Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transition Time

I made it out to Azrou on Thursday after stopping in Ifrane to meet up with Amy and Bouchra and introduce them to Jess. Hopefully they are able to work with one another on the many ideas that came up in these brief meetings.

Side note while I think of it-trek slama to Achmed, Jess’ neighbor/Sefrou angel, who is going to have a much-deserved mini vacation courtesy of all those whose lives he’s touched. Tbarkalik Achmed.

I participated in a couple sessions with the SBD trainees in Azrou-back in the old Auberge de Lion de Atlas. Wow-just 2 years ago that was me, sitting in those same sessions, waiting to hear where I was going to spend the next 2 years of my life. Flashback.

Following the session on Friday afternoon I made my way up to Fes. This was really my last opportunity to see my Fes friends to say goodbye and thanks for all they’ve done. Fortunately I was able to catch up w/virtually everyone, so I left in the early afternoon on Saturday to get back home.

I did stop by and see Michele (and Khadija), which was nice since she couldn’t make it to the dinner a couple weekends ago. She’s in month 9 of her pregnancy and not supposed to travel. Yosef is on the road right now, hoping to get back before the baby comes. Interesting factoid, if you are born in Morocco, your name must come from a list of approved (Muslim) names. Michele really wants to name their baby Rose. I think she’s going to use Rose as a middle name and also use it in the Australian birth certificate/documents.

Everyone is asking how I’m feeling about leaving-sorry to leave, mixed feelings, etc.? Honestly, I just feel ready. When you start this thing, you know the exact date that it will end. That significantly colors your perception. Things you don’t like, you know you only have to live with for 2 years. Things you love, you get your head around the fact that you’ll be saying goodbye to it/them in 2 years. My 2 years are up and it's time to move on. This is making the goodbyes easier. At least in the last 2 days. We'll see as the week progresses….

Unfortunately today dawned overcast and windy and only got worse. The worst storm we’ve seen this fall-steady rain and heavy wind. Not such a big deal, but today is when the new PCVs arrived in town (my replacements) for their 5 day site visit. It’s tough to travel in inclement weather anywhere, but especially when you’ve got to lug all your stuff yourself through multiple transportation sites, trying to figure out where you’re going, walking thru muddy lots, etc.

I was down at the Coop when they arrived, so Nora (she’ll be their host sister) and I walked up to meet them in front of the patisserie. Doug and Karen (the couple replacing me) travelled with Jo who will be in a site near REK called Dar El Hamra. It’s a new site that Casey developed with a very motivated group of women already working together. Anyway, we all trekked up to Nora’s house and sat down to a lovely lunch that her mother had prepared. When Casey called around 3pm that he’d arrived from Sefrou, Jo and I took off to meet him, leaving Doug and Karen to get situated with their new host family.

Figuring I was already completely soaked, I went ahead and did my shopping. Fortunately my vegetable guy was still open and my favorite hanut guy had turkey breasts, so I don’t have to go to souk tomorrow (and it’s gonna be an ugly, muddy mess there tomorrow). I’ve invited all the PCVs around here (that’s 4 of them plus me) to come for dinner and help welcome Doug, Karen and Jo to the region. I’ve got tortillas just out of the freezer-bought them last Christmas and been in the freezer ever since-so we’ll be doing some Mexican food tomorrow night.

Got news from Zahra that the Cooperative showroom party has to be postponed. Some of the Ministry folk who were going to be coming will still be in Agadir. Nuts. I so wanted to be there to help them celebrate. Hopefully Doug and Karen will be able to attend.

I’ve got my last box of stuff packed to ship home. Think I’ll try to get it out tomorrow if the rain lets up. Then it’s just a matter of starting to give stuff away and clear out my place. I’ll check the bus schedule tomorrow (it’s Monday=souk day and that changes all transportation schedules) to see what time/where the Rabat bus leaves on Mondays and will likely be on that one next week. I don’t actually have to go to Rabat until Tuesday next week, but once I’ve emptied my apartment on Sunday, no reason to stay around. Goodbyes will already be done. Nshufkum mnbad Inshallah.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I thought it would be a great idea, a good opportunity, to take Bouchra up on her offer. She’s the marketing professor at Al Akhawayn that I’ve been working with for the last 1 ½ years. She did the marketing workshop at the first Marche Maroc in Fes, she’s the one trying to pursue a Fair Trade website to sell Moroccan artisanal products, etc. She’s mentioned a number of times that she’d like to try and get her students out to work with rural artisans and do a project to help them market their products.

Pick me, pick me! We finally put it together for them to come out yesterday, and all 19 of them made the 2 hour trek. (Bouchra did comment that she had no idea what it took for me to come and meet w/her esp. since I use public transport and it takes me 4 hours). Welcome to the world of the countryside.

