Monday, November 30, 2009
My two lovely turkeys on their way home from the market
Turkey #1 hanging out on the kitchen counter waiting for the festivities to begin
Turkey #2 about to be plucked
Turkey #2 stuffed and squeezed into my neighbor’s butagas oven
My neighbors’ and friends’ first Thanksgiving
Overall, I had a great time and I thought my first ever solo attempt at turkey and stuffing and hot spiced apple cider and pumpkin pie turned out really well. After some discussion, however, my guests all decided that the turkey would have been better roasted on kabobs and the stuffing better if we’d used rice instead of bread. So the verdict still stands that it was cute of me to try, but I still need some serious cooking lessons before I can even think about ever finding someone to marry me.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
You can read the students' summary of the weekend on their blog, here:
Thursday, November 12, 2009
My 2nd host father's brother's wife's father's sister's son is my 1st host father. Said another way, I am my great uncle's son in law's niece, or the reverse, my uncle's father in law's great niece.
I'm still working on drawing the family tree of the entire village - it's already pretty overwhelming - but it's fun to see how everyone fits into the picture.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Moroccan couscous - the traditional way
Couscous, or seksu as it's know in Moroccan Arabic, is one of the staple foods of the Maghreb. It's made of ground semolina that's moistened and rolled in flour.
These days we usually buy ready-cooked couscous in packets from the supermarket, but there are parts of Morocco where it is still hand-rolled by village women and the difference in taste is remarkable. This is the 'real thing'.
Cynthia Berning, a US Peace Corps volunteer, has been working with a women's association in the small mud village of Khoukhate, some 130km south of Fez in the Middle Atlas, with the aim
of bringing back an appreciation for the art - and taste - of hand-rolled couscous.
"The majority of women and girls [in the village] are still illiterate and thus have few opportunities to contribute financially to providing for their families", explains Cynthia.
"Enter the Association ENNAHDA ('rebirth' in Arabic), an association with the goal of increasing the standard of living for all residents of Khoukhate through the creation of employment for the women of the village."
When the operation started two years ago, it was limited to couscous production. But the business has now grown to include jams made from locally-grown fruit - fig, apple, apricot, orange, carrot and watermelon, there's herb-infused olive oil, almond butter, and the Moroccan high-energy snack 'zmita'. All the products are marketed under the name 'El Karma', which is Moroccan Arabic for fig tree, and is also the name of the natural spring in the village.
Now the association has an eco-tourism project where groups of visitors are welcomed to Khoukhate to learn the secrets of a good Moroccan couscous, and at the same time experience traditional rural life. Visitors roll their own couscous from scratch with the local women, and then cook it and eat it for lunch.
Couscous preparation: step 1
Step 2: sifting the couscous
Couscous ready for sale
The association has teamed up with Fez Food and Cafe Clock and it's now possible to learn this traditional art in Fez - great for people who don't have the time to go out to the village. There are monthly couscous workshops at Cafe Clock, conducted in English, French and Darija. The three-hour session begins with fresh vegetables, wholewheat flour, and water brought from the village spring. It finishes with lunch, and could be the best couscous you've ever eaten.
The next workshop is at 11h30-14h30 on Friday 13 November at Cafe Clock. For details and to book, contact Fez Food. Fez Food also runs excursions to the village.
