Wednesday, November 16, 2011
November and I'm Home
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11/16/11 - I’m HOME on American soil!!! OMG……. This will likely be my last blog update (and some of you are saying – thank God), but if I am so inspired, I will write one more and tell you how it feels to be home, although I wouldn’t expect that to be soon since the holidays are upon us. I have changed and those I love have changed in the time I’ve been gone. How well will we interact with each other? Will we be able to pick up where we left off? I anticipate I will be overwhelmed with store shelves – so much to choose from. Tickled pink to turn on the hot shower, at will, and to sit on a western toilet. I don’t even have to bring my own camping toilet or toilet paper to use
It seems long ago I realized that I needed the world to live, grow, learn and most importantly, share. A book about India, with its crowded streets, rich of culture, colors and spirits, feels inspiring. A picture of Paris, with its Eiffel tower and night lights, makes my heart beat faster. I could not resist wishing and dreaming about being there each time the world was brought to me. In my head, my luggage was packed and I was ready for the adventure. My travel bug was jumpin and ready to go.
I remember hearing about Kennedy’s speech in 1961 and being intrigued with the prospects of what he was proposing. At the time, the opportunity seemed both unreal and unattainable, but life took it’s own course and I was able to give it a try, albeit many years later. Here I was, a woman of 60 heading off to Morocco for 27 months with significant life experiences to share, and whose dream was suddenly within reach. Was this my moment? My excitement and happiness was beyond what can be described with words. I was ready and longing to spread my wings, immerse myself into a foreign culture and release all my potential to the world.
My experiences in Morocco have been priceless and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I came here with ideas to share about freedom and equality, diversity, and the possibility to go as far as one sets their mind to. During my time here I met many people, some were great and deeply changed me, and others were not as much of a pleasant experience but definitely contributed to my unavoidable growth. I can’t describe or put into words what the past two years have meant to me. I’m glad that I was able to share with you, through my blog, some of these very special moments. I hope you enjoyed the past two years as much as I did.
I’ve attached a couple of pictures that should have been in the last blog, but uploading was slow when I did the early November blog entry , and I just gave up. You will see a picture of Rachida and I and our glittery hands. It was an educational, yet fun way to share the “microbets” with others.
There is a picture of jelaba’s in my friend’s store in Ouarzazate. Aren’t they colorful and beautiful? One day while riding the bus I was looking out at the people standing nearby. I didn’t see one jelaba that was the same. We think of these women as being submissive, modest, covered and the “same”, but they are individuals who express themselves in the fabrics and colors they choose and in so many other ways. Each woman is her own person, you just need to give her the opportunity to share this with you.
When visiting my host mom’s family in Ouarzazate, they showed me the dates they had collected. Have you ever seen so many dates? And, wow, you haven’t tasted a good date until you’ve tasted these. They are wonderful!
Here is also a picture of Nuhalia and Samira – note those haircuts!! I didn’t do so bad did I? I lost count of how many haircuts I gave towards the end of my time in my village. Sometimes it was a minor trim, sometimes I cut twelve inches off . Unfortunately, there was one little girl that looked very disappointed after her cut. I cut off at least nine inches, maybe more. She wanted sleek, straight hair, but after I washed it and cut it, it came to life and turned into a bush. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with it after it was cut. Because I have this straight, fine hair, I thought it was kind of fun and cute, but whoa….. she didn’t like it. I had some Velcro rollers that had been sent to me when my hair was growing, so we tried setting her hair to see if we could straighten it. It worked somewhat and I sent the rollers home with her. I saw her in school several days later and her hair was fairly straight. She must be using the rollers. Remember using rollers ladies? Aren’t you glad I’ve shared this knowledge and experience?
The picture of the field, boy, etc., is just a picture I like. It was taken in my village on one of my walks. Beautiful!
I’ve tried to educate you a bit about Morocco in each blog. As you know, I have spent a lot of time in our local school with the children. The majority of my students will not go to 7th grade since they would have to live in another town and board to do so. I recently read this article and thought you might enjoy reading it too.
“AIN LEUH, Morocco — In the heart of the snowbound Atlas mountains in central Morocco, a boarding school takes in young girls from isolated villages in a bid to fight poverty and illiteracy.
There are more than 300 such schools in Morocco, with another 30 planned for construction next year. They are now both home and class to almost 16,700 girls, who are often living far from their families. More than 70 percent of them come from a rural background, according to official figures.
"The criteria for admission to the dormitory? They are simple and clear: poverty and remoteness. ….
The dormitory has taken in 35 young women, just a little way from the school they attend each day.
