Monday, October 13, 2008


One of the items on the packing list I received in 2006 was duct tape. There was a parenthetical comment along with it – something like “you’ll never believe how useful it may be!” Still, I wasn’t going to get it; when Martha came to help me pack, I reviewed the list and showed her what I had packed and she insisted we get some duct tape (also sticky tack for putting stuff on walls and a couple of other hardware items – which left incense as the thing on the list that I most felt I could live without, but I ended up getting some as a gift before I left, and I have used it. I was determined out of principle not to use the duct tape, but tonight I did – the bottom of my rolling carry-on is torn and worn, and I taped it up. Sigh.

SWOT and questionnaire design went all right last week. We had people SWOT an aspect of Moroccan or volunteer life to date (I remember my group doing the Turkish toilet, and if it was that memorable, then it must have been impactful). I enjoyed doing SWOT in CBT – I think it gave the women a new way to think about their business – but I never formally (or even informally, actually) did it here, so I had to gloss over that. As for questionnaire design, I knew that the objective was not to get too technical about it – the questionnaires that the CBT groups are doing are interviews, not really questionnaires; I did do the artisana questionnaire so I could talk about that, but I didn’t feel it was all that relevant, so I didn’t feel that I wowed them. The good news is that the harassment training, later in the week, did – I didn’t participate in giving it but I did participate in its design, so I feel good. There’s more for the Harassment Working Group to do, but PST training might have been the biggest priority.

Wednesday afternoon I had a date with Abdou and Kathy for another look at the collection, the unique and antique rugs upstairs. I was photographing, but also looking to see if there was one more rug I had to have. We didn’t get very far – another trip or two or three might be in order! It’s always fun to look at rugs. When we got back downstairs I did see a rug I liked! At a non-collection price, too – it isn’t mine yet but it soon may be. Thursday I cleared the schedule and stayed in almost all day (it was rainy and cold so a good day for it) to finish the Artisana web site. That is, I loaded all of the photos I had taken and not loaded yet (see the Showroom page) – I don’t feel I have time to start a new round of photos at the Artisana (Abdou’s is enough to keep me busy), so I hereby declare it finished. It had been hanging over my head a bit…so I am glad.

Thursday evening I donned the fleece jellaba (didn’t expect it to be THAT cold on October 9 – thankfully it has warmed up since) and went to the Auberge to chat with the Ain Leuh CBT group and another CBT group that is living in one site to practice language and then working with the Azrou cooperative to practice technical. I told them each the background and what I have done with them – and it reinforced that the Ain Leuh cooperative vs. the Azrou one is like night and day – I am glad I have had the chance to work with the Ain Leuh women, even if it took so much more time than I thought it would (of course, maybe one of the reasons is that there is so much one could do with them, which has not been the case for me with the Azrou weavers).

While working on the web site I also whipped up a brochure for the wood carvers – having already made brochures for the Artisana as a whole, the weavers and the metal worker (Lee had made one for the rock carver) and I brought that and a printout of the showroom part of the web site to show my counterpart. Jackie (former Ain Leuh volunteer) has been printing and sending the brochures to me out of the goodness of her heart. Then to Abdou’s, where a first-year SBD friend of Kathy’s had family visiting and was looking at rugs – more photo ops! And then couscous at Youssef’s family’s – it was delicious, perhaps more so than usual because I hadn’t had any since before Ramadan. Then Kristina came to visit! She had come to Azrou last December for the workshop with the rock-carver and then bought him a tool when she went home for Christmas – this was the first time since then that we could work out her coming back!

I was in the mood to make something new and found a recipe for stuffed eggplant that might become a regular part of my repertoire – I modified it quite a bit; what we made for two people was:
2 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic
spices as you like – we used salt, oregano, basil, pepper, cayenne
1 cup soft bread crumbs – we used 3 tsp nutritional yeast instead
Wash eggplant and cut in half. Scoop out pulp to about 1/2 inch of the skin. Dice pulp. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes; add eggplant pulp, tomatoes, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix well; fill eggplant shells. Bake at 375° until browned, about 30 minutes.

And we watched “Ratatouille,” the only movie I have bought while here (I have mixed feelings about piracy – and there haven’t been that many movies I felt I had to see – but please tell me if there are other musts). It was great! On Saturday night we watched “Cars,” which someone had put in my giveaway pile. Also Pixar, also great. We made lasagna on Saturday night – again, I felt inspired to do something different – not as successful as the stuffed eggplant, but I may try again.

Kristina came to meet with the rock-carver but also to shop – fine with me! We went to the Artisana and then spent a good part of the day at Abdou’s – she looked through all the pillows but some other PCVs who came and went over the course of Saturday bought some rugs. More photo ops, too – quite a week! I went over there again today, but we just talked and had tea – I felt I hadn’t had an afternoon like that in a long time.

