Thursday, June 05, 2008
Well, my trip back to the states was short yet eventful, and I will write about that in another post, but on my mind now is everything that’s happened since my return, so I will write about that first! I hear that it was still cold and rainy last weekend, but I expected to come back to find summer and that is indeed what I found. Lots of sun, some different (hardier?) wildflowers (more thistle-like, and many deep colors), cherry trees with branches laden down with ripe red fruit, fields of faded green, yellow and even brown, stork babies getting ready to fly away from the nest.
I still have more catching up to do, but a good night’s sleep on Tuesday was a good start. While I was away, Morocco sprung forward. The time change seems very disconcerting – is it that way in the U.S. too? Or is it that we didn’t change the clocks last year and I got used to it? Or is it that the time change for me was combined with travel across several time zones? Or is it that life happens here much more by rhythm of the day than by the clock? Anyway, it now gets dark at 8:30 at night. I don’t want to eat that late, but it seems weird to eat supper when the sun is so high in the sky. Will I be staying out more and getting home later? The good news is that I may be able to sleep later, or at least to sleep more restfully in the morning, without the sun up so early (even with a very dark room, I can sense it). I’m told that Morocco used to have Daylight Savings Time, but people here seem as confused and disoriented as I am. It’ll change back on September 27, but for now we are five hours later than Eastern Daylight Time (calculate accordingly for your own time zone). Seeing how late it is now makes me fear for Ramadan – sunset will be late….
Wednesday morning I did the laundry – much easier when it’s not raining – and then I washed the floors, which took me into the early afternoon. It seemed like a good idea to stay at home for the balance of the day (both of the washing tasks had me out on the balconies, so I didn’t feel cooped up) – there have been so many times when I arrived on a red-eye or on a crack-of-dawn flight and went straight to work, I decided that while I have the luxury of not having to go to an office, I could allow myself some time to adjust. I realized only recently that jet lag and long-distance travel affect not only sleep but also eating – everything, really. The only thing that could have gotten me out is had the shower butagas run out – it’s close, but has lasted so far. Another volunteer is coming through tomorrow – so maybe it will run out during her shower and not mine (I don’t mean that maliciously, of course).
My travel book, which I finished on Wednesday night, was “Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-Five.” This is a collection of essays from different points of view – the staff who conjured Peace Corps into being, early volunteers, heads of state of host countries, former volunteers who have now made it big and/or gone onto other development agencies, former Peace Corps Directors. The first book I read highlighted some of the failings of the Peace Corps – lack of meaningful work, too many teachers when English isn’t necessarily the best way to improve people’s lives. The second book discussed the context in which the Peace Corps was formed – the Cold War and the closing of the frontier. This book had many perspectives but was overall much more positive than negative – it was good to see all of the things that Peace Corps has done right, mainly in terms of Goals #2 and 3, cultural exchange - better understanding of Americans on the part of other peoples and better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Interestingly, at least for me, everyone applauded the recruitment of mid-career people – it left me wondering just how the demographics have changed over the years. And it did highlight one of my issues, saying that if you want to have more mid-career people you have to help them with their post-Peace Corps career (at least I think I read it – or maybe I just thought it). Another comment that I thought was interesting is that most of Goal #3 is informal – RPCVs taking it upon themselves to share their experiences with others – and that more could be done to formalize this. As far as I know, this hasn’t happened. The Peace Corps just launched a 50th Anniversary web site (www.peacecorps.gov/50 will get you there - which reminds me, did I ever mention the www.peacecorps.gov/kids web site? Fun for kids of all ages and actually a fun game that does reflect what it’s like. There’s also a www.peacecorps.gov/teens web site - I took the quiz to see what program would be best for me and it said HIV/AIDS, not SBD! Next time?). In just a few short years I will have another Peace Corps book to read, since they will surely be publishing one!
So then I went to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com to see what other Peace Corps books there might be – and there are a lot of them! I think I’ve read all of the ones in the Peace Corps Morocco library, but some of the others look interesting too (though I have enough other things to read for the time being); I like to think it bodes well for 27 Months Without Baseball’s possibilities of getting published! After my service, of course.
