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?

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