Thursday, November 12, 2009

King, Halloween and other updates

Wow, let’s see…it’s been a long time since I updated this. Hmm… not too much has happened in site after Rabat and Fes. Have been doing a lot of relaxing and reading. I went to Erfoud over the 17th and 18th for the Date Festival. I had a really good time. There were so many dates! Erfoud is very well know for its dates and holds a festival every year sometime in October. Was nice to see friends and play some Nintendo Wii. Then I went to Errachidia for flu shots. Was not looking forward to that! I absolutely detest shots. Managed to get through it, had fun seeing people in the region. I had made a successful Chocolate Cheesecake to share with everyone. Only I had ended up stepping on about 1/4th of it. I had stored it in my bedroom so my cat wouldn’t eat it as he tries to do and forgot I had set it on the floor of my bedroom and opened the door and stepped in…oops. Still tasted fabulous. Bought some really pretty pink fabric that I plan to make a skirt out of it. Was also very happy to find the seed beads I needed to finish my belly dance costume that I planned to wear for Halloween. That was my next big activity. I went down to Tinjdad to celebrate Halloween with several other volunteers. I wore my finished belly dance costume and had a lot of fun. Was sad to learn that a fellow volunteer had to go home.

Let’s see…before Halloween I hung out with my retired nomad neighbors and they had a friend henna my hands and feet. Too bad the henna didn’t stain my skin very well, but it was a fun experience. My bike tires are also both so completely flat that I’ll have to take it to a gas station to fill the tires. Hand pumps are doing absolutely nothing.

Received a much appreciated package from my mom, :). American food is always appreciated. Also had a much needed pair of jeans and wonderful knee high socks for when winter sets in. Currently 68°F in my house and steadily declining. Refusing to use more than one blanket as long as possible. I also received a bundle of letters from the Middle School in Iowa I have begun corresponding with and was very happy. Getting mail of any sort is always a happy day.

The king was in Errachidia for nearly a week. That was interesting. I had so much trouble getting transportation into town. I finally was able to get in toward the end of the week and almost got stampeded. I was checking my mail and the king had just finished a speech and was driving away and everyone decided that they wanted to run after his car. Several policemen had to actually pull people off of his car.

Another bit of work news. A coop about 10km from me came to my site and asked me to help them with basic business skills. They are a new coop and specialize in beef cattle. They just purchased a building and will be buying cattle soon. I visited them not too long ago. There are about 8 members and they are so nice. 2 of the women are also artisans who make stained glass pictures and paint on fabric, glass and mirrors. They mainly do floral patterns, very cool.

My coop supposedly had elections last weekend but are had trouble finding a location. I went on Sunday and I think they had started the process of it all but they speak so quickly I’m not sure. I love my current president and am nervous about working with a new one, but that is the coop’s choice. So far they have proved themselves capable. They have also found a building finally but it would cost them their entire bank account, about $3,125 USD. I am hoping to help them gain funding to be able to make this purchase. It would be so helpful to them and then they could finally work on a daily basis. Things seem to finally be going somewhere on obtaining their own building.

And that brings us back to the present. I am looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with friends this coming weekend even though it will be in a cold site! L’3id kbir (the big holiday) is this month as well. The one where they sacrifice a sheep. I’m looking forward to the seasoned beef kabobs, :). Also been working on my cross stitch projects a bit and hope to start making my own cheese soon. Speaking of cross stitch I plan to hold a cross stitch techniques workshop for a friend’s coop next week depending on the king. Very excited, :). I’ve had to push the workshop back several times now because he keeps post-poning his visit.

My cat has recently ran off about 4 days ago. Hoping he comes back, he is an un-fixed male. Waiting another week and if he hasn’t returned I’ll adopt a friend’s kitten. I am really hoping my returns.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Travel Adventures

Let’s see… I went started traveling to Rabat last Tuesday for another ear exam. I looked at the bus schedule, buses at 12pm, 1pm, and 1:45pm. I thought I would try to catch the 1:45pm. I left my house at 12pm, managed to get a taxi at 12:30pm and thought I would make it to Errachidia just in time for the 1pm bus. Unfortunately the taxi was stopped by Gendarmes for speeding. Grrr… So I didn’t get into Errachidia until 1:15pm missing the 1pm bus and only to arrive at the bus station to learn that there no longer was a 1:45pm bus. I really do wish they would update their bus time schedule. The next bus wasn’t until 3pm and was full and the next wouldn’t be until 5pm and unfortunately due to the inability to travel at night I was forced to take a taxi. Luck had it that I got a taxi right away, the bad luck was that I had to squish into a back seat with a very large man, a not so small woman and an average sized woman. I was not able to get a window seat either. I’ve been uncomfortable before, but this was actually painful, for 4 hours. It was such a relief to arrive in Azrou. One of the doors to the backseat of the taxi didn’t shut so well either and opened up twice on the way to Azrou. Hence to say it was an adventure. In Azrou my friend and I ate with a few others and I was able to take a very appreciated hot shower and was able to get a good night’s sleep. Travel the next day was absolutely magical in comparison. I arrived at the Azrou taxi stand and was able to get a taxi to Meknes within 10 minutes, was comfortable, arrived in Mekness by 9am and caught the 9:30am train to Rabat city center. Arrived by 12pm, had previously reserved a room and was able to set down my things by 12:30pm. The travel was so smooth. I also met two wonderful ladies on the train who do belly dancing from the states. Then in Rabat I made a nice trip to Marjane, ate McDonalds and stopped by the Peace Corps Headquarters office. It was great to be able to peruse all the books in the library and use the free internet. That night was a bit irritating as several times guys tried to follow me within a block of my hotel, but other than that I was able to pick up a few new movies in the Medina, :).

Thursday was crazy. Woke up early, found my way to the ear clinic and waited a few minutes. The doctor looked at my ears and jaws. I had a hearing test done which concluded I still have a loss of hearing in my right ear. Then they took me to an operating room and laid me down on a table and stuck wet pieces of cloth into my nose and told me to breathe. I was freaking out just a bit here because I had no idea what was going on. Found out a few minutes later the pieces of cloth were to numb my nose so they could use a microscope to see the inside of my ear drum to see if there was anything clogging the insides of it. It looked fine to them. The doctor then told me he would give a prognosis after I had all my previous test results sent to him and all my previous treatments and recommendations. He also wishes to see me again in 2 months, which I will be in Rabat anyway for mid-service medicals. I then went back to the office, got reimbursed and hung out for a bit before heading out to an amazing lunch at Pizza Hut and catching the 2pm train to Fes where I was attending a Marketing workshop/Craft Fair with my women.

The craft fair was awesome. It was so great to experience one and to hang out with fellow SBDers to share information. SBD is small business development. I also ate very well for dinner while I was there, ;). I was able to eat the most amazing sushi ever one night, well, maybe not ever, but pretty amazing. My women sold a few things and had a woman place an order for a few more things. Overall it was a really great first experience for them. It was also nice for me to see all the other artists that other volunteers work with and to get a few ideas and helpful hints. I wasn’t a fan of the hostel. It was a great location, but the management was something else. I wanted to get a receipt for one night but no one could write a receipt for me and the owner was on vacation the last two days I was there. Very irritating. There were many other issues as well. Travel back was good. I traveled with a friend and two of his artisans. Mine didn’t tell me when they were leaving and I forgot to ask. I just took a bus back and then crashed when I returned to my site. Traveling to Rabat and Fes so soon after my return to from the states was exhausting. I’m sure every tourist feels the same way.

So back in site and just relaxing for a bit. My women won’t meet again until Sunday as school is back in session. Been trying to pay my rent all week. Beginning to wonder if my land lord moved. I’ll just have to pay his aunt tomorrow. I do miss being able to just send a check through the mail or putting it in a drop off box.

Otherwise nothing too big going on this month. Hope to go somewhere for Halloween. Very excited it’s on a weekend. I’d say it is one of my favorite holidays.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

August/September Update

Blog update. Been a long time I know.

