Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December - Side Note

Hi Again, my apologies..... as many of you know I am technologically challenged and I wanted to edit the post BEFORE I published it, but couldn't seem to find the right spot to do so. So a bit of explanation is in order:

Pictures loaded too easy, knew that the morning was going too good to last
Two of the same picture are posted - ooops
The man in the picture is Ambassador Kaplan
The group picture is of my staj - 19 of 26 that came remain in Morocco
Picture of me was taken in Rabat outside Challah

Be Happy and SMILE!!!

December - Hurry, Hurry the month is almost gone

THE CONTENTS OF THIS WEB SITE ARE MINE PERSONALLY AND DO NOT REFLECT ANY POSITION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR THE PEACE CORPS. Since this site is public, specific details are not given so email me personally if you’d like more information.

12/20/10 Time seems to be moving along faster and faster. I usually try to update this blog a bit earlier in the month, but here it is almost Christmas and I’ve still not done so. If you read no further than this first paragraph, I want you to know that I send you my warmest wishes for wonderful holidays and I hope 2011 is a year of fond, memorable memories for you and your family.

You may remember me telling you that a friend’s association made friendship dolls to be given away to little girls to love and learn from, since many little girls in rural Morocco never have a doll to play with. Well Annie gave me dolls to give to little girls in my village and the dolls have now been placed in loving arms and have new homes. Samir, my local friend, came with me to act as an interpreter since I was uncertain if my poor Tashlheet and charades could be easily understood. Samir suggested that we distribute the dolls to the little girls that live rurally and may not be able to attend school. We devoted several mornings to this task and what a rewarding time it was for both of us. I believe the little girls appreciated not only receiving the dolls, but our efforts as well.

Muslins celebrated L3id in mid-November this year. You’ll likely remember me writing about this holiday last year. Remember, my family slaughtered a sheep and we ate sheep until the meat was gone. We had it breakfast, lunch and dinner with little else being served with it other than bread. When asked why, I was told, “why fill up on other stuff when we have meat to eat”. To better explain the holiday, read the below paragraphs.

“The law in Morocco allows for home sacrifice for personal consumption only. Meat
intended for sale must be slaughtered at the public abattoir under supervision.

Guidance from the Quran is that if an animal is to be sacrificed, it should not suffer.
Prayers are offered and the animal is treated with respect. An animal should not be
sacrificed in the presence of another animal. The neck is cut with a sharp knife in one
clean stroke – two strokes can be used. Humane sacrifice and exsanguinations are
similar qualities of ‘halal’ and ‘kosha’ meat.

The Islamic festival of Aid El Adha, the festival of sacrifice, is an ancient religious festival
based on the story of Ibrahim and Ishmail. As was tradition at the time, Ibrahim was
about to sacrifice his only son to demonstrate his faith and submission to God when a
goat / sheep appeared in the thicket and God spoke to Ibrahim telling him to sacrifice the
goat instead (the same story as Abraham and Isaac in the Bible and Torah).”

My family invited me to share the day with them. When asked what time I should come, they said 8a. Now this seemed a bit early to me and I didn’t need to see the sheep actually slaughtered, so I told them I’d be there around 10a. Well 8:30a came and my host brother and sister were knocking at my door, they had come to get me. Now I’m a bit grumpy without my two cups of coffee and I was in the midst of drinking them when they knocked, so I sent them away saying I would be there at 10a – no worries. Well shortly before 10a my brother and sister were back once again, “when are you coming”. Okay, okay, keep your pants on, I’ll walk back with you. Nothing much was happening at the house and I still don’t know what the hurry was, but it’s a big day for them and I guess they wanted to share it with me. I thought for sure I had missed the slaughter, but while on the cliffs behind the house with the kids I noticed a black sheep being led into the yard – I had not missed it!! I purposely stayed away for a while, no need to see the throat slit, but I did watch them dress it out. We then had the liver cooked/served on skewers for lunch. About an hour later we walked to my counterpart’s house (my host father’s sister) and ate a sheep tajine. Put into this mix, tea and cookies being served not only at my host family’s house, but at neighbors and other family member’s homes too. My host mom’s parents and a couple of her siblings came out from Ouarzazate later in the afternoon and it was great to see them again since I had met them for the first time during this holiday last year. Later a leg was cut off and dinner was underway and I escaped home, besides it was getting dark. I was full to the brim, I couldn’t have eaten dinner if you had jammed it down my throat.

The next day I decide to work at my computer until time for pilates. Around noon, two sisters came knocking at my door. They asked me to come with them. Well okay, let me turn off the computer and get some shoes on. I walk with them to their house. They bring out cookies, nuts and made tea. I'm thinking, this is nice. Then they bring out a liver tagine for lunch. I say to them, ohhhh no I don't want to stay for lunch (they are not a wealthy family in any way, shape or form) and they tell me to sit, stay and eat, eat, eat. Now this is my third day of liver lunches (Samir on Tuesday, host family yesterday and now today) and I've never eaten liver in the states even though my parents and older brother love the stuff - yuck! So I try to eat a lot of bread, a little liver and attempt to have a conversation. One of these sisters takes care of my plants on my rooftop when I am gone and I think they have adopted me. While sitting at their home another young woman comes in that I know. She tells me that her aunt would like me to stop by. I notice that it is almost 2p, and if we're to be at the assn at 3p, not a lot of time, but yes let's go see your aunt. I really, really like her aunt. She wants me to have lunch with her family. Just had lunch, no room or time. She then takes meat out of the pan she is cooking and sends me home with meat in a dish for later (I make stew and it is quite good actually). Thankfully, it does not look like liver, although I am sure it is sheep. She also sends bananas and tangerines. While I am there, another woman comes in that I know. Come and have lunch with her. No, sorry, just had lunch and I'm full. Another time? Okay, I'm heading down the hill now and run into another woman who has a big load of grass on her back. We stop, kiss, exchange pleasantries and she asks me to come to her house for lunch. My goodness, this is four invitations to lunch in the matter of about two hours. I reflect back on the day and my heart is touched with the generosity of these people. I can't imagine getting four invitations to lunch if I walked my neighborhood at home. I have so much to learn from the Moroccans, lets just hope I can absorb it and share it. I must remember all of them and give them plates of Christmas cookies when I make them.
The day following the big feast, there are groups of teenagers dressed in costumes, many wearing sheep hides, that go from home to home collecting either food items or money for those less fortunate. I ran some money down to them and I did manage to get a picture of the last straggler. I was too slow in grabbing the money and camera and missed most of them. It is interesting to note that basically these people have very little, but they seem willing to share with others without a moment's hesitation. I suppose that is a big part of their religious background? I think almost every house gives something to these boys. The younger kids follow along behind them at a safe distance. If the guys in costume turn around and look at them, the kids yell, scream and run for their lives. Fun to stand at the window and watch. The boys also put on a play behind the school later in the afternoon. They were dressed in costume and had makeshift musical instruments. I inquired as to what the play was about and about all I know is that it is a tradition and it seemed to be enjoyed by the group that gathered to watch.