Despite the fact that the AUI crew didn’t arrive until 4pm, all of the Coop women AND apprentices were there (the apprentices came back and the women usually are gone by 3). Poor Zahra took the brunt of it (Fatima had to go to Sefrou), answering questions directed at her in rapid-fire from all directions. And I forgot that she was fasting all day, so that really exhausted her. I tried to get the students to address their questions to the other members, but this was difficult at best. Several just wanted me to answer their questions. In English.

A bit of background. Al Akhawayn is an all English-speaking, prestigious private University. Annual tuition/housing/etc. runs about 50,000 DH. At least 4x the average countryside annual income. Most of the students speak French in their homes, not Darija. Most had never been to the countryside of Morocco. Getting the picture?

Here I was hoping to get the Coop some great input and expose the students to this wonderful group of women. Most of the students couldn’t be bothered. Most didn’t engage w/the women at all. Some just wanted to weigh in w/their opinions to me-without having spoken with the women. “Why don’t they just sell to shops in Fes?” “It takes them too long to make these products” “They need to sell abroad” “They need to take their products out of the town to sell them.” No shit?! How about sitting down with each of the women one on one and talk with them, ask them questions, get to know their goals, who they are targeting as their customers, what have they done, what are their traditions, what constraints do they need to work within and which can they overcome, etc.? Oh my, I had great expectations, and now realize that this was students just going thru the motions, talking w/one another, not the women who were sitting around the perimeter. Tfoo. Opportunity lost. Live and learn.
Oh, hello Lynn, can we get you off your high horse now??

Got my comeuppance this afternoon when I sat in on the ATPF Association meeting. First item on the agenda was their workshop for the REK Day Tour program. I’ve talked w/Meriem and Amina at length about it, we discussed what they would do, pricing, etc. They attended the meeting we had 2 weeks ago with all of the organizations participating in this program. Safi? Yak?

Well, it appears that the rest of the Association wasn’t up to speed and this meeting was the first time most had heard of this project. 2 ½ hours later the meeting concluded, with only that topic addressed. See, it’s not quite so easy. Where will they do the workshops? Well, the members can take turns hosting them. Gee, one has her kids all afternoon after school so she can only do mornings, another has to check w/her husband to see if it’s ok, another doesn’t have an oven, another has other family obligations, etc. Hmmm, not as easy as it appears. Yes, these women have constraints and oh yeah, we’ve got to work within them. Chewing on my own words. Lesson #593. It’s never as simple as it appears.

On a lighter note, it was good to catch up w/Fatima. The Rabat craft fair was good and very informative-lots of good workshops and she’s heading off tomorrow to another craft fair in Agadir. Good exposure. She ran into Tariq in Rabat and he told her about the Marche Maroc in Marrakech in December and she’s hoping that they can attend. Hamdullah. The mundub is encouraging them to make smaller items, ie; just like the cushion cover I’ve ordered (with the intention of paying for it and leaving it behind as a sample). Finally told them that was my plan and they don’t want me to pay for it, they need it to sell at the craft fair, and will be making a bunch more. Nice.

Goodbyes are in the works. Lunch w/Amy at AUI tomorrow to say goodbye and introduce Jess. Final stop in Fes on Saturday to say my goodbyes to friends there. The ATPF Assoc women want to have a party for me next week. Adwal has a party on the 6th to officially open the showroom and will be bringing in a bunch of folks I’ve not seen in a bit-will be my chance to say goodbye to them all at once. Gulp.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day Tripper Yeah!

Luck=opportunity meets preparation. We’ve got it in spades. I think we’ve got incredibly lucky timing w/this tourism project. It seems like there are people coming out of the woodwork who are interested in visiting Ribat El Kheir on our Day Tour program. RPCV from Morocco sends out a request. Cynthia refers study abroad group. Randy sends meet group of knitters who are coming next week. The guide that Pete and his family are using this week gets lots of requests from his clients for day trips to the countryside. We’re averaging a group a week already. This has already brought amazing money to the women here in REK. Ham-du-li-lah!!! Oh, and I’ve updated the Adwal Coop’s website to reflect these new offerings. Check it out:

Thursday started on a high note. Amina (PC LCF) and one of the PC drivers came and picked up my bicyle and a couple bags of stuff for return to Rabat.We’re required to get our PC-issued bicycles back to Rabat for maintenance. Between passenger vans, grand and petit taxis and train-there’s no easy way to do this. I knew that Amina (my trainer in CBT) would be in the area to pay host families in Budrehm, and asked if she could come and get my bike. She did. Saved me a TON of time, money, and effort by picking it up here. God bless her parents. We had a chance to sit and chat a bit to catch up. She’s one of those who I just am not ready to say goodbye to. I know I’ll get back up to Fes for some goodbyes before I leave, and since she’s based there during training, I’ll see her there one more time.