For a peek into Cynthia's adventures in this tiny village, visit her blog, Couscous Chronicles. Information on the women's association can be found here.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Finally this past week, money arrived from the government to divert the water and fix the road. The Izzies retracted their false police report and slaughtered a sheep in reconciliation. And rumor has it the road will be fixed (and paved!!!), starting this week! I can't even imagine what kinds of drama people will create once the building begins, but I'm sure it'll be fun!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I feel a little bad for complaining for the past year about how bad our road was, when now I would give anything to have our bad, bumpy, rocky road back. Now the village is completely inaccessible to cars, trucks, sheep vans – the only way in and out is by foot or by donkey. Yesterday morning I was coming to Fes for an exposition and had to bring a suitcase full of couscous to sell. I woke my neighbor’s ten year old son up at 5am and we loaded the 88 pound suitcase onto the back of his donkey to make the long, slow half-hour trek in the dark, up to where all the vans now have to stop. Twice, he and the suitcase fell off the donkey into mud puddles and had to be remounted. When I installed running water a few weeks ago, I joked that running water might change my status from a “Peace Corps” volunteer (volunteers who live in the “bled” with no amenities) to “Posh Corps” volunteer (volunteers who live in cities and have internet and hot showers in their houses). But I think my donkey trek out yesterday morning proves I belong in the Peace Corps category.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Since my first week in the village, the school director has been talking about the urgent need for toilets for the school. The government I guess is in the habit of building classrooms in villages, but not building bathrooms, so the students have to either hold it all day or use the fields around the back of the school. School bathroom building is a pretty common peace corps project in Morocco, and my site mate Jed is a health sector volunteer who was interested in taking this on, so everything seemed pretty straight forward. We held a series of meeting with the parents starting in April, telling them we would supply all the materials if they agreed to each contribute one day of labor for free. We asked around and found a guy who knew how to build stuff and hired him as our foreman. Jed filed all the paperwork, we involved the association, and received the money from USAID in June. Once we had the money, we arranged with the foreman a day at the beginning of July to go together to Midelt and buy everything we needed and bring it back to the village in one trip. Everything was going great and we had plenty of time to finish building these simple bathrooms before Ramadan started. I was busy getting excited about the blog post I was going to write when it was all finished ("my most concrete project yet").
Favorite moments in the past year of service:
1.Evening exercise sessions with my host sisters - turning up loud techno music and dancing our hearts out until we're pouring sweat and can't dance anymore, we're laughing so hard
2.The day we started construction on the school toilets, knocking down the old ones, collecting the rocks and pieces of wood, and being excited that it was finally underway
3.Riding my mountain bike down the dirt road into the village - all downhill and fast and absolutely gorgeous
4.Sunset runs out between the plateaus with my dog. Even after almost a year of daily runs, I'm still blown away by how pretty it is every single afternoon. Sunrise is pretty too, but I'm not very good at getting up for that
5.Hanging out with my host brothers when they sell kitchen ware at souq - taking over for them when they go off to run errands, and pretending like there's nothing strange about an American selling tea glasses, cheap plastic Tupperware and silverware in a random rural market in Morocco
6.Long underwear dance parties in winter whenever volunteers get together - turning out the lights and setting our headlamps to "strobe" while we dance to last year's now-out-of-date pop music.
7.Daily afternoon soccer games with the boys, especially when my host brothers come out to play and I get really competitive
8.Watching my neighbors/landlords/family slowly climb the social ladder with every month's rent I pay them, and knowing there's not another family in the world that I would rather see succeed
9.Harvesting barley, weeding the tomato fields, pulling up carrots, or doing whatever random agricultural work there is that day with my host brother, even if it's hard and tedious and gives me horrendous blisters
10.The day a friend and I set out on foot to find a path to this lake that, according to Google Maps, was right over the mountains and through the forest from the village. Drinking tea in a nomad tent, then thinking we'd lost ourselves in the middle of the mountains and then seeing the blue of the lake after six hours of hiking. When we were tired and hungry, being invited to eat lunch at the lake with a fantastic family who then offered us a ride home and invited us to a wedding that weekend, and whom I still track down at their stand whenever I'm in souq, just to say hello.
So those are the great parts of Peace Corps life. Needless to say, this line of work has its frustrations too. A year in, and our couscous business has yet to find a major client, or really anyone who can be counted on to buy more than a couple of kilos a month (I thought for sure we'd be selling in every major supermarket by now). All my hundreds of hours of grant-writing have resulted in less than a thousand dollars of grant money (I thought we'd have a brand new couscous-making facility, and goats and rabbits and a cheese operation by now). And as good as my Arabic is compared to the majority of volunteers here, there are still countless interactions a day where I simply fail to understand or to make myself understood. And the speed at which this past year has gone by makes me afraid that the remaining fifteen months won't be enough to accomplish everything I think I should be able to accomplish.
Ways you can help me, if you're interested:
1.Put me in contact with anyone you know in Morocco, especially if they own/work in a hotel or restaurant or supermarket or travel agency
2.Mail me as many broccoli seeds as you can find, literally. No one here grows any winter vegetables so I want to get some of the farmers to experiment with broccoli, not to mention I miss broccoli more than probably any other food.
