Sunday, October 11, 2009

Southern Travels

Home from Marche Maroc 2 days and back on the road. How about 1 ½ days travel to facilitate a 1 hour workshop? I was asked to do a SWOT (Strength/Weakness/Opportunity/Threat) workshop with the new staj of SBD trainees who gathered in the southern Provincial capital of Azilal. That’s a 1 hr taxi to Fes (after waiting 1 hour for it to fill up), 7 hr train to Marrakech, wait 2 hrs for a taxi to fill for a 2 ½ hr ride to Azilal. The benefits? Nice to interact with this group-many more “older” volunteers than usual (I’d chock that up to the US economy making more folks available for such an experience), and a very positive group at that. In addition, it was interesting to listen to all their questions and concerns-after all, I was one of them one year ago. It’s really by listening to them that I can see how far I’ve come.

On the return trip made it as far as Fes, no transits to REK that late, so overnight and home in the morning. Splurged for a 1st class train ticket. Nice! A reserved, comfy seat. Only 6 in a section. A/C. All for about 300DH (approx. $37, or $12 above 2nd class). Such a deal.

I also had the chance to see the countryside in the south on my journey from Marrakech to Azilal. It is definitely different. Here the buildings are the reddish-clay structures that you typically think of in Morocco. You also see that homes are typically built of mud bricks. The mud homes are great for insulation in the summer and winter. Since there’s so little rainfall in the south, this type of building has been preserved, where in the wetter, northern area, the mud bricks “melt” or collapse and have been replaced with ugly concrete blocks. And of course there's the perverse "benefit" in showing that one can affort the concrete brick. Go figure.

Feedback from Marche Maroc keeps trickling in, and I must say that it’s really gratifying. I was very pleased with how it all went, but really delighted to hear the artisan’s reactions, ie; artisans that now want to formalize a Cooperative, Neddi who told their PCV they had “the time of their life”, artisans saying they’d pay 500DH of their organization’s money to attend similar function in the future, etc. Tariq, our program manager, has asked if I’d do one in the south, ie; Marrakech. I think there’s a strong case to do it, make it more regional so travel expenses can be covered by the Coop/Assns, and a good opportunity to help someone else take charge of the project, someone who has connections in Marrakech that I don’t have, yak? Besides, I have other projects in the works that I want to get moving on.

Finally got home this morning. Can’t tell you how nice it was to get home. I really felt welcomed. Went by the Coop to say hi and give a copy of the WaresDinner Morocco booklet to the women to see. Great to see that Fatima and Zahra had already checked out shipping costs thru the Morocco Postal System (since FedEx is prohibitively expensive). I’ll check which one the WaresDinner women want us to use. Reminded Zahra that this means she also needs to get a signed, stamped document from the Ministry Delegate indicating that the shipment is traditional handicrafts, as this makes the package duty-free. Well done ladies-getting on top of it.

I also was sought out by several people in the village on my way home from the Coop-Hassan wanted to follow up on the request I gave him from another PCV-tourism opportunity for REK and he’s President of the REK Tourism Assn. Meriem came by to ask if I can help her w/referral for legal help for friend in the US. Max needed Tim’s information for his interest in the baskets that his Coop makes. Nice to feel missed and needed.

Good thing I saw all of them, as I’m back on the road on Tuesday for 2 weeks. Will be going way down south to Zagora (southernmost PCV site) for a pottery workshop, will do some business in Marrakech while I’m down that way, then going back to Azilal to help again w/the new SBD trainees. Following that I’ll stay close to Azilal-in Bzou, for a color theory workshop and Halloween party. Business and pleasure. Hopefully this Indian Summer stays with us-it’s been fabulous.


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