Language in REK:
My plan is to enlist the help of another tutor. I’d like to be working w/a tutor at least 5 days/week. My current tutor (English teacher to Basma and Bouchra) is very nice and patient. However, she’s never tutored anyone in Darija before, so doesn’t have a methodology in mind. So far I’ve driven the content of our 3x/week sessions. For now that’s ok, as I have plenty of material to work with. However, there’s a guy in El Menzel (about 15km away-easy, 5DH transit) who has tutored other PCVs who I may hire. If he can provide some structured learning to supplement what I get from Saida, and meet w/him the other 2 weekdays, that might be a good approach.
Meanwhile, I’ve enlisted the support of one of PC’s LCF’s (language trainers) to translate for me w/the women of the Coop. I have tons of questions for them, and while I’m able to ask my questions, I need Fatima there to translate the answers. I‘d at least like to have more info to work with than the superficial discussions I’ve had so far on my own. Fortunately Fatima’s family lives in Ribat El Kheir, so I can use her occasionally this way. Unfortunately she lives in Fes-otherwise I’d have her as my full time tutor!
As you can tell, language is very much my priority. Will keep you posted.
Makla (food) musings in Morocco:
Growing up, my mother couldn’t get me to eat orange-colored squash for anything, anytime. I now love it-mostly pumpkin-when pressure cooked over couscous. (Turnips fall into the same categories). Hello winter, hello root vegetables.
I don’t like green olives. Change that. I didn’t like green olives. The ones coming from the family farm, freshly made, are great.
Goat cheese. No way. Then this white mound appears in a bowl, at the end of dinner, to share. Looks like ricotta. Tastes a lot like ricotta. I like it. I’m told it’s cheese from goats. No kidding!
Goat meat. Would you choose it? Ate the kabob. Liked it. It was goat. Who knew?
Hot glass of sweet atay (tea) on cold days in winter, around 6pm. Yeah.
You CAN get a good cup of expresso, in ANY café in Morocco, and in REK it’s less than 50 cents-take that Starbucks! Only problem is, most cafes are men only. I am welcome in one by the cyber-owned by host family of another PCV. Speaking of cafes, reminds me of clarification I owe you. A cyber café is a café in name only. It’s actually a bunch of crude cubicles each with a desktop computer. People here can’t afford laptops-so there’s no Starbucks-like sitting in the café, sipping your non-fat latte whilst emailing using some wireless network. It’s either coffee in an actual café that “allows” women, or sitting in front of a computer in the cyber café-not both. I do bring my own laptop and plug in so I have an English (vs French) keyboard and my hard drive to work with at the cyber.
Warm fresh bread does not need butter. Dipping it into fresh olive oil from the farm is a great alternative. (Can you tell it’s olive-picking season?)
The Clementine oranges of Morocco win best in show-globally-against any comers.
And last but not least, God Bless the French, for they left behind fabulous bread and pastry recipes and cooks!
OK, enough about food. When language sucks, food is comfort. All right, food is comfort for any excuse-you got me there!
Business in Fes:
I’ve been working w/one of my Environ PCV counterparts as he’s trying to help the local Taeawniya l-esl (Honey Coop). Nate had been working w/Abdullah to set up a honey tasting for customers and clients of Café Clock-a hip café in the old medina of Fes, which we did last week. We didn’t have a big crowd, but the owners of several Ryads (think old medina townhouse converted into small B&B) attended. The honey’s great. We put together a presentation about the Coop and the area where the honey comes from, ie; support the cultural and environmental diversity of the Eastern Middle Atlas region. We had small info flyers (in French) for them and were able to informally survey them on their interest in the honey. Right now the Coop produces 4 different types of honey (varies by plant source and time of year-and it makes a big difference in the taste), and package them only in 1 ltr jars. The ryad owners are interested in having a small sample package w/a variety of the honeys to sell to their customers. Great idea. Easy, right? Well, the coop has to be sufficiently motivated to do it. They have to be able to fund a gross of small jars from Casablanca. New labels, storage, how to move it after producing, etc. Not so easy. There’s potential there, but it’s far from a done deal. And the whole idea is to build sustainability, not doing for them, but helping initially and stepping away as they take ownership. We’ll see if the idea has legs. Stay tuned.
So travelling to Fes PCV style-what’s it like you ask? Take the hotel in Fes where PC suggests we stay. Conveniently located just inside the main gate to the old Medina. Single room is 80DH. That’s $10. No, I did not forget a “0”. That’s $10. Now, you share the toilet and shower. No towel-pack your own. ( oh, and for you first-timers, the sheet on your bed makes a reasonable towel substitute). No tp-bring your own. But it’s clean and it works. Hostel-like. And at those rates, I can do it a lot! Between transit costs (45-50DH round-trip, depending if I have to go thru Sefrou or not) and hotel, I’m out about $17 for a one night, two day weekend, plus food. Jealous, yak?
Xmas in Morocco:
Sister Sandy sends me a Xmas-tree-in-a-bag. (turns out I get one from Ginger as well-will be VERY well decorated next year in my own home!) Stands about 12 in tall. Comes complete w/all the trimmings. I take it down to the family room-gives me a great way to introduce Christmas to my host family. I get the 2 youngest girls to help me decorate it. It’s got a place of honor on the bookcase. (just posted photos)
I’ll take it w/me to dinner w/other PCVs on Xmas at one of their homes-for what I’m learning is the usual PCV pot-luck. I’m down for mashed potatoes and salad. And some Buckeyes, made w/the help of Basma and Bouchra, courtesy Joanne’s recipe-and a trip to Marjane (think Target w/groceries) in Fes while there on business this week. Then some of my training-mates and I will meet up in Fes the weekend after Xmas for a couple days of R&R. This will make for a nice celebration. Inshallah.