Friday, October 31, 2008

CBT to Final Site

Happy Halloween!

We actually had Halloween come a little early to Ain Leuh. On Tuesday we carved up the pumpkin we bought at the souk last week. (You should have seen our cook’s face when we brought it home-she thought we wanted her to cook all of it). The seeds were cooked on the buta stove and Lisa cooked down a lot of the pumpkin and made pie-yum. We bought candles in the hanut and invited the neighbor, our cook and a couple of others to join us for the “lighting” of our pumpkin. We brought it indoors (too brrd outside), turned out the lights and lit her up! We took turns telling ghost stories, with Amina translating both directions. You should have seen the neighbor and our cook get into the “spirit” of things by telling stories of their own-some involving ghosts from the cemetery just down the road from our classroom! Who knew!

Wednesday we started talking about what we need to be able to say once we’re on our site visit. It seemed like training was going to go on forever, and now it’s almost done! Well, at least the formal classroom and CBT training-we still have 2+ weeks to go before swearing in. We had a farewell party for the people of Ain Leuh who have been so great to us, ie; our host families and the women of the taeawniya. You should have seen the women dance to the Moroccan music-now I know how to stay warm thru the cold winter months-invite Moroccan women to dance!

Speaking of final sites, I finally know where I'll be for the next 2 years! We had to say our goodbyes to our host families on Thurs morning before leaving for Azrou, where all the SBD trainees were once again gathering, this time with a lot of anticipation, as we were to find out our final service sites that afternoon. The Program Director was running a couple hours late, so everything was delayed, and at first she was going to wait until today to tell us. Talk about near-revolt! We didn't eat dinner until about 9pm, giving her time to tell us all-in a group-where each of us was going and a little bit about the site. We got more information today about the sites, who we're replacing and a little bit about our host families.

So here goes:
I'll be in a place called Ribat El Kheir. It is 50 km east of Sefrou and another 40 min to Fez and at about 3000 ft. The town has about 13,000 people. My host family has both mother and father and they're both teachers, and they have 4 daughters. We have running water and electricity. There's internet availability in town-don't know yet if that's just at cybers or if I'll be able to get it at home when I get my own place (2 mos required w/home stay family). I'll have cell phone service. There is a post office, so I'll be getting my very own personal PO Box and address soon, but there is no bank-the closest one is in Sefrou. There is souk weekly, but fresh produce is available in the hanuts in town. I'll be working with an established Coop of women weavers who are asking for help in marketing their products. I'll be replacing a current PCV who is finishing his service the end of November. It apparently gets very cold in winter, incl. snow, and while summer anywhere in Morocco is very hot, Ribat El Kheir doesn't get as bad as other areas. One of our LCF trainers is from Ribat El Kheir and helped start the Coop I'll be working with. She now lives in Fez, but will help me find a tutor in Ribat El Kheir. Inshallah!

At least now we all know where we'll be-scattered across the country (some will take 2 days to get to their sites, but we'll have other PCV's (SBD and other sectors) nearby to work with and celebrate American holidays with. Of all the cities in Morocco to be close to, my preference would be Fez, so I'm glad that I'm close enough to get there and back in a day.

Tomorrow we travel out to our sites for one week of intro. I go first to Fez for my dentist appt., then the guy I'm replacing will meet me there-he's going to Fez tomorrow for some shopping anyway-and shepherd me to Ribat El Kheir and my host family's house. Triq slama!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ain Leuh con't

Greetings from cold and rainy Ain Leuh. It's rained (shta) for a week straight and it's COLD (but not as cold as it will get, so Lynn quit your whining!). It's been hard to find a time to do laundry, so not only are we transferring around the same cold bugs, we’re wearing the same clothes over and over-acclimation is at a peak! I did get some undies (slip) a bucket wash today at least. I’ve kept up the everyotherdaypilatesCDworkoutinthemorningfollowedbybucketshower routine-at least me and my undies will smell good!

