Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fes and World Sacred Music Festival

Oh my gosh, it’s been 6 months of service and only 1 ½ yrs to go. I don’t have time to get it all done. Here’s my to do/wish list: Pilot Regional Craft Fair, Develop Regional Training Workshops, Determine Fair Trade Status for Artisans, Pursue Ministry Quality Certification, Adwal Grant Requests for training and support for showroom in building adjacent, Business skills workshops/follow up per Delegate request, Arrange French translations for brochure/business cards/website/product and price lists, Follow up on Linda Z’s initiatives after her COS. Oh, and all of this needs to include skill transfer/capacity building so that the women of the Coop are doing these things on their own by the time I leave. Oh, and carve out more Arabic study time, as that’s really dropped off and keep up the 3-4 times/week pilates routine. Gulp. No wonder time seems to be flying!

Yet here I am, again in Fes, for the World Sacred Music Festival. Interesting festival. There are lectures, 2 ticketed events, and some free concerts that may or may not happen, every day for a week. My friend Lisa came in town yesterday and we’ve spoiled ourselves-sushi lunch followed by walk to fabulous patissierie. Saw amazing Indian traditional dancer at the Batha Museum, which is this serene place right by the madness of the old medina, with a beautiful, huge, landscaped courtyard. The concert was followed by juice and more incredible pastries in the tranquility of this venue. Yum. Then we walked all over while biding our time before the 10:30pm free concert...that never happened. We think they had it at 6:30 instead. So we made up for this by going back to the Batha this morning-such beautiful space, but the rest of the museum was closed. So we walked all over the medina, down Tela Sguira instead of the usual route-and enjoyed the more peaceful pace of a Sunday morning. Then Lisa showed remarkable restraint as I tried to find another sweet space outside Bab Boujeloud, but didn’t have the name or address or number of the place. Called Jess, who of course had the info we needed. A guy at a random telebotique helped us out, not only by calling the place, but escorting us the 10 min walk to make certain we got there! Then we were delighted by the lunch we shared. A gastronomic, visual and olfactory beaut! We had 8 little dishes of spreads, veggie combos, olives and bread. Safi. Shbet. But then there was a tangine. Oh no, dessert too? Yum-strawberries w/a little orange. All in this beautiful, small, flower filled courtyard with the fountain going and the small kitchen open and children who live in this “teahouse” playing. I told Lisa I wasn’t sorry I dragged her there in the heat of the day, just sorry it took so long to find it. I’ll be back.

Then she was off to return to her site, so I decided to go get a ticket to the afternoon concert at the Batha-Zabit Nabizade Trio-traditional music of Azerbaidjan. Saw a friend I knew and sat next to someone else who knows Jess. Small world. This evening Jess is coming back up to Fes and we’ve got tickets to the Whirling Dervishes. Should be a great show. Meantime, as I type this on the rooftop of the Clock, they’ve got music starting downstairs.

This will be a brief post, as I’m due to meet Jess and others right now. Heading to Casablanca in the early am to meet w/a guy to talk about Fair Trade for artisans. It’ll be an early train, as Morocco goes on Daylight Savings time tomorrow, so will lose an hour sleep. Maybe I’ll find it on the train, inshallah.

Friday, May 29, 2009


The Busta (Post Office) aka; bank, Social Security, all things monetary in REK. Need to mail something to PC office in Rabat and pay my Maroc Telecom bill. Stand in line 45 minutes, only to find out that Maroc Telecom computers are down. Watch women give fingerprint as their ID to get their money since they don’t know how to write their names. Gotta watch out for the older folks who try to cut in line. You can spend a lifetime in the Moroccan Busta.

Productive meeting in Sefrou on Monday. Got good info to share w/the Coop about the approved budget to renovate the bldg next door for more space and a showroom. The Coop has to come up w/5000DH, the REK Commune (which owns the building) and the Ministry will pay for the rest-bldg renovation, tables, chairs, display shelving. Talked to Coop about applying to Aid To Artisans to cover their portion of the costs. Emailed ATA this am to get more info on their grant application process.

