Monday, July 28, 2008
Someone who COSed in May told me that COS conference is all about being pushed out of Peace Corps. If you don’t feel ready to leave – and I don’t – it gets you ready. Less than four months to go now. Someone who COSed in November felt that COS conference provided some closure that she needed. COS conference is still (or only) a couple of weeks away, and I guess my main emotion is disbelief (though I wouldn’t call it denial). I hear there’s a lot of paperwork.
Early last week we received an email asking us to bring certain books with us so that they could be handed out to the next stage – PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action), The Role of the Volunteer in Development (which I sometimes call RVID), both of which I read while in training, Culture Matters (which I printed out from the Peace Corps web site before I left since it looked interesting and have at home in storage; I skimmed it at the time but never read more here – when I get home, at this point) and Where There is No Doctor – that one was my recruiter’s favorite book. Many of the volunteers have mentioned enjoying the book in their moments of boredom, saying that it has nice pictures but can also cause you not to feel so well. I’ve been looking it over while taking some breaks – I didn’t realize we’d have to give it back so soon!
We then received an email asking for our interests and needs at the conference. There are certain things that I know the conference will cover – reflection exercises and administrative details – and certain parts that can be tailored to our issues. It asked for our top three concerns. I listed four: how am I going to get my stuff home, how am I going to look for a job and work in an office and wake up to an alarm clock, how am I going to keep the (relatively) simple life I have here and not have all of the obligations, social activities and too-many-things-taken-on that I have had in the past, and how am I going to finish things up here, ensure sustainability, and leave things in good shape for Azrou and for the next volunteer? The next question was about my post-Peace Corps plans and how sure I am about them on a scale of 1 (not) to 5 (absolutely). I said with certainty that I fall into not sure. I’m still thinking travel, and then ????? It asked for specific topics that we want addressed and I mentioned government opportunities (COSed PCVs have a one-year non-compete for federal eligibility), the RPCV network, opportunities for mid-career (not just entry level) people, some administrative details (my current “home of record” is my sister’s address, but I want the cash equivalent of a plane ticket back to where my stuff is) and getting an “after” picture (referring to the one taken of the group the first week in Rabat as “before.”). Last, it asked if we would be willing to share knowledge and expertise – I put something on resumes into Peace Works last fall after talking to many of the COSing volunteers then, but I don’t know about giving a talk on them; instead, I offered to lead a discussion on job-hunting in general, using tips from my outplacement and other experience. Another email came along with forms to fill out and email, fax or bring to the conference – asking for bank info if we want an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT – an acronym, but not unique to Peace Corps) and asking how we want to be paid our readjustment allowance and ticket home vs. cash equivalent.
When I’ve thought about job-hunting and next steps in the past, I’ve gotten somewhat depressed and have not wanted to think about it. Now I feel somewhat calmer about it – I guess that means I’m getting ready. I carried my resume to the warden conference and the FSOT weekend and didn’t look at it at all – but I’m thinking about it. I had in my head that I would work as hard as I could on work for Azrou until the conference (once I realized that Reunions wasn’t serving as the transition point), and then start to job-hunt while finishing things up. Much to my – well, perhaps surprise but more pleasure – we had a week of lots of work, with Jong building a web site and me adding quite a bit to mine. She tried to load a new version of Internet Explorer the week before she came and ended up losing the one she had; not the best thing to have happen just before building a web site but we’ve made it work – she’s been writing or choosing pictures while I’ve been loading things onto the Azrou Artisana web site, and I wrote my COS needs and interests, a document Tariq asked for with thoughts on what type of person the next volunteer in Azrou (threw in Ain Leuh at no extra charge) should be and what projects they could work on (mine, if they want to continue, or new things I may or may not get to), and some other things. Last summer when she was here for camp for two weeks, we played a lot of Piffle and I felt somewhat conflicted about what I felt I wasn’t getting done. This time the amount of work we are getting done is probably exceeding my expectations, and I feel really good about it. We’ve taken a few card-playing breaks (rummy and coconut in addition to Piffle) but have really managed to keep them limited.
We’ve spent more time in my apartment on the computer than I usually spend when I’m by myself – I always feel I should be out, but with companionship and with mutual motivation, it’s been easier to be inside. We haven’t been hermits – we’ve gone out for errands and food shopping, taken cooking/baking/eating breaks, visited the kittens, browsed at some of the stores in Azrou. We’ve taken evening walks – and on Wednesday stood in the doorway of Abdou’s shop watching the downpour we’ve been waiting for before making a mad dash to the bisara place for dinner. The rain cooled things off for an evening, but now it’s hot again. Elizabeth came over one day for a web lesson and is starting a Timhadite web site that is going to link to the Azrou one. Kathy came over another day – she gave me a plum crumble recipe, and said if I made it she would bring over ice cream and we could eat it a la mode hot out of the oven – which we did. We had a nice visit with my host family. I wanted to take Jong to Youssef’s family’s home for couscous, but they’re away this week; I had a feeling they might be going away but was hoping they wouldn’t leave until August. I don’t know if they’re away for the rest of the summer – if that’s the case, with Ramadan beginning September 1, it’ll be way too long before I have couscous with them again! We went to Abdou’s shop and invited ourselves to lunch with his family – and then ran into the rock-carver and his daughter, who just got her first haircut, and they invited us! Oh well, another time, inshallah. We’ve even worked through the evenings, rather than kick back and play cards or watch a movie – on my own I’d probably do email and maybe read or write. I was ready to put the pedal to the metal and make some progress, and I actually have!
I still have a lot to do on the Azrou web site, but while I was working on portions of it, I also developed some brochures – so far, I have one for the weaving cooperative and one for the hiking guide (a.k.a. Tutor #3). Since I feel on a roll, I think I’ll make one for the rock-carver, one for the wood-carvers and one for the metal worker as I enhance their pages. I would like to get all of these printed, so if you were thinking you wanted to contribute to a project while I was here and the last post made you think it might be GLOW, also think about helping to get a starter amount of brochures printed. I’ve already had some Azrou brochures printed (in the U.S. and then mailed here) thanks to a generous birthday present from friends and some Ain Leuh brochures printed (in the U.S. and then I carried them back from Reunions) out of my pocket. I realize it’s not sustainable to pay for or have friends pay for getting these things printed, but I’m hoping that if we make a few of them it will show the artisans that it’s worth paying their own money to get more printed – or that we can convince the Ministry that it’s worth it to allocate funds to do so. Jong’s site is coming along nicely – it’s not up yet, but maybe it will be this week – www.freewebs.com/tamegroutepottery. The pottery is a distinctive green (shown here), glazed with manganese and copper, and has a randomness about it that at first looks like poor quality but has grown on me, especially after seeing her pictures. It’s definitely distinctive. I have one piece, and also a couple of pieces of pottery painted with henna by a creative artisan with whom she works – but now I find myself wondering if I can get back down there. I rushed through on the visit with Helen. I think some reciprocal work-related leave where I help with the web site by seeing it again in person might be in order!
