Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I've got it. And right now it’s irritable. I’m so over all of this. Tired of other’s lack of responsibility.

Trying to get a group together, who volunteered to be involved, to develop a proposal for the future of Marche Maroc. Waited 'til late June after vacations. Sent out an email last week requesting availability. Heard from all but one person. Scheduled w/in the 3 day window that everyone was available. Person who never responded sends nasty text msg yesterday-can’t make it, must be doing it at my convenience. Hello? Oh, and he saw my request, just didn’t bother to reply. Give me a break. You wanna be involved? Merhaba-would love your input. But not playing into whatever drama you’re trying to create. Oh, and the one that gave the small window to schedule within? Now can’t make it. Fine. We’re going ahead w/those who can be there-and we welcome any others-but we’re moving ahead. Choices. Live with them.

Telephones in Morocco. That is, cell phones. No one ever has minutes on their phone-you have to buy them ahead and load them. Someone calls-doesn’t matter if the person being called is in the middle of a meeting, mid-sentence. They’ll answer their phone. See, no one has voicemail. And the person making the call is the one charged minutes-it’s free to receive. So if you don’t answer the phone, you’ll have to call the person back and then you pay. So everyone answers their phone. In the middle of conversations. Rude. At the same time, understandable.

Heading out and heating up. Just as I’m heading on a (short) roadtrip, the weather’s heating up. June has actually been really nice-not too hot. July promises to start with a bang. Heading over to Ifrane to meet w/Amy at Al Akhawayn University, then to Khenifra to meet up w/a guy who has this Pakistani final washing process for zrbya. I’m told it costs 50DH/sq mtr. I want to see what it is, how it works, how weavers work with him and what the final product looks like, ie; does it add >50DH/sq mtr value? Is this potential for Adwal? Heard about this process some time ago and finally got the connection to call and make the arrangements. Then it’s up to Fes to help Emily and Eric meet key people there to pull together the next Marche Maroc-they’ll be co-chairs. Then the meeting I mentioned at the beginning of this post. More errands in Fes and hopefully home on Sunday. Inshallah.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Welcome Home!

This morning, as I’m leaving to go to the Coop, I meet my neighbors on the stairs. I’m going down, they’re coming up. Husband is home from the far south Sahara (works in the military) for one of his 2 months of annual leave. Oh, and they have a sheep with them. Going upstairs. I ask if there’s going to be a hfla (party)-you know, kinda making a joke of the fact that they have a sheep in tow. They give me deadpan looks and say ‘la (no)’. That’s it. Safi. B’slama. I go on to the Coop, wondering a bit about the fate of the sheep. And the status of my freshly laundered clothes that I’ve got drying on the roof.

Surprisingly enough, I forget all about it until I get home and go upstairs to the roof to collect my laundry. I’m literally eyeball to eyeball with the sheep. That is, the sheep’s head. Oh, and hooves. My laundry has been pushed to the edges of the rooftop and the sheep’s skin is draining into the roof drain-you know, the same one I used washing my clothes earlier.

Must be some celebration downstairs. Nothing says “welcome home” like a freshly slaughtered sheep.

Only in Morocco.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


One of the Coop women who works from home brought in 2 small handira of all wool (including the warp!), all naturally dyed. Ham-du-li-lah! Fatima showed them to me to see what I thought. She also took them to show the mundub when we met w/him on Thursday in Zouia. He loved them and told them to be certain to label these products w/the correct materials. Tbarkalikum bzzaf! This is exactly what I’ve been trying to get them to do. Fatima keeps referring to the Tounfite Assn’s new all wool/natural dyed products as her model. Perhaps this, along with their realization that the newer, more subdued and ‘natural’ colored hanbels are the ones that people are buying as soon as they’re made, is getting through. Fatima also shows me the wool that she dyed herself at home using a plant I’ve not yet translated-it made a beautiful deep burgundy dye. Check that-she did this at home! She also wants me to include the natural dye information and photos in the display book that I’m developing for their new showroom (and to take to Expos). We’re making progress, swiya b swiya. Hamdullah.

They continue to work on the building extension behind the workshop and the showroom. Inshallah they’ll both be complete before I leave, as I’d love to help them set up the showroom. I’ve been making small purchases and putting together display information sheets to help them communicate what they make, how these products are made, and how to use them. Tomorrow I’m going to sit down w/Fatima’s sister, Hind, to finalize the Arabic information. See, I create the documents in English, then used Google translator to translate to French and Arabic. Then I need it proofed and edited. The display info (and exhibit book) will be in French and Arabic only, and since my Arabic literacy is very slow going, I’ll need Hind to be my editor.

On Thursday I also spoke w/the mundub about the concept of pursuing registration of Adwal's handira design as a ‘Ribat El Kheir’ design. This black and white, intricate weaving with different Berber designs in alternating rows is probably my favorite pattern in all Moroccan weaving. In addition, I rately see it for sale in the carpet shops, so it is quite unique (in a country filled w/carpet shops selling all the same stuff). The mundub likes the idea and gave me the go ahead to pursue it with the Fes Ministry office. It’s not like it will be a protective copywright-bootleg/fakes are rampant in Morocco-but it may help Adwal market their products as unique.

Lunch at the Coop today? Rice, cooked in milk. Sugar added. Washed down with sweet tea. Mmmmm-was that my blood sugar that just spiked?

I also need to sit down with the women of the Couscous Coop, and soon. When we met up with the mundub on Thursday, he was actually in Zouia to meet w/the Couscous Coop women. They were asking his advice re; selling their handrolled couscous to Marjane. Marjane is the WalMart equivalent in Morocco. Not nearly as big or prevalent, but the only high volume store chain in Morocco-in big cities only. For obvious reason, the mundub was advising them that they need to consider their ability to scale up production (there are only a few of them who hand make it occasionally in a small room in their small restaurant) and they need to come up with packaging and labeling-neither of which are in place yet. What I didn’t hear him advising them on was costing and pricing. Marjane sells their couscous for about 10DH/kg. The women need to determine if they can produce, package, deliver and profit at a price to Marjane that allows sufficient margin for this tough-negotiating end-seller. They need to do this before they worry about packaging, labeling and volume. I’m gonna talk w/them about doing a costing/pricing workshop to help them sort thru these questions. I also want to help them think about alternative selling channels. Everyone always wants to start w/Marjane. Perhaps they can get started on a smaller scale, ie; selling out of their own restaurant, thru local restaurants that also sell products, hanuts in town, etc. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m working w/the ATPF Assn women (the new Women’s Assn) on their marketing and financials. Gave them sales and expense sheets to track their selling and production patterns on a daily/monthly/annual basis for planning purposes. I also just sent off a grant request to the women of the Center for Women and Democracy on their behalf (the President met w/CWD when they visite REK in November). Pete worked w/Meriem to write the request, and I helped them edit it to make it specific to their needs. They really do need a refrigerator, large oven, and blender. We’ll see what feedback we get from the CWD women.

