Sunday, June 7, 2009

Marrakech Express

Another interesting, busy week.

Gotta give you a description of Sunday night’s concert in Fes. A two-parter. First there were the Whirling Dervishes from Turkey accompanied by traditional music and chanting. The Dervishes are a sufi sect and the whirling puts them into a trance. Me too. Mesmerizing.This was followed by a contemporary take on the Dervishes-modern dance style-with computerized accompaniment by one guy w/a laptop on stage. Fabulous contrast and amazing talent. Now let me give you the backdrop. This was at the Bab El Makina. This is an old-medina-walled space the size of a football field. Huge doors (bab) at front w/ramparts beautifully lit. A star lit warm evening. Fessians in full regalia. Fabulous.

Then it was off to Casablanca by train to meet w/a guy who used to be with the Artisana Ministry to pick his brain about Fair Trade status for artisans in Morocco. Great discussion-what a great resource. Tells me he might be in Marrakech next week when we have IST (In-Service Training) there. I passed this along to our Program Manager and he’s gonna invite Mohamed to come talk with us. Inshallah.

Then on to Rabat for my final dentist appt to get my crown. What is it about Morocco and teeth? I’ve had 2 crowns crack and replaced since I’ve been here. Thank goodness I’ve been perfectly healthy otherwise.

Get home Tuesday finally, only to have Stevie (Environ PCV just ended service but staying in Beni Mkoud) ask if he can stay at my place that night. Was really looking forward to having a little time to myself. Oh well. Sure you can stay. He’s having trouble buying the property he wants, his trip to Belarus w/family has glitches and he needed to vent to someone in English. I get it. Been there, will be there again. We PCVs need to be there for one another.

Glad to be back in my site Wednesday when I ran into the local clinic MD. Good thing that happened. I had passed along the info I got from Dr. Asma in Sefrou to Fatima to pass along to the 3 women who had positive gyn labs for cancer. She was to tell them to get to Dr. Faisal for final paperwork, get their certificates of indigence and go to Sefrou on June 9th to see Asma. Something didn’t compute, as he hadn’t seen any of the 3 women. Got to Fatima again to relay the message that the 3 needed to see him yesterday or today in the am-last chance so they can get to Asma on the 9th. One of the women-must be 80, can hardly walk, shows up at the Coop yesterday. Says Faisal won’t see her. Huh? So I escort her to the sbitar personally. Faisal sees her, gets her the paperwork and she’ll go to Sefrou next Tues. While I was gone, one of the other women showed up and was sent to the sbitar. Inshallah they can be treated.

Then a friend from Fes came to town w/3 of her friends. She’s writing a Moroccan cookbook and wanted to get into the countryside to taste rural cuisine and visit rural weavers. I paid the Coop women to make lunch for all of us. (They normally have a small lunch together that one of the women makes and I join them occasionally, but this was 5 more people and wanted to treat everyone to more of a meal). We all ate together-friends from England, Australia, Norway, me and the Coop women. Zahra had her sister cook chicken w/olives and preserved lemon. The friends declared it the best chicken they’ve had in Morocco. Unfortunately Tara, the cookbook author, was having GI problems, so couldn’t eat it. Meskina.

Here’s an observation that I’m pleased to make. The requests I’m getting are less for money-can I pay for or get money for things, and more to help others get something done. This is encouraging that the people making requests are both taking initiative and want to learn how to do for themselves. Metalan: Dr. Faisal wants help with a grant application for computers for the sbitar. Can I help? Miriam is working with the new Tourism Assn in town and doesn’t know where to start on acquiring/building a “jit” (overnight shelter for hikers). Can I help her get started and make contact w/the Moroccan guide who was in town last week who has done this before?

Meanwhile, the cafes are buzzing late into the evening these days. Elections are next week. Campaigning is fierce. Flyers, networking all around. Fatima from the Coop is running for Belladya board. The Belladya is President of the Urban Commune for REK-kinda like mayor. The board is kinda like City Council. From what I understood, there are 4 women running and 2 will be on the board, so Fatima has an excellent chance. Good for her. Hopefully that doesn’t impact the Coop, as she’s an essential talent to the operation of Adwal. Of course, that just speaks to the importance of Leadership Development and succession planning-concepts I’ve been introducing to Fatima and Zahra, but no progress made on that front to date.

Embarrassed that I don’t know the name of the pharmacist around the corner. I stop and talk with her all the time, and if I don’t stop as I pass by, she calls out to me. A real sweetheart. Anyway, she’s proposed that she, Hind (Fatima’s sister) and I start walking together in the mornings for an hour. Love the idea. Inshallah when I return from Marrakech we can start.

Heard from OC friend Samira (born and raised in Morocco) this week on her travel plans to Tangier next month. She and her husband have bought a condo there, and she has family all over Northern Morocco. I’m gonna go visit her the 2nd week of July-will be so great to see her, see Tangier thru a native’s eyes, speak Darija with her, etc. Yipee.

So despite all the travel and time out of my site, I have to say that I’m excited to be going to Marrakech this week. In addition to seeing everyone from training-all 28 of us-will be the first time seeing most of them since we were sworn in last November, it will be fun to finally see Marrakech as well. Long-ass train ride tomorrow...go to Fes in the am, then 4 hr train to Casablanca and 3 hr train to Marrakech. Got reading material and language study material to fill the time.

Didn't get this posted, so will add on the trip to Marrakech yesterday......

But first the birthday party. On Jess' rooftop in the Sefrou medina. Her neighbor who she's adopted doesn't know his birthday, so she gave him hers. Party on the roof w/Jeleliyat (all female drumming and singing group of traditional Moroccan music). Berber-like blanket tenting the sun. Dancing. Neighbors up on their rooftops to see what's going on. Neighbor boys dancing on their rooftops to the beat of Jeleliyat as the sun goes down. Couscous for dinner.

7 hours by train-that's after you get yourself to Fes. Scenery definitely has changed. Dorothy, we're not it the Middle Atlas anymore.... It's brown and flat and any building has a distinctive construction w/pinkish-brown paint. Huh-just like you see in the pictures-go figure! The olive groves are history, replaced by eucalyptus, cactus and palm trees, but even those are not abundant. It's a dry heat-but much warmer than my old REK.

Morocco rail system. Interesting. It's available along the coast from Casablanca north to Tangier. There's an eastern rail line Rabat to Oujda. Then there's the diagonal rail from Casa to Marrakech. That's it. Amazing. The rest of travel is train, grand taxi, transits, etc. on sometimes swiya roads.

But I'm in Marrakech. In a week's time have been to Fes, Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech. This is a good gig!

Walked all over the old medina last night after getting in. So full of life. Djemaa el-Fna is just like the photos, a bit more touristy and less magical. Gnoua musicians walking around, spinning the tassels on their heads, Nancy-tell Jack that the watermen were all over, others w/little monkeys, a guy promising that his lizard will cure what ails you, the ubiquitous snake charmers, get a henna tattoo, your cards or palm read, a sandwich or bowl of harira or fresh orange juice, a carriage's all here! Merhaba.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I told Jack that you're seeing lots of watermen and he says "I love their hats!" and "I'm so excited to be in the blog!".