Friday was a busy day as some environment volunteers passed through on their way to a multi-day hike and then one who COSed last year, traveling with a friend, came for a visit. But there was work progress, as Jong helped me reduce the size of the files on the Ain Leuh brochure, and now it is capable of being emailed. Then on Saturday, Jong and I went back up to Fes to do something I had talked about all last summer – sit by a pool. We met Rose and Jessica and sauntered over to one of the nice hotels and sat there (when they asked for our room number and we didn’t have one, they told us it was fine to stay there – conscience therefore at ease). I felt amazingly relaxed. We read, talked, went in the water, and snacked. There was something of a bum rush on the way back, but even that didn’t break the mood. I hope I can do it again before the end of summer. I came back early because the Peace Corps Administrative Officer and her family decided to take a little trip to Azrou for the weekend and I wanted to see them. We went to Abdou’s for tea and kittens and rugs – the rock-carver’s daughter was around as well and she is the same age as the Administrative Officer’s daughter, and they were adorable together (as was her son). Elizabeth was hanging around there and we all went out to dinner. Meanwhile, Jong and Jessica came back from the pool later and made their own dinner and amused themselves while I was out.
Yesterday Jong, Jessica and I went for a hike. On the way to Fes, one passes a sign pointing to Ras el Ma; I had heard it is a place of shade and water and has nice hiking trails, so we took a taxi to the turnoff and walked 5K in. We stopped at a fish hatchery, which was interesting (now we should probably go out for trout one day this week), and walked past fields and wildflowers and grazing animals and trees. Ras el Ma is a big campsite and it was full of campers, but devoid of lma (water). We started to hike to where the water would be if there were any, but heard it was another 2K, whereas Ifrane was 5K away, and there were chicken lunches in Ifrane, so we hiked in that direction instead, ate, and taxied home. Is a walk mostly along a road still a hike? It was pleasant – though I learned that the cooperative in Jessica’s site for which we did the workshops in April has stopped working. Sad, but that’s what happens here. We did face masks and hair masks and feel ready for a busy week ahead!
Monday, July 21, 2008
I need a haircut. I haven’t had one in months. I thought about getting one before Reunions, but I decided that if I scrunched my hair it would look okay. I can’t convey the concept of “trim,” which is really all I want, to make it look neat. I’ve been putting it back (or up) most of the time, since it’s so hot (though it does seem a little cooler this week than it has been for the past couple – I’ve been breathing more easily, and even sleeping a little better). So I really don’t want it any shorter. But when I don’t have it up, I feel it isn’t as neat as I would like it to be. There’s a name for this condition – Peace Corps Hair! At least I have a chance to wash and condition it regularly….
I went to Fes on Saturday to get together with Rose and Jong. We met at McDonald’s – convenient to their taxi stand and also air-conditioned, so a good place to meet, and all right, I’ll admit it, we had a snack – a sundae for me. And while there, one of the YDs in our stage passed through. I bet on any given weekend you can see a PCV at that McDonald’s.
We went to a gallery that’s sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, but it was closed – between exhibits maybe? I had read in my new book, Fes Encounter, that there were people living in caves between the Merenid tombs and the medina; I had wanted to see the tombs one day anyway so we took a cab up there. Bhalil, near Rose’s site, also has caves that people live in and just about every time I visit I suggest going. She asked a local, who said she went once and didn’t feel safe, so I may have to satisfy myself with the caves in Grenada, because I didn’t really see any in Fes either. The view of the medina from the tombs was impressive, and the tombs themselves are interesting ruins. On the way down we passed Borj Nord, a fortification from the Saadian era (Merenids in the early 1400s, Saadians right after that) that is now an Armaments Museum. I told Rose my theory that arms and armor are what you have to walk through to get to the more interesting parts of other museums (Art Institute of Chicago, the Met) so they force you to look at them (once when I told this theory to my friend Pasquale she said she and her dad used to love seeing the arms and armor…). Nevertheless, Rose said she had always been kind of curious to see the building – you can see it from the medina below – and today was the day.
There was a fountain outside, with water, and we walked in and cooled our feet off for a while. There was also a sprinkler watering the grass (both of these are notable) and we cooled off there too. The inside of the building was cool as well, and we sat on benches just inside for quite a while before seeing the museum itself. The ancient weapons were somewhat interesting, the swords beautifully decorated, guns are guns (but many were American-made) and then there were some cannons. There was video footage of a fantasia (men shooting rifles on galloping horses in traditional garb – both the men and the horses, that is); I had seen one of these from behind a crowd while in a taxi on the way to Essaouaira but haven’t had a good view of one, so I watched the video a couple of times. There were stairs up to what looked like a hot roof – we didn’t go – and down to a cistern – we did go, and were struck with the now-rare sensation of cool (it really is one or the other here…). And we dipped our feet in the fountain again. All in all, a success.
We walked down to the medina – too hot for a shopping walk, so at least one is in order in the fall. Fes Encounter describes all sorts of hidden gems, too – riads not yet bought and converted, but available for touring and viewing, and shops on side streets. I asked for and received Marrakesh Encounter too; I feel I have hit most of the highlights of both but that there is more hidden in Fes than in Marrakesh. Always good to have something to go back for. We had some street food near the Bab Boujeloud – there is now a wooden canopy over some of the restaurants there, which provides nice shade – and then went to the Batha Museum. I had been there before, but Rose and Jong had not. It was nice to go back - you see different things, or see things differently, when you go with different people – and we sat on the steps in the garden for a while.
