Monday, November 30, 2009


Shbet, ana 3mmra, makanakulsh walu, Lay axlf! It’s not even so much that I’m full (which I am), but I just can’t eat anything else. I’ve been eating for 4 days straight....

It started w/the pre-Leid rafisa on Friday night. Yum. Saturday dawns clear and sunny with sheep and goat bleating all over town as they’re dragged out of garages, storerooms, etc., to either the lot next door, the rooftop or on the sidewalk in front of the house. Everyone slays their sheep (or goat if you cannot afford a sheep). I have the good fortune of not being in home stay this year, so get to observe from a distance. I hear my downstairs neighbor’s sheep kicking on the roof above-please hurry up. From the balcony off my kitchen, I can watch 7 families slaughter, skin and disembowel their animals-5 on their rooftops and 2 in the street below. Blood literally runs down the gutter. Animal bodies hanging from trees, rooftops, fences. Then you smell the charcoal that’s been lit to start the grilling. As last year, they start with the liver and heart, wrapped in fat. I work it so I’ve missed this part-timing is tricky.

I’ve been invited to several homes, but will go back to Fatima’s-they’re my family here. But have to wish my neighbors “mbruk l’eid” , and that gets me dragged into their apt for lamb brochette (which follows the organs). Manage to eat just one, shrb some sweet mint tea, before Fatima calls me to find out where I am and I need to come now. More lamb brochette at her house. Manage to eat just one here as well, so at least I’m not consuming the compulsory 2/home. Burp. Then we, like you on Thanksgiving, sit around with the TV on, drowsy in our food coma. I manage a bit later to drag my butt back home-need a break, and Jess is due to arrive, but only with a promise to come back later. Waxa.

Jess and I return that evening, where more of Fatima’s family has arrived and there are more brochettes. And finally the sheep’s head. Fortunately not all of Fatima’s family indulges in l-ras, so Jess and I are able to politely decline eating it as well-more for those who pull up their chairs to dig in. Bismilla.

So yesterday comes along, and now it’s time to celebrate Thanksgiving, as I’ve invited a bunch of PCVs over. We end up with 7 of us, more than enough food (although we go with roasted chicken instead of turkey-and how would you cook a turkey in these little ovens anyway I ask you?) and desserts that fill the plate more than the dinner. Just for the record, I’ve cut off the torched top and bottom of the pumpkin cake-more like bread-but it’s been salvaged and tastes great. Burp. Shbet. Sleep.

Now I have to say I’m puzzled by all the invitations to come over for lunch today-Monday. Huh? I don’t remember anything special about the 2nd day after L’eid Kbir last year, but then again, all my perceptions were colored by what my host family did. This is still a vacation day. Most everything is closed. No souk. Transit here in town instead of at the lagar for souk, which helps the PCVs get transport home this morning. Interestingly enough the busta is open-I figured gov’t offices would still be shut. No school in session. We’ve also had a major storm roll in-very strong winds and rain all night long. Feels like winter just arrived. Feels like a day to bundle under a blanket and catch up on emails, etc., maybe watch a downloaded movie. How can I avoid the lunchtime invitations that undoubtedly involve more lamb consumption?

Short answer? I don’t. On my way back into my apt after everyone’s on transport, to clean up after all the guests, my neighbor catches me. Drat. You’re coming for l-gdda, yak? Inshallah. Waxa. Five minutes later she sends her daughter up to get me. Aji daba. Come now. Meet their family visiting from Rabat and Tangier. Sit down to eat. Again. Lamb. Three ways. Baked. Tagine. On couscous. Then fruit. I can not eat any thing else. We, once again in a food coma, watch TV-don’t understand the language but can follow the story line just fine. OMG-do I smell charcoal? Holy crap. They’re about to put brochettes on the grill. I make a hasty but effusive thank you and b’slama. No more meat. Please.

So now I’m cushy under the blanket, propped up by pillows, and hoping that my internet connection comes back on. Of course, I can’t post this ‘til it does, but I think the wind is wreaking havoc on the rizzo.

