Friday, April 25, 2008


Well, if I was not feeling well last week and thankful for how healthy I have been for the most part, that was doubled this week! I had what I thought was a delicious lunch on Monday (lunch of champions – i.e. scrambled eggs – with guacamole, and a smoothie), but by suppertime I didn’t feel quite right, and things got worse as the night progressed (I’ll spare you the details). On Tuesday I still didn’t have much of an appetite and I must have had a fever – felt dizzy and incapable of doing much other than laying on the couch (which worked out fine – I had a new mystery to read). It’s amazing how skinny one can feel after just one day of not eating (not to mention the details I am sparing you)! I did have some visitors on Tuesday but I wasn’t all that coherent, and I made it to the artisana both days to check in (the weaving cooperative asked me to make a sign for their new space in the showroom – when I asked them how much they wanted to pay for it they said they didn’t understand my Arabic….imagine that).

I sometimes say that you don’t know how sick you were until you feel better, and when I woke up on Wednesday (after almost twelve hours’ sleep – nice, solid sleep too, which I have not been getting lately, but I wish I didn’t have to be sick to sleep well) I felt great! Good timing, too, because I had a trip to Fes planned. I stopped in Immouzer, rather than passing through as I usually do, to have an orange juice with Nico, the YD volunteer there. And with waiting for two taxis to fill instead of one, I still made it to Fes in plenty of time for an 11:30 am dentist appointment.

This was a routine cleaning – over in fifteen minutes! I don’t feel that every one of my teeth was touched, but this was a different dentist from the one last time who cleaned only four and pronounced the rest clean on sight; I had to call the Peace Corps Medical Office that time to have him clean all of them (when I called the PCMO to thank them, they said Americans get their teeth cleaned too often – oh well). This new one felt concerned about my lower front teeth (a problem area for me) and (after conferring with the PCMO) prescribed a mouthwash for me to rinse with for the next ten days. Overall, it may not be perfect, but I feel well taken care of.

There was time for lunch before the next appointment – and a realization that I am finally over having spaghetti bolognese at every big-city dining-out opportunity. I would even order tagines now – I don’t get a lot of Moroccan food these days and I do enjoy it! Said next appointment was at the Palais Jamai – I do feel right at home in that luxury hotel – for a massage. Way back in 2006 when I met the RPCV who worked on the Chicago-Casablanca Sister City Committee, she said that I’m an adult so I don’t have to live like a volunteer all the time; every so often I should go to a luxury hotel and sit by the pool; she mentioned the Palais Jamai by name and I think of her when I go (though I have yet to sit by the pool, except for when I’ve stayed there, on the family trip last year and with the Princeton group). The massage was great, although I could use another one already!

In past Fes dentist trips I have had to return to the dentist in the afternoon and/or made a Marjane run – this time, still basking in the energizing day we had last week, I took another walk in the medina, walking from the Palais Jamai to the Bab Boujeloud. I don’t need to look at a map anymore, and I can go off the beaten paths without too much anxiety (though it isn’t as much fun alone as it was with Rose and Linda). I had explored a little around the hotel before but now know how it connects to other parts of the medina. At one point, someone told me that I was in the old Jewish neighborhood. I told him I thought that that was in Fes El-Jdid. He said yes, but before Fes El-Jdid (the new – i.e. only 700 years old as opposed to 1200) was built, this was the Jewish neighborhood. That makes sense - they had to be someplace for 500 years! It may warrant further discovery. I went to the herbalist and lingered at some places we had not had time for on Saturday, but I didn’t see anything I had to have. I also went to the pottery area outside the medina and bought a couple of new coffee mugs, after the tragic chipping of one of mine a few weeks ago.

Thursday I went out to Ain Leuh to check Jackie’s post office box and visit the women. They weave in a small space and for them, weaving is very social – they are laughing and chatting as their hands move across the looms at an amazing pace. I felt so happy sitting with them – not just because I felt welcomed but because I felt the joy of their work and their positive energy. The weavers in Azrou just do not give off those vibes – I talk to the officers and I try to hang out with them but it just seems awkward for all of us. I am glad I have Ain Leuh in my weekly mix now.

I also made something for a “cultural exchange” dinner a fellow PCV is giving on Saturday. I was never planning to go to the dinner – I’ve used my two April Saturday out-of-sites already – but I did offer to contribute something. My plans to make a dish with apples and cinnamon (one of my favorites from my youth) were thwarted when I cut open some apples for smoothies last week and they were bad – it just isn’t the season. I wondered what Moroccans did, since people here are much more attuned to seasonal fruits and vegetables than we are at home, and on the internet I found several Moroccan charoset recipes. The one I used:

500 grams hazelnuts (I used walnuts, which the notes said could be used depending on availability)
250 grams almonds (oops, I used 500)
250 grams dates
250 grams golden raisins

Grind nuts together coarsely (it says food processor, but I used the nut grinder part of my blender). Add dates and raisins and process until consistency is smooth but still has some texture (I ground these separately in the nut grinder after the blender seemed motionless and then mixed it all by hand). Prepare balls of the mixture about 2 cm in diameter (I liked this idea for presentation). Can also be served as a dessert. Note – this recipe made enough for a really large dinner or eight days’ worth of dessert! I found variations that included dried apricots, allspice, dark raisins, sweet wine, dried figs, cinnamon and cloves; also rolling the balls in a coating of nuts. I think I will bring some to Youssef’s family and my host family (but maybe not get into the details of why I made it).

