Thursday, October 02, 2008


Mbruk l-Eid! That is, happy holiday! Yesterday was the first day of l-Eid Sgir, the little holiday, marking the end of Ramadan. Two years ago in CBT in Timhadite (seems like yesterday and seems like long ago), the day started with breakfast of rice and milk (actually some round pasta – or barley?). And then there was lots of visiting and tea and cookies everywhere – we went from host family to host family and to most of the artisans. Last year Youssef and I were on the way to the airport to pick up Martha and Susan for the first of our three adventures in tourism. I felt sad to tear him away from his family but he found new family members in us! This year Kathy and Elizabeth were going to come in to Azrou and we were going to go on an all-day hike (transport is spotty on l-Eid without a rental car and Youssef as your driver, or we might have considered a day trip) but they both had to do the rounds in their communities. Their sites are smaller, so as they walked out the door they saw people and once they started they had to visit others. I missed out on that by living in a larger town rather than a village, but that’s fine with me.

By the time they texted to say they couldn’t hike, it was too late for me to join Youssef’s family in their visits, so I decided to spend the day reading – first on the balcony in the sun and then, when the sun moved away and the balcony got chilly, on the ponge. I had pent-up reading demand! It was hard to really give myself the day off and not spend time on the computer – I was on a roll, after spending most of Tuesday working on the GAD presentation for next Monday and on a brochure for Dar Neghrassi – but I decided to force myself to stay away! I couldn’t last though – an evening email check included one from Aid to Artisans; they want to interview me tomorrow about my business background and my thoughts on how Aid to Artisans and Peace Corps could work together. The Ain Leuh women received a grant from Aid to Artisans and I worked on follow-up on it but I haven’t been that involved with them, so I did some research; check out to see all of the things that they do!

Then, at 11:30 pm, as I was caught up in the reverie that comes with listening to Vin Scully on the radio, my alternate warden called on the land line (in-country land line to land line is free after eight pm, but usually the only people who call on that line are wrong numbers, and I’m usually in bed or on the way by then, so in two ways it was a shock) to brainstorm ideas for funding a girls’ basketball camp in the area. Hey, there’s a game going on! I have always thought that the first two days of the baseball playoffs, which since the wild card was introduced have three games per day, should be days off from work, and this year in Morocco they are! Back in the day, I wouldn’t go out on the first weekend of the playoffs, with a potential for eight games in two days (though I am not sure that ever happened), but this weekend I am going to Erfoud. I was on my way there when I was snowed in the first weekend in January and now I am finally getting there!

It’s also just as well I didn’t hike yesterday because I didn’t get a lot of sleep on Tuesday night. After staying up late on Monday to listen to the White Sox, I decided to treat Tuesday’s one-game playoff like the late-night West Coast games of my youth – have the radio on but go to bed. I drifted in and out of sleep and was awake for Jim Thome’s home run; that completely woke me up and I stayed up through the end of the 1-0 Sox victory – and then I was still wide awake, so I took a Benadryl. The PCMO recommends them to those having trouble sleeping - I don’t feel good the morning after I take one, and I don’t like to take them on principle, but I took them for a while this summer when I felt stressed and again last week when I kept tossing and turning. Reading was a good way to relax yesterday while my head cleared. In the late afternoon, Kathy came into town; she had had about seven glasses of tea and the cookies to go with it, and I had been reading all day, so we both wanted an exercise walk. We stopped by Youssef’s family – everyone was asleep! So I left them a note along with some cake I had baked and we proceeded on with our walk – up to the Panorama and then down to the Auberge, where we wished Mbruk l–Eid to Malika, the PCT SBD homestay coordinator and the then-LCF who I had my first week of language with. Everyone loves Malika! She was on the phone when we got there, so we played ping-pong – there was no ping-pong table when I was in training. Ping-pong! We also bought some potato chips and ate them while walking – just to celebrate being able to eat in public again.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night either, staying up for as much of the Cubs-Dodgers game as I could (though I decided I really needed some sleep so I skipped Red Sox-Angels). The White Sox game just ended (and so far it hasn’t gone well for either Chicago team….) and the Phillies-Brewers game is on. Tonight’s Cubs-Dodgers game is the late game (1:30 am start here) so I think I am going to attempt to go to sleep soon and wake up early and listen to it with a news blackout. Plus I want to download the vice-presidential debate! Today we did go on the hike – many stores in Azrou were still closed for the holiday, as was the case in Rabat was last year, so a day trip was still out – but the hike was great! We went up the mountain and then along the ridge and then further up and then around and down. Mountains and trees and meadows and some stops to sit and contemplate the view. With no rain in the past couple of days, it warmed up slightly and was perfect hiking weather. And when we came down we played some cards. What a great holiday!

