My what a week it’s been-tons of meetings that went even better than expected-hamdullah!
Got an early taxi on Saturday morning to Fes to accompany Zahra to FedEx and get the first shipment of table runners off to the US. Can’t wait for feedback from the WaresDinner crew-both on the table runners and the cost of the 12kg pkg. They were paying shipping, but I won’t be surprised if they want to use an alternative method once they see the bill. Hope they love the women’s work. They’ve been very patient as the production of the 2mtr x ½ mtr weavings has taken far longer than the Coop women estimated.
Ran into another PCV while in Fes and we hung out Saturday-she was Casablanca-bound for a vacation to the US. Watched the sun setting over the medina and the changes in the crowd as l-ftr approached. Ate 10DH pastilla (how can that be?) on the roof of the Cascade and walked thru the post-ftr medina as it came back to life. And did it come back to life! Until the 3am feast. That’s basically all night. And did I mention that it was sweaty hot? And bugs were biting? No sleep for 2 nights. Miserable. Good thing I like Fes so much.
Sunday did improve. Called friend Gale and went to her place in the medina, took off the shoes and put our feet in the wading pool on the roof while her daughter Francesca played in the water. Later I ran into other friends in the medina and caught up on the roof of a café before going for l-ftr. They may come to Hermoumou this weekend for a visit. Merhababikum.
Monday I was able to meet w/the vice-mundub at the Artisanat to get some questions answered, but still don’t have the paper from the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Rabat to authorize our use of the Al QODS for the artisans to stay during the Workshop/Craft Fair. Waited around for the mundub to show up to ask him to make a call for us. No luck-he was a no-show. Ramadan schedules make it hard to know when people will be in their offices-sometimes they can’t tell you when they’ll be there either! So it was off to the train station to get to Casablanca for a meeting.
Fortunately Mohamed was waiting for me when I got off the train 3 1/2 hours later-had only met him once and was hoping we’d recognize each other. This is the guy who I’ve spoken with numerous times about coming to the Workshop/Craft Fair to do product quality consultations with each of the participating artisans. Each time we talk, he promises to send me his proposal. Never receive anything. Decided to set up a face-to-face meeting. A bit uncertain whether he’d show (but better to know that in a meeting w/just me vs expecting him for a full day of consultations and not showing up). He was there w/his colleague. Went to their office to hash out the details of what I want them to do, reminded him of the cost he quoted-had to do so, as the budget is already approved-and since I never got a proposal from him, had to go w/what I had, and that’s the limit. Safi? We're on track and I think they'll do a great job.
Made it back to Rabat to check into my hotel just before everything shut down for l-ftr. Hamdullah. Went out for some ice cream, which I brought back to my room, took a fabulous shower, got comfy, watched a downloaded TV show and slept and slept and slept (12 hrs) with a sea breeze coming in my window (sans bugs). Simple pleasures never grow old.
Got a bunch of work done Tuesday at the PC office. That is, before running out to find a cyber for the Skype conference call I scheduled w/a couple other PCVs at 1pm. When I set it up, figured it would be easy-just do the call from the PC Lounge, which has 4 computers w/internet, scanner, printer, etc. No deal. No Skype loading on the PC computers. Bummer. Anyway, it worked out. They're getting the MarcheMaroc2009 artisan invitations out.
Then it was off to stay at a training center where the LCFs (Language and Culture Facilitators-basically the trainers) are going thru Train the Trainer for the new group of Volunteers who show up next week in Rabat. Two other volunteers and myself participated in a session on “Language Learning for the 50+ Volunteer”. Apparently there are about 10 “older” volunteers in this next group and everyone’s nervous about their language learning. Seems to me that many of the challenges faced by older volunteers are common across the entire volunteer group-not necessarily an age thing. Gotta watch out for that self fulfilling prophecy.
Then it was back to the Hotel Velleda in Rabat Ville-cheap, clean, across from the lagar (train station). Had a very productive initial meeting w/a dynamic woman I met in Casablanca at the MEPI Breast Cancer Awareness Roundtable in June. I met her there, found out she is on the Board of the Businesswomen’s Assn in Rabat, and mentioned that I wanted to talk w/her about an idea I had. This was my first visit back to this side of Morocco since then, and she graciously gave us (now w/2 other PCVs) time in her office (where she’s Managing Director of a prominent Printing Company). Anyway, here’s my idea. What about matching up women from the Businesswomen’s Association to mentor women from the Coop’s/Associations/Neddis that we Business Development PCVs work with? Then, when we’re done with our 2 year service, these artisan/emerging businesswomen would have a HCN (host country national) resource to go to for additional business guidance and consulting. Building sustainability, yak?
Well, she loved the idea! She’s in charge of Entrepreneurial Development for her organization (which is over 400 women strong, 7 Regional chapters, all independent business owners/managers), and they’ve been looking to extend their reach into rural Morocco. Ham-du-li-lah! They already put on training, do extensive advocacy, set up internships, etc. So now we’re putting together a Project Framework, to spell out the Goals, Objectives, Expectations, etc. that we can get agreement on from both her organization and the Peace Corps. Inshallah this is the start of sustainable business consultancy and competency for women artisans in rural Morocco.
We figured getting food, ie; restaurant, etc., would be easier in Rabat-tons of expats since it’s the capitol of Morocco-during Ramadan. No such luck. Gotta plan your meals ahead of time so you have food when you’re hungry-no small task, and made harder w/travel. We sat outside the German Institute last night for 45 minutes, until all the staff returned from l-ftr at home, just so we could have salads and alcohol. Should have known better-tomatoes and lettuce are hard to get completely clean. I was reminded of this at 3am this morning w/stomach cramps. Thank God for Pepto Bismol.
So then we met today w/Sandy, who runs the Commissary at the American Center (next to the US Embassy) in Rabat, to talk about selling artisan products in the Commisarry and putting on a Craft Fair on their grounds next spring. She also was very open to these ideas and Brian and I will work with her to make this happen (thanks to Linda for the introduction to this key contact). Had to close our eyes to the Commissary (size of a 7-11) products, all brought in from the US, as PCVs aren't allowed to buy from there (can you hear those Tootsie Rolls calling my name?).
Now it’s back to Fes, with meetings tomorrow at the Artisanat and American Language Center, following up on questions and requests for the Workshop/Craft Fair.
I must say, a very productive week. Gadi ykun skgul-kayejbuni (I’m gonna be busy-I like this)!