did two short runs this week, after the latter of which I went to the hammam for further muscle relaxation – stretching in the steamy hot room felt good. Now I’m in hydration mode – drinking as much water as I can. It’s always a challenge to drink enough water when I travel, and I’m hoping that hydrating now will be enough, because on the eight-hour bus ride tomorrow I want to drink just enough – not too little and not too much. The next step in my preparation is positive thinking/creative visualization – I can do it!

I’ve probably been just as stressed (or maybe more) by the logistics of getting down there and back than I am by the race itself. I decided that the CTM bus down there makes the most sense – I don’t have to get up as early as I do when I take the train, and I can just walk down the hill as opposed to worrying about a taxi making the connection in time. I won’t have as much time in Marrakesh as I would like, but I don’t want to do a lot of walking around anyway; I’ll just have to schedule another trip down there soon for more souk and more tourism (which probably still won’t be enough…). I already have my bus ticket, I already registered for the marathon, I have a riad reservation. I’m planning to have a carbo-loading pasta dinner with Rob and to play cards with Connie (we’ve been talking about cards for a while and now I think we are finally going to be in the same place at the same time) and drink water. As for getting back, well, if all goes well I will get home by dark – and if it’s a little bit after dark, that’s okay, and if it’s a lot after dark, I just have to call the duty officer. So I have nothing to worry about! I was talking to a friend here about bagels being the perfect post-run food – and she’s coming over later to make bagels! They might be good bus food, too.

I might also not be sleeping well because there’s a lot on my mind and a lot going on. Last weekend a friend and I were on our way to Michliffen to ski – I knew it had been warm in Azrou but thought that since Ifrane is at a higher elevation there might still be snow. We got there and it too was warm and sunny and all the snow I had seen the previous week when on the way to Figuig had melted – it had to be 70 degrees – and I was overdressed so too hot to negotiate. We would have had to buy out a taxi and have it wait for us. I would have done that if I knew for sure that we would ski, but it just didn’t seem possible that there was enough snow. So I suggested we get a cake mix and go home and bake it and tally GAD harassment surveys (I usually bake from scratch, but since cake mix is hard to find, it now falls under the category of treat). First we had lunch at a café in Ifrane – it seemed far away from the rest of Morocco and felt like a mini-vacation.

I discovered in the fall that it is good to visit COSing volunteers; they are ready to give things away – I got some teas, knitting yarn, books and spices. Well, now I have discovered that it’s also good to catch people near the end of home stay – they are eager to get out of the house. We returned after lunch and spent Saturday afternoon on the surveys – I tallied them and she typed up the open-ended comments – and then we spent most of Sunday on it too. Didn’t finish though and it was on my mind. She came back again and we finished on Wednesday and I sent the raw tallies and 20 pages of open-ended comments to the rest of the GAD committee for analysis, comments and next steps. While the task of tallying was on my mind, also on my mind is the subject of harassment itself and what we can do about it. I have mentioned before that harassment is prevalent here. The surveys helped to document that. Most of the harassment takes the form of catcalls, but there is also some stalking and inappropriate physical contact. Men don’t get harassed in the same way, but (from all indications) could use more training in being supportive of female PCVs who are harassed. And sexual isn’t the only form of harassment – other forms mentioned were racial, religious, political, anti-American, and kids throwing rocks. My initial recommendations would be to have more training, with PCVs talking about their experiences and coping strategies, and maybe an additional diversity panel just focusing on harassment and how all volunteers can support those who get extra harassment. But half of the respondents said that they felt there was enough training (I think only half, but staff could look at it as fully half). Are we going to be able to convince staff of this so that extra sessions can be included in the next PST and IST, which are right around the corner? Can we put something about this (at least coping strategies?) in the next Peace Works? Can we do something with VSN as well? This was keeping me awake. Perhaps not coincidentally, I had encounters with three men this week, all of whom I have had encounters with before, and all of which made me uncomfortable. This morning I found two love notes under my door - if they weren't left by the little girls who live down two flights, then I'm even more uncomfortable.

