Friday, September 05, 2008


A week ago Sunday I met Jong and Janeila in Fes. I had forgotten my map and Fes Encounter book, but who needs those? They wanted to go to the Andalusian quarter, and I took them there, and we walked around – had to ask someone, but found the medersa with the pool - and then walked back up the Talaa Kbira to Café Clock, where Rose met up with us, and we went back out for more Kbira and then Talaa Sgira. A good Fes day, though it seemed a bit melancholy; the number of times we will see each other again are few, and that seemed to hang in the air. Janeila declared at COS conference that she’s not big on keeping in touch, and I know from past discussions that she’s not big on goodbyes; I wonder who I will end up keeping in touch with. If we were all in our 20s just out of school, we might all be traveling similar paths and keeping in touch might be more likely. At least now there’s the internet – well, we’ll see.

Jong came back with me – she had been at Rose’s all week while I was Battouta-ing - and we played more cards. We went out for bisara and while we were there, some little kids came over and gave Jong money. They giggled and then ran away and came back and gave her more money. And did it again. Kids usually (often!) ask us for a dirham – it was a first to be getting money FROM kids! I said if we stayed long enough she might earn enough to pay for the entire dinner. Hey, she made a dirham out of all of her small change! She made the rounds of Azrou with me the next morning, but then she stayed behind while I went to Ain Leuh, where I prepared the artisans for the exchange students and CBT group to come. Then we played more cards – I couldn’t get Jong out for an exercise walk, or out at all for the next two days. There was one night where we both slept terribly – in another first, rather than stay in bed using my parents’ advice to rest anyway, I just got up and started my day. I slept all right after that, but she didn’t (I did until this past weekend, that is – under what should have been ideal conditions in the gorge – cool temperature, extreme darkness, the sound of rushing water from the river just outside the window - I slept well for a few hours and that was all).

I went out without her, for vegetables and to the artisana and on other miscellaneous errands. And we played more cards. Kathy came over and made some pizza (in exchange for my making a lemon tart) and we played some cards. I did do some other things – my blog entries, some GAD and Harassment Working Group work – while she read and wrote some things as well. She had ordered a dress from Rajaa, the seamstress, based on a photograph – it looked great, so I am having Rajaa make one for me as well (Jong didn’t mind – we just can’t both wear them at the same time). She had to leave the house for a final fitting, and we went to visit my host mother. We had Mexican Night 3 – this one so spicy we had a hard time with it; I diced a chili pepper that was so hot that my fingertips felt as though they were burning for the rest of the evening (somehow that improved my piffle game though, and I had some hot rummy hands) – I had to put aloe on them and take ibuprofen, and when I ran water over them they felt burned. That was one hot pepper! We went to Youssef’s family for couscous as well – they had been away all month and it was wonderful to see them again.

It feels weird not to have Jong around – I am hoping to go down to her site for work-related leave to help with next steps on her web site (Program Staff approved but Jong seems reluctant – I know it’s far and I know it’s hot and I know I’ve been there, albeit briefly, but none of those things has deterred me so far). I did crave alone time some of the time when she was here, and now I can get back to some of the things I hadn’t worked on much this summer (such as my resume), and she may be back this way after COS medicals, but an era has ended.

Ramadan is the beginning of a new era anyway though. I had a tough first day on Tuesday – a long meeting in the afternoon left me dehydrated and light-headed. I went to lftur with Youssef’s family, which was wonderful – they invited me to come every day and I am tempted to take them up on it! I won’t – will go to Abdou’s and to my host family and maybe the rock carver’s and accept other invites – but where last year two to three lfturs a week was enough, now I do want to go every day! Youssef’s sisters, nieces, sister-in-law and nephews walked me home afterwards – they wanted to go for a walk – and filled me with warmth and love (actually, I feel that way whenever I go there, but this walk was so sweet). But I still felt dizzy – now I’m wondering if it really was not eating and drinking enough or if I had a little bug. I felt all achey too – more than just being in those taxis on Sunday and computer muscle strain might account for. I took a nap before lftur and went to bed shortly after I got home – but then again, it could be all dehydration. I’ll have to try to manage things better as the days go on – they say you get used to it – and I don’t want to wish the month away because there is so much to do!

Lftur is more or less the same anywhere – a date to start with, and then shebekia, the honey-coated cookies. Hard-boiled eggs, fat bread (which is like an inside-out pizza – delicious, unless you stop to think that the reason why it’s delicious is the reason why it’s called fat bread – i.e. lots of fat) and then harira, the tomato-based chick pea soup that is a little different in each house (as is the fat bread). Coffee or tea (hard for me - all I want is water, and it’s less appealing in the community glass, if it even comes in my direction). In Timhadite my host family had smoothies – I’ve been making my own when I come home. This is meant to be a light meal, just to break the fast, but it has always been enough food for me for the night. Moroccans eat a heavier meal around 11 pm – or midnight – or 1 am – and the more people I talk to, the fewer seem to get up at 3:30 am for a light something before doing back to sleep, but people do it. My counterpart said the Prophet ate all night and slept all day – I would imagine Ramadan is a lot easier if you can do that. I have napped every day so far – but then again, I thought Jong and I were going to do that all summer.

