Monday, February 14, 2011

Frosty February

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2/14/11 I'm sorry, but I give up on uploading any more pictures. It has taken me over 2.5 hours to load the ones I have done so far and I really must do something produtive today. Sounds like many of you have been blasted by some nasty winter weather lately. Brrrr, it’s cold here too, but luckily no snow for my village. The higher elevations have a nice layer of the white stuff, and I hope it stays up there. My house does not have a heat source and it has averaged 40 degrees for the past couple of weeks and the drafts coming in the windows can raise a rug. It’s a bit chilly to just sit back and relax and I find that I go to bed earlier and earlier, just be warm. It’s okay – spring is right around the corner – I just know it!

My friends, Donna and Gail, and I set off seeking some warmer weather in January and we traveled south . Of course, since Donna lives in the Taroudant area, she wasn’t really in such need of a break from the cold, and we started our travels at her site. Taroudant is known as little Marrakech and what a nice little city it is. A new, modern city in many respects, but it has some lovely old Moroccan areas too. This area is also known for having argan trees. The argan is a relative of the olive, a twisted, tortured-looking tree whose fruit is eaten by the local goats. The goats have become adept at climbing into its branches to graze. I did see goats grazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera ready to take a picture  Really fun to see a goat in a tree though!! One of the things that Donna’s association does is that it makes argan oil. They are not a big organization or producer, and it is a labor intensive product requiring many hours of labor to produce a small quantity of oil. Argan oil is touted to be one of the best beauty products available. They also have an edible oil that is light, nutty flavored and wonderful for bread dipping. We then headed down through Agadir, stopping for lunch at a cafĂ© on the beach. The sunshine and warmth felt wonderful! Sidi Ifni was our first destination stop, a Spanish colony until 1969, now with a thriving port. This city seems curiously out of place with its art deco buildings and a Catholic Church . We spent a lovely afternoon north of the city at Legzira Plage,a secluded bay with a nice sandy beach and two dramatic natural stone arches reaching over the sea (pictures attached). We then traveled through 100+k of desolate, vacant desert until we reached Tan Tan, where Gail’s friends Auday & Fatima live. This is as far south as we PCVs are permitted to travel. Our documents were carefully inspected before we were allowed to enter. Tan Tan surprisingly has a population of 60,000 and it was far more developed that I expected to find it. We stayed at a beach hotel, but the area was quiet and few people were out and about. Weather was pleasant, but hardly swimsuit weather. Gail stayed on with her friends and Donna and I traveled to the Tata area where we visited Alisa and Courtney at their sites before we traveled back to our respective homes. It was only a few days away, but it was a nice break from the cold, mountain weather I live in.

I had committee meetings in Rabat at the end of January, and I headed in a few days early for medical appointments. I saw an orthopedic doctor while there and he says my knee issue is degenerative joint disease/cartilage degeneration/arthritis of knee, basically all the same thing, just different names to call it. Boils down to the fact that I have aging knees and the right one was pushed over the top with all the squatting I did while painting the world map in August. He advised that I increase my dose of glucosamine and hopefully with time it will feel almost normal. The doctor concurred with my diagnosis of a Baker’s cyst at the back of the knee, but advised that I do nothing with it at this time. With any luck, as the front of the knee improves, this cyst might just go away on its own. In the meantime, squatting is a bit problematic!! I actually head back into Rabat in the near future for another committee meeting and we are going to do an ultrasound of the knee while I am there to confirm the cyst, it’s size and it’s location.

I was told of another association here in my village, but I was also told that they were not active, that they didn’t do anything, etc. Dummy me - I should know better than to just blindly accept someone else’s word. Finally I ventured to the other side of town and found the association. As I approached, I head lots of laughter emanating out of the building. I found nine young 20ish aged women in the building working on embroidery, one was sewing at the sewing machine, and others were painting on fabric. I learned that they have a preschool with fifteen children. The room they use is pleasant with pictures on the walls and their artistic creations were displayed throughout. I asked if there was anything I could do for them and initially I was told “no”. Then after a bit of time passed, they asked if I would just come back and talk with them – a little language exchange as they would like to learn some English. Obviously I said yes I would most definitely do that. I asked if they were interested in doing some pilates with me and they emphatically said “yes”. I also asked about dental hygiene and would they like some instruction. Well, I have gone back and this past week I loaded up my daypack with toothbrushes/toothpaste and off I went (pictures attached). While I was in Rabat I found a movie regarding tooth brushing in Tashlheet, so I took my computer and movie along too. Everyone was excited. Probably watching the movie on the computer was a highlight of my instruction. For whatever reason, there were around nine elementary school children there this day too, some little ones working on embroidery too. So rather than give the instruction and tooth brushes to the young women, I met with the kids instead. I’ll go back another time and meet with the women. I was in the mood to bake the day before I planned to go back, so I made an orange cake and took it along. Guess everyone was thinking of a party mood, since three other women brought cakes too. So after everyone nicely brushed their teeth, we had cake and tea – seems a bit counterproductive doesn’t it?