I also sat down w/Meriem to talk about their marketing materials. She had examples of several very nice, 2-sided, full color brochures, and wants to do something similar. I told her I’m happy to help her do whatever she wants, but had she priced out the printing of brochures like this? No. Well, I have quotes from 2 Fes printers. Show her the quotes. She asks where does Adwal print their brochures? They don’t. Because they don’t have 1000DH to spend on printing brochures. Instead they photocopy them in b/w at the belladya’s office for free. Hmmm. Meriem agrees to consider alternatives. They definitely need something, but I know I can help them design a b/w brochure or flyer that works as a menu, for command orders and marketing if they go to any Expos. Again, stay tuned!

Funny story from Pete today over coffee at the café. Says his mudir at the Dar Chebab always wants to speak to him in English, and sometimes he hears the mudir practicing w/an audio French-English program on his computer before talking w/Pete. Yesterday, Pete heard the mudir repeating ‘retire’ over and over and over again. Confirms rumors Pete’s heard in town. It appears a change is on the horizon at the Dar Chebab.

I love the newsfeeds that we get occasionally from M’Hamed, the Peace Corps Morocco librarian. The most recent one was an interesting mix of optimism w/increased Bac scores (like the US High School competency exam, but more on that later), increased employment statistics and an article highlighting the ongoing issue of child labor (primarily working the family business and getting no formal education).

This comes on the heels of another article I read recently on the status of the public education system in Morocco. Right up front is the issue of teachers who are typically assigned initially to rural villages very far from their homes. They typically have no desire to stay or integrate into the community, and tend to not have a vested interest in the quality of the school and teachings (per the article). There are multiple teacher’s unions, and they strike frequently, but not at the same time. A child might show up to class to find that his/her teacher is striking that day so class is cancelled. In addition, the class day is based on an old French system where kids may have one class in the morning and another late in the day. There is a 2 hour lunch break when everyone goes home. The gate is locked between classes and during lunch, to minimize disruption to those in class. This leads to a lot of kids just hanging around-you don’t have any way of knowing if they are cutting class or don’t have one at that time. Who’s on first?

So as I paste the article just rec’d from M’Hamed, need to also let you know that public school is free. Public University is free as well. However, your score on the Bac test determines what University and study path you are eligible for. Oh, and you have to pay your own room and board (which eliminates many otherwise eligible students). And now for the article….

Morocco Bac pass rate soars. Siham Ali 2010-06-24 magharebia.com
Ministry of Education statistics for 2010 show a much higher bac pass rate than in 2009, but 44% of Morocco's candidates still have to re-take the exam to pass. Morocco's 2010 baccalaureate pass rate is 34.75% higher than last year, according to Ministry of Education data released along with exam results on Tuesday (June 22nd).

Secondary schools throughout Morocco posted the bac marks, ending days of anxious waiting for students and their parents. While there were scenes of delight for some students and their families, there were also tears and sadness for those who failed to make the grade in their first attempt. Of the students who took the bac, 44% must take the re-test if they hope to pass.

Malika S. was unable to hold back tears of disappointment when she saw her son's name on the list of pupils who have to resit their exams; he earned an average grade of 9.94/20. "My son is hard-working and prepared for his exams," she told Magharebia. "He'll be shocked when he hears the bad news, especially since he was just 0.04 points away from passing. He has another chance with the resit session. I hope with all my heart that he'll get through the resits."

Even some students who passed the bac were disappointed with the grades they received. One of them was Safae, who would have preferred a mark of "good" to "fair". "Studying medicine was my dream, but my mark will not allow me to realise my childhood dream," she said. "I think I gave good answers to the questions, which weren't very difficult. I no longer feel optimistic about my future. My parents will be so disappointed."

Some 35.1% of the 335,680 candidates who took the exam passed the test in the first sitting, the Education Ministry said. Nearly half (43.78%) of those candidates enrolled in schools passed the exam, while 52% of those who passed were girls. Sciences, maths and technical students saw the highest pass rate of all candidates: 48.67%, five percentage points higher than in 2009. For literary and creative subjects, the pass rate rose to 30.81%, compared to 24.43% last year. The pass rate will rise after students re-take the exams on July 5th-7th. More than 125,000 pupils will participate in this second round.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ugly American

When Salwa (SBD Pgm Asst-PC Rabat) called late yesterday and asked if it was ok to come to REK to look for host families for my replacement today, I of course said “merhaba”. Little did I know that she and I were being put into what probably looked like the invasion of the Ugly Americans (even tho’ she’s Moroccan). It also left me w/an even lower opinion of our Home Stay Coordinator (HSC).

It seems to me that a professionally run organization would identify sites for Volunteer replacement, inform those Volunteers, and solicit their help in finding host families for their replacement. Then there would be some sort of communication on when a staff member would be coming to speak w/potential families for them to make a selection. Instead, Salwa was informed yesterday, while on the road doing other host fam checks-who were notified in advance-that she was ‘authorized’ to come and do the same in REK today. Fine. She calls me late yesterday and asks and again, I say ‘come on over’. I have no time to mention this to anyone in town before today.

I arrive at Adwal this morning-Fatima and I had planned on going to Zouia to see the mundub together-we’ll use the PC car and take Salwa with us. I’m thinking this is a good opportunity for Salwa to get to know REK, Adwal the mundub, etc. I didn’t know yet the directive she’d received from the HSC, ie; that she had to find a host family TODAY.

In the meantime, we talk w/the Adwal women and meet w/the bashawiya and belladya (like mayor and Pres of City Council) to let them know and ask for their input on potential host families. Head over to Zouia and have our meeting with the mundub. Coming back, we’re dropped at Fatima’s house and go see her neighbor who might be interested - they say ‘no’. We go to Fatima’s house, sit in the salon. Salwa and I realize that we’re here for lunch, which we don’t really want nor do we want to sit here for the next 2-3 hours that it will take to have lunch, but we don’t want to be rude either. Finally we excuse ourselves w/many many smehlna’s and head out.

Next stop-Malco’s door is open, so let’s talk w/him. Meriem’s sister is there so we can ask them both. No ideas. Meriem’s upstairs-bssah? Go talk w/her. Shrbi ay haja? La. Know of anyone? She calls a neighbor and we go talk with her. She says ‘no’ but maybe her sister will be interested-should know before 5pm. OK, we’ll be back.

We’re making calls, we have others making calls for us. Head over to find Mohamed-he’s in the café, just as I expected. Does he know someone? Ymkn, I’ll call them. Can you call them now? Need to know today. Can we go see it now?

Basically we’ve descended on the town w/an urgent request that really isn’t urgent. Please drop everything you’re doing to call anyone you know and trust who would be willing to host 1-2 volunteers Nov-Dec. Now. Please. Did we just confirm perceptions of Americans? Coming on strong w/request that is all about us-must do it NOW-when in fact we have a couple of months to get it done-but expect them to attend to our request immediately? And no, we don’t have time to sit down to the lunch/tea/coffee/kaskrut that you are insisting (and culture dictates, no demands) we share with you.

So in between the calls outstanding to Fouzia, Aicha, potential places w/families of Nora, Meriem, Jamila, talking w/Zahra, and my promise to talk w/the Women’s Assn women who were all out of town today cashing their checks (got paid yesterday for their cooking) we’ve run around and made no real progress and probably pissed off a bunch of folks.

Now this HSC, whose full-time job is to find host families, asks Salwa if we shouldn’t just use my host family again. Hello, check your notes about feedback to not use them again. What is it about the fact that they’ve hosted 4 times, have lots of money and were of no help other than food and a roof and bed that tells you to go back, other than laziness? What about Pete’s host family? Have you checked your REK file where Pete didn’t recommend them either? Open your f’ing drawer and read your notes. What exactly are you doing in your job?