Let’s see…let’s start with August. I was pretty sick the first week, didn’t leave my house for 5 whole days. The second week I visited friends and host family in site, went to the coop a few times and started preparing for my Marrakech/Tiznit trip and trip back to America shortly after. I left for Marrakech on the 15th and spent a very hot long 10 hours on a suq bus to Marrakech as the nice air conditioned CTM was full. I then did lots of shopping for gifts for friends and family. Took awhile to find a hotel with an open room, but finally found one for a good price and crashed very late after a very nice hot shower. Got up early the next day to take a CTM down to Tiznit. Was very excited to get a ticket. It was such a nice smooth air-conditioned ride. It felt like heave after the suq bus. I met a friend of mine in her site, about an hour outside of Tiznit on the 16th. It was about another 9 hours from Marrakech to her site. It was so nice to stay for two nights and meet so many awesome volunteers. The next day we went into town for a bit where I bought too much silver jewelry and then we all met up in the village that was hosting the festival. I helped the girls with French and Arabic as they are all Tamazight speakers. It was fun. As to the significance of silver jewelry, Tiznit is very well known for it’s silver jewelry selection and Silver Souq. Then I took a city bus into Tiznit on the 18th where I caught a taxi to Inzegane, a big bus stop. I had just missed the CTM by about a half hour, so I took a suq bus. I must say it was the worst one I have yet seen here in Morocco and I got to take it for the whole 9 hours to Ouarzazate. The seats were too close for me to sit normally with my long legs and the cushions had lost their cushioning, but it made it to Ouarzazate, humdullah. I stayed at a nice hotel near the medina, took another nice hot shower, and then left around 12pm the next day via CTM where I ran into a couple other volunteers. I should have stayed with the one in her site, but I thought she was still gone. Next time. Overall it was a really good trip, very long, but successful. I bought all the gifts I had wanted to and was able to see several friends along the way and even help out with a health booth even if it was for only a few hours.

I then rested up in site for about a week before my big states trip. I had lftur (breakfast) with a friend one night of shark and sardines. Her friend can cook! Though my house reeked of fish for awhile and I’m not a big fan of fish.

Then the big day came. I began traveling to Casablanca on the 31st staying with a friend that night near Rabat. That was about a 10 hour bus ride. Then early the next morning I took a train from Rabat to the Casablanca airport, about another 2 hours, and took an easy jet flight to Madrid on the 1st. Yes, it really does take me about 12 hours to get to the airport. Once in Madrid I met a friend at the Hilton Hotel there. She was using her parents’ hotel points and boy was I lucky we were flying in and out the same day. I had never experienced such luxury. It was also my first trip out of Morocco in 12 months. We were served free champagne and wine as well as many savory snacks including several pork products. It was heaven. Alcohol and pork aren’t viewed so well in Morocco, pork is near impossible to find. I was also able to take my first bath in nearly a year and it was fabulous. Then the next day we took a shuttle to the airport and parted out separate ways. My delta flight left right on time and was so nice. I had two seats to myself and excellent service and good food. The seats seemed so spacious after 12 months of Moroccan suq buses. Then I had a 7 hour layover in Atlanta which passed quickly as I was able to chat with a really nice guy who happened to be coming from Saudi Arabia, an American. My flight left on time from Atlanta and I arrived in Des Moines, IA with all my luggage, :). My parents met me and drove me home where I crashed.

The next morning I couldn’t find my car keys. Apparently my mom had given them to me the night before while I was completely out of it. Finally found them almost 2 days later clipped to my suitcase. I spent the first two days resting and roaming around my home town. Saturday I went to Ames to see a good friend of mine. Sunday I had a family picnic, was so nice to see everyone. Then I went to Des Moines and saw the new Harry Potter! Was so excited to go to a movie theater, :). Monday I met up with an old friend for lunch and then another good friend of mine for a movie and dinner. We ate at the Cheesecake factory where I had awesome food and a very tasty beverage, ;). Then we watched The Ugly Truth. Hilarious movie! Afterwards we ate amazing cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory and then slept on the floor of her new apartment as she didn’t have furniture yet. Very comfy carpet. Tuesday I stayed home. Wednesday I went to my college town and visited with several professors. I was going to go to Ames for a belly dancing class but decided to stay home and relax as I was still tired. I wish I had gone though, I could have really used the class and it would have been nice to see my friend again. Thursday I went to Iowa City and saw a sorority sister of mine. We ate amazing steak at the Texas Roadhouse and then went out for drinks at a local bar. Was great to catch up. Friday I saw my two friends who had just gotten married and we went with another to the Cheesecake Factory again. That was a late night but a good one. Saturday I saw another sorority sister in Cedar Falls. Was great to catch up with her as well and inherited many good books and a wonderful meal and mudslide at Applebees, my favorite restaurant. I also got to see my brother, new niece and 2 nephews on the way up. Sunday I met up with my Des Moines friend one final time and we watched The Time Traveler’s Wife. Good movie, but book was way better. Ate some amazing Coldstone ice cream and just wandered the mall a bit. Monday I went shopping with my mom in Des Moines. That was a very long day but good. We went to all the craft stores and a bookstore. Bought some cross stitch supplies and salivated over books. I’ve missed Barnes and Noble so much. Then we got Culvers on the way home and I just relaxed for the night. Tuesday I went back to Des Moines to finish my shopping and had dinner with one of my aunt and uncles at a place in my home town. Wednesday I went back to my college town to look at the specialty shops and see a few more professors. I went to Central College in Pella, IA. I really like Pella. Came home and packed. Had an awesome steak and baked potato that my dad has grilled. Thought my bag was fine, 48lbs. Well, it would have been fine if not for my easy jet flight. Had to take out 4lbs, :(. Stayed up very late, but managed it.

Flight back was crazy. First a 2 hour delay in Des Moines so I didn’t get my final deli sandwich, had to run to catch my international flight. Sat by a nice woman. Then my easy jet flight was delayed 1.5 hours and they made me pay an extra 22Euroes for my purse. Luckily I was flying back with another peace corps volunteer. Got in and took a train to Rabat and a taxi to my friend’s site where I crashed for the night. Was really great to see her. Then stopped in Azrou to drop off a friend’s camera and a friend’s laptop battery. Stayed the night in Midelt and left on Sunday to finish the journey to my site. Fairly smooth other than my Azrou to Midelt taxi. We had to pull over a few times due to the transmission not working so well, but I made it. Took a nice solar shower and unpacked and relaxed. Monday I rested all day, then Tuesday I visited my counter part, host family and neighbor who took care of my cat for me while I was gone.

My birthday is tomorrow. The big 25. Not planning to do anything special, maybe bake myself some brownies and just relax. Was gone for 3 weeks and just returned 3 days ago.

As you can see it’s been an exciting 2 months for me. Hard to believe it’s nearly October already. I have a trip to Fes and Rabat next week. 2 of my women will be attending a marketing workshop in Fes and I will be going to Rabat for a second opinion on why my ear clogs up every so often and has a persistent pain. Usually not too bad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heat, Rabat, and Henna Fun

Ok. Below is a photo taken of Lake Tislit near Imilchil from my 4th of July weekend. It was a bit rainy that day, but still beautiful.



Will be glad when the locusts die off. They like to jump and fly at anything that moves near them. And still dealing with the fearsome turk. A friend of mine left it uncovered the other day. I’ll just say it’s a bit of a shock to see 6 huge black beetle/cockroach things in your bathroom. I like summer other than the darn bugs. They’ll go away around September inchallah.

I’ve been back for about a week since my latest Rabat trip. I had to go up for a medical thing, like usual. As far as I know all is well, :). I have a new allergy med that I think it is actually causing my ear to ache more, but I’ll re-evaluate after a month. The trip was a little crazy. Had trouble finding an open room in Rabat on Wednesday and then just stayed with a CBT mate of mine on Thursday, she lives about an hour outside of Rabat. Then I was going to stay in Midelt, but my friend backed out last minute and I stayed with another CBT mate of mine in Azrou instead. It was nice in the fact I was able to travel there with a friend and was able to just relax and use internet while my friend did his thing. Also got to see my language trainer from training, :). Haven’t seen her in 8 months, so it was really nice. The bus ride back to Errachidia the next day was crazy. The buses weren’t running between 9am and 11am, so had to wait a couple extra hours and then fight my way on the 11am bus and enjoy a 6 hour ride back instead of the normal 4-5 hours of the 9am bus. I should have awoken an hour earlier and caught the 8am, but that’s Morocco for you. I didn’t realize traveling during the summer was so different. I also wasn’t feeling well the entire way back, hence I was very happy to return to my house after a long journey back.

