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 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!

I know you don't know me - found your blog while looking for news of our former hometown. The celebrations were likely related to weddings or just family members returning from Europe for the summer (one reason why most weddings seem to be held in July).

You are correct about the orphanages. The history goes back to the 1950s when missionaries were allowed (I believe those visas were all revoked in 1969 or so). If you ever have an opportunity to see a state orphanage, you will see why the private ones are tolerated.
I did think it was a wedding, but I never saw a tent, or people - just heard the music. So it was odd.

I am hoping to see one of the private orphanages. Saw orphans at a camp here last summer - that's probably as close as I'll get to the state-run ones. The kids seem happy, but it can't be an easy life.
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