And before Ramadan is too distant a memory, I thought I’d put down the zmeta ingredients, even though I didn’t participate in or observe the making of any. It is time-consuming but tasty! And one big batch lasts an entire month and then some. I have no idea of the quantities but if I get a better idea I shall edit this entry…
Sesame seeds – toasted in the oven.
Peanuts – roasted in the oven, smashed
Almonds and walnuts, crushed, optional
Flour (wheat or barley flour – wheat was used in the zmeta for Ramadan and barley for the zmeta for the baby)
A little oil and/or butter
Mix it all together (the sesame seeds and peanuts are a lot, the spices and oil/butter a little, and the flour and sugar - ????)! It should kind of stick together yet also be crumbly. Usually it is eaten with a small spoon; serving size a couple of spoonfuls.

I also wanted to take note of the words of Youssef’s middle nephew, who is just learning to talk. What are the first words a child learns in different languages/cultures? That would be an interesting study! He knows Danone, banana, milk, water, egg. Cats say meow here – dogs say how-how. On Tuesday night he was imitating the prayer, saying Allah Akbar (God is great) and touching his head to the ground – with the family both laughing and encouraging him. Though it wasn’t official on Tuesday afternoon that Wednesday would be l-Eid (the imams have to look at the moon), there was an air of anticipation as I walked around town. The countries that had started Ramadan a day earlier were celebrating on Tuesday. I went to buy some shebekia to bring to lftur and the shebekia place on the way to their house was selling cookies instead (meaning I have to get some more shekebia sometime before I leave, since I was ready for one or two more pieces – luckily, there are places that do sell it all the time, though in Ramadan there are several more places selling it and not much else), so that was my clue. Patisserie and café and rotisserie chicken and tuna sandwich place and tea at Abdou’s, here I come! In other words, back to normal life! As a treat, Youssef’s youngest sister henna-ed my hands – a first for me!

And before the DOS and Final Site Report fade away, some comments there too. The Final Site Report was tough in a way because it asked us to talk about our project, and I don’t feel I have had one big project but rather as a series of things that all constitute helping the artisans, the Artisana and the community. As I put together the list of things I had done, I put several things under the umbrella of marketing – the web sites, tourist questionnaire, brochures and business cards. In part this was what was requested of me, but it also came out of the background and mindset I came in with. Is that good, bad or neither? I guess it is good that I was put in a site that could use my expertise. But were those the priorities for the artisans and the site or did I just do what I could? Maybe it doesn’t matter – and maybe the next person will look at things though a different lens and take a different approach. I did other things too – such as the Natural Dye/Weaving Training-of-Trainers and fund-raising for the GLOW camp – that didn’t fall under that umbrella but that used some of my other talents. And all of the “extracurricular” things weren’t part of the project for my site but have contributed to the Peace Corps community. I feel good about the list of things I have done – there were a lot when I wrote them all up for the DOS, and when I detailed only the marketing part for the Final Site Report it also looked substantial. Even the separate report for Ain Leuh, where I have been only part-time for only six months, made for an impressive writeup.

So did I learn anything and increase my skill set? Obviously, learning language and living in another culture were the most significant things (and I still maintain that Goals #2 and 3 are as important as Goal #1, the technical, if not more so). I can make a web site using freewebs but haven’t learned other web design skills. I think my photography techniques have improved, having picked up some tips from the photographers in the group. The active listening/VSN training was good for me. As I think about potentially positioning myself for future employment, though, I think that learning about development at the grassroots level and applying the knowledge that I came with in this new setting might be more important than any technical skills I might have picked up. The Gender and Development involvement may be a selling point as well. Again, more reflection to come.

Yeah Phillies!

Is it really possible that they will make it to the World Series? I was afraid the Cubs would be awfully tough to beat, but thank you L.A.! (sad for the cubbies though).
Yes, it was sad for the Cubs. I never quite got any hopes up, but I did think it would have been nice of them to win the World Series (or at least get to it) during these 27 months. I am not getting hopes up for the White Sox either, though it was fun to listen to the two games that propelled them to the playoffs. It may get to the point that I don't need to stay up or drift in and out of sleep for the radio got to that point last season.
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