Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ain Leuh

It’s been an interesting week so far back in my old CBT (training)site…..

First of all, came in town for their miHarajan (festival) over the weekend, and quite the festival it’s been! Hadeus contests every night on the main stage, Berber tents up everywhere, carnival for the kids, and the fabulous Fantasia Monday afternoon (check out the pics of the horses-they were charging right at us). This is big time-sorry REK, but you’ve a long way to go to match this. More people by far than I’ve ever seen here, and families say they had as many as 30 relatives staying with them for the 3 day event. It’s over now, and the town is settling back into normalcy.

Randy, the PCV here in Ain Leuh, has been the most generous hostess, with as many as 6 of us staying at her place at a time in revolving door fashion. She’s decorated her place very nicely-very homey and the group is getting along very well despite close quarters. Everyone pitches in for the cooking and cleaning up and the menu is way better than I do for myself-yummy pasta salad, homemade tortillas w/refried beans, handpicked blackberry syrup over French toast. A girl could get spoiled here.

It’s been fun being back in my old CBT site-seeing women from the Coop that we worked with, spending time with Khadija (my host mom), and seeing the changes in town since we were here last fall. Both strange and familiar at the same time.

I was supposed to do a workshop on developing a logo for the Coop. Randy had it all set up with the women, on their calendar and we confirmed w/them on Saturday. Time for the workshop on Monday afternoon and Khadija is napping and none of the other women are there. Khadija gets up and tells us that none of the other women can make it since they still have lots of family in their homes for the festival. Oh, and we can’t do it later in the week because they’re going to Ifrane to set up a booth at that festival the rest of the week. So she’ll do it with us. We explain that it’s important to have the input of the entire group, that they feel it is “theirs”, not just Khadija’s design and idea. She understands, says she’ll get the women there 2 hours later, but we decide to reschedule. Dragging women away from their families is not conducive to a brainstorming workshop. We’ll come back and do it. Meanwhile, I order a hanbl from Khadija-want her to make one for me, so I’ve got the yarn all picked out and will take whatever design she comes up with-I know it will be beautiful.

The main reason that everyone else is here is to help out with the Environment Camp that starts today and runs for about 9 days for 60 youth from 14-20 years of age here in Ain Leuh. We’re learning Moroccan flexibility the hard way. Randy has been meeting with the Camp committee for months, helping them with ideas, planning, etc. The organizers have changed from the Men’s Association, to the youth, and now it’s gonna be run by the youth who attended camp last year. Now the objective is to make it a learning experience for them. Good to know. That certainly changes our approach, which was based on helping them have a fun experience, staying engaged and especially helping them get a mural painted. All came to a head yesterday, after the 6 of us spent the last 2 days prepping a wall for the mural, that they felt we had basically taken over and they wanted the kids to “own” the mural-soup to nuts, success or failure. Fine, just needed to let us know. A little confusing when one of them was helping us do the work the last 2 days, to then be told that’s not what they want us to do. Breathe, stay flexible, they’re still learning how to do this themselves. Waxa. We’re happy to just be helping hands if that’s what they want. We’ll wait to be asked/told how they want us to help each day. But that’s kinda how things run in Morocco-last minute, not much planning, may or may not happen, may be cancelled or rescheduled, etc. Go with the flow.

Meanwhile, we took a nice long hike and picnic one day up above Ain Leuh, been playing cards, Rummicube, Scrabble, working on shared projects, enjoying coffee at the new café overlooking town, etc. But I don’t think I’ll be extending my stay to help w/the camp beyond my original plan of leaving Friday.

Time weighs heavily on all our hands right now, and this is why so many of us are available to be here in Ain Leuh for the week. August is the holiday month, so it’s hard to make progress on projects in our sites when neddis/coops/associations are closed and people are away. Those who aren’t on holiday don’t want to work in the heat of the day. Phones are off and emails go unanswered. Ramadan is looming close and then the entire schedule gets shifted to nighttime after l-ftr (break fast) at sundown. How do we move forward w/our projects when we can’t meet w/anyone? Easy to drop into cynicism at times like these. Especially easy when a bunch of PCVs get together, like we are this week-really have to watch that conversations and frustrations don’t deteriorate into bitch sessions making sweeping generalizations about Morocco and Moroccans. Remind ourselves and one another that it’s not about us, what we do, but what they do after we’re gone.

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