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.

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