OK, so dental health is not the first priority among Moroccans. Given the preponderance of sugar in the mint tea, lack of fluoride in the water, etc., dental hygiene could use some attention. Sooooo, Thursday night when I discovered the front part of a crown broken off while eating some soft bread, I was not thrilled to find that dental care will be my first "medical" intervention in Morocco. Apparently the dentist that the Peace Corps uses is in Fez, and I’m still waiting to find out when I go there to get this fixed. Rumor control has it that our swearing in ceremony will be in Fez, so I’m thinking there will be a combo trip, however swearing in isn’t until Nov 20. Soooo, I’ll have a funny smile on the right side of my mouth until whenever. Stay tuned-no doubt there will be a story when I get it taken care of.

Meanwhile, we’re moving right along w/projects. I did my workshop yesterday with the Coop women. In the US I would have planned for at least 1 hour with a lot of participation. I expected that this workshop would take only about ½ hour max. Much to my surprise (and delight), it did take an hour, with a lot of conversation (translated by our LCF). There were lots of questions and the feedback was positive. I translated all of the workshop materials, including several copies of the worksheets into Darija so I could talk thru it all with them, then had our LCF translate all of it into Arabic script so the women can use these materials after we’re gone. The point here is building capacity and sustainability. Inshallah!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CBT II Home Stretch

Thursday Oct 23

Factoid: Morocco is a world leader in producing crafts which explains the government’s focus on the large handicraft market which accounts for 20% of the country’s labor force and 10% of the country’s GDP. In 2002, artisan production generated $6.2 billion in sales for two million artisans, benefiting one-third of the population.

I thought I’d share a little bit about the projects that we’re working on here in Ain Leuh with the women of the weaving Cooperative. Here’s the situation-they’ve been in operation for 20 years, and up until 2 years ago, a government appointed person was managing the business-the financials and the marketing (such as it was). She went to all expos, all training, and passed none of it on to the women of the cooperative. So in the last 2 years the women have taken on full responsibility for their business. This is a business that has lost money for at least the last 6 years, despite the fact that the women are weaving some of, if not the best carpets in Morocco.

My project is to put together worksheets and a reference document on budgeting, and I’ll do a workshop on Saturday-all in Darija. They have never put together a budget nor have they been trained on doing one. However, if they could save money to buy 2-3 heaters for their workshop, they could weave thru the entire winter-an additional 1-2 months worth of weaving and increase their production at least 10-15%. (It gets too cold to weave all winter long-there’s no insulation or heating in the workroom-just cement block walls-which is true for all buildings and homes here). The sales from this increase in production is more than they need to pay for the heaters and electricity in the 1st year. OK, so now I need to get this across to these wonderful women who have no business, finance, or planning experience. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep something simple.

The other volunteers are working on projects including: two are getting the brochures that a former PCV produced into the 2 Auberges in Ain Leuh and a new sign for the front of the building to draw more people into the Coop when they’re in Ain Leuh; one is training 2 women on how to use their new digital camera to take photos and download them to their new website (more on that later); one will train them on how to decide what type of product they should be weaving based on profitability (right now they either weave to order or if there’s no order, the woman chooses what she makes); and one is putting together a resource for them to apply for grants.

Ok, so they are getting a new website-I’ll include a ling to the site when it’s “live”. A University in Ifrane had students from the US here working on developing the website for the Coop. It’s almost ready. The women have a computer, but it has no Word or Excel software, no internet, no one knows how to use it and it’s in French, and none of them speak or read French. So, their computer’s not a viable option. The same University gave the women a new digital camera, but no training on how to use it, how and where to download the photos, how to post them to their site, etc. There is also the open question as to how and who will manage the website. Hmmm.

Building sustainability is not as easy as it appears. It’s great to provide resources to those who need them, but if they can’t build on them or use them once the help is gone, the resources are limited.

The next week is a big one for us. We finish our CBT II projects and reports, we throw a party for the people in Ain Leuh who have helped us, ie; women of the Cooperative and our host families, we pack up and go back to Azrou. We’re in Azrou for 2 days and we’ll find out our final sites-the location, what type of town and artisans we’ll be working with for the next 2 years. Then we leave for site visits to our new locations to meet the host families we’ll live with for the next 2 months. Wahoo! Inshallah!

