Thursday, May 22, 2008


It was chilly and rainy and I didn’t feel well – perfect conditions for staying home most of last weekend! On Saturday, one of the nearby volunteers had a birthday celebration, which came to me – four of us played Piffle and rummy and had chocolate-chip brownies. Brownies aren’t necessarily the best things to have when you have digestive issues, but since I don’t make them often, I decided to take my chances. Perhaps I might have stayed in town on Sunday regardless, but since I was still on shaky ground, that cemented the decision – though I did go out a couple of times, to visit with Abdou and also the still-celebrating volunteers.

My burst of productivity continued, though, with some self-reflection exercises that I had been meaning to do for a while (not sure I came to any conclusion, but just getting to them felt like an accomplishment) and a first pass at my resume. I’ve long had in mind the thought that with six months to go (and/or after I came back from Reunions), I would get my resume together and start to explore options. I’ve looked at job sites every once in a while as the mood strikes me, and have even sent out a couple of resumes, but soon I will think about getting more serious about it. I still have work to do on the resume – it’s a bit unwieldy at the moment, and it emphasizes my marketing background too much (too much, that is, as long as I want it to be a background, which I do). I had spent a lot of money on a resume guru, who had an innovative approach and format, but I may have to jettison the format to streamline it. I also want to play up various aspects of my Peace Corps service – not just the SBD assignment but KSA, GAD and the volunteer support things – though I may end up tailoring different resumes for different opportunities.

I used the resume and wrote several essays for the Foreign Service Officer Test registration, and thanks to the timely receipt of a transcript from Princeton (I needed one for Peace Corps too – I really didn’t think I would be using transcripts anymore – but then again, I know several people who say they won’t use a resume anymore, and I can’t put myself in that category) submitted the registration last night. In looking at the study guide and the suggested reading list, I don’t know what my chances are on the test, but I think I would like to have Foreign Service as an option. I would also consider another Peace Corps assignment, but in asking the Administrative Officer how one goes about pursuing that, I think I have to be sure that’s what I want to do before asking the staff here to put in a good word for me; I’ll talk with her further when I’m in next in Rabat to get her opinion.

And that’s about as much thinking as I’ve done about Next Steps so far – I’m considering going to a career seminar next week at Reunions, even though it falls during a time slot when I usually attend another event and when people who come on Friday are just starting to arrive. More definite for me is a lecture on the nation’s infrastructure, featuring my favorite professor, still going strong at 80. It’s hard to believe that next week at this time I will be on the way to New Jersey – and that two weeks from now I will be back here, with Reunions a memory. Fortunately, the schedule worked in my favor and the Mets will be at home – once again defying the name of the blog – and the other Annual Card Game players are all available for a Sunday night spades gathering.

On Monday I visited with Abdou and went to souk – the tomatoes look lovely right now; I am planning to get some sun-dried tomatoes when I’m in the states but I may oven-dry some of these. Fruits in season are peaches, apricots (two kinds), peaches and nectarines – more smoothie ingredients! Then I went out to Ain Leuh. I discovered a major flaw in my Apple computer – the Word program cannot accommodate Arabic script. You may recall (from fall 2006) that in Arabic, the letters look different depending on whether they stand alone or are at the beginning, middle or end of a word (one of the things I like about Azrou is that it is made up entirely of letters that don’t connect – something unusual). Anyway, my computer can do only individual letters, not script, and it only dawned on me that that was the problem when I brought the proposed brochure out to Ain Leuh. We had a productive meeting anyway – they asked for some different pictures and some additional pictures – and on Tuesday I revised everything at cyber, where of course the computers can handle the script. I hear that on the new Apples (“Leopard”) the problem has been resolved and the operating system can handle script, but I like my version (“Tiger”) for its Princeton association. I went back out to Ain Leuh this afternoon and everything’s a go. The photo is the one on the front of the brochure, showing the charming mountain village of Ain Leuh – though for the brochure they had me crop the satellite dishes from the bottom of the picture!

I finished the questionnaire tallying and my writeup and recommendations – including the recommendation that we don’t keep the questionnaire going through this year’s tourist season unless there are specific questions we want to ask regarding the new Artisana. From this questionnaire we learned that the most popular purchase at the Azrou artisana is wood, followed by ceramics, rock carvings/collections and carpets. We also learned that most of the tourists (responding, anyway) are Moroccans, here for the day, who heard about the Artisana through friends and family. About half of the respondents went to a restaurant or café during their visit to Azrou, which implies that my idea to put brochures into the local hotels, restaurants and cafes is one that may lead to more traffic.