Note-when Pete came to REK, the HSC called the Dar Chebab mudir to get a homestay family-never contacted me for help, nor visited the site or family. He also has not contacted me about this current effort w/Salwa to find a host family for my replacement. Heck, I don't care if it's me-call Pete-but get input first from the PCVs who live there.

Then he implies that poor Salwa-who by the way does not have this as her responsibility-she’s just helping out while on the road-has only today to find a host family. Then he procedes to tell her that in fact they can come back 1-2 more times to finalize a host family. Hmm, nice if she knew that in advance.

Just think what we could have accomplished if I had known days ahead and given my friends time to think about it, ask their friends, know what the criteria are (their own room w/door and no single men over 15yo). Instead, we’ve dropped in, made our demands and walked away empty.

Not to worry, we’ll find host families-and wonderful ones at that. However, I feel like I need to go back to my friends tomorrow and apologize.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Au Revoir Paris

Well we did make it out to dinner on Friday night to a nice little French bistro around the corner from the apt. I had this fabulous leg of lamb that literally fell off the bone. It will make eating the lamb back here in Morocco even more difficult (tough, stringy, gamey).

Afterward, we went out for drinks. With Samira. Yes, Samira, Bayan and his sister. It just so happens that while waiting for Clarisse to come with the security deposit, I was browsing Facebook. There was a posting of pics of the Mona Lisa, posted 6 minutes prior, by Samira, from the Louvre. She had told me she might be in Paris at the same time, but she wasn't certain and how would we ever connect, so I had forgotten about it. Then I see this posting done from her cell phone, so I post that we were in Paris and the apt phone #. She calls and we set a time for drinks later. How fun it was to see her and Bayan and his sister-met them in a café over in the St Germain side of town where they usually stay. We had our picture taken under a street sign to send to our mutual friend Carol (she introduced us to one another in the first place) to prove we were actually in Paris.

More Paris musings…..
Cars stop for you as you cross the street-amazing. Paris is for lovers-more PDAs than I’ve seen in 2 years-was it a lot or have I forgotten “normal”? The metro/train connection from central Paris to CDG airport is way too easy-I’m jealous of their transit system-you really don’t need a car. Long evenings-far enough north that it doesn’t get dark until around 10:30. My digestive system hasn’t been this normal in 1 ½ years. Didn’t plan on buying anything there, but managed to fit all the purchases I made anyway in my bags. Starbucks right downstairs from the apt and we never thought to go in-too many better choices. No hot flashes in Paris-go figure. The streets of Paris are so clean.

It’s gonna be quite the adjustment back to Morocco living. Fortunately despite arriving 4 hours later than scheduled, I was able to bunk down in Fes at Gail’s last night before heading to REK this morning. Caught the transit, napped all the way home.

I've unpacked, ane walked down to the zwiqa to get the vegetables that were missing from my indulgent Parisian diet. Stopped by friends, greeted by shopkeepers that I frequent-fin msiti? twashtk. Where were you? I missed you. Nice to feel so welcomed back. Clear sunny skies, nice breeze-not too hot. Making it easier to be back in Morocco and REK.


Friday, June 18, 2010

More Paris....

Observations of a tourist in Paris....

The Eiffel Tower at night-lit up and every hour a 10min light show-seen from a boat trip on the Seine last night. Stylish women walking their pooches and taking them into stores as they shop. Starbucks right downstairs and never considered going in all week long. Flat screen TV in the apartment that we never turned on. So many little bags from all our purchases-embarassed to assemble them for a photo. Obligatory Paris protest going on outside the Bastille Opera. Guy in a Quasimodo mask outside the Notre Dame-making the kids laugh. Nice salad and glass of wine for lunch. Chic little shops, but managed to not purchase any clothing :(. Washer/dryer in the apt allows us to go home w/clean clothes. My feet don’t hurt any more-numb maybe?

Quote of the week: Would you like to try our fois gras? Then she gives us a small sample of wine to wash it down. Are you kidding me?????

Didn’t plan on buying anything while I was here, so no extra room in the luggage. Never expected that I’d buy so many food items-no real cravings, but so many yummy things that I’ve not seen or eaten in the last 2 years-will have some treats back in REK. Assuming of course that I can get it all in my suitcase and the 1 carryon I’m allowed on the el cheapo airlines we’re flying back on.

Ahhhh Paris. You’ve been very good to us. It’s nice to come and so enjoy the city and have the time to do all we wanted to do. It’s also nice to be at a point in my life where I can love it and still want to go back home (U.S.) without the cynicism toward the U.S. that a lot of Americans develop when they come over to Eurpoe.

Well, Clarisse-the property mgr for the apt-has come to give back the security deposit, so we’re off again for the evening. Gonna eat out tonight-enough of the pate/cheese/bread/wine dinners at the apt. We need a change of pace. (Did I really just type that?).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Non-food Observations from Paris

Bicyclists-everywhere. Commuters. For fun. With your dog. With a baguette sandwich in one hand while steering with the other. You can even rent one by the hour-stations all over the city-but you need a European ‘smart card’ to access, so we’ve been hoofing it instead.

My legs and feet have acclimated to walking and standing for 12+ hours each day. Here I thought I was in great walking shape since that’s my mode of transport in Morocco, but I’m here to tell you, we’ve pounded some Paris pavement and the hips and feet take a beating.

Musicians. In the metro tunnels. Outside museums. For free. Please donate.

Feel like I’ve been art starved and I’ve gone on a major binge. Sat in a room today at the Modern Art Museum at the Pompidou Center surrounded by masters. Everyone else rushed to the most recent exhibition-I’m content in the quiet of a room full of Picasso.

Dreamt last night about a cool clothing boutique that I regretted not exploring further. Walked right by it today on our way from the Pompidou to the Place des Voges. Didn’t even realize we’d been in that neighborhood already. Tried on the clothes. Fortunately for my pocketbook they didn’t knock my socks off so I passed on making any purchases. No regrets.

We’ll be making another dinner of fresh bread (my gums hurt from the crunchy crusts), cheeses, pate (think I’ve sold Lisa and Kristen on the yumminess of pate), fruit and wine. Delicious and economical and we’ve got the dining room table to sit around. Love having this apartment to come back to.

Tonight we’ve got the Eiffel Tower back on the agenda. They have a light show every hour at night and it’s a “must see”, so we’ll venture out again to take in the sight. We’ve been so pooped each night up until now that we’ve not been able to stay up to make it out again. Keep promising to go downstairs for a beer after dinner, but then again, being horizontal has a strong pull.

Tomorrow is our last day here in Paris :( We’ve got to decide how we want to use it. Our original plan was to take a day trip outside the city, debating between Riems for the champagne, Giverny for the water lilies and Versailles for the gardens. We’ve come back around to staying put in the city to go back to favorite spots, maybe take a boat tour on the Seine, hunt for the ultimate crème brulee, who knows what…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ahhh Paris....