Then I headed down to the Cooperative. Got Ferida and Nora back in front of the computer to load additional files from my USB. Daily exposure is good for their recall. In addition, Ferida and Fatima were cleaning up the showroom, so we decided to go ahead and bring their products in and set it up. I don’t know what happened to the money they were supposed to have in the grant to buy wall and floor shelves, but they need to work with what they got from Sefrou. I bought tablecloths when I was in Fes last week to cover the swiya tables so at least they look presentable and consistent. Finally there’s someplace where they can more professionally show and sell their products. First customers-Pete’s family. Shukran.

And the saga of the Day Tripper continued yesterday with Paul/Finley/Hassan/Lynn’s excellent adventure. Paul and Becky-expat friends in Fes-are hoping to open their renovated Fes medina riad/hotel in the spring. They are also passionate about bringing guests to the countryside, hopefully for day trips, where they return at night to their Fes-based hotel. Paul and Finley (their 3 y.o. son) came down yesterday to see the area. Since Paul’s got a LandRover Defender we could actually get to some places that are difficult to access w/o transport. I invited Hassan (Tourism Assn Pres.) along so they could get to know one another for future tourism planning. And just my luck, I was finally going to get to see the infamous Auberge up in the mountains. This lodge (sleeps 27 but in need of some repair) is fairly remote, owned by the Ministry of Youth and Sport, and available for use. Pete wants to work w/Hassan’s Assoc to bring kids up next summer for a camp. It’s also a great spot from which to hike all over the Middle Atlas Mountains.

Well, it was much more adventurous than just a ride into the mountains. The roads are not maintained and sketchy at best in many spots. After making our way to the Auberge and stretching our legs a bit, we decided to try to make it up to Ain Jeu. This is a natural spring above the Auberge and legend has it that if you drink its water, you’ll become hungry. So off we set-and with the Defender in full 4WD on rain-slicked mud and rocky ‘road’, we were slipping and sliding like a wild Disneyland E-ticket ride. Only we weren’t OSHA certified. A couple km up the road, we came to a rockslide that completely blocked our way. Tfoo! And there’s no backing down the road we just bounced up-likely to bounce right off the downhill side. Tfoo! It took about an hour of Paul and Hassan checking best spots, a couple of shepherds weighing in with their opinions, before Paul magically managed to turn the Defender around on a road that was NOT wide enough to do so, without careening off the cliff. I kept Finley occupied, safely out of the car and out of the way, and walked back down to the Auberge so Paul could control the descent w/o worrying about others (esp. Finley) in the car. I’m not sure who was more relieved when he got the Defender to the Auberge, but Hassan needed a cigarette! OK, so maybe it’s hiking only above the Auberge, yak?

By the time we were driving back to REK, the fog and low clouds had lifted, so we had good views all the way down-incl. through the beautiful cedar forest. Fortunately Finley was a star and slept most of the way back-not a peep out of him-despite no lunch either. God bless Paul’s parents and the Defender. Otherwise we’d still be walking back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Will Always Call Him Coach

I just came across this summary of the tribute to Wooden in the UCLA Magazine online and had to share it. My first year at UCLA was Wooden's last coaching the much heralded Bruins. It was remarkable and so was he....

Last spring, UCLA was busily planning to pull out all the stops in a birthday bash for Coach John Wooden, who would have turned 100 on Oct. 14. How could we appropriately thank this extraordinary teacher who served as head men's basketball coach from 1948-1975 and had brought us 10 national championships in 12 years, a feat that will never be equaled? How could we show the boundless love and respect we all shared for the man we simply called Coach (and he must have liked that, since the title of Wooden's first best-selling book was They Call Me Coach)? How do you appropriately honor the author of the deceptively simple Pyramid of Success, a blueprint for a well-lived life that inspired thousands, perhaps millions, of people around the world for decades — and still does?

Sadly, we never got the chance. Coach passed away on June 4, 2010.

Instead, the Bruin family honored Wooden with a memorial that took place on June 26 in Pauley Pavilion. It was a moving celebration of Coach's rich life that was at times joyous, at times sorrowful. Speakers on the program — including sportscasters Al Michaels, Dick Enberg and Vin Scully, UCLA head men's basketball Coach Ben Howland and former Bruin basketball players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar '69, Keith Erickson '65 and Jamaal Wilkes '74 — drew both laughter and tears as they relayed their favorite Coach maxims or stories.

When the nearly two-hour-long ceremony ended with a video chronicling Wooden's life, viewers were left with one final image of Coach, smiling and waving from the balcony of his little condominium in Encino. The lights were still low as the entire audience in Pauley rose to its feet, applauding.

One last standing ovation for the man we will always call Coach.

