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!
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