Otherwise just been going to the coop and hanging out with my women since I got back. I also dared and dyed my hair with henna. It’s a pretty deep red now, but I love it. If I’d henna’d my eyebrows you would think it was natural. Posted some photos below so you can see the difference in color. Basically I had to sit around for 4 hours with plastic on my head before I could rinse it out. Normally women here henna their hair in hammam for about an hour or two, but I wanted the really rich red color and it’s too hot to go to hammam during the summer. Henna is supposed to be really good for your hair and also a cure for dandruff. Not so sure about the latter, but hair feels much healthier now and head isn’t as itchy as it was. Looks great too, ;). My coop women loved it.




Weather’s been a bit warm as well, so started sleeping on my roof until the temperature in my house goes down a bit. As you can see by the following photo, my new roof bed isn’t so bad. Just wish I had a fluffy blanket and it would be perfect. Sure beats sweating all night, it’s actually cool enough on my roof to use a blanket. Had to deal with a small plague of locusts the other night, but as soon as I turned off the light they stopped bothering me and my cat killed many of them. It’s also just nice to look up at the stars late at night, so beautiful here.


Otherwise life is good. My host family is great. I’m planning a trip out to the West coast for about a week to visit Essaoura and Tiznit. Have friends near both and plan on doing some shopping and hanging out at the beach. Essa is great for the beach and Tiznit is very well known for its silver jewelry.

It’s days like today (Monday) that make me happy to be a volunteer and not sitting at an office job all day. My coop president and a couple other women decided to take a walk through the forest today instead of going to the coop. It was so nice to just hang out and be outside getting some exercise. Great bonding experience, :).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baking fun and fun with goats

So far July has been a good month. For the 4th of July I went to Imilchil to celebrate with other volunteers. We were going to go celebrate at the lake, but it was a stormy day so we ate at a volunteer’s house and then took a walk out to Lake Islit. It is a beautiful lake about an our walk from Imilchil, many tourists come to this lake. We basically just walked around for awhile and then we went back to Imilchil and ate awesome pizza and apple pie while celebrating 2 volunteers’ half birthdays with carrot cake. Overall a good time. Then I stopped by 2 volunteers’ sites on my way back to Errachidia. It’s always nice visiting other volunteers’ sites.

Then the following week as my counter part who is also the coop’s president was busy with her cousin’s wedding, none of the women were meeting, so I just relaxed a bit and worked on some personal projects. I also had tutoring Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as my tutor and I have been very busy this past month. She went over vocabulary and practices for Ramadan, the month before Ramadan, summer terms, and wedding information as summer is wedding season.

The month before Ramadan is a holy month in which many Moroccans begin preparing food items special to Ramadan and cleaning their houses. This month is called sh3ban. Two things that every Moroccan serves during Ramadan are shb3kiya and zmita. Shb3kiya is a fried bread item dipped in honey and sesame seeds, very yummy. Zmita is a dish made with burned flour, crushed fried almonds or peanuts, sesame seeds, fennel, and with whatever other spices Moroccans may wish to add. During sh3ban, Moroccans prepare these items which will be eaten throughout the entire month of Ramadan. Women will also bring their blankets down to the river to wash them and clean every corner of their home as well as all the clothing, pots, pans, etc. My neighbor told me the other day that whenever I want to wash my blankets she’ll go down to the river with me and help me out. It’s about the only way to wash a blanket here due to the nature of no washing machines and buckets can only hold so much. I tried my hand at hosing down a blanket in my upstairs room on one of my lines, it was fairly successful, but I would prefer the blanket to be a little cleaner.

Ramadan itself is the only month in which Muslims fast and pray. It’ll start around August 22 this year and is also when Moroccan time goes back an hour again and goes back to normal. They don’t observe daylight savings like the rest of the world. Even though we moved our clocks ahead an hour, the majority of Moroccans such as my village still run on what we lovingly call old time. During Ramadan Moroccans do not eat or drink anything during daylight hours. They will wake up very early in the morning to eat breakfast and drink as much water as they can, generally around 4am, and then sleep again. Then around 6pm, after the sun sets on TV, Moroccans eat Lftor, breakfast. This meal is very large and starts with a round of milk, juice and dates. On the first day each person eats 7 dates. Then after the milk and dates they eat melowee (flat fried bread), eggs, shb3kiya, zmita, and their main course of some kind of meat. Then later that night they have a 2nd lighter meal and then a 3rd meal around midnight before going to sleep and waking up at 4am for their final meal before fasting begins again.

That’s my little cultural piece for the day.

Saturday I went to my coop and just hung out with a few of the women for a bit working on my cross stitch while they worked on their tirz d fasi, fasi embroidery. Sunday I went into town and went swimming with my tutor, her mom, her friend and a friend of mine at an indoor swimming pool for women only. My friend and I felt like celebrities with all the Moroccan teens and kids coming up to us. It was good, the day was 42°C, 113°F, but the shade the pool was under and the coldness of the water actually made me cold. Was a good feeling. Then when I returned back to my village my retired Nomad neighbor invited me over for tea, it was my favorite, mint tea, :). Then she invited me to see their nomad tent that was set up beyond the small hills across the road from us, so I went over with her younger daughter, about 8, and hung out under the tent for awhile with her and her 2 friends, also neighbors of mine. I learned to how to play a rock game that I am horribly bad at, we played with a bunch of baby goats and I got to ride their donkey for a little bit. My little friend was just leading him around the area. I had a blast, I’ve missed horseback riding so much that riding a donkey was a nice surprise, :). While I was under the tend every time the baby goats came they would basically stampede down the hill and all I could hear would be this running of goat feet. I had so much hanging out with them.

My language is slowly improving little by little and making wonderful friends here. I think it’s so cool that my neighbors used to be roaming nomads, they actually still travel from time to time. I’d love to go with them sometime. I think it would be fun to wander the desert.

Been baking again and made awesome white bread. Decided to use a mixture of white flour and yellow flour to help give it stability and it turned out really well. Made myself a couple grilled cheese sandwiches, they were amazing. My next attempt is to make brown sugar using white sugar and date juice and make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Been told date juice has similar properties to molasses which is all brown sugar is, molasses sweetened white sugar.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Begins

Hooray ! I finally decided to buy an external keyboard that I can just hook up to my lap top, :). It’s so nice to finally be able to type at home again. It’s a French keyboard with Arabic symbols, but that’s ok. Getting very used to the French keyboard anyway and I sometimes have the need to type in Arabic. My lap top still has a few issues due to the heat, dust, etc. and only minimally cfunctions at the moment, but I can wait and have those issues fixed when I take my trip to Iowa. My dvd player doesn’t always function very well, but it is mainly when I use Moroccan burned dvds, my American ones work fine and I think it just needs cleaned.

I was able to hang out with a couple pcvs this past weekend, so that was nice. Visited my host family and my counterpart. My women are working in the fields until Thursday, so not too much going on this week in that arena. I am considering planning a small summer day camp in my site this summer, just depends on many factors. I think it would be really fun. The volunteer before me did a travelling summer camp between her site and a few other volunteers and think that would be an amazing thing to do myself. Unfortunately I didn’t think about it until now as life has been so crazy. I will attempt to plan something for next summer. I have a few friends who would be interested in helping and a volunteer near me who helped the volunteer last year that I can gain some insight and advice from. I have plenty of camp experience, ;). Otherwise just planning to assist my cooperative women with getting funding to purchase or build their own building and general business practices such as budget planning; product development; etc. My counterpart is also going to teach me the moroccon form of embroidery called tirz d fasi. Very excited.


tirz d fasi is moroccan for fasi embroidery. This is basically just the typical Moroccan pattern they use on tea covers, bed covers, pillow vovers, etc. Generally they use the colors red, green or black. Below is a photo of a bedsheet cover using tirz d fasi. I am very excited to begin learning, :).