— Wendy Soderburg '82

It's a Gift

That is, the time I’ve got left. Had just another week in town. Yet not. I’m trying to make the most of my time now that it’s so limited. Starting to wrap things up…

Got access today to the Coop’s computer. Delighted to find that they’ve finally got Microsoft Office loaded-at first they had some very basic operating system software and I was concerned that it wouldn’t be of much use to them. Sat down w/Nora and Ferida to teach them all about its use w/photos. Downloading, editing, copying and pasting, saving, etc. Downloaded some of my files to their hard drive-need to download the rest on Saturday. Told the two of them that they need to monitor the Coop’s email address at the cyber at least once/week (and that I’m gonna send them messages to check up on this). I’ve received a couple requests for quotes from people who got the email address off their website, but finally tracked me down when they didn’t get a response from the Coop. Can’t afford to lose out on these opportunities.

Had a very sweet time w/the Coop women on Tuesday. They’ve got Samira’s zrbya on the loom and are working hard to get it done and sent to Tanger before she leaves for the states in November. It was fun to sit with them and help tie the knots on the zrbya (the only weaving I can be trusted to do), talking and laughing together for hours. Love those women!

Had a nice time w/Pete and his mom-she was in town and we swapped doing dinner. I also got invited w/them to Hassan’s family for lunch on Monday-at it was a ‘treat’-actually a dish pronounced ‘treat’. Very labor intensive, similar to rafissa (w/o miloui and fenlgreek)-and delicious. They’ve gone back up to Fes until Saturday when they return w/more family for the couscous workshop. Apparently the Tawmatine women have changed the location for the workshop to a nicer, newer, less expensive building. I’ll go by and see in on Saturday when they’re doing the workshop. Inshallah Amy from AUI and her friends are still coming over then and I can show them as well.

I also need to get in touch w/Paul to see what time he’s coming on Sunday to check out trekking sites in the area w/Hassan. Hopefully Becky and Finlay are coming as well. Inshallah the weather holds out for us-it’s been absolutely glorious fall weather the last several days.

I’ve also got this foodstuff that I’ve basically hoarded-saving for ‘special’ occasions. Exactly what does that mean? Means that I’ve held on to goodies like cheese, curry paste, tortillas, brown sugar and chocolate chips for WAY too long. All of things have been either shipped or carried over from the US and are precious cargo. I’m trying to work my way thru them in the limited time left. Made chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies yesterday. It’s always interesting to see how the first batch goes before I get the temp on the oven figured out. Reminder-the oven is just a metal box w/butane-fueled burner inside. No temp gauge, etc., so the first batch usually burns. And it did. Then decided that I needed to give away cookies or I’d eat them all myself. Peanut butter cookies to the café boys, choc chip to the Tawmatine women. Bismillah.

My ‘to do’ list is shrinking by the day. Leaves me with time on my hands. Good time to search for a chess tutorial to start learning some strategy-before Colin kicks my butt playing on the cruise. Found a fabulous site, w/over 50 games to learn from ( That’ll keep me busy!

I got word from Peace Corps that I’m definitely being replaced, and Nora’s family was told that it is going to be a couple. This is great to know-whether 1 or 2 people, either way I’m really happy to get this confirmation. It helps to know for planning purposes. They have what’s called a site visit from Oct 31-Nov 4. This will be their orientation time while I’m around to introduce them to people, projects, etc. I obviously need to be here, and can coordinate some of my final/checkout meetings, ie; w/the Artisana Delegate, when I can introduce them. Merhaba.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Gulp. Just got word that I'm definitely going to be replaced w/another Volunteer in my site. Don't know yet male or female. Thats so real. Gotta get the transition plan in place. Gulp. Forget the abstract "when I go home....", It's happening. And soon. Only 3 weeks to my last day in Ribat El Kheir. Gulp.

Painted Shelves

(posting started yesterday)
Stars aligned across the sea. The annual “Girl’s Weekend” in the states is taking place this weekend and it’s the 3rd one I’ve missed while in Morocco. Meanwhile the Fes girls gathered last night at Gail’s for a farewell party for Cynthia and me. Similar sized groups. Same generous souls. Same great support network. How fortunate to have both in my life. I can tell that I’m really not ready to say goodbye to any of Morocco. It’s touched me too deeply to let go just yet.

So I’ve had the weekend here in Fes, not only with the girls, but running into other medina friends. Abdulwahd and his lovely Niina-about to wed-tbakalikum. Caught up w/Khaild. Ran into Josephine, Evelyn, Max and the Clock Crew, Fulbrighter Lauren, Stacy and Pete w/their moms.

We (the girls) dragged ourselves out of bed –actually ponges--to the Boujeloud café for qHwa and petit pan. That was when I realized I really didn’t need to head home, as tomorrow is souq so it will be quiet in town. Instead, I’ll stay and play in Fes and go to Sefrou w/Jess tonite instead.