I went to Tuesday souk; I always look at the rugs there when I go, just to see what’s there, and I ran into Aziz; he was one of the first people Lee introduced me to and was helpful to me when I first got here. He married a PCV (someone who had ET’ed before I arrived in site) and his visa came through last January. Good to see him again! He’s here for the summer, staying in his family’s country gite, and I hope to get a chance to hike up there sometime. Speaking of ETing – Shawn, my rummy buddy from Kelaa, called Rabat yesterday to say he was ETing – so we’re up to eight people in our stage leaving early. He’s going to graduate school in Brussels in the fall and is going home to make sure his visa is in order. As he put it, he thinks of this as graduating early – he’ll be COSing with the Environment and Health people next week. I’m glad he was part of my experience and glad I could visit before he left.

I also visited my host family on Tuesday – there’s a chance they may move to Essaouaira. I do feel I will be back to visit Azrou, and if I had to add Essaouaira to any return visits that wouldn’t be so bad (other than the fact that they’re nowhere near each other). They asked me to spend the night – I wasn’t prepared for that, physically or emotionally, but now that the offer is out there, I suppose I have to go one of these days. I haven’t scheduled any more cooking lessons, either – I’m not sure what else to ask for.

I had lunch with four of the Environment “six-pack” on Tuesday – I hadn’t seen them in a while! Several had been on vacation or traveling to PST for the new stage, and it was good to catch up. Ain Leuh is getting a married couple from the new stage; hopefully they’ll be able to work with some beekeepers with whom Jackie was developing a relationship but that I as a part-timer wouldn’t be pursuing. Frank was supposed to come up on Wednesday on his way to the dentist in Fes, and was going to spend the weekend here on the way back down, hiking and going to Meknes, but a one-day strike affected transportation in his area (it didn’t appear to affect things here, but I wasn’t trying to go anywhere). I still think I will hike and go to Meknes this weekend – maybe the former with Kathy and the latter with Linda. Since Frank didn’t show, I spent Wednesday evening putting together the GAD section of the next Peace Works – it’s good that people are doing more GAD activities and reporting back to us; we’ll have a substantial piece! Still have to pursue staff response to the harassment survey – I know everyone is busy, but it is too important to go unaddressed. And I put together (to be finalized June 3) my last column of the year for the Princeton Alumni Weekly – it has been good to keep in touch with classmates while on the other side of the world from most of them; our co-secretary will do next year’s columns since I have no idea where I’ll be after November.

I find that the process of figuring out what is most precious and therefore going back with me this time to stay at Howie’s is tough – I want everything to make it back, but given the mail, I know that that may not happen. I have always had in mind that I have to enjoy my purchases and treasures while I have them here, and that once I get settled things may not fit (but then they would be gifts – so I still want everything to make it back home), and that I can return some day and buy more things….but still, packing is emotionally draining, and this is only a taste of what it will be like later on. Then again, I have a feeling that once I pack a few pieces I’ll find that that’s all I have room for, so maybe it’s just a matter of getting started…. I borrowed Kathy’s carry-on for the breakables, meaning I am taking a chance not only on checking the medium suitcase that contains the rugs, but also in checking the bag with all my clothes and toiletries for the weekend – but you gotta do what you gotta do. I’ll leave the medium suitcase at Howie’s and transfer the breakables to a souk bag (a fancy one with a zipper!); that means I’ll have room in Kathy’s carry-on on the way back here for things like chocolate chips and new decks of cards; Debbie volunteered to pick everything up for me so she and I can spend quality time together in New York Monday after next playing Piffle! I think I’ll have time to write again between now and the time I leave, but if not, I’ll write when I come back!

I keep meaning to mention the three little girls in my neighborhood – one who lives downstairs and two neighbors. When they see me they run to me and kiss me and want a kiss from me. It is so sweet! And just a few of the things I’ve seen this week, things so random and yet so commonplace that it occurred to me that I should make a weekly bingo card and see how I do every week – a man carrying a live rabbit (I could have separate spots for chicken or turkey or sheep), sheep passing as I walk down the street (ditto donkeys), a marriage proposal (it should get a bingo marker only if someone asks me, as opposed to one of the other volunteers), a fight, a near-miss car accident….

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