Friday, July 9, 2010

A Week in REK

Nice to have had all week here in town, especially given the heat-don’t want to travel if I can help it.

There’s nothing like waking up at 5am to the unique ululating of women at a wedding celebration to be reminded that, no Toto, this isn’t Kansas, this is Morocco in July. With all the weddings that I know about the next 2 nights, not to mention those I’m unaware of, the nights promise to be a bit long. Oh well, it is after all, Wedding Season.

So a bit about the wedding/marriage process here in Morocco. The marriage is official when the couple sign the paperwork at a government office. That’s all it takes. The often-lengthy celebration is just that-a chance to celebrate w/friends and family.

And to help Nora-one of the Adwal apprentices-celebrate the wedding of her sister tomorrow, we all traipsed up to her house on Tuesday for lunch. This is a typical pattern for the days-long wedding celebrations.

First you have extensive lunches w/your women friends-usually ensconced in different salons and served one after another, multiple course lunches. First the salad. Then the chicken. Then the beef. Then the couscous. Then the fruit. All washed down with ’limonada’-usually Coke or Orange Fanta. It’s enough to put a diabetic in a coma. The women are all dressed in nice jellabas. (Note-it was over 100 degrees in the house, the women wear their usual 2 layers under the jellaba-I’m almost passing out in my lightweight pants and top-they’ve got to be ready to keel over). Then the tables are moved aside, the Moroccan CD is put in the player and the dancing begins. In this heat, it thankfully doesn’t last long, and after 5 hours, we say our “b’slama’s” and depart. The wedding gift is brought to this celebration and the guests leave w/a small package of hlwa (cookies).

The next day (or later that same day), the bride and her closest girlfriends and female family members will have their henna done. Traditionally for the bride this means the front and back of her hands and her feet will be dipped in henna.

The next 2-3 days are parties-bands are either hired or friends volunteer to play or a CD is played. Dancing and incredibly long nights waiting in salons for your turn to eat are the norm. Some rural towns take it a bit further with the bride and groom consummating the marriage during the first night-with the sheet brought out and displayed as evidence of the bride’s purity. Thankfully I’ve not witnessed this bit of tradition.

One of the nights a group with the bride and groom will get in the back of a pickup, along with the musicians, and ride around town, playing their music, honking the horn and blowing horns. You try to remember to smile in happiness for the newlyweds at 3 in the morning when they go by your place-my apologies if I forget to do so at that hour. All of this will of course be photographed and videotaped-and you’ll be subjected to viewing these tapes over and over at the bride’s house after the wedding.

So do I have you convinced yet that you need to experience this? It’s pretty common that PCVs will look forward to their first wedding and all the hoopla, and immediately afterward start strategizing on how to avoid attending any more of them. It’s just not that fun to be packed in a hot salon all night w/mostly strangers, most of them not even conversing, in show of support to the couple, when you could be getting a good night’s rest. But culture dictates a certain level of participation, and we all get pretty good at being able to negotiate limited appearances.

Even with Khalid and Siham’s wedding celebration-the only one I’m truly sad to miss-I’d be working out how to attend only some of it, as I don’t know their families in El Menzel-only know the 2 of them. Maybe it’s just as well that I’ll be gone and can come back and take them out somewhere in Fes to celebrate afterward.

I also had a chance to meet Pete’s family on Wednesday. They’re in Morocco visiting for just a week, and spending most of it in Fes. They hired a driver to come to REK, to see where Pete lives and meet the people he works with. They were delightful-felt bad for them travelling in the heat, but they were going back to their air conditioned hotel in Fes. I took them down to see the Adwal women where they bought a handira (God Bless their parents) and they were going for a walk and lunch in town when I left them to run errands.

Jess came over from Sefrou yesterday so we could complete the logo workshop for the Women’s Association (Jam3ia Mawahib Wataqat, or ATPF for the French translation). I confirmed w/Meriem on Tuesday that it was for 11am NEW time. Jess and I were about 15 minutes late. Only Meriem and her sister Hasna are there. Where’s everyone else? Oh, they’re coming. OK, we’ll go have a Coke. Come back at noon. Still Meriem and Hasna. Where are the other women? I’ll call them so they’ll come. OK. We finally get started at 1:30. OK, so I know this is how things work in Morocco-why don’t I just chill out and accept it, yak?

The women select the design they want to go with from the mock-ups that Jess has prepared. I’ve sent it on to Emily-PCV in Oulmes-who is going to Photoshop it so it can be used in print materials (God Bless her parents).

Jess really needed to get to Fes, but the women had cooked lunch, won’t we stay? Since I had recently felt rather ungracious w/Salwa’s visit to find host families, I felt obliged to stay. Convinced Jess to do so as well, as this is the only thing they can do for us-cook for us-and it is their way of thanking us for our help. Least we could do is be gracious guests. Glad we did-unbeknownst to us, they had prepared a feast! Salad and this wonderful eggplant/tomato spread (I really need to learn how to make it-one of my favorite Moroccan foods). Two whole chickens for the 9 of us-that’s a TON of meat to feed us. Fresh baked bread-right out of the oven. Yum! Thanks to the ATPF women and especially to Jess for her help in putting together the logos for them.

I went by the couscous coop today-OK, I’ll confess, I really went to buy some miloui for my breakfast. It’s one of those yummy guilty pleasures that I keep myself from buying very often, but had a hankering for it today. All the women were there. Friday’s a big day for their little ristura (restaurant-3 tables) where they cook up the couscous for lunch-they pack in the single men after mosque.

It was great to see that they’ve been producing couscous-using different grains and incorporating herbs with some. They’re still working on their packaging, but have put up a little display case to sell from. I asked if they had labels yet for their packages and Latifa informed me that they do-tbarkalimum!

So I’ve spent the rest of this morning working on my post-COS-cruise itinerary. You see, we’re now only 4 months from Close of Service (COS), and I’ve got the 2 weeks between COS and the trans-Atlantic cruise to travel-just have to be in Barcelona for the cruise departure on Nov 28th.

I’ve decided to see Spain, specifically Granada and Barcelona. I don’t want to schlep all over the place in those 2 weeks, but really see a couple of places. Jess was the one to convince me to go to Granada. Since she lived in Spain for 7 years, her recommendation carries a lot of weight. I’ve got inquiries out to hotels and apartments in both places and hope to have them both booked shortly. I’ve told others who are still contemplating their post–COS-cruise plans that they’re welcome to join me, but I’m going ahead w/my plans, even if I travel solo in Spain.

And then of course, I’ve got to get myself packed for Uganda. Yes, we’re gonna go trek for gorillas! Trish, Lynn and Andrew’s friend in Uganda, has been awesome in getting us the permits (limited access to trek), accommodations, etc. that we need. I’ll head to Rabat this Sunday and leave from Casablanca on Monday. We meet up in Entebbe on Tuesday, and from there, I’m going w/whatever plans have been made. Really nice that someone else is doing the planning. Oh my gosh, I might see gorillas-in their natural habitat. Wow.

After Uganda, Lynn, Andrew and I will be travelling back to Morocco together. They’ll only have a few days, so I’ve booked a riad in Fes for us where we can explore from. We’ll have 2 full days in Fes, will do a day trip to REK so I can show them my town and the people I work with, then we have to head back to Casablanca for their trip back to the states. It will be great to see them and catch up-haven’t seen them since their wedding 2 years ago.

Since I won’t be taking my computer with me to Uganda, this will be the last posting until afterward, so stay tuned for photos and updates!

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