Monday, August 9, 2010

About August

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8/9/10 How is summer going for you? Hopefully you’re kicking back a bit and enjoying summer’s weather. Most of Morocco is cookin with temperatures 110+. Lucky for me (I can say this now since it’s not winter), I live in the mountains and the temperature has been pleasant and we usually have a breeze blowing. But, I bet you are remembering my whining from the winter months  -- I don’t even want to think about January and February now!! Let’s enjoy the moment.

I thought I might stay put for a while, but once again I boarded the bus  in July - twice. It was for good reason though – a wedding to attend and to celebrate a friend’s birthday. First the wedding – I traveled to Goulmima for the wedding (near Errachidia). I visited there last May with one of the girls (Hafida) that lived below me and it was her sister’s wedding. Getting there was a challenge – I had great plans to just catch the 1:30p local bus (le-kar) since it was direct to Errachidia and I could just get off a stop or two earlier. Well so much for that idea – it was full and didn’t stop. Okay then, plan two. I caught a taxi to Ouarzazate (1.5 hrs). Then a local bus to Tinghir (3 hrs), taxi to Tingdad (1 hr) and then another taxi to Guilmima (.5 hrs). Of course there was a bit of waiting between each and I arrived a bit later than planned, but I made it. I didn’t stay at the house where the wedding celebration was taking place, but instead stayed at Nadia’s house (the other girl that lived downstairs). Goulmima was hot and we slept on the veranda, which was quite nice actually. We had the sound of frogs and ??? to lull us to sleep. Although I learned on the day I left for home that Nadia’s sister had been stung by a scorpion the day before and had had to go to the hospital for treatment. Hmmm, maybe the veranda isn’t that nice? Nadia’s family was welcoming and the wedding celebration was good too. I am personally not a fan of big weddings (yes certainly I have enjoyed some), so personal taste plays into this. Weddings consist of loud music, singing and dancing (mostly this shoulder dance, but they can move their hips too). Tea, cookies and nuts are served around 10p and then around 11:30p-12a they brought out the couscous, chick peas and beef. Followed by the second course of chicken, olives and bread, then followed by the third course of watermelon and cantaloupe (only it is green in color). It all concludes around 2a. The wedding takes place over a three day span, with much of this same menu being served each day. Let me back up a bit -- on the first day of the wedding celebration the bride isn’t seen. She is put in a room, alone, to rest. People visit her in this room from time to time. If she comes out, her face is covered so she cannot be seen. On the second day (which is the day I primarily attended) , she does come out to join the festivities. Family and friends are staying at the wedding house, so the wedding is always happening, but more people come to join the party around 8-9p. Latifa (the tizlit, bride) changed her dress four times (pictures attached) during the evening’s festivities. During the last dress, she had henna applied to her hands and feet. Anwar (the isli, groom) also attended part of the evening, but left before the henna was applied. I am told that the groom and his family were having their own party at their house. I was there for part of day one and two, but I did not attend day three, much to the family’s dismay. It is the day the bride is delivered to the groom around 5p and they are “married”. There is not an actual ceremony, but money has been given to the bride and paperwork has been filed with the local government official. The bride will now live with the groom and his family. In some cases, they might move and live on their own, but that would happen primarily in the cities, not in the villages. Luckily, when I board the bus for home, it is direct to my town (actually heading to Marrakech), so I didn’t have the hassle of changing transports so many times.

We headed to Essaouria (on the Atlantic coast, north of Agadir) to celebrate my friend’s birthday. All travel is on the CTM and it is relatively easy. Buses are close to being on time, tickets are sold for seats (so no standing) and they are usually air conditioned and comfortable. Essaouria is a nice beach town (picture attached), with a great medina area, and a wonderful beach, but it was soooo windy! You really couldn’t enjoy the beach, because you would be sandblasted if you did so. We were told that the wind was exceptionally bad, and not the norm, but the kite boarders and wind surfers were certainly enjoying it, so maybe we were just in the wrong place at this time! Since it was a town for tourists, there were beach bars to enjoy and we found one that offered great lettuce salads for lunch (first lettuce (don’t even think spinach) salad I’ve had since leaving the states), great music was playing and the beer was cold. We took advantage of these amenities and spent some time in this establishment. Camel & horse rides and quad rentals (picture attached) were offered next door to the restaurant (just like home) had we wanted to do this. We elected to be lazy!

I attempted to attend one more wedding. It was in Ouarzazate (so only 1.5 hours away) and I said I would come and spend just one day/night. The bride is the sister of one of the women that works at the baby’s center here in town. I know the bride because we have met on several occasions. I had my landlord’s daughter call (since she speaks English and Tashlheet) the bride’s sister to confirm that they would meet me at the taxi stand (taxiyat). I have no idea where their house is located in Ouarzazate ? It was agreed that someone would meet me between 4-5p. I was there, they were not. I texted and called, but our communication was challenging since Layla (sister of the bride) does not speak English and my Tashlheet truthfully stinks. I waited until 6p and still no one so I boarded the bus for home. Layla did call me while I was on the bus and asked if I could come back the next day. “No, sorry”. I tried this once, not in the mood for a second try. Gotta give me credit for the attempt!

Most Moroccans have a very different concept of time. It is likely someone showed up at the taxiyat at 7p and thought nothing of it. When a time is set to do something, I continually ask “American time” or “Moroccan time”. They laugh, but I’m quite serious. We also have this timing thing now with daylight savings time. Morocco also does it, started in May, but not all people do it, so we have “old time” and “new time” to consider also. It’s crazy!!!