One of the things I did while I was in New York was buy a book on Southeast Asia, where I’m currently thinking of traveling after I COS (subject to change!). My sister told me not to make any plans now (although research is fine) while Mercury is in retrograde. I looked at astrology web sites to learn more, and sure enough, it does say not to make big plans and that things may go awry with computers, meetings and other things, but also that Mercury in retrograde is a good time to catch up and even find long-lost things. One site particularly mentions that sometimes packages that have been missing for years turn up in the mail. Hope springs eternal! It will be in retrograde again in September (so I need to solidify post-COS plans before or after that) and then in late-January/early-February (sounds as though I might want to catch up with old friends then and hold off on job decisions – or is that hope springing eternal as well?). I asked a couple of people who have traveled or lived there for their must-sees and was told that it’s monsoon season. That might have stood out once I opened the book, and it doesn’t affect the entire region, but I feel glad to know that early in the planning process.
This morning I went to Ifrane, to meet with a visiting professor from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His colleague came last year with some visiting students, two of whom did a project with the artisans in Azrou (I learned some new things in the course of helping them but ultimately their project was more academic than of practical use – though I think they did a good job on their assignment, which was to take a holistic, humanistic approach to technology issues). A new group of students is coming this fall, and the professor met with Josh, Barry and me to discuss possible projects. Only two of the three will be chosen – I think they can help the Ain Leuh women since I am not there full-time, and maybe they can help train the artisans here on email and other internet technology. Barry has an eco-tourism idea (he came by last week to brainstorm with me from an SBD perspective) and Josh has water and other community development projects. All three would be interesting; I’m going to write up the background and proposal and I will be happy either way.
It was fun to be in Ifrane during the week – I felt a little as though I was walking on the wild side, even though I did clear the trip with program staff before I went. The Switzerland of Morocco is dressed up for summer tourists – flowerbeds everywhere full of pansies. It makes me realize just how much work would have to be done for Azrou to look as pristine. Given that the Museum of Culture still looks pretty much the same and that the consultants who were supposed to do studies before the construction of the new Artisana could commence in July haven’t been to Azrou yet, I don’t think I could extend for two years if seeing the new look is the reason for doing so – being in Ifrane made me realize how far there is to go. I do hope to come back and see it some day, though! I had a quick trip to the Superette (for peanut butter and other things I can’t get in Azrou – though it seemed a bit frivolous after bringing home a suitcase containing Reese’s, Tastykakes, sun-dried tomatoes and other things I can’t get at all here) and then had lunch with the other volunteers, even though it meant risking not being able to get a taxi back to Azrou during the lunchtime lull (my taxis both there and back – and to Ain Leuh and back – all filled remarkably quickly today! Mercury in retrograde notwithstanding).
I then went out to Ain Leuh, where since it was finally a sunny day I was able to take some pictures of rugs for Susan Schaefer Davis’s Marrakesh Express web site. Abdelhak, the translator, was unable to come so I didn’t continue with the interviews (not that I couldn’t have at least tried, but I think we all feel better when he’s there, at least for now). For the web site, Susan asked for a full-sized picture of each rug, a close-up with a hand in it for scale, and a picture of the weaver. The women thought that the latter two were pretty funny but fortunately they were all willing to be photographed. At the end, I took a group shot – don’t they look like nice women? They are! Actually, the full-size shots were the most difficult to take – hard to see what I was taking a picture of in the sun – but this may be an opportunity to try my hand at photo-editing software, which is a skill I wanted to develop here anyway! And now I have a lot to do – not only the photo editing but also writing up the stories of the women I interviewed last week and all of the details of the rugs I photographed. I asked about the measurements – Khadija, the president, measured the rugs by walking off the distance. They have pretty standard sizes – and they get paid by the square meter – so presumably they measure them with a little more accuracy before they take them off the looms – but it was funny to see that methodology employed. They took the rugs away to weigh them, leaving to my imagination how that was done. I then had a chance to meet two new environment volunteers (a married couple) who were assigned to Ain Leuh after their initial site visit. More people in this saturated area! I’m going to hand off some beekeeping leads though, grateful that someone will work with the bee women, who Jackie was just getting to know.
Off to drink my apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey tea (search the internet for that too; after I told her about it, my sister bought some in New York – and note, it does not have to be a hot beverage!). I’m not convinced that adding the mixture that the Fes herbalist gave me (which is why I am having it as tea) is helping me sleep better, but I do like the nigelle oil he gave me for clearing my stuffy nose (it can also be used for massage).