I have become better acquainted with a 13 year old girl lately. She speaks decent English and says she learned it by watching television (this reminded me of a Polish friend who also learned much of her English by watching television). She likes to come to my house and visit with me. One day I invited her to my house to help me bake cookies (picture attached). Upon touching a hot pan she uttered “shit”. I wondered if I heard her correctly and asked and she said “yes”. I asked if she learned that on television and of course that is where she learned it. I then told her that nice young ladies really didn’t say such things and that perhaps she should say “ooops” instead. She has made great effort to substitute the words “ooops” into the appropriate spots. I learned that this young woman is going to collage (middle school) in the neighboring town. She boards there all week and comes home on weekends. She has dreams of attending a university in America. Not only do very few of the children from my village have the opportunity to attend collage, but to have the dream of an American university!! I recently saw her parents at a school outing and I told them how proud I was of them and of their daughter. Jhssan is smart enough to do this and I keep telling her that she must work hard in school and do well and that scholarships are available for those that really want to do this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this really happens?

I’ve recently attended several school parties celebrating the end of the first semester (pictures attached). One was quite the gala affair celebrated at our municipal building. Many children participated and entertained the many guests that came to watch. The “who’s who” of the village were there. I took lots of pictures and the school director made prints of them that he is proudly giving out. Earlier in the week I also attended the pre-school party. Can you believe we had four cakes, two plates of cookies and a big bowl of candy for fifteen children. Yeow….. that was a lot of sugar. I listened to “Happy Birthday” for 2.5 hours since that seems to be the favorite upbeat party song. This party was a surprise for me and had I known, I would have taken along my “101 Silly Songs”. Granted they would not have understood the words, but they would have loved the melodies and I could have shown them the many moves these songs invoke. I just stopped by the primary school to tell them of an art project I’ve been made aware of. While there one of the teachers asked me if I could get him any information regarding teaching autistic, dyslectic or children with ADD. He says he almost always has a student or two suffering from this and he has to send them home since he doesn’t know what to do with them. If anyone has information they would like to share with me so that I may share it with him, it would be most appreciated. Thanks.

I haven’t done much with my other association lately. I stop in there several times a week, but nothing is really happening. We have had 145 babies pass through our baby’s center doors though in less than a year and I think that is a real accomplishment in and of itself. I am still hopeful of helping to get the water issue resolved. Unfortunately, nothing moves quickly here, so fast results will not be seen.

I am so looking forward to my son, Chris’s visit at the end of the month. Sure hope he feels like smiling a lot since he won’t be able to talk with many people and so many people want to meet him. My next update may be a bit later in March, since he will be here until the 13th but I hope to do it shortly after that date.

A quick update on my knee - well the ultrasound I had done confirmed that there is indeed a walnut-sized cyst behind the knee. Not sure that we learned much specifically about this cyst really, other than if the front of the knee heals, hopefully the cyst will just go away. Unfortunately, the MRI that was done later in the week confirmed that I have a torn miniscus requiring surgery. Surgery needs to be done soon and I'm told it will be done in the states. I've also been told it is a piece of cake - no worries. The bad news is that the recup/recovery time given to me by this orthopedic doctor is six months. Seems like a terribly long time, although we do have some cartilage to repair and you have to factor in my age :-) In all probability, the likelihood of PC medically separating me is almost certain after 45 days. Since Chris, arrives in Marrakech on February 28th, I have asked (begged actually) if the surgery can wait until April since I want to show Chris some of Morocco. Our PCMOs think this is possible, although it will be PC Washington's decision to make. So looks like I will be coming home, sooner rather than later........

I truly believe that we should finish what we start, and I am so disappointed that I will most likely not return to Morocco. When I know more details and dates, I'll let you know. In the meantime, stay healthy, happy and take care. Hugs to you all, Linda

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