Friday, October 31, 2008


I’m cold! I can see my breath inside my apartment. Multiple layers help, multiple blankets help, multiple hot water bottles help, hot showers help. I gave back my space heater knowing it would get tough towards the end, and it’s tough. It doesn’t help that it has been so stormy this fall – it’s nice to see green grass and to think that the water is filling reservoirs; there have been catastrophic floods in the south and east though. Here it’s just colder – my apartment would be cold in any case, but without sun to warm the days, it’s colder (and my laundry is still wet…I took it off the line though because heavy storms are in the forecast for this weekend). I hope for some sunny days next month – for hikes, for photography, and for the memories.

I found out who my replacement is going to be! Colin is one of the people in the Ain Leuh CBT, so one with whom I have talked more than most. I like him! Next week is site visit and I’ll spend more time with him then, but based on impressions, I am happy he will be here, and I think he is too. They didn’t place a volunteer in Ain Leuh – I think that is distressing for the cooperative, who could use someone there full-time, for a new cooperative that is just forming, and for any volunteer whose site is not as rewarding as Ain Leuh could be – but Colin will cover it, as I have, so at least they are not being abandoned. I did try to make a case for it if someone needs to be moved and/or for getting someone full-time next year, and I learned something about the inner workings behind the decision; I’m glad about that, because some of the feedback I have given is that if we knew the reasons why decisions were made – not that we have to know everything – then things would make more sense.

Anyway – after most GAD meetings (or all?) I think I have gone on to Marrakesh – leaving from Rabat I am just that much closer, and it gives me several extra hours there. I had put in for the weekend with the thought that as it drew closer, I might cancel – I haven’t had a lot of time to myself this month – but then at medicals I found out that I needed a yellow fever shot for my post-COS travels. They are given only in Casablanca. I could make it from Azrou to Casablanca and back in a very long day, but during the window before I’d have to turn around the clinic is closed for lunch, so it made sense to stay in Marrakesh for most of Sunday, travel to Casablanca and stay there, get the shot first thing in the morning and then get home. At least it made sense to me!

I forgot to mention that at the GAD meeting we were given a sneak peek at the reporting system that volunteers will use starting in 2009. It looks complicated – again, perhaps just as well that I am leaving. More, it contained a new bunch of acronyms – I don’t even remember them, but they were something like VRS (Volunteer Reporting System) and VDB (Volunteer Data Base). This won’t affect me, but it was funny to see them just after I thought there wouldn’t be any more new ones!

John McPhee in hand, the train ride to Marrakesh seemed short. I arrived at the fancy new train station – the ones in Fes and Rabat won’t be finished before I leave but if they are anything like the new Marrakesh one, there will be some impressive gateways for train travel (now to get all of the trains climate-controlled?). On to the Café du Livre – I didn’t need another lemon tart, but it was Rob’s suggestion that we meet there, and Connie, Dominique and a YD I hadn’t met yet were there too – a nice lunch. We went to a nearby bookstore and I found the carpet books I had looked for without success in Rabat. Perhaps finding them justified the trip! There are two books I have long admired. One was moderately-priced and the other was the price of a rug, so I decided that one was enough! Of course, there were other beautiful books as well, but again, one was enough. I do look forward to going to bookstores when I return though!

Then I went to the herbalist near the Bahia palace, where I had gone with my sister. I had gotten a mystery oil there for a mystery ailment (that is, I’d just as soon leave it a mystery to the public at large, but if you really want to know, email me) and wanted to get some more before I left – the herbalist in Fes couldn’t identify it, so I had to go back to the source. Turns out it’s orange oil, and now I have more (and know what to look for when I run out). Again, perhaps that justified the trip. I decided that after being with so many people in the room in Rabat that I would splurge on a room with its own bathroom, and I also decided to do my hair – Marrakesh had perfect weather, and I thought it would be easier if I did it without shivering, and given how cold I am now, maybe that also justified the trip! Probably the biggest difference in how I look before/after is that my hair is darker. I look at pictures early in my service and it just seems too light! Though in other pictures, when just done, it seems too dark. I wonder where it will end up when I return. I think it will also be hard to get back to wearing skirts higher than mid-calf! I’m so used to being relatively covered. When you spend a little more money on a hotel you might also get things such as breakfast on the roof, and I lingered in the sun, with juice and coffee and pain au chocolat and a hard-boiled egg.

One thing that has been on my Marrakesh list is bicycling in the palmerie - I did this with Sabrina when my family was here, for a short while, and then with Bob and Linda in Figuig, but thought it would be nice to go one more time. Had a taxi take me out there and even though it is close to the medina, it felt far, and I had a fear I that wouldn’t be able to get back. The taxi had trouble finding the rental place. And the paths didn’t seem smooth, and I was afraid I could get lost. So I decided I could let it go, and had the taxi just take me back – but not before I snapped some camel pictures. My last camel sightings? You can take camel rides in the palmerie too (the camels I saw go for the moral equivalent of around the block, but one outfitter in my guide book offers substantial palmerie rides) as well as horseback rides – more left on the table. Always good to leave things for another trip….

