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.

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