Friday, May 14, 2010

May Meanderings

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5/14/2010 -- Can’t believe it’s May already. I’ve been at my site for six months now. Nine months in country. Wow…… funny how times flies when you’re having a good time – right? Most times are good, occasionally a bad one, but those happened at home too.

I was thinking about this recently ...... I am continually going somewhere, with someone, to do something, for however long it takes ????? I walk blindly with, never really knowing what is going on. Rarely would have I done this stateside. Case in point, several weeks ago I left my house at 6:30a to meet up with girls - how many? Eleven to be exact for a picnic. Now who begins a picnic at 6:30a? There are three adults along too, me being one of them. The other two teach at the association (one embroidery and the other teaches non-formal education). We walk for a while on the road, then begin the trek into the hills (picture attached). How many of these big hills (mtns) are we going to go over and just where are we going? We walk for about two hours and now I know why we started early. The sun warms you quickly when you are climbing/walking like this. I'm told it is just over that mountain - yeah right, heard that before. Why does it have to be so darned high??? Okay, guess they are right this time, we walk into a village (picture attached). Looks small from this side, but I later learn it is rather good sized, maybe 120 homes in total. We knock on the door of a tigmi (house) that one of the teacher's sisters live in. Two of her sisters live here and they teach too, one non-formal education and the other at the pre-school. All of these sisters grew up in the Ouarzazate area and have varying levels of education. There are government programs that pay their wages to teach in these villages. We rest for a bit, eat some breakfast (I've brought along some of my newly flavored cheeses to taste test and some enjoy, others not), then we head off to see the fields (great - more walking!) It is quite beautiful and there are sporadic rose bushes blooming here and there. We come across four women doing their laundry in the river. They don't want me to take their picture. They are singing and talking as they scrub on their washboards. We wander about and end up back at the house. We now prepare lunch (chicken and potatoes) in the pressure cooker. We've all chipped in 10d (a little over $1) to pay for breakfast/lunch supplies. After lunch we walk over to the classroom where the non-formal education is taught. I've been told there will be a competition -- I'm thinking they will be running, jumping, etc. Not the case. The girls from our town are on one side and the girls from the other town are on the other side. Questions are asked (some are right off the wall and very irrelevant to their lives), and scores are kept. The girls from my town outscore the other girls -- yay we are the winners! I was surprised at the competitive nature of this event and it is quite a thrill to be the winner. We finish up with orange soda, store bought sugar wafers and a couple of moms have baked cakes for the event. We walk home in the rain that started just as we were about to leave. At 6:30p I am home for the day. Okay, I'm tired..... but it was an interesting, good day and it was a bonding event for all.

About a week later the girls that we visited, come to us for the day. They arrive around 9a to the building I/we live in. Nadia & Hafida live below me and Nadia is the non-formal education teacher who is involved with this exchange. We gather in her living quarters because she doesn’t know if these young women are faithful. I later determine she is worried whether they are trustworthy and she doesn’t want them to steal or break something in my apartment. I suspect though that everyone is curious to see the American’s house so I invite them up. There is a lot of ooohhhing and aaahhhing and they are quite fascinated by it all. They primp in front of the mirror, hug Penelope (my stuffed pet platypus) and marvel at the toilet paper I have hanging in my bathroom. I have brought with me a small album of family pictures. They think Chris looks like a movie star – would he like a wife? We eat breakfast at Nadia’s since they have walked a couple of hours to get here and then we go out for another walk to show them our village. The sun is bright and I find it fun to see the hats on top of the scarves that they wear (picture attached). In so many ways they are just teen-age girls who giggle, joke and worry about how they look. They have brought lunch with them, and we walk to the association where we can use the restaurant kitchen to prepare it. We have chicken, French fries and hard boiled eggs (picture attached), and of course bread. They also make a sweet pasta dish (sffa) that I unfortunately don’t have a picture of. It is little slivers of noodles that are steamed, and then cinnamon and powdered sugar is served on top of it. Actually quite good! I don’t know if I can find this pasta stateside, but I’ll have to perfect it’s preparation and serve it to you when I’m home if possible. We then have another competition of questions and our girls again win, but only by 3 points. A picture of all of us is taken in front of the association (picture attached). There is much singing, clapping and banging on whatever might be available. They don’t want to go home and they don’t leave until 7:30p. I can’t imagine how they got home before dark. Likely they didn’t.

