Sunday, June 14, 2009

Heat Wave....

Decided to depart Marrakech Sat morning-first opportunity to do so to get back to REK. Can’t get there in one day unless I took the 7am train-and why do that? Overnight in Fes and on to REK in the morning. No matter how much I complained about the cold last winter, I’m glad I’m not in the heat of the south. It’s been brutal all week-6 of us in a 5 person bungalow, and sleeping on the ponges in the salon to catch any moving air.

Yesterday the 4 hour train from Marrakech to Rabat was stifling. Literally an oven-outside heat on an all metal bullet travelling thru desert-like area, baking us to a crisp. Gotta keep hydrated-tons of water, no need to use the disgusting bathrooms on the train. As soon as we get near the coast at Casablanca, the temp decreases 10 degrees-a welcome change. Haven’t sweat this much, this consistently in a long time. Welcome to summer in Morocco. Just glad I had the free fan that they gave away at the Sacred Music Fest with me to push a little air around my head.

Long night in Fes. Couldn’t sleep. Hot and humid-like summer mountain pre-storm air. No breeze. Bugs biting. Sweating and hot flashes on top of it all. Ugh. Realize the natives are miserable as well as they wipe the sweat from their brows and ask if I slept at all. And I ask you, how do the women handle it with their heads fully wrapped up and still in jellabas over their clothes?

Travelling back to REK, past the just-harvested wheat fields. Bundles of wheat tied up for collection. Some women still harvesting bent over w/scythe in hand. Seasons move quickly. The watermelon and apricots are prime right now. Seeing grilled corn on the braziers for sale. Cherry tomatoes are like candy. I enjoy watching for what produce is in season as the weather changes.

I’m antsy to get home as I feel like I have a ton of work to do and not enough time to get it done. Next big project is working on the Regional Craft Fair in Fes. Here’s the idea:

Many artisans that Peace Corps works with have limited marketing opportunities. Most are not in tourist towns and have limited access to markets outside their own villages. The craft fairs and expos that the Ministry organizes are irregular, often set up or cancelled on short notice, and poorly promoted. This leads to disappointing sales by the attendees who must cover their travel costs and subsequently are discouraged to attend future expos. In addition, there are consumers, ie; expats, urban HCNs, who are interested in supporting indigenous crafts, fair wages and local artisans, but do not have the means or interest in travelling to the countryside and don’t go into the medinas.

Peace Corps would partner with Regional Ministry and potentially other non-commercial organizations to support the craft fairs. The mission of the project is to create a venue for Peace Corps supported artisans to sell their products and provide key business and leadership skill training to the artisans while they are there. These will include workshops on Cost/Pricing, Leadership/Succession Planning, Product Development, Marketing and Sales. In addition, I’m hoping to bring in either the guy I met w/in Casablanca or a woman from the Ministry of Artisana to do individual product quality consultations with the artisans.

Can you tell I’m working on the grant development phase?? I’ve got the project design done and approved conceptually with Peace Corps and had the opportunity to share it formally w/the rest of my training mates in Marrakech to solicit their interest and support. I’ve got to finalize the budget, then sit down with the Ministry people to get their support and the American Language Center in Fes to talk w/the Director for support to hold the event in their beautiful gardens. This is all of course complicated by the fact that I can’t do any of these things at my site or over the phone or email due to language and access-most of the people who I need to talk with set their own hours. Inshallah we’ll be able to pull this off and will have created a new, lucrative marketing opportunity for our artisans.

Finally arrive home this afternoon to find that the power and water are out. All over town. Energy saving step. Power came back on around 5pm, but still no water. No cooking tonight and laundry will have to wait. Hamdullah.

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