3.If you know anyone who's planning a vacation to Morocco, suggest that they take a few hours and stop by the village to make couscous with us - it really is still the best couscous I've ever eaten, and people seem to really enjoy our cooking classes
4.Send me any suggestions you have for anything, really: i.e. grant opportunities, online travel forums I should post to, ideas for other money-making projects or places to sell our couscous.
I've never really minded pulling my water up out of the well (I think the novelty still hasn't worn off, and it makes me feel like a real Peace Corps volunteer). But my neighbors who share my well use way more water than I do, as they actually wash their floors and do their laundry and cook and clean a lot more often than I do. So when I realized that I could buy a pump for the well and set up running water for both of our houses for only about $150, I decided that would be a nice thing to do for the family that has all but adopted me the past seven months since I moved in next door to them. So finally after about a dozen trips to Zaida to pick up the pump, then exchange it for a different one, then buy more tubing, then pick up this or that part that we'd forgotten, I have two working faucets in my house - one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. Living in luxury now.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
12pm wake up, lie around until I’m too bored to stay in bed longer
2pm do some work for the association – work on grant proposals or brainstorm for new projects or meet with the president
5:30pm go for a slow, easy 5-mile jog
6:30pm get home, shower, wander over to whoever’s house I’ve been invited to break fast at
7pm (or whenever the sunset call to prayer is heard) break fast with dates, tea, bread and soup, and try not to be annoyed when everyone tells me I am drinking too much water and should eat more instead
8pm hang out there or go home and do some more work
12am eat a small dinner, usually wherever I’ve broken fast
1am say I’m going to sleep but really just go home and work some more or read, trying to stay up as late as possible so I can sleep longer during the day (I usually only make it until about 2 before I fall asleep)
4am wake up to chug a Nalgene and eat a bowl of cereal and brush my teeth before the morning call to prayer, at which point fasting begins again and I go back to sleep
So by the time I wake up, there’s only six or seven hours before I can eat, which isn’t bad at all, considering I just lounge around my house the whole time, distracting myself from hunger and thirst. People seem really impressed that I still run every day, but I have it much easier than most – my host father still has to drive his van around all day while fasting, my neighbors still have to weed and water the tomato fields all afternoon while fasting, and all the women still clean and bake bread and do laundry and then prepare breakfast and dinner while fasting. I’ve spent one day so far awake and active (went into town to get my computer fixed and used the internet), and by the middle of the afternoon I was exhausted and miserable and had a horrible headache. But time passed and I survived another day of fasting. I think it’s going to be a very slow (but also incredibly productive, hopefully) month.
The month of Ramadan, when everyone fasts during the day, began last weekend. I’ve been partly dreading the start of the month, knowing that fasting is something I really should do but will probably be pretty unpleasant. I fasted a couple of days last year, and it really did make “iftor” (breakfast) with people a lot more satisfying, plus I know I could use some work developing patience. The other part of me, after several weeks of travel and weddings and overall stress, was looking forward to just sitting in my house and relaxing for a whole month, taking care of some grant-writing and other work that wouldn’t require me to get dressed or leave my bed. I still think maybe a whole month is a bit excessive, but I do like the idea behind fasting – that for one month, everyone is equal – the poor and the rich are eating exactly the same food and even the king knows what it’s like to be hungry. Outside of the Arab world, I doubt very many kings or other heads of state have ever once really felt hunger. Another thing I really like about Ramadan is that it would be so easy to cheat without anyone knowing, and yet everyone holds themselves to this high standard. Fasting during Ramadan seems to be the one part of Islam that absolutely everyone takes extremely seriously. I know a lot of people who drink alcohol regularly (forbidden in Islam) and a lot of people who rarely pray (5 times a day is required), but I don’t know a single person who doesn’t fast. It seems like for a lot of people, being good for a month during Ramadan – not drinking or going out with girls, actually praying when you’re supposed to – covers you for the next eleven months of doing whatever you want to. Not a bad deal, I guess.