Summer is warming up, been getting a few summer rains and almost daily wind/thunder stroms. I love listening to the storms. I might turn my upstairs room into a summer bedroom, just need to purchase a ponge to put up there. Going to try to plan a few trips to more northern sites in the next two months so I can get out of the heat a bit. Might celebrate 4th of July somewhere.

Had my first experience in getting my buta gas tank replaced. My buta gas tank went out on Saturday, so as I have no wrench or anything to unconnect it I went to my host family’s house and asked my host brother if he could do it for me. He owns a hanut store and sells buta gas, so very nice. I can now begin baking away again. My mom just sent me a Pillsbury Best Desserts cookbook, so sweets will be the highlight of my summer existance, haha. I hope to start baking with some of my moroccan friends. They would absolutely love my new cookbook.

My mom also sent me my clarinet, so excited! I just need to start practicing again, boy am I out of "shape". Which also reminds me that I need to start working out again as well.

Another little exciting tid bit, well to me anyway, I saw a herd of camels in the dessert across from my house today. Apparently nomads herd them around me. Had no idea. I'll try to take a photo sometime, didn't have my camera with me in the taxi.

Well, I hope to update this a bit more often and include some more cultural information. At the moment I am going to go swimming for a bit at the local hotel with a friend. So excited, :).

nshufk mn b3d! نشوفك من بعر (see you later)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Training

I returned about 4 days ago from a training in Marrakech. It was awesome. The first two days of training weren't so great, but it was really nice to see friends I hadn't seen in 6 months. We also had access to an AMAZING swimming pool even if we were far from downtown kech. Staying up till 1am and getting up around 8am was exhausting, but worth it. On the way to Kech I was able to stay the night in Ouarzazate and get some new summer clothes, very light and flowy caftan/jallaba things. Also while in Kech I got to eat amazing sushi! I was so excited. Also had Pizza Hut one night, had to have my american pizza, and ate in the jma fna one night, the downtown kech market area near the mosque.

Before Kech my cat was very good and killed a scorpion for me, :). I woke up to a dead one in my kitchen. Been dealing with way too many bugs lately. Darn beetles seem to be everywhere. Cockroaches are scary over here, very large. Luckily I haven't seen too many. And my roof has been dropping bits of rock lately. Praying it's just the heat and nothing is actually living up there. That's a scary thought. Other than the scary house issues, life is good. Cooled down to about 90F this week, but it'll only warm up again very soon.

Attempting to plan some inter-morocco travel or a short trip to Europe this summer before my trip back to Iowa. Not sure when or where yet. Somewhere I could swim would be great.

Otherwise not too much going on at the moment. Women have been out in the fields so not too much coop wise happening this week. Still working on getting my lap top keyboard fixed. Inchallah soon. Some exciting news, my host sister just got married. Unfortunately due to my need to travel to Kech I was unable to go, :(. But I may get to go to a wedding in Midelt for the cousin of my tutor, that would be fun. We've now hit wedding season, I hear the music weekly these days. My tutor just did very well on her Bac, so she will be leaving this fall to go to school. Sad she'll be leaving, but happy that she did so well.

As the weather warms up, people have begun taking afternoon naps and staying up much later. We had a time change, but I do not believe it is being observed by my village. We now have what I call "old time" and "new time". It makes life interesting, haha. I'll be glad when this time change goes away around August 20th, right before Ramadan starts.

I attempted to make scones the other day. Didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped they would, but I have plenty of time to try again. Well, I should go do my shopping for the weekend.

Hope to have a more exciting update soon.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May

It really has been awhile since I have updated this. Well, part of that is due to the fact I have not yet had a chance to have my malfunctioning keyboard fixed yet. It's difficult to type when you can't use A or S. I'm hoping to have it fixed before I take my trip home, or I might just buy a plug-in keyboard until I can get a replacement internal keyboard.

I haven't been up to too much this month. I hung around in site for the first half of the month visiting people, working on my cross stitch, etc. Been reading a lot. I did make my own blank writing journal. I ran out of pages in the one I had brought and could not find one here in Morocco, so after hearing how another volunteer makes her own I decided to look up book making online and create my own. I really like it, :).

I had a Warden meeting in Rabat on the 22nd. It was so much fun to see friends and meet new people. I was also able to see Alicia Keys perform live in Rabat for the music festival. That was pretty cool, I'd never really been to a live concert before.

Then this week we had our test consolidation where everyone in the region goes to their designated consolidation point sites in the case of an emergency. Generally when there is an unsafe situation for volunteers we all gather at these points and wait for further instructions on whether or not we will be evauating the country. This test exercise ws to get an idea of how well it would work and what we need to do to make it work more efficiently in a real emergency. It was really great to meet people I haven't had a chance to see yet and to hang out with friends. Even got to go swimming!

Been baking a lot of well. Had a friend come over a couple weeks ago and we made awesome chicken quesadillas with some substitutes of course. Didn't have time to make salsa. I made awesome lemon bars the other day as well. I would have to say my oven is my best investment yet.

Been injuring myself as usual as well, haha. First cut my finger on a glass I broke while washing it, then pinched the skin on the back of my hand in a door as I was opening the bolt and then sliced my thumb on the lid of a sardine can while tying my garbage shut. All minor injuries of course, :).

Next week I will be going to Marrakech for my IST (inter service training) for a week. It'll be really great to see people I haven't seen in 6 months as well as to get some more information to help me in site, not to mention there will be a pool, ;). I'm always excited to swim. It's been warming up here, in the upper 90's. But a dry heat.

hmm...some exciting news for everyone in Iowa. I have planned and bought tickets to take a trip home in September, :). Very excited. I'll be home for the first 2 weeks of September.

Hope everyone is well!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Photos of Marrakech

Here are some photos I took while in Marrakech for a day last month. They are of the souk and one of the carriages they have near the souk:







Hmm…since Spring Camp I’ve basically just stayed in my site. I was stuck in Errachidia for about 4 days a couple weeks ago due to the strike, but other than that no traveling. It’s been nice to just stay in site and relax a bit.

A couple weeks ago I held a small skirt creation workshop in my house for 4 of my cooperative women by their request. I showed them how to create a very simple elastic waist skirt. It went over very well. Now more of the women want me to hold another workshop on more complicated patterns soon. Pretty excited to be relaying some of my knowledge, :).

Other than that not too much has been happening. It’s been warming up here in Morocco, especially down south. Been reaching the upper 80’s and it’s only going to get warmer. The bugs are also beginning to come out due to this warmer weather. Lucky for me my cat likes to catch and eat most of them. She’s still a kitten and ornery, but a good addition. I like her company as well.

I’ve also learned how much I really like cooking and baking while here. I use a buta gas stove and oven for my cooking needs. Basically a buta gas stove is a glorified camp stove and a buta gas oven is something we lovingly call a fire box here. I also have to make everything from scratch here as there are no mixes, etc. Frozen dinners can be found in large cities where there is a Marjane, but nowhere down south. My closest Marjane is about 5-7 hours by bus away. I make biscuits, tortillas, brownies, omelettes, and many other items from scratch. And all the fresh fruits and vegetables! I hope to learn to make Moroccan tajines and Pastilla someday as well. Pastilla is the most amazing dish ever. It is a mixture of chicken, almonds, onions, powdered sugar, cinnamon and spices(pepper, ginger, parsley, coriander, tumeric) within a phyllo shell with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. Seems my life revolves around food here. I could eat with a Moroccan family any day of the week I wish to, but in my village they only eat Duez for lunch and some kinds of flour based soup for dinner. Duez is a type of tajine eaten in villages. It consists of an oil based sauce with paprika, parsley, pepper, and ginger. Then it generally has tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes for the veggies with some kind of meat in the middle. Generally this is chicken, but it could also be mutton, beef or some other animal. Bled soup is basically flour based with some kind of pasta and maybe some oil and pepper. But there are many kinds.