Yesterday afternoon, Kathy and I went to Ifrane – the tree-lined streets, grassy park areas, Swiss-style houses and working fountains still amaze me. The supermarche there has peanut butter and oatmeal on a regular basis, which is why we go (it’s closer than Marjane) – and this time it had Cheetos. We bought all they had (two bags each) and then sat by the fountain devouring a bag before returning to Azrou. Today I went to Monday souk! Have not been there since before Ramadan either – I missed it.

I have mentioned in passing the idea of staying for another year – the idea may have started this spring when I learned about the re-do of the Artisana. My counterpart asked me if I wouldn’t like to stay to see it through – and I would. But given that the museum next door to it has been a shell, looking pretty much the way it did when I got here, who is to say construction would finish next year? The showroom was supposed to close in July – will it close before November? The web site is the kind of project I could work on for another year – there are always more enhancements to add – more photos, more languages, more artisans – and I don’t feel I will be able to do as much to it as I had wanted to, but I feel it is in good shape. If I get replaced and my replacement wants to work on it, there could be two years’ worth of work to do, and if he or she doesn’t, it can stand on its own. Kathy will work on the Dar Neghrassi web site after I leave, and we can train Abdou to work on it as well, I think.

Other countries have third-year volunteer leaders, and since I at times function in that sort of role for this region anyway, I thought it would be interesting to do that on an official basis. I knew that the former Country Director was against the idea, so I waited to approach it with program staff until it was close to the end of his tenure and the beginning of the new one’s. A fellow PCV also wrote an email on my behalf, which was very nice of her. But I think the new Country Director would have had to come in knowing he wanted to have them and knowing what their roles would be for it to be in place before I leave – and how could he know that without gauging the situation here? Even if he knew he wanted third-year volunteer leaders, my feelings are still mixed – the new SBD Program Manager still feeling her way – I am not sure I could be well-utilized. Neither I nor the friend who wrote on my behalf has received an answer – so while the door is not closed, I think there is only the tiniest of cracks. I also have always thought there’s a reason that the Peace Corps is a two-year program and that there’s a value in finishing with the people I started with. There’s one PCV in YD who extended for an extra year because she had a project she wanted to see through, and she said the third year was the hardest. I am glad I asked, but I think it’s not going any farther.

COS Conference did a good job of starting the closure process (if not the reflection process), writing up the documents helped me summarize things, making to-do lists has given me an idea of how much more I want to try to do work-wise before I go, packing and mailing things home (i.e. to Edie so far, with a couple of other locations on reserve) has been a relief (though I still need some boxes – now Timhadite and Ain Leuh have been depleted of their large-size mailing boxes and both post offices in Azrou still don’t have any, and I need a couple of bigger ones for bigger items – I am glad I started early, since so far I am not stressed about it). I’ve made a list of things I still want to buy (it’s short, and it’s mostly things for other people or for Third Goal show-and-tell talks) and a list of places I want to visit (most of which I can give up if I feel I want to spend more time in Azrou). Training has taken more time than I anticipated, but I am happy to help out and to think I can make a difference in someone’s service.

Tomorrow I am on the way to COS medicals – the milestone between COS conference and 72-hour checkout. I am leaving early tomorrow because I will stop in Ifrane on the way to see the presentation by the students who have been working with the Ain Leuh weavers. They set it in the morning to accommodate my schedule, but it didn’t have to be so early! When I get to Rabat I would like to get my dental X-rays and mammogram (the one at mid-service was the most painful of my life so I use the phrase “would like” loosely) done, and I want to shop for a coffee table book or two (after two years of looking at the books on rugs at Abdou’s I decided that it would be good to get one myself – for show and tell, but also to remind me of the beautiful rugs I have seen and the wonderful afternoons at Dar Neghrassi). My dental appointment is at noon on Wednesday and then my physical is the last of the day, at four o’clock. I was originally scheduled to leave Thursday morning – meaning not much time for any needed follow-ups – but my exit interview with the Country Director was scheduled for four o’clock on Thursday – I might be the only person in the group who doesn’t want an extra day in Rabat! Last year Katie and Jen both said that towards the end they didn’t want to travel anymore; they just wanted to stay in their sites (have I said this already?) – I didn’t think that would happen to me too but it has (trips to places I want to go to one more time notwithstanding…),

The picture is of a Hamza (Hand of Fatima but also a symbol of good fortune in Judaism; hamza means five, for the five fingers) given to me by Linda. She was drawing one every day during Ramadan as a meditation, and when she came to visit she drew the design of my floor tile as a doodle – and then she came back with the gift for me. Very special.

just got your annual letter/postcard! Where does the time go? Enjoy the rest of your journey before heading back to the States!!

Joel S.
Where does the time go is a great question! I keep thinking it will slow down before the end but with one week to go that seems unlikely.... Good to hear from you!
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