I have begun doing pilates with some of the teen-age girls in my site. Sometimes we do it on my rooftop and sometimes we go to the association and use one of the rooms there. I had five young women coming on a pretty regular basis before I headed out of site for two weeks, and I hope to have them return once again. I think of these girls as being quite strong, and they are, but in such a different way than I am. All of these pilates moves are foreign to them and difficult. Again, lots of moans, groans and giggles. I tell them to take those scarves off their heads and they do. My hair is of course falling in my face and they are shaking their heads of hair with a new-found freedom. When we finish I am asked when will we exercise again. They tell me that the pilates was very good and that it was fun. I had fun too. I'm not sure what I'm teaching them, other than its important to take care of our bodies and its okay to do something for ourselves as women. The men gather at the coffee shops, but the women don't have any place to go. Maybe exercise will be their bonding time? Guess I'm also showing them that a 61 year old woman can still move and is alive!!!

Anna, Angelica, Andy and I celebrated Thanksgiving together the following week. We didn’t have a turkey to roast (my oven wouldn’t hold one anyways), but we do have sliced turkey breasts. Angelica has a great butcher with refrigeration in her site, so we have that. To give our dinner a Moroccan flair I decided to make stuffing and wrap the turkey slices around it and cook it in a tajine. Not nearly as good as the turkey we remember from previous holidays, but not bad. Anna makes a squash pie and who can tell that it’s not pumpkin? We have a green bean casserole (of course), mashed potatoes, and a sweet potato casserole too. Yes we did have a bottle of wine, but no one’s telling – right? Some of the girls here at site painted fabric napkins for me in the spring, so we even had cloth napkins to use. No roughing it for us!!

We had a “clean the school day” in November. Decided we needed to do this now before it really got too cold. The tables/desks were all brought outside and scrubbed down. Paint that had probably been on them for years was no longer there. Floors were washed and anything else that could be cleaned was cleaned. The kids and I were wet-wet-wet by the end of the morning and I was chilled to the bone. If the classrooms were ever painted, it’s been a long time and they now appear to the gloomy cement color. I’m wondering if I couldn’t perhaps paint them at least a cheery color. I might have to look into that.

I also finally met the man from the new cheese store in Ouarzazate. He was familiar with our cheese and had, in fact, had some in his store to sell. My counterpart, Bia, told him that it was goat cheese, but his customers told him that it was not goat cheese and he asked me whether it was. Unfortunately, it is not and I had to tell him the truth. Bia creates her own problems……. I told him about my flavorings of cheese and he said that he would like to taste them and work with me. We will try to work together after the first of the year and see how we can best market this new product. Of course, I will leave here and who will carry on?

I was then off to Marrakech to help with Marche Maroc for the first week of December. PC volunteers work with some of the Moroccan artisans at the artisanal there to sell their wares. Unfortunately, foot traffic was down and sales were not as good as hoped for, in spite of the fact that a film festival was going on in Marrakech at the same time. The province delegate thought that would increase sales, but maybe people were up late watching movies and buying crafts was not a priority for the group that was in town. I can’t say that we had great fun or excitement this week, since most of our time was spent working, but we did have a nice dinner or two while in Marrakech. Basically we were too tired by the end of the day to go out. It was a luxury though to pick up a pizza and take it back to the hotel to eat since few of us can do this at our sites.

My staj (group of us that came over together in 2009) then gathered at the PC offices in Rabat for our mid-service medicals during the second week of December. Hurray, no parasites or cavities!!! Unfortunately, my knee is still not back to normal. I think I am battling two ailments here. Perhaps tendonitis, as previously diagnosed, and I do think that it is better. But now I have a lump behind my right knee about the size of a walnut. After doing a bit of computer research and self-diagnosis, I think I have a Baker’s cyst. This cyst is similar to a ganglion cyst in many ways. I have one on the top of my hand now and I’ve had one on the top of my foot before. They come and go and are not anything serious. Unfortunately, because this lump is behind my knee, it is problematic and it hurts to squat and extend the leg fully. They can aspirate it, but it often fills back up with fluid, or they can give cortisone shots into the knee. Not sure what this does to help? This cyst often occurs after trauma to the knee of some sort. I will head back into Rabat in late January for a committee meeting and will see a knee specialist at that time if it’s not better. Let’s see if the doctor concurs with my diagnosis. Gosh I bet they hate all of us self-proclaimed doctors with our diagnosis (how do you pluralize this?)!! As most of you know, I’m not a great inactive person, and sitting still is hard to do, so I keep on truckin and I hope the walking and pilates isn’t hurting the knee in the process.

While in Rabat, most of treated ourselves to eating at the German Institute (no unfortunately, there is not a wurst or sauerkraut to be found on the premises), the French Institute, a Lebonese restaurant and at an Italian restaurant. (I think we were all thinking – variety in food - what a novelty). Morocco also celebrated its New Years and we had a day off too while there too. Rarely do we have time to sight-see while in Rabat so most of us took advantage of the day and did something special. A group of us visited Challah – a Roman settlement from the 8th century BC which eventually became the seat of an independent Berber kingdom. A beautiful Kasbah is at this site. We were also invited by our American Ambassador Kaplan and his wife Sylvia to their home for dinner one night. What a treat it was to have this experience and what gracious, kind hosts they were to us all.

I did the trek home to site in one day from Rabat and it is a trek. Up at 6a and began the travel. I arrived home around 8:45p that night. It was soooo good to be home though, it was worth the long day. Unfortunately, I only had a day at home and I then had to head into Ouarzazate. I am working with two other volunteers and we are planning a workshop designed for teens to thirty year olds for mid-February. It is a leadership workshop for young women with the hopes that it will expand their horizons and empower them to seek more. We have grant money for this, so those attending will be able to do so without any monetary charge, although they will have to get their family’s approval to attend and for some that might be a challenge. We have a local association working with us and they will help with the facilitation of the workshop, but that will likely mean more trips into Ouarzazate in the next six weeks than usual.

As many of you know, I like to bake Christmas cookies and give them away as treats to my friends and neighbors for the holidays. I’ve done the same thing here. I made nine different kinds of cookies – perhaps a bit simpler than I would have made at home, but trust me, finding the ingredients can be tricky if even possible and my choice of baking pans is very limited. And, I have an oven that doesn’t have a thermostat, you just look at the flame and try to decide – hmmm, does that look like a 350 degree flame? All challenges to overcome!! Well today I spent the majority of the day walking around cookies to people that have been particularly kind to me during this past year. I could have given out so many more, I just can’t bake enough unfortunately. This is not a fast/easy feat in and of itself since I invited in for tea at each house. Tomorrow I will finish extending my “Papa Noel” wishes and most of the cookies will be gone. While out and about last week, I clipped a couple of pine branches and wired them together to construct a small tree of sorts. Not only does it smell great, but helps with the holiday spirit too. Last Sunday I had some children to my house for a small Christmas party. Christmas carols blasted from my iPod and I gave them the holiday greeting cards I received last year, scissors, glue and paper and asked them to make a card for their parents. They love projects, so they dug right in. When finished with that, I asked if they would each make me a picture either from the unused cards or with the markers I had so that I could put them on the wall near my tree. Of course we had holiday cookies and then popcorn, since that is one of their favorite treats. We finished off the afternoon with a few games of dominoes that they have learned to love playing. I had small gifts for each of them and they went home with big smiles on their faces. I had one on my face too!!!