I neglected to mention the new SBD Program Manager! She started last week. I guess I don’t think she will have much impact on my service – by the time she gets up to speed I will be close to the end, and I’m merrily rolling along so don’t see the need for changes. I mentioned her to my counterpart and he said, “no, I don’t like working with women!” I said, “but you like working with me, right?” and then he backpedaled a bit. When he heard about her education and background he seemed impressed, but I think he was hoping for someone he could go out for tea with. At any rate, it was an honest reaction and a reflection of how people really feel and why Gender and Development is so important and why simply my presence here as an independent woman sets an example for others who may dream of being independent themselves.

We also have a new Country Director. The current one is not due to leave until November 18, a week before our COS date, so this new hire may have even less impact on my service, but it’s interesting to see his background in part to see if I might be qualified to be a Peace Corps Country Director some day! When I got the ride home from the YD Program Manager, he fondly remembered the new CD (there’s another acronym for you!) from when he was a volunteer.

Tariq, the Program Assistant, was here this week doing site visits for the new people in the area. I asked to see him because now that I am taking over some of Jackie’s Ain Leuh projects I wanted to prioritize with him and make sure we’re on the same page. He told me he really liked the brochure I did for the artisana and that I should do brochures for each of the individual artisans and cooperatives of the area! So he added a lot to my plate, but it is something up my alley, and it dovetails with the web site anyway. I told him it was a problem getting them printed – that the Azrou ones were a present – and he dismissed that. I also told him I want to work on a grant proposal for computers, a digital camera and a better web address and he told me to be careful about starting something I may not be able to finish before I leave, but that I can look into it – to me it would help with sustainability, but before I get too excited I’ll see what the parameters are.

One thing that I managed to do while sick is something I had been thinking of for a while – counting up my vacation days. I have to advance six days since we cannot take vacation our last three months, but I cannot advance more, meaning I have to take some in August, when it’s hot and when everyone else is traveling. With holidays and weekends, I can actually go to the Anti-Atlas and see the part of the country I have not yet seen and most want to – or I can leave the country and have a little jaunt to Gibraltar. I’m going to take one day next Friday – there’s a holiday on Thursday – and am planning to go to Marrakesh, maybe with a day trip from there, but maybe with two solid days, an evening plus a morning I can begin to feel I have spent enough time there!

Today is the anniversary of the day my senior thesis was due. Imprinted in my brain! This week I compiled the next class notes column for the Princeton Alumni Weekly and did some additional news-gathering and organizing. It has been great to work on those this year - nice to keep in touch and to stay involved. I also volunteered to help with the revision of the Princetoniana committee web site - I haven't been back for any of the meetings but I maybe I can contribute from afar!

The picture is of the spring wildflowers around here. That’s another thing that happened this week – spring may have finally come to stay! I’ve thought twice before that I put the fleece jellaba away for the season, but third time may really be a charm! Then again, I have heard that snow in May here is not unheard of (and I thought I left that behind when I left Chicago). I gave Tariq my space heater to return to Peace Corps HQ (I purposely didn’t start using it until after the last SBD group COSed, to see if I could make it through the fall – I did, though not without being very cold for several weeks!) Now that it is gone, will it be a mild fall or an even colder one? Time will tell!

Nice flowers. Do you know what they are? Have you had any opportunity to learn about your natural surroundings, such as what trees, flowers, plants, birds, and animals are around? They are so different from what you are used back home. Do they have field guides there?
Those are poppies. The natural surroundings (including the geology of Morocco) are things I asked about from the very beginning but were not part of our training. I did get a bird field guide after we last exchanged posts about it, but don't remember seeing other guides in the Peace Corps library. With so many climate zones here - Mediterranean to mountainous and of course desert - most things are things I have seen before (though not in Chicago). The environment volunteers are good to hike with because they can name a lot of things, and I have learned some Moroccan or French names when I hike with Moroccans; sometimes I can figure out what something is from back in the Girl Scout days and sometimes I just enjoy without putting a name to things.....
I thought those might be poppies. I love poppies. Maybe it's from so many hours watching The Wizard of Oz!

Is there a big "industry" from the poppies in Morocco as there is in many other countries?
No - I think it's a different kind of poppy. There is a cash crop here though, especially in the Rif mountains, which is why there are no Peace Corps Volunteers located there....
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?