Monday, August 17, 2009
1. Ifrane: Wedding season got off to a great start with this unexpected and super fun wedding. My friend Kristen and I showed up in her training village hoping to interview her host family for a movie we’re making, only to find that half of the village was missing, gone to a wedding in Ifrane. So of course, because we had to get these interviews in, we went too. After the sheep-and-gift parade around the streets, we spent the whole evening and night dancing and eating the best Moroccan food I’ve had so far (excepting my association’s couscous, of course).
2. “Tabbie” village: I found out about this wedding around 5pm the day of, when my neighbors told me I should come along with them later, even though I didn’t know the couple or really anyone in that village. “Not a problem,” they said, “we’re just going to watch.” So I went over to my neighbors’ house, dressed and ready to go at 10pm, then we ate dinner and all fell asleep until 1am until someone received word that things were getting going. Nothing super exciting happened, since I guess if you’re not invited to the wedding it’s okay to sit and watch, but not to actually dance. Came home around 4am.
3. “Tabbie” village again: This one I should have seen coming and run for my life in the opposite direction. It was the women-only part of the wedding, and I’d been told we’d go and eat lunch, so I was pretty hungry from the beginning. Then we sat with about 60 women in a little, extremely hot room. The five minutes I got up and danced with my neighbor did not justify the four hours of my life I spent in that room, dripping sweat and waiting for the sun to set so it would all be over. I swore I’d never go to another women-only wedding “lunch” again.
4. “Debbie” village: I had a group of other Peace Corps Volunteers visiting me one weekend, and we all got invited to a wedding of yet another person I didn’t know. But I knew the family a little, and everyone I knew was going, and I got about fifteen separate pleading invitations to go, so I figured I should stop by. I thought I’d be clever, though, and use the new trick I’d learned the week before – if you wait until the middle of the night to show up, you don’t have to sit in the super hot room waiting for a dinner you don’t really want to eat. So four of us walked out around 1:30am, sure we’d missed dinner and could just join in the music and dancing. But our plan was foiled, as dinner wasn’t served until about 2:30am and we were forced to eat it. The worst part was the two guy volunteers (who didn’t know a single person in town) had to eat with the men while Kristen and I ate with the women in a completely different house. The men always get served first at weddings, so they finished eating around 2am and then had to wait around an hour outside waiting for the women to finish. By then everyone was exhausted and they all had to leave on the 6am sheep van, so we danced for a few minutes and walked home to catch an hour or two of sleep.
5. Some village I can never remember the name of: I’d been told this wedding was for someone in my neighbors’ family and that we’d go for the whole day to help them prepare, so I waited in my house all day, ready to go, until around 5 when we finally left. The village is an hour away by foot, and turned out to be not too fun at all, since I didn’t know anyone except my neighbors, and most of the festivities centered around the “haydous” (men in a line beating drums and chanting things I don’t understand, for hours). I discovered, though, that every wedding has a couple of sleeping rooms, where people can go to nap if they get tired. Mostly it’s children and old people, but I snuck in a few hours of sleep and woke up again around 4:30 am to catch the end of the wedding. No one seemed to notice and the haydous was still going on, so I don’t think I missed anything. The party broke up as soon as it began to get light out, and we made the long trek home at sunrise. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how beautiful my village is at sunrise, with all the plateaus and random people on donkeys. That walk home (after which I collapsed and didn’t wake up until the middle of the afternoon) made the whole long boring wedding worth it. Turns out everyone went back the next day too for either another wedding in the same place, or just another day of the same wedding. I hear it was way more fun, but I needed a day off from weddings.
6. My village, finally: Ever since I arrived here in November, my host family has been talking about their neighbors’ (and cousins’) plans for a huge wedding this summer. Originally it was supposed to be a joint wedding for a brother and sister, but the sister decided at the last minute a couple of weeks ago that she didn’t want to get married after all, so it was just a big wedding for her brother. I went the women-only lunch reluctantly, remembering how miserable the last one I went to had been, but I guess I was at the fun table this time, because it turned out to be a blast, and I couldn’t believe that when most people got up to leave, I didn’t run for the door, but rather stayed and danced more and hung out until we got kicked out of the room at sunset.