This gives me a chance to go w/Jess down to Paul and Becky’s place deep in the medina. They’ve worked 18 mos to renovate their riad/home and it’s a beauty. Their finishing and restoration of originals details is gorgeous. Paul and I had a chance to talk about some ideas he has. See, he and Becky are also renovating another place to make into a hotel, and hope to open to tourists in the spring and have property in Chaouen where they want to do the same. In addition, Paul’s got a strong background in rural development with many years working for NGO’s/agencies in Africa and he misses this in this current (great) life in Fes. He’d like to combine the tourism they’ll soon have with development efforts somehow. Anyway, Inshallah he’s gonna come out to REK next weekend and we can get Hassan to take him to check out the natural springs, hiking areas and the Auberge in the mountains for overnights.

We left Jess to the mural she’s doing in their son Finley’s room to go and see Omar the second-hand furniture guy. I was just going along out of curiosity on my way back up the medina to Gail’s. We duck into this doorway where Omar meets us to unlock another door to his “shop”. Clearly you need to know Omar to see his shop as it’s well off the tourist track, not marked and only opens upon request. Don’t know what Paul was looking for, but my drooling commenced immediately. First stop-Beni Ourain carpets like the Adwal women weave. Curious on the price. 500DH. Bsshah? Rxis bzaf. Very cheap. What middleman sold them to Omar and how little did the artisans get paid? Hshuma. The irony is that this tells me his prices are very affordable, so I start looking around. OMG, he’s got a bunch of the fab old painted shelves that I’ve craved. The only Moroccan décor item I’ve not purchased ‘cuz how in the heck would I get them home? Omar, will you ship to the U.S.? No. Negotiate price. Only 600DH. Yikes-great price. Mushkil. How to get them home. See everyone thinks it’s so easy-just take them to a carpenter to get a crate made and ship via the post office. Easy if you live in Fes, not so easy to get them to REK and find a way to do this. OK, just take them with you. Right. Carry them back to REK, to Spain, on the cruise, etc. No way that’s happening. Omar, 3afek, wes nta gadi tsiftu liya l America? Waxa. He finally agrees, and for only 400DH more. Bsshah? Sold! Oh, but Paul needs to come back tomorrow to help him do it, and Paul agrees. God bless his parents. I go to sleep last night dreaming about where I’ll put them.

Transaction completed, I headed back to Gail’s to help her out a bit-had several hours to kill. I get set up in the Clock kitchen to sterilize and fill jars w/zmita for Fes Deli. 37 jars later I meet up w/Jess and we head to Sefrou. Early night as her DVD player isn’t working. Leyla saida.

I’m excited for Jess’ home renovation in the Sefrou medina kasbah-her kitchen’s gonna rock when it’s completed. She’s also getting the artwork I purchased from her show all crated up to ship. One of the pieces I bought was a collaborative piece w/a friend of hers named Vanessa. Seems that the sale of the piece will fund Vanessa to come visit Jess in December. Hamdullah.

Back home in REK now and need to work out my calendar for the little time remaining. Need to see if Hassan’s available to take Paul and I around next weekend; find out when Bouchra wants to bring her marketing students to talk w/the Adwal women; when Raja is coming down, when I can get Alice and Jess together w/Amy at AUI and if I’m for certain getting a replacement so I know if I need to be in town my last week for their site visit. See, I need to get another Fes trip in to say my goodbyes there.

Time is running out fast. Am I ready to let go?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cooperative Power

Those of us fortunate enough to work alongside Moroccan women on a daily basis have seen the power of the Cooperative in their lives. Read more here from an article commissioned by Magharebia.

Morocco co-operatives strengthen female independence.
By Siham Ali 2010-09-30

Co-operatives are changing the lives of women, teaching them new skills and rewarding them with financial freedom. Many women in rural areas of Morocco have joined female-only co-operatives and taken their destiny into their own hands. The businesses have changed their lives completely, providing the women with their own income and increasing their self-esteem.

In the Souss-Massa-Draa region, for example, thousands of women have joined forces for a tree cultivation project. Nezha Aktir, a graduate of Agadir University, decided in 2004 that she would help women in her region by setting up the Tifaout Women's Agricultural Co-operative, which has 72 members. She admitted that revenue is still modest, but previously these women were earning virtually nothing. "There are no clubs for women. They go the whole year round with nothing to do. Hence the idea of setting up this co-operative so that they can receive a financial benefit and meet other people," said Khadija Benchich, chairperson of the Adrar co-operative.

Sociologist Hamid Bekkali says that co-operative work enables women in rural areas to open up to the outside world and to build on their skills, even though the men were reluctant to accept the idea at first. "Women had to be patient in order to change their daily lives," Bekkali explained. "Women in rural areas have always worked hard, but have never been able to have a tangible income." "The organisation of women into co-operatives is an important turning point which has given women financial independence and the power to take decisions," she added. "This has a positive effect on family life and children's education. Women in rural areas have become real actors in local development."

The co-op employees also receive tuition for literacy classes and training in other skills, including business organisation and marketing for their products. "At the start, my husband was suspicious. He didn't want me to work in a co-operative. Despite that, I decided to go down this route. After a few months, he came to realise the value of my decision," Zahra Tasskifet, a mother of four, said. She added that the income she earns helps to provide education for her children.