From sitting in McDonald’s to sitting in the armament museum to sitting at lunch to sitting at the Batha Museum garden – going from place to place was enough activity on the hot day – we then went to sit in Café Clock, the expat haven, and had a lemon tart and a piece of cheesecake. Two other volunteers joined us, and I stayed for only a little while – I’d been told taxis back to Azrou are hard to get after six, and even though I had plenty of time before dark, this was definitely the case. There were no taxis at the stand – but there were several people also waiting. Two taxis came and were bum-rushed; I had experienced this once before in Ifrane so I was ready to claw my way in, but even so, I was shoved aside by more aggressive Moroccans. Finally there was a taxi going to Ifrane and I shoved my way into that one and then into one going from Ifrane to Azrou. The latter then was stopped for maybe half an hour while they were clearing the remains of an accident off the road (it’s amazing that that doesn’t happen more often – one of the reasons we were given for not being able to rent cars or travel at night is that Morocco has the second-highest auto accident rate in the world – or is it fatalities? I don’t remember the details – but anyway, I have actually witnessed very few, and I feel I have traveled a lot). So it took a long while to get home, but it was still a wonderful Fes day with friends.
On Sunday, Rose and Jong came down to Azrou. I had made gazpacho and pumpkin-zucchini bread, and together we made spring rolls. Great warm-weather healthy food (all right, maybe not the pumpkin-zucchini bread). Kathy joined us, and we played cards during the heat of the day, went to Abdou’s, and took a walk. I felt one step behind in piffle, though – maybe I should wait and join the Seniors Tour. It was still a day well-spent! And in the morning while I waited for them, I did some GAD work too.
This morning we went to the Monday souk – and for whatever reason had to come home and rest after that. In the afternoon, it was out to Ain Leuh, where they had new rugs to photograph and other cooperative business to discuss. Also, the weavers suggested some girls for the GLOW camp (this year’s target - age 16-20, dropped out of school) – GLOW, you may recall, is Girls (and Guys if it’s GGLOW) Leading Our World. I haven’t talked much about the camp this year because I haven’t worked on it much – it’s almost entirely self-sustaining now (which is how it’s supposed to work!). The Peace Corps volunteers are still doing some fund-raising (if you want to contribute let me know) and are finding the participants. Another twist to this year’s camp is that most of the PCVs who will be helpi - ng out at the actual camp are from other regions, there to learn about GLOW so that they can organize camps in their areas next year.
Our goal for the rest of the week is to work on web sites – I am training Jong to work on one for her potters and Elizabeth to work on one for Timhadite. My proposal for the Al Alhawayn/WPI students who are coming next month was accepted, so they’ll be working on one for the Ain Leuh weavers (both that and Timhadite’s will be linked to the Azrou one). While I’m training everyone else, I’m also going to work on the Azrou and Dar Neghrassi web sites – inshallah. Since Jong is here for work-related leave (WRL) and I had arranged to spend the time with her, Kathy is going to spend a few days this week photographing the Ain Leuh cooperative as they receive additional training on the new looms – win-win for everyone.
I did want to note that in my visits to coastal towns I haven’t seen many sailboats. There are a lot of small fishing boats and also some ocean-going merchant ships, but no sailboats. I wonder if, as development continues and coastal properties are snapped up by Europeans, there will be more pleasure craft. Or maybe the winds and currents are tricky (the coast used to be plied by Barbary pirates, after all). I haven’t sailed regularly in a long time, but even watching sailboats is something I unexpectedly miss.
I heard that there may be a New Year’s Day hockey game between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings, outdoors in Wrigley Field. That sounds appealing – my thought is that I would be traveling then but that might almost be worth coming back for. Sounds as though Billy Joel’s last concerts at Shea would have been too (not that I would have been able to get a ticket). And on the subject of things being missed, I got a “save the date” for Harvard weekend, when there will be an alumni leadership assembly. I have attended many of these and found them very rewarding – and many’s the time when that feeling was a contrast to how I felt at work at the time. It’s nice to feel rewarded by my work now. Even so, I can’t go – we can’t take vacation days in our last three months – and even if I could, I wouldn’t (had to draw the line at Reunions). But the “save the date” card was a visual reminder of how different my life has been for the past almost-two years compared to what it was like before. Up until I left in 2006, I hadn’t missed the home Harvard or Yale weekend – since 1976 (I’m fairly certain). I also got a letter noting that my 25th Wharton Reunion is next May. In theory, I will be back in the States and able to attend that one. Will I?
Thursday, July 17, 2008
After visiting Safi last year, I felt I had enough Safi pottery, but as time wore on, I realized I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted some small square plates in various colors. You can get Safi bowls all over the country – but the more you narrow down something that you are looking for, the harder it is to find. I found some plates in Marrakesh in May but when I got home I wasn’t happy with some of them – not flat enough. So when it turned out that I had to be in Casablanca on a Sunday night to be there for the Foreign Service Officer Test the next morning, I felt I could make the long trek to Safi, since I didn’t have to make it all the way back home by Sunday evening.
On Friday night, I went to the taxi stand and told them I wanted an entire taxi for six o’clock the next morning, though if there were other people who wanted to go to Meknes at that time they were welcome. I also got up a little earlier – no cutting it close for me. And I paid the extra up front to go directly to the train station. We didn’t stop for gas or oil checks and I got to the station half an hour early! Too early – but better than too late. Dawn over the Middle Atlas was spectacular (as are many of the sunsets); the fields are now shades of dried green and yellow and brown – gone is the lush green of the spring. We need rain! It rained a little bit today, but not much. Still, sheep and goats are grazing here all summer. What will happen to this country if there isn’t more rain? The desert will creep north…and the forests will disappear….and then we went into a fog bank. I found myself thinking, “Mediterranean climate – great for grapes” and almost at the line where the fog began, so did the vineyards.
When I went to the CTM office here in Azrou, they told me that the CTM to Safi was sold out. But when I was at the CTM in Casablanca last week on the way to Oualidia, I thought I might just ask if they had tickets – and sure enough, they did. After patting myself on the back for that, I treated myself to spaghetti bolognese during my train-to-bus layover. I had the seat in the front of a bus with a big picture window – which functioned much the way a magnifying glass does in cartoons – it focused the sun right on me. Still, I read the U.S. Constitution and also read a pocket atlas cover to cover. At one point, the bus was directed to pull over. It couldn’t be the King, could it? Not enough flags lining the road. Turned out it was a bicycle race coming through – that was neat to see!
Once I got to Safi, I felt the cool ocean breeze and decided to go right out for a walk. First, to the new part of the medina, where I got a Magnum bar and looked at the Moroccan clothes. The fixed-price pottery shop where we had had good luck in December was closed; I went on to the pottery souk. Lots of pottery, but not a lot of square plates. I went to the ocean for the sunset and then back to the room for a shower and a bath, deciding that sleep the night before the night before the test was of the essence.