I also was able to meet w/Dr. Asma while in Sefrou. She’s the dynamite Chief of Gyn at the hospital there who spearheaded the cancer screening here in REK. Spoke with her about the women in REK (and a couple of others outside REK that I’m aware of thru other PCVs) who were diagnosed w/cancer at the screening and need treatment, but have no money to pay. Dr. Asma gave me the info we needed. There’s a “certificate of indigence” that you can apply for from the Regional gov’t. If the REK women have/can get this, Dr. Asma will see them again next month in Sefrou, and any further tx will be taken care of thru the public health system. Did a little more research yesterday on this. Seems that these “certificats of indigence” aren’t easily acquired, and people don’t know about them and how having one gets them access to free medical care. Also discovered that a broader public health initiative is finally getting started across Morocco as of last November, but is being rolled out one region at a time, so don’t know when it will be here in the Fes/Sefrou region. Inshallah the women will get the treatment that they need.

Finally heard from the American Company to confirm the Western Union advance payment to purchase supplies for their order from the Coop. We’ve got the PO and the women have started on the weaving. Took photos of the table runners on the looms and will send them along.

Just found out that an electronic interview I did a while ago showed up in Indianapolis Woman magazine-here’s the link: and click on the e-magazine link and go to page 61.

Our consolidation exercise came thru yesterday. 7am text message to go to our consolidation points. Gave brief thought to working out, showering and then catching a taxi, as I knew I’d get there before anyone else. Reminded myself that it was a test of the system to see how and how quickly we all get to the site. Pilates and shower time are not allocated to the travel time. No pilates, no shower yesterday. Did meet up w/about 30-40 other PCVs who also had Fes as a consolidation site.

I also got some business done while in Fes. Met up w/Jess to check out the American Language Center where she works. I’m working on an idea to put together a Craft Fair co-sponsored by the Artisana Ministry, Peace Corps and (inshallah) the American Center. The Ministry controls Coop access to display at Craft Fairs, they are last minute, not well advertised and often cancelled. The Coops spend their hard-earned money getting to the Fairs and are invariably disappointed in their sales. I thought (and so far have the “go ahead” from Peace Corps) that if we combined the credibility of the 3 organizations, invited the artisans we work with in the Region and take charge of publicizing it, we could have a much greater impact. Anyway, the American Center has fabulous garden space in both their main “campus” building along w/at their villa across the street. Putting the proposal together as we speak to try to get buy-in from the Director of the American Center.

I also made contact w/the woman who is writing a cookbook w/Cafe Clock in Fes. She’s interested in getting in touch w/the honey coop here in REK-Taeawniya Bouyblane-the same one that did the honey tasting last December in Cafe Clock. Met w/Coop President today-trying to get them together and shared with him photos of the other honey coops that displayed at the Casablanca Expo last month. Trying to encourage him to package their honey in jars smaller than 1 liter, ie; sampler sizes of several different honeys. Their product is unbelievably delicious, and they have 4-6 different flavors each year, based on season and vegetation. They currently sell out their inventory. Trying to get them to see that expanding their offerings could expand demand and help them employ more REK people in the process. We’ll see where it goes.

Meanwhile I’m typing like mad, as I expect the power to go out any second. Was out most of the day-presumably due to high winds. Now we’ve got a good spring mountain thunder and lightning storm going. Can’t imagine the power will last thru this, so will sign off and post tomorrow. Power still on but rizzo (phone connection) not working. B’slama.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rhythms of Rabat

Rabat definitely has its own rhythm-relatively speaking, more cosmopolitan, European, diverse than other big cities of Morocco.

So the PC workshop in Rabat was a good one. They brought in one PCV from each year, each sector, to help with a Monitoring and Evaluation initiative. How to better measure our impact-at the country level and at the level of the PCV. It’s a good initiative, and we have a ways to go to get there-it will be an interseting process to be a part of. Took advantage of being at the PC office for some other meetings w/SBD staff.

