Starting just before our last hub (hub is when we go back to ouarzazate) we began being invited over to each host family for tea after school. While we had already had tea at most of the houses just by chance, this time it was planned so there was a good deal of preparation that went on. We recently learned in a meeting with all the host mothers (as well as other women and two men, my father one of them) that if you tell someone ahead of time that you are coming over they will go out and buy food from the store and do a lot of preparation for your visit. Here it is completely ok and less imposing if you just show up, because then both parties know to expect only what happens to be on hand.
The tea visits began at my house actually. My family had me make the tea for the first time, which involves a lot of sugar, basic Chinese green tea, and a sprig of fresh mint or absinthe or a plant they call louiza (the last one is the strongest flavor and my favorite, but I’m really not sure what it is in English). With our whole group, my family, and others who had come to prepare, I was pouring tea for about 15 people. In addition to the tea there was delicious sweet breads, fried bread, honey, jam, cake, peanuts and almonds, olives with oil and red pepper seasoning, and much more. We had a wonderful time. My family is truly amazing, fun and kind. Then last week, we proceeded to go for tea three more days. Each time the offering of sweets became more and more bountiful. There are a few pictures from tea at my house and then several from the last place on Friday. Capping off the competitive vibe, Aisha (pronounced Aeesha), Avery’s host mom, decided to invite us over for dinner on Friday instead of tea. For dinner there were two full chickens, fuls (pronounced fool) beans (not sure what they are in English but the are very large and green), and warm kanoon bread (partially whole wheat, cooked in a large ceramic bread oven, flat like pita). For desert buttered and oiled vermicelli pasta with powdered sugar and cinnamon, followed by fresh oranges and bananas.
On that Thursday, we all played soccer with the kids in the town, all of whom are our siblings or friends of siblings, girls against guys. Tina (Mina) organized it the day before when she played with them. It was the perfect stereotypical image of American PC volunteers playing soccer with local children. We were on a dirt/rock field, which is really just a flatish open space across the road from the mosque, 25-30 kids ages 8-14 playing, 10 kids ages 2-7 watching/playing on their own next to the game, and a group of mothers watching and laughing from a distance. At the end of the game we said we might be able to play on Friday at 6:00 again and boy were they mad when we didn’t show because we had tea! Immediately after tea on our walk back we ran into the group of girls who grilled us on why and made us promise to play on Monday after we were back from our weekend off. Then on Saturday as I walked to school I saw three of the ringleaders of the soccer boys in the road on their way to school too. They stopped and waited for me to catch up and then made me explain why I wasn’t there and explain why I couldn’t play over the weekend, until they agreed that it was ok as long as we played the next Monday (aka today). The main one of those three that I know the best and is most forward checked with me again yesterday to make sure we were still on for today. We are continuing to play with them both because it is fun but also because we are incorporating the activity into our final project we have to implement in our CBT community. We will organize a game on one of our last days in town, make it official with timed breaks, and teach about the importance of staying well hydrated in the heat. We have also made a poster on the topic that Peace Corps can use and duplicate in the future.
This past weekend we had off, so our group decided to go to a town about 45 min up the road where the annual rose festival takes place in late May, Kelaat Mgouna. We talked with other CBT groups before the weekend about our plan, and ended up seeing easily half of all of the health trainees in the same town, most at the same hotel. Ben also came down from his site just 10 min up the road so that was a lot of fun to catch up with him. On Saturday, a group of us walked around the town, went to a dagger cooperative where a current PCV has done a lot of work, and just explored generally. It was really great to experience walking around with a group of about 6 people who were all just so relaxed and easygoing that we were all completely comfortable wandering aimlessly through a town we didn’t know and turning where we felt might be right to get back, more on this topic soon. Saturday evening, 9 of us made dinner at a local PCV’s apartment. He was an artist and had a pretty big place, small business development sector; he was the one who worked with the dagger cooperative. He had built a lot of furniture, like his main dining room table, a freestanding desk like counter in his kitchen, and stepladder. I took pictures of how he made some of it and talked to him about materials/tools. I definitely hope to build some things in my own site too.