Parting shot: I'm working at the cyber (cybercafe to you) across from my house-the place I usually use because the guys who run it know me by now and let me into their office space to download files and print them out. The guy here just told me (in Darija) that my l-arbiya mezyan (my Arabic is good). OK, so it's not true, but it still made my day!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Monday 10/20

On Saturday, Khadija told me that we were going to go to her sister’s house that evening. I asked what was going on, and with our language barrier, her daughter, Ahelam, had to pantomime that it was for a circumcision celebration (you can imagine the pantomime!). All boys before they are 1 year old are circumcised (now done in a clinic or hospital).

All the family gathered-and I’m talking about at least 80 people-for the celebration. So picture this; we walk about a mile to Khadija’s folk’s house (next door to the party) to change-they dress me in a very pretty yellow caftan (that’s a jelaba minus the hood, and for indoor wear only-can be very fancy)-and we head off to the party around 9:30. We sit in a room w/about a dozen women-the men and women are separated the entire night-where we stay for the next 2 hours. They're talking some; me-listening and observing and trying to answer an occasional question.

I so wish I could paint a picture of the faces of some of the older female relatives-with their wrinkled and aged faces, strong Berber tattoo markings down their faces, strong noses and cheekbones, probably no teeth, with gold dangle earrings, white headscarves, sitting on the floor leaning against the yellow walls w/blankets in their laps, holding prayer beads. Amazing!

Around 11:30 or 12:00 (after of course the men have eaten), we move into another room w/about 40 women and 3 large round tables. Two women come in w/water and a towel to wash our hands. The food starts coming out-and I mean food! Huge platters for each table with 3-4 chickens. That was plenty. But wait-there’s more! Then come the huge platters of couscous with beef, chickpeas and caramelized onions. Mind you, they’ve already served this to all the men, and now we’re eating. I can’t imagine how and where all this cooking took place-no one has a kitchen large enough to cook a fraction of this food!

Shortly after the food is cleared, the electricity (and the water it turns out) goes out due to a storm passing thru. Within minutes we’ve got candles on each table (a water glass turned over w/a drip of wax holds a candle nicely) and a buta gas cylinder lit up like a big lantern. OK, keep the party going! The women start singing, with the older women on one end of the room starting the songs and clapping while the younger women chime in. Not much dancing-no room w/the tables.

So around 2am, we finally get a glimpse of the boy for whom all of this is happening. (As it turns out, the men never even saw the baby-apparently all evening the mom and dad are in a separate room for everyone to take turns going in and giving money and congratulating them on the big day). He’s brought in all dressed up with his mom, with a tray of incense, lemons and cloth swatches. This is for the women’s celebration which includes tucking money into his hat, more singing and ululating, and putting henna on his hands and feet (the cloth is to wrap them up afterward).

Around 2:30 the rain stopped (Hamdullah!) and we walked home in the pitch dark. Fortunately Idriss beat us home and had a candle going and I had a flashlight in my room. Both the electricity and water were off throughout Ain Leuh until around 5pm on Sunday.

Sunday went walking w/another trainee-we went south from town to check out the views and take some photos. When I got back, the PCV who lived w/Khadija and her family 2 years ago for CBT here in Ain Leuh came by to visit on her way back to her site from Rabat. It was good to talk w/her-get her insight and tips and practice some Darija. She and the rest of the family went down to Khadija’s folk’s home for Rachel to say hi-I stayed home, wrapped myself up in a blanket-I couldn’t warm up-to study and take care of the nasty cold I finally succumbed to.

Friday, October 17, 2008

CBT II cont'd

Oct 14 (Tues) I thought I’d share some observations about Morocco….

The economy. Hmm. While no one complains about the economy per se, unemployment is a big issue. We heard and saw the young men demonstrating in front of government buildings while we were in Rabat. They are protesting the government ministries, not the King, who remains very popular. The issue is not confined to the cities and it impacts the skilled and educated as well as the low skilled workers. Last week there was an opportunity for men over age 35 w/children to register for the opportunity to go to France for work. My host dad was one of those who signed up. (Last week he went every day to Azrou to get work). I don’t know when they find out who is chosen. The host brother of another volunteer left on Sunday for Tangier to try to find work.