The long meeting that I referred to above was good – it was with some Worcester Polytechnic students who are here on an exchange at Al Akhawayn in Ifrane. Last year’s group worked on an e-commerce proposal (which ended up being more of a report on why Morocco is not ready for e-commerce) for Azrou. This time they are going to build a web site for Ain Leuh and train the artisans on computer use! In thinking about what I wanted to finish before I leave, this was on my list, and I was afraid I wouldn’t get to it, so it’s great that they are going to do it – good project for them, too. The professor, who is the same as last year, complimented me on my Arabic – so maybe it has improved. I still don’t understand most of what is said on the Ramadan TV shows. I did request a COS LPI (Language Proficiency …. Index?) test, so we’ll see.

On Wednesday it rained – it’s funny, I woke up that day wishing for rain, and even though the sky was clear maybe I sensed it. It has been nice to live in a place that is so sunny so much of the time – I don’t know that I will do that again – but I do like rain! And we sure need it here. I worked on the metal worker’s section of the web site, adding more pictures and making a brochure for him. And I filled out the COS on-line survey (you can’t get cleared to leave the country unless you do that) – my first COS paperwork. Yesterday I went out to Ain Leuh for a brief visit – had ordered a blanket and a shawl, but they weren’t ready. I decided to order a rug too – they’re expensive, but exquisite, and I think I will regret not having one if I don’t. And I have to order it now so it will be ready before I leave! And then I worked on the rock carver’s section of the web site – now I have to meet with both artisans to see if they have any changes or additions. I was hoping that since Ramadan would keep me inside more I would have a burst of productivity and so far I have!

And another new era is beginning – this weekend, approximately 60 SBD and YD PCTs will have staging in Philadelphia. Monday they leave for Rabat, and next Friday they will all be in Azrou – SBD at the Auberge and YD on the other side of town near the Panorama. I sent those on the pcvmorocco yahoo group a little welcome note, and then I did something I’ve had in mind to do for a while – went to my favorite hanut on each side of town with an empty peanut butter jar and told them to stock up. It was only recently that I discovered that the hanut next to the supermarche occasionally stocks it – that could have saved me a trip or two to Ifrane or Marjane – and the other one may or may not be able to get some in, but explaining that 60 Americans will come and need peanut butter and candy and the like was good.

When I was in Rabat, I had a dentist appointment; it was time for a cleaning. I requested a cleaning for my night guard as well, and he said he would give me a prescription for a product I could use. I finally picked up the product this week – turns out that it’s Polident. Boy, do I hope I never need that for another reason. One of my teeth still feels funny – it’s possible that I need a filling replaced – so I asked for another appointment. I’m glad I haven’t had anything major here – probably the most serious thing I’ve had is the scratch on my cornea (which still bothers me over a year later – it’s so dusty and dry here). Yes, more digestive issues than back in the states, but nothing major or long-lasting – and fewer headaches than I had back home.

Some distressing news – before I left for Peace Corps, I had taken courses towards a Certificate in Non-Profit Management at the University of Chicago. I enjoyed the courses - I like the idea of a degree but a certificate fits more into a mid-career lifestyle – and I found that having that on my resume was starting to open some doors for me – although by the time I started getting other interviews, my heart was with the Peace Corps (actually, the interviews helped reinforce that). I still think the certificate will be helpful, and I like to finish what I start – well, this week I got an email saying that the program is being discontinued! I need three fall courses in order to finish, and this is the last fall that they will be given. Oh no! I wrote to ask about my options. Maybe wherever I end up will have a similar program – or maybe I’ll go in another direction and take courses towards that – or maybe I’ll just take fun adult education classes.

And more immediate distressing news – both post offices in Azrou are out of boxes for mailing things to the states and don’t expect any in. I thought I would start packing little by little and I am glad I am starting now, because getting boxes may prove to be more of an ordeal than I thought. People keep their appliance boxes and hanuts don’t seem to ever have extra boxes around – they are precious, be it for wood stoves or storage. I am going to have to make a concerted effort to get boxes. I didn’t want to keep mine around for two years (which I thought was a healthy sign) but maybe that was not smart!

Wanted to direct you to an interesting article that came my way for the GAD section of Peace Works – “Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality,” by Naomi Wolf -

The picture is of the Ameln Valley near Tafraoute, with the lion’s head at the top of the mountain. It was so beautiful there!

Sharon -- got your card. When are you back? Ruth
I finish on November 26 and then (as of now) I plan to travel for a while. Should hit Chicago mid-January to pick up some stuff (and see friends) but I don't know if I am going to live there again!
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