According to Moroccan government statistics, the proportion of co-operatives run by women has risen from 2.14% in 1995 to 12.5% in 2010. There are now more than 7,000 co-operatives in the Kingdom, representing 360,600 members. "The ministry of economic and general affairs has shown a great interest in the sector. The idea is to promote local products and enable co-operatives to market their products with much greater room for manoeuvre than in the past, when intermediaries would minimise the workers' earnings," said economist Reda Bachaoui.

Fatima, a mother of three, was desperate to tell Magharebia how she became a different person after starting work with the co-operative, earning around 1,000 dirhams (90 euros) a month. "In the rural area where we live, that's a very attractive income for a woman. I feel my life has changed. I'm not totally submissive any more. I feel stronger and I've got a lot more self-esteem because my efforts are being rewarded," Fatima said.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Do List: Check!

Hand-off Al Akhawayn University project to 1st yr PCV: Check!
Marketing Day Tours to Ribat El Kheir: Check!
Money to ATPF Assn: Check!
Showroom catalog for Adwal: Check!
Going away party w/Fes friends: Check!

Managed to catch up w/Bouchra and Amy at Al Akhawayn on Tuesday and introduced Kate to them. She’ll be following up on the Free Trade website. Hopefully Bouchra and I will have time to get her Marketing class over to REK week after next to initiate their project to help Adwal with their marketing efforts.

I’ve got all the marketing materials completed and sent out to solicit Day Tour tourists/visitors to Ribat El Kheir. Generating interest already. Inshallah this will bring a lot of badly-needed tourists and their *flus* to town. I’ll try to attach a copy of the flyer. Merhaba Day Trippers!

Finally sat down with Meriem and Amina to give them the PCPP grant money so they can complete the purchase of their equipment. Slight mushkil. They had trouble making the 500DH/mo rent in their Creamery, so are looking for a cheaper place. Meanwhile, another group of women have set up shop to sell their breads, hlwa, etc. immediately downstairs from my apt. One idea multiplied quickly by 4 and the ATPF Assn women have a lot of competition. The equipment should really give them an advantage in what they can cook and offer for sale. Inshallah.

I received an inquiry-second one from the website I made for Adwal-to quote on several items-handira and zrbya. I gave the info to Fatima last week for a quote, but she’s now in Rabat for a 10 day expo. I told Zhara that the woman who sent the inquiry also contacted Peace Corps, and there could be a number of other Coops bidding for this business. If they want the business, they need to get me the quote. Got it and sent it today. F l-xyr. Also asked them to add carding and spinning wool to the Day Tour workshop-people like more ‘hands-on’ experience and this would be a good addition. Check!

I’ll be heading up to Fes on Saturday for a going away party for Cynthia and myself w/friends there. Gail’s gonna host a dinner-will be great to see everyone, but I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet.

The more I think about it, the more enamored I am with the prospect of doing business w/Samira on importing Moroccan handicrafts into the US. We met w/several artisans and some of my Fes friends to discuss this possibility last week when Samira was in town. There are a lot of people I’ve met-Moroccan as well as expats, who have or are starting businesses to develop high quality goods and need a US-based contact to export. Hmmmm, ymkn.

Meanwhile, I’ve started a list of some things I’ve learned (or appreciated anew) over the last 2 years here in Morocco:
I can have more patience than I ever thought possible
I’m more creative than I gave myself credit for
Forgiveness-of others and myself
To sit back and go w/the flow
People are people are people-we’re basically all the same
Friends are invaluable to happiness
Extreme heat is harder than extreme cold
Music soothes
Walking helps you see the world
I love donkeys
Long hair is easy
Family matters
I’m not ready for grey hair
I can live w/o a TV, but not w/o a computer and internet
I’ll always be amazed at the handicraft of artisans
I can learn a new language at my age
Moroccan generosity is world-class
I don’t need much, just friends and family
I won’t melt in the rain
I really don’t like to cook
Most NGOs are well-meaning but bring band-aids
Makeup is overrated
I can amuse myself for hours at a time
Air dried laundry rocks
I love sweet mint Moroccan green tea
Go when others invite you come along-you never know what adventure awaits
Most of the best images are in grey cells, not pixels
I’ve enjoyed not driving
Morocco grows strong women
I can now manage “hand wash only”
One really good glass of wine can seem bottomless
Acrylic nails-no; Pedicures-yes
Text messaging has clear benefits
It is NOT about me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Geographic Al Arabiya

After decades of turning out yellow-framed covers featuring Egyptian artifacts and other Mideast treasures, National Geographic magazine will for the first time soon start printing in Arabic.

The picture-packed science magazine lining countless bookshelves plans to issue its first Arabic edition next month, making its more than century-old publisher the latest Western media company to tap the growing Middle East media market.

