Monday, April 28, 2008


I thought it would be instructive to republish here the tip sheet that I compiled for Peace Works on being a good guest (with some tips for being a good host/ess thrown in). This may give some indication as to why I sometimes feel PCV’ed out. Not all of these come from my own experience, but plenty do:


In this issue we offer tips for how to be a good guest and how to be a good host/ess, gathered from PCVs who frequently visit and from some who are frequently visited! If these seem basic – well, they come from actual guest situations,,,,

Tips on being a good guest:
- bring something or offer to pay for something
- ask if they need something you can pick up on the way
- give plenty of notice (at least a day)
- don’t assume the answer is yes
- don’t get upset at the host/ess if you invite yourself and the answer isn’t yes
- respect that if the host/ess says yes, you may still be inconveniencing him/her
- ask, as opposed to just mentioning that you are coming through on such-and-such a date and making the host/ess guess that you want to stay over
- ask if there are house rules (e.g. no shoes) and then respect them
- it helps if you bring a sleeping bag, towel and slippers
- help cook, wash the dishes or clean after each meal
- note that the host/ess is not there to wait on you
- let the host/ess know any food restrictions in advance
- ask before using the computer and any toiletries
- if you do use someone’s computer (especially if you have not asked first) don’t leave files on the desktop and sign out/clean up after yourself
- ask before smoking or drinking
- don’t invite other people without first asking the host/ess whether it’s okay
- corollary: if the host/ess says yes to your coming, don’t THEN mention that there are more than one of you
- if possible, replenish what you use
- try to keep your things contained and tidy after yourself
- don’t clip your nails or perform other intimate grooming at someone else’s house – and if you HAVE to, do it in the bathroom!
- if you break something, offer to replace it – or at least ‘fess up!
- flush the turk thoroughly, use toilet brush if it is called for, and squeegee the floor
- if you use the last of the toilet paper roll, notify the host/ess (or the next person going in there, if it’s not the host/ess
- don’t expect to be entertained
- bring something entertaining if you like – a movie or game
- do not leave things you don’t want anymore (books, clothes), unless the host/ess expresses an interest in having it
- be a good conversationalist
- don’t overstay your welcome
- don’t use someone else’s house as a storage unit
- be respectful of the neighbors and in general on good behavior! This is someone’s site and they have to deal with the consequences!
- if you have tentative plans to visit, be courteous and confirm one way or the other with enough advance notice for the host/ess to make other plans
- text with your expected arrival time – especially if you are ahead of or behind schedule
- if you are going somewhere for the first time, make sure you arrive well before dark (of course, you should arrive before dark anyway!). A female hostess may not be comfortable going out after dark to meet you.
- if your phone has an automatic alarm clock and you are not planning to get up at that time, turn the alarm off.
- no nookie in someone else’s house

Tips on being a good host/ess:
- provide bathroom slippers
- make space for guest toiletries and towels
- have plenty of food and/or tell people where the nearest hanut is
- let people know what to expect
- assign people other jobs so you don’t feel you are the servant
- give good directions or offer to meet them at the taxi stand/bus station (at least the first time)
- have a list of “house rules”

I felt a little burnt out last week and thought about putting myself on a “PCV diet” – but then I did a little VSNing with other people (even a VSNer needs to be VSNed sometimes) and feel better. I just needed to vent. I still think I would rather be in a site where a lot of people pass through and come by than an isolated one. But I may say no more often – time is flying and there is still work I want to do. I’m reminded of the tarot reading – I want to do everything so can’t necessarily cut anything out, but I can cut back. I also took a couple of evening exercise walks (no destination in mind, no pocketbook to weigh me down), which were good de-stressors. I see more of those in the future - the weather’s nice now, the sun sets late, and there is more of Azrou to explore.

There’s a group of RPCVs from the very first group in Morocco (1963-1965) traveling around, and I invited them to Azrou. I thought they were coming on Saturday but they never called (they were supposed to see Frank in Erfoud too but didn’t call him either – what happened?). Instead, I waited with some volunteers at the taxi stand as they were off to the “cultural exchange” dinner, gave up on the RPCVs and then – spontaneously, which made it all the more of a treat – watched four episodes of Survivor: Cook Islands that Gary had sent me on DVD. I don’t watch a lot of DVDs here, and I am one of the few PCVs who doesn’t – well, now I have a new appreciation for it! My whole body just relaxed (even though I did sit-ups and leg raises for two of the episodes and knitted for the other two). I have had some movies come my way but nothing that was as compelling as these (yes, silly, I admit it) Survivor episodes! I can’t wait for the rest! And those aired in Fall 2006 – more Survivors and some Amazing Races could also be coming my way. But now I also think I should take another look at the movies that I’ve accumulated and maybe get some more movies from the past eighteen months or so that would be fun to watch. I felt so unexpectedly happy with my decadent afternoon – watching something mindless was just what I needed. Any must-see movie recommendations (mindless or otherwise)? I did some reading and wrote some cards at night (two things I always want to do more of) but while reading and writing are fulfilling, my mind is still going. What was nice, though, was that my “background music” for the evening was a Stanley Cup playoff game on the radio feed of I haven’t really followed much hockey since the lockout and it was a treat. Right now I’m listening to the White Sox game – on a 38-degree rainy day in Chicago!