7. My village again: The wedding itself was two days later, and I decided this time there was no way I was getting caught in a room full of women waiting to be served dinner. So I showed up in the middle of the afternoon with an apron on, and planted myself in the garage (converted into kitchen for all the food preparation) and refused to leave. Plucked and cleaned and seasoned and cooked 32 chickens, guarded all the food against flies for a couple of hours, piled into a sheep van with the whole family to go to the town 10km away to bring the bride, and when the wedding finally started, ran dishes back and forth to the various rooms, washed tray after tray of tea glasses, and reported back to the garage every few minutes the eating status of all the different rooms. The work finally ended around 1am and the dancing began. I decided since this was probably the last big wedding of the season, and certainly the one where I knew the most people, I wasn’t going to waste it sitting and watching with all the women who were too shy to get up and dance. So I hung out in the back with the group of guys my age that I play soccer with; I still don’t know whether that was really inappropriate. But it was really fun. At dawn my neighbor and I went back to the house, changed out of our wedding clothes and headed out to the tomato fields, fully intending to put in a good morning’s work weeding. It only took about an hour to realize we were pretty useless having had no sleep, and gave up until afternoon.
8. Reprise: Bzou: I stopped by a good friend’s site on my way to Marrakech and discovered that the evening agenda included a big wedding at her host family’s neighbor’s house. I was pretty sad that wedding season was coming to an end so I happily donned a borrowed sparkly pink dress, learned the wedding chant that I’ve been meaning to learn for almost a year now but never had - “slah slem la rasu llah. Ila jayna ja sidna Mohammed, allah ma ja la-ali” (and then a lot of ululating). We left early, around 2 or 2:30, which I felt a little bad about considering I was pretty sure that this time it was the end of wedding season, but the previous month of wedding-related poor sleeping habits had taken its toll. All in all, a pretty good wedding season. I hear that there’s another month of wedding season after Ramadan ends; I think we all need this month-long break.
The wedding I went to last night included another version of this same call-and-response chanting, this time with men all in a line, called a “hay-dous”. This is a traditionally Berber wedding ritual, and they stood there in this line, shoulder to shoulder, bouncing up and down a little, for probably seven or eight hours in total during the wedding. The wedding guests joined them at one point, with everyone in this big circle, swaying back and forth and repeating the same chants over and over again for about two hours. It was fun for me for the first maybe ten minutes, then it just got old. But the rest of the guests couldn’t get enough and every time I was sure they’d run out of lines to chant and we could all sit down, someone else would come up with one and they’d keep at it. It almost seems like weddings are supposed to last until dawn (maybe so everyone can then walk home safely in daylight?) and they just have to fill the time, no matter how boring it is or how much everyone wants to throw in the towel and go home. Or maybe they really do all love it. Especially for the women, it must be an excuse to get out of the house and hang out with their friends so they try to stay as long as humanly possible. Every time I go to one, people ask me how Moroccan weddings are different from American weddings, and each time I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying “ours aren’t nearly as long and boring.” And even though I cringe every time someone suggests that I have a Moroccan wedding, I smile and say “inchallah. . .”
Monday, July 13, 2009
I found out some more of the history behind what still seems to me to be the silliest feud I’ve ever heard of. It turns out pretty much the entire area, for miles on all sides of the village, was the property of this rich Arab guy a really long time ago, who was descended from some important saint in Fes. He settled the area and brought all of his slaves with him. So basically everyone in the village is descended from either that guy’s family (his descendents have the huge house and include the president of the Commune), or his slaves. And all of the land legally belongs to this family, with the rest of the town basically squatting on it. The people of my village get along well with the rich family, know that they’re all descended from slaves, and continue to all work for the rich family. I used to think everyone had their own plots of land that they farmed, but I’m realizing that really they’re all just working for the rich family and only have really small plots themselves. So the Kookies have come to terms with this arrangement, which feels a lot like serfdom to me. The rich family employs most of the men, and everyone more or less gets along.