Another observation is that Morocco seems to have pretty good infrastructure. The roads I’ve seen so far are pretty well maintained (have certainly seen far worse in my travels elsewhere). Running water and electricity, and especially cell phone service is pretty accessible in small towns. Obviously the more rural you go (into the “bled”), the less access you’ll have. One thing that’s surprising to most of us is the trash situation. Here in Ain Leuh, there is regular trash collection, but there are no trash cans. People set their trash out on the street or sidewalk, or put it out their windows. This obviously leads to a lot of trash lying all over. Small black plastic bags have taken over in the hanuts, and they are ubiquitous. There’s a PCV couple working on Environmental projects here in Ain Leuh, and that is one of their first priorities-getting cans distributed around town for centralized trash depositing and collection.

On Wednesday I talked our instructor into a field trip to the weekly souk. This entailed packing ourselves into the “souk bus” at the medina for a short ride just north of town. Think of this as a giant farmer’s market and swap meet, with about ½ of it produce. This is where every woman in town (and many men and kids) go every Wednesday to buy their fresh produce for the week. I wanted to see what it was like, what they had, the negotiating practices, etc., as the souk is where I’ll be buying my produce once I’ve got my own place. We (the 6 trainees and our LCF) have a woman who comes in everyday and cooks a great lunch for us. We give her our food allowance and she does everything else. This is Peace Corps policy to ensure that we get at least one good, nutritious meal a day. Anyway, on Wednesday we shopped for our own produce for the week. While I was at it, I bought food to cook for my family that night. OK, so you think that a veggie and chicken stir fry would be a breeze, right? Well, you need to negotiate all your veggies and prices. No problem. Chicken. Right. Live or butchered? Oh, thank goodness I can buy just part (1/4 kilo) of a freshly butchered and cleaned chicken. Whew! But forget the boneless, skinless breast meat ladies. I can now bone chicken parts with a dull knife. Then of course we don’t have a sink or running water in the kitchen, so it’s water in a bowl, a scrap bowl and a corner of tile to cut everything up. It’s amazing we didn’t all get salmonella poisoning, ‘cuz I tell you that the counter did not stay chicken juice clean! Well, the stir fry came out great, as did the cucumber and tomato salad. Both kids pronounced dinner “zwin” and “benin” (that’s great!), but I only heard a lot of “l-xodra” (vegetables) from my host mom-I think it was too many veggies and not enough meat and potatoes for her. OK, so maybe they won’t request my cooking again, but all the veggies were GREAT! So, you wanna know more about the chicken, right? You want to know how to tell if you’re getting a “frisky” chicken, as we were told to buy? Yes the chicken guy at the souk has live, frisky chickens. You can buy it as is and “DIY”, or, I found out that you can ask him to kill and clean it and come back in 10 minutes and he’ll have it done. Of course, my choice was to buy it from the chicken guy at the hanut in town where the chickens are hanging outside, who already had it cleaned and would cleave off just the amount I wanted. That’s fresh enough for me! Anyway, it was a good experience to work w/a limited kitchen, a buta-gas stove, and some novel ingredients. Hamdullah!

(Friday) Today we got our first formal feedback/language proficiency test. So far so good- I’m on target for where we are in our training-that’s the good news, since we have no benchmark for comparison. There’s still just so much to learn. I am committed to breaking the pattern I heard from several “over 50” volunteers last week in Azrou-every one of them admitted that they didn’t make learning Darija a priority and their language skills reflect this. That will not be the case with me. I just can’t imagine how you can really work with the people of Morocco and really know what’s going on with them unless you can speak their language. I think I’ll be a 2 year work in progress! Inshallah!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CBT II in Ain Leuh

Well, we're back in Ain Leuh for the next 3 weeks. Good news-not only no snow as reported, in fact today hit mid-70's w/sunny skies, so 5 of the 6 of us trainees went for a terrific 3 hr hike up above town in the forest. Nice. Welcome back!