We also got approval on the natural dye/weaving training-of-trainers workshop! When we still hadn’t heard on Monday, I was beginning to get a little down, and then when we heard on Tuesday, I put other things aside for the moment to work on that! We sent out the official invites to the other PCVs involved and started working on logistics. I’m really excited about the workshop. I had already adjusted my thinking of what I would work on this week when my counterpart asked me for a report for the Ministry on my projects – what I have done, what I am doing, and what I will do. This seemed similar to a report I had done before, but as I started working on it I realize that it’s different – and that I have a lot to say, meaning that I feel I have done a lot, am doing a lot and hope to do a lot! So I’m still working on that one, and I am going to also work on a topline version that I’ll have translated into French. It bothers me a little that I haven’t finished it yet, but I think that’s because initially it looked like a short form to fill out so I didn’t mentally budget enough time for it at first. I actually think I can finish it today and then it won't be on my mind over the weekend. It also occurs to me that listing my accomplishments and projects this way will be helpful when it comes time to update my resume.

Sandwiched in with all of this was the burning desire to read a book. Sue Grafton is my favorite mystery author; I was introduced to her abecedarian series when she was around E, and somehow made it through to R with the willpower to wait for the books to come out in paperback. For my birthday two years ago, Debbie gave me the hardcover edition of “S is for Silence” – a great present, because it was something I would have wanted and wouldn’t have done for myself. This year I decided that as a Peace Corps treat, I would order for myself the hardcover edition of “T is for Trespass.” It came on Friday. Since I had convinced someone to help me with the surveys, I decided that that took precedence over reading. Did some more tallying on Saturday night and Monday night on my own but then I couldn’t take it any more and started reading – and with the pressure of holding out off, that was my best night’s sleep of the week so far. Tuesday night I was trying to figure out how to get everything done and still finish the book this week. Wednesday night – with the surveys done and emailed out, the logistics memo started and commented on, and the Ministry report unfinished but reasons why justified, and anything else on my to-do list postponed until the mystery was resolved, I stayed up until Thursday morning to finish it! I have two more mysteries, also hardcover versions of series I’m emotionally invested in, but I don’t feel I need to read them right away (though I sense that I will soon).

I also felt I had to/wanted to/it was time to see my “host families” this week – both the one I lived with when I got here and Youssef’s. But first – tea at Abdou’s, which was also overdue, and we were joined by Youssef the rock-carver and his adorable two-year-old daughter. More kittens are on the way – this time I had not just a purring cat on my lap but a purring pregnant cat! I saw my homestay family on Thursday afternoon; brought over the absentee ballot I got in the mail for a little cultural exchange (since I had already printed out and mailed a ballot that was on the internet). And will see Youssef’s family for couscous today at lunchtime! I made an album of l-Eid photos for them. All of these visits have calmed me down – it would be healthy to adopt the feeling that there’s always time to stay for tea…. Hopefully I’ll sleep well tonight, and I think I’ll bring my white noise machine on the road for tomorrow night.

Joy will be here next week – she’s an international consultant who has done quite a bit of work in Africa; she’ll be here between trips to Madagascar and Jordan with some Paris thrown in. She had good advice for me before I came here and I’m interested in what she might say about possibilities for the rest of my service and beyond. It will be fun to make the rounds with her - I’ve already penciled in a cooking lesson and a couscous lunch – and I’d like to get some work done on the web site if she has work to catch up on as well. I also woke up Sunday night with my heart pounding about filing (of all things… filing… in the Peace Corps) so maybe I can do that too. And/or maybe a hike if the weather stays this nice! It’s hard to believe it will get cold again but even harder to believe that it won’t. Looks like a busy month ahead – or two months – or ten-plus months….

The picture is another from vacation – taken at the medersa in Marrakesh. Last but not least - strawberries are here!

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