My daily routine is basically to “live” in the morning and then visit members of the cooperative or fellow villagers in the afternoon. So I generally stay in my house until 3pm just so I can avoid eating lunch with people. I just don’t care for village Duez, otherwise I would love to go over to people’s houses for lunch. I feel bad for avoiding lunch, but I really don’t like the village Duez. I do generally eat with someone on Fridays as that is when most Moroccans eat couscous. Twice a week I hitch a taxi into Errachidia for tutoring, souk, internet, post office. What I mean by “live” is, I have to do everything myself. I have to cook my meals, wash my dishes, do laundry by hand, bucket bath, etc. I have a solar shower though which is nice. Laundry is easily a 1-2 hour process. Then the days when I go to Hammam, that’s about a 2 hour process as well. Hammam is the public bathhouse. Very nice place to go to in the winter months here, not so great in the summer. Beginning to lose track of my days of the week here and the date of the month. Time is very different here.

So that is a bit of an update on my life here in Morocco. Overall life is going fairly well. Better now that I don’t have to make so many trips to Rabat. I can’t currently ride my bike because it makes my knee ache, but I’m hoping after taking a 2 month hiatus (possibly 4 as the summer months will be killer) that my knee will be better.

I’m also beginning to realize that my Fiona (my cat) is really a Fiero. Kittens are very difficult to judge when they are so small. A male cat is better anyway because then I don’t have to worry about kittens.

Also, currently my cat spilled water on my keyboard which really sucks because certain important letters no longer work on my keyboard. Only 5 keys and not even all in the same spot, just on the same side of my keyboard, but important keys: fn, A, Q, S, and V. Makes me very sad that my keyboard doesn’t fully function anymore because of something stupid that my cat did and not even sure it can be fixed, :(. Going to check with the computer guy in Errachidia. If all else fails I can always buy an external keyboard to plug into my USB port. Basically I just need a new keypad replaced. They should be able to do that here, but I might have to order one as I would want it to be an American keyboard.

Otherwise things are good. Haven't traveled too much this month, just spring camp at the start and then I went to Erfoud this weekend to visit a fellow volunteer. It was good. We hung out, I got to use internet, watched a good movie and ate some American candy, :).

Currently I am attempting to find a horseback riding trip near by in my affordability range. Otherwise if I can't find one, I might take a trip back to the states in September, not sure yet. Still deciding.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Camp

Wow I have had a very long month, but it has also went very quickly. I had my regional meeting in Ouarzazate. Overall it was a very good meeting. We were able to discuss issues we have all been dealing with and about each other’s experiences.

After the regional meeting I returned to site for about a week before heading off to Spring Camp in Errachidia. I worked with 6 male peace corps volunteers and 1 other female. Then we also had about 6 Moroccan staff and a little over 100 kids. Overall it was a really good and fun week. Us Americans met up Saturday night to plan and discuss what would happen during the week.

Then Sunday we moved our things over to the Center we would be staying in and had a meeting with the Moroccan staff at which point we cemented and clarified the schedule. Afterwards we hung out and relaxed for a bit before finishing up last minute things.

Monday was the day the kids arrived. They started arriving right after lunch and we spent until Supper time interviewing their level of English. Me and the other female volunteer teamed up and we had lots of fun. Afterwards we relaxed a little before supper. After supper we all went to the Dar Chebab to go over rules for the camp. It was a very long night.

And Tuesday was a very early morning. We had breakfast at 8am, but we had the kids meet outside at 7:30am. Then we had English lessons, I taught the very beginners with the assistance of our director. I had a lot of fun teaching them basic greetings and such. We also played “Big Booty”. That was a bit of a challenge to teach, but they caught on eventually and had a lot of fun with it. My darija is still very much a work in progress, so I think my mistakes helped them not feel so bad about making their own. Also the guy helping me out was pretty amazing. After English classes we had sports. Basically the girls played basketball while the boys played soccer. I attempted to play basketball with the girls and ended up twisting my foot. Did a pretty good job of tripping over my own feet, haha. After lunch we held our clubs. I helped teach Arts with another volunteer. Explaining friendship bracelets to 21 kids with varying degrees of English was a very interesting situation. In the end everyone had created some form of a friendship bracelet, :). After clubs the youth listened to information regarding SIDA (AIDS) before having an amazing supper. After supper we had a talent show. Some of the youth were very talented as well as many staff members.

Wednesday we went through the same program except instead of AIDS they youth discussed different issues currently going on around them such as Immigration and Technology. Overall a very good day. My partner and I taught our Arts club how to make paper cranes. It was a very successful venture. For the evening activity we played American games in which the kids had a great time. There was dizzy bat, balloon stomp, musical chairs, tug of war, limbo, and a fifth game I am having trouble remembering.

Thursday was the bog day of the week. We all took small “school buses” to Merzouga. Basically a school buy here is a van about the size of a 15 passenger van but with benches in the back where you have to squeeze in. For the trip down I sat in the front, but on the way back we all squeezed into the back with the kids. We started by waking up at 6am and left by 7am. We had breakfast at a rest stop next to a gorge near my village. Was a beautiful spot. Afterwards we finished driving to Merzouga where we walked to a large sand dune and then made our way up it. It took us about an hour as it is very tall. There is a reason Moroccans call it a “Mountain of Sand” in darija. Then I attempted to roll down it like you would a hill, but was having technical difficulties, haha. So I ended up just semi skiing down the dune. It was great walking barefoot in the dry warm sand. After rolling down the hill I came to the realization that I had sand everywhere. After the dunes we had lunch of a baguette, some cheese spread, a potato and egg in Rissani. Then we visited an old area before heading onto Erfoud where we visited a really neat fossilized rock place. Basically they take fossilized marble and make it into really cool tables, fountains, plates, etc. After the museum we visited Hotel Xaluca (pronounced shalooka). It was an amazing hotel that was much too pricey for my Peace Corps budget. We finally arrived back at the Center later than planned and ate dinner. Well, I skipped dinner as I had gotten so motion sick from the vans on the hour ride back to Errachidia. The plan was to watch an American movie, but there were technical difficulties, so we ended up scratching the movie. I was just thankful for the chance to take a nice long hot shower to get all the sand off of me.



View of the Ziz gorge, about 10-15km from my house.



Sand dunes of Merzouga

Me posing pretty in front of the sand dunes of Merzouga



Poor tied up camel, :(


Friday we went back to the normal schedule and also hosted our last day of clubs. My partner and I let the kids draw and paint pictures of things they had seen while on the Merzouga field trip. English class was good, the first I had taught completely on my own, :). I sat out during sports again as I did not want to reinjure anything, haha. After supper we held a fake Moroccan wedding. And lucky me was the bride. I actually had a lot of fun letting them dress me up, do my make-up, etc. I will never forget walking down the street from the Center to the Dar Chebab with a band following me and playing music and my entourage of girls ululating. I ended up changing my dress once, but I have to say I liked the green one much better than the white one. That was also a very late night. I think we crashed around 1am.

Fellow volunteer, me and my tutor at my "wedding"


Saturday was the last full day of camp. We had our final English class which was basically just a review. Then we held our English Olympiads where we have several different stations where kids have to use English words to gain points such as pronouncing words correctly, playing hangman, charades, etc. After lunch we announced the winners and then let kids prepare for the Spectacle where they could perform different pieced they had learned throughout the week or had compiled themselves. Overall a very good night with many interesting acts. After supper we had a bit of a yogurt/toothpaste fight. I got toothpaste in my ear, that was fun to get out, and the bad ear nonetheless, haha. I chased down my fair share of campers, ;).

Sunday the campers all went home, we had a meeting with Moroccan staff and then went to a volunteer’s house to unwind. Overall the camp was a great success and the food was amazing.

Monday I just relaxed and recouperated a bit. I tried to get wireless internet, but both places told me my site isn’t part of the coverage area yet and a fixed line is not available either, :(. Maroc Telecom made it sound as if they are planning a project to expand coverage, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. A friend of mine is letting me test his Wana wireless in my site as well, so hoping maybe I’ll get lucky.

Tuesday I had my tutoring session at 8:30am, very early. Then I just went back to site, did laundry and visited my host family. Still very exhausted.

