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!