Monday, November 10, 2008


I had a quiet weekend after a busy week – I thought about a day trip or even two but was happy to be here in Azrou. Saturday morning the Country Director called; he was in Azrou and invited me out for coffee. The former Country Director would never have done that! I had a chance to hear more about his background – he was a PCV in Morocco 20 years ago and has done crisis and relief work in several countries for many years. I like him – he’s listening to volunteers. If only our new Program Manager were better at that! She and I had an email exchange on Friday that upset me – though I think I was more upset at getting upset with less than three weeks to go than I was at anything that actually happened. Anyway, Kathy joined us for coffee, and we had a good conversation about a range of things, and then I took him to meet Youssef the rock-carver and for tea at Abdou’s (I don’t usually have tea so soon after coffee but it was surprisingly doable).

Kathy and I then went for an exercise walk up the hill where the French administrative buildings are – the street is lined with trees, the buildings are fancy, and if you walk far enough (beyond my usual exercise walk loop, which is just to the Panorama hotel, for the panorama of the cemetery and the medina), you see the fields, always with the mountains in the background. Nice walk – had the tuna sandwich place been open after tea, we might have had tuna and a hike, but we did the walk so that we could get back for a tuna sandwich late lunch. The owner had gone to Mecca for Ramadan (I think it is equivalent to doing the Hajj, but the true Hajj is for l-Eid Kbir) and had just reopened the shop this week. Tuna withdrawal! Tuna mixed with tomato, from a can, with laughing cow cheese, on a baguette (sounds as though I can make it myself but when he does there’s magic in it) and apple/orange juice – yum! Unfortunately the grilled-vegetable-sandwich place near the Timhadite taxi stand has yet to reopen post-Ramadan. Then we went down the hill – we ran into the Country Director again, who said some of the SBD PCTs were at the pizza place, so we decided to say hello. They were just back from site visit; one was Colin, who of course didn’t go very far, but it was still nice to see him and some of the others, all full of stories of host families, transport, potential work, and excitement about what lies ahead. It wasn’t so long ago that I was there myself – though it seems as though it’s been a long time since I said goodbye to Katie’s stage and welcomed Kathy and her group to the area.

We were in search of big boxes, big enough for a folding wood table that was one of my first purchases from the Artisana and for two more rugs. We went to several shops up and down the street – memory lane – and were successful. All of the big stuff is now packed. I have papers to sort through (I didn’t accumulate a lot, but sorting through it is taking more time than I anticipated) and I have to decide which clothes I am taking with me for the next couple of months (in which I will experience quite a range of climates), which might get sent home in a box, and which are being left behind. I am glad I started packing when I did (back in September) – for the last move I had to sort through nineteen years’ worth of stuff, and even though this is less than two years’ worth (after three months of PST and two months of homestay, I moved here in February 2007), it’s still a big move.

A good portion of the rest of the weekend was spent on that sorting and tossing. I also did laundry – what a difference the sun makes! I’m not going to wash my floors again though – I’ll sweep when I leave, but I think I can let things go a bit and spend that two hours (or four, were I to wash the floors more than once) in other ways. I did go out yesterday, after thinking about staying in all day - had lunch with some PCTs who wanted to ask what volunteers have done with weavers. We have an SBD yahoo group and have at times had a newsletter to collect best practices, but we don’t do a good job of sharing information. I know that for GAD it was tough to find out what people were working on. A lot of us are doing the same things – talking about product quality and fair trade pricing, going to craft fairs or finding new customers, advocating natural dye, making marketing materials or web sites, but how much are we really helping the businesses? Tough question to answer – and too deep, considering that two weeks from today I will be in Rabat for 72-hour checkout. I said gathering the information would be a good project for them to work on and suggested we all go to Abdou’s for a seminar on what sells and what he looks for when he buys.

I also had coffee with another couple of PCTs – again, most of the ones I’ve run into are happy with their sites – and took another walk with Kathy and bought some spices to bring or send back as souvenirs. I also took a break to read a little bit – why did I think I would have more downtime towards the end? I have less! I don’t know why – maybe because I had no specific agenda and was in Azrou – but it was a strange weekend. Today I feel much more on track. I went to the Artisana and talked with my counterpart – first time I’d seen him since the election, and he was happy to talk about that. Every Moroccan I have talked to, with the exception of my host father (who admired McCain’s Vietnam experience and cited experience in general – of course, my host father is a politician), wanted Obama and is happy about the outcome. I went to see my host family on Friday evening – I had not seen them in way too long! Where does the time go?

Went to Monday souk today – still muddy, but passable. On the way back, I stopped by the cilantro man whose picture is in the RPCV calendar and gave him one – he seemed pleased. Gave Kathy a little freewebs lesson so she can continue the Dar Neghrassi web site; I also gave CDs of all the photos to Abdou and wrote up a tip sheet for him. A couple of the first-years were coming into town to stay with Kathy on the way to their mid-service medicals (didn’t I just have those?) and they came over for tea. I also worked on an outline for “The Role of the Volunteer as Facilitator,” which Kareem and I are going to present on Wednesday. Tonight I’m making CDs for Colin, my counterpart and the artisans, and while they’re burning I’ll sort through more things.