I will join several other volunteers at my friend Hannah’s house for Christmas. It will be fun to share the holiday with friends. Last year I made pizza for my host family to celebrate. I think I’ll invite them once again for pizza, and a late celebration.

Well my friends, I really do hope you have healthy, happy celebrations with your loved ones. If you are traveling, once again Trek Salam (safe travels) and we’ll chat again after the new year. Happy, Happy Holidays and much love to you all, Linda

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All About October

THE CONTENTS OF THIS WEB SITE ARE MINE PERSONALLY AND DO NOT REFLECT ANY POSITION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR THE PEACE CORPS. Since this site is public, specific details are not given so email me personally if you’d like more information.

11/9/10 Well Elaine, my hitch-hiking friend from years long past, has come and gone. She arrived on October 15th and returned home on the 26th. We did a fast trek around Morocco (my village, Marrakech, Meknes, Volubillis, and Fes), and even fit in a camel ride and a camp-out in the Sahara in the MHamid area. I’ve asked Elaine to write a short note telling you of her impressions and about the trip since I thought you might enjoy this. Below is what she wrote:

“I still am on a high from the trip. Thank you very much for everything you did. Your knowledge of the country, customs, etc. was very helpful. And, your making all the hotel reservations and knowing how to get from city to city was stress free. I REALLY had a great time. Hope you did as well.

What can I say to summarize such a memorable experience - the Mococcan people are so warm and hospitable, the country and history interesting, the weather perfect, the food delicious, and the trip was priceless. Everyone we met and every place we visited has it's own story and rememberances. What a great vacation! What a memorable experience! What an unforgetable adventure!”

We had a good time together and it was sad to see her leave, but I was ready to head home and stay put for a while. Traveling in Morocco is exhausting. Nothing is particularly easy and you can never be sure of the transport, so it’s always a worry of sorts. Carrying the heavy backpack and an additional bag or two is a challenge at times too. But it was an enjoyable trip and we all lived through it. Now another trip is planned and it’s exciting news -- just last week the plans for my son, Chris’s visit were finalized. He will leave Chicago on February 25th and fly to Madrid. Spend a few days there and then come into Marrakech. He’ll then return to Madrid from Tangiers and then back to Chicago on March 13th. I have quite an itinerary planned and he’ll return tired, not rested, I’m afraid, but he’s young so he can do! I am so excited for his visit, I could jump up and down, but that hurts my knee, so I won’t. I can’t wait to show him off and there are so many people I want him to meet.

Speaking of my knee. The PC doctors seem to think it is tendonitis, not a torn meniscus, which is good news indeed. X-rays were done, and although I’m not entirely convinced this is the best diagnostic tool available, we will go with this diagnosis for now. I was instructed to rest the knee as much as possible. Well, since Elaine was soon to arrive, not possible to do so immediately, but once back to my site on the afternoon of the 26th, I have been doing so as much as possible. I am happy to report that my knee definitely feels better. Not 100% mind you, and I can make it hurt, but as long as I just walk and don’t twist and turn while doing so, it’s okay. I will continue to be kind to my knee whenever possible and hopefully it will be back to normal soon.

One of my greatest pleasures of late is having my morning coffee on my rooftop. I love crisp, cool mornings and they are definitely that, but oh so pleasant. I’m a natural early-riser, so I am usually up there before some of my community is out and about. It is great fun to watch my village wake-up. I have one neighbor lady that has obviously observed me up there. She almost always comes to her rooftop, just to say good morning to me I think since I never see her do anything while there, other than to greet me and then she returns downstairs to her home. I love it. School children walk to school past my home and now look up to wave and say good morning too. Cows have been milked and the couple of liters of milk that they got this morning are walked down to the street, to be picked up and processed. They are paid 5dirham for about a liter and a half of milk (8 dirham equals $1). I like it that most people look up to see if I’m there now and then they greet me.

This morning as I was looking up, about 25 sheep magically appeared at the tip-top of a hill near me looking for grass to eat. A woman was out with them. Pretty slim pickins in these hills, but most seem to survive. We are dry and rocky and overgrazed. Few trees since most have been cut and have not replanted. Lots of barren hills can be seen here. Speaking of the sheep and this woman. Can you imagine being a herder? A person (sometimes a man, but usually a woman) will take animals out each day looking for something for them to eat. They will sit all day and watch their animals. They don’t read, knit or do anything other than watch their animals. Sometimes they meet up with another person also herding and they’ll have a conversation, but generally they are alone. What are they thinking about? Do they want a different life or are they satisfied? A very different world from what we live in for sure. I always visualize Heidi running over the hill yelling “Grandfather, Grandfather” when I see this. Can’t you just see it in the movie now?

Most days are sunny with bright blue skies. A light jacket usually feels good. I don’t know what the temperature is? Elaine brought me a thermometer, but since it hasn’t moved off of 60 degrees, I am a bit suspicious of it. When the wind blows – it howls and makes me shiver to just hear it. My apartment is a bit drafty, the wind coming in under my door can raise the mat under my white plastic table eight inches or so. I’m thinking I need to stuff that crack with something, but what do I do about the edges and top? The leaves of the trees are changing colors, but nothing as vibrant and beautiful as Michigan’s colors can be. Lately, the sound of men yelling commands to their donkeys fill the air. One man has worked with his two donkeys all day today, tilling first this spot, then another, then another. The donkeys seem to understand Tashlheet – they are much smarter than I am!!  Soon they will be throwing seeds hither and yon so that they have a spring harvest – a bit of barley, some peas, perhaps some alfalfa?

I find that I love a goat’s face. They look so wise, don’t you think? Now, I know that I loved Dulcie from the minute I set eyes on him – remember my pet goat up at my host family’s house last year? Luckily he has remained a bit scrawny, so he’s not been eaten yet, and hopefully they won’t do so until after I’ve left next year. Lately, some goats have been tied out near my apartment to graze. When I go up to my rooftop to wash/hang clothes, do whatever, they all stop and look at me. I’m guessing they are wondering what is that thing with the light colored hair? They could win a stare-down, hands down. I’m as fascinated with them as they are with me. Have I been here too long – here I am thinking about a goat’s face?

