Sunday, November 16, 2008


On Tuesday I went to Timahdite (or, if you will, TimHdit or Timhadite!) to say farewell. Snow patches on the ground! I knew it would be colder there but didn’t dress for that. I’m grateful to Elizabeth, the current volunteer there, for keeping me up to date on life there. We went to see a couple of the weavers – unfortunately, the president, who I admire for her determination to succeed despite the odds, was out of town, and the weaver in whose house we spent most of our CBT time had moved, but the ones we did see were always present and welcomed us graciously (tea and cookies). We talked a bit and watched them weave. Timhadite itself has undergone some changes – the garbage-strewn empty space that I dubbed “the public garden” is now under construction as a town center, there’s a new post office, there’s a new caid’s office – but it has still retained its village character. We went to my host family’s for lunch – my host mother is so sweet! I felt warmly welcomed and I feel I will always be welcomed there. Maybe the biggest change was in Muzun – the cute puppy that I brought water to and took for exercise walks in the yard is now a huge dog! As TimHdit turns…. Between Tuesday and today my host brother (who I didn’t see) got married, and so did the Sheikh’s brother (for the fourth time).

I am still having Morocco firsts, even with so little time left – on the way back, our taxi broke down. I’ve always wondered why more taxis don’t break down. Everyone was remarkably calm and matter-of-fact about it. We weren’t on the side of the road for too long, though – a bus came by and stopped and we got on it, just like that. I got back to my house about the same time as Janeila (who had just finished doing a training for PST) and Kareem (who was coming in to do a training). I asked them if they would go to Tuesday souk with me – I don’t think I’d been there since the beginning of the summer! After that it was too hot and then it was Ramadan and then it was rainy. I had never been to souk in the afternoon and was surprised at how busy it still was – the rugs were being packed up, but the rest was in full swing. I may or may not go this week so I am glad they were up for it. Kareem and I talked a little bit about our presentation, and Janeila was my last overnight guest (barring the unforeseen). I made stuffed eggplant, we played some rummy, and she helped me go through my closet to decide what went in the suitcase, what went home, and what went in the giveaway pile. She is both practical (she gave the color seminar in February and quickly dismissed some of the colors – and then I had to dismiss them too) and sentimental (she talked me into sending home an acrylic mink blanket after I had talked myself out of it) and it was a big relief to get that done.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, Kareem and I presented “The Role of the Volunteer as Facilitator.” The audience was pretty quiet for the definitions (as they had been for the GAD theory) but once we broke them into small groups they seemed engaged and interested. Two years ago in our training, we broke into small groups for a role play – someone had to be a difficult group member, someone had to be interjecting non-sequiturs, someone had to be domineering, etc. and someone had to try to facilitate – it might even have been me – and of course, with everyone doing such a good job of sticking to their roles, it was hard for the facilitator to make any progress. Kareem and I scrapped that role play and had each CBT group come up with a list of issues and opportunities that they saw in CBT, and then we gave each list to a different group and asked them to come up with potential workshops or trainings that they could facilitate. Then we had a game called “pin the tail on the unsuspecting community group.” Someone would be blindfolded and target two items (say, artisana and youth center or hospital and cultural center) and the group would come up with potential ways to partner the two – with prizes Janeila and I had culled from the giveaway pile the night before. It went well!

I visited my host family briefly, telling my host mother I couldn’t stay long because I really wanted to go to the hammam. She mentioned that there was a new one in my neighborhood – I didn’t know about it, but sure enough, I walked home and I saw it! I just never noticed it. It’s a nice one – bright, colorfully tiled, not too crowded, women-only. I found about it just in time, too, because on Thursday my hot water heater stopped working (so did my living room light – I think it’s djinns that are sad that I’m leaving). The neighborhood hammam is just around the corner and a block down the hill, so as of yesterday I am going for daily quick morning hammams! I was going to have the plumber come to fix the hot water heater and then come again to remove it so I can give it to Youssef’s family, but after he failed to come on Friday I decided I’ll just have him come once, to fix it and remove it. It was nice washing dishes in hot water (which I had started only after it got cold outside and the water got really cold – don’t think too much about the fact that I’ve been using only cold water for most of my time here, because I try not to) but I’ll manage. Washing my face is tougher but darori (a must).

