It’s been a good day. It is actually a National Holiday. Something to do with the Western Sahara-the topic is haram/controversial, so I don’t know the whole scoop. Anyway, a day off for all!
Well, maybe not everyone. The Regional Governor (who I understand to be like a State Governor) came from Sefrou to Ribat El Kheir to cut the ribbon to officially open a girls’ dormitory that’s been open a couple of years. The dorm is for girls in the surrounding areas who live here during the week for school. It houses 50 girls and is a nice facility. Anyway, this is obviously a big deal, so my host dad was called to be there-along w/every key person in town. I asked if I could come along and see what was going on. Sure glad I did. But first, let me be perfectly clear about this-I invited myself-I was actually just bumming along w/my host dad-figured it was good for a few photos-I'm in my yoga pants and fleece sweatshirt, tennies, and hair the usual Moroccan mess (note to self: next time ask more questions before heading out in sweats!)....I'm thinking I hang back in the outskirts and snap a few shots, right? I forget I stand out like a sore thumb around here-there's no hanging in the back-I'm pulled into the line w/the important men-end up being introduced to the governor as the new Peace Corps volunteer here-when he congratulates me on Obama-I say "Inshallah" (with Allah's blessing), rather than the more appropriate "Hamdullah" (thanks be to Allah). Anyway, my counterpart in the taeawniya was there, the Delegate from Sefrou who I officially report to was there (who I met on Monday in Sefrou), and I was introduced to the woman who oversees the dormitory and her boss who oversees multiple such facilities (who asked if I would teach English to the girls here). It was really a great opportunity to meet so many people here in town-even if we didn’t exchange names, their faces will be familiar when I’m walking around, Inshallah.
Afterward, since it was the first sunny day since I got here, I decided to go walking around town-took a couple of pictures, but mostly I just wanted to see the town, and kinda get myself out so people get used to seeing me. Believe me, you really stand out here. Everyone stares, but not unkindly, just curious. A couple of women standing talking on the curb motioned me over-I went over and spoke my broken Arabic with them-both named Fatima, they’re neighbors to one another, they wanted to know why I was here, was I looking for a husband (more on that later), and that I was invited to come to their homes. Other than that, a smile and Salam Alekum typically gets a smile or positive response from everyone. Merhaba!
OK, about the husband thing. Apparently (and not particularly surprising), there are a lot of young Moroccan’s eager to marry Americans-can you say green card? Apparently there is also a wave of “cougars”-American women in their 40’s+ eager to marry those younger Moroccan men! One of the PCV’s in a town close by was going to a wedding on Tuesday night (the celebration actually lasts 3 days) for one of these unions, which was of course being followed by a move to America. Hmm.
Well, I am officially now on my own as well. I don’t know what happened, but the PCV here in Rabat El Kheir who I’m replacing was called this morning and Peace Corps came out and took him to Rabat and he’s going home today-not the end of the month. Weird. Hope he’s ok-was a lot of help to me this week, especially w/travel logistics which can be very confusing even when you kinda know them. He left me his bike, so I not only will have one (yeah!), but I have it already, and he only used it twice. In addition, he left me an electric space heater that Peace Corps bought for him. Right now, at 5pm it’s 42 degrees outside, and w/o the heater on it’s 54 degrees in my room. That space heater will be a godsend. Hamdullah! In addition, my host dad is going to see if he can get their internet connection up here in my room (on the roof)-would that be sweet??!! Inshallah!
Sooooo. It’s just me here now. I’ve got the women of the coop to work with, potentially the girls in the dorm and kids at the Dar Shebab (think youth center) to teach English, and the women of the coop want help learning English and computers. This is good, ‘cuz you know me-I like to stay busy. I have the inside scoop on a good place to rent-former PCV’s place, but will check alternatives (would prefer an upper floor place for more light and air). My host dad is going to help me find a tutor here in Ribat El Kheir (much better for tutor to be here for integration). I’ve got a host family situation that is ideal. My good luck continues. Inshallah.