Just hope the PCVs got home safe and sound and can cozy up to a movie or book as well while we ride out the first big storm of winter.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mbruk L'eid

Smoke off the grills rising from all the rooftop decks as the heads and hooves of the sheep are first to go on the fire. Listening to the thrashing of my neighbor’s sheep on our roof as it is dying (and why does it seem to be taking so long?). Sheep were slaughtered on rooftops, the lot next door and on the sidewalk in front of homes. Everywhere. Blood running down the gutter. It must be L’eid Kbir. Not my favorite holiday, but the holiest of them all in the Muslim world. I’ll go over to Fatima’s later-no need to spend the day there-really don’t want to eat meat all day long-but need to make an appearance.

Spent time w/Fatima’s family yesterday as well. Kinda humorous, in a language sort of way. Fatima had invited me over when I saw her on Wednesday (the coop is closed Thurs til next Wed for L’eid). Told me to come over “f l eshya”. What time? Gir l eshya. Waxa. Now, my understanding of eshya is afternoon, ie; if I’m invited over Friday afternoon, that’s “couscous Friday” and it’s eaten after mosque, about 2pm. So I show up about 1:30. They’ve just finished lunch, not couscous, and not really expecting me. Huh? I give them the framed photo I had printed up for them-my favorite of Fatima, Hind, their mom and another sister. Stick around for about an hour or so, watching TV with them. Then decide to go (since I don’t understand the Fusha Arabic). Tell Fatima I’ll see her tomorrow (meaning today). She tells me I’m supposed to come "f l eshya, had lyum". I’m confused, come back? Iyeh. Shal seah? Stta ns wla sbae. OK, so in her book, eshya is also evening, and I wasn’t supposed to come until 6:30-7 (and no one ordinarily eats a meal then, thus my confusion). Waxa. I’ll return later after we laugh about my confusion.

Head home and get a chance to Skype w/Jeannie and Sharon, from Sharon’s new house in Las Vegas. Haven’t talked w/either of them since I’ve been here, so a great opportunity to catch up.

Then I decide to make up the pumpkin chocolate chip cake recipe I’ve got and bring it to Fatima’s later. Now, how exactly does one know how much pumpkin pulp you’ll get out of 3kg of pumpkin squash? No buying a can of pumpkin-it’s DIY country. So I’ve cooked down the squash, but don’t have enough for the pie I was gonna make, but have enough, along w/choc chips AND brown sugar (neither avail. in Morocco-both brought back from U.S.) to make up the cake. Hamdullah. So I get it in the oven and immediately start worrying about how long to cook, what size flame. You see, ovens here are basically metal boxes w/a butane-fueled burner and no temp gauge. I have NO idea what the temp is. Get a bit concerned that the bottom is cooking wayyyy too fast, so I get the bright idea to set it under the flame, not on the pan immediately above the flame. I think this is a brilliant idea-indirect heat, yak? Also get the inspiration to order up a digital remote oven thermometer (think barbecue therm.) on-line for future baking. I’m in the process of ordering when I smell the butane gas. Now, I’m also thinking that my butane tank is about to be empty (since it fuels both the stovetop and oven), so have been watching and smelling for signs of no gas-is that what I’m smelling? I go check it out. OMG!!!! The cake has caught fire and is flaming like crazy. I think fast enough to turn off the gas, blow out the flames and open the door to the balcony-conveniently located right next to the oven-and put the damn cake outside. Crap. Now I’ve wasted precious pumpkin pulp, choc chips AND brown sugar. It’s a miserable trifecta. And furthermore, no cake to bring to Fatima’s. Bummer.

Anyway, I did go back to their house, we had rafisa (traditional yummy tagine), watch TV, talk and Mohammed walks me home in the fog. I did tell them about the cake and they had a good laugh.

Slept in a bit this morning, did my riada (pilates), cleaned house for everyone coming over tomorrow, and need to clean up and go over to their house again for a bit. Jess will be coming in later today-will be good to catch up with her-haven’t seen much of her since MarcheMaroc’s been history.

Mbruk L’eid.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Stuffing

Yes, Thanksgiving is upon you. The turkey and you will soon be stuffed. Tbarklikum!