First weekend in May I traveled with Hafida to her parents’ home in Guilmima (about a 7 hour bus ride away to the south and east of me near Errachadia). It looks very different over in this part of the country. Much flatter and palmeries (groves of palm trees) are everywhere. They have ducts of water running throughout the town. I will likely post a few pictures from this visit on another posting. Hafida’s family is very friendly and welcoming. Mom and Dad are there, along with two of their adult daughters. Another daughter comes home for the weekend to meet me. They have four other adult children that live in different parts of Morocco. Their house is immaculate. And, besides my own bathroom, this is the cleanest bathroom I’ve seen in Morocco. Their little compound is enclosed by walls and inside is their home, their cows and goats and a small garden space. Dinners are late 11-11:30p or so and we’re up early. They drink warm milk for breakfast. I’m really not into this – I need caffeine. They are amazed that I would add a whole spoon of Nescafe to a cup that is already half full of milk and I convince them that hot water will do just fine to finish filling it up. We walk around the area and stop into homes to say “hi” on Saturday. On Sunday we walk around more and if we don’t stop to see someone, they later come to the house to see the American. We sit in the parlor and they look at me. Sawl Tashlheet (talk Tashlheet). Sure, what would you like me to say? Then they laugh at my pronunciation and words chosen because their Tashlheet dialect is different than where I live. I’m tired and I’m afraid a bit grumpy. I feel like a circus act. It’s been a nice visit, but about time to head home! We’re up at 5a the next morning to catch our bus at 8a. Not sure why we are starting so early????? We’re at the bus stop at 6:30a. Highly unusual that we would be so early, Moroccans usually run late. A bus arrives at 7a and we get on. I say, I thought we were catching the 8a bus and they say “yes, yes”, but I’m thinking it’s 7a? Later I learn that Morocco changes to daylight savings time for the summer months and this was the weekend to change. How would I know that? At least it explains some of the morning schedule. It’s been a good trip and interesting, but so glad to be home. AND, I finally connect with the carpenter and he comes this afternoon. I HAVE SCREENS ON MY WINDOWS AND I’M THRILLED. Not the best job I’ve ever seen, but hopefully they will keep out the big bugs and the birds! Hurray…….

We pass through Kelaa M’Gouna during our travels to Guilmima. They have an annual Rose Festival there each year in May. We see fields of roses from the bus windows. They are beautiful and this meets my need to see the Rose Festival – no need to return to the crowds that will be there on the next weekend. Well so much for that thought. My counterpart arranges a day trip for 25 women/girls to travel to the festival. I MUST come and bring the camera with me. I am up at 4a since we are to leave at 5a. My counterpart arrives around 6a and we are on the road around 6:30a. Yep forgot, we aren’t on American time, we’re on Moroccan time – time has little significance…… We haven’t traveled five minutes when one young girl starts vomiting. Unfortunately she vomits for the next three hours as we travel. At least half of the women are vomiting as we travel to the Festival. This is a society that has had little experience in moving vehicles and everyone suffers from motion sickness when they ride in a car. I play the “age” card and sit in the front seat by the driver. At least I have a little space between those that are sick and me. We arrive, it is packed with people, watch a parade and wander about eating ice cream and candied nuts. Two young boys tap me on the shoulder and tell me that my backpack is unzipped. Yep it is and my wallet and the association camera have been taken. Entirely my fault – no one to blame but myself. I know better than to keep these items in such an easy place, but I had gotten lazy and I’m far too trusting. Won’t happen to me, well, guess it can!! File a police report with the gendarmes and they are very kind and helpful. They like my blond hair and pet me often. We leave the Festival around 7p or so and I’m thinking we’ll be home around 10p. Well, guess since we have a day’s excursion planned we are going to take full advantage of it. We stop in Ouarzazate and turn everyone loose, but we don’t set a time to meet up again. Every one wanders back to the vehicles willy-nilly. My counterpart is furious since she has been ready to leave for quite some time. Everyone is tired and we need to head for home is my thinking. The driver of the vehicle I’m riding in must think that if he goes really fast around the curves of this mountainous road, it will make the vomiting women feel better and we’ll get there sooner too. I’m not so sure I agree with this thinking. Finally at 11:30p I crawl into bed. It’s been quite a day. Luckily PC will reimburse me a good portion of the money that was stolen, but will not do anything about the camera. I feel very badly about the camera’s loss and decide to spend a portion of the stipend I receive from National Geographic to buy them another.

Another National Geographic tour group stopped for tea this week. This time I asked my host family if they would like to host the morning tea. They said they would and they put out quite a spread of food for the guests. My entire family is there and they patiently pose for the many photos that are taken. I made some of my flavored cheeses for the group to taste also. Tried to take a vote as to the favorite, but I think all were liked fairly equally. When I went to reimburse my family later in the day for the expenses incurred in putting on this tea, they didn’t want to take money. They are my family – they wanted to do this for me. I convinced them that the money was not coming from my pocket, and that they should take it. Eventually they did. They are wonderful people and I am so lucky to be able to call them my Moroccan family.

In my last update I commented on the donkey’s braying and the thought that he brays when he has seen the devil. Well just today I learned that a rooster’s crowing is quite the opposite. The rooster is held in high esteem. He is hard working and gets up early to help others get up early too. When he crows it’s a good omen and we should be grateful. Remember this when you’re traveling in those remote areas and the rooster wakes you at the crack of dawn – it’s a good thing!!

Our days have been sunny and bright lately, but we’ve had a howling cold wind for about a week and a half. We have lots of windy days here it seems. Wonder if it will be like this in the summer? I will likely appreciate that wind if that is the case. This morning I wake up to snow on the ground. I knew that it was cold yesterday, but didn’t think it would snow. Surely it won’t last. I packed my long underwear away in a suitcase since I didn’t think I’d it until fall again. Hope I don’t have to dig it out.

Well, I’ve probably written way too much again – sorry. Sometimes I just get typing and don’t know when to stop. Hopefully this finds you all well and healthy. Until I write again, take care. Bslama Linda

Pictures of Guilmima

Here are a few pictures from my visit to Guilmima with Hafida. I talk about this visit in my May posting. Read that paragraph to better explain. Hugs to all, Linda