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 cafĂ©, 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.

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