It will be a similar situation here in Morocco on Saturday-the official L’eid Kbir holiday. The sheep (or goat if you can’t afford the former) will be slaughtered, beheaded, skinned and gutted. All will be grilled. More sheep, skewers, charcoal and grills being sold this week than all year long. You can feel the coming of a holiday in the air. Schools will be closed, business will shut, the coop is off for the next week. Mbruk L’eid.

This must be the explanation for all the transit troubles of the last couple of days. Everyone in Morocco is travelling to get home for L’eid. Think Thanksgiving travel in the states, but all is done on the roads in public transit. Fortunately the transit guys know me and I get space-even if it’s squished SRO, it’s still transit. Even the gendarmes look the other way as the way-over-full transits drive by. Hamdullah.

So the last ride of the day today drops me early-no problem-it’s beautiful out, feels festive, the walk will do me good. A guy I recognize greets me w/a big smile and a handshake. Salam Alekum. He then pulls my hand down to his crotch. HSHUMA LIK! WTF? Why can’t we just greet one another? Why are you spoiling this beautiful day??? I’ve met so many people here in REK, don’t remember where I’ve met each one of them, and out of habit, always greet those who are familiar to me. Unfortunately he’s added to the list of several men I avoid due to their inappropriate comments, questions, gestures, touching, etc. Oh well, moving on. Got home and did my Pilates and cooked a healthy dinner. Feeling good about oneself is the best revenge.

Had a productive meeting yesterday at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. Went to give Bouchra and Intissar their certificates for running the workshops at Marche Maroc. (Nothing, I mean Nothing is valued more than a certificate, stamped and signed, with your name on it in Morocco.) I also have collected feedback from the artisans and wanted to share this with them. Bouchra then informed me that she’s working part time next semester so she has time to pursue the Middle Atlas Artisan Website she’s wanted to develop. She, Amy and I had a good discussion. There’s also potential to include Ilham’s mentoring with AFEM into this initiative. We need to discuss further, but I’m excited about the potential this offers-aka the Free Trade Egypt site (, and look forward to working on this with them.

Got great news from friend Lynn L., Skyped with Deb/Phil/Philip yesterday, weather promises to stay clear and dry, sporting a new sweatshirt, internet up and running and the Thanksgiving menu is coming together for Sunday. Many sweet and silly Thanksgiving email circulated from and to friends. Much to be thankful for. Have a safe and fun holiday with family and friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rollercoaster Ride

Just back from Rabat and the memorial service for So-Youn. Peace Corps did the right thing and removed all barriers to make it as easy as possible for everyone to come together to pay our respects and tribute to So-Youn’s all-too-brief life. I don’t know how many were there, but between PCVs from all sectors and all over the country, staff, Embassy personnel and the Ambassador, it was SRO. It was the least we could do for her family to demonstrate how much she mattered. David Lillie, Country Director, was not with us, as he flew out on Friday to accompany So-Youn’s body to Korea, where her family is from and where she will be buried. May she rest in peace.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster of emotions. A week ago, approx 50 new PCVs were sworn in. We lost So-Young on Monday. On Friday Peace Corps Morocco said good-bye to approx 50 PCVs who completed their service that day. Yesterday the Morocco PC family was together. Today we are dispersed again around the country.

We did get word from one of our PCMO’s (that’s a PC Medical Officer), reminding all that due to confidentiality, they cannot disclose the cause of death, but that it was unique to So-Youn and not a community health issue. I fear it may have been related to an elective procedure she had just over a month ago and may have been preventable. Needless to say, it has left a lot of PCVs (and their families) shaken up. Need to support one another-now as always.

No surprise then that David cancelled his trip to REK last week. He had scheduled to come out for a less-than-24hour visit. It was to have been well timed to coordinate with an REK “end of year” celebration-lots of kids singing, dancing, certificates to all the associations. I was surprised to be called up on stage and presented with a certificate and gift from REK for my work this past year. It was really sweet. Adwal also had set up tables with product and sold a few things. I took Pete, the new PCV with us, and glad I did so, as it was a great opportunity for him to meet a lot of the town officials and leaders.

