Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Some good news this week – one of my photo candidates (see the October 7 entry) was selected for the RPCV calendar! So now I will be not only a published writer but also a published photographer! The calendar is put together by the RPCV group of Madison, Wisconsin; I first saw it in Chicago at a Peace Corps event. It raises money for grassroots projects – in other words, much of the money raised goes back to Peace Corps countries through small grants. You can order your 2009 international calendar, featuring the picture I submitted, at I’ll also be getting some, as my “payment,” – number to be determined based on whether my photo is one of the twelve big ones or a smaller one – support team, guess what you might be getting for the holidays next year? In addition, they will send me a copy of the photograph – which I have already decided to send to Amanda and Youssef, since the man is selling cilantro outside of Youssef’s family’s house, and Youssef mentioned that he misses him. Hm, maybe I should give it to the cilantro man? I don’t know if he was aware that I was taking his picture, and I don’t want to risk upsetting him, both because I see him frequently and because he is the only person I have found who sells sage; I bought some recently and made sage incense sticks for the workshop attendees so they could clear the karma in their new post-homestay houses.

And that also means that SOME of my mail is actually reaching the United States. I wondered in an earlier entry if anyone was getting any of my mail and since then not only have I not received any comments to the affirmative, but I have also asked people and received responses in the negative. I spend a lot of time writing – to people who don’t have email and to people who don’t read the blog, but most of all to the support team, with whom I am in touch through other means but who I also think would like a written word of thanks every so often. I enjoy the time I spend writing and I don’t mind the considerable expense but it depresses me to think that my mail is not getting there – maybe even more than it depresses me to think of what is not getting to me, which as you know depresses me quite a bit. I especially feel badly if my partner school is not getting the letters I write faithfully every month. I suppose I shall persevere, because maybe the letters and cards are just taking their time, as are the boxes on the way to me. Right? Right?

I’ve started to think about things that I’ll miss. I realize that there’s still a lot of time left and a lot of memories to create and to cherish –and I have never taken any of this for granted or wished the time would go by faster – but I think that ever since l-Eid, when I gazed at all of those sheep at the souk and felt sad that I wouldn’t be here next year, I have even more appreciation for things. Last week I went to the souk – I don’t usually go, because I have a daily supply of fruits and vegetables that are closer to where I live and therefore less of a schlep – and I really enjoyed all of the colors of the produce and all of the other things that are for sale, from ponge material to jellabas that can be tailored on the spot to used clothing to random metal and electronic parts to plastic goods to shoes to kitchenware to spices to soaps to animals to carpets. I’ll admit that this warmish weather that we’re having was part of what made it nice too – last year I kept saying I would meet Amanda and Youssef there but it was too cold or too muddy or I’d get there and it would feel too crowded. This year I feel I might go more often!

I was outside on the balcony the other day and heard the call to prayer. From inside my house I can hear the sound from two or maybe three mosques, but from outside it sounds as though I can hear more, with the voices ringing out in overlapping time delay rather than in unison; each mosque seems to run on its own time (and unlike in other countries, the call to prayer is always live, not recorded, though a microphone and speaker system are used). I’ll miss the call to prayer. The other day I was walking home with my fresh vegetables and fruits (I’ll miss that too) and I passed two jellaba-clad women carrying live turkeys by their feet. I do cherish those moments. The vegetable man sometimes quizzes me on the darija names for what I’m buying – then he’ll point to something I don’t eat, such as beets, and I’ll tell him that I only remember the names for the things that I like. He also gets a smile on his face as he tells me the price of what I buy – even though dirhams have been the currency for years, both buyers and sellers alike speak in terms of ryals, which are no longer in circulation. A dirham is 20 ryals, and in PST I joked that one of the skills I could add to my list is the ability to divide quickly by 20, but the truth is that I do not divide instantaneously by 20, and the vegetable man finds it extremely amusing to watch me figure out how many dirhams to give him after he quotes me the price. One day he really threw me off and gave me a random number, not the price, and laughed at the confusion on my face as I tried to figure out how the bunch of bananas I bought could cost over 30 dirhams (they’re usually about seven).

At the same time, I also think about things from home that I miss – I feel as though I have adjusted pretty well here, but I do find myself looking forward to the day when I turn on a hot water tap and hot water comes out of it. I sometimes turn on the hot water heater for dishes and to wash my face, but more often than not I don’t, saving the hot water only for showers. To put my clothes in a washing machine will be nice – though remarkably I am not yet tired of wearing the same few clothes (I will admit I did get a supplement of tops this summer, and I had to get new skirts and slacks when I lost a size, and I have bought some Moroccan clothes, but the same few winter things have lasted through this winter too). I have always had an appreciation for Reese’s peanut butter cups but I think that, unexpectedly, they have become my #1 food request when getting things from home (though I have been trying to locate some Girl Scout cookies as well – but since one of the types I’m most interested in is the peanut butter cookie coated with chocolate, it’s kind of the same thing).