"The stories in this magazine talk about all countries and all cultures," said Mohamed al-Hammadi, editor-in-chief of the new edition, who expressed hope it would give Arab readers a deeper understanding of the planet and how others live. "The readers here, they need this," he said in an interview.

With backing from the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi, "National Geographic Al Arabiya" aims to reach readers across 15 countries from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. It will contain translated articles from the 122-year-old U.S. edition and original pieces tailored to the region.

On Wednesday, the magazine named a panel of seven Arab experts who will serve as advisers and contributors. They include Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, female Saudi medical researcher Khawla al-Kuraya and Essam Heggy, a Libyan-born planetary specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The goal is to produce at least a fifth of the articles locally, al-Hammadi said.

This is great news. Merhaba National Geographic-Al Arabiya!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh what a week it's been....

Left Rabat on Sunday as soon as our COS conference ended-needed to get on the 6pm train to Fes to meet up with Rebecca. We stayed at a new riad in Ziat-well located and a nice place. Monday we prowled around the medina-down to the tanneries, Place Seffarine and Nejarrine, pottery and zelij works, all before meeting up with Samira after her train arrived from Tangier. We then headed over to Michele’s so she and Samira could discuss Michele’s Hammam business idea and Samira’s interest in setting up an import business. Future collaboration? Ymkn.

We headed off Tuesday morning to Ain Leuh for Samira to see the Coop’s weaving, for me to pick up the handira that Khadija wove for me and to see the Coop women one last time. Unfortunately Khadija was in Meknes, so while I didn’t see her, I got my handira and 11 year old Ahelan made us tea. Purchases and orders were made, tea drunk, Ain Leuh-check!

We managed to convince Randy to come with us and on Wednesday headed over to my site. This trip was made considerably easier by buying out the 5 taxis it took to get there. Even that relatively easy trip amazed Samira and Rebecca with how complicated is it to get around here. Samira was constantly comparing “your” Morocco (meaning Randy and mine in the countryside) to “her” Morocco. Shuf, you can get anywhere you want to go in Morocco-you just need time and patience.

We got to REK and made a bit of lunch before heading off to the Adwal Coop. I had told Zahra and Fatima that I wanted them to do the natural dye and weaving workshop for us. This would be their first trial run at this new day-trip tourist option. They came thru like stars. They had tea and milowi for us, the natural dye demo ready to go, showed how they card and spin the wool (same wool we washed in the river in August) and demo'd their weaving techniques. Overall a very good showing for their 1st workshop. A few bugs to work out, but they did a very nice job. Purchases made, orders taken and we set off on a walk.

During our walk I received a concerning call from a PCV about another PCV friend. This led to calls late into the night, Peace Corps staff involvement and her early departure back to the states on Friday. Trek slama JC. Love to you.

Thursday we headed over to the Tawmatine Assn for their hand-rolling couscous workshop. I’d run into a friend in the Fes medina with Rebecca on Monday and Vanessa wanted to come with some visitors to REK to do the couscous workshop. Great timing-they joined Samira, Rebecca, Randy and I. This was the 4th tourist workshop the Tawmatine women have done and it was good to see it run with a group of 7 of us. That’s more complicated and good to observe the logistics to make a few suggestions.

Keeping to our plan, it was back to Fes for all of us-Rebecca and I to continue on to Rabat, Randy to Ain Leuh and Samira to meet w/Gail and Michele again and then visit with family members in Fes.

By the time Rebecca and I arrived in Rabat, we went on to the French Institute for dinner before heading to our riad on the back side of the medina. And what a riad it was-a beautiful mix of contemporary and traditional Moroccan design, all beautifully finished. Lovely.

Friday morning I headed over to the office for a brief good bye to my friend before she headed to the airport and back to the states. Back to the riad in time for a leisurely breakfast with Rebecca. We then wandered thru the Oudayas kasbah and gardens. It was a short walk from our riad, right on the Atlantic and a very picturesque blue and white charming neighborhood I’d never seen before. By the time we walked back thru the medina to see some of the Ville area, the Friday call to prayer had sounded and most of the shops were closed. At least that made for an easy walk thru the medina.

As we headed up Mohamed V Blvd, we saw crowds in front of the Parliament building. Since protests are commonplace events in the capitol, I figured this was just another one. However, it was quite orderly and ½ the boulevard was blocked off. Ymkn not the usual protest crowd. Asked a policeman what was going on and discovered that it was the opening of Parliament and the king was coming in an hour or so. We found the best vantage point we could and parked ourselves on some steps for the wait. How many opportunities do you have to see a king? About 2 hours later, we know we saw him ascend the stairs across the street, but I honestly have no idea which of the cloaked men was him. Yes, I have photos-you tell me which one is the king.

Back to the riad, we had a couple hours to lounge/read on the zwin rooftop before heading out for dinner to a restaurant that Samira had recommended. We had a lovely meal, drank a very nice (and what felt like bottomless) bottle of wine and back for an early night to bed. I got Rebecca on the train to the airport yesterday morning and I headed back to Fes and onward to REK. I’m glad that timing worked out as I had to remind people of our meeting today.