In addition, I was able to get to the FedEx office in Rabat to check out the process for shipping overseas, as this is who we will use for the Coop’s export to the US. It’s amazingly simple, hamdullah.

David Lilly, Country Director, had us all over to his house for pizza on Wednesday. It was interesting to see a Moroccan house on the outside look so American on the inside. Yet out of habit, everyone removed their shoes before stepping on the carpet in the living room. Integration. Took the bus back to the hotel-wrong stop-got a walk in as well.

Checked out a couple of new restaurants while here. German Institute has good beer and pizza. Small French cafe has good beers and close to the hotel we stay at. Good falafel across from the hotel and an honest-to-goodness breakfast place where you can get fried eggs over real toast. Only place I’ve ever seen toast available in Morocco. Bread doesn’t come in loaves that are sliced. They’re round and flat and you break them apart. The restaurant has been labeled “Toast” by PCVs for that reason. Still haven’t made it to the American Club.

I’ve been researching Fair Trade status for artisanal products to see if there is a certification process by any agency. So far I’ve not had a lot of success-most Fair Trade certification is for commodities or composite product made from those commodities. I wanted to see a guy in Casablanca who’s done work w/Fair Trade and knows the artisanal sector, but didn’t have time. I have to come back to get my final crown from the dentist, so hopefully I’ll be able to meet with him then.

There were a lot of other PCVs in town for a meeting on Friday-they’re the “wardens”. There will be a consolidation exercise sometime in the not-too-distant-future and they need to be prepared for their role. A consolidation is when the Country Director/Country officials/WashDC/etc. believe that there’s a threat to the security of PCVs staying in country. There is a multi-step process if PCVs are to be evacuated, but consolidation is the first step. We all have a consolidation point assigned to us, ie; hotel in a major city. When we get a message to consolidate, we are to move directly to that place from wherever we are, as quickly as possible. You can imagine that this is easier said than done. Not all PCVs have cell phone service in their towns. Getting the info to the PCV may be a simple text message, or it could require PC Rabat calling to a landline closest to the PCVs site, ie; their caid, muqadam, gendarmes in another town, then a message is relayed by whatever means possible to someone who then tracks down the PCV to let them know. May take a day to get the message. Then could take 2 days to get to consolidation point if you missed your transit out of town. The exercise will assess the effectiveness and readiness of this process. Kinda like the fire drill, Peace Corps style.

The good news (selfishly) about this is that a bunch of friends came in town for the warden meeting, so we bummed around the last 2 nights and went to Lisa’s last night in Khemisset to stay over (it’s on the way home for 3 of us). Hamdullah.

So this music festival that’s been going on all week in Rabat...We made Thursday night to the Alicia Keyes concert. Missed Neville Brothers the night before (at least I didn’t miss Aaron Neville singing Amazing Grace-makes me cry every time I hear him sing it, but he didn’t do it on Thurs), and will miss Stevie Wonder to. Big names every night. And that’s only one performer on one stage in Agdal. There are 5 stages around the city w/at least 2 performers each night on each one. Global talent. And every concert has a “free” component. For example, you could buy a seat to get close to the stage for Alicia Keyes, or join the rest of us on the field the size of a football field to just stand and listen, w/jumbotron screens to watch what you couldn’t see on stage. Every concert-either completely free or free access. A pretty amazing festival, international rhythms across the city all week long. Festival-like energy throughout the city all week long.

As we were walking to the taxi in Rabat to go to Khemmiset, we saw one of the funky “watermen” walking along. These are guys who typically walk thru the medina with a jug of water and cups to sell a drink. They have the most ridiculous outfit, topped with a wild, colorful hat. At first I thought they were only for tourists photos, but they do serve a legitimate purpose. Anyway, my friend Nancy wrote me that her son saw a photo of one and really wants one of those hats. Any chance I could buy one and send it? I’ll keep an eye out, but never seen one for sale. As luck would have it, they make them in a town between Rabat and Khemisset and have them for sale on the side of the road for tourists. So of course we made the taxi stop so I could jump out and get one. Who knew!

