Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hot Time in Fes

Wait, wasn’t there new snow on the mountains last Saturday? How did summer arrive overnight? Yes, I stop bitching about the cold just in time to bitch about the heat. Get over it.

Last night, I’m sitting happily ensconced in Maia’s Dar Anasis riad in the Fes medina, relaxing, wait….what’s that noise? Could there actually be a wedding going on next door? Inchallah they’re on day 3….finally went quiet at 11pm-hamdullah. Anyway, nice to be in Maia’s place instead of the usual Fes medina/PC hotel Cascade-yummy duvet, great shower, mini kitchen for morning coffee. Yeah!

So it's been a productive week so far, and the week is still young! Good visit w/Jess in Sefrou on Sunday and managed to catch the mundub (Delegate) in the Artisanat to update him and get back to site early enough to get in a pilates workout.

Tuesday I did a workshop on Pricing and Costing w/the Adwal women. I’ve reviewed this info w/Zahra and Fatima before, but it pays to repeat these topics, and besides, I think it’s something that all the women need to be aware of. Had the chance to talk about higher quality materials may mean higher prices, but keep items smaller so they are still affordable to the impulse buyer. Good discussion, especially on overhead/indirect expenses-something they never account for in their pricing. The concept of incorporating indirect costs, esp. marketing costs, into their price on every item still seems to be new to them. They are not yet keeping a ledger of all expenses and sales (despite having bought them a ledger last year to do this). We will work on getting this implemented immediately.

The good news is that they have a new Treasurer-Ferida is stepping up. Sooo proud of her-newest member of the Coop, she just finished her training 1 ½ years ago. I spoke with her about keeping a ledger and she asked for help in getting that started. Fatima will be the new President-she’ll do a great job. Inhsallah I can get them to capture and budget expenses to allow them to do some things that they otherwise “can’t afford” to do.

Unfortunately for me, today is their annual meeting, and here I am in Fes. Oh well. Zahra did read through their report w/all the women on Tuesday before I left-nice to see an “accounting” of all their projects and programs from last year. Still need to see the financials.

I headed out of town yesterday morning in time to meet up w/several other PCVs at Al Akhawayn University. This meeting was to bring together the PCVs who have been working on developing an artisan website with Bouchra- a marketing instructor at AUI who is working on developing a Fair Trade website to market AND sell Moroccan artisanal products. Seemed to me that if we’re after sustainability, it would be good to work with AUI and Bouchra. I still have concerns whether this will move forward before we leave our service-there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of progress made at AUI between meetings. However, it was a good meeting, lots of great suggestions, and the other PCVs agreed to move forward by helping develop Bouchra’s idea rather than a separate site. I’ve put together a “call for products” to go out to PCVs to help develop a catalog to pitch to prospective customers. Stay tuned.

I met up with Lillian, a woman serving as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (former PCVs working on 3-6 mo projects) who is currently based in Ifrane, working from AUI, with the High Atlas Foundation to develop curriculum for “train the trainer” community development training. I found out more about the PC Response program from her-interesting potential for future volunteering.

Headed on up to Fes in time to see several PCVs who were finishing a meeting, catch up w/Jonathan (tbarkalik on the GLOW Camp funding), grab a 10DH camel burger and back to Maia’s to chill out. Oh, and to watch the final of last season’s Survivor to see who won (Sandra-really?).

Today heated up here in Fes running around the Ville Nouvelle. Had to get to Mike’s bank to cash the Café Clock donation check for Marche Maroc Rabat. See, he wrote me a check for the 3000DH, and I paid the donation via my credit card on the PCPP site. Had to get to his specific branch of his bank to cash his check to reimburse me. It’s just the way banks work here-you have to do business with your specific “branch”-they’re not really branches-and if you want anything done outside of your “own branch”, it will take hours, faxes, phone calls, etc. Anyway, with 3000DH on the line and a need to get Euros for my Paris trip, I bit the bullet and took the time to get this done (only took 1 ½ hours!).

Then I headed to the infamous cheese man in the Central Marche. I’ve heard of him from a number of British expat friends in Fes-as THE place (as in ONLY place?) to buy cheese in Fes. (Again, with all the French influence left behind in Morocco, what happened to cheese?). Anyway, chatted with him about the Women’s Assn and the Milk Coop in REK that are interested in making fresh cheeses and is this something he’d be open to purchasing? Basically he said “never say never” and is willing to meet/talk w/the organizations, taste their cheese, and Inshallah, sell them. Great news! He also gave me his current prices to help the orgs decide if it makes financial sense to pursue. Meanwhile, tasted a couple of yummy cheeses, bought some to take w/me to Figuig, and a couple bottles of wine. One stop shopping. My new BFF!

Made my way over to the Artisanat to try to talk w/the mundub about alternatives sites in Fes for future Marche Marocs. No, I’m not some sort of sadist-this is to help someone else set up the next one! Anyway, everyone from the Artisanat was in a big meeting in Marrakech through tomorrow. Got the name and contact info for the mudir (manager) of the new training building over by Batha (pronounced bat ha), close to the medina. This is a new Artisana building on the main drag to the medina that obviously has a couple of large product display rooms. Maybe an option for a Craft Fair? Would also like to get a contact within the Batha Museum, as it is right at the main tourist entry to the medina and has a beautiful, huge garden courtyard. Still working on that option.

Now I’ve spent about 6 hours here in Café Clock-I told owner Mike that I love him for his wireless internet-getting a ton of work done. Keeping my beautiful Spanish fan close by as the damn heat is bringing back the *** hot flashes.

Maia’s place is really nice and cozy, and a bit of a walk down the medina via t3la sgira. I haven’t just walked thru the medina in a while-and with my time becoming limited here, I’m seeing things with new eyes. The baskets of snails. The baskets of rose petals. fresh cheeses, miloui, chickens. Cat fights. Bonjour Madame. Come in-best price for you. The donkeys-always the donkeys. Kids playing kickball in the middle of the madness. The mint. Can mint be considered a drug? Walking by a pile sitting in the sun for sale-it’s intoxicating-it will always smell like Morocco to me.

Now I need to post this and sign off. I’ve got a phone interview this evening with a guy named Barry. He’s an editorial producer working on a series of TV segments called “Your Life Calling”, about the over-50 crowd making changes in their lives. Peace Corps put him on to me and he wants to see if there’s a good post-50’s Peace Corps story here. I may be at risk of becoming the "over-50" poster child. So much for trying to hide my age! Stay tuned....

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