Speaking of faces – would you check out this puppy. Angelica, a volunteer in a nearby village, decided that she would adopt a puppy. This little guy was one of six, and unfortunately the other five are now all dead. Originally the puppy was named Waldo, but we’ve since learned that a new name was in order – so Lily Luna it now is. I get the opportunity to babysit this week since Angelica needs to go to Rabat. I’m betting I’ll be ready for the puppy to head home, but I’m very excited now about the prospect of having this little gal visit for a few days.

Two National Geographic groups came to visit in October and this time they visited a home in Anna’s village. Unfortunately, one group came while Elaine was here, and even though we hitched a ride from Marrakech to my village with them, and we had the chance to visit while on the bus, the visit was short. Both groups again enjoyed the opportunity to experience a real Berber home. We only wish we had a bit more time to show them the communities we live in as well.

Here is a picture of Nadia taken at the baby’s center. Moroccan women seldom use hot pads or spatulas for that matter. I cringe every time I see them pick up something hot with their fingers. Can you do this? We’ve had over a hundred babies stay in our baby’s center since it opened in March. Not bad I’d say for a small community. Water continues to be a problem though. Sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. Unfortunately, the western toilets and shower that we have, have never been used since the water supply is so sporadic. I went with my counterpart this summer into Ouarzazate to talk with some officials about this, but so far nothing has been done to fix the problem. We are still waiting for our first customer at the restaurant – remember we opened in late March. But in a way, that’s not all bad. Water is also an issue here too and the western toilet has never worked. Think it needs a new bottom seal and perhaps a tank too, but first we need water on a dependable basis. Of course, the parking lot needs to be finished so that a car can drive in too. We have work to do for sure.

I think I mentioned that the teachers we had last year at the association decided to not return this year. So unfortunately, the non-formal education classes and the embroidery/sewing classes are not being offered. We have a very usable association building, but it is seldom open since there are no teachers. Sad to see because there are young women who used to use this facility. I have sent the word out this past week though that the young women should meet me this coming week there and we’ll do pilates together. They’ll be able to follow along with me and we’ll have some laughs. Should be fun.

I’ve spent some time at the primary school this past month. I delivered a new trash can with cover to each of the classrooms and talked with the students about how bad littering was for the community and environment. I always get a little theatrical in my presentation and they all laugh and think I’m a bit nuts. Hopefully they get my point though. I try to spend an hour each day picking up trash in my town. Unfortunately, I have to then burn it since I don’t have any other way to dispose of it, and I know that this is not the best thing possible for the environment either, but it’s the best choice I have at the moment. Anna (sort of my site mate) and I take our bottles and cans into Ouarzazate with us when we go since they have a garbage pickup and landfill there. Again I know its not the best solution, but we have to start somewhere.

I also took a basket of cleaning supplies to the school. The kids were most fascinated by the things I had in it. I then explained that I was going to clean their bathrooms for them since they were filthy. I did have teachers and some students offer to help, but I said “no, this time I will do it and show you just how clean they can be”. I then suggested to the teachers that they set up a schedule for the older students to take turns and be responsible for keeping them clean in the future. I must stop by this week and see how they look. In their basket there were soap dishes with soap. I need to return and give them a hand-washing demonstration soon. I’m told that using glitter is the most effective way to show the importance of washing hands. You pour glitter all over your hands and then touch and shake hands with others. Obviously, the glitter spreads from one person to another, just like germs do. Usually if the children can see this, it makes a bigger impression on how easily germs are spread and the importance of washing one’s hands with soap. First, I need to find some glitter though. There must be some in Morocco somewhere?????

The front door to my apartment building was rather scratched and boring so I asked the landlord if he would mind if I painted it. Since I had a bit of paint left over from the world map project and it is enamel paint, I painted my door with it. What do you think? Isn’t it fun? Looks very Moroccan to me and I love it.

One of my favorite times of the year is coming up - Thanksgiving. You’ll all soon be gathering with family/friends and eating turkey with all the trimmings. We all have so much to be grateful for. Take a few minutes and reflect on the many blessings you have. I’ve invited four volunteers that live relatively near me to come share Thanksgiving with me. Uncertain if they will all be able to come and I haven’t promised them a meal like gma/mom would prepare at home, but I hope I can give them some of their familiar things. My oven is too small to roast a turkey, but since I’m not aware of where I could buy turkey anyways, I’ll just bake some chicken pieces. I’ve never seen a pumpkin here, but thinking a squash pie could be close???? Regardless of what I serve, it will be fun to share the day with friends and I am looking forward to it.

Remember last year when I wrote about the killing of the sheep? Eid El Kebir will soon be here again this year and family and friends will be gathering and celebrating together. Hopefully I will join my host family for a meal or two during this time, but must admit that I won’t miss eating sheep for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days or until the sheep is gone.

Towards the end of the month, I will be heading into Marrakech to help out at a craft fair there that PC helps organize. The artisans that we work with are invited to bring their wares to sell them. Unfortunately, the cheese from my association is not conducive to this selling practice (transport, refrigeration, etc.), but we have forty artisana’s participating. It is a wonderful way to see what others are doing and for them to make some money too. I will then head directly from there into Rabat where those of us that arrived in Morocco a year ago will have mid-service medicals. I was sworn in almost a year ago – unbelievable.

I hope you continue to enjoy reading these blog updates. I like writing them and it does seem a good way to share my experiences with you. Sometimes I go on and on though so I’m trying to be conscious of that and make this a bit more concise. It is kind of like when you get me talking. You know how difficult it can be to shut me up. I wish you all a nice Thanksgiving holiday. Many of you will be traveling and I also wish you Trek Salam (safe travels). Until I write again – stay healthy and take care of yourselves. Hugs to you all, Linda

Sunday, October 3, 2010

All About September

THE CONTENTS OF THIS WEB SITE ARE MINE PERSONALLY AND DO NOT REFLECT ANY POSITION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR THE PEACE CORPS. Since this site is public, specific details are not given so email me personally if you’d like more information.

10/3/10 The weather is changing and fall is here, I’m afraid. Days are probably in the 70’s, but nights are now cool. I have permanently added that second blanket to my bed. Although, if I would close some windows at night it might not be necessary. Anyone knowing me well knows how much I love my windows open so they will get a chuckle out of this comment!! I can’t say that I am looking forward to winter’s cold and snow, and I’m hoping it stays away for a few more months. If I remember right, it didn’t get downright cold here until January. Please let this year be the same since I remember it to be quite miserable. I actually like the snow, but then again, I have a nice, warm house to live in when I am in the states and that makes all the difference in the world!

