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10/8/09-10/18/09 - Best news is that I did okay on my language assessment. I will never be a shining star, but I’m confident that I will be able to communicate. Granted a lot of body language will go into my communication, but I know I will eventually get my point across. I need to continue working very hard. I just can’t remember anything!! Words, words, words --- need to memorize them and recognize them when spoken. One of my biggest problems is hearing it – the subtleties are so small, sometimes I can’t differentiate between them. I think everyone did okay on their assessments – gosh we’ve only been exposed to the language for three weeks at the time of the test, what do we/they expect? As expected, the younger adults seem to have an easier time with it and most (not all) older adults have to work much harder. I still have the final test ahead of me and I have to do okay, so please don’t let up on those positive thoughts and prayers.
One more volunteer left this weekend, unfortunately for health reasons (so now 6 have left from the original 63). He’s a recent college grad and he is very sad to be leaving. Originally one of his arms swelled up and was discolored. He now suffers from fatigue, joint ache and fevers. He’s been in Rabat for testing, but no diagnosis to date. I understand they will do a lyme disease test before they ship him out, but he (and I’m sure his family) want to get to the root of this and I’m sure he’ll be stateside soon. We’re sorry to have him leave. He was nice and great with the language.
My colleagues have selected me to be their GAD (Gender and Development Council) representative for our group. The purpose of this committee is to ensure that gender issues and activities are incorporated into community projects. I will travel to Rabat four times a year to meet up with the entire committee and I will be a resource for volunteer efforts re gender issues. There will be activities (i.e., camps, events, regional conferences, etc.), and at this point I don’t know if I’ll be directly involved with them or not? I’m delighted and tickled that my friends have elected me for this position.
Hammams are popular in Morocco. Hammans are usually public baths in urban/larger cities, but here in my town almost every home has one. It is a igloo shaped rattan structure, covered with cement. One person fits into it quite nicely, but not quite tall enough for me to fully stand up. It is located outside the house in the yard. Inside there is a tub (i.e., metal pail) filled with water. A fire is built outside and under the tub. When the water is really hot, you enter the hammam with a cold bucket of water and an extra pail. You proceed to mix the hot and cold until you reach the perfect temperature for yourself. You then scrub and scoop cups of water over yourself to wash/rinse. I would be lying to say it’s as good as a daily hot shower, but twice a week we enjoy a hammam and it feels great to be somewhat clean for at least a short while. My family enjoys a hammam in the afternoon hours and since our days have remained sunny and probably around 85 degrees -- a hammam is a sauna of sorts!! It will probably feel really good when the days get cooler. Now picture this -- I get out sweating….. My family comes out dressed for a Michigan winter storm wearing at least two layers of clothes, wool hats and scarves. They are convinced I will catch a cold and die since I am not bundled up. I don’t think this is the case in my home, but in some areas, a woman showing a wet head is considered a whore -- what kind of a reputation do I have?? I have washed my hair daily for years. I can’t believe I go 3-4-5 days between washings now. But, since I haven’t seen a mirror for a long time, I don’t know how bad it looks!! I’m sure Fatima would heat water up for me whenever I wanted it, but since our town only has running water twice a week, I hate to use unnecessary water.
We take the water issue in the US for granted, certainly not the case here. They store it up in containers of all sorts and then use the communal cup to scoop some for drinking/cooking/baking, etc. Even though we’ve been assured the water is safe for drinking, I just can’t join in on using this water to out-and-out drink yet. I continue to buy bottles of water and will probably do so until I am in my own house when at least I know who has been drinking from what and whose hands have been in the bucket. Fatima does use this water for cooking and for coffee/tea, but hoping the heat has destroyed most of the germs.
