Tuesday, October 21, 2008


As I write this I am listening to the rain pouring outside. It has rained a lot here lately! There have been severe floods in several areas but not in mine. Entire ksars fell in the south, a few people died, more are homeless or have damage. Some of the Peace Corps Volunteers were temporarily stranded but all are accounted for. Here I have been treated to “nature’s fireworks,” watching lightning from the roof, and the grass is green again – it’s amazing how the rain makes everything grow. Recent travels have brought bucolic views of grazing sheep (when they graze on green it seems bucolic – on brown you worry about overgrazing), nomads, the forest (with a few monkeys!) and meadows. I went to Timhadite only four times for CBT and only a few times since, but that stretch of road seems so familiar to me, as do the stretches between here and Meknes and here and Fes.

After I got back from the eye doctor things seemed different – most of my stagemates had left, and somehow I felt that. Of course, that is just a taste of what is to come – we officially finish up at 5:00 pm on November 26 – people can leave earlier if their TB test checks out and they have all of their signatures – and three people are on flights that night. Several more people are leaving the next day (they can still get home for Thanksgiving dinner if home is where they’re headed, or they are off on other adventures). I am staying in the country until at least November 30 – our original COS date – and have to leave by December 2, when my carte de sejour expires. Thanksgiving plans are still in the works. But there is still the rest of COS medicals to discuss…. Went to lunch with Jong and Rachel – I felt the need for a treat, and the last place I wanted to go was the falafel place across the street from the Velleda; I always feel sick after I go there. But they had already ordered so I decided to stay. Not a good idea – I felt sick afterwards – and then we walked to the office.

It was time for my exit interview with the new Country Director. I didn’t have an agenda per se, or even a list of things I felt I had to say. He directed the conversation, and we could have talked for hours; as it was we went over the hour time slot since I was the last person of the day. He started by asking me (more or less) how it felt to be old enough to be the parent of most of the other volunteers. I wasn’t prepared for that question! We talked also about the SBD program, the whereabouts policy and other things. I did bring up that I had inquired about being a third-year volunteer leader and he said it’s not in the budget so it’s too late for my stage but it is something he would consider for the next group. He asked if I would recommend Peace Corps Morocco to my friends and I said I would, provided they come in without many expectations. I was already drained from the eye experience and the interview was draining as well – not cathartic, just draining.

Jong, Rachel and I walked to the medina and ocean – no shopping, just walking; we did happen upon an art opening at a gallery and felt culture shock from experiencing culture. And then we went to the place I had been in the mood to go to for lunch – a French bistro. I may have to get back there this week – yes, I am leaving tomorrow again, for my last GAD meeting. I could have used a little more time between Rabat trips, but it didn’t work out that way! Friday didn’t work out as planned either. I came back to the room on Thursday night to discover that my night guard had a chunk missing and had a jagged edge. Any correlation with my teeth being shaved? And what happened to the missing piece – had I swallowed it the night before? Can’t think too much about that one!

My original plan was to leave early and go to Meknes, stopping at Marjane on the way home. I ended up taking the next train and therefore traveling with other PCVs, and going to Fes so I could then go to the dentist who made the night guard. That appointment took a while, so I didn’t get home until the end of the day. It was great to be back home! I could shower – sleep in my own bed – get some laundry going – and start to use the eye medicine – all of which made me feel like a new woman!

On Saturday I went back to Fes. Rose had curated an exhibit of art made by PCVs – there are so many SBD PCVs with art backgrounds – and I went to see it. Very impressive – there was a range of media and expression, all at a high talent level. Kathy came along too – we looked at the art, had lunch, and took a little stroll on the Talaa Kbira. The day seemed too short – another Fes day in order! Not counting the Fes day to pick up the new night guard next week – I think I may schedule a massage for that day. I need one.

I feel so stressed, but can’t say it’s the pressure of finishing things up. I know everything will get done but it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day! I actually don’t feel any more pressure now than I have for a while now – either my clock started ticking a while ago or I did gain some ability to relax and go with the flow here, or both. I think I just get this way when I don’t have enough time to myself, and that has been the case. I did have a great time in Fes though, so I wouldn’t have given that up just to catch up on things at home!

