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!