While working on the world map I woke up one morning to right knee pain. I thought I wrenched it, but didn't remember a specific incident. I did all the right things for it i.e., iced it, wrapped it, elevated it and took ibuprofen whenever possible. Obviously, I had the map to finish and I had the trip to Zimbabwe planned - both of which were probably hard on the knee. Well the knee still isn't better, although no worse I think. I am fearful that I might have a torn meniscus. I’ve read that it can sometimes heal itself and I’m hoping for that if, in fact, this is my problem (self-diagnosing can be dangerous  ). I know that the surgery itself is easy, but the recup/recovery time is what worries me. I don't live in a place where the walking is easy or conducive to good healing. PC will give me 45 days to fully recover, otherwise, they will medically separate me and I will be done with PC. Unfortunately, I know of a young(er) woman who went through this and was discharged. I debated whether I should just try to live with it as it is, but I hate to cause more or permanent damage to the knee, so I do have an appointment to see the doctors this week while I am in Rabat for a committee meeting. Let's hope the knee recovers in the meantime and the appointment is not necessary. Otherwise, I’m feeling great and doing well.

Despite long delays, missed flights and rescheduled itineraries, I am safely home in Morocco. I traveled to Zimbabwe from Casablanca via Frankfort, Germany; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then into Harare, Zimbabwe. The trip home was a bit different since I left Harare, Zimbabwe about six hours later than planned. This return trip took me to Lusaka, Zambia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt and then into Casablanca. I arrived home around noon on Friday, September 24th after traveling since Wednesday. Of course, not actually having rested in a bed for two nights, my legs/ankles looked like they belonged to an elephant and I was ever so thankful to be home again. I had a great time visiting Kudzie (the last student I hosted while still at K) and her family. They were kind, gracious hosts to me and I had the opportunity to view Zimbabwe through the eyes of black people who live there. I was the first white person to stay in their homes. My thanks to Kudzie, Patience, Anne, Sipho, Jean, Francis, Keanne, Chamichael, Steve, Millicent, Mpo, Thembi, Tinashe, Kudzai and Dominic for being the wonderful people they are. As is the Zimbabwean way, families take an active role in the lives of their family members. It was often said that Kudzie has four moms (real mom, two aunts and me), note the picture of us. I also had the opportunity to see Sydney, who studied at K in 2006-2007. I feel like I know Sydney fairly well too since he and Ayane & Naomi (two Japanese girls) spent the Christmas holiday with me and my family that year. Sydney is doing well and about to graduate from grad school. I think I represented the USA in a positive manner and hopefully changed some of their neighbors and friends' perception of us in some small way. I was continually impressed with the importance they place on literacy, and education, for that matter. And, I can say that most people in Zimbabwe have beautiful white teeth. I am told that Colgate did a big campaign there some years ago where they stressed the importance of good oral hygiene. It seems to have made a big impression on them and most brush faithfully.

I want to go back to the topic of education at this point. Ironic timing, but I was just forwarded an article from a friend referring to continuing adult education while I was in Zimbabwe. In part it reads:

“It may surprise people why the literacy rate in Zimbabwe is so high (to date the highest in Africa,
according to UNDP reckoning) despite the economic challenges the country is facing. The secret
lies exactly in the underlying message of the article under discussion. Women have dominated
literacy classes over the years following the launch of the literacy campaign in the early 1980s.
There has been a multiplier effect in the sense that women, being closer to the children, have
assisted children with their home work and this has led to better performance by the children in
schools. With better performance in formal education, literacy rates remain high as less people
relapse into illiteracy. Literate mothers pass on literate tendencies to their children and neighbours,
consciously or unconsciously.

The challenge with achieving high literacy rate is that the citizens continue to demand more and
Zimbabwe is now grappling with providing continuing education for adults who have acquired
literacy skills. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) remains the best option for accommodating
women in developing countries where a lot of delivery in the provision of continuing education
is needed. Of course in developing countries choices are limited because of resource constraint
as priority tends to be given to formal education for the school-age children.”

I guess I didn’t imagine it – it’s real!!! Obviously, I can only really compare Morocco’s education as it is my rural village. Unfortunately I have found that most women my age are illiterate. Many 20-30 years younger than me are illiterate. Those younger than that typically have a 6th grade education since we have a primary school here that allows them to attend until then. I’m told that 50% of the boys and maybe 10% of the girls will go on after 6th grade but they have to travel to the next village which is twelve kilometers away and a taxi ride of 5 dirham each way. Just too much money for most of these folks to bear. Students going on can attend three more grades here and then they will have to go away to a boarding school, at least 1.5 hours away for high school. Few will do this. But there is hope. I also just read an article re Morocco. As reported in the “Global Arab Network”, “Education – Key Development Issue for Morocco. Getting — and keeping — boys and girls in school, particularly in underprivileged areas, is a key development priority for the Government of Morocco. The World Bank is assisting in this effort advising on the design and implementation of targeted cash transfer programs, as well as by evaluating results to facilitate optimal scale-up in the future

However, in rural areas only 40 to 50 percent of first graders actually complete the six years of primary school, with significantly smaller rates for girls. The baseline value of school drop-out was 23 percent per school sector on average in school years 1-5. The government’s CCT pilot program target value is 16 percent or lower in beneficiary school sectors. 73% of the sampled household heads cannot read or write, as well as 95% of their spouses.”

I truly hope that Morocco is serious about this and that improvements are made to educating our youth. They are obviously the key to Morocco’s growth and future.

Back to Zimbabwe -- being one of the few whites in the group I was with, we found that we received some preferential treatment and we had great fun and many laughs because of it. They began calling me the “diplomat”. A few of the things that happened – we were in a shopping center and wanted to use the restroom. The door itself was locked but we were let in. When someone else wanted to use the restroom, they were told that it was only for staff use. When asked why we were there they were told that it was because of the white person. We were also charged less for taxi rides than usual. I would have thought they would have gouged us since a white person was along, but no they charged less – go figure? Also while in a taxi we were stopped by the police for a routine check. The taxi driver told the police that I had an important meeting to attend – they waved us through and let us be on our way. Too funny!!

Kudzie graduated with an agriculture degree, with emphasis on animals from Africa University in Mutare and we had the opportunity to visit. It is a college for all of Africa and luckily it was put in Zimbabwe. It was developed on an American model and I felt like I was walking on any campus back in the states. It is a beautiful campus and note the picture taken in the library. As Kudzie and I were about to travel there one day, she told me we were going to hi-jack a ride. I’m thinking – this is a criminal action, I think I could go to jail for this…. Not so sure it is a good idea. Well, she really meant hitch-hike. Just a little bit different and heck, I was once good at this! Not sure if being white helped or not, but we usually got a ride without any problem. I found that many people hitch-hike, including Kudzie’s mom, named Patience, a 45 year old woman. The only big difference is that people pay for their ride. Granted they probably pay a bit less than they would pay for the bus, but they pay nevertheless. We ended up doing a lot of hi-jacking during my stay.