The Izzies are another story. Their village is on land that belongs to our rich land owner as well, and they’re all squatting too. However that village was settled by a group of Portuguese people a long time ago, and in the beginning the rich land owners didn’t mind since they had so much land anyways. But then the village grew and grew, until now the Izzies outnumber the Kookies almost 2 to 1. And as the village grew, they became more and more insolent and uncooperative, for example addressing the current rich land owners by their first names, instead of showing them the required respect of calling them by their full names. And not immediately pulling their sheep vans over off the road when the landowners want to pass in their big fancy cars. And I guess they don’t show the proper gratitude to the landowners for widening the road all the way down to their village so that sheep vans could drive on it, when before it was just a narrow donkey path. The most interesting – and horribly disturbing - quote I’ve heard on this topic (from one of the current rich landowners) “If there were no police, we’d march down there and kill them all.” There are times when I feel like I’m very well integrated and understand this culture and know these people really well, and then someone talks seriously of wanting to massacre an entire village of people.
A group of us climbed Jbel Toubkal a couple of weeks ago, the highest mountain in North Africa, and second only to Kilamanjaro in Africa. It was surprisingly (and a little disappointingly) easy for being so high, and felt more like an uphill walk than a serious mountain climb. We just set off from Marrakech in our sneakers and whatever clothes we had with us, and walked up almost to the top, slept in the lodge close to the top, got up early, reached the summit, and walked back down and went back to Marrakech.
As easy as the actual hike was, we were not at all prepared for how FREEZING cold it would be at the top. Even in the middle of June there was almost a foot of snow on the ground for the last hour or so of the climb, and the wind was vicious. I survived a pretty cold and miserable winter in the Middle Atlas this past year, but that was nothing compared to how ridiculously cold the top of this mountain was. My fingers hurt now just thinking about it.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The other thing that made last night so surreal was that we had a big rainstorm (which I got caught in the middle of coming back from a run), followed by the craziest flash flood I’ve ever seen – the road through the village turned into a raging river that continued all night, hours after the rain stopped. Reminded me of the random floods Houston would get, when we’ll all go play in the flooded fields and streets. Except in Houston, when the water recedes you still have roads and sidewalks and life goes back to normal. Our village road got completely washed out, pretty much rendering it impassible to anything but tractors. Even my really good mountain bike couldn’t get past some parts of the road this morning, which has turned into a sea of boulders and gravelly sand. As if getting in and out of the village wasn't already enough of a hassle, it'll be even more of a pain until the commune decides to send people to fix it. And with the busy week of sheep-roasting and dancing that the president has planned, I’m not sure when that’ll get done. But in the meantime, I'm planning to put on my new party jalaba and dance.
The part about our couscous starts a little before halfway through the show if you want to skip over the other random (and less interesting, I'm sure) stories.
Monday, May 18, 2009
True to my suitcase-of-couscous traveling style, I packed about four times as much couscous as clothes and toiletries for my trip back to the states. I had arranged a hand-off in the
So I can check “export couscous” off my list of things to accomplish during my two years here. That made lugging a heavy suitcase across
Check out Kate’s side of the story on her website: http://www.feraltrade.org/cgi-bin/package/2package.pl?action=format_waybill&edit_id=1483
Five hours later, I’d:
Climbed this mountain (and then slid all the way down it while all the men watched.)
Colored on myself with this freshly-dug up paint.
Traipsed over a plateau to find and hang out in this nomad camp.
Where we ate this guy’s (“the cheese man”) freshly-made cheese. I wasn’t a huge fan of it – a little too goopy for me. .
Gained a whole lot of respect for this river-fording, mountain-climbing, sheep-swerving, bush-whacking car.
And discovered that views like these exist only a short harrowing hour drive away from my village:
Look at how freaking cute he is:
And it turns out the hedgehog is known as the smartest animal here. I got to hear all the hedgehog tales, of hedgehogs killing lions, and how hedgehogs have one and a half brains. But I guess this one wasn’t smart enough to outwit my neighbors - we ate him for lunch yesterday!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
And so I made the executive decision to enter the tourism industry. I linked up with an American travel agent in Ifrane, a city a few hours away, who organizes tours for small groups of Americans coming to Morocco on vacation. The week of our meeting she had some tourists coming through who wanted to do a cooking lesson, and as luck would have it, her normal cooking lesson man in Fes was going to be out of town. So I offered to bring one of the women of the Association to Ifrane and we would lead a couscous-rolling and couscous-cooking lesson for these two American tourists. The president of the Association was a great sport and trusted me enough to come along even though she probably had no idea what was really going to happen, just that we were going to be cooking couscous in the house of a family we didn’t know, in some other town, for random people we’d never met.
