Having them in my village was the best part. I'm really glad they got to meet the people I share my daily life with and I think the people in the village were really excited to meet my family and get see who I come from, a little bit. I know they seemed as excited as I was about my mom and sister coming. And then Ait Lhajmi (my very favorite old man in the village, the dad of the family I made Biscuits for) made a bunch of special meals for me and the family. My mom didn't like any of it, but she is also a foodie or whatever that term is. The funny thing is when I first got here I didn't eat the meat because it scared me and my mom would tell me it was bad manners not to eat what people offer you. But she pretended to like it and it meant a lot to me that Ait Lhajmi made special meals when they were there. He bought turkey which is a splurge and made a special soup made from wheat and butter milk, it was kind of not good. The soup was presented as desert after we had already eaten so so so much. And I looked at my mom and sister and said you better eat it! Don't even think about not eating it. But they of course did. Then Ait Lhajmi ate four bowls to show off, because he loves attention, he's ham :).
My sister drove the whole time we were in Morocco and everyone in the village was so impressed that this little white girl knew how to drive. Not many women in Morocco know how to drive and no people in my village have their own cars. So this is an example of why Ait Lhajmi is my favorite. Because Allie drove into the village, Ait Lhajmi asked me if I can drive and I told him, not any of the cars in Morocco because they are all manuals and in America I only ever drove an automatic. And he said "don't worry Zahra (my name here) I don't drive cars either, I only dive the donkey". Lol… Anyway it was great having them here!
Work is going good which I'm so thankful for. I just went with Samira, who teaches the women's literacy program, to Ouarzazate to see about getting the government to start paying her for her work now that the program is successful. We took all the program documentation to show him. I've been telling her that we need to take attendance everyday and give a test every month to the class so we can demonstrate attendance and literacy progress when we go talk to the government about paying her. This was a good idea because the guy seemed impressed with all the documentation we had and said they could start paying her a monthly salary starting in September. This is great because she's been doing it for free because she's awesome and the only woman who can read and write. I can't even explain how happy and how much joy it makes me feel that the women are learning to read and write. It's been months now and they are all still going every day, all seventy of them.
I finally finished my Women's Center proposal. The community built a building and the deal was that Peace Corps/me would provide everything else needed to turn the building into a center were the women can learn to make textiles so they will have access to personal income. Maybe then they'll stop shaking me down for all my ibuprofen. Inshallah, lol… Peace Corps has this grant template thing where you just fill in the boxes and then send in the proposal. Its pretty idiot proof, so even people without developed writing skills can get a grant approved. It's a good thing though, because a person could be a great volunteer and not have any writing skills, so the template thing makes it super easy to submit grant proposals. Like the way I think I'm a good volunteer but my language is still pretty atrocious lol… But this project will require a lot more funding then the $3000 US dollars the PC grants provide. So I had to write this big grant proposal. I had never written a grant proposal before so I sort of felt like I did not know what I was doing with regard the structure and formatting. I didn't have internet at the time so I couldn't look at examples. But I spoke to my boss this week and he said it looked good and we should get the funding by the end of the July!!! This is sooo good and such a relief! I get stressed out every time I walk past that building and see it standing their empty. Not to mention the community took all the spare money they had, building the structure because they believed in me that I would turn it into a women's center/neddie (that's what they call it, neddie). You can understand why this is a huge relief. I'll attach the proposal in case anyone is interested:
I volunteered to participate in this camp for girls living in the slums outside Rabat and Casablanca next month. There are these shanty towns around the edges of the major cities here, like Rabat or Casablanca. They are clusters of these shacks put up with sheet metal and chicken wire. They are usually about the same expanse as a football field. There is no running water, or solid waste removal and would absolutely qualify as poverty. I know they are that bad because I have seen and smelt them. It's no where anyone would want to live. The government has this program where they bus these girls up to the Mediterranean for a girl's empowerment camp they would otherwise never get to, go to. If I say "supposedly" a lot here it's because this will be run through the Moroccan government, which I have mostly found to be corrupt and inept. Supposedly the camp will provide women's/girls development/empowerment activities and environmental lessons. Our/my roll (8 Peace Corps volunteers will be participating) will be to support the ministry in carrying out their planned actives for the girls. The Peace Corps Country Director (the head guy) in Morocco told me that Islamic radicals recruit young kids out of these shanty towns, into terrorist operations. But the government obviously doesn't want this or for people to know about it. So they have come up with this camp solution?