We’re up early to get a jump on the day and the Musee d’Orsay. I’m ready for the rest of the Impressionist art of Paris. And the d’Orsay, the converted old train station that wasn’t even open last time I was a tourist here, doesn’t disappoint. I can’t drink in enough of it. The Renoir “Moulin de Gallette”-I'm in love. I swear I could hear the music they are dancing to. It is the most amazing collection, including introducing me to Impressionists unfamiliar to me. Hamdullah. I mean, merci.

By the time we’re done, it’s actually time for lunch (and we’ve discovered we need to plan for lunch before 3pm when the restaurants close to get ready for dinner service). Since we want to see the Rodin museum, decide to hit a promising-sounding street along the way to look for a lunch spot. We get no further than down the block from the d’Orsay and a guy walks buy and crunches into the most glorious looking sandwich. I say “I want that for lunch”. At the end of that same block, there’s a boulangerie selling sandwiches with lines out both doors. Unanimously we decide we’ll get something for lunch there. How could that many people be wrong, right? Just my luck, that’s where the guy bought his sandwich-duck, chevre cheese (yes, I even ordered it w/chevre cheese!) and greens on artisanal bread. Bought one of those humongous meringues for dessert. Delish!

Side note-every night we download our photos of the day to Lisa’s laptop. Afraid to share them all with others. You wouldn’t believe the glorious food that takes priority in our days’ photos. Yikes!

But since we are eating our way through Paris, we had to head to the “foodie street” and it lived up to expectations. Charcuterie, poisson shop, fromagerie, all things olive, patisseries, flower and gourmet food, vegetable shops. Beautiful products beautifully presented. The French know how to enjoy their food, and we’re just trying to do our part. We sit in the chocolate bar in one shop, me munching on a lemon basil macaroon with a food show on the flat screen. This isn’t overkill, is it? Will Moroccan food ever be ok again?

We decide we need a break from food (ya think?) and head on over toward the Rodin Museum and Garden. I’ve never seen it before and so glad we had time to go. It is amazing-great collection within an old Hotel and full sculptures in the extensive gardens, including of course “The Thinker” among other famous works. Wished we had brought our sandwiches here to eat-a beautiful garden space in the far end with lounge chairs! Could have enjoyed those a while.

We head next to the Eiffel Tower, and along the way we pass a shop called “The Real McCoy”-all American Food. I make a sarcastic remark, but follow Lisa who wants to check it out. Turns out it’s a shop that sells only American products. Like Kraft Mac n Cheese. Brownie mix. Brown sugar. You know, all those things that we cannot buy over in these parts. Do I confess that I bought brown sugar and Hershey’s chocolate chips to bring back with me to Morocco to make cookies? You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…..

So off to the Eiffel Tower it was-in all its glory. Luckily the weather held out for us and it as sunny but very windy up top. Poor Kristen wanted to walk up to the 2nd level, but couldn’t convince Lisa and I to join her, so we buy our tickets and wait in the elevator line. (Going up and down, with elevator waits at the bottom, 2nd level going up and down, and the top, makes this a 3 hour adventure). The top was incredibly windy but worth it for the view. That and the 10EU glass of champagne you can purchase at the top (and we did). Since it’s almost 8pm by the time we get back to the bottom, we head for the apartment.

All day I’d been thinking of French food for dinner. Don’t need fancy or expensive, but want the atmosphere, good food, a glass of wine. I eat solo, as I’m reminded that Lisa and Kristen are in their post-grad school year budget mode and $30 for dinner seems expensive to them. So glad I’m not there anymore-but remember, I’ve worked 29 long years to be here. So it’s no problem-I tell them I’m perfectly fine eating alone and go to the little French café recommended to us by the woman who takes care of the apartment for the owners. Mmmmm, onion soup, fabulous fresh salad w/chopped fresh ham and cheese, a glass (or 2) of wine. Bon apetit!

That Blanche, she’s such a tart!
We got a later start today to wait for our patiserrie up the block to open and get their fabulous raisin and orange peel petit pan for breakfast-and worth the wait!

Today was all about Sacre Coeur and Arc de Triomphe. We’re getting pretty good at the metro, so make our way up to Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur. Tour this wonderful cathedral and listen to the harp music and violinist playing on the steps outside. Then we walk all over Montmarte’s windy, steep streets. Walk thru the “infamous” square up by the cathedral and view the artists at work-they fill the square. Many of them were surprisingly good, and Kristen and I each bought paintings from the same woman-she painted Kristen’s and her husband painted mine. Charming.

Discover that the tart shop we’d been hoping to find is close on Wednesdays. Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of joke? Nope, closed it is. Walk down by the Moulin Rouge for the obligatory photo stop, manage to find sandwiches to satiate our appetites before heading to the west of town. By the way, we get back on the Metro at the Blanche stop, near the Moulin Rouge. Tart jokes all week. Thus the heading for today’s blog….

Anyway, we make our way to the Arc de Triomphe. Walk up to the observation deck. Amazing. Never done this before either, so I’m seeing parts of Paris up close and personal like never before.

Now it’s time to stroll the Champs Elysees. We stop along the way in various shops. Make ourselves up at Sephora (for free, using their demo products, after being told that they charge 45EU to do our makeup-wait, don’t they do that for free at makeup counters in the US?). Lisa and I sit and rest our weary legs and feet while Kristen shops Gap Paris. We just watch the parade of people –most entertaining. Just as we’re thinking we’ve lost Kristen “in the Gap”-realize that maybe instead of Kristen eating Paris, maybe it’s the other way around and Paris has eaten Kristen. Just then she emerges, one shirt richer.

OK, so Kristen just got off the phone w/her dad (we're lovin' these free calls to the US). He asked if we’ve seen any of the historical sites. Does aged cheese count? We’re reminded thru him that the night show of the Eiffel Tower is supposed to be amazing, and we really do need to do this. It’s just that if we’re up and out between 8-9am and don’t get back until 8-9pm, with no real breaks along the way (even eating is sometime done standing up), we don’t have the legs or desire to go back out at 10:30pm when it finally gets dark. Even for a beer downstairs-which we swear we’re gonna do every night-and have yet to make good on the promise. But we will do the Eiffel Tower at night. Promise. Maybe tomorrow.

We walk all the way down to the Place de Concorde and vear north toward more interesting streets and end up walking by gallery after gallery, Christie’s, Sotheby's, expensive designer shops-eye candy. End up at Place de Madelaine, which of course was our destination as it is known for-you guessed it-gourmet food shops. Once again we are inundated with amazing offerings, including the unbelieveable Lavinia wine emporium (wine-check!) and Fauchon gourmet foods. Believe it or not, after we’re done purusing their offerings, we’re done. Full. Shbet. No more. Thank goodness the Maison du Truffle was closed.

We head home, buy some bread and cheese at the grocery by the apartment and are done for the night. Except of course, for dinner. We have an incredible spread of fresh artisanal bread, pates, cheese, fruit, grape tomatoes and wine. Wow.

I have to say that it feels so absolutely luxurious to be here for an entire week. Seeing so many things at our own pace. Our days are very full, but we’ve never been pushed for time. Fortunately we are also travelling well together, and that makes a huge difference. We’re willing to indulge one another’s passions and “happy places” when they are found.

I’m now thinking that the 2 weeks between COS (Close of Service in November when we finish) and the cruise home that leaves from Barcelona may be spent in a single place in Spain. Maybe get online to see what I can rent to stay put and enjoy without rushing around and hauling my stuff all over. Will have to check out this option.