Meanwhile, life continues on……
Thanksgiving will be different than originally planned. Kristen and her site mate were going to host about 10 of us this weekend-had bought 2 turkeys in anticipation of the feast. Obviously that was cancelled as we all went to Rabat instead. I still have plans to have about 8 PCVs from around here in REK together a week from today for Thanksgiving. Now if only I could find sage for the dressing. I bought what I was told was “simta” in souk last week, but I doesn’t smell like any sage I’ve ever had, but I've now scoured REK, Sefrou and Rabat, and it’s my only option. Marian says she’s gonna bake-which is great, since that’s not my forte. She and Jess will probably come in a day early to help get started on the cooking. It will be good to get this “region’s” group of PCVs together to brainstorm, etc. as well.

Lots of sheep travelling today-on the road, on top of the nqls (transit vans)-Leid Kbir is either Friday or Saturday-holiest holiday of the year-celebrates the culmination of the annual haj to Mecca. (Islamic calendar is lunar, so don't know actual day of a holiday until new moon is actually visible-it it's overcast, holiday is the following day). All families sacrifice either a sheep or goat that day. All the hanuts have specials on grills and it’s the only time all year I’ve seen charcoal for sale (it’s the only time people grill-they don’t grill in the summer). I’m hoping to plan my Leid Kbir socializing to miss the slaughter and the consumption of the intestine/stomach/lungs and head. Not as hard as it seems, since there is a ritual order to how the animal is consumed. Heart and liver are early-covered in fat and grilled-it’s the best of the day. I’ll just be busy the rest of the day. Can’t take all the meat and parts and pieces all day (make that all week) long.

Good news for Adwal-the grant request I submitted to Kantara Crafts has come through. It’s a modest amount of money, but a terrific effort on the part of Alia Kate, owner of Kantara Crafts. She imports artisanal products from Morocco and has started up an education fund to give back to the communities she buys from. I first met her last year when I was in training in Ain Leuh. She was on a buying trip at the time (since Ain Leuh’s products are some of the best in the country). I connected with her again via email to try to interest her in coming to visit Taeawniya Adwal on her trip to Morocco last spring, but she didn’t have time to come up this way. She instead sent me the email for another company that was looking to work with new cooperatives in Morocco. This connection led to WaresDinner and Adwal’s first export business to the US. Anyway, Alia is funding 2 women from Adwal to take computer classes, 4 hours/week for 4 months. This is part of the sustainability process for my work. Since so much of what I do for them involves the computer, and none of the Adwal women know how to use one, it was imperative that we get someone trained up. Hamdullah, Kantara Crafts and Alia is making this happen. Check out

Speaking of websites and internet, the WaresDinner website has been updated and their Morocco package is now for sale, including the Taeawniya Adwal table runners. Check it out also, as the site includes a photo of the women and some background on their weaving.

And last but not least, one week ago Zahra and Fatima were in Fez, where they met the King and received a large unspecified grant from him. It was televised and I watched it on one of the trainee’s cell phones where she had taped it. Next step is to decide how they will use these funds. Hamdullah, this is a nice problem for them to wrestle with.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I just received very disturbing news from Peace Corps in Rabat. So-Youn Kim, the YD PCV who put together the Tamegroute pottery workshop last month and hosted 11 of us to live in her house for 5 days, just passed away in a Marrakech hospital.

So-Youn put the workshop together in an attempt to help her host brother develop a business of conducting these workshops for tourists, Moroccan artisans and visitors. This was not her assignment as a Youth Development Volunteer, but something she took on to help her community. She was bright, driven, kind and generous.

I will take the liberty of copying the message sent to worldwide this morning from the Peace Corps Director, Aaron Williams:

“So-Youn, 23, a native of San Francisco and a 2007 graduate of Stanford University, had been serving for one year as a Youth Development Volunteer in Tamagourte. Her primary assignment was in a youth center where she was involved in a wide range of activities in her dual role as English teacher and youth development worker.

Her secondary activities focused on helping the village of Tamagourte’s pottery cooperative and developing an apprenticeship program. She got her hands dirty both literally and figuratively with the lives, pottery and culture of her community. She loved to teach children, support the cooperative and respect the historic craft that is so firmly rooted in that region of Morocco.

So-Youn was a remarkable writer, a voracious reader, a tireless advocate and talented in many languages. Thoughtful and hopeful would be the best way to describe her Peace Corps Aspiration Statement and other communications she has shared.