The county director told me that there are secret police that handle terrorist activity and that's why the public isn't really aware of this recruitment; it's all handled/investigated secretly. At least they're doing a good job keeping this a secret, because I have never met or heard of anyone who expressed any type of sentiment like that. I would describe Moroccans as an incredibly warm people. He explained that it's just that easy, because whatever the radicals have to offer is basically a step-up from living in tin shack in a shanty town, which smells like waste. So the gist of the idea is, get the girls out of the shanty, take them to the beach, and teach them about "life choices" and "environmental preservation" (I'm not sure how the environmental preservation ties into the camp objectives at this point?). Provide the girls an experience allowing them to see, do, and, learn ideas/things that they would otherwise not be exposed to. And then hopefully they will be less likely to end up prostitutes or getting recruited by Islamic radicals, etc…
However, I don't think two weeks of camp is going fix the bleak outlook of these girls' lives. It will be special for them though, no doubt. But this program seems to me, like a Band-Aid fix on the part of the Moroccan government to me. A better, more comprehensive approach might be to investigate the factors that led those people to be living in such miserable conditions to begin with and how can we fix those problems. Rather than send them somewhere pretty for two weeks. ¯If I were president…. Lol… Anyway, it will be interesting for me to work/spend two weeks with these city girls. I have only worked with my extremely rural (as you've seen from the pictures) village population. Most of the women in my village have never left the village itself, better yet seen a city or shanty town. Overall, I am looking forward to participating in the camp and getting to see the Mediterranean, I haven't been to that area yet.
The wheat harvest just finished in the village and that was lots of fun. The whole community/village participates. Takbilt is a real old word that means the "whole village working together in solidarity"; I think that's how you'd translate it? The oldest record of Tamazight is from like 200 BC; so translating is sometimes tricky, plus the language is so tied into the culture. At any rate, during harvest time there is lots of "Takbilt"; everyone is working together and excited about the harvest. Generally life moves pretty slowly here, thus the harvest is a big exciting event. I've never participated in anything where everyone was happy to do their part. No complaining or bickering about why or who has to do what. It's was truly fun and exciting; it's an excitement like at Halloween where everyone is out and there is electricity in the air. It's really a congenial feeling to get to part of something where everyone has a job and is excited about what's happening. Everyone's day-to-day routine changes during the harvest; everyone is out of the house, working in the fields; their fields, or their friends' and families' fields.
They work in a synchronization and cooperation that is amazing, like ants or something. But as I write this it occurs to me that they would have to be extremely coordinated and proactive to get all those fields cut and then hauled miles away, and sooo fast and all by hand. For example, some of the women from a house go to the fields, and the rest cook/bake extra that day and bring them breakfast out in the fields, and such. And the women in the fields all sing in rounds while they cut the wheat; it's beautiful.
I think the holiday-like excitement I mentioned before is also created by the demand for a "big push" during the harvest, which changes the normal day-to-day routine of the village. Normally pretty much different variations of the same thing happen every day in the village. It is soothing or comforting; in a rocking chair on the porch sort of way. But once the wheat is ready be cut that is all anyone does. If it's not cut at just the right time, it can affect the final flour product. I think pretty much once its golden colored, it all has to be cut, but as I said, once its ready- time is of the essence. Cutting all the fields in the village seems to take about three weeks. I'm mostly just in the way, but I try to help lol…. After all the wheat is cut by hand, a man comes to the village with a combine/thresher that's rented by the hour and every family has a turn having the wheat from all of their fields run through the thresher. Because it's rented by the hour, once they start they don't stop till they're done with all of a family's wheat. Thus the family and everyone else helping ends up staying up all night to feed the wheat into thresher thing. Which doesn't seem safe to do in the dark to me, plus that thrasher looks rather old, run down and not safe. My mom is an industrial hygienist and she would be dismayed to see how close/far down into the thresher they put their arms/hands.
(This is Ait Lhjami soo tried after working the thresher all night the same day I made the biscuits and brought the soda over )
(All the fields harvested, corn will be next and so it goes... at least here where life moves in a seasonal rhythm)
k-I think that's all my updates. That's what I get for procrastinating so much, the list of things that need covering keeps growing.
Love and Peace,