Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I got home yesterday before it started thinking about getting dark – hooray! – and apparently had the first window of time in days in which to do my laundry – hooray! – which is now undergoing nature’s extra rinse cycle out on the clothesline. That’s okay – I’m never convinced I get all of the soap out anyway, and I will finally be home for a while so I don’t have to worry about going away again with wet things still on the line (not that it would be a problem; I just don’t feel I should do it). Unfortunately, there’s more soaking now – went to a café today and since it was chilly we sat inside, where it was too smoky – and no place to hang it when I rinse it out.

I thought it would be nice to get to Fes early today and walk from the taxi stand to the Palais Jamai. I have done that once – through the Ville Nouvelle and Fes El-Jdid and part of the old medina – and I had the time today. It wasn’t raining this morning, and when we pulled closer to Fes there was actually some sun. But by the time I got there, it was raining. I thought I would walk anyway – I like walking in the rain – but by the time I got to the Royal Palace (the main door of which is under scaffolding – glad I have seen it before!) I was soaked, so I got into a petit taxi. I had a great massage. And then I had some time before my dentist appointment. It was still raining – and my clothes were still wet – so I just sat in the Palais Jamai lobby, reading and looking at the view of the swimming pool and the old medina. Time well spent. The petit taxi from there to the dentist had to stop on the other side of the medina to drop other people off first, so I had a panoramic drive. The dentist took me ahead of a waiting room full of people (he had not done so the week before last) and I got my new mouth guard and once again made it home in (rainy) broad daylight. While I was away, one of Abdou’s cats died – not Minush, the friendliest cat in the world, but her first son. I heard how upset Abdou was about it and found myself perhaps somewhat irrationally wishing it hadn’t happened while I was still here (though it was nice to be able to express condolences in person). Minush, in the meantime, is visibly larger than she was last week. Is she going to give birth again before I leave? She has been busy this year!

I always seem to see changes when I have been away for a few days. Lately, there has been construction around town – in the overlook by the big rock and in the big square across from Bilal, though none has started yet at the Artisana (or maybe it started while I was away! I will go tomorrow). How did they manage to make any progress with all the rain? The overlook was last re-sidewalked (a word?) before the King’s visit – in other words, recently. So why rip up the one thing that was recently redone? Because when the King came to visit he signed off on this project! I wonder how many changes there will be between now and the next time I come, whenever that is. I have to take some more pictures before I leave!

I left last Wednesday well in time to make the train – actually I should back up and say that while I got ready on Tuesday night, my guest made a banana-tomato curry – yum! I wrote down the ingredients (she is one of those cook-to-taste cooks so we’ll have to experiment with quantities when we try it for ourselves) and will post them soon. When I leave for the train I allow time for the taxi to stop for gas or at the police station or both – but I did not allow enough for the pickup of a trunkful of luggage (i.e. plaid bags) and the subsequent drop-off in a maze-like neighborhood on the way to the taxi stand in Meknes (if we had gone to the taxi stand first I would have been fine), so rather than push it (though it turned out the train was late) I took a taxi to Rabat. It wasn’t as twisty as I remembered it (though maybe the ride was slower than usual due to the rain), which bodes well. Maybe I will take a taxi rather than the train on my final trip to Rabat – four weeks from this past Sunday! – with all of my luggage.

It was drizzly but not rainy in Rabat on Wednesday afternoon, and I had a nice medina walk. I love walking on the quiet side streets; the picture is a typical view. I had pent-up medina demand, and this satisfied it. Then I went for sushi with the Administrative Officer – I love talking with her. I had put my stuff in the hotel room at the Velleda not knowing who else was in there – but just glad that they had honored the reservation I made last week – and when I got back there were maybe six empty bottles of wine and at least that many empty cans of beer in there. What happened to the GAD committee? Who made our room party central? Other volunteers were in town for the end of YD COS medicals and the beginning of people coming in to take the GREs, plus there seem to always be random PCVs in town, for medical (or to ET). I just wanted to read! The partiers had gone for dinner so I did have some quiet time, and when they got back (turned out it was mostly people I had not met before – and will probably not meet again…) they were tired, so there was some quiet conversation but no wildness. Still, there were too many people (six total) sleeping in the room – I took a Benadryl to make sure I could sleep, since I hadn’t slept well the week before, but I am not sad that this aspect of Peace Corps is coming to an end (the next night there were only five, and the next night just four, in the four beds that were in the room – I can’t say it was ever a problem, but I can’t say I had fun, either).