In September 2008, she wrote: 'Youth development work is effective when young people are taught to become educated, empowered, and responsible members of their communities while being given space to explore and share the challenges of their own individual identities.'

This is an ethos and passion So-Youn brought with her to Morocco. I am sharing the news of this tragedy with the hope that all of you will honor her commitment to service by providing the best support, comfort and opportunities to our dedicated Volunteers and staff around the world.

So-Youn wrote recently, 'I believe in the power of the day to day, the simple yet otherwise impossible conversations, the truths that I speak and live that affect the people around me as I learn from the truths around me in turn.'"

I wish I had had a chance to spend more time with So-Youn; in Morocco, in life.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Heart is Full

Don’t let anyone tell you that Friday the 13th is unlucky. What a day it was.

I’m really invigorated and in love with REK right now. I have internet back at home, and the rizzo (connection) is faster than ever. New PCV arrived safe and delivered to his host family. 20 women from CWD came, met with the Coop and all the key leaders in REK and bought out the Coop products. We had beautifully sunny skies. Hm, what else? Oh yeah, new table for the kitchen and I get to Skype w/Debbie. Does it get better than that? I think not!

OK, so Friday is a day off for the Coop, but all the women show up at 8:30 this morning to get ready for the delegation of women from Center for Women and Democracy. We cleaned up the looms, the workroom, borrowed tables from the bashawiya to put all the products on display outside, set up a display table w/slide show of Taeawniya Adwal, business cards and brochures, put together a display of all their certificates and diplomas, etc. Well done ladies. Then we waited. And waited. When they ( the CWD women) finally arrived-in a full sized bus-I think everyone in town knew they were there.

The women of both CWD and Adwal were great. The CWD women gave Adwal their best sales day ever-and were truly taken by the work of the Coop women-it was SO great to see their work so appreciated. We did the obligatory group photos overlooking the zlul and made our way up to the Belladya for tea and cookies (yes, these precede the big meal in Morocco). There we had all the Ribat El Kheir leaders-men and women alike, join us. They were introduced, along with the Coop women, to our guests. Then the delegation leader, Lisa Brown, Washington State Senate Majority Leader, discussed a bit about the work of CWD and their members introduced themselves. This was followed by a Q&A session. Fortunately we had an interpreter throughout these sessions to facilitate understanding.

We then made our way up to Fatima’s house where we gorged ourselves on the traditional Friday couscous feast. Couscous w/meat, veggies and hummus, followed by chicken with olives, followed by fruit. Yum. The women of CWD had made arrangements to pay for the meal, and the Adwal women took care of hiring some women to help make it happen. We gave thanks to Fatima and her family for their generosity in opening their home to all of us.

We said our goodbyes to the CWD women reluctantly-I think everyone wanted to spend more time together. Many business cards and contact info was shared to keep in touch. Photos will be shared electronically. Hearts were touched. What a wonderful group of women. Oh, am I referring to the Center for Women in Democracy group or the Taeawniya Adwal group? Yes. To both. I was so proud to share REK with the CWD group and so happy for Adwal to have made these connections and sales. Can’t ask for more.

Oh, but wait, there’s more! On our way to Fatima’s for lunch, the Maroc Telecom guy drives by, stops me and asks if I’m going to be home. Uh, no, you see, I have this big group I’m taking over to Fatima’s for lunch. Mn bd, eyyitni mlli sala m xdma mxtalf (later, call me when you’re done with your other job). He calls during chicken. Do I stay or do I go? He wasn’t supposed to come until Monday, but I’ve been w/o internet for 2 weeks, and it’s been terrible since July. Travelled to Sefrou a week ago to ask them to fix it. If he leaves, who knows when he’ll return. I duck out of lunch, and 15 minutes later return-he’d fixed the cut line and I’m back in business. Didn’t miss anything at lunch. Hamdullah.

But wait-it gets even better! After all is done and the CWD women are on their bus and Fes-bound, I head home to drop my stuff and remember the table I ordered from the guys across the street. They’re waving at me as I approach-table’s all done. Pay them $3 extra and they carry it upstairs for me. I’ve just tripled my kitchen counter space (ok, there wasn’t much to start with, but this table is much nicer than I expected).