Wednesday I visited people in my site and caught up with my counterpart. I am working on helping the coop ship some bracelets to the states per request of the previous pcv.

Thursday I just came into Errachidia to load up on food supplies, meet up with a friend and catch up on emails and such.

Hope everyone back home is doing well!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Haircut


Before


After



I decided to chop off all my hair because the split ends were getting so bad. I think it turned out well other than the fact it cost me 200dh! I've only ever paid 30dh here in Morocco, so I was very shocked. I should have asked before hand, but I thought it was only going to be about 60dh, boy was I wrong.
Otherwise my trip to Rabat has been ok. The trip itself has been good, but they can't figure out my knee pain. I don't know if I pulled a muscle or what, but wearing a knee wrap doesn't even help the pain, and it's only my right knee. Had some x-rays done that showed nothing. The pain has been getting steadily worse and the more I walk on it the more pain it causes me. I guess I'll just have to learn to live with it. Someone told me it was due to lack of exercise, I guess walking 1-2 miles per day and riding my bike 35km once or twice a week isn't considered exercise.
Well, I should get some things done, I'll keep everyone updated on whether or not my knee ever improves!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It’s been a very busy month for me. I had volunteer support network (VSN) training February 27th through March 3rd. It was a really great opportunity for me and I had a good, albeit exhausting, weekend. Then on the 3rd I had to head straight to Rabat to have my ear looked at again. I stayed with a friend on the way up, then woke up early and took a taxi into Rabat on the 4th. That was a very long day as well as cold and rainy. I checked into my hotel around 10am, went to the Peace Corps Headquarters right after, then had an 11:30am appointment with the ear specialist. As with all doctor offices, I had to wait awhile and didn’t get in to see the doctor until 12:30pm and got out around 1:30pm. Basically he just did the same tests and gave me more medicines with a diagnosis of “elevation”. Basically he said my ear issues are due to an elevation change. I thought it was silly at first, but then I thought about how my ear issues didn’t develop until I arrived in Errachidia. I just hope to regain full hearing in my right ear again someday! Then I went back to Peace Corps Headquarters to get my travel/medical reimbursements. I was mad because all the pharmacies were closed between 2pm and 3pm and the hotel guy to get my hotel receipt was also absent. So unfortunately I was unable to get a full reimbursement. Then I made a trip to Marjane so I could get some dry cat food for my kitten. I finally got a bite to eat at McDonalds around 6pm. By this point I was so hungry and McDonalds tasted wonderful. It's always a nice treat for me, but I do miss Subway. Then I slipped and fell pretty hard on my way back to the hotel, but nothing major. Just bruised my thigh a little. It was amazing to take a nice long hot shower. The longer I am in the site the more I consider getting a hot water heater put in. The next morning went really smoothly. I woke up and had a great breakfast before catching the on time 11:15am train to Meknes. This is where things began to slide. Turns out the road between Azrou and Midelt was snowed in, unfortunately Midelt was my destination. The taxi guy told me to go all the way to Guercif to get to Midelt. Guercif is right by the border of Morocco and Algeria and a very very long detour for me. Lucky for me my friend called and told me to go through Khenifra. It was raining the whole way and I almost got stuck in Khenifra, but lucky for me a taxi managed to get filled and I made my way to Midelt. It was so cold in Midelt! Then the next morning I finished my travels to Errachidia and back to site. I was very happy to pick my kitty up from my friend and to sleep in my own bed for one night.

Then the next morning after shutting my cat in the room on my roof with lots of food and water I made my way to Tinjdad to help a friend out with an International Women’s Day project. I spent two nights there and the women’s day was a success. We had several successful Moroccan women come in to speak about the new Mudawana act as well as AIDS, women’s health, and several fun thought provoking activities. At the end of the day we had a party for all the participants. I just wish I was better able to speak and understand Darija.

I returned to site early Monday morning and the first thing I did was let my cat out of the room. She was crazy. She ran out of the room and hid under my fridge. I moved my fridge and she ran back up to the roof and either went to a neighbor’s roof or jumped off, not sure. I was very upset. She ended up returning later that day which made me very happy. I also visited my host family and my coop friend.

Tuesday was very tiring. It was the holiday where Moroccans celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohamed. I visited 6 Moroccan families and drank so much sugared tea. I had also done some laundry that morning. It was very nice to return to my house at the end of the day and rest. I was so exhausted from all my trainings and travels that I had slept in until 10:30am. Still recovering a bit, haha. And now I get to travel back to Rabat again next Sunday for a Tuesday appointment. Taking care of a personal issue as well as having my knee looked at. My right knee cap has been aching lately and I feel it’s time to finally break down and have it checked out. I feel like I am beginning to get to know Rabat more than my own site. It’s funny how I have a friend who lives an hour outside of Rabat and I have been there more than she has now, and I live about 10 hours away. 5 times in 4 months is quite a bit. Inch a’llah I won’t have to go back again until my warden meeting in May.

This month is very busy for me. After the Rabat trip I have a regional small business development sector meeting in Oarzazate on the 20th and then I will be assisting with a spring language camp the 29th through April 5th. I am hoping to get wireless internet soon which would be amazing!

Yesterday I had a tutoring session in Errachidia with my tutor which was very nice. I had biked to Errachidia and back to my site, it felt very good to get out and exercise a bit. After I returned to my house, about 35km later, I was very sore and sweaty so I took a very nice hot solar shower, :). I just rested the rest of the day as it was a vacation day for me.

Today I taxi'd it in due to my knee being sore from biking. I forgot how hard it can be to get a taxi after a holiday. I waited 2 hours and 15 minutes before a taxi finally stopped for me. I've never had to wait that long. Hence to say I was unable to meet my tutor, :(. It'll be a week before I am able to have a lesson. I did finally make it in and will be meeting a friend for lunch before heading back to site. I want to start assisting one of the women with designing and creating a skirt. Very excited about helping her out with this project, :).

Otherwise, I will be heading to Rabat on Sunday as it is a 2 day journey for me. I hope all goes well!

llay 3awn! (may god help you, a form of saying good bye)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Baking, Cat, Party and Storm

The day after my scorpion attack I went to visit friends in Tinjdad so I could steal an oven to do some baking. I have yet to invest in one, soon, very soon. It turned out to be a good thing that I had planned to stay the night there because the electricity went out in my village early Saturday morning. It was back on by my return on Sunday thankfully. I spent Saturday night baking chocolate chunk cookies, brownies and banana bread for the house warming party I was planning to host for my host family, friends and coop women on that Wednesday. The bread didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped, but the cookies were perfect and the brownies delicious. Then my friends made an amazing honey BBQ chicken pizza.

I returned to my site on Sunday but due to limited transportation options I didn’t return to my site until 5pm meaning I missed yet another Sunday to see my coop women, :(. I was very disappointed. Monday I did my own thing in the morning and then visited my current counterpart in the afternoon and my host family before heading back to my place.

Tuesday I had my regular tutoring in Errachidia. And I returned with a kitten! :). My tutor’s mother saved a kitten from the suq and had nursed it back to health but they did not want it. As I have been looking for a kitten I asked if I could have it, so now I have the most adorable, friendly little kitten that can also be a monster, haha. She’s a grey and white tabby that I have named Fiona. Below is one of the attempts I took at taking her photo. She really likes to curl up in my lap or on my stomach. It was lots of fun carting her back to my site, she didn’t appreciate being carried in a suq bag, haha. After I returned to site I visited my coop friend and new president for a bit. Below is a pic of my new kitten:




Then yesterday started off pretty good. I cleaned my house, carted out my garbage and started preparing for my house warming party. I had put my two rings and watch on a towel near the grate covered well and somehow I moved something that made one of the two rings jump and fall into the well. I was very upset as it was the white gold sapphire ring I had received for my 19th birthday, :(. Of course it couldn’t have been the cheaper less important silver ring. Unfortunately due to the construction of the well rescue of my room is impossible. The well is basically built on top of an underground river. I don’t even have a bucket to try to get down to the water as it is a source of water for another house. Hence to say very upset I was so careless as to put such an important item so near the well, :(. My only consolation for the day is the fact all the women that came to my party had a great time and enjoyed the goodies I had made. I had also made mini pancakes. Below is a photo of the spread and a photo of my updated bedroom, :).