Sunday morning I had a chance to do some of the things we hadn’t had time for in our half a day in December. I went to the administrative center and took a picture of the world’s largest tagine. And then to the former palace, now the home of the National Ceramics Museum. It contained mostly things I have seen before – representative samples from Fes, Meknes and Safi - but I did photograph some 19th century Tamegroute pottery for Jong to use in the web site we’re going to build next week. And I saw some Safi pottery with traditional Middle Atlas Berber carpet designs – why don’t they make more of those!
On the street under the pottery hill there are more pottery shops – I probably looked in every one of those, and then I went to the hill, but not many potters were working on Sunday, and the store where we had had good luck in December was closed. I didn’t realize this would be such a quest! I actually started running low on time. I bought a bowl with a small Berber design (not as dramatic as the one in the museum, but still nice) and went back to the pottery souk for some plates – found a few I was satisfied with, but none in blue, which I think is my favorite Safi color. The quest continues.
I took a CTM back to Casablanca – CTM as it was meant to be – air conditioned, with few stops – although I wouldn’t have minded a longer ride had it meant going by the wild and scenic coast that we drove past in December. Kareem met me at the terminal and we went out for a fresh fish dinner at the port and talked about how the test the next day could be life-changing (he said it, and then I told him I had been thinking about life-changing things lately. Speaking of which – Elisa’s experience so far in Uganda has included a lot of rain. Send some here!). I had agreed to share a room with Kareem but was a little anxious about it after getting little sleep with my roommate at the warden meeting coughing all night – but it worked out; we had a budget hotel with a spacious room and shower and I slept well.
The Foreign Service Officer Test the next day went – well, I guess I can cautiously say it went well. It was computer-based, and somehow I didn’t know that – if I had, I’d have brought my computer glasses. I knew the majority of the general knowledge questions and was able to make educated guesses on most of the others. Personality is what it is...and I feel confident enough in the style manual section that I didn’t go over my answers. The essay was on a topic of interest to me, but half an hour wasn’t a lot of time to put it together. The test was held at Dar America – an arm of the consulate, with a library and public programs, and also, as Kareem pointed out, the site of the April 2007 bombings. Kareem, Clark, another PCV who took the test (my alternate warden, who is from the Chicago area and whose mother was told about my blog before he left – we have yet to figure out by whom!) and I went out for Chinese food after the test – yum! It’s not as good as the Chinese food you can get in New York, but it was tasty. Kareem and Clark left, but I had planned to spend the night there so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting back to the room before checkout and getting home before nightfall.
This was a chance to explore Casablanca. Conventional wisdom says that other than the Hassan II mosque, it’s not worth it, but the tour books have information on things to see and do, and I was never one for conventional wisdom while traveling anyway. First I went to the Quartier Habous, a new medina (as opposed to Ville Nouvelle) built by the French – kind of sanitized, with lots of shops – a pleasant place to walk around. Saw the King’s palace there (couldn’t get very close to it) and the Pasha’s residence, now a court, yet another example of beautiful Islamic architecture. Then I did an Art Deco walk in the downtown district with information culled from three of my tour books. I love Art Deco architecture and it was a pleasure to walk around and be a tourist, looking at and photographing buildings, unharassed and feeling (though it probably wasn’t true) unnoticed. There are some impressive buildings, and it was also nice to just walk for hours. The picture is unrepresentative (most of the buildings are white – Casa Blanca, after all) but I had to include it because when I saw this theatre I thought I could be in any rundown town in the Midwest.
I went out to a restaurant on the Corniche, the strand of beach outside of town with fancy eateries, clubs and resorts. Another great ocean sunset, and a treat of steak au poivre. I went back to the room and a few minutes later heard an explosion. I jumped – and then I heard another and another and realized that it was fireworks for Bastille Day! I had even walked by the place where they were setting them up, thought they looked like explosives, and failed to put two and two together. I went up to the roof and saw most of the show – I miss seeing fireworks from the roof, which I used to do all summer in Chicago.
The next morning, I went to a church that I hadn’t gotten to on my Art Deco walk. They say that the stained glass, by an artisan from Chartres, is based on Berber rug motifs, but I didn’t really think so. Still, it was pretty. And then I walked to the Hassan II Mosque. I toured it last March with my family and might have toured it again had I been able to time it right, but I felt more like walking anyway; now that I have seen more I see how massive and impressive it is. It’s the third-largest (or second- depending on the tour book) mosque in the world, and larger than almost every church and cathedral. The workmanship is exquisite; it was enough this time to appreciate it from the outside. I then went to three different addresses that three different books referred to as artisanas – one was a non-descript building and the other two were stores, not government-run. Walked through the old medina for a few minutes, and then it was time for the train.
Jong is on vacation or work-related leave until the end of August (avoiding the hottest part of the summer in perhaps the hottest PCV site) and she had saved a seat for me on the full train (the 12:15 from Casablanca is the 1:15 from Rabat – same as last week). I had invited Kathy, Elizabeth and Briana over to play Piffle with the person who had brought it to me – almost a year ago to the day.
Yesterday I welcomed four Al Akhawayn summer students to town – the daughter of a Princeton classmate (who is also a Princeton student) and three friends of hers. We went to the pizza place and then to Abdou’s (I brought them for the tea and the kittens, but since it was their second-to-last week in the country, they were ready to buy rugs and also wood products at the artisana). Their big paper is due next week, so they may come back after that for more! The daughter of another classmate of mine is going to be a student at Al Akhawayn in the fall – I may see both her and her parents. Jong had a chance to see what my life is like – people coming through all the time – very different from life in her isolated site.
Jong left today for Sefrou and I thought it would be a good time to back up my computer – that turned out to be more of an ordeal, frustration, even panic than I thought, but I think it’s under control. Went out to Ain Leuh – turns out the weavers were away; I had a cup of coffee and made a long-distance call and felt much better. De-taxied (similar to de-planing) at Ait Yahia Oualla and had a refreshing walk into Azrou with Kathy. Seeing Abdou and the kittens (in that order) was uplifting as well. Jong’s coming back next week and I’m looking forward to it, but it’s been nice having the evening to myself.
By the way, I found out what the mystery herb in the beans and lentils recipe is – cilantro! It was hard to tell when it was mixed with parsley and taken out of the freezer...