When I got home a couple of stagemates were waiting for me – we weren’t asked for travel plans so they weren’t exactly illegal, but I’ll not name them, just in case. We made lasagna and played rummy. The next day more stagemates came through, on their way home from medicals, and one who wasn’t in a rush stayed Sunday night. Yesterday we went to the Artisana and to Abdou’s (always good when guests do what I would have done anyway, and when they buy!). We were joined by Alia, the export contact who was here in January. She managed to arrange her schedule to be here the two days I was here, which is good, but it means still not enough time to myself (though now she is napping and later she will go to cyber, so I have time to write and later to pack – plus last night she made dinner while I folded laundry and cleared my bookshelves. Two of the shelves went to Ain Leuh for the display room, two to Kathy – but it’s the first item I have disposed of that I was still using.... I had to take advantage of Alia’s having a car though!). When she was here before she was looking at the feasibility of starting a rug importing business – when she got the grant I posted a link to her web site, www.kantaracrafts.com (Ain Leuh women on the home page!) – and this trip is to buy! She has visited other PCV sites too and will go to Timhadite next; yesterday she bought three Ain Leuh rugs! We also met with my counterpart and with the women to understand costing and pricing – she really wants to offer fair trade merchandise and transparent pricing.

When we were there yesterday we learned that there was to be a ceremony today – the regional head of ODECO, the government ministry in charge of cooperatives, was coming to give them a certificate. So we decided to go back for that. I was distressed that I understood so little of what was said until I was told that the delegue was speaking in Classical Arabic – so now I have an idea of how different Darija is from Classical (well, I guess I have that idea from television too). It was nice to be there – I could contribute by taking photographs (it is expensive to get prints of everything, but since I am not there often, I make a lot of prints for them!). And then we stayed for tea and cookies! So what if I thought I was going to get other things done today or was stressed already – had to have tea and cookies. Alia and I also had lunch with the CBT group – I thought it was a good opportunity for them to listen to a business customer and what she looks for; they don’t know where they will be or if they will work with weavers but I think I would have appreciated meeting someone like her when I was in training. They find out next week where their sites will be! And then they have site visit the first week in November. Lee didn’t spend much time with me on my site visit – he had his own things to do – but he spent enough time with me so that I felt oriented and introduced. I want to be able to do the same for the new volunteers in Azrou (if there is one – nothing is certain) and Ain Leuh. I also want to make CDs of all my files and photos for them (and for the artisans) – that might wait until after site visit, since I know I can see them before (or even after) they swear in. I’m also pulling out some of my photos to submit to a Peace Corps photo contest – winning photos will be blown up and placed on the walls in the Peace Corps office. I have some good ones – mostly of other volunteers with artisans or other Moroccans, not of me – but that is fine!

The ceremony today was part of International Rural Women’s Day. I didn’t know there was such a day! And here I am on the Gender and Development Committee. I will bring that up at the meeting this week – that is an opportunity for some events and activities (even if it’s only tea and cookies!). Here GAD put together a hundred-page resource guide and before it is even printed I have additions! We drove back along the mountain route – along the ridge road Kathy, Elizabeth and I hiked on l-Eid – and saw snow and hail on the ground! Now we’re off to meet Briana and Kathy for coffee and to stop at Abdou’s and maybe the Artisana.

I’m downloading the presidential debates – had watched the vice-presidential one but not the presidential ones. I did read the analyses of those in the Times – plus I voted weeks ago – but they’re interesting to watch. I have also had a chance to watch all of the Tina Fey spoofs – those are great! I haven’t had as much luck with baseball – I was able to listen to only one of the games last week and now am going to be away. Maybe I will listen to some of the archived games when I get back – they’re nice background. Go Phillies.

After most of the GAD meetings I have gone to Marrakesh, since leaving from Rabat means I’m three hours closer – I put in for the weekend a while ago but thought I might cancel since I feel the need to be at home. But I learned last week that for post-COS travel I need a yellow fever shot and they are given only in Casablanca. I can’t get there and back in a day – that is, I can, the clinic isn’t open during the window in which I’d be there. So it’s convenient for me to stop on the way back from Marrakesh – I can then stay in Marrakesh longer and have a four-hour afternoon ride to Casablanca rather than an eight-hour all-day ride to Meknes. And I can get the shot first thing in the morning, get on a train, and maybe stop at Marjane on the way home! So – to recap – tomorrow through Friday, Rabat for GAD – Saturday and Sunday, Marrakesh – Monday Casablanca (but then home!) and Tuesday Fes! Then I hope to stay put for a while….

Go Phillies indeed! It is 6-2 in the bottom of the 7th in Game 4. I hate to jinx it. . .

I have to go to Nashville on Tuesday, and fly home late Wednesday -- if I miss the winning out because I'm on the plane. . . Let's hope for Phillies in 5!

I am going to try to stay up late tonight to listen - will give me practice for staying up the night of Election Day!
It looks as though they might be waiting until you come back before they resume the game!
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