Now it’s time to post and get some sleep. It’s off to the Pompidou tomorrow for some Modern Art, then lunch and a free show (Inshallah) at the Bastille Opera across the street from the apartment.

Monday, June 14, 2010


We finally made it to Paris Saturday-or should I say Sunday morning-about 2:30am local time. We were delayed leaving Casablanca, held up on the gangway w/locked doors to the terminal at Charles de Gaulle, got our bags no problem, only to find that the airport shuttle that I’d booked and paid for in advance was no longer running at that hour. Nice that there’s no mention of limited hours on their website or my confirmation. So we found our way to the night bus (train stopped running at midnight) to head into the city. Got someone to let us use their cell phone to call the woman who had the keys to the apartment we were renting-needed to let her know we arrived and needed to get in. Got a cab for the final leg of the journey, keys under the mat and sleep.

We made up for it yesterday with a full day-after getting up around 8am. Showered and dressed, we headed up the street to a patisserie for breakfast. Wonderful bread and café au lait later, we’re already in love w/Paris. We’ve decided that it’s a day for the Notre Dame and St Chapelle, so head to the Metro station. We’re staying less than a block from the Bastille, so we’ve got great access to transportation. We buy a 5 day Metro pass so we can go wherever we need for the week and make our way over to Iles de Cite. First stop-St Chapelle. I remembered it as one of my favorite places the first time I went to Paris w/Joanne about 23 years ago. Just as beautiful as I remembered it. Much more popular. The biggest difference between that first visit and this one is the crowds-the guidebooks draw everyone to the same sights.

Afterward we wandered over to the Left Bank and walk around, window shopping mostly, as almost all stores are closed on Sundays. We go looking for a restaurant that Lisa remembered, but when we failed to locate it, went into a charming French bistro for a light lunch. Sea bass carpaccio with herb toast. It was as delicious as it sounds, and the service, table settings, etc. were lovely. Dorothy, we’re not in Morocco any more!

We decide we need to walk off our lunch before heading over to the Notre Dame and make our way to the Luxemburg Gardens. What a fabulous place, in it’s Sunday best. It’s a beautiful afternoon and the park is filled with families, friends, couples enjoying the day. Swing band playing beneath the cupola. Boys sailing their small craft on the pond. Some playing chess. Some picnicking. Some taking a snooze. Beautiful flowers and manicured lawn surround the Palace. Lovely.

We headed back to Ile de Cite and the Notre Dame, arriving in time for the 4:30pm organ concert. I’m in my happy place and the day’s not done. I’ve never been a religious person, but this wonderous cathedral is so spiritual-it touches your heart and soul. The organ music fills this enormous space and it’s time for reflection-giving thanks for loved ones, to be able to experience this.

We were hoping to get up into the Notre Dame towers, but gave up after about ½ hour of waiting in line and not moving. We’ve bought 5 day museum passes that get us into most everything we want to see, and don’t have to wait in long lines. However, it doesn’t help us here and we decide to bag the idea. Walking toward Ile de St Louis, there’s another bandstand in a park behind the Notre Dame with a live jazz group playing. Two parks, two live groups playing-is this heaven or what?

What a little gold mine Ile de St Louis is. We’ll be going back. The shops are open and it’s a gastronome's heaven. Berthillon ice cream, olive shop, cheese shop, pastries, restaurants, smart clothing, unique accessories-and we manage to leave a few Euros behind. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) by the time we wind our way to the end of this little island and turn around, the shops are starting to close down and we realize we better decide on dinner plans before they’re decided for us. We pick up some cheeses, lovely fresh breads, wine and head back to the apartment to get off our feet. By the time we’re there, it’s 9pm already-and hard to imagine, since there’s so much light in the sky (forget how far north we are). Sit for a bite to eat and map out our game plan for the week.

Bonsoir and welcome to day 2 of Paris.
We were up early to get to the Louvre ahead of the crowd, but forgot that those same Parisians who are partying at the cafes downstairs from our apartment aren’t opening the patisserie at 8am when we’re ready for café au lait and artisanal bread. Bugger. No breakfast for us, but the Louvre calls.

We head off on the Metro and are among the first to enter the museum for the day. Split up to give ourselves 2 ½ hours to explore before meeting back. I made my way through the French, Spanish and Italian painters. Watched several painters working on their easels painting copies of masterpieces. Lots of schoolgroups-can you imagine having the Louvre available to you as a grade school field trip? So much to see in so little time, we each barely scratched the surface, but by the time 11:30 rolled around, we were all full to the brim-you can only take so much in at a time. We walked through the Tuilleries Garden to the Orangerie to see the Monet lilies and Impressionist art. As Lisa and Kristen said, I was in my happy place. It fills you up. Serene. Colors so beautiful. A respectful quiet in the galleries. Loving it.

I had downloaded info off the internet on places to see/shop/eat/etc. in Paris and we headed off to explore some of the gastronomic selections. Passed by a shop on the way to the Metro that at first appeared to be a soap shop. Nope. On further inspection, it was macaroons. Of all flavors and colors. A rainbow. Crunchy, chewy, sweet macaroons filled with delicious flavors. We each had to buy a sample. Or two. Yum. Turns out that a friend of Kristen’s had told her to be certain to go to this place, and we just happened by it.

Off we went to hunt down some food and cooking supply shops a bit further away. By the time we get to the area we wanted to explore, the heavens opened up and it just poured down. We were starving for lunch anyway, but it was almost 3pm and most places had stopped serving. We duck into a Chinese fast food equivalent restaurant to wait out the rain and fill our bellies. Not the culinary adventure we were hoping for, but it works. We’re on what looks like a pretty shady street-presence of several sex shops on the street trigger a review of the map-only to discover we missed a turn. As we make our way back to the place we were headed, we’re delighted with a number of other great little shops-including ones we wished we had seen before lunch. I buy 2 different pates for us to eat later-and mourn the missed opportunity to have duck pate w/onion confit on baguette for lunch.

The culinary exploration continues toward Les Halles-which by the way we never make it to. Too many other great little shops to explore and we’re getting tired and short on money. We stop in an amazing tea shop and restaurant-Mariage Freres. You would not believe the aroma of this place-absolutely intoxicating. More teas than you’ve ever imagined. We all buy some chai tea, and consider sitting for some iced tea, but the bar across the way, serving happy hour beckons us and we succumb to the call.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to spend the 500DH that Colleen gave me for the women on REK. I’ve bought a cooking thermometer and small digital scale for the women of the Jam3ia Watanaq Mawahib to use with their hlwa (cookies) and cheese (if they decide to go ahead with making and selling this). Neither of these items are available to purchase in Morocco, so I feel good about being able to bring them back with me and put Colleen’s donation to good use.

One more venture closer to our apartment in search of what is written as an amazing cheese shop (only to discover that it’s closed) takes us by a wonderful fruit and vegetable market, more yummy patisseries, wine shops, you name it.

Finally back to the apartment, we decide to eat in w/food we’ve purchase along the way today. We’re supposed to meet up w/some other Volunteers who are also in Paris, but we’re ready for bed and they don’t call-no problem. I get a chance to call sister Debbie and chat for an hour-the apartment phone is free for calls to the US-ok, not so free, it’s in the rental, but it’s still a great chance to talk “live”. Especially since I cannot get my computer to work with the wireless internet that is available here. Now I need to get sleep-and let my body repair the walking damage from 2 long days on my feet.