Friday, July 11, 2008
I followed last week’s meltdown with a minor triumph – an on-the-spot darija haiku, to explain haiku to Abdou. It was hard to do without knowing the word for syllable, but we take our triumphs as we can – and then Linda, who came up from Khenifra, and I went to lunch with Abdou and his family. I had made a use-up-the-zucchini bread, and I don’t know whether they liked it or not, but they graciously served it after the fruit dessert, and we left half for them to enjoy at a time when they’re more inclined to eat sweets. Linda had come up to show her jellaba jewelry to Madeleine’s family – her mother, two sisters, two cousins and a friend – and we met them back at Abdou’s and escorted them to the artisana and to some of the other shops in town, and they shopped up a storm (guests who buy are more than welcome!).
I also meant to mention a minor triumph of travel last week – taking some oral rehydration salts with me. I have generally used these only when hit with Big D, though I also took some last year when I told the doctor I felt I was always dehydrated. Traveling with them was a blessing – I never got a headache last weekend, even though the travel was long and sometimes hot. I wish I had been doing this all along – all too often I’ve arrived somewhere feeling not just dehydrated but depleted.
So – last Sunday I arrived in Rabat in time for dinner, and then after dinner took a walk to the ocean (even though I had just been to the ocean!) with some people I knew and some people I had heard of but was seeing for the first time. Wardens in the past have been a second-year SBD or YD, with a first-year SBD or YD as alternate; this year there are some people from other sectors, but still more SBD than anything else, and it was nice to get to know some first-years I hadn’t met yet. When I got home from the walk, I discovered a sleeping roommate (who had not arrived before I left) – turns out it was a first-year SBD who had found my blog before she came here. We exchanged a lot of emails and when I found out how far away her site was and after not going to training, I thought we would never meet. It was nice to be her roommate and to have a chance to talk with her, except for the fact that she had a cough, and by the third night I felt not only a sleep deficit but a cold of my own coming on.
I think last year’s conference was just one day but this year it was two days. Wardens – an unfortunate name, I think – are part of the Emergency Action Plan – our main duty would be to assist in the event of an emergency. This is not just terrorism but civil unrest and natural disasters – there have been two major earthquakes in Morocco in the past 50 years, one that destroyed the city of Agadir in 1960 and one that rocked Al Hoceima in 2004, and also significant floods. Our main non-emergency function is to be notified by the people in our group if they go away from their site for the day on a non-workday – but few people in my group contact me, and that goes for everyone else. I didn’t see how a day’s worth of material could come out of this last year – or two days this year – but both times I was surprised by not only how much material there was but also by how relevant it was. It really reinforced that safety and security is a priority. Perhaps most important, though, was meeting the other wardens and establishing a network.
We started with a discussion of roles and responsibilities. There are different things to do for each of the stages of the Emergency Action Plan. We then had a presentation/Q&A about the new whereabouts policy (I may not have discussed this much because it hasn’t meant much of a change for me – but it’s basically notify rather than ask permission. The truth is that they can still question your reasons for going somewhere during the work week. Also, we are no longer restricted to just two Saturday nights per month out of site, but since the new policy came into effect I haven’t taken more than that! Or less). There’s been a lot of confusion about the policy, so now wardens can be “experts” if people have questions. We then played a game to reinforce the Emergency Action Plan – that was fun and got us moving. And then did case studies with scenarios such as terrorism, natural disaster and avian flu and role plays such as not writing down the information and therefore transmitting wrong information to the people in the group.
It was strange to be back at the Hotel Chellah – I remember those first few days in Rabat, standing on the roof terrace and looking out at the city, walking to the beach with people I had just met (one of them was Rose, and I liked her from the start), watching people play card games and wondering if I would have friends, getting used to the food and water. It was a step down from the Sheraton University City but now it’s a big step up from where we usually stay – Western toilets and towels en-suite – and a bathtub, which I took advantage of – and air conditioning (which my roommate turned off because of her cough). Last year both PST and COS seemed so far away – I was just about at the halfway point. Now I will go back to the Chellah next month for COS conference – where did the time go? I had thought that I would return from Reunions and start working on What’s Next – but June went by and I am still in the present. Now I think that I will spend the next month doing as much as I can on the web site and will use COS conference as the marker for working on the future.
There was an auditor in town – every Peace Corps post must be audited every five years – and though his primary purpose was to check the books, he also wanted to interview some volunteers. Ever interested in providing feedback, I started talking with him at lunchtime and continued after the sessions were over. Some of the questions were financial – did I fill out the living allowance survey and the settling-in allowance survey and did I get enough money each month (I told them that I did buy souvenirs but more, that DSL is not considered a necessity – I said I’d spend just as much at a cyber and am more efficient at home, and that Peace Corps is doing more and more electronic communication – and he said he hears that a lot). It was also a chance to air some of the disappointments that I have experienced in my interactions with Peace Corps staff – he was very receptive, and it was nice to feel that someone cared. At the end he shook my hand and thanked me for my service and I said how rare it was to hear that here!
There was time both at lunch and between the sessions and dinner for a walk, and since the weather was mild thanks to the coastal breeze (I don’t know if it’s hotter back in Azrou now than it was before I left, or whether it just feels that way) it was great to be outside. I went to the aforementioned beauty-products pharmacie and the other store and also to Label Vie, a supermarket, where I bought spring-roll wrappers and other things I can’t get in my site. We also played some cards every night up on the roof terrace.
On Monday night, we all went to the Country Director’s house. This time I knew what to expect – museum-quality artisanal decorations in every room, Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza and Breyer’s and Edy’s ice cream, and Barbra Streisand on the flat-screen TV, but it was fun watching the new wardens and alternates marvel the way we all marveled last year. He is retiring and a new CD (another acronym!) is starting in September, so this was his last reception. I had a great time.
Tuesday’s sessions started with a briefing from the Deputy Regional Safety Officer at the US Embassy. He talked about his duties in protecting Americans in the country and about the current situation in Morocco. We then had a surprise test – not a quiz, but an exercise in which we had to call all of the people in our warden group and confirm contact. Most of them were easily reachable, but when others were hard to get, my competitive nature flared as I saw other wardens having better luck. It wasn’t really a competition but making it one made it more fun. One of the people I called had her headphones on so had to be called several times, one was in a meeting, and two were traveling – with Peace Corps knowledge – in places without cell phone reception. Still, it was a relief that night when the last person called back and we had reached 100 percent.
In the afternoon, we had a mini-VSN training session – I had suggested it, thinking that the wardens could be an additional source of support to their groups, but also that in a time of crisis some people might just need to talk and be listened to. I then led a session on the harassment survey, briefly talking about the results and then breaking up into small groups to come up with prevention strategies, which weren’t asked for on the survey but were asked for by the CD – we’ll add those and the coping strategies from the survey and an IST session to the next Safety and Security Manual.