I met back up with Kareem and we had a delightful afternoon (meaning in this case that he went along with what I wanted/needed to do and he bought stuff from my artisans). We went to the Artisana and to Abdou’s and passed by the rock carver – I call Kareem Mr. Cultural Exchange and it is amazing how everyone loves him – hugs and kisses (of course, men can do that to other men here but not to me – but still, people remember Kareem and lavish more attention on him than on anyone else I bring around – even the taxi driver from our trip to the monkeys – last summer – remembered him and called to him from the souk). One of the things that had been on my list was buying some Moroccan music, and Abdou took us to a music hanut and picked out some top selections of different styles – Berber, Arab, traditional instrumental, Rai (music of the east, near Kareem’s site), modern, and Andalusian. In music hanuts here, they open the CD for you and play a selection or two to see if you like it – and sell you the unwrapped CD. When it came to that last CD, Abdou told me it was like the music they play on television during lftur at Ramadan – and sure enough, I wanted to go get some shebekia! I had wanted a piece or two before I left anyway, and that triggered the Pavlovian response.

Thursday I went out to Ain Leuh to mail some boxes and to bring photographs and CDs to the women of the cooperative. I love them. My counterpart asked them to throw a little party for me (he didn’t ask the Azrou ones…) and that’ll be on Tuesday. I couldn’t stay long though – Aziz (tutor #3) has been helping me with the box mailing, and due to his work schedule I had to finish packing everything that day. I was almost done anyway, but thinking I would do some on Thursday and some on Friday. Doing it all on Thursday meant hours of sorting, and the hard stuff, too – the miscellaneous odds and ends. I did go out again briefly, to the Artisana and to Abdou’s, but I spent most of the afternoon and late into the evening packing. I still have to weed out toiletries, remedies and papers to go in the suitcase, the giveaway pile and the trash, but that won’t take long (then again, I haven’t done any sorting or packing since the Thursday’s marathon day, so I am starting to get a little anxious and will feel better when it is entirely done – though that may not happen until the day I leave Azrou).

I went back to Ain Leuh on Friday to mail more boxes - not in my original plan for the week but necessitated by Aziz’s work schedule and by the fact that one of the two men who works in the post office was out, leaving only the director, and he didn’t want to take too many at a time. If only we could have mailed them all! But I have to go back one more time – that too is making me anxious and I will feel better when it is entirely done (tomorrow, inshallah). I got back in time for couscous at Youssef’s family’s house – I love them too! – and, instead of doing more packing, relaxed just a little, walking around town, reading in my living room (during the day), and making some backup CDs.

Saturday I went to Meknes – it felt weird to be there by myself, but I am about to travel for a while by myself. I traveled by myself in August, of course, so maybe what made this different was that I wasn’t really by myself – I was with my memories of past trips there and people I had been with. I went to the medersa – the workmanship is still impressive (and I met a couple of men from Philadelphia! Interesting discussion – they are here for - check it out. I just did and didn’t realize they had a project in Ain Leuh! One of them took this picture). Walked through the medina and to the Damascene (silver inlay on metal) artisan I had met before – he gave me a little “cadeau.” Went into the old imperial city as far as the tomb of Moulay Ismail and realized that I had time to make it to Volubilis. Why not – when’s the next time I’ll have such easy access to Roman ruins? I bought out a taxi, but negotiated a good price to have him wait while I spent an hour there. I walked briskly, more or less from one end (the wonderful mosaic of the House of Orpheus) to the other (the not-before-seen-by-me-but-looked-for-on-other-occasions House of Venus – both are marked by cypress trees, for future reference), passing the main government/market structures along the way. Even though I covered a lot of ground, I made time to take it in and to appreciate some little things, too, such as a random column fragment. I think I felt more at ease than I have for a while.

Today I went to Sefrou and Fes with Rose. After getting all of the post office boxes packed I felt I could take two day trips this weekend, and when I suggested the idea to Rose she enthusiastically accepted. I am glad I made it back to Sefrou – I didn’t think I would. It’s beautiful – similar to but different from Azrou – she and I both feel we hit the jackpot with our sites. We walked to the Jewish cemetery and the caretaker showed us around – the old section, a newer section with men and women separated, a separate section for children who died in a typhus (or was it typhoid?) epidemic. At one point there were about 14,000 people buried there; now there are about 8,000, with more and more leaving for Israel (not on their own of course). We had coffee at a kiosk with a view of the entrance to the old medina, with its crown on top, and on we went to Fes.

Without thinking about it – it just made sense – we went to the Place R’Cif (where we’d been dropped off just about a year ago, with Helen) and made our way (with a couple of detours, but it wouldn’t be a Fes trip without them) to the Henna Souk (where there is more pottery than henna) – in other words, we went from the other direction to just about the point to which Kathy and I had walked down the Talaa Kbira ten days ago, more or less condensing all previous trips into two. It was neat to pass the Karaouine Mosque – that had been under UNESCO repair every time I had come before, and it was open at last. We couldn’t go in, not being Muslims, but with the doors open we could see the impressive courtyard and fountains. We felt rushed, which was unfortunate, but also comfortably at home in Fes. It was still a great day and a wonderful farewell with a special friend.

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