It’s lonely sometimes and I’ve considered a pet, but I’m gone so much and I will leave in 1.5 years – what happens then? Well think that’s been taken care of for me. I would have picked something a big more cuddly, but I have a salamander /gecko living in my house. He moves fast and I only catch glimpses of him, but he seems to like my kitchen (l’kuzina). Not sure how he got in and up here since I live on the second floor, but looks like he’s found a home. I don’t know much about salamanders/gecko’s, but I’ve named him Geek – hope it’s okay he’s living here?

Speaking of living on the second floor -- I now have new neighbors living below me since Hafida and Nadia have moved home to Goulmina. Ummmm, at least eight people, maybe more, living there now – ugh!. It’s not a large apartment – consists of a turn-around bathroom (bit-l’ma), small kitchen and a decent-sized room where they eat, sleep and sit. They are probably not that noisy, but just eight people in and of itself make noise. A couple of the young people speak a little English and on the whole they seem nice enough. One aunt is quite bold though. She came upstairs, knocked on the door and made herself at home, after looking around my sween (nice) apartment. The next day she appears at my door with two pails in her hands and wants hot water to take a bath with. She has seen my hot water heater – so why not? I tell her no, that I have to buy the gas to heat the water, etc. My thinking is that if I do this for one, the next seven will be knocking at my door when they want to bathe. She is not particularly happy with me, but she does go away eventually – without hot water. They also use “my” roof. Yes, I say “my” roof. Nadia and Hafida didn’t use it except for drying laundry and I’ve gotten spoiled. They are making it a bit hard to sun bathe now, although I usually do it when they take their afternoon naps, so it sometimes works out. I’m told that they are only here until after Ramadan ends (mid-September) and that they came from Zagora to escape the heat. I’m looking forward to mid-September and hope the next tenants are less in number.

I’m told that we have one poisonous snake in the area, but I haven’t seen any snakes, so no freaking me out there. We supposedly have a few scorpions, so I should be on the lookout, but this mountainous area is not one they particularly like, so not a big worry. My friends Donna and Hannah have both found scorpions in their apartments, but they live in different areas that I do. As a pre-caution, I now have my shoes standing on-end against the wall, since scorpions like to hide in the dark/seclusion and like the toes of shoes, I also check between the sheets before I crawl into bed at night. Better to be safe than sorry. Since I have screens on my windows now, I am not bothered by flying pests – thank goodness.

I think because of the heat, lots of people are on holiday in the summer months. We have far more people living here in my village (because I am in the mountains and cooler) now than at other times of the year. Transportation is crowded and lots of businesses are closed. Somehow this doesn’t make sense – more people, more business – but what do I know? The association I work with is closed. The baby’s center is open since babies are still being born, the restaurant is open and still waiting for a customer and obviously cheese is still being made, but not much happening. Kids stop by my house and we play dominoes, Uno and Blink. They usually ask for popcorn when they are here. I bake and take plates of goodies to houses and usually I am invited for tea. I visit my host family. Somehow the days are filled? I recently had my host family here for an American summer lunch. I fixed hamburgers (kefta) and bread (no buns available), potato salad and baked beans (well as best as I could replicate them) with fruit salad for dessert. They liked the hamburgs and fruit. The potato salad and beans challenged their taste buds, although they were gracious and kind and tried to eat some. Wonder if they realize that many of their flavors challenge my taste buds too? Doubt it……

Remember I had a group of volunteers doing their training in a nearby town in the spring. Well they have since been sworn in and sent to their own sites. But, they are back in the area and they came for a weekend visit a week ago. Only four remain, one elected to terminate early and has returned home. It was great fun to hear about their sites and their homes. They said that it felt like they were “coming home” when they came to my apartment since I met them early on, they visited me several times when they were near and I probably “spoil” them a bit. It was great fun catching up.

I’ve been asked a number of times – what work do you do? Seems like you are always traveling? I hope you all understand that a lot of this travel is work – cultural exchanges/community relations are also PC goals, as well as the meetings and trainings we have. Yes, my primary assignment is to work with the cheese and saffron association. I have attempted to show them how to make their cheese unique and different by the addition of herbs and spices, and there was some initial excitement about this, but nothing is happening now. Perhaps in the fall, when people can again think about working, we can address this again? But, this association has been up and running for twelve years already. Not sure what I am really supposed to do with them? The person I work with is difficult to say the least and quite honestly, I am uncertain if I will make the recommendation that PC replace me. The PCV before me was young, just out of college and my counterpart ran her in circles and ruled. She made the recommendation that an "older" volunteer be sent to the site -- they sent me. I've had to stand firm and hold my ground. Best thing I have going for me is that I'm 61 (OMG, how did that happen?) and older than she is.

This is and has been quite an adventure and I am so grateful to have this opportunity. Will I make a difference that really lives on after I leave? That remains to be seen. I am curious to see if I will have much of an affect (effect, I can never seem to remember which?) on the business part of this assignment. Can I have an impact on some of the children I cross paths with -- I hope so. If nothing else, perhaps a child or two will wash their hands with soap, cough into their sleeve or will brush their teeth as a result of me being a clown and instructing them how to do it. Regardless, I think I am giving them a good impression of the "American" and hopefully they will think a bit more favorably of us.

Enough already – wake up – it’s over. Til next time – live well, love much and laugh often – Be Happy!!! Hugs to you all, Linda

1 comment:

  1. Still loving all the detail you include in your blog...thanks for keeping us up to date!!