Zimbabwe began using the American dollar as its currency in 2008, I think. Got to tell you though – the money is filthy. Do we send them the stuff that is almost beyond recognition? Luckily, the country has stabilized a great deal in the last few years, thank goodness. Most stores now have items on their shelves and those stores that don’t are in the process of stocking them. Since I’ve been away a year already, my memory of US cost for goods might not be correct, but first impression was that many items were selling for about the same as we would pay for them in the States, yet they earn much less. I brought home a few billion, trillion dollars from the old Zimbabwe days with me to share with my family and friends. You too can be a millionaire!!

Raising chickens seems to be a good thing to do. You don’t need to live in the country to do this since today’s chickens are kept in rather confined quarters. For the investment of $1 a peep, you can feed 100 of them for around $105 for six weeks. Granted the first two weeks require rather intensive care, but in six weeks you can turn around and sell them for around $6 a chicken and then you can begin again with the next batch. Hmmmm Speaking of chickens – Kudzie just began a job with one of the chicken producers in the country. She is in a one-year management training program. In fact, her boyfriend, Dominic, just began the same job with the same company. How convenient is that? They will earn $350 per month, be provided one chicken and 2.5 dozen of eggs per week and a place to live for free (not together, mind you). They began their jobs just before I left and their first impression is good. They both still hope to go to grad school in a year though and thought the job experience would ultimately help them do that.

While visiting Kudzie I had the opportunity to meet and stay with her two aunts and their families. Because of UK’s rule for so many years, Zimbabwe is very modern and westernized be it their furniture & homes, western toilets, and eating habits in general. I will post a picture or two of their homes so that you can see what I am talking about. I felt completely at home with my newfound family. The comment was frequently made that Kudzie has four moms (note picture). What a lucky girl she is! Funny though, as developed as they are they lose electricity and water several times a day, even in the capital city of Harare. It would frustrate the heck out of me, but they are accustomed to it and roll with it well. It is usually cut around 6a and comes back on around 10a and then again they lose it around 5:30p and it comes back on around 9p or so. Could they pick more inconvenient times? Most homes have a generator and their own water storing system. Patience generally cooks dinner around 5p and then keeps it warm in a thermal container until it’s time to eat. Otherwise, they build a fire to cook – everyone has a place to do this in their yard. Makes having a refrigerator a bit challenging too and Patience elects to have a freezer instead, since it holds the cold longer. Patience does have a generator, but hates using it because of the noise, so frequently just makes do. The country really must do something about their utility problems if they want industry and businesses to grow.

In this regard – Morocco is thinking ahead. Note: USA (Washington) - Morocco is well positioned to become North Africa's leading provider of renewable energy, especially solar-thermal power, the US magazine Newsweek wrote.

"A year and a half ago, the country shifted gears and turned to a resource that exists in abundance across the region: the sun," underlined the Newsweek, which is one of the largest weekly magazine in the U.S.

The magazine recalled HM King Mohammed VI's decision to make the development of alternative energy one of Morocco's "top priorities", putting a legal framework in place to encourage European investment.

In this regard, the magazine said that Morocco is privileged by its Sahara and geography, noting that "what distinguishes the country from its desert-dwelling neighbors is its close proximity to Spain."

Ooops, sorry I digress. Okay, now back to Zimbabwe again. I’ve made lots of silly one line notes to myself and think I’ll just give them to you with a bit of an explanation where possible. They will not be in any particular order or even grouped together. Hope you can make some sort of sense of them.

• Shona is the traditional language spoken where I visited. Ndebele is the other prominent one in the country. All children in school learn English.
• Most homes have high fenced yards. Most homes also have a dog or two or three. They are not necessarily treated as pets, but they appear to be well taken care of and are there for security purposes.
• Zimbabwe does not have a national television network. Most of their news is from South Africa.
• Patience frequently referred to “Fong Kong” and “Jing Jong” as the cheap junk imported from China. She said that they might make some good quality products, but unfortunately, most of what is imported to Zimbabwe was not worth bringing home since it wouldn’t last.
• A maid makes about $4 a day and most homes have one, plus a garden guy (I don’t know what he makes).
• Sadza is probably their national dish. Kenya has ugali which is similar. Kind of reminded me of cream of wheat, although it is cooked a bit more solid and then it is balled up and used as a scoop for the other food items being served. Silverware is not usually used when eating this dish.
• Covo is a green vegetable, kind of like spinach, but a bit more tough. Every garden grows it.
• Zimbabwe’s Big Five -- the lion, the elephant, the cape buffalo, the rhino and the leopard.
• A ngorzi is a revenging spirit (now why did I write this down?)
• White sliced bread in plastic wrap (Wonder Bread equivalent). I didn’t see anyone make homemade bread like they do here in Morocco. Everyone eats generally 5-6 slices per meal.
• 2008 – climax of country’s crisis.
• Food take away --- take out food
• A red rose near the gate (or the place where you enter a yard) is a sign of welcome.
• Most everyone starts off the morning with a bowl of corn flakes.
• When setting up a community, it should have a butcher, a grocer, a grinder and a bottle shop (well duh!)
• Mazvita means Thank You
• Clapping cupped hands means many good things – like welcome, it’s great, I’m happy, etc.
• Families have a clan name in addition to their given family name. While in the market, one vendor gave me a hippo as a present. It was decided that Schubel’s clan name is “hippo”. This means we have a connection to water and basically that I shouldn’t eat things from the water. Sorry, but I can’t abide by that one.
• Zimbabwe has a public primary school every 10 kilometers and a health clinic every 12 kilometers. I had the good fortune of visiting many schools since Patience was once a teacher herself and Kudzie has brothers, nieces and nephews in schools and we visited many of them.
• One of Kudzie’s aunts is a head mistress at a public school for girls aged 12-18. She earns $200/month. She has advanced degrees from universities.
• Zimbabwe has the saying – Why worry or hurry. Africa is ahead of London (or Greenwich).
• Avocados were plentiful and I made Chris’s recipe for guacamole for each household I stayed in. They loved tasting a Mexican dish.
• While waiting for transport on Sunday afternoon, I observed many young men imbibing on beer and ??? Drinking in public seems to be accepted. Unfortunately, most had had too much and they were hanging in our vehicle’s window wanting to chat with the white. Had I been alone or traveling at a different hour, I would not have been comfortable. Made me appreciate Morocco’s view on drinking in general (not to say that it’s not being done), but I have never really been in this situation and felt unsafe in Morocco.
• Olives and almonds were a new taste for them. I shared some of Morocco’s fares with them.
• I made Berber eggs for Patience and Kudzie. Ymmm, maybe I’ll make some for you?
• OMG – they have “Curves” in Zimbabwe. Harare is the first city to have one in their country.
• They are building HUGE houses in Zimbabwe. Interesting thing is that mortgages are not available. They must have cash for everything they do, so it is a slow process – little by little and eventually it is complete.
• And finally -- a sundowner is a cocktail that you enjoy as the sun is going down. A lady I met at the airport shared this one with me. I like it ….. “sundowner”. Think I’ll adopt this saying!