There was also a pretty nice windstorm the other night, below are a few photos.





Friday, February 13, 2009

Scorpion Attack

So I have been told by many that scorpions tend to appear in the summer down here in the south during the summer. So I was thinking, I should be scorpion free until at least June. I was wrong. I’ve had a pile of garbage stacked in a corner from cleaning up the house after the previous volunteer. A scorpion must have come into the house at some point in the 2 weeks I moved in. The weather has been warming up, but didn’t think anything of it. I was walking to my bedroom this past Friday night and much to my fear and surprise I saw a small black scorpion crawling to my bedroom. At first I didn’t know what it was, then I saw the pinchers and tail. I think it was a baby as it didn’t have the fully developed outer shell. I was so scared. My first thought was “kill it!”. So I grabbed a small bag of garbage and threw it at it. It died. I should have taken a photo, but at the time I was only thinking I wanted it dead and off the floor. Hence to say I was paranoid the rest of the night. I hate scorpions!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And the ball starts to roll

I have been sick from Saturday night until Wednesday morning, :(. As you previously read, cow stomach, or as it is called here, cordez, is a bad idea with me.

Yesterday I went with some women from my coop to view the Errachidia Artisana and got to see their displayed items and go with one of them to drop off signed documents describing the new change in presidency as well as products used and needed and what has been made and sold. It was a learning experience for me. Also learned some women want to learn how to start making fabric for jalabas and scarves as they just received new machines. Things are slowly starting to come along. As my language and interaction with the women increases as does my knowledge of what they wish to do and what I can do to help them. The new president is very hopeful and motivated.

Language is improving, I can actually see it as well as women in my village. I had tutoring today and afterwards got my first haircut in Morocco and love it! Cut off about 2-3 inches of split ends, :). Now after I post this I will finish my haluwa shopping. haluwa = sweets. I am making several items this weekend at a friends' place so I can host a moving in celebration for people in my community, :).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekly Update

Not too much has been happening lately. I went to an English club meeting in Riche this past Sunday with some other volunteers in the area, it was a cool experience. It was interesting to hear Moroccan men and women discuss woman empowerment and equality.

The rest of the week was spent working on my house and visiting people in the community as well as tutoring. Friday I had couscous with some family of my host family which later made me sick. Cow stomach/intestines does not agree with my taste buds or my system. Then I visited one of my coop friends who is also the new coop president. They had elections while I was in Rabat. They are finally looking into getting their own space so they can meet whenever they want instead of only when school is not in session. This is exciting news for me. Then that evening a neighbor of mine came to check on me and see how I was doing, this was very sweet of her. I then proceeded to short circuit the electricity in my living room.

So on Saturday I went to Errachidia and did some house shopping, I now have a very nice wooden table. Then I went to my host family’s house to ask my host brother how to fix the electricity in my living room. Turns out it was an electrical issue and not just a simple fuse issue, so after the electrician precariously balanced on my new table and then on my bicycle, the issue was finally resolved. I now have working electricity!

Then Sunday I got very very sick from eating the above mentioned couscous. So I had to miss visiting my coop and stay in bed all day, :(. At least I am finally feeling better today. I just wish my language was better as well. Everyone tells me little by little, but I can only hope someday I am able to fully communicate with my community. I feel like I am so slow at learning this language.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Own House!

Here are some photos I took of my new house. It is definitely still a work in progress, but it coming along. I painted the bedroom myself and even created the color. I am also sewing my own ponge covers, one is nearly finished. When I go to my vsn (volunteer support network) training at the end of my month, I hope to have someone tile the floor of my bathroom. I am also planning to paint the walls and maybe get the shower head fixed so it is actually functional.

I moved in on February 1st and loving my new place, :). Never thought I'd have a house so soon in life, haha.

Enjoy the photos!



My awesome roof


my awesome roof

gotta have all angles


the room on the roof of my house


another roof shot

the bathroom, a work in progress

gotta love that turkish toilet

stairs to my roof


my living room, aka salon


one of the ponges with a finished ponge cover sewed by me, :)


my salon, work in progress


outside of my bedroom

my lovely fridge

my kitchen, also work in progress


the main room


the main room/kitchen

main room/kitchen

my entry way


bedroom

bedroom

bedroom

bedroom


my awesome bed

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why You Don’t Touch the Stove Pipe

So…ever since my family has been using the stove to cook and as a source of heat they have been telling me, “Don’t touch the stove pipe” or in Darija, “ma tqini sh l-canon sxxun”. Everytime they tell me this my first thought is: “Duh, I’m not stupid enough to touch the really hot metal stove pipe.” Well…I may have known not to touch it, but I still ended up grabbing it. Once day there were many women over, family I believe, and I had left the room to put my eating utensils on the kitchen counter. Upon re-entering the room I managed to trip and lose my balance, so instead of falling face first onto one of the women or the floor I decided to grab the nearest thing to me. You guessed it, the stove pipe. And the Moroccans were right, it was very very hot and you should never touch it. Lucky me I only managed to burn my ring finger on the lower half and not my whole hand. So, like a good little pcv I called the pcmo. That was fun. I should mention there is not a very good signal in our large mud house. So I had to run up to the roof and stay calm and comprehensible while my burn throbbed as I spoke with the pcmo for several minutes. It felt like agony at the time as all I wanted to do was run the burn under cold water. Turns out I didn’t really need to call the pcmo, I was certified in first aid back home, but at the time the burn seemed worse than it really was. I would almost call it a 2nd degree burn, I actually melted part of my skin and have a nice blister on it now. At least it doesn’t hurt anymore and it’s healing. So the moral of the story is this is why you shouldn’t touch the stove pipe, even if it does happen to be closer to than the wall as you are falling over people.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Written January 28 2009

Let’s see here…after the aforementioned stove pipe injury I went to see a friend in Erfoud this past Saturday. We just caught up a bit and I helped him sort out how to furnish his new apartment and whether he should paint certain portions or not. I also got a heater out of the trip, :). Sunday I was going to go to Errachidia to purchase items for my house, but decided to just stay in site and work on sewing the hem on one of my ponge covers.

Monday was a bit crazier. I had to go to the Gendarmes in the morning to renew my temporary carte de sejour. This was a very frustrating experience for me. It took them an hour to just change the expiration date to one month later and then another half hour to stamp the thing. Afterwards I had my first tutoring session with my new female tutor. She is awesome! I learned so much working with her one on one. She also caters to my need to see things which is amazing and our personalities jive much better. Overall it was a very good session.

Then that afternoon I received a text from my counter part telling me to come to the coop. So I went with another pcv from the Errachidia area. Turns out the coop was having their annual meeting going over how they did over the previous year. Unfortunately I understood very little about the financial part due to my Darija level, but I did understand when they started discussing food, haha. I will speak with the treasurer and president one on one after I return from Rabat so I can better understand where they are financially. I am sad I am to miss their election meeting on Thursday, but I would understand little anyway and really need to get my ear taken care of. I hope the positions don’t change too much.

Otherwise yesterday and today were spent travelling. It’s always quite the trip for me to come to Rabat as I live so far down south I am required to take 2 days to travel to Rabat. I managed to get a room at the hotel frequented by pcvs, so this made me happy. It’s actually the same room I stayed in my first trip to Rabat. Earlier I looked around for a music store as I’ve been wanting to pick the clarinet back up. I finally found one, but a clarinet was 6,000dh which is a bit out of my budget range. Overall it was a good price for the particular brand of wood clarinet that is was. Starting to really wish I had packed my clarinet from home. Also looked around at some shoes, found a couple pairs I liked but of course not in my size. I’ll look around again later once all the stores are open, they seem to be having a sale at the moment.