Yesterday I went to Meknes; Sabrina and Josh came from Khemisset as well; it’s about the same distance for each of us. There’s a big agricultural fair going on there now; I wasn’t sure what to expect but I found myself humming the Minnesota State Fair Song (Minnesota, Minnesota, we are south of Manitoba, we are east of North Dakota….really). First we went to the animal exhibit – cows and sheep and goats – and camels! Fine specimens, all (there was poultry, too, separate). But no donkeys! They get no respect – beasts of burden only, not show animals. Then we went through the equipment pavilions – it was interesting looking at the latest technology, especially considering that as I pass by fields I see animals pulling wooden plows or people working the fields and almost never an actual piece of machinery; I also see much more grazing than farming. The big pieces stand in stark contrast to my trips to Fes last week, where I was dodging horses and donkeys as they carried cargo through the medina. So, a picture from last Saturday’s trip – usually they go by so fast that I can only photograph them from the rear, but this time I had my camera ready! Is the future big agribusiness? The big manufacturers, banks, insurers and processed foods companies had large, professional trade show spaces – though many of them also were serving traditional Moroccan tea. Along the sides of the room there were smaller booths, many of them with people and products from small cooperatives (including some that some of the Environment PCVs work with, though I didn’t see any of those – and I wanted to buy more chamomile essence water, too, to try as a sleep aid). Lots of honey and rosemary and other herbs and oils – and occasionally artisan products if an association made those in addition to agricultural ones.

There were also tents for each region; there are sixteen regions in Morocco, each of which is broken into provinces; I’m not sure how many of those there are. I live in Ifrane Province, in the Meknes-Tafilalet region. There were displays of the agricultural products of each region, very nicely done. Of particular note were raspberries – they are grown up north but I have never seen any for sale! Now I want some! – and the booths from the Western Sahara regions. Because that part of the country is disputed territory, we are not allowed to travel there, so this was a peek into what they have to offer. The southern part Morocco that we can visit is already very different from the north – the way, way south and west Western Sahara may be a third part entirely, with a completely different way of life. But it will remain a mystery! And then it was time to go. It would have been nice to go to the medina afterwards and experience the contrast, but instead we went to lunch and then Marjane, leaving the medina for another day and therefore warranting another trip…

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I was opening a can of sardines yesterday (Crown Prince) and noticed that they were from Morocco. Do you see sardines around? Is that one of the big exports?
I do and it is! I saw a lot of them at the agricultural fair I just attended, in fact - they are from the Atlantic regions. I've never had any though. My father was big on sardines but that did not get passed down!
Hi! My name is beth johnson, i am a peace corps volunteer in The Gambia. Myself, my boyfriend, and two of our friends are coming to Morroco on Friday for three weeks of traveling/site seeing. I found your blog while researching stuff to do and am hoping you could let me know if there are a couple suggestions you have for what we SHOULD NOT MISS. We of course value the opinions of fellow PCVs over those of the guide books and will really appreciate whatever info you could give us. PS I love your writing, and it's making me excited to come see the country!! Thanks for your help, beth
I recommend that you join the pcvmorocco yahoo group to get not only my opinion but that of others. But I would tell you that in three weeks you can see most of what I consider the highlights: a northern route that covers Rabat, Lixus (if time), Asilah, Tangier, Tetouan (if you like - plus slip over to the Mediterranean coast there0, Chefchouan, Fes. Then Meknes/Volubilis/Moulay Idriss. I consider Azrou a highlight because I live there - contact me through that list if you like. Then south to Merzouga and do at least an overnight in the dunes. From there, west to Ouarzazate and then Marrakesh and Essaouaira. If you have time, you can go to Tiznit and Sidi Ifni or head back up through Safi, El Jadida and Casablanca. The parts of the country that I have not seen that I most want to are Taroudant and Tafaroute, so throw those in too!
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