Khemisset grilling. Yum. Lisa’s the master chef of our “stag” (pronounced ‘staj’-for training group). She wanted to get a Moroccan barbecue and grill last night. OK. Besides, her house is in the middle of the vegetable market of Khemmiset, so anything we wanted or needed was there. And we not only got everything we wanted (the small clay pot that serves as the barbecue, a small grill AND charcoal all at one hanut), we got more than we needed! We gorged on bibi (turkey) and veggie kabobs, watermelon and cherries. Lisa has had a couple people tell her that coming to her house “makes them fat”-only cuz she’s such a great cook. Control thyself. Speaking of food, she just made us breakfast (eggs from her own hen) and I’m signing off to eat while it’s hot. Merhaba.

Friday, May 15, 2009


OK, for my version of harassment and respect....

When PCVs are asked about harassment in Morocco, the most common incidences are those directed to young women, ie; being called gazelle, being followed closely or touched, etc. Not my issue. This week highlighted for me a different type of harassment in the form of disrespect. Metalan (for example):

Mina (staff from Rabat-came out for site visit and Beni Mkoud workshop) and I check in w/the REK gendarmes. She is after all, Safety and Security Mina. Waxa. Now, I’ll bet I take the prize for keeping my gendarmes dima (always) informed when I’m out of my site. So, we go to talk w/the chief. He brings up the time he was trying to get a document from me (when I was stopped in the middle of the street by the chief of police, yelled at in Arabic, gathered a crowd, and didn’t know what the he** he was talking about. Figured it out later and brought him a document that satisfied him)-a situation that had really pissed me off at the time-being yelled at in Arabic and not given time to ask questions or respond in the middle of town. Anyway, we have to re-live this w/Mina. Yipee. Then he tells her what a “good job” I’m doing. Like I care what he thinks. We’ve been told by Zahra (Pres of the Coop) that the chief comes by the Coop every time I’m out of town to ask her where I am. OK, I always inform Zahra as well. So why is he asking-he knows the answer. Mina asks him this and he has no explanation. Then he turns to me and asks where I’m living. Shnu? Elesh katswlni? Efrti! (What? Why are you asking? You know where!). I’ve had enough. Maxssnish had munaqasa, slama (I don’t need this conversation, goodbye). I walked out. Pissed. Why is he being such a bast***? I respect his rules and keep him informed. I’ve even added an English class at the Dar Chebab for HIS kids. And what do I get? Harassed for nothing. Disrespect. Give me a freaking break.

Then I make my way to Sefrou today to meet w/the guy who’s contracted to develop the Regional Artisana Website and give him the input for Taeawniya Adwal’s page on the site. The “vice mundub”-don’t know his title-is there. Calls me by the name he wants me to respond to. (Not unusual for PCVs to take on Moroccan names. I haven’t. I like Lynn and it’s easy to pronounce. He knows this but thinks I should change it. He’s the only person who does this). Waxa. He pulls up a chair as we start the meeting and tells the website guy which products to put on the Adwal page. And of course he's talking to the consultant, won't look at me, as though I won't understand him anyway. Excuse me? Not his decision. I’ve discussed it with the Coop women and here’s what we want. He goes off on me and as I am responding in Arabic, it’s not fast enough for him and he tells me my Arabic isn’t good. He does this every time I see him. Dima. Every time. The consultant tells me “it’s no big deal-he teases everyone”. I tell him if someone teases you about the same thing every time you see them, it’s not humor, it’s harassment. I try to show him respect by speaking in his language, and this is what I get. Move on.

Then I make my way over to the cyber in Sefrou where I printed out a bunch of stuff last week...and where I left my 8gb USB thumb drive. So now I’m back a full week later-what are the odds it’s still there, yak? It’s there. Ham-du-li-lah. Reminder to not stereotype Moroccans from the experiences with one or two. The same woman is working at the cyber, remembers me and hands over my USB. Shukran.

