Friday, September 25, 2009

Lessons Learned

Fiya rrHwa (I have a cold). Between the cold spell of last week, heat of this week, running around for the Marche Maroc, l-eid sgira, no sleeping at the Hotel Cascade, it’s no wonder I caught a cold.

So it’s been yet another busy week….and always there are lessons to be learned...

Definition of luxury. It’s all relative. Getting a magazine in the mail. A nice lunch (grilled veggies and fish) in a zwin restaurant. An entire front seat to myself in the taxi. These are luxuries, Morocco style. And sometimes it’s worth a bit more flus to get them. Gotta remind myself of that sometimes.

Precedence. You must always keep this in mind. When asked to pay for something (and this is constant-I think if they know you’re “Western”, you must have cash to burn), be very careful what you are willing to do, even when it seems reasonable or the nice thing to do. Metalan-person from your town doesn’t have cash for taxi back to town. It’s late-you’re buying out the taxi anyway to get there. Take him along for free? Nope. That word would spread like wildfire and you’d be hit up for taxi fare every time in the future. Another PCV was gonna pay neighbors to cook lunch for workshop event in her town. Association she’s working w/said to not pay the women. If she does pay, they’ll never get people to volunteer to cook in the future, and they depend on volunteer help. Makes sense. Even tho’ she has the funding, will put it toward something else so precedence is not set. People always want me to bring my camera and take photos. Want copies. Fine, I’ll copy to a CD or thumb drive, but you have to buy the CD/thumb drive and get photo printed yourself. Otherwise you’re constantly being asked and no way to put a stop to it. Coop really needs to get their business cards and brochures printed up for the Fes Craft Fair. I've created them, copied them to the thumb drive I bought for them. Got printing quotes from 2 printers in Fes and gave them this info. Fatima and Zahra go to Fes regularly. All they have to do is show up at the printer and pay for the printing. It would be so easy to just do it myself, but that's not the point. They need to take ownership and invest in their business. Precedence is important. Think ahead-there are always implications.

Speaking of which, thought I had it covered, but it got away from me…..

This event in Fes has become all-consuming, but that’s ok, as I have the time to do it. However, with 60 artisans arriving from all over Morocco, the workshops, craft fair, logistics, etc., to plan, I wasn’t keen on facilitating housing for the Volunteers (another 30 persons). Another PCV offered this up (mistakenly), and when I balked, he said he’d manage it. Fine, you wanna do it, go for it. Of course, best laid plans backfire…..

Finally met with the mudir (manager) of the place where we’ll house the artisans (and we thought the PCVs), just to confirm plans, prices, etc. He informs me of the # of rooms he'll give us, and now we don’t have enough for all the PCVs who wanted to stay there. The PCV who was going to organize all of this is buried deep in LSAT prep and out of commission for the week. Guess who has to take care of this? Ana.

So, I could just tell everyone “tough s***”, but I know a lot are coming long distances, don’t know Fes, and need help. Jess comes thru like a trooper w/suggestion we check out a hostel around the corner from the American Language Center (where all events take place next weekend) that she’s heard about. Brilliant. It’s great. Cheap, very clean, nice space, breakfast included. Fab. They are always fully booked, but can give us 20 beds (exactly what we need). However, we need to reserve and pay 50% deposit in advance. Tfoo. I go ahead and bite the bullet and pay. Ask the other PCV helping w/lodging to connect w/PCVs to coordinate who’s staying where. She absolutely delights me when her response to my request is “I’m on it!”, and within ½ hour she’s taken care of communications w/the PCVs. Take her on my team anyday!

Of course, that can’t be enough, yak? Getting calls from Peace Corps office. They’re nervous about the # of PCVs planning on coming-security concerns. Should they put a “cap” on the # of participants? I encourage them to think about the impact cancelling PCVs could have on the artisans-many are single women who cannot travel w/o chaperone. Don’t want to have cancellations at this late date. Besides, I’ve worked w/the ALC to inform the Waliya/Basha/Gendarmes of Fes and they are ok with it all, security-wise. Finally get clearance for all PCVs who are planning on it to attend. Whew.

The best thing to come out of this is that the new Hostel is great-and “oh so convenient”, great price, great new option for when I travel to Fes. Hotel Cascade is getting old, it’s very noisy, and last few times I’ve stayed there, couldn’t get to sleep until after 2am. OK, so it’s also a hostel, people are there on holiday and having fun. Not their problem that I’m trying to work and need some rest. Now I’ve got a much better alternative in the Ville Nouvelle of Fes. Hamdullah.

So, speaking of the Craft Fair, we’ve got publicity all over Fes and the internet. Inshallah we have a great showing of people coming to buy! Check out the blurb on “View from Fes” blog…

I’ve also learned that I’m really, really tired of the hassle of trying to get anything printed here in my town. There are 3 cybers that have printers. One is always broken, one never has paper or ink, the other is sometimes not working or has some other trouble. Always takes me at least 1 hour to get anything printed, assuming that I find one of the 3 open. Then, of course, I may need to change something and re-print. What a hassle. Also, no scanner in town. So, I finally bit the bullet and bought a printer/scanner/copier in Marjane (Fes) for less than $50 before coming home yesterday. Fortunately my tutor is a computer geek, and helped w/set up, since my CD drive is broken and the printer driver software download was in Arabic (not avail on US site). I’m in business. Ana furhana (I’m happy).

So now if only M’hamed M. would send me a confirmation in writing for the product quality consultations for the artisans, I’d really be in shape! I know enough to know I’m not ok ‘til I get it in writing, that I’ll get what’s been promised. Working on it…stay tuned.

1 comment:

lauren said...

I just want to tell you that I've been enjoying reading your blog! I've been considering applying for the PC - I am a 60 year old professional artist with a background in American crafts. Having lived in the mideast long ago, Morocco is fascinating to me. Thank for the encouragement your posts have given me!