Oh, then Pete, the new PCV arrives from Rabat. Perfect, since I just saw Hassan, his host, going into a meeting of the JamEiea Siyaha (Tourism Assn)-told him I’d meet Pete and bring him to the meeting. Pete arrives, take him to Hassan-check.

Then to top it all off, Debbie and I get a chance to catch up on Skype in a few minutes-it’s been over a month since we had talked “live” and I can’t wait to catch up with her.

My heart is full.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Welcome Winter?

Could it be winter?

Yes, I’ve been spoiled….in many ways…..let me count them…..

First, it’s only now turning cold. Just yesterday. Like a light switch. Went from too hot in a long sleeve blouse on Wednesday to wool turtleneck under fleece and sleeping under 2 blankets w/flannel sheets. Welcome winter. The warm is over.

Second, just for the record, I really, really do appreciate having internet connection in my apartment. That is, when it works. And it hasn’t all week. And only shwiya since July. Apparently it’s a problem in the whole town. Can’t pay my phone/internet bill ‘til they have connection-timeframe as yet undetermined. Went by the Maroc Telecom office in Sefrou Thursday when I was there to lodge a complaint to have someone come and check it out. Paying good money (400DH is no small fee given rent is 800DH/mo) for no connection. Even the cyber has shwiya connection this week. Makes me realize just how dependent I am on having access-yes, I know, spoiled.

Went to Sefrou for the weekend. Friend Jess had Marian and I over for scary movies last night. Proved more humorous than scary. Found a guy in a shwiya hanut, but zwin equipment who burned a DVD with 4 movies in English (was supposed to be 6, but for 15DH, either way it’s a bargain). The first one-The Haunting in Connecticut stopped about ¾ the way through. Just when we were to find out who was “the next weak one” targeted by the demons. Now we’ll never know! So after trying to get the DVD to work again, unsuccessfully, we moved on to movie #2. (Note that formats are different here-don’t typically work on US computers, so once you manage to find someone who has English DVDs-and make them show it to you before buying it-you still may not be able to view it). Movie #2 was Autumn. My first zombie movie. Again, stopped about ½ way through-found out that only ½ of the movie was burned. Will never know if the zombies come back and take over. My guess is that’s the ending, and really, I don’t particularly care.

So I’m off to Rabat tomorrow. (So much for being home all this month). I will be attending a conference with a Seattle-based NGO that focuses on women’s leadership-Center for Women in Democracy (CWD). Then I’ll be attending a reception with the new Ambassador to Morocco. There are 2 of us PCVs who have been invited to the sessions, so should be interesting. Half of the CWD group, about 20 of them, will then come to Ribat El Kheir on Friday. I’ll be hosting them, along with Taeawniya Adwal and some other women leaders in REK, for a discussion and traditional couscous lunch.
The mission of CWD is to promote women’s full representation, participation and leadership, while respecting the political, economic and social diversity in cultures worldwide. The goal of the delegation to Morocco is to establish connections, exchange ideas and learn fromone another’s cultures through forums, site visits, briefings and enjoying the company of the Moroccan Parliamentary, business and other women leaders, entrepreneurs and community activists. Interestingly enough, the woman I hope to work with to establish business mentoring for our artisans is also invited, so will be good to see her there. It should be a very interesting week.

Meanwhile I’m planning Thanksgiving celebrations. I’ll travel south to Kristen’s place in Tounfite the week before Thanksgiving. This year Leid Kbir falls on Thanksgiving weekend, and PCVs have a travel restriction (high accident rate as it is the biggest holiday of the Islamic calendar and many travel to be with family). I’m hoping to get the PCVs in this area together right after Leid Kbir to celebrate together, brainstorm joint projects and welcome Pete to REK.

So now I’ll head over to the cyber with my computer to connect there and get some work done.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Three weeks on the road and I’m finally back in Ribat El Kheir. Ham-du-li-lah! First things first-clothes washed, house cleaned and shower taken. A fresh start! Now if only my internet connection would work, I’d be golden. Alas, it’s not meant to be. Need to call Maroc Telecom to find out what the problem is.