Except for a couple of small kinks (one of the tourists was feeling sick and couldn’t really eat anything, and the woman whose kitchen we were using insisted on hovering over us telling us we were doing everything all wrong), I think it went well. And the profit we took home from that was more than we would get by selling 300 kilos of couscous.
The next month is going to be a busy one. . . two girls coming this Monday for a cooking lesson, and then two groups of tourists coming in May to have lunch in Khoukhate, and then maybe a group of study abroad students for a weekend; and I’ll be in the states at a wedding in the middle of all this. So much for thinking I’d have lots of time in the Peace Corps to read books and write letters.
A couple of weeks ago my host sisters and I got invited over for tea to this house in our village where a group of other sisters lives, and I didn’t think anything of it, because I get invited over for tea all the time to random people’s houses. The spread was more elaborate than usual – all kinds of cookies and different breads and oil and jam and nuts and olives and pretty much everything. But even this isn’t really abnormal, because even now, five months into my living here, I’ve found people still serve more and fancier tea snacks when I show up. But then after we were done eating, the women pulled out this big bag of clothes that they then expected us to buy. And it all made sense, that’s the only reason we were invited over in the first place. So this caused quite the moral dilemma for me, which I still haven’t quite resolved: should I have bought something from them or not?
Reasons I should have bought something:
· I’m a small business development volunteer, so I should be encouraging entrepreneurialism whenever I can
· I could definitely afford them, and the women definitely needed the money more than I did
· I did eat a lot at tea-time
Reasons not to buy from them:
· I don’t want to set a precedent for buying whatever people bring to me to sell, even if everyone already knows I probably do have more money than anyone else in the village
· There wasn’t really anything that I especially wanted or needed
This same dilemma is the reason I still haven’t bought any carpets from anyone, even though I need/want some, and there are women who make beautiful ones in the next town that I would love to support. I’m just afraid that people will start coming to me every time they finish a carpet asking me to buy it, which I’ve heard has happened to volunteers in the past. And so far people don’t seem to see me as a walking bag of money. I’m still trying to figure out a sneaky way of buying things, like taking them to a craft fair and selling them to myself.
Monday, March 23, 2009
My lovely kitchen.
My super soft turtle blanket. Maybe the best thing about my house
My living room. (Actually, just the other half of my bedroom)
My well, right outside my door.
I’ve felt this moment approaching for a couple of weeks now, but I think I can safely say my spoken Arabic has surpassed my spoken French. The turning point was last week when I was going over this grant proposal with my tutor, who speaks perfect French and was editing out all my mistakes and putting in much prettier language. Even just a month ago, I was regularly using my French to explain what I was trying (with difficulty) to express in Arabic. But last week, going over this or that wording in the grant proposal, I found myself using Arabic to explain what I was trying to express in French. I don’t know whether to be really proud of my Arabic or terrified about my loss of French communication skills. Pretty soon I’m going to need French tutoring, I think.
So zmita is hands-down my favorite food in
One of the goals of Peace Corps Morocco is to spread Peace and Friendship between the
The schism runs deep: there seems to be an invisible line somewhere that no one crosses – my host sisters have literally never been down there, and every time I try to get the boys from my village to come with me to play soccer with the izzie boys, they shake their heads and look at me, shocked like I’m wandering into a haunted forest and warn me about the mean and horrible izzie boys lurking around the corners. The women of the kookie association don’t have very nice things to say about izzie women either, making fun of their southern accents (this is definitely the best part of the rivalry - they’re one mile south of us!!).
Every time I head down south to izzie land, the izzie women ask me about helping them start an association. In my opinion, the best solution is to absorb them into our kookie association, since there are a million hoops to jump through to start an association, and I’m not sure
By poking around a little, I’ve come to learn that the feud goes back about twenty years, when there was a land dispute between the izzies and the Cheikh of the whole area (who’s a kookie). The izzies won and the Cheikh has held a (pretty excessive, in my opinion) grudge ever since.