Today’s meeting was a good one. I brought together all 5 Associations/Cooperatives who are involved in the REK Tourism options, the translator and Gail from Fes (one of the tourism booking agents). Thankfully everyone (except Michele-but Gail will relay the info to her) was there and we reviewed all the details-who will do what, how the trips will be booked and paid for, etc. We’ve already run 4 couscous workshops, 1 olive oil workshop and 1 natural dye and weaving workshop. Inshallah there will be plenty more to follow.

Now I’ve got some catching up to do. Been away from the computer and internet for over a week and a lot I need to follow up on. Fortunately I have only a day trip this week to Ifrane, so I’ll be able to get a lot of things checked off my ‘to do’ list.

The Long Goodbyes

Oct 3
We’ve just completed our Close of Service conference in Rabat and I’m on the train as I type this (to be posted later) to Fes. Caught Rebecca quickly on the phone last night to make certain she got to the riad safely. Spoke to her as she had a glass of red wine and was sitting down to dinner. Hamdullah. My train is on time and I’ll join her in a couple hours to start catching up.

The conferece was really geared to the youner PCVs who will be returning to the states to face job hunting, grad school, etc. The best session for me was the last one-getting us thinking about how we’ll say goodbye to the people of our communities. I need to have a game plan and communicate my timing as the last 2 weeks will be really crazy and involve some last-minute PC travel.

Our superlatives and photo session (complete w/burgers and onion rings at the American Club) was followed by a party at the Marine House behind the American Club. The Marine House is part bar and part fraternity. While my fraternity party-going days are long behind me, it was fun to be there as a group, dancing together, having GOOD beer, a final hurrah all together. We’ll all be together again for our 72 hour checkout when we officially sign out of service, but this was our last opportunity for a gathering like this. Now I need to sign off as the train is pulling into the Fes station.

Friday, October 1, 2010

OMG it's OCT

Wow. October already. Only 6 weeks left in country. Yikes. So much to do.

I’m in Rabat for our Close of Service Conference and final medical exams. Medical and Dental are done and a clean bill of health, Hamdullah. The good news is that everyone is really delighted w/the Medical staff-a complete turnover and turnaround from last year’s Medical fiascos. Our conference starts this afternoon.

It’s been a really sweet couple of days w/just our SBD group. We’ve been a very tight-knit group and it’s great to see everyone and catch up. Funny thing is that despite how spread out across the country we are, we’ve been able to see one another (side trips, work related leave trips, etc.) fairly often. We’re staying at the Balima-a nice hotel for a change (nice=towels, soap, good water pressure and hot water all day, etc.). Shukran.

Got to catch up with Sarah on her and Brahim’s wedding. So great to hear about the traditions in her far southern Berber town. So different from the Arabic-style weddings of our area. I’ll post a photo of she and Brahim in their wedding attire. Wish I’d been able to go, but had promised Jess I’d be in Fes to help her with her show instead. Dena, another of our stajj-mates announced last night that’s she’s now engaged to her Moroccan boyfriend. She’ll be staying here in Morocco after we’re done as she’s already got a job w/an organization that runs Morocco cultural tours for student studying abroad in Europe. Tbarkalikum.

Why has it taken us 2 years to discover the restaurant at the French Institute? I could have been treating myself every time I’ve come into Rabat. Seven of us ate there the other night-maybe the best meal I’ve had in Morocco-sole meuniere, fresh spinach, crème brulee. Yum. Cynthia and I are going back for lunch today before we have to head to the office.

Tonight we’ve got a party set up at the American Club for just our stajj. Joy’s been polling everyone to develop “superlatives” on each member of our group and Lisa has spent the last week making an ink drawing of our entire group-it’s amazing, and we’ll each get a copy of it.

Meanwhile there’s even more work to be done. I received an email from an American woman who has seen Adwal’s website and wants to order product-Yipee! However, the women aren’t monitoring their email, so this American has tracked me down somehow and persisted in making contact-hamdullah. Need to coordinate that order. In addition, a group from the US Embassy is having a meeting in Marrakech the first week in November and contacted me about bringing in some artisans to sell their stuff. I volunteered to help coordinate this and they took me up on the offer. Be careful what you wish for! Since it’s the week of the new Volunteer’s site visit-and I’m supposed to be replaced-and the week before we leave the country, I’m gonna try to get someone else to do the coordination-timing is just tough. And then I’ve been invited to participate in the Environment/Health PCV training in Marrakech, so that’s another long trip to fit in. I’m running out of days. Quickly.

Anyway, it’s been a nice quiet week, with time to get things done around our medical appts, and it will be good to see the YD PCVs who are coming in today. Now I need to get dressed to meet up w/Cynthia. B’slama.