I have more energy so far this week – last week was exhausting! Spending all day Monday and Tuesday with Colin took a lot out of me – introducing him to everyone and at the same time making them aware that I’m leaving was bittersweet, but I think it was the non-stop talking and escorting that was tiring. Not a lot of sleep on Tuesday night, and though it was a quiet morning on Wednesday it was still a busy day. The red, white and blue cake ended up being breakfast and lunch, and then I went to the hammam – I had been wanting to go since Ramadan, especially when it was so cold and rainy, but didn’t have the window of time. It was great! I hope to go both this week and next. Now I understand why Amanda wanted her farewell to be a trip to the hammam; I didn’t at the time. Colin came over Wednesday afternoon, and we started to talk, but then Linda and her cousin came over, and then my former LCF Mina came over (she returned later with the space heater – hooray!) along with Brian, a first-year SBD who is also on the harassment working group, in town to present an IST session on harassment. Colin had asked me what a typical day is – I told him this might have been it – you get some things done for yourself, you get some things done for work, and random volunteers come over! I also told him that if he didn’t want that he might be able to set boundaries, but it could be that it just comes with the location.

Brian made dinner – a Spanish tortilla. My sister and I had tortilla tapas every time we could while on the See the World trip to Spain; I looked up recipes but they looked complicated. Brian’s was simple – all stovetop, and delicious hot or cold.
Spanish Tortillas
A little olive oil in the skillet – cook spices first
Brian’s secret spice mix – coriander, hot pepper, black pepper, cumin, salt and garlic
(the secret is that you have to heat up the coriander to release the flavor)
Dice and sauté an onion.
Add several potatoes, thinly sliced. Green pepper optional. Ricotta or another cheese optional.
Cover and cook until potatoes are done – 15 minutes, maybe?
Add four beaten eggs, salt and pepper.
Cover and cook until eggs are solid.
Flip if possible for crusty top and bottom.

Thursday was the day the sun came out. It’s been clear so far since – last week it looked as though it was going to rain until I left, and now I hope it will be sunny until then! Kathy and I had planned to meet Rose in Sefrou and then go on to Fes. I wanted to go via Sefrou to see the Jewish cemetery – I have seen many here but not the one in Sefrou, which had one of the biggest Jewish communities in the country – but Rose wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to hope for another opportunity. There might be one – and if not, there’s something else to come back for. Kathy had transit issues getting out of her site, so we might not have been able to go anyway. We decided to walk from the taxi stand to the old medina – via a McDonald’s sundae and the potato chip guy in Fes El-Jdid (I will probably have neither on a regular basis when I get back, though of course at least one of those would be pretty easy to find). I have walked once, maybe twice at the most; it wasn’t as obvious how to get from Fes El-Jdid to Bab Boujeloud as I thought it was and somehow we ended up way above the medina, near the Borj Nord Armaments Museum where Rose, Jong and I had gone to cool off this past summer, and near the Merinides Hotel where we had swearing-in – just about two years ago for me and just about a year ago for Kathy (not sure, but I think this stage will be swearing in there too – training is a week shorter, so they won’t have the Thanksgiving dinner we had just before, but at least the hotel reception for all the CBT families appears to still be in the budget). Maybe we were meant to go out of the way so we would end up there, with its memories of long ago and its view of the medina below?

We took a taxi back and met Rose (who felt better), Linda and her cousin for lunch on the roof of the Clock Café. Both Rose and Linda were interviewed by a reporter who keeps a Fes blog – look for them on We then went down the Talaa Kbira – at the tile place, the shop owner was unpleasantly persistent. Then some punk harassed me – he patted my rear end! We had gotten low-level harassment all day (my response was, “Obama,” under my breath – I found it strangely empowering); I’ve been touched before but not patted there. Ugh. We made it to as the herbalist – glad I had a chance to tell him I was leaving soon. And then it was time to go home! I had a splitting headache all day – still not enough sleep from the election, maybe.

Friday Colin and I had coffee with Barry (so he met three of the six-pack during his site visit) and then we came back for look at the web sites and a lesson on freewebs – he doesn’t have to continue work on the sites but if he wants to that would be great! So much more could be done with them, especially the Ain Leuh one. We then had couscous with Abdou and his family – a change from the usual, it had onions, raisins, chick peas and a milk-based sauce. Yum! We went to the artisana and then strolled around town for a final time and that was the end of site visit. I will see Colin again before I leave and he arrives (that is, he’s still here, but at the Auberge, finishing up training – other COSing PCVs most likely won’t see their replacements again because they’ll be on the way to Rabat when the new PCVs will be on the way to their sites) but even if we don’t spend much time together, I think it was a good week of transition. He met everyone, saw various parts of town that I frequent, got project status and ideas, and asked good questions. I am very glad I was replaced! And of course he can always contact me if he needs anything. I still remember so much that Lee said to me during that week, and it has been nice to remain in touch with him. Colin will have two sites’ worth of work - I wish him the best!

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