One day while staying near Rusape with Patience, I had the good fortune of meeting David. He drove us around in his pick-up for a good portion of the morning. David is a retired school head master. David is an environmentalist/naturalist/everything good you can think of. He has developed a conference center where he has hosted groups from Europe, UK and other parts of Africa. I can’t remember if any American groups were part of this? The topic discussed is the environment and how to preserve it. His center is built around natural rocks and uses natural building products. Each individual sleeping quarters building is a bit different in its construction. I can’t begin to express how impressed I was with this man and what he has accomplished. He has greenhouses and Patience herself is becoming quite a gardener and environmentalist because of his influence. She has worked with him at the center in the past. David has given each school and health clinic a few fruit/shade trees. His feeling is that if there is someone that is hungry or hot while there, they can always remedy it. Unfortunately, because of the economy being what it is, nothing is happening at this location now. I can only hope that things improve and it can again be utilized since it is a wonderful place. David also stopped at a homestead so that I could see it while we were driving about. There was this old woman there sitting in the kitchen hut. The smoke was pretty thick and David, Patience and I had a hard time breathing. She didn’t seem to notice. I’ve posted a picture of her for you to see.

Well, I doubt that I’ve told you everything, but you are likely getting tired of reading. It was a wonderful trip and experience. Again, I am grateful for this opportunity to visit Zimbabwe.

I am back at my site, school is in session and I’ve been there a few times already. We have a new school director and he’d like me to be more involved so I will try to be. I have cleaning supplies for the school bathrooms and I want to go give them a thorough cleaning and then have a talk with the children about the importance of microbes, hygiene, soap, etc. I have toothbrushes and need to do that instruction. As I said earlier, I am off to Rabat early October for a committee meeting but it will take a day of travel to get there and back. National Geographic is coming for two visits in October. Since I had three visits here in my village last spring, it is only fair that we give Anna’s town the same opportunity, so the visits will be there this time. Our association is once again open, but unfortunately we don’t have a teacher for our non-formal education classes or our pre-school. Not sure what the plan is, but it is so unfortunate since there are a number of girls that used this service. I will likely teach some English there soon. Elaine, my hitchhiking buddy from years ago is coming for a visit in mid-October. No we won’t be hitchhiking, but I will be showing her a bit of Morocco via the buses and trains. I can’t wait for her to meet my Moroccan family. They are already planning on us for lunch one day. So in summary – that’s about it.

I remember telling Kudzie when she came to Michigan that each season had it’s own unique smell and that I hoped she would take note of them. She eventually did comment that she did notice the distinction. Gosh, how I love the smell of fall. I hope you’ll enjoy fall’s weather and the last of the warmth for this year. Until I write again – take care. Hugs, Linda

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All About August

THE CONTENTS OF THIS WEB SITE ARE MINE PERSONALLY AND DO NOT REFLECT ANY POSITION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR THE PEACE CORPS. Since this site is public, specific details are not given so email me personally if you’d like more information.

9/5/10 I’ve been home for much of the month since my last writing and it has been wonderful. I’ve had lots of visitors during this time, so no time to get lonely or lazy. And, I’ve had a lot of practice cooking!! Many of my guests came to visit me in the mountains as a means to escape the intense heat where they live, but I’d like to believe they would have come to see me regardless of where I lived . The temperatures here remain pleasant, although there is a change in the air. We almost always get a short thunderstorm in the afternoon now. The rain really doesn’t amount to much and the locals wish for more. For a week or so, I had to add another light blanket to my bed, since the nights really cooled down. Since then, nights remain cool, but one light blanket is perfect and feels good. Can I keep this weather for the entire year - please?

Morocco is now celebrating Ramadan. It has little effect on me, because I’m not observing it, but I am often asked whether I am fasting or not. I would probably score some points if I did, but I can’t imagine going without water for the duration of the day. I am respectful of Moroccans though and I don’t eat or drink in front of them during daylight hours. I have been invited by many people to come join them at 7p to break fast with them and their family. Some of these people, I don’t even have a clue as to where they might live. Just another example of how generous and welcoming they are. I did have the funny experience of learning that I had invited someone to my home to break fast. When I later saw this woman and told her that it would not work on the night we had talked about she was rather miffed at me. Why would I invite her and then renig on my invitation? I thought she had invited me!! Luckily a friend of mine who speaks English/Tashlheet was able to get this straightened out for me and hopefully without any hard feelings. Just another example of how my inability to speak the language well gets me into trouble sometimes! Many businesses and restaurants are closed for the month of Ramadan Below is an excerpt from an article I read and it nicely explains Ramadan – I thought you might enjoy it too.

“The holy month of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, began on August 11 in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar all across the Muslim world. During this holy month, Muslims past the age of puberty must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking or engaging in sexual relations from sunrise to dusk. Elderly people and sick people are exempt from fasting. It celebrates when Muhammad went to the desert, encountered Allah in the form of the archangel Gabriel, and received the scriptures that form the Qur'an. There are about 1 billion Muslims around the world observing Ramadan.

The point of the sacrifice is to become closer to God, to practice self-discipline, and to aid in self-purification. Each evening of Ramadan, the fast is broken after the sunset call to prayer with a meal called the iftar. Harira, a well known soup in Northern African countries, is served as Iftar meal to break the fast after which Lahm Lehlou or “sweet meal” is served as a main meal. Lahm Lehlou is an energy-boosting meal. In some parts of Morocco, usually in the South, the daylong fast is broken with dates and milk. North Africans, along with most people from the Muslim world, change their habits during the Ramadan. Traditionally, men attend Tarawih Salat special Ramadan prayer sessions at mosques, after which they head home to share tea and Kalb Elouz (sweet cakes) with their family members. Fasters get up before dawn to eat Sahur, a meal that consists of couscous and milk. This traditional Moroccan meal is above all meant to satisfy the energy needs of the Muslim faster before dusk.

In many parts of the world, Ramadan is the most festive time of the year as well as the most solemn time. In places like Cairo, fancy restaurants serve all-you-can eat gourmet iftar buffets, and the city packs a month full of Ramadan nightlife into the calendar — concerts and theater and open-air dancehalls. All of this happens without alcohol, of course.

Ramadan ends exactly one lunar month after it begins, with the sighting of the new moon. It's followed by a three-day feast called Eid al-Fitr, the Celebration of the Breaking of the Fast. People travel to be with their families or take a vacation from work. And everyone eats plenty.”

I hope you learned a bit more about Ramadan by this article. I know I found it informative. I sent a text message to Nadia (she used to live below me and is now living near Errachidia) and asked her how Ramadan was going. She replied: “It’s very hot and we are thirsty every day. At night we keep drinking water and juice, but it’s very good we feel thirsty and hungry so we feel what poor people feel.” Perhaps we should walk in someone else’s shoes for a day or two ourselves?