I’m certainly not looking forward to job-hunting, though I don’t quite dread it either – I feel there are all sorts of possibilities open to me now and all sorts of directions to pursue. Soon will come the time when I will redo my resume and start putting out feelers. I am also not looking forward to re-entering a world of mostly couples and feeling like an odd duck – I may be an odd duck here as well but somehow I feel that because of that, I fit in. Much as I may sometimes feel I have too many PCVs coming over and staying over (Jong started and I am going to continue and submit for Peace Works tips on how to be a good guest), I always wanted more visitors than I had in Chicago and I will miss having so many people come through.

I enjoy the pace here – one of the many nuances about “inshallah” means that there aren’t really deadlines – if something doesn’t get done today, it might tomorrow, God willing, or maybe the day after, or sometime after that, or maybe it just won’t get done. I still have a drive to accomplish and achieve but I don’t feel pressured by external forces and I accept that I have to move at Moroccan pace and not expect people to move at mine (I’ve been having an email conversation with a stagemate who is still having a hard time with that). I love the lack of structure here – am I going to be able to work in an office again? Do I want that kind of pressure? I love having so much control over how I spend my day. There have been days when I have had to set an alarm clock, but those are the exception!

Obviously there are going to be people I miss, and I don’t even want to think about that yet – I went by Abdou’s the other day to thank him for his help on the workshop (much more on that to come!) and he was sitting outside, petting Minush (no kittens yet) and I started to think about how sad it will be when it comes time to say goodbye. I had a brief visit to the Artisana but wanted to get home because Rose was still here, working on her grant application, and it seemed as though it had been too long since I chatted with the woodcarvers and metalworker, even though it was just last week. It’s been longer since I’ve seen the rock-carver, but I go by as frequently as I see everyone else; he just isn’t always in his studio. While walking to get vegetables yesterday, I took a street I don’t usually take through the neighborhood near my house and saw an open door with a sign that said “artisan/sculpteur bois;” inside were a variety of wood items but not a person that I could see. On the way back the door was closed, but I think I will take that street more often and one day I will find him and introduce myself. And today I ran into Rajaa, the seamstress – she told me she had moved her workshop; the last couple of times I’ve been by there she hasn’t been there so it was good to run into her. I’ll stop by the new place soon.

I think I’ll save the workshop for another entry, but will mention here that we had scheduled it to end with an optional lunch out on Sunday, after which (or before, if they opted) people would return to their sites. Well, one thing led to another – that is, some people wanted to play piffle – and afternoon stretched into early evening and Kathy offered to make pizza, which was delicious! The first first-year SBD to ET (who is one of the few not in the immediate area whom I had met, when she was on her way to her site the week I was traveling with Elisa and Steve) came through Azrou on the way to Rabat and we invited her to join us as well. Rose was planning to stay for the afternoon to do workshop follow-up with me and work on her grant, but the piffle was a good unwind from all the work we had done, and she got permission to stay an extra day to do on Monday what didn’t get done on Sunday; it was a productive day. Some volunteers who shall remain nameless came through Azrou on Monday evening on their way back from COS conference and I took the rest of the dough and made more pizza and now want that to be a part of my repertoire. More piffle was played, and then Rose got sick. She got permission to stay yet one more day and slept for almost all of it, getting up only to call the doctor, try to eat a little something, and go back to sleep. That gave me the chance to do my laundry and clean up after the guests and summarize my work experience in French for my counterpart (with google translate – my counterpart then makes corrections, but I no longer spend major tutoring time watching my tutor translate) and work on the work-related leave follow-up form detailing the workshop. Still have to write up the portion I offered to scribe – the wrap-up and potential next steps - and follow up with the other scribes, and then I have a list of things I could and would like to do before the end of the week. I hope to write more about the workshop this week, but in the meantime the picture is of me doing some hands-on weaving at the horizontal loom. This weekend I’ve scheduled an overnight to Tetouan, which seems to warrant more than the hour or so spent there on the Martha/Susan/Youssef trip, and then next week there’s the GAD meeting in Rabat; I come back on Thursday night and then I am hosting VSN training from Friday through the following Tuesday morning!

This makes fascinating reading! Thanks for sharing in this way. I look forward to seeing you at Reunions again someday. Best wishes, Erica Lehrer
Thanks for reading! I'll be at Reunions....hope all is well with you!
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