Despite landmark changes in the family code known as Mudawana, pushed through by King Mohammed VI in 2004 against tough opposition from religious conservatives, many women are still second-class citizens in the north African country. In conservative rural zones, only one out of every two girls finishes middle school and only two out of every 10 goes to high school. [I think these numbers are greatly exaggerated – las)
The king promoted the boarding schools -- for both boys and girls -- soon after he took power, in 1999.
"My parents live a few dozen kilometres from here. But thanks to this home, I'm doing my studies in good conditions because I'm looked after and the school is just nearby” …
They are taken in hand, with a precise programme from morning to evening: breakfast, going to the nearby school, lunch at 12:30 pm, studies and, finally, lights out at 10:00 pm,.
The boarding school is financed and jointly run by the ministry of social development and a local non-governmental organisation, the Islamic Association of Charity (AIB). From November, it begins to get very cold because the region is mountainous. The girls stay in the home all week, but they can spend the weekend with their relatives or close family …. To see her parents, Khadija must first take a "big taxi" (a collective taxi) for several dozen kilometres. Then she needs to walk down a track for at least an hour to get home… "Local communities, the ministry (of social development) and our association participate in the finance, but we have to struggle to balance our budget," said Mohamed Bouyamlal, vice-president of the AIB. "We have to make choices which are sometimes difficult and choose the strict minimum, which is to say food," he added.
The headmistress only earns 1,200 dirhams a month (106 euros / 148 dollars), which is less than the national minimum wage of about 125 euros.
But in spite of the difficulties, the results are promising. The schools say their success rate in graduating girls runs between 80 and 100 percent, and more than half the boarders end up following university studies. Overall, the rate of illiteracy among rural women has dropped from 64 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2011, according to official figures. And the rate at which girls drop out of school in rural areas has fallen from 14 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2010, thanks to this programme. School is by law compulsory in Morocco until the age of 15.” [But I’ve not seen it enforced - las]
Since a replacement will not be sent to my site, my apartment needed to be emptied to the bare walls. A volunteer that recently moved to a site about 30km away, hired a truck to come and take a lot of stuff. I gave my host family my ponges (big cushions that are used as couches) pillows and white plastic table & chairs, plus a bunch of other stuff and food. Note how the moving goes in my village.
Luckily I learned before I left that my host sister, Zakia, had left the hospital. She couldn’t leave Ouarzazate since she needed to see the doctor again, but she was at Gma and Gpa’s (Jdda & Jddi). There is still much I don’t understand about this hospitalization, but hopefully they did learn what was really the matter and that she will be fully well again soon.
My last night in site was not as expected since my host mom and sister were not home. I had planned to spend that last night with them, but it was not to be. I had the offer from other friends to stay with them, but decided I wanted to stay in my own apartment that last night. I had nothing but one mat and the blankets I borrowed from my landlord for that night. I needed to say good-bye to my village, home and Morocco in my own way and I needed to be alone to do that. I wanted one more morning coffee on my rooftop. Walking down the hill and leaving was hard and four of the six puppies (two are dead) that I’ve befriended walked me down to the road on the day I left. It was early and I didn’t see many on my walk down. Luckily one of my teacher friends called a relative who drives a taxi and my ride was arranged so I didn’t need to worry about getting a ride. He was rather vague on when he would arrive though – anytime between 8-10a, and it was close to 10a, so I still had a two hour wait, but at least he came.
Saying good-bye to friends is never easy and knowing that I will likely never return made these good-bye’s even harder. I can’t remember when I’ve cried so much and I was exhausted and emotionally drained by the time I left. The people of Morocco have been kind, supportive, helpful and loving for the most part. They will always hold a special spot in my heart.
I left site a bit earlier than necessary and moved on to a friend’s site for the last couple of days. She will be returning home too. We talked about our experiences and the times we had. We ate up the food we both still had (I hauled stuff with me to her home too). It was a good way for me to leave. Yes, I am somewhat familiar with her site, but it isn’t my site. I can now walk away and catch that taxi , train and eventually the plane without so much emotion although I suspect I will cry many more times before I leave. We PCVs are all from varying places in the States and yes we plan to have a reunion, but if and when will that happen and who will come? Some of these people I will never see again – that’s a fact! Kind of feels like saying good-bye to your friends when you leave college. My time in Morocco is finished. I hope I am remembered and that I taught them something. I hope they’ll remember the hugs and kisses we shared. I hope a few of them will brush their teeth daily and wash their hands with soap. I hope flavored cheese continues to be made and sold and that the restaurant is finally finished and has customers. I hope the baby’s center one day as an adequate water supply – it is such a wonderful resource that has such great potential. It’s been a fantastic 27 months, but I am ready to be home and back in life’s loop.
I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Take a moment and think about all that you have to be grateful for. We have sooooo much and much of it we take for granted and don’t appreciate. I wish you all health, happiness and contentment. Be all that you can be. Hugs to you all. Linda