OK, so thanks for letting me get that off my chest.....Because it’s in the way of sharing the best and most important news of the week....

The order from the US e-commerce business came thru for Taeawniya Adwal. (The one I contacted thru internet and met w/when in Seattle). Ham-du-li-lah! 40 table runners, 2 mtr x ½ mtr in wool w/classic Middle Atlas design and muzun (sequins). This is their first export order, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to make it work. Metalan (for example):payment. There’s no such thing as online payment, Paypal, etc. in Morocco. Have to do bank-to-bank or Western Union cash transfer. OK, so bank is easiest for US company, but the Adwal women can’t access it in REK-have to go to Sefrou (there’s no bank in REK). So we’re gonna try Western Union. It’s scary simple-the US business can send flus (money) online and the women pick up the payment at the Post Office. OK, so what does it take to export? Don’t know, need to check w/the Delegate in Sefrou (he wasn’t in today).Then there’s shipping. This is made easier ‘cuz the US company has a FedEx account, so we can get the product to FedEx and all the shipping will be taken care of. Oops, mushkil. Closest FedEx office is in Casablanca-6 hours away! I’m going to Rabat next week and will try to also go to Casa and check this out. It will be a learning experience for all of us.

OK, so the first priority of Taeawniya Adwal and the Delegate for me was to find markets for their products. Check. Now I wish they’d stop bugging me about how to get to the Santa Fe International Craft Fair that a woman from Sefrou is going to. What have they done to explore this? Nothing. Waxa. You wanna go, ask her some questions for starters.

Meanwhile, while in Fes today I’ve checked out printing prices for the business cards and brochures that are ready to print in English and Arabic. French translations are on the way. Will give the info and files to the Coop on the thumb drive I bought them and offer to accompany them to Fes to get the printing done, but it will be in their hands to make it happen. Sustainability, yak?

I’ll let you know when the Sefrou Regional Artisana website is up and when the US e-commerce business has their Morocco offering in place.

Sing it for me Aretha....r e s p e c t...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Msgrul u Mbruk

Oh what a week it’s been...a busy one...kept me from my blog, so here’s an update....

First of all it was good to get back to my place last Monday and sleep in my own bed! But that didn’t last long, as I was back out of town on Thursday.

Before leaving again, I had a chance to write up a report (and have it translated to Arabic scrip) on my observations and learnings from the Casablanca expo and shared it with the Coop. I’ve decided that this way I’ve documented the input in their own language and what they do with it is their decision. I also had a chance to say goodbye to Nathan, as he’s on his way back to the US-finished w/his 2 years of service in the Environment Sector.

Then it was on to Sefrou on Thursday night...a fun evening w/Jess-she generously lets me stay at her place when I’m in town. I met up w/Mina from PC Rabat on Fri morning for a meeting w/the Ministry Delegate I report to. It was good to have Mina there, not only for the interpreting, but since she’s Peace Corps staff, that facilitates better discussions of some of my agenda and that of the delegate (mundub). Found out that the budget to renovate the building next to the Coop building has been approved-Hamdullah! That will be a big opportunity, as the Coop space is very crowded with the weaving looms. There’s no place to display their products for the few people who wander in to see them. In addition, he mentioned that he’d like me to work with other artisans in REK to follow up on training that the Regional Artisana will be providing. I was excited to hear about this new initiative for a couple reasons. First, that they’re going to be providing training to others here in REK and that expanding my time and energies beyond Adwal will be supported.

Mina and I returned to REK Saturday morning in time to meet w/the Coop president, and again I took advantage of Mina’s PC role to help address misconceptions that could lead to issues.
Metalan (for example): Coop President talked w/us about getting a PC grant to furnish the new building when it’s renovated. First of all, I thought the mundub’s budget incl. furniture, yak? She doesn’t know. Second, PC doesn’t provide its limited grant $$ for capital equip-only for things like training, to build sustainability. Despite my having shared this in the past w/the pres., she didn’t believe me, and this could have been an issue. Now (Inshallah) she understands that we can work together on a grant submission, (no promises of funding), but it must focus on a training initiative for the Coop. Now she’s focused on getting Coop member input on training priorities. Hamdullah-that’s progress!

