Friday, July 9, 2010

Jumpin July

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.

7/9/10 – Hope you had a great July 4th holiday weekend. I celebrated it with PCV friends in a town south of Marrakech. We didn’t have a beach to enjoy, but we had each other, good conversations and some laughs. The trip home was a nightmare though. I sat on the roadside for nine hours waiting for a ride. Several buses passed by, but none stopped ?? Finally a bus did stop, albeit it was full, and I had to stand, but at least they took pity on me. Unfortunately, the 1.5 hour ride took about 3.5 hours because we have a few bus problems, but I eventually arrived at my site. Gosh it was good to get home!!

As you know, June was a month of traveling for me. I hope to stay put in my site for a while – I need a rest!! The first week of travel was work related --- in-service training and our counterparts were invited to join us for the first couple of days. My counterpart was certainly out of her element and she latched onto me. It was nice to send her home!! My second week away from site was pure fun!!!

Directly after IST, I traveled to northern Morocco for a week with three girlfriends. We were tourists for the week. We stayed in Assilah for four days. Assilah is southwest of Tangiers on the Atlantic coast. This lovely whitewashed resort town reminds you of a Greek island town. Its narrow streets are squeaky clean . Totally, totally loved Assilah….. a lovely laid-back community. I’ve attached some pictures from there. We rented a small apartment, directly across from the beach, and watched the camels walk by. We traveled by horse and cart to a beach south of town, perhaps you’ve seen the picture of us on Facebook? We shopped, sunbathed, relaxed and kicked back a bit. The weather was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about this stop-over.

We then moved on to Tangiers. Now I visited Tangiers before, but it was in 1971 – does that even count anymore? My recollection was not favorable and in fact I’ve always referred to it as another Tijuana. Well I stand corrected, it is much different than I remember and quite lovely. I wanted to visit, the others were not crazy to do so, but we were all glad we did. Unfortunately the hotel we stayed in was a real dive -- 37.5dirhams/person/night (less than $5) and not sure it was even worth that. It was located in the medina, guess that was good? Noisy, sketchy, not so clean, etc. Not one of our better choices, but the pickings were slim and not a lot of choice. We had lunch at a woman’s association in their garden (picture attached – maybe in next posting?) A gentleman we met in Assilah recommended this place and he was right – the food was great and it benefited the women too. They prepare one menu for each day. Our lunch consisted of a tasty cucumber/tomato/onion salad, followed by vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, squash, etc.) stuffed with various things. Followed up with heavenly desserts – they had four so we each had something different and shared. The Café Hafa was also recommended (picture attached) for Moroccan tea and this wonderful café was located on the side of the hill and just so lovely! The beach was large and beautifully groomed. We wore swimsuits and could get away with it since we were tourists, but Moroccan women do not normally wear swimsuits. They swim fully clothed (pictures attached) - can you even imagine that? We had dinner in this beautiful blue café – don’t you love the colors? Actually only spent one day in Tangiers and I’m sure there is much more to see, but we moved on.

Traveled the northern coast road to Sebta – what a beautiful ride along the Mediterrean it was. Ooops, Sebta is a town goverened by Spain. Without prior approval and permission we PCVs are not allowed to visit – darnn!! Oh well, it was a lovely drive!

Passed through Tetouan, but can’t say that we saw the town. From what I saw it looked okay, but I don’t have a great need to revisit. Perhaps I’ll hear something about it at a later date and change my mind? The Rif mountains are in the northern part of Morocco. They are rugged and craggy, so different than the Atlas mountains. The Atlas tend to look like big sand dunes to me.

Arrived in Chefchaouen in time to celebrate my birthday with a great dinner at a restaurant on the top of a hill overlooking the plaza and medina. I had pastilla (pastry wrapped chicken, sometimes pigeon is used) since I had not that before – it was good. No birthday cake, but the chilled oranges sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon were great. Chefchaouen is a beautiful town located in the Rif mountains southeast of Tangiers. It is known as one of the prettiest towns in Morocco, sometimes described as fairy-tale like. It’s medina is a delight of red-tiled roofs, bright-blue buildings and narrow lanes. It is also known as one of the most prolific drug traffic areas in the country. Kif is freely offered to anyone who wants to buy it. Majority of the town was stoned!!! Although we didn’t do any hiking the mountains there are another big draw to the area.

We had intended to spend one night in Fes, but since we had all been there before, decided to pass on through on this trip and went directly to Khenifra where Annie lived. Note I use the word “lived”. Annie has decided to return to the states early. Her family asked her to come home and she has done so. Annie will be missed. She tactfully expressed her opinions and asked questions others might be hesitant to ask. She was also “always there for you”, and her sensitivity could be counted on. Annie was also the first person I met last September when we PCVs first met up. I’m sad  but I also understand. Annie had piles of “stuff” for each of us to take home. My pile consisted of “warm” stuff primarily since she knows how cold my site gets in the winter.

Annie learned/observed/was made aware of the fact that many young girls, especially in these rural Moroccan communities, never have/had a doll and it is her belief that dolls provide valuable tools/skills and enjoyment. Annie worked with the ladies in her association to make dolls (picture attached) to be given to as many young women as possible. Private funding was provided for this endeavor. Many dolls were given out and my community was one of the lucky recipients. I brought home a large bag of dolls to be distributed to the girls in my village. I have given out some dolls and if you could have seen the expressions of their faces. I cried on several occasions, they were very special moments. Not all dolls have been given out, but I will give out the rest when school resumes again in September.

Late June I returned to Rabat for some medical tests and to attend a GAD (Gender and Development) meeting. The purpose of this group is to encourage, wherever possible, that both men and women have a say in development. Easier said than done, especially in these small communities, but there are many activities involving children and that is where it must begin. The intent of the group is for a noble cause and I work with a good group of PCVs. Seems like I’ve been to Rabat a lot and I must say I am learning my way around. Not a bad city!!

I think I’ve rambled on enough for now – you must surely be bored. I have so many pictures I’d like to attach . Will likely have to do a posting or two, so be sure to check all July blog postings. With minor modification the following greeting was sent to me by a friend for my birthday and I love it. So…… May the summer “bestow on you a google of smiles, a gaggle of laughs and a gazillon moments of joy!” Til next time. Hugs, Linda

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