Going with the flow led most of the people in the group to TGIFriday’s for dinner – we walked there and back, too. I have always thought it would be nice to walk to or from the Peace Corps office one day, and if I never do, this was the moral equivalent, since the restaurant is nearby. Now I have a better sense of Rabat, too. I had a Caesar salad and shared appetizers of buffalo wings and potato skins – again, it was more fun to watch people who hadn’t had this kind of food in a while enjoy it than it was for me to actually eat it (though it was tasty). The football player wasn’t there, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him again. Among the vintage records on the wall was one from Barbra Streisand, and I pointed it out to those who had heard of her only the day before (feel old now?).
On Wednesday morning I went to the medina, first enjoying the Andalusian Garden and the Casbah des Oudayas with its ocean view, and then purchasing “the most beautiful rug in the world” TM (not really trademarked that’s how I refer to it). It's all hand-knotted and is probably finer than anything else I have. I felt rushed though in order to make the 1:15 train – glad I will be going to Rabat a few more times!
I’m up late writing this because I’m going away again tomorrow (or even though) – to Safi, where I will either get more pottery or forever hold my peace. It’ll be another long travel day, starting early again; it’s about an hour south of Oualidia. I felt I had plenty of time there last week and hope to feel the same this week. I’m only going as far back as Casablanca, which is what makes the trip somewhat reasonable – the Foreign Service Officer Test is Monday. I’m staying in Casablanca until Tuesday, and when I return, Jong is going to spend a couple of vacation days here. I told her it’s not vacation for me and that I still have to work, but it may mean that I don’t write again until later in the week.
It’s always tough to wake up early in order to travel, but in my experience almost always worth it to have more time at your destination. And this past weekend was one of those times! The hardest and most stressful part is the taxi to Meknes – I almost always have to pay for the whole thing, and often the driver doesn’t share my sense of urgency. I’ve learned to allow time for the driver to stop for gas, but in this case he woke up from dozing, cleaned up the taxi a bit, checked his oil twice, stopped for gas, checked the oil again (better than to run out of oil though, right?) and I had to give him extra money to take us right to the train station – but once we got to the train I relaxed. I say we because between oil checks another person arrived who also had to make the train. I had already paid for six spots and he paid me for one of them. The extra I paid to get us to the train was more than the spot he paid for. He wanted to sit with me on the train and then exchange phone numbers and see me again. I wouldn’t have been inclined to do it ayway (I don’t give out my phone number to strangers but I do let people give me theirs, to be gracious and/or to end the conversation) but I certainly don’t appreciate the fact that he basically got a free ride when he needed to get to the train as much as I did.
He got off the train at Rabat and I went on to Casablanca. My plan was to have a quick lunch at the garden café where Rob and I dined back in March – but they were serving only breakfast. I had made zucchini bread on Friday night and had eaten some on the train – didn’t need more bread. So I had a juice and just have to hope for a chance to go eat there again, after noon. The CTM bus to Oualidia was pleasant enough, though I had a chance to ponder which part of a baby I would most like to have touching me while it is on the lap of the mother sitting next to me. Shoes? They’re probably not dirty because the baby has been carried, but they’re still shoes. Head? No – turns out babies’ heads are hot. Hands? Light touch, but stickiness potential. I went with hands – and considered myself lucky that the baby didn’t cry during the trip.
And then I arrived in Oualidia. It was my new favorite city in Morocco because on December 1 it had Magnum bars, and it might be my new favorite city again (Azrou excepted, of course!). There’s an upper part of town, with a couple of hotels and a couple of restaurants, but I quickly made it down to the lower part of town, next to the beach. I had reserved a hotel room there with an ocean-view balcony. There was a cool ocean breeze. Cool – had I really forgotten what that felt like? I put my stuff down and went out to the beach and looked at the crashing surf. Oualidia is known for its lagoon, where the swimming is supposed to be safer, and that was certainly more crowded, but there were a fair number of people in the ocean as well. I took the short promenade (which reminded me of the long one in Cape Town) to the lagoon, saw some boats for hire, and asked the closest one for a ride. The mul-boat asked for my phone number and gave me his and told me I could stay with him next time – I didn’t even give him an inshallah in acknowledgement. Traveling alone does make you more of a target. I wouldn’t call this harassment, but it gets tiresome. I asked about birds and he said to come back in the morning, so we made the afternoon’s boat ride a short one and I took a walk along the edge of the lagoon.
I’ve been to several beaches in Morocco by now and never felt compelled to go in the water - maybe it’s a combination of beach not that inviting, water a little chilly, lots of men staring, and women wearing jellabas in the water. Oualidia felt much more comfortable – there were more families and not just large groups of men, and while there were women in jellabas, there were also women in less conservative dress, and teens in bikini tops (though not bottoms). Still, the water was a little chilly for my tastes (not that I haven’t been in colder water in Lake Michigan), and for whatever reason, I didn’t feel the need to take off my quick-dri capri pants, though I had on a conservative bathing suit (boy shorts and wide-strapped tank top) underneath. That said, I had a lovely walk, and then walked by the ocean, with waves crashing into rocks on one side and beached pink-and-green fishing boats on the other. It was so peaceful – can it be that I haven’t relaxed in a while?
It started to cloud over and get cooler and the families left and I had the beach to myself. It looked as though it would be too cloudy to have a good sunset, which saved me the choice of whether to go to dinner sooner or wait until the sun set. Good thing – I was hungry! I had delicious fresh fish and called it an early night. Oh, I had a Magnum bar too, for Youssef. Well, one for me on Saturday and one for him on Sunday, per his suggestion. Oualidia is known for its oysters but I wasn’t adventurous enough to try any! The next morning I was out at eight to meet the boat – but there were no boats. I asked a lifeguard and he said to come back at nine or ten. Moroccan time! The lagoon looked very different at low tide; I headed for the Atlantic side and took a long walk. Not far from the shore there are some vegetated dunes with dune-buggy tracks – reminded me of Michigan and Indiana. In Oualidia you can rent a bike or a dune buggy or a sea kayak or go horse- or camel-riding on the beach – I wouldn’t do the dune buggy but any of the others would be fun.