In addition, I used Mina to help reinforce the importance of two other things-succession planning and learning the computer. First the succession planning. As I mentioned, only 2 members currently travel to Expos since they pay their own food and lodging (found out the Coop does pay transportation) and they’re the only ones who can afford to do this. In addition, the mundub apparently encouraged them to send the 2 who are most experienced. I’m trying to help them think about who will replace them in the future. Who should they start to groom to take over responsibilities? Who should attend the expos along w/one of the experienced members? Everything is falling on the shoulders of the 2 lead members and they need to let go and get the others more involved in the business of the Coop. This is not an easy concept and I recognize that it’s a scary one, as it’s their baby. However, it will not grow if they rely on 2 members to do all the business. Second, the computer. They’re quite content to have me do all the computer work and say they don’t have time to learn it themselves. I’m working to get them to understand that my role is to model their future computer use, to help them see/understand/learn what they can do to improve their business and TRANSFER those skill so they are taking on that work themselves before I leave-not to just do the work for them. They already have a couple of young, new members who know how to use the computer and are literate. I’ve asked the Coop Pres. if I could start training one of them.The mundub says he’ll give us access to the computer consultants they’ve contracted with to build the Regional Artisanat website. We’ll see. Inshallah. Thanks Mina for the help w/interpreting and reinforcing the PC goal of building sustainability.

So now we’re up to Sat afternoon and gathering for the trek to Beni Mcoud. And what a gathering it was! Steve-Environ Volunteer has wanted to get the women of his duar going w/an Assn or Coop, as they’ve said they want to be more productive, make money, etc. So Madeline from Ben Smim and one of her medicinal herb Coop women came to share what they’ve done. In addition, I brought Fatima from Adwal to share her vast experience in starting and growing Coops and Assns. We also had the good fortune of Amina Yabis-an incredibly energetic “can-do” woman from Sefrou join us, Fatima Kamal who is bright, industrious and very well connected, and another woman from REK who just started the REK Women’s Assn and is originally from Beni Mcoud came along. Climb aboard the transit and let’s see what happens. Hamdullah we have to meet in the school, as 20-25 women have shown up! And at the end of an energetic and inspiring one hour meeting, the women decide that they are going to form a Coop, the membership and leadership is determined and the initial paperwork signed. We even overheard people talking on the transit back to REK on Sunday about it-pointing to us and talking about the new Coop that is being formed. It will take a lot more than enthusiasm to be successful, but they’ve taken the first important step. Attended the birth of a bled Coop. Hamdullah.

And just for a taste of transits, I should mention just how you get to Beni Mcoud. There are 2 transits each day from the duar, one at 6:30am and one at 2:30pm. It returns to Beni Mcoud from REK around 2-3pm. That's it. Takes about 1/2 hour to travel the dirt, rutted road about 10km. It's a van w/o seats-just benches along the sides and front. Stuff is stacked in the middle and serves as additional seating. They "stuff it" with as many people as need to go, as there are no alternatives. These transits are also called "stuff-its" in other duars. This was Mina from PC Rabat's first time taking such transport. Welcome to our world.

Saturday night, the 6 of us sat around (after feasting on Steve’s host sister’s incredible cooking) in Steve’s host family’s home and giggled, told stories and jokes-like a women’s sleep over-such fun! Fortunately the sun came out on Sunday and we all went on a fabulous long walk all around the hills and valleys of Beni Mcoud. Picking natural herbs that Steve’s sisters use to cook with, checking out the 3 natural springs in the area that provide their water (no running water out there), and checking out the land Steve wants to build on, as he’s staying there after he’s done w/Peace Corps this month. An absolutely delightful day. Hard to break up the party, but it must be done...back to our sites and our work, but feeling good to be part of the process of helping the women of Beni Mcoud start down the path to reaching their goals.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My apologies to Dar Byeda

I was there for a trade fairand saw a different side of her...