It was an easy return trip. First, I successfully negotiated for our Grand Taxi (That's a 70's model Mercedes that takes up to 6 passengers to a destination. They wait until the taxi is full to depart) trip from Azrou to Ain Leuh for the 4 of us who decided to split the full 6 person fare (this meant 30DH, or about $3.75 for a 30 minute ride). The drivers hang around one guy who coordinates who is going where, and clearly they saw 2 female Westerners coming and tried to get 200DH. I was able to negotiate in Arabic and we held our ground until our price was met. Yeah! Small successes feel great!

The other good news about the return to Ain Leuh was how easy it was to settle back into my host family's home. This is despite the fact that the storms that preceded our return had knocked out the water lines and there was no water, and we were told it could take 3 days to get water running again. My first-ok, maybe second-thought was, ok, I can go 3 days w/o water-I'll just learn by observing how my family and LCF do it. I'm tough, right? Yeah! I came home from afternoon class and helped my host mom fill bottles and buckets w/water at our favorite hanut (see previous postings-he's the guy w/diet Coke and gouda cheese) where they have well water. So dare I confess to my delight when I heard the l-ma (water) gushing into the sttl (bucket) in the bit l-ma (bathroom) at about tseud nishan (9 o'clock) last night? Yes, we're back on water.

I had another small success before departing Azrou, in preparation for Ain Leuh CBT II. I found out that the Regional Artisana Director in Azrou is also the Regional Delegate who oversees the business of the weaving coops, including that of Ain Leuh. I negotiated for another guy and I to miss some Azrou class time to sit down with him to learn more about the coop here. We had to develop our questions, get them translated, and conduct the conversation in Arabic, of course all thru our LCF Amina. We found out some very important information that will really impact how we approach our projects w/the weavers in CBT II, so I was glad that worked out.

Upon my return yesterday, I gave my host mom the gift I put together for the family in thanks for all their kindness to me. I had about 30 photos developed for them and blew 2 of them up and got them framed. The photos were of Khadija's female family members the night that the girls who completed their first Ramadan fasting got their makeup done and dressed up (see previous posting and photo). Khadija's sister came in and saw the photos, so I've now found a photo hanut here in Ain Leuh to not only make copies from my thumb drive, but they have even nicer frames than the ones in Azrou! Could have done it all here in little Ain Leuh! Good learning-don't make assumptions.

I really have to leave one more message for this posting. It's to all of you who are reading the blog and emailing and/or responding. Thanks. Thanks. Shukran! We are incredibly busy here-very highly scheduled, 6 days/week, tons to learn and lots of self imposed pressure to get the language asap. No time to be homesick, honestly. That's until I get a message from someone that's so sweet, it reminds me of loved ones at home and how much I do miss them, despite how busy and fine I'm doing here. So, thank you.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Moving on to CBT II

Happy couscous Friday!! It's tradition to serve couscous on Fridays. Some families have it other days, but since Friday is a day that businesses close early for the jame (mosque) and long gda (lunch), there's time for a couscous meal. Yum!

I don't know if I've shared our overall training schedule either, so here it is:
Week 1 Rabat, then move to Azrou for the set up of CBT (Community Based Training)
Week 2 Azrou
Week 3 CBT I Site-Ain Leuh, live w/host families and Mon-Sat classes in language and technical skills (tools for working w/artisans)
Week 4 CBT I
Week 5 Azrou-technical training, cross culture, CBT I debrief and CBT II training-we're at the end of this week right now
Week 6 CBT II Ain Leuh-host families, Mon-Sat classes and working on individual projects with our artisan group
Week 7 CBT II
Week 8 CBT II, end of week back to Azrou for final site assignments
Week 9 Final site visit-meet host family (live w/them for 2 mos) and target artisan group
Week 10 Azrou, final language testing, prep for final sites
Week 11 Swearing in-location not yet determined-rumored to be Fez
November 21 we leave for our final sites and are on our own

A few more factoids:
Morocco is the 2nd largest Peace Corps country w/259 volunteers
We've been poked w/needles a lot; immunizations included rabies, tetanus, hep a and b, flu, typhoid and meningitis. Fortunately I've not been adversely affected by any of them (not true for everyone).
Prolonged pronunciation of the Moroccan Arabic letters "g", "h" and "x" can lead to a sore throat
REI super absorbable towels are fabulous for packing/travel, but lousy for comfort. I've bought a big old fluffy thing-will be better for cold winter bit lma showers in my future.

