Monday, May 10, 2010

Marche Maroc Rabat

Happy May Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day-what else passed me by since my last posting? Whew.

What a week-pooped, but happy. Last BIG project behind me. Now it’s just working on smaller projects, helping Adwal and other organizations with their local business, workshops, using up the rest of my vacation days, etc. But first, back to Marche Maroc Rabat….

Got into Rabat a week ago to get final arrangements made and confirmed (3x confirmation required for each arrangement and then fingers crossed that all comes thru as promised). In this case, it really all worked like a charm. Having the program at the American Club made it SOOO much easier….The only glitch is those darn Peace Corps buttons I ordered from the states that never arrived for the PCVs to wear. Will have to come up w/another way to use them….

So Tues/Wed/Thurs I made the rounds of the hotels, printers, copy places, Papylux (new favorite stationers in Rabat-we’re on first name basis after this week), American Club, walking all over Rabat Ville to map out hanuts, cheap restaurants and mosques to recommend to the artisans, finding place that would make cheap sandwiches every day to bring in, making certain the tent is going up and all the tables and chairs have been delivered, timing the walk from the American Club to the Grand Hotel, etc. Waxa. All in place.

PCVs and artisans started arriving on Thursday and the PCVs are on top of all assignments-not only do I not have to remind them of what they’ve agreed to do, they’re volunteering to help out w/other tasks. God bless their parents.

First thing Friday morning we’ve got PCVs walking the artisans up to the American Club, we’ve got PCVs setting up the tables, chairs, and the Ministry staff arrive just in time to get started w/the workshop at 9am. (Only glitch being that I get a call at 4:30 Thurs afternoon asking if we have projector equip for their powerpoint presentation. Uh, no, none of that is available, as we discussed on numerous occasions prior to the event. I suggest that they run off copies, as there’s no way to get the equipment at that hour. They arrive in the morning and ask where they can plug in their computer. Shuf, makaynsh blasa bas twrriu likum l-Erd dyalkum. Fhemtini? Safi. They proceed with the workshop with good feedback.

Workshop finishes up and the artisans can get on with setting up their product displays. PCVs helping them get set up, get creative with how to hang things, all set by the time the first people arrive at noon. The American Club has set up a “Moroccan Culture Night” for Friday evening to bring in more people, and we’re keeping the artisan displays up until 8pm to take advantage of this. Record 1-day sales for Marche Maroc, but it’s been a very long day. (Not to mention the fatigue of the several artisans who arrived early Friday morning in time for the workshop from overnight buses, and no sleep at all). I guess not such a long day for those PCVs who made it over to the Marine House-right behind the American Club-where we were all invited to come and have a drink. Descriptions the next day were groggily reported as being just like a fraternity party. Glad I didn’t partake-did enough of that years ago, don’t need to revisit that part of my past-not to mention, although I was invited, I don’t fit their demographic any more than they fit mine!

Many hangovers later, Saturday dawns clear and sunny with promise of a good day. Sales start off well, despite the rather slow attendance. Bodies do not equal sales-important learning-you just want those who come to buy. The YD (that’s Youth Development) PCVs have set up shop by the playground equipment to do activities w/any kids who want-you know, free up Mom for more shopping time, yak? They’ve got origami and facepaint and games and God Bless their parents as well for helping us out!

So I’m sitting at the table by the entrance, getting final touches completed for the US Ambassador’s arrival for presentation of the certificates to the artisans. I glance up as someone comes in. Back to work. Wait. Look again. OH MY GOD! It’s Samira and Souad. No way! No way! But yes, Samira is here from the US and she’s come down from Tangier w/her best friend Souad for the day to see the Marche Maroc Rabat. OH MY GOD! I didn’t even know she was in the country! Seems she’s quit her job and is spending time in Mororcco with friends and family, and spending time w/her husband Bayan as he comes over all the time on business-they meet up in places they’ve wanted but not yet been to around Europe, Middle East, etc. This turns out to be my good fortune, as she’s here in Morocco and I get to see more of her, and hopefully get her out to Ribat El Kheir, as soon as we coordinate our calendars. Wahoo!

