Friday, April 04, 2008


I knew it would take a while for me to get up to speed this week – but since the speed here is a slow, relaxed pace, I was able to take my time. On Monday I went to the artisana to find my counterpart not there and to the post office to find the counter too crowded, so I had to go back to both again in the afternoon (not notable except that had both been available the first time I would have felt back in the swing that much sooner; today my errands went smoothly). Wednesday morning I washed my floors – not notable except for how time-consuming it is. With so much dirt here, it is hard to keep up!

I was thinking about the Avenida Kansas City that I saw on the map in Seville. I asked our guide if it was a Sister City and he said, no, it was just the name of a street. Well, you don’t just name a street in Seville, Spain Avenida Kansas City; I looked it up and indeed it is a Sister City. Before I moved here I went to some meetings of the Chicago-Casablanca Sister City Committee, and when I got here I thought it would be nice to find one for Azrou. Since Azrou means “big rock,” I thought of Boulder – or Little Rock. I decided to search for both of those and found the contact info for Boulder and brought the info to my counterpart, whose wife works in the equivalent of the mayor’s office. It’s still on the back burner, but it was nice to make some progress.

I had lunch with Jackie, one of the volunteers in the area, and juice with another, Kathy, to get updated on what happened while I was gone, and then tea with Abdou. Back in the swing, all right! I spent almost the whole day out. At night I worked on the GAD column for Peace Works, and the next morning on the GAD harassment survey writeup. Met with nearby volunteers Kathy and Elizabeth again for lunch and we all went on to a café for juice. We talked about life but also business – having a series of seminars similar to the decorator talk, a province tour where we visit each other’s sites and offer suggestions, and putting the regional cooperatives on the web site.

I’ve been reading a book called, “All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s.” It gave some background as to what was going on in the world and the country when the Peace Corps was founded – there was the Cold War and many newly decolonized nations. Peace Corps was an apolitical way of sharing American values. At home, the frontier had just been closed and there was a feeling that there could be no more pioneering – so one of the reasons the jobs were vaguely defined was so volunteers could pioneer their way to finding work. The Vietnam War led to a downturn in the number of people applying, and Nixon’s combining Peace Corps and VISTA led to a very low profile for the Peace Corps. It’s made a comeback since then, but it seemed that with each new administration there has been an attempt to better define the jobs and to bring in more experienced volunteers. There’s another Peace Corps history book that I got from the library, and there’s one in the works for the upcoming 50th anniversary. There are so many perspectives on the Peace Corps and on development in general; this fascinates me. Again, my trip to South Africa was a catalyst that really got me started thinking about it and thinking that maybe I could make a difference.

I worked on my quarterly report for Peace Corps this week. It’s good to summarize what I’m working on – day-to-day I feel it is shwiya-b-shwiya (little-by-little) but when I put it all together I felt I got a lot done this quarter. Yesterday my counterpart asked for a quarterly report in French by Monday. Good thing I had the report done already – all that remained was the translating. And next quarter will start off with a bang – I am going to Tinjdad next week to run some workshops. Jessica, the volunteer there, has a textile background, and wanted to bring someone in with a business background to train her cooperative. Connie went last month to talk about customer service and record keeping. I am going to talk about roles of the people in the cooperative, how they would define success, and how they could achieve that success. Right now, for example, if they make a product and it sells, they don’t necessarily make more of it – they make what they are in the mood to make. I think it’ll be a lot like Kristina’s coming up here to work with the rock-carver – Jessica can ask the same questions, but having a guest speaker with a different background may add credibility and focus. I put together the proposal before I left and have spent some time this week thinking about the workshop details. Jessica also found a motivated artisan who makes jelly, and we are going to meet with him to discuss various aspects of his business. I’ll be gone through next Thursday.

I’m taking the long way to Tinjdad – through Marrakesh. If the train’s not late, I hope for a quick bite to eat and maybe a quick trip to the artisana, but since it would only be quick, I’ve decided I’ll just have to get back to Marrakesh again! I’ll then hop on the bus for a Saturday overnight in Ouarzazate – since I don’t have to get all the way home on Sunday, this is a chance to see the Kasbah and the artisana that there weren’t time for when I was on the road trips with Youssef and friends. I think I have managed to talk Jong into meeting me there – it’s the closest I can get to her site in one day, and that only because the days are getting longer – and it will be good to see her. Piffle may be played. When I conceived this plan originally, I thought I would visit Ren, but while I was enroute to Casablanca she texted that she was med-sepping. I am sad that I didn’t get to see her before she left, but she sounds happier to be home.

And speaking of med-sepping – on Monday I was talking to Jackie of Ain Leuh about seminars and web sites and on Wednesday she told me she was being med-sepped. She had had some health issues and knew that PCMO was consulting Washington about solutions, but she didn’t see this coming – I’m sad for her, and for me as well; I was enjoying working with her. It’s a reminder to be thankful for health and to enjoy each day - you never know. Ain Leuh has had three volunteers in three years leave early! I offered to pitch in on some of her ongoing projects and Peace Corps agreed to that. I went out there yesterday and am going to meet with Jackie again this afternoon to go over her list. She has a lot in the works – new looms and a possible building expansion are probably the biggest things, but also marketing and training and a possible grant. I spent some time last night and this morning looking through files on a CD that she gave me. My head is kind of swimming with Tinjdad and Ain Leuh information now! I hope I don’t get them mixed up! Ain Leuh has one of the oldest cooperatives in the country and it is known for its extremely detailed weaving; the photo is a sample. The women of the cooperative are also very nice – I have met them several times – and I think I will enjoy working with them. For now I will probably go out there once a week.

For some reason, I’ve been in the mood to play Mille Bornes. I was going to get it for my nieces and I now think that that is in the works. The question is do I get it for myself. I just did a search and found that you can play on-line - tempting, but it seems more fun to actually have the cards and live opponents. I suppose I should just wait to play it with my nieces sometime. I did succumb to temptation after Frank had the International Herald-Tribune with him last month and bookmarked the daily Jumble online - is nice for a little break.

Another comment on the trip – in Cordoba I saw a shop named “Asilah” – the woman there was from Asilah and the store was full of Moroccan goods – at European prices! Incentive to shop more now while I am here! The owner broke into a big smile when I told her I lived in Morocco - I had a chance to use a few words of Arabic but we had to move on. In Grenada, there was a whole street that had Moroccan goods. There are so many Muslims there now that they opened a mosque recently – after not having one since the sixteenth century and converting all of the old ones into churches. That was just a taste of how the wave of Moroccan emigration is affecting Europe (another situation that has many aspects; I see some of its impact on Morocco, of course - maybe a subject to expound on some more).

So – what I didn’t do this week – run or do yoga. I do a lot of walking in the normal course of the day but running and yoga give me peace of mind that walking to and from a destination sometimes provides but sometimes does not. Now that I feel more caught up, I plan to work those in when I get back. I was going to go for a hike, too, but with the Ain Leuh news, I ended up spending that time with Jackie and going out there. I also didn’t see my host family or Youssef’s family – and with going away next week that means that a month will go by. Too long! So when I get back I’ll be busy yet again.

Increveble (sp?) was always one of my favorite cards...yes, I am back and hope to write more soon!
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