I played with cheese flavorings again in my kitchen. Since we are in Ramadan and dates are plentiful, I tried adding dates and honey to our cheese, as well as just plain honey. Both were amazingly good. Wish I could remember what one friend named the date and honey -- she thought it was quite heavenly. I made some of this cheese for the association and also made an almond and honey cheese. Yummy also. My counterpart is again seemingly excited about this, and has taken some of each of this cheese to Ouarzazate. Maybe it will go somewhere after all? I also now know of a new cheese store in Ouarzazate. Unfortunately, it has never been open while I was there, but I will not give up!! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they would like to carry our flavored cheese ? Hopefully after Ramadan, businesses will be back to normal and I can actually chat with them.

I’ve been working with young people in my apartment this summer. Sometimes we study English, sometimes we do pilates (thank you Carrie & Rachel for those cassette tapes) and sometimes we work on cleaning our teeth. In the souq (market) they sell these rough textured cleaning mitts to scrub your body with. They are generally used to help slough off those dead skin cells. Some of the teeth I’ve seen are past the point of getting them clean with simple brushing. So I have taken new mitts that I’ve bought and cut them into strips to wrap around your finger. I then give each child some toothpaste and we work tooth by tooth, with this bit of mitt being careful to not hurt the gums. One little girl had deep grooves in her front teeth where stain had collected. No amount of scrubbing would clean those grooves. The only tool I had was from my manicure case so I carefully used this plastic instrument to clean the grooves. What a difference it made (note picture of smiling white teeth). Each child leaves me with a new toothbrush in hand and a small tube of toothpaste, both being donated to me for this purpose. I can only hope they continue to brush the way I’ve demonstrated. Years ago I worked for a dentist. Little did I know that I would be putting this experience to good use at a later date. Generally speaking, brushing is not a priority here and when a tooth problem arises, the solution is to just pull it out. I recently met a fully veiled (not even her eyes were showing) young woman who was visiting family for the summer holiday. Somehow the conversation came around to me and how old I was. “What - 61, we thought you were 39” (now that was nice!!). Then “you’re 61 and you have all your teeth” Obviously I laughed at this comment. Later, when I visited her in her parent’s home and she was unveiled, I saw that she was a 30+ year old woman and she had only a few teeth remaining in her mouth. No wonder she was surprised by this big toothy grin of mine.

Other than several day trips into Ouarzazate, the only trip for any length of time was to town near Anzal (southwest of Ouarzazate) for a regional meeting of the volunteers that are near. I volunteered to plan and buy the food for the meals since, quite honestly, I’ve had far more experience doing this than any of the other volunteers at this meeting. Thirteen of us gathered at a volunteer’s home from Friday to Sunday. The best thing for me personally to come of this meeting was the information re teaching English as a second (or third, or fourth) language. Since I’ve never taught before, they were able to give me some lesson plans, games, etc. to use and the promise to send more via email at a later date. I look forward to implementing some of what I learned. It was also a good opportunity to become better acquainted with those volunteers that live relatively near.

Three volunteers returned home with me to help me paint a world map on one of the walls of our primary school. What a tedious, detail oriented task this was. Luckily all of them had some experience with this task before. Thank goodness!! We have an instructional handbook to work from and PC has maps on walls in all seven continents. Before we could begin we had to determine what size our map would be, of course it depends on the wall size itself. A grid is then drawn on the wall depending on the space available. Each grid is then hand drawn expanding it to the appropriate size. It took us two days to draw the map itself. On the third day we began to paint. They stayed with me for five days and without their help, I would still be working on this. It was not complete when they left, but close. I have since had two other volunteers that live nearby give me hand for a day each and I’ve put time in alone. My part is now complete and the only thing remaining is for the country names to be written in Arabic. One of the local teachers has offered to do this task for me and he is almost finished. I’ve attached pictures of the map throughout the stages. Anyone that has ever painted with me will not be surprised by one of the pictures. Luckily we had mixed plenty of pink paint so we did not run out. I am delighted with the end product and glad that I was able to do this for my community. Many adults and children stopped by while we/I were working. Many wanted to help and I tried to give them a job so that their name could be added to the list of people that helped. This project really cemented me into the community. They saw me throughout the day working in the hot sun and I think they appreciate all my effort and hard work. I used an oil based paint and with any luck this map will remain on the wall 8-10 years. The director of the school and the teachers plan to utilize the map to teach geography to their students, so it will be put to good use too.

Recently I received a text message from Nadia (she lived downstairs last year). Her message said: “I find a man. We will celebrate our engagement in Eid Ilkiber [after Ramadan]. Our wedding in summer inchallah. I’m very happy. He is a good man working in a private school as a teacher & nurseman, in sala eljadida, near Rabat. Thanks God.” I then congratulated her and asked her how they met. She replied: “I meet him by chance. We know his parents. This man came this summer. He said to his parents, I want to get married. They said to him, meet Nadia, she is a good girl. We meet each other, we discuss many things. We realize that we share many points of view. That’s why we decided to get married.” Sounds so simple this way doesn’t it?

This means to marriage is still pretty traditional, but the classic Moroccan ideal of marriage is giving way to modern necessities. Men's pursuit of a soul mate is changing, as are the days of parents choosing the right bride for their sons. A recent article said, "Since feelings are not a major criterion for marriage, I have the right to marry a husband who already has a flat and a nice car, …. Love is essential, but it is built following marriage on the basis of mutual respect, he said. …. If a couple's financial situation is stable, they will have fewer problems. My monthly wage is just 5,000 dirhams. A second income will be necessary to run the household and pay for the children to go to school." Obviously, people here in my village do not earn 5,000 dirhams a month (for a point of reference for you, I earn 2,000 dirhams a month or about $250) and that is about par for what someone with my level of education/experience would earn here.

While working at Kalamazoo College I had a lot of interaction with our international students. Kudzie was the last student I hosted in 2009 while still at K. Kudzie lives in Zimbabwe. She graduated from college this past June. She hopes to go to grad school in the states in January. She and her family really want me to come for a visit while she is still in the country and September is the best time for the visit. I debated long and hard about this and must admit that my travel bug that is usually jumping enthusiastically about going anywhere new, is a bit sluggish and perhaps not as enthused as he should be. But with my son, Chris's encouragement, I've decided to go. As Chris says, when will I ever be on this continent again? I will leave my site on September 10th and head towards Casablanca. I will fly out of there on the 11th and return on the 23rd, late. I hope to be back to my site on the 24th. So, I will be traveling soon and can't even begin to imagine what an adventure it will be. I'm sure I will have tales to tell. Be sure to read my September blog update for details.

As of September 10th, I will have been in Morocco one year. Thinking back to everything I’ve encountered this past year it’s hard to imagine not being here. "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." Oliver Wendell Holmes. What’s next??? Who know??? Be healthy and happy. Hugs to you all, Linda