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.


barbie said...

Lynn: I'm glad you enjoy Lisa's cooking--I sure miss her cooking at home. All her friends here in St. Louis thought she was a great cook too--especially her baked goods! Barb (Lisa's Mom) P.S. I enjoy reading your blog, Lynn. Did Lisa tell you where you can buy baking soda?

katie said...

Another great post, Lynn. I always enjoy reading your posts; so full of great detail! I'm especially interesting in your research into Fair Trade status for artisanal products. Fair Trade movement is a long-time interest of mine, and of course, I'll be working on development in that sector myself soon. So please know that anything you write on this topic will be avidly consumed by at least one reader!