Monday, March 23, 2009

I’m sorry it took almost two months to get these pictures up, but finally, this is my house:

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.

There goes my French

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.

Release of our newest product – Zmita!

So zmita is hands-down my favorite food in Morocco (yes, better than couscous!) It’s this mix of ground up nuts and seeds and sugar and oil so it has the consistency of cookie dough, and you eat it with a spoon for breakfast or at tea (or just hanging out in your house like I do, any time of day). It’s one of those things that everyone makes at home but I’ve never seen packaged. Here’s our sweet label (I spent probably an hour setting up the photo shoot for the perfect label picture. Just so there’s no confusion, there are not actually any ground up flowers in the zmita, those are almond tree blossoms, and there are almonds).

The Izzies vs. the Kookies

One of the goals of Peace Corps Morocco is to spread Peace and Friendship between the US and the Arab world. But that goal is looking to be a piece of cake compared to spreading Peace and Friendship between my village and the one a mile down the road. Because we’re not supposed to post exact locations on our blogs, I’ll use nicknames: the izzies and the kookies. (There are also the debbies and the tabbies in our area, but I haven’t come across any drama with them yet.) I live with the kookies, but I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time with the (evil) izzies, for two main reasons: my tutor/best friend lives there, and there are about twenty times more kids there than in my village, which makes for hilariously chaotic soccer games, hikes up the mountain, and impromptu yoga classes in the mud. Sunday mornings are my favorite time of the week for this very reason. It’s a great little town, and way more lively than mine. Too bad I’ve been expressly forbidden on several occasions from going there by my host father (“izzies are bad!”).

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 Morocco really needs another carpet-making association. I’m picturing someday in the future when the global demand for our couscous gets to be more than we can fill in our little one-room association, we can have a satellite association campus there, and I’ll go down with a donkey once a week and bring up the couscous they make, pay them by the kilo, and put our label on it. The izzies make way more carpets than we do up here and I think it would be in everyone’s interest to take their carpets along with us when we go to trade fairs and expositions. But somehow I can’t see that idea going over so well with the kookies.

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.