When I got back to the lagoon there were a few boats there. I was kind of hoping for someone other than the same person I was with the day before but it didn’t work out that way. I did keep the conversation to a minimum though. We went out much farther than we had in our ride the day before – past all of the development and the King’s palace (Mohammed V, not the current one) on shore and the old Casbah on the hill. Here were oyster beds and people working them, fields with cows grazing, and birds. I saw three baby flamingoes and a number of other birds but not nearly the variety I saw in Moulay Bousselham. So if I had to choose, which would I return to? Maybe Oualidia because of the restaurant options and the general feel. I did take a final walk, thinking of how and when I could get back to Oualidia before I leave. Decided to have lunch - more fresh fish - and then head for Rabat – if I had left before lunch I might have been able to catch a train in El Jadida, but I kind of wanted to see how taxi-hopping would be. The taxi from Oualidia to El Jadida didn’t take long to fill, and it was a short trip. The taxi from El Jadida to Casablanca took even less time to fill, but it was a longer ride and I don’t enjoy being squished in one position for too long. In Casablanca they told me to take a train to Rabat – I’d just missed one, but they run every half an hour; it was nice to have a seat and not be squished for that last leg.
At the Fourth of July barbecue, I spent a lot of time talking with a couple of women who had grown up in the orphanage. They were back to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the people who works there. One had not been back to Morocco since she left twelve years ago; she said she kept meaning to but things kept getting in the way. I told her that I felt that way about St. Maarten – when we buried my father there I thought I would try to go back every eighteen months or so. It’s been much longer than that since I have been there – I came close to going the year I had my cataract operations, but going before, when I could barely see in the sun, didn’t make any sense, and going after, when I couldn’t go in the water, also didn’t make sense. So I could relate when she said things kept getting in the way. As I was walking along the beach in Oualidia I thought about the beach (and the water!) in St. Maarten and about my father – he passed away 20 years ago this year and I still miss him every day. A friend of his wrote to me to say he would be proud of me for doing what I am doing, and as I write this I write to him too.
I also wanted to write more about the face cream – it is something of a luxury here and I am lucky that it’s available in Azrou; it certainly wouldn’t be in a more rural site. I could get it at Marjane or in Rabat if I couldn’t get it here, and I have had people bring me face cream for night use. I was afraid that the sun would age me here so I have prioritized skin care. I know I am not exactly roughing it here (other than the temperature extremes both outside and inside my apartment) but I didn’t want you to think luxuries were easy to find. And since I was musing about writing more on that, I then went to town when I was in Rabat, getting not only face soap that I can’t get here, but also a soothing gel for tired feet and an energizing gel for tired legs.
I’ll save describing the warden conference for another time and will just say now that the group was a good one, and it was fun to spend time with them and get to know some people I had not met. The trip back was tough – three of us took the 1:15 train and could not find seats. There might have been singles, but none of us were going to take a seat if we couldn’t all get them, so we stood at the end of the car for most of the time (finally got seats at the stop before Meknes, about 40 minutes away). Summer travel last year was tough too, but I didn’t think I’d have any problems in the middle of the day in the middle of the week before August. I do have a couple of trips planned, and I want to buy my tickets in advance and reserve spots in nicer (maybe even air-conditioned) hotels, after the lessons learned from last summer. One of the first-year SBDs came back via Azrou, and Kathy and Elizabeth came over for homemade pizza. I either caught the cold my roommate had or found one on my own, so I was not feeling well, but a good night’s sleep after they all left did wonders, as did cold remedies and vitamin C.
Yesterday we met at Café Bilal and played some rummy, had lunch with another first-year SBD also on her way back from the warden conference, and then waited with them for the bus – and waited, and waited. Another warning about summer travel! I abandoned them, telling them I had to take a nap. When I woke up, I had enough energy to go for a walk, and then Kathy and I stopped by Abdou’s. We had tea with Abdou and his father, and got into a discussion about proverbs. Abdou told me one last week and this week found someone to translate it – basically it’s something like climb up the tree to get a fig, and when you come down, someone will say, “who said you could go up the tree for a fig?” I finally got what he was trying to tell me, but I don’t know if the proverb makes sense to me. Then his father told another one, and I had a little meltdown – I do wish I understood more. They were both so apologetic – and they are always so helpful with pronunciation and conjugation and vocabulary – that I felt even worse for melting down. But I didn’t feel well and I was hot and tired! I do wish I understood more. Well, I still have time and I haven’t given up yet. And proverbs are tricky. The second one is more or less “the person who does not have anything he wants has to want what he has.” Or as Kathy put it, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
I was quoted again on Global Voices On-Line - http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/07/01/morocco-catching-up-with-peace-corps-bloggers/. The author mentioned my thoughts about all of the things I want to take home and whether they will fit. The column itself was about reflection, and I have been reflecting on THAT lately. I hear that COS conference helps to give you perspective and closure, so leading up to it and afterwards I’ll have more to say about that. The column also talked about young Peace Corps Volunteers – more than once – so I added the comment that while we may all be young at heart, I am mid-career and Connie, also quoted, closer to retirement!
Friday, July 04, 2008
It finally rained a little bit on Monday (with all due apologies to those who have seen way too much of it lately) – but it didn’t cool things off at all. I did adjust my schedule this week, spending more time indoors in the heat of the day and then going back out. I felt I wasn’t getting enough exercise, and in my evening walks I have run into some people I haven’t seen for a while! There’s been some sort of celebration (or some other reason for loud music) across the street from me every night this week, into the wee hours, so I’ve been allowing myself to sleep later than usual, even though morning walks would be an option too. Barking dogs this week too….but no construction (though the house is not finished).
Brunch on Sunday went well. This was for the warden group, the people I would lead in the unlikely event of an evacuation. I had a similar brunch about six months ago when the then-new people were still in home stay and it was a good getaway for them, so I decided to do it again while the newest people are in home stay; for both that one and this one I invited not just my warden group but anyone who could get to my site and back in a day (since the warden groups are somewhat arbitrarily split geographically to make the numbers even). I had about 20 people – potluck was definitely the way to go (though early on the need for a second batch of brownies became clear, so I quickly made more – good thing I did it early, because I have an electric oven and the electricity went off for a good portion of the afternoon). I had a good time, and I think everyone else did, though I feel I didn’t really get a chance to talk to most of the guests!