Friday, June 11, 2010


OK, so I didn’t get this posted yesterday, nor will I today, but have time to write, so will take advantage of that and post later….

Good week in Rabat-pretty productive meetings.

Started with helping to run a workshop on Tuesday with the 1st year SBD PCVs. Mike had done the planning, and 3 of us facilitated Workshop and Project Development workshops-mine focusing on Marketing. Finished late in the day and I made an early night of it-was really pooped. Must have felt a cold coming on, as woke up w/it on Wednesday. Realized that it’s one of only 2 colds I’ve had my entire time here in Morocco. That’s what getting all the sleep you need can do for you-go figure-you ought to try it!

Wednesday was spent at the PC headquarters over in Agdal (different part of Rabat). We can get on wi-fi there and met w/different staff. I had a productive meeting w/the SBD program staff on a variety of topics. I’m lobbying to be replaced by 2 PCVs in the next group coming in September. I think that a couple would be terrific, especially if one has product development expertise and the other has business experience. No less than 5 new Associations or Cooperatives have formed and are active in REK since the first of the year. Each one of them has approached me to help them with their business and product development. In addition, REK is such a good site for PCVs-very welcoming, receptive, understand that we’re not coming w/money, but skills, etc. I hope that this happens, for the sake of the REK organizations that could really benefit from this type of help. I also wanted to talk thru the future of Marche Maroc w/the program staff-to get their input, support and share my vision, especially as we work on a proposal to get Ministry support for the future ($$ especially).

One of my hopes was to get a pedicure before going to Paris, and tried (unsuccessfully) to book one at a salon I’d been to before here in Rabat. They’ve changed hands and don’t have a technician right now. Bummer. Went down the street to another nice hotel that has a spa. Got their number and called them in the morning-booked at 5pm. Kristen and I walk over-arriving at 5:02. They say they have someone already, and something about 15 minutes, then can I come back in 1 hour. Huh? I’m here for my appointment. Oh, but we just took someone in. Can I come back tomorrow? No, I’ve got an appt. Did the other person have one? No. So why did you take her? You were late. By 2 minutes? No, it’s 15 after-yeah, now that we’ve been discussing this for 13 minutes, but I was on time. Realize that it doesn’t matter what I say or how upset I am, I’m not going to get my pedicure at 5 or 5:30 and now don’t want to have it done by them at all. Pissed. You should see my feet. Embarrassing calluses-I’ll spare you the details, but really, you wanna see how desperate I am? Tfoo! So what do we do? Go to Kristen’s favorite hole-in-the-wall salon where she always gets a zwin haircut when she’s in town. As luck would have it, they can take me right away for a pedicure. God bless her parents-the woman who gave me my pedicure should go straight to heaven-no questions asked. I couldn’t even stand the thought of touching those bad feet, and she had me walking on air on the way out. Felt so good, decided to get my long hair trimmed and blown out as well-won’t I be ready for Paris? And all for a grand total of about $16. Lovin’ it.

Today was Craft Fair day-ran the training for the morning to get the 1st years thinking about what they can do to help their artisans w/craft fairs and exhibits and got the next committee chairs for the 2010-2011 Marche Marocs signed up-we’ve got their commitment to keep this initiative going. Staff from the Ministry of Artisana also came over for a session-led to an interesting idea to take back to the Adwal women. The Ministry is supporting Cooperative branding (we’ve got our logo) as well as Ministry Quality Certification (Adwal’s not yet up to their standards). In addition, they’re supporting regional branding, aka wine appellations of France. For example, there are the Rabati rugs-zrbya hand-woven in the patterns and colors unique to Rabat. I spoke w/my Ministry quality contact about Adwal’s black and white design and whether we could “brand” it as from REK, even tho’ others in the Middle Atlas weave this pattern. Adwal was created to help preserve this pattern, and not many others do it. She said we should pursue this-could be a great marketing opportunity if I can make it happen. Stay tuned.

Just back now from dinner-a Chinese restaurant-finally found it-heard about it before, but never made our way there. Lemon chicken, sushi, alcohol, prawn chips, what’s not to like? Anything besides chicken panini, falafel, pizza or Italian is a welcome change. And this was good. Not great, but worth repeating. Gonna finish up this post and read my International Herald Tribune. Hard to find-only English paper in Morocco and find one about every 2-3 months, so this newspaper-loving reader is going to dig in.

Kristen and I got up this morning and headed to Khemisset to visit Lisa for the day before heading to Paris tomorrow for a week. Little did we know how easy it was going to be to convince Lisa to join us. We have extra space in the apartment, she can get on our flight, fares are reasonable and she’s a foodie too. She’s finishing the booking now-it will be so much fun! She also now has internet in her place, so I’ll get this posted. B’slama.

Festival in Fes

I love an outdoor summer festival. Not even that picky on what type of music-expose me to something new, hopefully, as well as enjoy old favorites. Well, we got a lot of the former, but w/Ben Harper cancelling last minute due to “excruciating pain from an extreme accident” (word has it that he dislocated his shoulder skateboarding in an empty pool), none of the acts were ‘old familiars’. The World Sacred Music Festival staff (most of them new this 16th year of the event) did what I thought was a terrific job rallying to get replacement acts to satisfy the angry crowd that paid a lot of money (in $US equiv) to see Harper.

But I get ahead of myself. Saturday afternoon I met up with Randy, as well as Cortney and her Mom (visiting from the US), to stay at Maia’s place in the medina. Cozy, but perfect, with salon space to relax, rooftop deck, mini-kitchen for breakfast, etc. We went to one of the cheap sidewalk cafes for a quick dinner before heading to the “Harper” concert. Got our seats, ran into some friends, had a coffee under the beautiful twilight skies before it started. The concert begins with a very lukewarm group-pretty formulaic string music-Randy captured it best by describing it as lounge music. Uh oh. Crowd’s gonna get pissed. Wait. They’re done after 20 minutes and clear the stage. Hamdullah. Then the main (replacement) act comes out. Amadou and Mariam from Mali. The crowd knows them. Both blind. Fabulous. Crowd on its feet dancing the entire show. They come back for a 20 minute encore. Bravo. Nice rally from the Harper disappointment. Clear skies, stars are out, ramparts of Bab Makina lit up dramatically, backup singers/dancers, awesome percussionist. What a fun night. We make our way to the Batha Hotel (pronounced bat-ha) for a drink with Jess and friends to celebrate her 40th bday. Wind our way back to Maia’s in the wee morning hours, and surprised at how many people are still up and around in the medina. Must be a festival weekend.