Otherwise I have my ear exam tomorrow. Hoping to get this thing solved one way or another this round. It’s been hurting more and more often of late and it doesn’t seem to matter if it is warm or cold out, :(. Otherwise all is well, moved into my new house! :).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Village Update

Been awhile since I updated this. Hmm…still not too much happening in the community at the moment. I went to the coop one Thursday afternoon and met a few more women, but have been unable to go to the coop yet again since then. I tried going a couple Thursday afternoons but school was still in session. One Sunday I had planned to go but the weather was terrible, rainy and windy, but the following Sunday I fought my way through the wind only to find it was closed. I greeted two women that were also there. I am hoping there will be women at the coop this Sunday. I had planned to work on interviewing all the women about their daily routines, what products they make, and what some of their goals are except everyone has been working out in the fields, so I have been unable to meet with any of the women this month. I met with my counterpart a few times and learned that they do have a treasurer. I tried to visit my friend Khadija, but she was still out in the fields. I am hoping next year to be able to help in the fields. It would have been a good idea this year as well except that between tutoring and random other meetings and things during the week, I have been unable to go out to the fields with any of my host family. This month has also been very crazy for me as I am trying to ready my house to move into it.

Today I had the experience of telling my current tutor that I had found a new tutor. I have been wanting a female tutor and I’ve also wanted to have one on one tutoring sessions. I have been sharing Tim’s tutor for the time being and I should have been completely honest and upfront with him about my search for a female tutor. So I told him today and paid him half for the month since I went to half the month’s lessons. Well, he suddenly brought up that I had not paid him for a previous lesson the earlier month and that I was supposed to have been paying him 400dh for the whole month up front. Well, he never told me any of this, otherwise I would have. I got very angry with him about the whole situation, especially when he began lecturing me on how I should be spending my tutoring allowance. I think I know a little bit about how to use my tutoring allowance. Hence to say that is now over and I will be tutoring with a female from now on.

So far I have painted my bedroom and bought a few things, I still have many things left to buy. My main needs before I move in are a table, stove, and heater. Heater very important as it is still fairly cold here at night. It’s been getting down into the low 30’s lately. Even though I don’t get snow, I tend to get the cold off of the mountains. The day tends to be very nice, but the night tends to be very very cold.

My host family made me pillows to match the ponge covers I am still working on sewing, J. When I visited a friend in Skoura, they offered to make my pillows for me which was awesome. So I have pillows now, J.

Been doing a fair amount of travelling as well. I went to Tinjdad this past weekend and hung out with some friends there. I discussed a few possible projects and about beginning to offer English lessons to women in my village soon. There are a few that the previous volunteer had begun teaching English to. Otherwise just hoping to meet more women once the olive harvesting season is over. Then I got to watch the inauguration speech of Obama with some other volunteers in a village near Riche. It was amazing. It was also really nice to hang out with other Americans for a bit.

Lately I feel my darija has been getting worse as I hide a bit more. I did really well at first and not sure what happened. Part of it is the cold and my ear. My ear has been causing me issues since I arrived in site. I will be making my 3rd trip to Rabat this next week to have it looked at again. It started out being completely clogged round 1, then only slightly clogged round 2, now it has pain. Hoping it’s nothing. But between the cold and fatigue and pain, I tend to sleep a bit more and hide out under my covers a lot. I would try to visit people more, but as they have all been out in the fields, so there have not very many people in site to visit. I should just braven up and go out to the fields and wander around. I’m sure to come across someone that I know or knows me. I also had the flu for a couple days last week, not fun. And just dealing with a lot in general at the moment. Having a bit of a friend situation at the moment, so stressing over that a lot. I just haven’t been very sociable lately.

So that’s life for me in Morocco at the moment. Just working on creating a schedule, getting my house ready and getting my ear sorted out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Written January 3

Things have been going fairly well in my village. I’ve been in site since last Monday. I decided I’ve been travelling way too much and needed to stay in site for a bit, amazing how time flies. I hadn’t planned on going anywhere next weekend as well, but I will be visiting a friend anyway. I haven’t seen this person since we’ve moved to our new sites and she also happens to live near Oarzazate which is the closest place to me where I can find good chocolate and cheese other than Red Ball (gouda). I didn’t do anything exciting for New Year’s, but I don’t do very much for it normally, no biggie. I’ll just party it up next year, ;).
I started moving a few things into my new house, taking measurements, and cleaning. The fridge no longer smells of milk! Yay! Haha. So far I’ve only tackled the bedroom, but that is the room I plan to paint first since that’s where I will be sleeping when I move in. After the bedroom I will start tackling the bathroom. I was going to tile the floor myself, but I don’t have a tile cutter and it is shaped a bit odd in places, so I fear I will have to pay someone to do it, L. I had really wanted to do it myself, other than cutting tile, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to do the floor. I’m also looking at putting in a new Turkish faceplate, but depends on pricing. If too much I’ll just buy some white porceline paint and just give it a fresh coat of paint. I’m painting my bedroom a blue/green and plan to leave the main room and sitting area white. The bathroom will be blue as well. I’ve been taking down quotes and such as well to paint on the walls. Then for the bathroom/sitting areas, I want to create beaded curtains, but depends if I can find the necessary supplies. I do work with a coop, so I have resources to ask. I can do two things at once, personal and work, J. Whoever said you can’t combine work and play? I also want to re-fabric my ponges, etc.
So those are my projects for the month, preparing my house for move-in on February 1st and start interviewing the women in my coop on their daily schedules, seasonal differences, what they create, etc. I have 28 women to work with, so quite the project. I’m also going to speak with my counterpart on starting English classes for women who want to learn some English, maybe some French as well.
I have had one funny incidence so far in preparing my house. I was moving my mattress around in the bedroom when somehow I finished yanking an electrical socket out of the wall, it actually sparked. Apparently one of the wires broke. So I went to try to explain what happened to the neighbor who’s relative is the landlord. Finally after kind of understanding, she came to look at it with me. All I wanted to know is if it would be a problem to leave the wire exposed like that as when I touched it to the wall, etc., nothing happened. I tried to demonstrate this for her and she kept shoving my hand away like I was going to touch the wire with my hand. I’m not an idiot! I’m not going to touch a possibly live wire. Somehow in trying to explain this the socket disconnected from the other wire. So yeah. I then asked my host brother who explained in French that no, it was not going to cause a problem. I should have went to the boys first, they at least speak enough French to understand me. So I called the landlord who was going to have his cousin come over. So far zero news, but I’ll just bug him again tomorrow or Monday. I just want the wires taped or whatnot so I can paint the walls.
I went to my coop on Thursday afternoon and met 3 more of the women. I may have met 10 of them so far during this previous month. This month I plan to really start getting to work and going in on Sunday afternoons and Thursday afternoons, visiting women in their homes, etc. It’s so easy to get caught up in just living here in Morocco. I have a few ideas for the women, but I really need to get to know them better and their products before I can really start suggesting anything. I have the next 4-5 months to lay the groundwork needed.
Otherwise not too much. I go to tutoring twice a week. Keeping my eye out for a female tutor. Current tutor is ok, but I would really prefer my own solo lessons with a female who would know more of the terminology I need to know.
My host family is great. It is now olive season, so they have been working in the fields collecting olives. I hear it is a good crop this year due to all of the rain. The weather seems to be getting slightly warmer. I really hope so! But I think it is just a warm spell. But it really will be warmer by March. The days are fine, but nights get really chilly. The people in my village are great overall, but sometimes it can be frustrating to be stopped by 5 people on my way to meet someone or go to Hammam, it’s also exhausting trying to visit everyone and maintain relationships with people in the community. It’s good and bad at the same time. I’ll never be "alone", that’s for sure!
I spent a bit over an hour at the post office Friday. I grabbed a number like I’d been told to do the last time and was waiting patiently for it to come up, no biggie. Then after 30 minutes of waiting a worker told me I could have just went to line 5, so I go to line 5, they were just closing down for prayer hour when I got to the window. Grrr… Apparently the only thing you have to grab a number for is if you are receiving money. But at 1pm, the guy kindly taps my shoulder and takes care of me. So it all ended up, but I got very frustrated for a bit there. I was finally able to mail some xmas gifts home to the family, a bit pricey, and had received two packages from my mom, J. Was very excited, she had sent me several books and a Betty Crocker brownie mix!