Thursday, August 5, 2010

And I thought it was slow now….

Just got word yesterday from Fatima that the Coop is closing all of Ramadan. So there goes an entire month of getting anything done-the showroom finished, Nora and Ferida trained up on the internet and digital camera, Fatima weaving the pillow covers I’ve commissioned, etc. I forgot that they worked last year thru Ramadan because they had the table runner order they needed to complete. Otherwise they wouldn’t have worked. I’ll be down to just 2 months left when they return. Yikes!

Found out some other interesting info. The Coop apprentices have been weaving with a new material a lot lately. I really like it and burned it to see what it’s made of-natural 100% cotton. It’s got a real nice feel and look, and the colors are more natural, SO unlike the garish colors of the acrylic they’ve been using so much of. Go figure-the hanbels that the apprentices are weaving with this are the items that are selling-and Adwal has really taken note. In addition, I’m delighted that when they ask me as they begin a design and color combo if I’ll like it, all I have to do is compliment their choice-they’re making good decisions. Yipee!

So I commission Fatima to weave me a cushion cover, in their traditional design, using this nice cotton yarn, in black and cream. Had a bit of trouble convincing her that was what I wanted. No, I don’t need the expensive bldi (natural, hand woven) wool-it’s for a cushion. And no, I don’t want that acrylic you guys use so much of. I want you to weave me what I think tourists will really love. (And of course I’m going to buy 2 of these cushions and then leave them behind for display in the showroom, just as I’m doing w/the Hasir I had them finish for me). I then talk w/Fatima about pricing-just how expensive is this cotton yarn? See, I’m also trying to help them make something traditional to the area, in a more accessible product (price and weight) for tourists to buy. Turns out that the acrylic is actually more expensive than the cotton! Who knew! Fatima was trying to convince me to use what she thought was ‘better’ because it was more expensive. And until we did the fiber burn test, they had no idea what type of fibers they were using. Hamdullah the cotton is cheaper, much nicer quality, and I’m going to work on Fatima to switch out all of their acrylic purchasing as she sees how nicely the cotton weaves on the vertical loom. Keep your fingers crossed!

I also met with Meriem yesterday about the grant proposal for the ATPF Women’s Assn-sent it to Center for Women in Democracy. No reply to request. No acknowledgement. Walu. OK, I’ll put together a PCPP request (which would be funded by my friends and family in the US) if ATPF will come up with their 25%, which amounts to 6600DH-no small task. Meriem immediately says that’s no problem. In addition, I’ll include monies for she and another member to go with me to the Cheese Association in the south to learn more about cheese production/scale-up, packaging, any regulations, storage, marketing and selling fresh cheese. Now I’m working to get this up as quickly as possible so it can get funded by the end of September.

I also received an email from Widad of Women in Technology this week. It included a video highlighting the successes of the women who participated in the program in Ain Leuh. Got me all worked up again. I sent a message to her to see if it would still be possible to do it in REK-and she immediately replied ‘yes’. I had tried this earlier this year, and the ATPF women weren’t interested-IT wasn’t a priority for them at the time, and they couldn’t think of who else to approach. This is such an amazing opportunity, and now with a video in Arabic to show how great it’s been for other women, I’m back on the bandwagon. Took the video, along w/my old notes, over to show Maqoul-cyber owner/IT instructor in town. He watched the video and said that his Association may be interested-enough that he promised to call Widad and the Association in Azrou who has implemented the program to find out more. Inshallah, WIT comes to REK.

And then today. One of my favorite days of all time in Morocco.

I knew to be at the Coop at 9am, when we were leaving for the river to wash wool. They asked me to bring my camera. I figured we were good for several hours in the blazing sun, with me documenting their next step in moving toward natural dyed wool.

Little did I know that this was a real Adwal outing-first of its kind. They arranged for Fatima’s husband to drive the 15 of us (2 in the front w/him and the rest of us in the back of the open truck, with all our stuff for the day) to where we were going to do the washing.

Now, I’d heard that there was a ‘source’ aka natural spring between El Menzel and REK, but had never been there. Apparently neither had most of the Adwal women. Took us about ½ hour, off a less travelled paved road, then off on a dirt road for quite a ways. No public transport-you gotta have someone drive you there, it’s so remote. Anyway, this is a shallow beginning of the river, fed by several springs, opened up for washing/bathing/swimming, etc. It is quite the gathering spot. And we were there for the day.

In the morning the area is filled with women washing clothes (the duars around don’t have running water), carpets, salon slipcovers, wool, wheat. As the day progresses, the women are then fixing lunch on their small buta’s w/pressure cooker, watching their kids, before moving on to the next series of washings. Lots of families come for a swim and lunch. In the late afternoon, the area starts filling in w/teenagers coming to play in the water, cool off and have a place they can be w/the opposite sex.

We get there around 10am and don’t leave until after 6. It was a full day of washing a huge sack of bldi (that’s natural, shorn off a live sheep) wool. We have tea. We have lunch. We have water fights. Lots of them. All of us get completely soaked at least once during the course of the day. Nobody really complained, and it was so great to see the Adwal women having such fun together. In fact, some young guys came by late in the afternoon w/drums and played while the Adwal women sang. It was such a wonderful, fun, relaxing day-even with the wool washing. We sang and ululated all the way home in the back of the truck, getting home just in time to get a little laundry on the line to dry (including what I was wearing!).

Note: It's not until I'm posting some photos that I realized I forgot to mention a couple things about today. Such as, the women go it the water in their jelabas-no swimsuits. Oh, and I've taken Pepto Bismol prophylactically-after watching a donkey leave droppings in the same water that they rinsed our tea glasses in. Things about Morocco that you just accept as normal, hardly worth a mention.

Now I’m off in the morning (after catching Meriem, Inshallah, to sign the PCPP form) to meet and catch up w/Jess. Then I’m off to Ras El Ma-small place on the Mediterranean coast where 12-15 of us are gathering to use up our vacation before Ramadan starts. Can’t wait to swim in the Sea.

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