Well, a lot to catch up on-and lots of photos to post-my camera has been very busy….

Now where did I leave off? Ah yes, Marrakech. Met up with Tim and Joy in Marrakech to go to Azilal a week ago. The SBD trainees were gathering and there were about 8 PCVs to share our experiences. The trainees found out their final site assignments the night before we arrived, so they were full of questions about their areas, other PCVs in their regions, etc. I found out that a guy named Pete with YD (Youth Development) has been assigned to Ribat El Kheir. He’ll be here in a couple of weeks to start his service.

After the training workshops were done, we had a free afternoon, so several of us hired a taxi to take us to the Cascades (waterfalls) nearby. It was a beautiful afternoon-great waterfalls along with lunch and monkeys in the trees entertaining us!

Tim, Joy, Rebecca and I went back to Marrakech to meet up with the Artisanat Delegate and Vice Delegate and walk thru their facility. Tim and Rebecca are taking ownership for the next Marche/Workshop in the spring, so this was a good time to introduce them to the guys they’ll be working with and to transfer info on what I did for the Fes project.

Then it was off to Bzou the next morning. Bzou is Rebecca’s site, and she had a couple of workshops planned w/her women-one on color theory and one on natural dyeing. We spent 1½ days preparing by doing the natural dyeing ourselves. We used wool from the souk and dyed it with henna, coffee, mint, pomegranate, madder root, and almonds. Lindsay came in from Azilal to conduct the workshops.

We took a break from the dyeing to go and observe the weekly, Friday afternoon jellaba fabric auction. Bzou is smaller than Ribat El Kheir and the women weave independently in their homes-no Association or Cooperative. They spin their own wool to such a fine grade that it is almost like thread. Then they hand weave these very fine fabrics on vertical looms. They are well known fine weavers, as the King’s jellabas are made from Bzou fabric. Anyway, we wanted to see what happens at the auction. Kinda shocking. The women hover around a group of men who are yelling, spitting, sweating, shoving fabrics into the faces of the buyers who are sitting all in a row. Can’t imagine how the women feel to see their fabrics treated this way-almost feels disrespectful of their work. Anyway, they get good prices-the stuff doesn’t come cheap, and a lot of fabric is sold to the middlemen who will take it and sell it yet again.

We went out to a douar to do the first of the workshops in the home of one of the women. Surprising to find that they didn’t have any idea what happens when you mix primary colors, ie; red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow for green, etc. Most interesting. Hopefully they find the information, along with how easy it is to do your own natural dyeing, valuable, as they determine their wool color combinations. Note-naturally dyed wool weaving gets almost a 2-fold price premium in the marketplace. We then repeated the workshops in the Dar Chebab (Youth Center) in Bzou for almost 20 women that afternoon.

We bought a squash in the souk to be carved up for Halloween-Joy did a great job-and Tim found candles to light it up. The kids in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool. Then the rest of the PCVs descended. There is a 6 mos. training for the Environment and Health Volunteer in Marrakech this week, and a bunch of them stopped in Bzou on their way, so Rebecca had them all over for a Halloween party. Complete with costumes. Pretty creative. Tried to be discrete with the drinking-not illegal, but frowned upon in her conservative site. However, there was enough to go around that 15 people managed to sleep in her place-incl 2 on the kitchen floor and 2 in the hallway on the cement. Ah youth-at least I got a ponge. That helped for my 7am wake up to catch the 8 hr bus ride to Fes.

Got to Fes in time to join some lovely ladies I’ve met thru Jess. The party was just winding down when I arrived, but got to catch up quickly before heading to the usual Cascade Hotel. Then a little work back at the Fes Artisanat before heading home.

Now need to update the Adwal women. Just as I feared, there’s a lot more paperwork that needs to go with the product shipment to the US when we use regular postal service. The Delegate in Sefrou told me they only need one document, but I was not confident this was enough. Met with a guy in Fes and got the complete list of what the women need to do. This is how you do things here. Ask once. Do a gut check and check again. And again.

Also need to get the arrangements set up for next week’s visit by the Center for Women and Democracy-a group of 38 women from the Seattle area, ½ of which will come to REK and Adwal on the 13th.

Baraka f daba.