So I bet you didn't know that it takes 9 hours by bus to get from REK to Dar Byeda..Casa Blanka..White House. That's one hour in line to get a seat; drive via could reasonably ask why...stop in Fes and a stop in Meknes. Then on toRabat...with the obligatory midpoint stop so all the men can disembark to empty their bladders on the side of the highway. Mesqinas, the rest of us women are out of luck...note to liquids when traveling via kar...that's a bus...because a car is a tomobile, yak? Change buses in Rabat and on to Casa. By the way, the return trip to Fes is only 5 hours. Go figure. Did I mention that I traveled with Zahra and Fatima and 4 HUGE storage bags of products and our clothes?

Now this is a test of flexibility: I ask where they're staying? Fatima has family in Casa. Staying w them? Manerf. Zahra want to share a hotel room? No! Masi flus, maybe sleep at the booth. I book a hotel room. Waxa. Arrive at bus station to discover Fatima's cousin is picking us up. I figure we'll drop the products off somewhere and I'll find my way to the hotel, yak? But no, he drives us to his home, where we unload our clothes. We're all staying's 10pm. But wait..his wife and their adorable 3 mo old son are there to greet us. Wait...she proceeds to start us in on 4 course meal! The tea and cookies and cheese were enough...and I didn't know so much more was coming...then beef tangine followed by rice and chicken...then a huge bowl of fruit...then melon. She must have been cooking all day. Then we're all set up in the salon w blankets to sleep. In the morning they insist that we leave our clothes there to stay the weekend with them and he proceeds to drive us all over Casa to get us to and from the trade show every day. Each night she has a feast for us. This is hospitality, that while pretty normal for Morocco, is pretty darn amazing to this American who was NOT looking forward to returning to Casa!

I had view of Casa from a different angle....A nice Saturday evening and the neighborhoods are full of people..if there's a park, they're sitting or walking around and talking; the kids are playing, the park is full of life. The neighborhood streets are full of fruit and vegetable stands; vendors selling anyuthing from blenders to jeans from their perches on the street and any sort of Moroccan makla can be bought and consumed from one of the sidewalk stalls. Donkeys stand patiently tethered to their carts, eating the scraps from the vegetable sold from their carts. Women walking with baskets of bread dough on their heads to the community oven. I get a whiff of incense. This is the Casablanca that the tourist doesn't see and should. I greatly prefer this hustle and bustle to the old medina and Centre Ville.

The expo is a terrific learning opportunity. What are the coop goals? How do they set up their display? Interact with visitors to their booth and other exhibitors? What do they sell? What other exhibitors are there? I'm full of questions and collecting my observations and a lot of photos to share when we return to REK. We instituted a couple of changes while there-the display of products in the booth...made business cards the day before coming-just photocopied them as the women didn't get them made for the Fes expo either...getting them to collect bus cards from visitors to their booth, etc.

Tariq-from the PC SBD Program in Rabab came by the Expo. Had a chance to talk and share observations. Also discussed one of the SBD priorities of providing business training to our coops and associations. We brainstormed a bit and I may take the PCV lead on this with him-there's a huge opportunity to develop some standardized training modules on different aspects of business that volunteers could access-and maybe develop regional teams of content experts. Right now it's pretty much up to each individual PCV to develop the workshops themselves for their artisans and God knows we don't all have expertise across all topics. Inshallah we can make this happen.

We caught the bus back from Casa to Fes and spent the night...and another great and very late...after midnight...meal with Fatima's sister and family. Owe her family big time! Also discovered along the way that the Coop doesn't pay the expenses for travel to these expos..something I'm going to encourage them to do...otherwise only Fatma and Zahra can afford to attend them and that's not good for sustainability. Back to REK this afternoon, Inshallah.