Fortunately we didn’t have to be anywhere early. Australian friend Colleen is back in town w/a group of 3 women for her next month-long tour of Morocco, so a bunch of us meet for a late coffee. Good to just sit and chat, catch up, watch the Boujeloud parade. (The café where we met is just inside Bab Boujeloud-the northernmost entry of the old medina, and the #1 tourist entry into the medina). As we’re saying our goodbyes, dear Colleen pulls me aside and tells me she has something for me. Rather, for the women I work with. Seems she made some bags out of prayer rugs she bought in Marrakech last year and sold them w/the profit to go to a garden in Agdaz. Well, when she went through Agdaz w/her last tour group, the guy she knows wasn’t around, and she didn’t want to leave 500DH w/just anyone, as it probably wouldn’t make it to the garden. So she decided instead to donate it through me to the REK women. This is great-promised her photos of how the money is distributed, and know what I want to do with it. For 150DH each, I can purchase 2 Natural Dye Workshop handbooks in Arabic (Amina Y paid out of her own pocket to have it translated from English) for both the Adwal and Asalah Cooperatives (both were at the Saturday morning workshop w/Amina, and rec’d no written materials-just had to memorize the “recipes”). I’ll still have 200DH left over which I can give to the new Women’s Assn for them to buy a sign to put out by the transits so people know that they’re open for business (something we’ve already discussed that they need to do). That will be 3 different organizations touched by Colleen’s generosity. “Thanks be to Ellen.”

Later I made my way to Café Clock (needed a clean bathroom) but by that time Cortney, Linda and Randy have had enough shopping, so we meet there for lunch. Afterward we’re slowly shopping our way back to Maia’s when I run into a friend-stop to chat-what are we up to-are we going to any of the concerts? Oh, yeah, we’ve got tickets for the one that starts in ½ hour at the Batha Museum. Oops, need to go! I have my ticket, so head back up the medina to save us seats while the others go to get their tickets and meet me there.

The Batha Museum is another lovely venue for a concert. Fits several hundred people, but an intimate setting nevertheless-under the spreading limbs of an enormous oak tree in the immense courtyard, shading the seating area. We are treated to the music of a blues group from Zanzibar. Love the instrumentals, could have done away w/the female vocalist. Once again Randy hits the analogy on the nose-the woman’s voice reminds us of the high pitched nasal vocals of Berber music-and very little of that goes a very long way. Oh well, great setting, nice afternoon, interesting music. Batha Museum-check!

Randy (god bless her parents) has also thought ahead and bought eggs, so we don’t need to go out for dinner before the evening concert. We take a glass of Linda and Cortney’s bottle of wine up to the rooftop deck, and run into Eric. Eric is Maia’s long-term boarder (she has 3 mini-flats in her riad), and since we’ve all stayed at Maia’s place numerous times, have heard about him, but this is the first time any of us has met him. Cortney’s shocked. She sat next to him on the plane from Casablanca to Boston last Xmas. Saw him again on the street in Fes. Ran into him at Café Clock. Same guy who’s been living at Maia’s. We all decide that she’s meant to know him. Too many random meetings-something else seems to be working here.

We get changed and head back up to Bab Makina for the evening performance. But what a trek it was. I think ½ of the medina population was trying to walk down T3la sgira while we were trying to walk up and out of the medina. Felt like a salmon against the current. Maia’s place is down pretty far in the medina. It was a river of bodies coming at us for ½ hour. And those going our direction were on a Sunday evening stroll. While we were trying to get to our concert. Somehow we kept our sanity. Just in time to walk through Boujeloud Square, which was filled with Fessians out for the evening.

See, music festivals like this one, have tickets priced out of the range of most Moroccans (except the very wealthy, usually affiliated w/sponsors, who come dressed to kill), so the paid events are mostly Europeans. However, for each of the 10 days of the festival, there are at least 3 concerts in large venues that are free to the public. With the beautiful warm weather, the crowds have come out in record numbers. So great to see this for the people of Fes. (Last year, poor publicity and miscommunications led to small crowds at a lot of the free concerts).

Last night’s paid concert was themed Africa Spirit. Soufi group from Zanzibar. It was ok. Wouldn’t want a steady diet of it. Glad I didn’t go to the Soufi festival, as this performance was enough. Then they’re replaced by the drummers from Burundi. They were terrific-hit 3 of 5 senses-sound-bouncing off the Bab Makina walls; visual-their dancing, jumping, colors-stimulating; the feel-of those drums-in your chest. What energy. Great. You can see how they might get into a trance with the rhythm and dancing. Randy and Linda head back a bit early, but Cortney and I stay to the bitter end. Find a way to walk around Boujeloud Square that is still going strong w/another band playing.

Today we make our way to Rabat-I’m helping w/training this week and Cortney’s mom heads to the airport tomorrow back to the states. I have time to run some errands-bootleg printer cartridges once again for my printer, get the leather strap on my purse re-sewn by a guy doing shoe repair from a box on the medina alleyway, and spend a frustrating 2 hours trying to find a bank that will change DH to Euros. When Kristen and I arrive in Paris late next Saturday night, we have to immediately pay the remainder of the apt. rental plus a hefty security deposit. No way that kind of $$ would be available to us that late when we get in, so I’ve been exchanging DH as I can pull it out of ATMs so we’ve got what we need when we land.

Interesting observations: During the concert at the Batha Museum yesterday, they paused their music during the call to prayer. Today, the shopkeeper where I was waiting to buy my ink cartridges, would not ring up any sales during the call to prayer (mind you, he was listening to it on the radio!). OK, whatever.

Then the 3rd bank I approached today wouldn’t let me exchange my DH for Euro’s because I didn’t have my “permanent” Carte de Sejour. That’s kinda like a green card-to work in the country. I have my application, but that’s all I’ve had (w/exception of 6 weeks) since I’ve been in this country. I think since I had a run-in w/the Chief of Gendarmes in my town last year, he’s tried to “punish” me by not giving me my permanent card, and instead I have to go in to see them and renew the application every month. So how can I control what my gendarmes do, the bank guy can see I’ve been here 20 months, but no dice. I end up going to BMCI (which is where my PC account is through), and my cash exchange transaction is done in a matter of minutes, no problem. Hit me on the forehead-why didn’t I start there? Oh well, we have the Euros we need right away, so money exchange? Check!

Hopefully I can get this posted tomorrow at the cyber. Wednesday for sure, as I’ll then be at the PC office.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Play Time!

It’s beautiful outside-love sleeping w/ fresh mountain air coming thru open windows, waking to clear sunny skies. How can you not wake up happy? Besides, vacation travel is on the horizon….

I’m packing to head to Fes tomorrow for the World Sacred Music Festival. Ben Harper tomorrow night at Bab Makina-an amazing outdoor venue inside old medina walls, lit up ramparts-fabulous. A bunch of us will meet up afterward to help Jess celebrate the big 4-O. Then Sunday it’s Shakila Saidi and the Rajab Suleiman Trio from Tanzania-traditional Swahili dance-at the beautiful Batha Museum garden stage in the afternoon, followed by “Africa Spirit”-a sufi ensemble from Zanzibar and musicians from Burundi back at Bab Makina in the evening. Free concerts in between if we find the energy. Randy, Cortney, her mom and I will be staying at Maia’s Dar Anisis riad. Jealous yet? What a fabulous weekend it promises to be!

On Monday I’ll head to Rabat for a week of work (gotta get the job done, right?). I’ll be helping with the IST training for the 1st year SBD PCVs. Workshops to help run on Tuesday, meetings w/the Ministry on Wednesday (I’m on the Program Advisory Council) and Program Staff, then running a session on Craft Fairs on Thursday. We’re working on making the Marche Maroc Craft Fairs sustainable, and have great PC and Ministry support to build on, so Inshallah we can keep up the momentum.