Speaking of germs – soap doesn’t seem to be a big thing here. Rarely does Fatima use soap when washing dishes. She instead slushes water around in cups, turns them over to drain and we use them again when next needed. I watched her tonight cleaning up the café – same thing applies here. Makes you think twice about eating in restaurants doesn’t it? Washing hands with soap – not so popular either. I’ve been very obvious about using soap. When I arrive home after school, I purposely bring my soap out where I can be seen and wash my face and hands. Most times I can get the kids to join in with me. Same applies to brushing my teeth., I make a spectacle of myself, but brush away. I bought two toothbrushes at the souq last Sunday when I learned that only the males in the house had toothbrushes. Now the females have them too!! Most times we brush together but I think that is partly because they really like my Crest toothpaste. If I leave them with just one memory of me – let it be me brushing my teeth. The Moroccan diet is very high in sugar and most lose their teeth at an early age. Brushing would at least help combat some of it.
I don’t want you to worry that I am wasting away to nothing. When I reread my last blog entry I noticed that I didn’t mention that we have tea, olives, (and bread , of course) at my host home when I arrive at 6p. Then after Ebkleam closes the café which seems to be anywhere from 8-9:30p, we have a light meal. Sometimes lentils, beans, fried eggs and of course bread. The kids have usually fallen asleep by this time and they rarely join us. Selma (the five year old girl) is a screamer, so it is a welcome break. Also to clear up any misconceptions you may have. Ebkleam does have a café in the lower part of the house. Unfortunately, I don’t wake up to the smell of coffee nor am I offered coffee on a regular basis. Besides, most coffee offered is Nescafe instant. Sweet tea is the drink most often served and the café is open for only a few short hours in the evening. I am still wondering what Ebkleam does to fill the daytime hours? Fatima (although seven months pregnant) seems to take care of all household tasks, children and cooking.
Here are some random thoughts/comments based on a few weeks in Morocco. I realize my perceptions and understanding may change as I become more acquainted with the culture. (1) If you have a bugger in your nose – dig it out. Doesn’t matter where you might be or with whom. (2) A loud, long belch is perfectly acceptable in any setting. (3) Should gas be passed, grab the perfume and spray everything possible. Seems like anything associated with the butt is dirty and revolting. (4) Two pieces of meat feeds a family of five perfectly well. (5) My sister loves rocks – she needs to come to Morocco, rocks are everywhere, I’ve never seen so many. How do they grow crops? (6) Two hours for lunch is great. The cat-nap is delightful! (7) Crocs are great to wear to the bathroom (bit Lama) since they can easily be washed when you pee in them. (8) Attending school six days a week is a bit much. (9) An age appropriate Moroccan man will likely not have teeth and his wrinkles will be overwhelming. (10) Moroccans are warm, welcoming and willing to share what little they have. Whenever a visitor shows up, tasks are dropped, tea is served and engaging conversations ensue.
On October 26th,we receive our permanent site assignments. I doubt that I will be able to include any of that information in this blog entry since I am writing this before that date, but cross your fingers for a good assignment. Hmmm, near the ocean, running water/electricity 24/7 and the internet in my home. What do you think my chances are? We won’t move to this site until November 13th, but I will then have a permanent address for letters and packages.
We were asked to prepare an American meal for our host families while staying with them. Today (9/18) is Sunday and souq day and I will cook since I can buy fresh produce and meat. The intent is to make chicken and dumplings. (Need to run, will continue in a bit.) I went early to the souq since the best is available then. I picked out a chicken and watched them slit it’s throat and pluck it for me. The chicken itself cost me about $3, but to have it plucked, cost me another $1+. The chicken was cooked in a large pot with fresh vegetables, but must admit they were the toughest dumplings I’ve ever made. Gma is back living with us and she licked her plate clean. Fatima’s uncle also visited today and he seemed to enjoy the meal. Had I thrown everything into a tajine, I’m betting they would have liked it better than being prepared in a pot. The newness of the presentation threw them off since I know they like everything I put into the dish. Will they ask me to prepare it again – NOT, but I enjoyed the comfort food and they have now had an American meal. I carmelized apples and served them over vanilla yogurt (didn’t have ice cream, best I could think of). They didn’t particularly enjoy it either!!
I am hoping to head out of town with a few other volunteers for a weekend trip on the 24th and 25th (unfortunately, the trip didn’t happen ). I will probably head into the nearby town and visit the cyber to post this instead. It is likely this blog will not get updated again until November 10th or so. I always have things I should be studying and being with the family for a full day is exhausting. Love & Hugs to all.