This entry will cover some ground, as wireless is a thing of the past and the cyber computers at my home stay don’t have USB ports-at least I can connect my laptop to their broadband.
Sunday night, 1st day w/host families:
Seven of us (6 trainees and 1 LCF) took 2 grand taxis from Azrou to Ain Leuh (45 min for 23 Dh each). We were dropped off at our LCF’s rented house that will also serve as our classroom. Khadija (host mom) and Ahellan (host sister) come to get me-they help w/my luggage- sum total of a weekend suitcase and carry-on with all I need for the 2 weeks + all the PC books and binders and my laptop. Efficient packing is getting easier. We stop at the women’s weaving cooperative on the way and see the work under way. My host family lives below the co-op, and Khadija's 2 sisters are hosting others in the group. I have a big bedroom-the only one in the house- everyone else is sleeping in the salon. OK, so that’s not unusual for families here when they have guests, but feels kinda weird if you have the only bedroom in the house to yourself. The salon and the kitchen are one large separated room-we have plumbing-wall faucet in bathroom is for all water-kitchen, drinking, bathing, flushing. Bathroom is very basic-turkish toilet and bucket flush, sink, squeegee, a shower is w/a bucket standing over the toilet.
The town is built into a hillside-the paths are paved with steep steps everywhere. I feel like a billy goat, but the exercise is terrific. There’s a small souk in the center of town where you can get fresh food and a number of other hanuts. (Will load photos when back in Azrou end of next week).
I had my first official Ramadan break-fast meal w/the family at sundown on Sunday night. Atmosphere: awkward. Menu: orange juice (Moroccans pride themselves on the best oj anywhere-and for a non-oj drinker, gotta say it was mighty tasty), glass of hot milk w/coffee and sugar, harira (great, traditional soup), fried flatbread (made fresh), another raised bread (bought in souk), hard boiled egg, some sort of sliced dried sausage, sbekya (fried dough w/honey), some sort of jelled custard and sweet mint tea. We watched a popular Arabic sitcom during the meal which helped overcome my limited language (I’m up to occasional 2 word utterances). I didn’t make it to their dinner w/ grandmother and grandfather sometime after midnight-fell asleep (shuma=shame).
My host family is a traditional family. Host mom is President of the weaving coop, and does everything from scratch at home. Dad is a mason, so works all day and goes to the café in the evening while we’re home w/the kids (ages 11 and 8). Sometimes in the evenings we go visit one of her sisters where another volunteer is staying-then we practice our Darija-many of the kids are trying to learn English, so we help one another. I did make it to dinner on Monday-at 12:30am (I guess that makes it this am). Ate a little, then went to bed. Yikes! Reminder-this is Ramadan schedule-it will be different next week. I was able to communicate that I wanted to work out in the morning on Tuesday and was it ok to use the spare room in the house that’s used for cooperative business and that I wanted to take a shower. So, I get up that morning, use my dvd on mute to workout, and by the time I’m done, my host mom is not only up, but has boiled a pot of water for me to use for a HOT shower! Is that too sweet?? Felt Great! She does this again for me this morning (Thursday). This is also after I’ve noted that they’ve put in brighter bulbs in the salon and my bedroom (maybe saw me trying to study and squinting). Also, father installed a toilet paper holder in the bit lma (bathroom). Ok, so you think that’s no big deal? They don’t use the stuff-amazing how touched I was by this!
Have been to the hamam w/Khadija and Ahellan, visited relatives, buying our breakfast and lunch daily in the souk (no refrig at our class site), making mint tea, helped buy 1/2 kilo beef for the guys to cook for lunch....trying to study at every opportunity.....
Last night (Wed) had 2 great cultural experiences (that’s one of our objectives of staying w/host families-cross cultural exchange). The first was going to the host family home of one of the other volunteers for her birthday. Saw how they celebrate-lots of sweets, music and dancing. A lot of fun. I got home to my host family to find out that Ahellan and her cousins were already down at the medina (town square/shopping area) to celebrate their first year of Ramadan fasting. A big deal for the girls-typical initial fasting timing is puberty. Khadija and I went down to join them, and boy am I glad I took my camera! I became unofficial photographer for multiple cousins and Ahella-they get all made up in Indian dress and makeup, the women sing a traditional song and ululate (Dines family-does this sound familiar??!!), and the girl is photographed. It was a mad-house for about 2 hours with a bunch of girls doing this. Finally, at midnight, Ahellan got her makeup done and we got her photographed.
We’ve started learning how to write Arabic-scary how the alphabet is making sense as we apply it to the vocabulary we’ve learned. I just have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to have it all memorized the day it’s introduced to us!
We’ve also started some of the technical work-putting the tools into practice with the women at the coop- interviewed them and did a community map to start to understand needs and opportunities-of course this was done thru our LCF-we gave her the questions and she translated for us.
There’s a couple who are Environmental PCV’s who live next door to where we’re taking class. They’ve been here since May and are going to take us on a hike up into the forest on Sunday if the weather is good, Inshallah.