The Ambassador and his wife, the Director for the Ministry of Artisana Division of Innovation and David Lille-Director, Peace Corps Morocco, all arrive and we complete the certificate presentations. Photos taken, artisans are happy-those certificates are like gold to them. We also have a chance to acknowledge the support of the Peace Corps Partnership donors (thank you-you know who you are), Sandy and Heather of the American Club and Mike Richardson of Café Clock is there for us to say thanks. Saturday is a kinda quiet evening-PCV and artisans all going to dinner and bed-we’re tired.

Sunday we’re all moving a little slower, and the Mother’s Day brunch they’re having at the American Club to again bring in more people, has light traffic-probably brought in more than would otherwise have come, but it’s still a slow day. I get to be the “bad cop” when a PCV want to pay for tea for the artisans. It’s not a financial thing, even tho’ it’s not budgeted. See, everything you do sets expectations, and the artisans know they are responsible for their own food/drinks throughout the weekend. I’m a real stickler for this, and have to be certain I don’t wear out my soapbox. However, indulge me this once-the easy thing to do is to do it yourself, buy it for them, do it for them. You feel good. They like you for it. You can be the hero. Next time, when you’re not around, what do they do? They look for someone else to do/pay for them instead of planning for it themselves. Saying “no” is not the easy way out, but that’s how people learn to do for themselves. Coach them, support them, but get them to do it. OK, back off that well-worn box….

Another lesson learned-when you ask if you can pack up and go early, Lynn is gonna say “no”-the Craft Fair goes until 1pm. You can leave then. Even the Adwal women ask to leave early. No. Good thing-best sale of the weekend came at 12pm, after they wanted to leave (but I refrain from pointing that out to them).

By the way, final tally is over 80,000DH. That compares to around 53,000DH in Fes last October and 63,000DH in Marrakech last month. We’re on a roll. Next step is to prepare a report from all 3 and a proposal of where we want to take this next.

Need to take time out for a bit of lessons learned….artisans finally seeing the value of understanding the US customer and their tastes-they’ll spend big money if you appeal to what they want, especially if they are living here. And they don’t buy the same stuff as Moroccans. Tourists will buy small, inexpensive items they can easily slip into their luggage. We have the opportunity to observe artisans helping one another. The Oulmes ladies, who came to the Fes Marche Maroc as their very first Craft Fair, were most widely recognized for the help they provided to other artisans in Rabat. They helped communicate w/artisans from a site while the PCV is out of the country. They showed another Coop from Midelt how they do their crochet. The Midelt women in turn taught the Oulmes women some new embroidery techniques. Hachim from outside of Essaouaria is going to visit the Figuig Assn to show them how they weave their baskets. Hayat from the other Midelt Coop helps Adwal make a major sale by translating when there wasn’t a PCV around, and those are just the ones top-of-mind. These are the intangible results of doing these Marche Maroc events that we hope to replicate in the future.

So we sit down with the artians for a debrief session led by Cynthia (her idea, and it’s a gem)-to get their fresh perspective –will get them to fill out a feedback form w/their PCVs later. Products and artisans are packed off to their hotel and the PCVs gather round the American Club patio for a well-deserved beer, or root beer floats, fries, onion rings, foods not available elsewhere. Ahhhhh.

We make our way back to the hotel, drop off all our crap, and head to the medina to wander around. We make our weary way to the beachfront for another beer at sunset. Can’t tell you what everyone else did after that. You see, I went back to my room to sort out my crap, pack, figure the bills that needed to be paid before I left town, etc. And sleep. Thanks be to Ellen!

Now I’m typing this up after paying the hotels, going by the bus station to buy my ticket (gets me on the 12:30 instead of waiting for the 2:30 bus), stop at the Peace Corps office to do a bit of work and back to the bus station. Fatima, Zahra, Amina and Khadija from Sefrou are all there, but they’ve got to wait for the 2:30 bus. B’slama. My bus is leaving - we’re off. Maybe read a bit, maybe snooze a bit, maybe a bit of work. I believe I’ve earned a rest.

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