Frank (in the area on vacation) stayed over, and we went to a café to watch the Euro Cup final. Cafes are the domain of men in Morocco, but in Azrou there are a couple of women-friendly cafes; I frequent a few, so they know me and I feel comfortable. Soccer is also the domain of men – especially soccer in cafes – but I felt all right in one of my women-friendly cafes (there was one other woman there), though I would not have gone without Frank. It was nice to participate in the group spectating – though I could not wait to get home and wash the cigarette smoke out of my hair and clothes! The Moroccan crowd was partial to Spain, so everyone was happy with the outcome.
On Monday I met another set of parents (Elizabeth’s) – it’s nice to meet friends and family members of other volunteers, as it was nice for me to have my friends meet other PCVs. Went to see the kittens (now there are five – the one that was born after I left on Saturday looks just like Minush!). And went out to Ain Leuh – I got downstairs and realized I was in the wrong meeting, this one of a bee cooperative, but they invited me to stay and I didn’t see a good way to excuse myself (Jackie was going to work with them….they need marketing help…but I feel stretched thin already). So I spent only a few minutes with the weavers – nevertheless kept some things moving.
Tuesday I spent most of the day working on my quarterly report. I have the feeling that I am the only person (sucker?) in my stage who is actually still doing quarterly reports, but I haven’t wanted to ask anyone else if they did theirs. Actually, even though it took a lot out of me, it’s good to do – it helps me summarize what I’ve been working on, which will be helpful for the DOS (new acronym! Description of Service – part of the paperwork we have to do in the last three months; I hear there’s a lot of that) and my resume. It was good to go for a walk after working on it all afternoon – I wouldn’t say it was cool, but it was cooler. And I visited the kittens.
On Wednesday, I relabeled the tables at the artisana. Over the months, some had gotten misplaced or lost, and I thought it was time. It’s merely a coincidence that the new program manager will be in the area next week and the program assistant the week after that, setting things up for training and developing potential new sites. And I visited the kittens – but more, Abdou was watching Wimbledon, so I watched some with him; that was fun! I may watch some of the Olympics with him too (last year I remember World and European track championships being on TV, and while I never parked myself to watch it, I did catch quite a bit). I also prepared a talk on the harassment survey for the upcoming warden meeting – I’m going to talk about the results briefly and then ask small groups to brainstorm prevention strategies (the country director asked for that, saying that if they came from fellow PCVs they might not sound so parental) and also what we as wardens can do to support fellow volunteers who might be experiencing harassment.
I noticed an article in The New York Times (inspired by Frank, I changed my home page to nytimes.com a couple of months ago and wish I had done it sooner!) called “the eleven best foods you aren’t eating.” On the list are beets (which last week I ate more of than ever before in my life put together), cinnamon and turmeric (which are commonly used in Moroccan dishes), prunes (also common here – just had some in that beet salad, but since it is plum season have been having fresh, not dried), pomegranate juice (I am looking forward to that season!) and canned pumpkin (I have fresh when I have on couscous on Fridays).
I had another cooking lesson from my host mother yesterday, this one on beans (same recipe for lentils – just shorter cooking time). I love her beans and lentils! You have to soak them overnight, and the beans took almost two hours in a pressure cooker. I don’t have a pressure cooker, and I’m not sure I would get one, but it would shorten the cooking time – so I don’t know how often I might make these beans for myself. Anyway, since they are delicious, I’ll provide the recipe, though she measures by eye so I would say maybe 2 tsp for all the spices, and then adjust to taste. I don’t know what the type of beans here are, but they are white.
For six people – ½ kilo beans
Soak overnight, drain, rinse, put in pot and fill with water about 1” above the beans.
One chopped onion
3 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves (whole – at the end they float and you smoosh them and stir)
½ cup oil
2 tsp tomato paste
Spices: salt, ginger, turmeric, pepper
Handful of parsley (mixed with another herb I could not identify…)
Wait for it to boil, and then cover and cook on medium flame until done.
As I said, they were delicious! My host mother asked about the Fourth of July (time for cultural exchange!) and was surprised that the United States was ever a colony (I said that’s why we speak English). I did remind her and others that Morocco was the first country to recognize the new U.S.! Friends ever since. After lunch, I went out to Ain Leuh – in reviewing my notes for the quarterly report I realized that an update was due to Aid to Artisans in June, and oops – now it’s July. Also took more pictures and did another artisan interview.
This morning I went to the artisana and did some errands (pharmacie, post office). I felt like going to Bilal for a juice, even though I don’t usually go alone, and while I was there, an American who works at one of the orphanages nearby (those are a mystery – missionaries are not allowed here, but the children are quietly brought up Christian, I think) invited me to a Fourth of July barbecue! It clouded over and thundered a little bit in the afternoon (probably because I was invited to a barbecue…) but never did more than sprinkle. I listened to the Wimbledon radio feed on the internet (tennis is – er, interesting on the radio) and worked on the web site a little. On my evening stroll, I explored a new neighborhood, lingered over a shampoo and crème rinse purchase in what might be Azrou’s only air-conditioned store, and bought Anthelios – sunblock facial cream that costs $29 in the U.S. and is hard to find, and is readily available here and less expensive (I might have to stock up before I return). The barbecue was fun, but I didn’t stay long, because I am leaving early tomorrow. I’m going to Oualidia for the Saturday overnight; it’s far, but the ride back won’t be too bad because on Sunday I am going only as far as Rabat. Oualidia was my new favorite city for having Magnum bars on December 1 – Steve, Elisa, Youssef and I saw it for less than an hour; it will be interesting to see what this beach/lagoon resort will be like in the summer! In Rabat I have the warden meeting – two days this year, instead of one. I’ll be back home on Wednesday.
I’ve had it in my head for a while that my trip back to the states last month would mark a turning point after which I would get started on What’s Next. I did a little bit before I left – filling out the Foreign Service application forced me to think about my Peace Corps service in resume terms, and I took a stab at redoing my resume, only to realize it needs a lot of work (if not the dreaded multiple resumes). I hear from the people who just COSed and are either traveling or just got home how much they miss Morocco and how hard it is to adjust. I hear from the people who COSed in November how tough the job market is and how hard it is to work in an office. That said, there are things I can do – get myself into the Peace Corps staff application system, fill out USAID and other federal government on-line applications, start looking at non-profit, development and other web sites more frequently – some of these things take months to process, so best to start soon. I’m bringing my resume with me to work on this weekend…
The picture is of Zaouiat d’Ifrane. I had good pictures of the pink oleanders, good ones of the cliff and the lush growth there, good ones of the view of the village beneath the cliffs and the mountains beyond, but nothing that really captured all of it or the fun of the hiking path. At least this is a taste!