You know that some people see their glass as half empty while others' glass is half full, right? Did you know that a PC volunteer can take a shower with theirs?? Ha!

Well, we leave for Ain Leuh in the morning. That means that I have a major re-packing job to do this evening, as it is getting COLD (rumor has it that the rain storm we got this week in Azrou may have left snow in Ain Leuh). I've got warmer clothes, and we'll be in Ain Leuh almost 3 weeks, so I'll take my big suitcase, but will have to shift everything around. FYI-they let us store whatever we want here at the Auberge in Azrou, so we don't have to lug everything around with us for CBT.

Well, I'll likely check in on Sunday-trying to take advantage of the internet access I have while I have it, as final site conditions are still unknown!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

End of CBT I

With all of one month of training under my belt, I bring you “True Confessions”:

I like the small glass of warm, full fat, sugared milk w/a tsp of Nescafe at dinner
I like the extended greetings when you meet people, esp. those you already know
Using a Turkish toilet means sometimes you pee on your foot accidentally
I bring my own towel into the bathroom to wash my hands (I’m the only one using tp)
I’ve become very flexible about meal times
I don’t miss TV (Note: even a very basic one room home has a TV and satellite reception, and the TV is on every night, but it’s all in Moroccan Arabic)
I’ve only read ¼ of one of the books I brought
I like not worrying about my hair or makeup-and it looks just fine
I sometimes take my time getting home after class-after all, I'll have all evening long trying to speak Darija w/the family
Sweet mint tea is good to sip
It’s nice to be able to greet the neighbors, friends and family I’ve met when I see them in town
I don’t think it’s strange to share the same footpath w/a flock of sheep
I need to find a way to get more fruit and veggies into the diet-it’s been very carb-loaded
I no longer even hear the call to prayer that is broadcast 5 times a day
I’m ok w/the squatting and standing over the turkish toilet to take a bucket shower (esp if I have warm water), and actually prefer this method of bathing to going to the hammam (like a 2 hr bath-ugh! Not for me!)
Flip flops were the best purchase so far (see all bit lma comments)
All of our project ideas are within the capability of any of the volunteers, regardless of their backgrounds and experience.
You get used to the smells
The hanut that sells umbrellas, hardware, diet coke and REAL gouda cheese is the best and they’re patient enough to let me do all my business (incl currency) in Darija-love it
I haven’t driven a car in a month and I don’t miss it one bit
Cleanliness and personal hygiene have different standards here-one of the more difficult adjustments
I’m getting good at dealing w/ambiguity
I’ve never liked the idea of journaling-really don’t like writing, but I’m finding that blogging is therapeutic.
If someone were to ask me to make a decision right now about being posted to a small village or a big town, I’d have trouble deciding. The small village offers community, integration, impact possibilities to a greater extent, but has fewer amenities. Big town has the amenities, but harder to identify a community within the town to work with and become a part of. Hmmmm. As they say in Peace Corps Morocco, swya b swya…little by little. It will be interesting to check the confessions next year.
B’slama-we're off to Azrou for 5 days w/all the trainees, Inshallah!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

CBT Week 2

(started writing this blog on Tuesday, it’s now Thursday evening)
The big news is that l-eid s-sgira is tomorow. This means that a new moon has been seen, marking the end of Ramadan and the 1st day of the 10th month of the Islamic calendar. It is a day of celebration, eating (the month-long fasting is over), and visiting relatives. No work and no school-just family.

