Despite numerous sessions this week that felt like time-fillers, it was a mezyan (good) week. We had demos and hands-on experience setting up the buta gas tanks for stoves (aka; how to cook w/o losing life or limb-wili wili), lectures on how to avoid and detect carbon monoxide poisoning (if aforementioned buta gas procedures are faulty-wili wili) and lots of policies and procedures. Since the language test pressure was behind us, it was a lot more relaxed. Late night movies in the 3rd floor salon-we’d rearrange the siddaris and ponges (think wooden form w/foam cushion covered by thick woven fabric) every night to make it comfy for about 15 of us to squeeze in to watch some DVD or illegal download on someone’s computer. This coziness was supplemented by fires in fireplaces for heat on all 3 floors of the Auberge. Two nights saw SBD vs YD (Small Business Development vs Youth Development) touch football and soccer games on the asphalt field of the Dar Chebab behind the Auberge. YD beat SBD in both cases. OK, so they play games w/kids all day for their projects and we’re building businesses (maybe an exaggeration) but we can make a mean spreadsheet! We had a fun Talent Show with 15 different performances. I was even recruited as a last minute addition to the dance team-go figure! One of the trainees had a crocheting lesson for about a dozen of us one night. All this and an early dismissal a couple of days for errands and an extension of our 9:30pm curfew a couple of nights made for a good end of training.
Thursday was swearing in day in Fes. We all dressed up (that equals a shower and clothes as zwin as possible after living out of suitcases for almost 3 months) and loaded on a bus to Fes. Our host families from CBT were invited to attend, and given their financial situations, it was remarkable how many actually came, since they had to pay their own transportation (note-no one has cars). It was great to see my host mother there-so sweet-she doesn’t have a spare dirham. The ceremony itself was fairly brief-speeches by 2 volunteers-the top Darija and Tamazeigt speakers-in those languages, a speech and terrific poem (that incorporated a reference to each of the 50+ of us) by the Ambassador, a speech by the Country Director, and the actual swearing in. That was followed by the usual photo opps and a buffet lunch by. Back on the bus to Azrou. No playing in Fes. Bummer. However, finally we're official Peace Corps Volunteers. Hamdullah!
Friday it was time to say our goodbyes to everyone and make the final move to our sites for the next 2 years. My predecessor had rented a car and came by the Auberge and drove myself, another volunteer and a friend of his to our sites-SWEET! OK, so the car thing. We’re not allowed to drive anything-car/motorcycle, etc. while we’re volunteers. We are also restricted to the type of vehicles we can ride in. We’re not allowed to travel at night, so that limits when and how you travel, whether on business or pleasure. Safety. Inshallah.
Another word about the travel procedures. If you go out of your site, on business OR pleasure, you must inform your Program Manager, the Out-of-Site Coordinator, your site counterpart, your region warden and your local gendarmes. If it is business, the out of site trip also has to be approved. This is if I am travelling within Morocco-even if only to my Delegate’s office in Sefrou. Think about a family member having an emergency or a country safety issue. The PC office/staff is responsible for knowing how to contact us and where we are at all times. Likewise, the Ministry expects the gendarmes to know where we are at all times. While if feels extremely restrictive, it is not to curtail travel, but to keep PC informed. Safety and security, Inshallah.
Thanksgiving. Can it be next week already? It’s just another work day around here-no 4 day holiday for us -that will have to wait for the full moon in December for Leid Kbira. However, before you shed any sympathy tears, I will have at least one opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. I have to go to Rabat next week to the dentist to (finally) get my broken crown fixed. I’ve scheduled the appointment on Friday. That means travelling in on Thursday. I’m trying to see if there’s anything that’s done thru the Embassy or the PC office on Thursday for Thanksgiving that I can attend (since I have to be there before it’s dark). I’ll stay Friday after my appointment and go to the Peace Corps office to work. On Saturday I’m attending a craft fair (the Aiwa Bazaar) in Rabat. It’s a Peace Corps sponsored event, primarily for American ex-pats who want to buy Moroccan artisanal products to take home for holiday gifts. A lot of artisans that PCV’s work with will be there. It will be a great opportunity to meet SBD volunteers who have been here a year and to pick their brains. It is also a great opportunity to do a little market research on what is being made, relative quality, and pricing from other coops. I’ll be able to use this info with my coop as they determine things like where to sell, what to sell, how to price and market their products. After the Craft Fair on Saturday, I’ll go w/a couple of the volunteers to Khemisset (it’s on the way back to Ribat El Kheir) and stay overnight. That will be our chance to do a shwiya Thanksgiving.
Since we left the US, the elections have taken place, the US economy continues to tumble, wildfires have razed Southern California and the holidays are literally around the corner. Meanwhile we’ve been in this protective bubble/womb of training-and the gestation period is over. PC Morocco just gave birth to 50+ new volunteers who are ready to try out their wings. Triq slama.