Friday, October 23, 2009

Road Rage

Five weeks have now passed since our road was destroyed by that last flash flood – five weeks of having to walk half an hour to get in or out of the village, carrying everything on donkeys (including the new computer and nice printer we just bought for the association. I wish I’d taken a picture of the $500 printer on the back of a donkey and sent it to HP.) In those five weeks, people have not stopped talking, and fighting about what should be done. People from the next town down the road, the “Izzies” (who now have to walk an hour to get to the new improvised parking lot at the top) started using the private road that the rich landowners built for their own private access to their fields and mansion, the landowners got mad (after all, those Izzies are “bad people”) and blocked the road with one of their tractors so no one else could use the road. A band of Izzies broke the tractor in the middle of the night, and started ambushing the landowners’ nice shiny cars with rocks every time they tried to come or go. Then they went into town and filed a police report saying the rich landowners had chased them with his rifle, threatening to shoot them (this didn’t actually happen at all, though it’s a quite believable story considering what the landowner said a few months ago about taking that rifle and killing them all if it weren’t for the police.) There was a big police investigation, and every night the men would sit around and argue about what should be done, and whose responsibility it was to do it.
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!

An Honest-to-Goodness Farmer's Tan

For the first time in my life, my farmer’s tan has come from actual farming. This summer I got into the habit of going to the fields to work with my host brother occasionally if I didn’t have anything to do, and since in all my former lives everything I’ve ever planted and tried to grow has promptly died, it’s exciting to see vegetables growing and being productive. In just the last few weeks, I’ve harvested carrots, green beans, white beans, tomatoes, and corn, planted barley and fava beans, washed, shucked and sorted all of those, and had a great time doing it. Next I think comes olives, then harvesting the new beans and barley, then pruning all the apple trees to get ready for next year. And pretty soon planting all over again. And maybe someday I’ll try gardening again on my own.

Just Kidding about the Cat

I got back from Fes last week to find that our dog had literally eaten the kitten. From my neighbor’s description of his shredding the cat meat off the little bones, it sounds pretty gruesome.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Newest Member of the Family

Last week this little thing wandered into my house and into my life:

Road Turned River

About two weeks ago, a storm came through and flooded a bunch of places in Morocco, including, of course, my village. This time, though, the flash flood that came through was worse than anyone had ever seen it, and took down stone walls and parts of people’s houses, and after three days of raging through town, the river had carved a canyon in the middle of the road.

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.

Ramadan Reflections, Part IV

So Ramadan is over. And truth be told, I kind of miss it. I miss the structured days, with everything based around breaking fast, and I miss not having to worry about cooking or meal times because my neighbors just took care of me and I ate whenever they did. When Ramadan began, I told myself I just had to fast this year, and then maybe not ever again, but now I think I’ll definitely fast next year, and any year I happen to be in a Muslim country. Everyone I know who didn’t fast hated Ramadan, with the weird schedules and the being woken up in the middle of the night by the guys who walk around banging drums to wake people up so they can eat before dawn, and they hated that all anyone wanted to talk to them about was whether or not they were fasting. The volunteers who did fast seem to really have enjoyed Ramadan. It’s pretty cool, the day after Ramadan ended I felt the same way I felt the day after I ran my first marathon – really proud that I’d completed something that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do, and actually enjoyed myself while doing it. I really did get used to it – by the end of the month I was back up to my normal running distance and pace, even after 13 hours without food or water, I wasn’t getting headaches at all, and one day I took an 8-mile hike in the middle of the day and was fine. It’s pretty amazing, actually. Before Ramadan, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for the whole month I’d be so tired and hungry, but it really wasn’t that hard.