Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PCV Central

OK, so I probably shouldn’t name names, either that or I should call anyone whose name I mention to make certain they were out of their site “legally”, i.e.; that Peace Corps knew they were out of their sites.

The sun finally came out as visitors came in. One good friend (JC) from far south came in Sunday along w/Marian. Marian beat her here, and we baked Birthday cake (thanks Debbie) to celebrate my b-day later in the day. While searching for vanilla for the icing, found a scone mix. Heck, we’re baking; let’s make those up as well. Find out that the powdered/”glace” sugar here is actually regular granulated sugar that’s been ground up-so you never get rid of the granules. JC arrived; we had a nice walk and made a kick-ass cheesy bĂ©chamel and turkey dinner. The three of us got drunk off of a single bottle of cheap rose mixed with Schweppes citron (affectionately known as Peace Corps sangria). There are worse things to be called than a cheap drunk.

Monday rolled around and Chris and Casey came in to meet w/Marian to talk about their Environment education plans and the Earth Day/Week of activities that Marian is planning for Tafejight the end of April. Just after they left, JS and Jared arrived. Jared came in town to help the women of Adwal with the interior and exterior design planning for their new showroom. He came from Ain Leuh where he helped Randy and her women with the same project. More about that later.

Turns out that Pete had a guy couch surfing at his place-and the guy is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, so we invited them over for dinner as well. I think we had an REK American overload! Running to market, taking walks, having coffee, hanging out on the roof-they saw a lot of us the last several days.

Tuesday I took Jared down to the Cooperative to introduce him to the women, take photos of the buildings and ask them about what they had in mind for the interior and exterior of the showroom building. Nice to know that they’ve already incorporated some good design ideas, i.e.; there will be a mostly-glass wall between the small office and the showroom. The front door will be half glass. Nice touches that will bring a lot of nice natural light into a fairly small showroom space.

Jared spent the rest of the day and well into the night on Photoshop to transform his photos into design options for the women to consider. Very cool program. We went back down to the Coop today to share what he came up with. As you might expect, the women were impressed-with the options, the program, what it allowed them to envision, etc., and it helped them narrow down options for important decisions, i.e.; wall color and floor covering (which will be tile, but need to decide tile and grout colors). Nice. This also helped ensure they felt involved in the overall process. Jared also came up with several suggestions that we never would have thought of, i.e.; small red frame of red on the top of showroom and workshop buildings to tie them together, put the Adwal logo on side of adjacent building that you see right before you get to the showroom, etc. Again, these were all options that Jared could show them-with and without, to make their own decisions. Nice. Jared will leave a copy of his files with me so that the women can refer back to them when they are ready to do the finishing on the building (it’s still under construction). Can’t thank Jared enough for the generosity of his time and talent to help the cooperative out with this effort.

Meanwhile, a couple of learning’s along the way-duh-isn’t that always the case? Yesterday I’m going down the block to pick up some bread/croissants for the crowd for breakfast, and when I pass by the Couscous Coop, they motion me to come in. My new best friends, ever since last Friday when I met them. I ask them when do they actually make the couscous-whenever someone orders it and they cook it up every Friday. Merhaba. Nice. Maybe something to have friends or tourists do when they come into town-learn how to make couscous. What? Is that milowi? You make milowi? I’ll take that whole fresh round. You mean that the entire time I’ve been living here I could have bought fresh milowi? Holy Crap-what a find! On the other hand, it is kinda decadent-basically fried bread that’s so yummy warm and crispy. Needless to say the round that I brought back up to the apt with me was gobbled up. Maybe I didn’t need to know this was available. You know, living here, it’s REALLY easy to convince yourself that you’re living in hardship conditions and “deserve” these treats. Or is that just me? Tell that to the hips!

I also decided to tackle a couple of potential orders with Adwal that they hadn’t moved on. Bit of a quandary. How much do I push them? Haven’t they told me that marketing help is their first priority for my efforts?

OK, so last summer, some friends-actually really only acquaintances, came from Fes to visit the Coop. They wanted to see artisans in action, and purchased a small item. One of the couples also saw a hasir-traditional woven reed mat of this region-they leave the reeds long on the backside and this provides “spring” like a mattress. So they email me back and let me know that they want to order one, and here are the dimensions. I give this info to the Adwal women-they write it down. At the time they were up to their elbows producing table runners for the American export order. That’s the last I’ve heard of it. Well, just a couple of weeks ago another woman from the Coop (usually weaves at her home) started a hasir on one of the looms. Very cool. Natural dye. Her hands fly. I’m of the opinion that she got started on it to show the Minister when he came through that they make this indigenous product (my cynicism grounded in the fact that she hasn’t been back since the Minister left). Anyway, now that one is being produced, do they have a buyer? No. Well, maybe Kate is still interested. Want me to ask? Yes. All of this of course instead of having started on the hasir order as soon as they had a free loom. Oh well. It’s their business.

I was also pleasantly surprised when I got an email through Adwal’s new website that I recently got up on the internet. Seems that a guy out of Tiznit (far southern Morocco) may be interested in having zrbya made. Waxa-I print out the message and give it to Fatima. She says she’ll respond back to him. Nothing happens. A week later, I go ahead and ask what specifically he’s interested in. He wants a quote on 2 pretty big natural wool zrbya. Amounts to over 7000DH (this is a very big order for Adwal). I help Fatima figure out the product pricing and suggest that they ought to take the natural wool zrbya that they have in the workroom to the busta, weigh it, and showed her how to factor that postage cost up to cover the cost of this larger order so she can quote a price, shipping included. Says she’ll have the old one weighed later today and figure the total cost for me to send to him. Fine.

OK, so here I am, trying to help them out by bringing friends in from Fes, some of whom run tourism companies and they want to order products. They won’t pay to print out a bloody brochure, so I put up a website to that at least when the photocopy their business cards, people have somewhere they can go to see the products/prices/etc. I didn’t really expect to get any orders through it, but now they’ve potentially got a nice order. And yet they aren’t taking the initiative to follow up in a timely fashion (at least by Western standards) to seal the deal and get on with the production. I just don’t get it. Maybe I never will. It’s their business to run. They, as everyone else, have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

Meanwhile, they decide to NOT go to the Marche Maroc Marrakech that Peace Corps is sponsoring next month (and that I initially set up). Only housing is paid for. The Ministry of Artisana just informed them that there will be a Craft Fair in Fes that same weekend. Even w/o expenses covered, this is a better financial decision for them. Even I must admit this is the case.

No comments: