So here's a taste of my new life in Ribat El Kheir:
7:30-Get up and dressed and ready to go at 7:35-Yeah! No makeup, no hair styling, no shower-just pull on the clothes-love that! Of course I usually have to dress quickly-besides the fact that it's cold, the bit l-ma is downstairs (my room is on the roof) and I’m not gonna run around the roof and house in my nightgown (shuma).
7:45 L-ftr (breakfast) in the cucina (kitchen) w/whoever is home. Breakfast is typically coffee w/milk and homemade bread w/cheese or olive oil. The girls go to school in the morning or afternoon (private school) . Jamila and Mustafa (host “Mom and Dad”) teach Mon-Sat at a public high school 2 km from here, but only ½ day each day-alternates mornings or afternoons.
8-9 work on computer in my room or study
9:00 leave house. Typically I'll be going to the coop and sit w/the women and study while they weave. This way I get to know them better, get in study time and pick up more language. If it’s Monday, which is souk, I may go there in the morning. It is at other end of REK, and the grand taxis (big Mercedes, packed w/6 passengers + driver) ferry people to souk and back into center of town all day long for 2DH each way.
10:00 (last Monday) Went to the souk and met up w/Steve, Nate and Fatima at Honey Coop. Fatima was one of the LCF’s during training-all her family is from REK, and she’s very active in associations here, even tho’ she lives in Fes. She helped start the weaving coop that I’m assigned to work with. She’s also been a terrific resource for PCV’s here in the past, and I will continue to be able to work with her. Hamdullah and Inshallah! Steve and Nate are Environmental PCV’s from sites near REK (they come in here for souk, cyber, mail, etc.). Nate is working with the Honey Coop (Taeawniya Bouyablane) to help them market their honey and is setting up a tasting w/a shop/café owner in Fes-they harvest 11 different types of honey, varying by plants that the bees use. We’re going into Fes on Wednesday to meet w/this person to see how we can make the tasting a success. Fatima took me on a “tour” of the souk. I’ll have to get pictures of it and post them-about 3x the size of the Ain Leuh souk which was big. There are sections for meat/poultry/fish, used clothing, new clothing, hardware, repairs, building supplies, furniture, get your haircut, misc. supplies, and of course tons of fruits and vegetables. This is put up every Monday and taken down at the end of the day. People come from all over the region, as it is the only souk in the area. Talk about a people crunch! Go to café to have coffee (ns ns for me-that’s ½ and ½-half coffee, half milk).
12:30 Get a grand taxi back to town center. Easier said than done. Everyone is vying for the same seats, but they’re all carrying their purchases from souk. Madhouse to get 3 of us into the same taxi (Nate left for his site from the souk). I’m afraid that I’m gonna push the woman w/her baby out the other side of the back seat as we cram into it from our end. Snooze you lose.
1:00 Busta (post office)-first piece of mail to my new PO Box! Thanks Jo! Mailed Nov 12th, it’s here already-and who knows when it arrived, as this is the first day the busta’s been open since I arrived on Friday afternoon. Also got my first piece of Moroccan junk mail-from the Post Office.
1:30 Back home. Late for gdda (lunch)-oops. Should be home closer to 1:00 to eat w/family. But the good news is that it was l-eds (lentils)! Kayejbani (I like) l-eds bzzaf (a lot)! Moroccan women make THE BEST lentils. Note: our cook in Ain Leuh cooked them in water w/onions, then added shredded tomato, garlic and coriander, later added ginger, pepper, cayenne, saffron and cumin. Ate dish of lentils and homemade bread while talking w/Hannan and Basma. (There was also a dish of meat and vegetables, but I passed on that). Jamila is a good cook, and as is typical, most dishes are cooked in a pressure cooker over the buta stove. The mid-day meal is the main meal of the day. Everyone is home to eat together-round table, food in the middle-this family uses fork/spoon/knife as well as bread as utensils.
2-4 Study language, take care of business
3-4 (Monday) Met w/Eziz-potential tutor. Introduced to him by Nate at souk in the a.m. He speaks good English, tutors physics and lives here in town. Jamila and Mustafa have connected me w/another potential tutor-teacher for one of their daughters-I’ll talk w/her on Thursday. Hopefully I’ll have one of them lined up this week and can get started w/more language lessons. Peace Corps gives us a tutoring allowance for 1 year of 400DH/month (about $50). I’ll supplement this to get more time w/my tutor if possible.
5:30-6:30 Exercise DVD in my room kul yumayn (every other day)
6:30 Tea w/family
7:00 Hot bucket shower if I worked out
8-9:00 Study, read, talk w/family, etc. This is usually done wrapped up under blankets. Buildings are built w/cement block and there is NO insulation. There is also NO heating, so the temp inside is pretty close to that outside. Electricity is unusually expensive in Morocco. Rural homes may have a wood-burning furno to heat the room. We have a portable buta heater in the family room (only) that is lit most nights for a couple of hours-think space heater. You still need the blankets. Side note-the guy I replaced had a portable electric heater that he left me. My host dad has mentioned a couple of times about the expense of electricity, so I’ve assured him that I don’t plan on plugging in my heater in my room. I’d hate to blow their budget on electricity-besides, so far I haven’t really needed it-w/3 thick blankets on my bed, I’m ok at night.
9:00 l-esha (dinner). This may be soup, couscous, pasta, meat and potatoes-or more than one of these. This (and lunch) always includes fruit for dessert. We’re in the mandarin orange season and I could eat them until I pop, they’re so good.
10 or 10:30-go to my room to read and sleep.
I’ve taken care of my carte de sejour application-that’s basically a work permit I need to carry with me. It took almost 2 hours w/the gendarmes-things move at a slow pace. Anyway, while I was there, speaking w/them in my limited Darija, they wanted to know if I was going rent Sherwin’s apt. (He’s the guy I replaced). Somehow they communicated that his apt was pretty dark and I might like something w/more light (sounds familiar-exactly what I told my host dad-no secrets around here). So one of the guys tells me he knows of an apt you can see from the gendarmes’s ofc-upstairs, very zwin-he’ll go get the landlord. So, long story a little shorter-it’s the same apt that my host dad was going to show me, one that the PCV before Sherwin rented. On the 4th floor, in a safe area, w/a balcony and view, roof access (important for laundry), very nqi (clean), newly done bit l-ma and duwsh (bathroom and separate shower room/hamam), salon, 2 bedrooms and kitchen. More room than I need, but very zwin. Need to determine the rent (he wouldn't tell me today), as they’ve cut the budgets in ½ since Sam rented the place. I have 700DH/month (<$100/mo!!) vs Sam’s 1400DH/mo 4 years ago. Still have a couple other housing options to check out, but I should be in good shape to move in 2 months. Inshallah.
Another fyi on how things work. I went by the post office to mail a letter. I had a notice of a Mandat in my box. A Mandat is how you get money, at the post office, when there is no bank or ATM in town. They basically operate as the town bank. This is how the Peace Corps pays us right now. We’ll be getting ATM cards after we get our carte de sejour, but then I’ll need to go to Sefrou or Fes to access my money. Oh well, it’s not like I’m spending much here in town!
I won't post again until after Thanksgiving, so I hope you all have a great one-will be missing you, but I'm in great hands here, and will celebrate w/other PCVs on Saturday in Khemisset.