And always fun to ride along a route on which I have run – I am glad I did the half-marathon and I look forward to running again (not that I won’t run more here before I leave – I do have gear for running in the cold – but I don’t want to run in the rain; it’s not raining now but it’s windy). I had the taxi driver drop me off at the north end of the souks, where I never seem to have enough time, and while I did discover a few things I hadn’t seen before, for the most part I had been everywhere – yes, I have the Marrakesh souks covered! And I had taken care of my shopping needs last time – but it was still an enjoyable walk. And then – since I didn’t have to leave until the 3:00 train – I went to a gourmet restaurant for lunch! I had tried to go to Al-Fassia before but it had always been booked. It is an all-women operation, and I had delicious briouates (fried dough filled with rice, meat, or fish) and a tagine of chicken and sweetened pumpkin. All delicately spiced and elegantly served.

On to Casablanca, where I found a hotel and (having had a big enough lunch) didn’t leave until it was time to go for the shot the next morning. I know, I had said I had my last Peace Corps shot, and that was true – this one was on my own dime. It felt pretty cool to go to a place called the Institut Pasteur for it. I had been told it opened at 8:30 – it opened at 9:00, but at 8:30 there was a bit of a free-for-all. Somehow, though, the crowd sorted itself into lines, someone helped me figure out which lines I should be in, and shots were administered in a timely manner. I didn’t have time for a walk, but I was happy to see some of the Art Deco buildings again from the taxis, and I made the 10:15 train to Meknes.

I’d been wanting a Marjane trip for a while – no real needs, but I didn’t feel that my last time there was my final time there. They had moved some things around, so it was a little disconcerting, but I had a nice journey up and down the aisles – got some CDs, brie and goat cheese, and a few other non-essentials. I was more stressed about going away than I was while away – it was good to be in Rabat, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Meknes and Fes, and to have the guests before and in between trips, and now that I have had a couple of days at home, I feel fine. Well, sort of – not sleeping well, though I couldn’t wait to get back to my own bed. I don’t know whether it’s the temperature (shivering for a good portion of the night) or getting used to the new night guard – but, as is the case most of the time when I have had sleep issues here, I don’t feel unrested.

Back in the saddle in Azrou – have spent some time at Café Bilal with various other volunteers, have spent some time at Abdou’s having tea, have stocked up on food (pomegranates and clementines!), have written up my GAD meeting notes and sent them to my stage, have given my input as to a harassment working group status report and an IST presentation (Environment and Health IST is next week in Azrou while the PCTs are away for site visit – it does keep moving! Hard to believe that the second-year Environment and Health volunteers, who came in six months after I did, are so close to their end too). Went to couscous at Youssef’s family’s house today – two Fridays without seemed long; three more couscous Fridays to go (when I asked Lee what he would miss the most, that was his answer). I need to see my host family now – haven’t seen them in a while! I went to the farewell party for the Ain Leuh CBT group – the one we gave at the end of Timhadite CBT does seem long ago. I was glad to be invited – it was fun to see everyone having fun, and I even did a little dancing along with the women. The group did some great projects – they had a beautiful new sign made for the cooperative, did a workshop on budgeting, showed them how to use the digital camera that the Al Akhawayn group left them, researched grant ideas, put brochures in the Ain Leuh auberges, and did a training on product mix for profitability – all things that Colin can build upon, not to mention continuing the things that I had started!

Now to pack some more boxes – glad I started when I did; there’s not much more that I’m not using, but it’s almost time to start packing those things too. Want to buy some spices and some slippers and maybe one or two more things. Need to buy my airline ticket. Want to finish the Dar Neghrassi brochure and make more progress on the Dar Neghrassi web site – and train Abdou so that he can work on it (Kathy also agreed to continue working on it after I leave, but I still want to get a little more done). I need to back up my computer and make CDs for Colin, Abdou, the artisans, the Artisana, Ain Leuh and program staff – I have made some as I went along, but still, that will take some time. Have to figure out what I will do with the things I am not taking or sending – I have given away some and I am trying to sell some and I hope to give away or sell the rest – this week I set up a little flea market/giveaway aisle in the Zen room. Rose is coming this weekend for last-gasp carpet shopping and rummy – made pumpkin bread and a quiche today. I will have Kathy and Elizabeth over on Election Night for a possible all-nighter, though since I have been so sleep-challenged I will have to see how long I stay up – time change this weekend in the U.S. means being up that much later, and at the moment I feel somewhat confident about the outcome (though state races are interesting too). I do love staying up for election returns, but I also love staying up for the baseball post-season, and I couldn’t manage that. I don’t even know if I can manage to stay up in the future should I end up living in the Eastern time zone!

Happy Halloween! And congratulations to the Phillies!

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