Then a week from tomorrow, Kristen and I head up to Paris for a week of vacation. We’ve rented a small apartment in the Marais area-right by the Bastille. Great location, and it’ll be nice to have somewhere to park ourselves between all the walking we’ll be doing. Breakfast on the balcony. Maybe come back after a long day, put up the feet, pour a glass of wine, snack on something yummy we’ve picked up along the way. Maybe go back out for dinner, maybe not, depending on what we feel like doing. Kristen’s not been to Paris and I’ve not been there in years, so feels really luxurious to have a whole week to explore. I’m very excited for this trip-feels like the 1st true “vacation” I’ve taken since I’ve been here-purely fun, no obligations, etc. Wahoo!

It’s been a productive week leading up to this travel. Between the busy day w/the Adwal women on Tuesday, running up to Fes on Wednesday for some meetings and running a Logo Workshop for the new Women’s Assn yesterday (thanks again Jess for coming and helping), I’m ready for a break.

Got a call yesterday from Gail about maybe having the Couscous Coop do a demo for some tourists on Monday-hope it works out-but need to know today so I can set it up before I leave. Also had a brainstorm that the 2 young women who serve as “housemothers” (they’re both in their 20’s) for the Dar Taliba (dorm for girls from the countryside to live in during the week so they can attend school) would be great camp counselors for the Camp GLOW that Amina Yabis is running the end of the month. Waiting to hear if she wants to meet w/them tomorrow when she comes from Sefrou to run the Natural Dye Workshop for the Adwal and Asalah Cooperatives here. Need to stick around for the workshop in the morning-get some photos before heading off to Fes….and the fun begins….

Kif Kif

My bad. Should have covered this topic long ago. Kif. Hash. Reportedly the biggest contributor to the Moroccan economy-unofficially; phosphates and tourism being the official money makers.

Why does this come up now? Medina reminders. The Medina-and I use that word as a general term-is where I come across it. Every medina, every time. Whiffs as you walk along the medina’s circuitous alleyways. Right now, it’s the Koranic ramblings of the guy sitting on the pavement outside the riad. Talking to no one, to everyone. Not begging, just rambling. High. On kif.

Then there was the guy who hit Nancy as we were buying vegetables in the Sefrou medina. That guy was more likely to have been a glue sniffer-really high. His eyes were crazy. He was trying to follow Nancy and she wasn’t having any of it. We walked away, and when we came back around, he hit her with his arm full force across her chest. Shocked. The crowd saw it. Did the right thing. Achmed, Jess’s neighbor/guardian angel reported to us later that evening that the guy had been arrested. Nice to know the medina takes care of its problems.

Only been to Chefchaouen once-in the heart of the Rif (aka Kif) Mountains. The guys rode in a taxi together up from the bus stop and were asked if they wanted to buy as soon as they got out of the taxi. When they declined, the seller lit into them-didn’t they know that that he (the seller) depended on them for his livelihood and they could certainly afford it-who did the think they were-etc.

I know (have been told) that I can buy it from my café guys in REK, and that the café on the north side of the “main” street is known for its smokers, but fortunately it’s not really visible here in my town.

Basically too many young guys w/too much time on their hands-no job, no prospects, can’t get married until they have an income, so still living at home (even those w/Univ degrees), nothing to do. No end in sight.

Interesting comment from a Moroccan friend recently. See all the road construction? Yeah-it’s extensive and it’s everywhere. Yeah, she says. Morocco is investing heavily in its infrastructure….instead of its people. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OMG it's June!

No June gloom here-Hamdullah-summer is upon us-sooo glad for the sunny skies-check in again in a month and we’ll do an attitude check!

Serves me right for being away from the Taeawniya for almost 2 weeks-so much to catch up on today.

They had their annual meeting and elected the new officers-tbarkalikum Fatima and Ferida-Pres and Treasurer-the 2 positions of greatest importance. Ferida was off today to the bank in El Menzel-getting right into it. That didn’t stop me from taking her aside to give her new budget sheets to track their expenses weekly w/a monthly and annual summary sheet. Inshallah she’ll actually use these (as opposed to last year when I provided them, reviewed them, and they weren’t used). She was also around when I was working on a workshop for next week and updating the presentation w/photos. Since she is one of the 2 who are going thru computer classes, I showed her how I was importing, cropping, cut/paste, etc. photos into PowerPoint, then had her do several herself. She had fun doing it, too-bravo!

Found out that the Natural Dye Workshop will indeed be this Saturday-Gregg and Amina will be coming over from Sefrou to conduct the training all day for the Adwal women as well as the Asalah Coop from Zouia. I have to be in Fes that evening for a concert, but will stick around the morning to take photos.

I had a chance to update the women and show them some design ideas from my trip to Figuig. Specifically, shared some of the yarns and yarn combinations that Figuig is using (also had photos of products made w/these supplies).

I also asked Fatima for them to make me a pillow cover, using thin cream wool w/black accent, in the traditional design that Adwal was created to preserve. I found some cream colored cotton duck fabric and showed them how they can make a simple back, w/out a zipper, to slip a pillow insert into the cover. They don’t weave their traditional pattern very much anymore, since it’s always been in a large, heavy, all wool handira, and this ends up being a higher price that tourists want to pay (also heavy for them to transport home). If they can weave this same design into smaller pieces, i.e.; decorative pillows, they preserve the traditions while making it accessible for tourists to buy. Inshallah this works out.

I scoured the upholstery hanuts in Sefrou over the weekend to find tie-back tassels for the curtains they’re weaving for the showroom-and they’re a perfect match, Hamdullah. I also brought back camera prices from Marjane in Fes. They really, really need to buy their own camera. However, there’s also a PCV from down south who may have a camera she’ll give us-spare one from her predecessor and she doesn’t have a group who needs one. Inshallah we get a camera into Adwal’s hands, and soon, so I can get them accustomed to taking their own photos and trained on how to then use the photos in all sorts of marketing efforts.

Never did get a clear explanation on the “why”, but a TV crew showed up this afternoon to film the women of Taeawniya Adwal working. I thought maybe they were from the new Tamazight TV channel, since they interviewed some of the women in Shila and Darija, but apparently it is just one of the Moroccan TV stations. I had a brief interview with them as well-all in Darija. Don’t know when it will air, and since I don’t have a TV, won’t see it. Nevertheless, I told Fatima that she needs to ask for a digital copy so they have it for future marketing efforts and I can post it to their website.

Stayed after the TV crew left to have lunch w/the women. Nice to see Hind-Fatima’s sister. Since she’s not working at the Dar Chebab anymore, I don’t see her as much. Wished her Happy Birthday (yesterday), but they don’t really do anything to celebrate. Need to make that up to her. Lunch-of course eaten w/bread as your utensil-was cooked potato and peppers with a side potato salad. Got me motivated to buy some fresh veggies at the market for a cold tuna, tomato, onion, cucumber salad for dinner-have had my carb load for several days.

I went by the new Jam3ia Mawahib Watanaq hlwa hanut and it was open, and looks great-tbarkalikum! They do need that logo-nice sign over the door, but need something by the nqls so people know they’re open.

Ran into my landlord-paid rent, went and paid electric bill, am good to go.