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.

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