Friday, April 17, 2009


The strike is still on and Morocco is a mess. Got a ride on Sunday w/strangers to Sefrou, as not even the nukls were running. Sarah and Nathan were coming from his site to REK and thumbed a ride w/3 guys from Fes who were checking out potential ecotourism sites (ecotourism is the next big buzz word around here). They come to REK, were introduced to the REK Tourism Assn President and agreed to go back to Fes via Sefrou and take Sarah and I with them. They ask if it’s ok to go the long way around the “sdd”-that’s the dam and reservoir north of REK. Of course-they can take us any way they want. We stop multiple times for them to take photos of the countryside and we get out and gather large clusters of the incredible wildflowers to bring to Jess’s house. They won’t take a dime (or dirham for that matter) for the ride-hshuma. Shukran bzzaf.

So we’ve made it to Jess’s for Easter-Hamdullah! Several others come over for the feast-chicken tangines and sangria in the sunshine on the roof. Get a photo of everyone eating a Peeps that Cindy sent. Kinda like Thanksgiving, we go for a long walk to try to digest the enormous meal we’ve consumed. Make our way up to the “cascade”-waterfall north of Sefrou. Lots of families out walking to it as well. Nice. Good Easter.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s been sweating the continuation of the transit strike, and decides to postpone the Womens Wellness Workshop to next week. I’m bummed as that means I can’t participate, but it’s a good decision. It’s a Peace Corps project, and we don’t want to be in the position of asking young women from the bled to take illegal transit just to get to a Wellness Workshop. We meet w/Hayat who has set up host families for the 30 bnat (girls) to stay with, and have to determine how to salvage what has already been purchased.Waxa.

Monday is just a good work day-Jess makes it to Fes for the day and I get a lot of computer work done for the Coop at her house. Tuesday comes w/a continuation of the strike. I want to be certain I can get to Rabat to meet w/PC on Wed and dentist on Thurs. Decide to start the journey. Achmed (more on him later) shows me a shortcut out of the medina to the bus stand. Buses are the only things running to Fes. Achmed knows how to get around the lengthy queue waiting to buy a ticket and for 20DH (usually only 7DH) I get on the next bus and have the front seat (thanks Achmed). Get to Fes and petit taxis are running, but all off the meter. Finally get one to agree to take me to the lagar (train stn) for 20DH (should have been less than 10DH). Get on the train to Rabat-3 hr ride-trains and buses are running their regular schedules. The train is full to the brim.

OK, so about this transit strike. Got an email from PC office-info was dated last week, but was a good explanation of what is being protested. A bill in the parliament proposed new penalties for transit drivers involved in accidents. The original fines were 4000DH and prison. Note that the avg driver makes 30-50DH per day. Many of the unions initiated the strike. There’s been isolated violence associated with the strike, mostly supporters throwing stones at drivers still working. I’ve got to say that people are really in support of the drivers. They are the lifeline of communities-we’re SOOO dependent on them-and while penalties if they’re drunk, hit someone, etc. may be just, the proposed law goes way beyond what appears reasonable. Nshufu (We’ll see).

So Jess, Achmed and Kaoutar make an unlikely but terrific friendship. Achmed lives below Jess in the old Sefrou medina. Who knows how old he is-his kids are still teenagers, but I’d put him well into his 50’s. Moroccan, speaks no English, divorced, likes his wine, scruffy like no tomorrow, and the sweetest man alive! He and Jess (tall blonde Brit) are fast friends but just friends. He knows the ins and outs of Sefrou and how to get anything and everything done using informal channels. The first time I met him at Jess’s I thought “who the heck is this weird old guy?” Monday I was worried that he hadn’t shown up for soup and wine! He of course was there first thing in the morning, with hasha and milowi for breakfast and making coffee as we woke up. Kaoutar also lives below Jess, is about 12 years old, is darling, has never gone to school, and rounds out the threesome w/Jess and Achmed. Jess wants them to all take Arabic reading and writing class together. Inshallah. Unlikely friendships sometimes make the best friendships.

So I’m keeping a list of the things I want to get while I’m briefly in the states. Nothing urgent and nothing I couldn’t live without. On the list: measuring spoons, battery for my alarm, light clothing for summer, spice mixes, mixes that only require eggs and oil, lens cap for my camera (lost it and currently using a sock-which by the way works very well).Safi.

Update-it’s now Thursday and the strike officially ended today. Hard to tell the difference here in Rabat where I’ve been for 3 days. Big cities were the least affected, as the petit taxis and buses were not part of the strike. Saw the dentist and got my crown re-cemented, but another crown chipped. (what is it with teeth in Morocco?) Since I have to wait for PC approval via Wash DC to get crown replaced, I’ll likely be coming back to the dentist when I return from the US. That could work well and save PC and I both some money and time by not travelling to REK and back. There’s a craft fair in Casablanca (Dar Beida-get it-White House?) the week I return. If things work out, I’ll then just stay in Rabat to get the crown completed and go on to the craft fair w/Taeawniya women in Casa. Only problem is that I packed light for a 2 week trip. Oh well.

Got a chance to get by the PC office while I’m here in Rabat-very productive drop in meetings. I also met a number of PCVs who are in town for COS-that’s Close of Service. The Environment and Health sectors finish up their 2 years the end of May, so they have end of service meetings, physicals, etc. Their replacements finish training and get their site assignments tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the Coop brochure, catalog/website, and bios of the women. It appears that the Regional Website out of the Sefrou Artisana is ready to move forward and I need to get this content approved by the women and translated. In addition, I’ve gone by the carpet souk and Artisana here in Rabat to do a little casual competitive research. It’s interesting to note that the Regional zrbya of the Beni Ouarain design are not available here in Rabat. This is a traditional design that Adwal has been encouraged to produce. It appears to demand higher than usual prices and also appears to be a good opportunity should the women choose to pursue it.

Well, it’s on to Casablanca in the morning-check it out, get a little more computer work and it’s off to the states on Saturday. Hamdullah.

No comments: