Friday, January 22, 2010

Long Day's Journey...

After over a week in site, I’m back on the road again. But not until after some productive time in REK…

One of the MANY emails I’ve sent to prospective exporters of weavings, got one that wants quotes. Sent them along, will see how the Coop fares. Good experience for them-see if their prices allow for sufficient profit for an exporter. I go on a “tear” every once in a while and send out a flurry of “Dear Sirs” enquiries with e-catalog of the Coop’s products.

Got a response back from Country Manager of WIT (Women in Technology). This is a USAID/Microsoft sponsored program focused on development of women in developing countries. They start with training women on computers so they can train others in their communities. They add on training in networking, leadership and entrepreneurship. Each program becomes self sustaining as the financial support weans off and participants pay modest fees for the training. Anyway, I met Widad in Raba at the Ambassador’s house with the Center for Women in Democracy delegation in November. Then she came to a PC training session in Rabat in December and I approached her about the potential for starting one of their projects in REK. It just so happens that some of the most dynamic (and my favorite) women in REK are forming a new Women’s Association with the objective of helping local women with training, empowerment, dealing w/abusive situations, etc. They are interested in the WIT program as an initial project. I’ll be meeting with Widad on Monday in Rabat. Inshallah this works out as it would be a really terrific opportunity.
While talking with Meriem (one of these wonderful dynamic women) she said that the milk coop in Zouiat approached her for help with their business-and did I have any ideas? Well, actually, Lisa in Khemisset-the foodie extraordinare-has said she’s willing to travel to do her cheesemaking workshop. Now, cheese isn’t readily available in Morocco-it’s (relatively) expensive, so people don’t buy it or eat it. The fresh cheeses that Lisa makes could be much more affordable and maybe they could sell or take orders at souk. Meriem is excited and Lisa is willing. Could be a cool initiative.

Then I met up with Jess (at the new Fes riad-more on that later) to discuss ideas she has for International Women’s Day (March 8 every year). She’s pulling together a team of us to work on a weekend of events in Fes, produced by her Culture Vultures business. Not certain what exactly I’ll do, but she’s got some great ideas, venues, and connections.

Quick Coop update: Nora and Ferida are supposed to start their computer classes this weekend, inshallah. They had to wait until Malco had enough students for a class. The other big news-yikes-the Coop has a camiyo! Yes, that grant form to a French organization that Fatima had months ago was in fact filled out. Now I’m not exactly clear who got the grant-Fatima said a “jam3”, but I think it was the zlul belladya (since he seems to be the one who is always giving them a ride in his INDH funded truck). Anyway, the “jam3” got the grant, bought the camiyo (actually a former ambulance-complete with lights on top) and have given it to Adwal. Fatima’s taking her driving lessons. They’ll have to pay insurance, gas, maintenance. No small expense. Meanwhile, they won’t pay to get business cards printed. Enough on that.

Oh yeah, the Fes riad. The Arabic Language Institute in Fes (ALIF-part of the American Language Center or ALC), teaches Arabic for English speaking students studying abroad. They’ve had this riad in the old medina for years, but this past year decided to renovate it into a culture and study space for the students when they are in homestay. ALC/ALIF is in the Ville Nouvelle across town, so this is a good refuge in the medina for the students-zwin courtyard garden, wifi, coffee, International Herald Tribune, etc. I’ve paid for a “Friends of ALC/ALIF membership which gives me access to the riad. Now when I’m in Fes, I’ve got someplace to hang out.

So yes, I’m back on the road. This is the long day’s journey. Let’s see, as I write this, I’m 10 hours into my trip to Ain Chaib, Joy’s site. Going down to do a Cost/Pricing Workshop and we’ll update her riada (exercise) class w/the neddi (women’s training organization) women. It’s one long-ass trip (just ask my ass). Get to Fes last night. Seven hour train today from Fes to Marrakech was actually 9 hours. Now I’ve got 6 hours on the bus. Then, if taxis are still running, I’ve got a 20 km taxi ride. If taxis aren’t running, I’m out of time and may have to overnight in Agadir. Oh God-projectile vomiting from the boy across the aisle. Poor guy. That’ll smell nice in another 5 hours. Will be in Ain Chaib til Sunday. Business in Rabat on Monday and then REK. Home a couple days before hitting the road….again.

OK, so that was written late on Wednesday and now it’s Friday. Had to overnight in Agadir, but Joy came up to meet me there. We spent the morning moving from one café to the next, right on the ocean-Agadir is a big tourist area. Had a very nice lunch in a zwin restaurant to celebrate Joy’s birthday. We were “ooooohhwing and ahhing” so much that a couple came over and offered to take our picture since we were having such a fun time. They didn’t realize how nice it was for us to be in such a nice place having such a civilized meal, but I guess we made it just a little too obvious to others. Made our way to the taxis and got to Ain Chaib.

This morning we did the riada class-8 women there, did the circuit training that we put together last night and they got a good workout. The women work in a neddi and have training, literacy classes and sew, crochet and make “décor” for their homes and for sale. Joy is working with them to get a grant to finish out the 2nd floor to move their workroom up there and use the 1st floor for child care. We head over there this afternoon to do the costing and pricing workshop. Then we’ll head down to Tiznit tomorrow-silver stuff-yeah!

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