The GAD meeting itself was a good one. The resource guide is almost finished and will be available for next week’s Health and Environment IST (to be held in Azrou, not Agadir – budget cuts), for the PCTs before they swear in, for the soon-to-be second-year SBD and YD at their mid-service medicals, and for second-year Health and Environment on request. That was a big accomplishment; we finished editing it during project time. Another big thing was agreeing on written a mission and goals statement – we needed to clarify things not only for staff and for the volunteer community, but for ourselves as well. Based on these, we were able to discuss future initiatives. We also met with the new Country Director and gave him an overview. I am really glad that I have been on this committee during my service. It has given me a reason to keep in touch with my stage, it has given me extra work to do (one of the reasons I ran was to have some meaningful work in case the work at my site wasn’t – turned out I didn’t need that but was glad to be involved in Peace Corps life in this way), and it has made me think about gender and development, perhaps even as a future career path.

While at the office I talked to the Safety and Security Officer (my old LCF, Mina) about the whereabouts policy and being a warden – I feel I’ve given a bunch of feedback on this already, but that’s all right. She asked the harassment working group for thoughts on the upcoming IST, so that’s a new project for this week. I also talked to the SBD Program Manager about several things; she gave me a hint as to who might be placed in Azrou and Ain Leuh. Site announcements are this Thursday! I like all of the people that she mentioned as possibilities but know that nothing is set, so I’ll wait and see. It was a good discussion. I also met someone from Women in Technology - check http://witmena.org - a non-profit expanding to Morocco this year. Among (not many) other sites, they are opening up training centers in Azrou, Ain Leuh and Timhadite (!) to train women on Microsoft Office and the internet and also on basic business skills, sustainability, conflict resolution…. Wow! I can tell the cooperatives about it and get everything started for my successor(s), but I won’t be here to see it. Maybe the best thing that happened was that I decided to look in the Peace Corps library one last time for the John McPhee book – and I found it! I have already finished it – even re-read the parts that I had already read in the New Yorker. Now I think I need Annals of the Former World (even though I have a copy in storage) – it’s about his trips across I-80 and the geology he found along the way, and since I’m thinking about driving across I-80 myself… (that is, I don’t need it now – it’s big! – but want to get it when I land in California and read as I go).

We all went to TGIFriday’s for lunch on Thursday – not that I won’t be able to go very soon if I want to – and the portion size was so big that I didn’t want to go out for dinner. Not looking forward to American portion size! I was happy to have quiet time in the room – all the more so when the room became the gathering place again that evening. I am not sure whether I was so indifferent towards the crowd because I am leaving or because I felt like reading. Or maybe it just wasn’t my crowd - I did participate in the conversation every once in a while, but not a lot. On Friday we had a nice al fresco lunch – it stopped raining! And after the meeting I had a chance to do a little of goal #3, sharing my experience with other Americans. Morocco Exchange – check http://moroccoexchange.org - is a non-profit that brings American university students studying in Spain to Morocco for intense cultural exchange for anywhere from four days to three weeks. They always try to have some PCVs speak about their experiences during the Rabat portion of the program (as I said, there are always random PCVs in Rabat); I have been asked before but had never been available, and it was nice to be able to speak with the group. Three of us from GAD went – all from Chicago, all women, but from three different sectors and at three different points in our service, so the students had a range of perspectives, as well as some good questions! The talk was preceded by a quick ocean-view walk and followed by a delicious al fresco chicken Caesar salad - sure, I can get more of those soon enough, but they’re a favorite of mine anyway. There was no party in the room on Friday night – it was the night before the GREs so there was reading and studying, and we retired on the early side. I may never take the GREs but observing the cramming has made me interested in augmenting my vocabulary – not only to obviate redundancy, but also for my own edification.

To be continued…. But in the meantime I’ll note that tonight I am breaking out the hot water bottles (one for the upper half of my body and one for the lower half). It didn’t seem so cold when I got back yesterday – until I got into my apartment, that is - and doing laundry in cold water outside in the cool air didn’t help, though a hot shower did. I thought about getting them out last night but thought that maybe it wasn’t that cold. Still, I did wear fleece to bed. And then got up in the middle of the night to put my stocking cap on and add an “acrylic mink blanket” on top of the duvet (and thought something was wrong with my mlb.com feed, because the World Series game had seemed to stop in the middle of the sixth inning). And wished I had put on some socks – I’ll put some on tonight. It still doesn’t seem that cold, but considering the number of layers I’m wearing now and the fact that I’m shivering, I guess it is!

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