Sunday, September 13, 2009

...and it's always an adventure.

Happy Birthday Phil!

message started on Sept 11th…… Sitting here in Oulmes feelin’ a bit nostalgic, listening to what the others are calling “classics”-I remember the music as the music of my “youth”. It’s back to school time here, it’s also weather cool enough to wear a light sweater-is fall here so quickly? Several of the younger PCVs here are relatively recent college grads and not going back to school is a new phenomenon for them. Oh my gosh-Simon and Garfunkel. Wow.

We made it through cheese making in Khemisset over the last couple of days-9 of us gathered for the workshops. Lisa had us very well set, with copies of recipes and directions (this is no small task in this country), and a schedule to watch since there were always several cheeses in process simultaneously. We made Neufchatel, Yogurt cheese (after making the fresh yogurt), Ricotta, Feta and Gouda. We ate cheese and crackers, put it on homemade pizza, had sweetened ricotta on Henry’s crackers (like graham crackers), but have to wait for the Gouda to age a month until it’s ready. That’s a lot of dairy! That’s a LOT of very fresh milk (buy it in souk in a baggie out of the metal milk canister), and a LOT of curds and whey. Interesting-as in educational- and since it’s basically the same group that was together for the Environment Camp in Ain Leuh, a lot of fun, good eating, and more Scrabble and Rummicube.

So now we’ve made it to Oulmes, Jon and Emily’s site, and moved on to paper making. You ought to see the cards, embroidered and decorated homemade papers that Emily’s already made as examples. Exquisite. (As a side note, wish you could see the hysterical cartoons that Jon has made of Morocco traditions in a NYC context-he’s a fabulous artist-but not certain they’d make sense if you’ve not lived here).

It’s a nice contrast to the craziness of my day in Fes on the way to the workshops. Checking on arrangements with the table/tent/chair rental business and Al Qods and the Ministry to confirm lodging for all the artisans for the upcoming Workshop/MarcheMaroc2009. Good thing I went to see them, as what I had been told on at least 2 prior occasions was now not going to be the case-availability and pricing. Will be back again week after next to make certain things don’t change on me yet again. Then found that my hotel room (reserved in person in the morning) had been sold out from under me and at 10pm had to find another room-which was mosquito-filled and unbearably hot-not certain I slept at all that night.

So I had a Skype date Friday night with “The Girls”, since they’ve all been together this weekend in Boulder. This is the 2nd Girls Weekend in a row I’ve missed. It was great to “see” them all and catch up a bit, albeit quickly. Fortunately I wasn’t expected to report in on my goals. FYI, at Girls Weekend, we all have dedicated time to catch everyone up on our lives, to report on our Personal and Professional Goals made the year prior, and to make new Goals. Yes, we’re accountable to ourselves and each other. It’s a great group, and I really miss getting together with them.

Yesterday we took a break from papermaking to take a 12km steep hike DOWN and back UP from “the source” of the infamous Oulmes and SidiAli waters. They’re Morocco’s largest bottler of mineral and still waters. We were amazed that we could walk, much less not hurt today. Must be all the squatting over the Turkish toilet that’s strengthened the quads!

Then, just for a little mix of nostalgia and comfort, we made a baked chicken/stuffing/mashed potato dinner. Yum. Boy I eat well when I pal around w/these guys. Need to do it as much as possible!

Yesterday was Debbie and Phil’s housewarming party and Phil’s 50th birthday party. Sad to be missing it-would be such fun to be there. Hope the 50 black helium balloons I ordered to be delivered made up for not being able to join in the celebration.

And the journey continued….in Meknes. Randy and I were going home the same direction, so we left Oulmes and after multiple taxis, made it to the Meknes souk. She had heard that it was one worth visiting, and was so inspired by the papermaking that she wanted to get some supplies to do it in her site. OK, so she got the used sheets and blanket, but that doesn’t compare w/her main purchase, and the main adventure of the day. Shuf-l biban (look at the doors)! Narrow, old, painted doors. Great shelves for the showroom makeover she’s planning for her Coop. (My personal belief is that they’ll next be seen in Randy’s own zwin apt). Nevertheless, the old guy gave her the price, she countered and it was “game on”. Now I was the negotiator (in Arabic of course) with a crowd gathering about 3 deep. Negotiating for price, delivery to the bus station she’d be leaving from, the time, the deposit, etc. It was quite entertaining, if I do say so….when the old guy and I had an understanding and some guy comes over to “help us in English” I let him know “maxssnish nta, bgit ntkellm l-arbia”-(I don’t need you, I want to speak Arabic). The old man agreed and the deal was sealed with a handshake. With a killer deal, a 100DH deposit and a promise that he’d show up at 3pm at the mhatta d kiran krib d mhatta d taxiyat l Meknes (bus station by the taxistand to Meknes) where she’d pay him the rest, we left. Wandered briefly around the old medina-Randy hadn’t seen it before, then set off by foot to the bus station. Ran into Cortney, fresh from the US via Casablanca, on her way to her site-at the taxi stand-yes, it is a small world! Waiting for the door guy to show up. Really felt we could trust him. About 3:10 (remarkably prompt), he comes up to us and says he has the doors, but it will be an additional 100DH, because he delivered them, through a downpour (he IS soaking wet). Again the negotiation. Yet again a crowd forms-this one in front of the bus station, with others, yet again, trying to get involved (this is usually in French, which neither of us understand). I finally get the others to leave us alone, as Randy wants the doors, but he’s holding them hostage. He’s getting upset. Wants to leave. Blati, blati (wait, wait). Get him aside to agree on an extra 50DH. He’s happy-we shake again on the successful deal-he gets them onto the bus, and Randy has ZWIN old, solid wood, Moroccan painted doors for about $70.

A reminder that it’s never as simple as you think it will be, and to stay open to the adventure.

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