Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Week....

The meeting in Casablanca was interesting. Yes, it was conducted in French, but they had an interpreter in a booth in the back and those of us non-French-speaking attendees had headphones to understand what was going on. It was a good opportunity for networking. Dr. Asmaa did show up, Hamdullah, and met w/the organizers again the next morning, so hopefully she’s on board w/working on this initiative. I also made contact w/a woman who is President of a Women’s Business Association in Rabat. I spoke w/her briefly about the possibility of working with her organization to partner them w/women in our Artisan Cooperatives and Associations to mentor them beyond when Peace Corps is gone. We’ll stay in contact, and Inshallah something will materialize.

Then it was off to Fes on Wednesday to meet up w/David-Director of the American Language Center, and Jess. He treated us to a lovely lunch, over which we discussed the proposal to hold the Ministry/Peace Corps “Regional Training In Sustainable Marketing” program. (Note the change in program name-tweaked things around a bit after soliciting feedback from PC staff in Rabat on draft grant proposal). Anyway, Hamdullah, David has agreed that we can hold the event at the Language Center. Better than that, he offered up some additional ideas to add to the event, ie; Artisanal Product Competition, bringing in prominent Fessians as judges, to help us attract our target audience. He’s being very generous and we’re going to make certain this program works for ALL of us-artisans and ALC included. Jess and I walked the properties to think thru layout of the exhibits and workshops, and went across the street to the private school (not assoc. w/ALC) to see if they’d let us use their space for the artisans to sleep. So far that’s a “la” (no), but we’ll try again next week.

Friday was another big day, or maybe just a very busy one. Got up to be in Sefrou to meet early w/5 other PCVs for a bunch of meetings I had set up for them. Three of them had unusual difficulties getting transit and 2 of them didn’t get to Sefrou until 3:30 (starting from their sites around 7am). Anyway, we were fortunate that the Health Delegate was in town, and had a chance to talk with him and Dr. Mimi. The Health PCVs’ counterparts have not been very supportive of their efforts, and they wanted to talk w/the ones in Sefrou to see if they could help. They gave us a copy of the report from the cancer screening in Ribat El Kheir, and told the PCVs to go direct to their Delegates to get what they need.

Then we were treated to an unbelievable lunch at Hyat’s. I had asked if we could all come and have lunch, but insisted in advance that we paid her for it. She really outdid herself. Pasta and veggie salad to start, followed by couscous, followed by homemade pastilla. First time I’ve had it homemade. It’s a very traditional Moroccan food-filo dough filled with chicken (traditionally pigeon), nuts, then topped w/powdered sugar and cinnamon. Fabulous. Hyat is also a wonderful resource, has been a friend to Peace Corps over the years, and I wanted the others to have a chance to meet her.

Unfortunately we had to leave sooner than any of us wanted to (given the collective food coma we were experiencing), but we had a meeting scheduled w/Amina Yabis. She’s another terrific resource who I’ve mentioned before. She’s a savvy businesswoman, artisan, politician, etc. She’s also been willing to work with PCVs to facilitate workshops w/women who want to start businesses, associations, etc. The PCVs who wanted to get her help w/their communities each had a chance to talk with her, as she and her husband were working on packaging her products for their trip to the Santa Fe International Craft Festival that they leave for next week.

Then it was off to catch a taxi. Oops, too late, no taxis going to Ribat El Kheir (unless we pay 2x fare for taxi to return to Sefrou). Nope. We’ll try a transit. Oops. None to REK. El Menzel? Ymkn. Oops, nope, no more running. Hop in a guy’s van and he takes us to the bus stop where the Casablanca bus comes thru at 8pm and we can get to REK on it. While waiting, a transit to El Menzel shows up. We load-gets us about 40km closer to home. Wait for transit in El Menzel for the 15 km to REK. Nothing. Walking to check on paying a taxi both ways to just take us there when the Casa bus comes thru town. Stops for us. Seems to know we need a ride from the look on our faces as we’re walking down the street. Climb aboard and we’re REK bound. Now I know the VERY latest option from Sefrou to REK is that bus. Miss it and I’m in Sefrou for the night.

So Saturday was a lazy one. Up late and pancakes, fruit and coffee for breakfast. Went down to the Coop to show the other PCVs what Adwal does. Invited for lunch or tea w/them, also invited for fruit and juice w/woman next door to Coop. Merhaba. A little pilates, some naps, and showers all around, as many of them don’t have running water in their sites. Then we had to deal w/du (electricity) going off and on as we cooked a late dinner. Called my landlord at 10:30 when it wasn’t coming back on and he and his sidekick got the magana fixed. Back in business.

Four of them got an early start this morning to catch transit home, but poor Megan has GI problems, so is staying here. No fun trying to manage transit travel w/GI trouble. By 9am I’ve cleaned the kitchen, worked out on the roof, done laundry and am going to go down and see the Coop women for a bit while Megan naps. Going later to the Belladya-something about Hfla f drari (party for kids) that I’m invited to. I’m thinking it’s a kids’ end of school performance, since my tutor from El Menzel was asking about a simple song to teach their kids to sing at a performance. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to having the next 3 days in my site-been travelling so much, it's nice to just stay put a few days.

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