Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rag Rug-a-Muffins

I really was a ragamuffin this weekend. Bailed on my friend Jess. Feel bad about it, but just had to go home. Here’s how it went…

Thursday travelled down to Ifrane (about 3 hr trek) to meet w/women from Marketing Dept and International Development Dept at private Al Akhawayn University. They’ve done projects with Peace Corps Volunteers over the years and several of us came in to talk about ideas for summer and fall.

Ifrane-a touch of France/Switzerland in the midst of Morocco. Looks nothing like the rest of Morocco. Up in the mountains-high enough that there’s skiing in the winter. The King has a palace there. The whole town is pristine, landscaped, many parks, and the architecture is like Swiss/French mountain chateaus. Weird. Al Akhawayn is a well respected private University for those with flus (money). Students pay more for their lunch than PCVs pay for a week of food. You should have seen us at the lunch buffet they treated us to after our meeting. One of everything. Then we get ice cream. And it’s air conditioned. Toto, we’re not in Morocco anymore. Anyway, a productive meeting, and Inshallah, the business workshops they want to do for artisans are the same ones I want to do in conjunction w/the Craft Fair in Fes. Spoke to them about doing them together in Fes-they just sponsor the workshops we were gonna do anyway. So far they’re interested. Hopefully we can put this together.

Then it was off to Sefrou for the night, as 5 of us were meeting there in the morning to trek to a spot above Sefrou to spend the weekend making rag rugs. Friend Jess set this all up w/help of friends of hers in Sefrou. I understood it to be a trial weekend in a “jit” (weekend place for hikers/ecotourists), to see how the people could handle a crowd, they’d cook for us, place for swimming-envisioned a fun weekend of drinking, laughing, making rag rugs, playing rummicube and cribbage, etc. Well, I had it all wrong. It was a homestay situation. Incredibly wonderful people. Warm, generous, hard working, but a homestay situation. And no running water (and their water was from stream where horses also stay, so we couldn’t use it), no electricity, no toilet, no space of our own, no swimming and not appropriate to wear the shorts we brought to stay cool and why did we buy liquor when there’s no way we could drink in front of them? I can do the no electricity and running water. The no toilet got me. It’s not like there was even a tree to hide behind. Then there was the living w/the family. Again, they were wonderful people-nothing against them. However, I’ve lived w/families for 5 of my 10 months in mandatory home stays. I don’t want to spend what I would spend for the equiv. of a weekend in Fes to stay in another homestay (the cost was very reasonable from a tourist perspective, but expensive from that of PCVs-also needed to remember that PCVs are not the target customer for this idea). Then there was the heat. That combined w/hot flashes and I was a miserable puppy. Went home yesterday. One full day early. Really feel bad about bailing on Jess, but was not alone, as I was accompanying the others who decided to leave early.Yassine stayed behind w/Jess to sort out questions they had, as they want to use these families for cultural tourism homestays and bring groups up in the future. I think they need to sort out a lot of details, not the least of which are drinkable water and toilet.

So we asked about transit out, as we had seen some go by on the road up the hill the day before. Guy tells us in the morning that he’ll take us to Sefrou for 150DH. Even the girls we were staying with said “hshuma” to him. (note: Hshuma is the name of the devil’s wife) Figured we’d just pack our bags and keep an eye out for a transit during the day and be ready to make a run for it. Turns out about noontime that same guy was going into Sefrou on a regular run, so we got a ride for 6DH each. Go figure. Long bumpy ride on the dirt road in the back of transit w/no air. Was miserable on the transit home from Sefrou to REK and had zero energy when I arrived. Got here, took a cold shower and slept for 3 hrs (I never take naps), and my system is upset. I think maybe I was catching a bug. I feel a lot better today.

However, it was not an entire loss-great experience in other ways….Got a ton of rags sorted and trimmed to start our rugs. Two of us modified our ambitious plans to make full scale rugs and are going for wall décor. Brought our stuff home w/us to still get it done. A couple of them walked down to the fields below where we were staying. Saw all the neighbors helping in the fields to harvest the wheat. They all help one another w/the harvest-singing while they work-men and women alike. Have a couple photos posted of the horses threshing the wheat afterward. Invited to a party for the field workers that night, but we all passed and sat around w/the families w/a buta-lantern talking, dancing, being silly. Went next door so the neighbor could show us all her carpets, incl. rag rugs. We asked if any were for sale. Yes. I can’t believe she sold me her wedding blanket-traditional attire for wedding day. No man around, maybe it lost its sentimental value to her-it’s very cool. She wanted a lot more than anyone wanted to pay for the other rugs she was willing to sell, but there was no way we wanted to try to negotiate her down-they have no flus in these parts.

So it was quite the contrast to last year’s Fourth of July, where 3 couples came down to Huntington Beach-we did the parade, drank, grilled, watched fireworks from the rooftop-a completely decadent, hysterical weekend-long party. This year was w/Moroccan families, British and PCV friends where I’m feeling guilty about letting a friend down, going home early and feeling punk. Oh well. Move on.

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