Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the Sidelines?

Didn’t realize it was St Paddy’s Day until I just typed in the date! Happy St Paddy’s! If you’re not wearing green, consider yourself pinched.

Well, the last couple of days have made up for the relatively quiet week last week. But first, a note from the sidelines.....

-You have a lot of time for observation (and as Deb W says-meditation) while riding the transits between duars (towns). Such as: the white clumps of narcissus are giving way to blankets of yellow-maybe mustard? and now red poppies are springing up and what's the purple flower that looks like statice but isn't? The cherry blossoms are really out. Been a long time since I’ve lived anywhere that really has a spring, and this one’s a beaut!

-So exactly why is it that occasionally the transit stops on the side of the road, not dropping off or picking up anyone, and both driver and money collector get out? Once I saw them get back in w/clumps of green plant-looked like weeds-maybe wife put in an order for something to put in the tea?

-Stopped on a bike ride last weekend (yes, finally got the bike out-it was great!) to ask the women what they were going to do with the leaves they were collecting from small shrub-like palms along the side of the road. Shbqat? (baskets?) Iyeh.

-You know how they say you can hear the corn grow in the summertime in Kansas? I can almost hear the fava bean plants grow, they’re growing so fast.

-You quickly develop a strong appreciation for what it takes to work the fields as you watch the farmer work the donkey and wooden plow down the uneven rows of wheat in this remarkably rocky soil.

-Speaking of donkeys, no one has to worry about them running away-hoof is tied to halter-can’t do much besides stand and eat.

So what’s kept me busy?
Women’s Health Program has mushroomed-in a very good way! Met with the Health Delegate yesterday in Sefrou. He informs me that the King’s wife, Princess Selma, who has an Association for Women’s Cancers, is sponsoring a program in Sefrou on April 3-4. On these 2 days, women from our region who have a referral from an MD w/suspected cancer or complication, ie; fibroids, endometriosis, etc., will be seen by a team of specialists. Anyone who has to undergo chemo will be taken to Rabat (capitol) where they will receive treatment and can stay at a house sponsored by Princess Selma’s Association. All this is free. He suggested that we move our program up one week, from April 6th to the 30th of March, so that any women from REK who need a referral will have one and can participate in the April 3-4 program. Hamdulah! Also, he’s getting a whole team of MDs to come to REK so that up to 100 women will get free breast and gyn exams that day. Ham-du-li-lah! While we’re in his ofc, he calls and convinces another MD to cover on the 30th for Dr. Asma (the OB/GYN chief and dynamo) so she can come out for our program. Did I mention that I love this guy?! So today has been crazy getting approvals from the Basha, Belladya, Taeawniya, meeting w/the MD in the sbitar (clinic in REK where exams will take place), getting a new document created and typed in Arabic and everyones signature and stamp (nothing is official until it has someone’s stamp on it). New flyers have been made. Note-we handed out 150 flyers on International Women’s Day announcing the program for April 6th. Now we need to do an even better job making sure those planning on coming know of the date change, and get more invited since the capacity is up to 100 women. Ham-du-li-lah! There will be minor costs associated w/the program-the Taeawniya is going to do lunch for the Sefrou guests and volunteers at the home of the President (right next to the sbitar and a fabulous view over the zlul). I’m gonna pay for the 60 additional disposable speculums they’ll need, as there’s not enough time to do a fundraiser-but will only be about 600DH, or about $80. Small price to get all this help here in REK, yak?

A word about process, aka; how to get things like this going here in Morocco. Started w/just an idea for an information session. Asked Peace Corps MDs in Rabat for recommendations of who to bring in-I get 2 names of private MDs in Sefrou. I also ask coop women here and my translator in Sefrou. They all say I should start w/the Health Delegate, so that's what I do. He sees me w/o appt. Translator and I go to Sefrou Hospital, again we get right in (MANY women waiting to see MDs-again I suspect Peace Corps/foreigner status gets us in) to see Head MD. We talk w/her, but the Chief of Service not there, and we get her phone # to set up appt. It's all about using the Moroccan network-my translator knows Sefrou incredibly well. Need to get the appropriate stamps and signatures from the local authorities-not even so much for approval, but they could put up roadblocks if not included. Delegate and Chief of Service grew the program from a simple idea into its current form. Now Coop President wants to go on all the meetings w/authorities and MDs-may be consistent w/what I've also been told-that people here may be reluctant to get involved until they get an inkling something may be successful, then they jump on board. Who cares, as long as it works, yak?

Meanwhile, the work on the logo for the Coop continues. Adwal Coop has their annual business meeting this Thursday. I’m looking forward to it-hope I can understand enough of it to make sense! At the end of the meeting we’ll vote on the logo options (Wendy sent us 6 different versions to choose from) and finalize this first step. Hamdulah.

I’ve also been put in touch w/what initially appears to be an export opportunity for the Coop. This started w/contacting a couple of women who have worked w/Peace Corps volunteers in the past to export weavings to the US. The Adwal women want to create a reputation for a high level of artistry-not just weavings and rugs, but artisanal quality. To get there, based on research to date, they’ll need to continue to improve on their production and design concepts. However, I’m no expert and have no credibility on the topic of quality control in weaving, so I contacted these women to see if I could entice them to visit REK and speak w/the Coop women from the perspective of a buyer. Well, that’s not yet been fruitful, but one of them sent me info on someone else starting an e-commerce business who is interested in importing into the US table runner weavings in traditional designs of Morocco. I’ve contacted her and we’ve spoken via Skype and there’s interest on both sides. (Side note-I’ll be heading to the US for 5 days in April for Aunt Geri’s service. As luck would have it, this woman w/the ecommerce business lives about 15 minutes away from my uncle, so I’m planning on bringing some of the weavings w/me and meeting up with her-always best to sell face to face, yak?).

Of course, this leads to the development of another workshop for the women of the Coop on pricing strategy-this opportunity could be serious business and the first custom orders for export for the Coop, so after the annual meeting, we’ll be doing a pricing workshop.

Did I mention that I’ve also been making business cards for my tutors and translator? Easy to do in Publisher-do it for them first, then show them how (so they can keep info up to date)-maybe help them get more business? Ymkn? (maybe?). Wish I could claim originality, but got the idea from Emily-another SBD PCV when I saw her and her husband in Fes a couple weekends ago.

Of course all of this is going on while the Gendarmes in town are bugging me to get new, smaller photos and replace my 60DH stamp w/a 100DH stamp for my Carte de Sejour (identity card). Should be easy, right? Three towns, several bustas (post offices)and tobacco shops later, I finally track down a 100DH stamp in Sefrou in a telebotique. Go figure!

OK, so I can’t continue this w/o giving a “shout out” to my friend Aicha in the Dar Chebab. She’s been SOOOO great! She’s in charge of the 16 computers at the Dar Chebab. She has, at a drop of a hat, ie; first thing this morning, helped draft the letters, flyers, handouts and type them up in Arabic and then gives me a screaming deal on printing and photocopying-all for the Women’s Health Program. The computer lab is part of an association (vs a business like the cybers), so they only pass along their costs. Hamdulah. I think I must owe Aicha chocolate or something.

And yes, I am going back to the states-Seattle specifically-for 5 days in April. The service for Aunt Geri will be on her birthday. I’m so fortunate to be able to do this and can’t wait to see Uncle Bob, Polly and Tracy and honor Auntie Ger.

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