A word about fasting. It’s a little different than many think. In Islam, fasting means nothing passes one’s lips from sunup to sundown. That means food, water, cigarette, etc. I watch the people in Ain Leuh walking up and down these hills all day long, and know that some travel great distance by foot each day, all without so much as a drink of water. Pretty amazing. Can’t tell you how glad I am that we’ve been able to be w/our host families thru Ramadan. Next year we’ll be on our own, and will not experience it as closely, no matter how well integrated we are. I’m also very curious to see what the normal day is like in non-Ramadan time, ie; families start days earlier, mealtimes and menu are different, business hours are different, etc., just don’t know by how much.

We’ve had the opportunity to sit down with the women’s weaving cooperative several times already. They’re patiently allowing us to interview them to put our technical tools into action, while identifying their needs and priorities, and coming up with potential projects. There will be a person from our 36 member training group posted to Ain Leuh when we’re done w/training, so they may be able to use our work in their efforts. We put the interviews together and our LCF does the talking and interpreting, as our language isn’t ready for prime time yet.

(written Wednesday) Mbruk Leid. We’ve been walking all over town all day long, visiting relatives, eating and drinking sweet mint tea. S-salam Alekum, labas? Kulshi bixir? Labas, L-hamdullah! Now in Morocco, there’s a different sense of family and space. First, it is typical to find 3 generations under the same roof. The roof isn’t big. Besides the small kitchen, a bit lma that only fits the Turkish toilet and a sink (and it may be outside), there’s usually one or two salons where the family visits, sleeps, basically does everything else. This also means that with Khadija’s large family living here, all the aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents are at the most a 20 minute walk, so they see each other all the time. This makes for incredibly tight connections which is wonderful to see. I wish I could share my visual imprints from the day-just didn’t seem appropriate to pull out the camera-but the image of Khadija’s great aunt, sitting on a cushion on the floor against a sfr (saffron) colored wall, with what looked like prayer beads in her hands and her aged, Berber tattooed face is burned in my brain. OK, so eating is a big part of l-eid sgira. We had harira b l-hlib twice. And I thought I had it down that harira was the Ramadan break-fast soup-obviously not, as it showed up as a type of small balled pasta the size of tapioca. With milk (and maybe butter) it’s savory and eaten out of a shared dish. Later we (the women in one room and the men in another) had a vegetable and meat tangine (typically cooked in a pressure cooker), with bread as our utensil. Delish! And of course, cookies and sweet mint tea at every stop, and a Moroccan dish called zmita-its ground nuts, spices, maybe some sugar-eaten w/a spoon straight from the dish.

Two benefits of being w/a host family during a holiday like this: First-cultural appreciation, if not assimilation. What a great opportunity to be brought along just like another family member, even if I can’t understand 99% of the conversations. Second-great way to learn practical language. Instead of sitting in the salon memorizing the commands for “ja” (to come), it’s easy to remember that it’s “aji”-because that’s what the mom’s were constantly yelling to their kids! Aji!

One last note for l-eid--got yddya (my hands) henna’d last night. My 8 yo host sister Ahelam wanted hers done, and it is traditional for 1st year fasting girls to do so at the end of Ramadan. Their neighbor, Fatima, was finishing Ahelam’s about 12 midnight, and came over to do mine. I just wanted nes (sleep), but Khadija pulled me into the parlor (OK, so I didn’t protest that much)-got my contacts out, and got both sides of both hands done. Uh oh. Now what to do to go to sleep? Khadija soaked a cotton ball in the leftover tea (Added color), added some zit (oil), and wrapped my hands in cotton. You can imagine both how fun it was to undress with all that and not get henna all over everything, and what a mess I was when I got up this morning! All’s well tho’-will post photos

Well, that’s a snapshot into l-eid sgira. Think I’m gonna shut down the computer to reserve enough battery to put in my dvd and work off some of the sugared tea and cookies!
Yes, I made it thru l-eid and everyone in town continues to celebrate a 3 day holiday, but it’s back to school for us. We have 2 more days (Friday and Sat, or jamea and sbt) here before we trek back to Azrou for 5 days.