On Sunday, Avery, Adam, and I got up early and headed up the valley to Hidida with Nina (who knows a friend of mine from CMC), Alyssa, and Ben. Hidida is the site of another CBT that we had heard was beautiful but we didn’t really know what to expect. It ended up being absolutely amazing. I have pictures to post from there as well as some that Avery took that I’m going to get from him. We walked down to the river and crossed two bridges. As we were figuring out how to cross back over, four young boys forded the river. Walking up the cliff over the side of the river we went through fields to a small village, the boys followed and by the time we were in the center of the village the four had grown to a group of about 12 children. They led/followed us through the village, probably wondering who the hell we were, speaking five different languages (English, French, Darija, Tamazight, and Taschelhight) and only understanding Tam and Tasch. Made our way back across the river and through yet another town and into more fields. Eventually the boys told us they had to go home for lunch and left us to continue on, at about the same time we reached the foot of the nearest tall set of cliffs overhanging the valley. Nina suggested we head up, and when asked why she simply responded, “just to go up.” When the group response was “ok” we all just turned and headed up the mountainside. Nina was amazed, and pointed out that all of her friends back home would have complained and never gone along with the idea. As our trek up continued, with a break on top of a large rock cliff for peanuts and oranges, we kept talking about how great it was to be around so many other people who are always up for a random adventure, especially those that involve leaving the beaten path, often literally. All in all the break weekend was amazing, we had no idea what to expect in Hidida and were just blown away and had a perfect exciting and long hike there.
On that note, I’d like to mention that the current trip planned with everyone in my CBT as well as a bunch of other volunteers who jumped at the idea, is a West African Music Festival in Timbuktu, January 2012. The other one that is definitely happening at some point is Paris, because we have at least two places to stay there and it’s super cheap from Marrakech.
Daily type stuff:
Today we went to souk like we do every Monday. We walk an hour and a half to get there and then take transit back. We have started being referred to as “the hiking group.” Souk is fun and definitely doable, not overwhelming like you might imagine. Everyone is fairly relaxed, sometimes we see people we know, for instance today we saw Caity’s Mom and Dad, and my father as well. Caity’s mom hit her on the butt with her souk bag, and my father got my attention while I was buying peanuts by running his shopping list back and forth across the back of my neck. Today was a little different because after all of our shopping was done, Aziz (our LCF) took Avery and I to buy jellabas, the robe things. I spotted a blue summer one that Avery ended up really liking as well so we both bought the same one, paid 200DH for it. Our plan is to wear them over our nice clothes for swearing in.
We head back to Hub this Thursday (the day I’ll be emailing this) and find out our final site placement at 4:00. We had our final interviews last week, and mine went really well I think. A lot of our placement is based on our resume so my interview consisted of a lot of focus on my leadership and organizational training, and some on health. I was asked in a round about and then direct way if a larger site would intimidate me and I said no, so I’m excited about that if it pans out. Rashid, the head of site placement and training for health who also did the interviews, said that my interview only confirmed the site he had in mind for me, which is very encouraging for me since I feel like I really conveyed my ideal situation to him. In the end it all comes down to Thursday though. Everyone is getting really excited to finally know what our next two years are going to look like. In an attempt to cut the stress of the announcement a bit, Jackie (who you met on skype) with the help of Adam from my group came up with the plan to have a silent rave/dance party on the roof of our hotel for half an hour before the announcement. So everyone will have their own iPods and dance to their own music but all together at the same time. It should be really fun. After announcement we’ll be in Ouarzazate for two nights, and head to our sites for a week on Saturday. We come back the next Saturday to Ouarz, CBT (Oulad Elarabia) on Sunday, and spend our last week in our CBTs. We then return to Ouarzazate next Sunday, have swearing in that Wednesday, and head to our final sites on that Thursday.