l'aventure africaine

our travel journal

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It is getting cool here!!

Before I forget, I did some updating in our Mail Advice and Wish List page, if you are interested, click here!

Okay, so did you know that October is Fair Trade Month? Me either. I’ve been looking into Fair Trade more lately, and since it’s the month and all, I thought I’d share in case you are interested. Mostly I’ll give you some links to learn more, and also to do some shopping, because, well, shopping is fun, especially when you are supporting people in the process!

At Oxfam they have some great information on what Fair Trade is and their Make Trade Fair campaign.

As always, I bring you Wikipedia's Fair Trade info.

Some places to check out...

Global Mamas They have clothes for the whole family, with accessories and stuff for the home.

Sweatshop Free Sneakers. Always a good thing.

There is lots of great fair trade coffee available. Peace Coffee is a Minnesota based company that makes some kick butt coffee.

Check out People Tree for more great clothes.

Finally, Respect, a fair trade sports blog. Of course. :)

Now I said I’d say a little about the holiday that celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan (see the last entry for some Ramadan info if you missed it). Because Islamic months are lunar, no one knows until the holiday has almost arrived, because they have to watch the moon and see. For example, this year we knew Sunday/ Monday-ish that the holiday would be Tuesday.

As with many Moroccan holidays, the focus is on spending time with family. In our part of the country, many of the men leave to the larger cities throughout parts of the year to earn money, and holidays are fun because as many people as are able come home to celebrate.

On the morning of this particular holiday (And maybe others? This is the first one we’ve really celebrated here!) people walk around town and knock on doors to say congrats to each other. The kids wear new clothes, and have a great time running all over town to say hi. We didn’t observe too much other out of the ordinary stuff as far as celebrating goes, but, like others we spent time with our (host) family, and enjoyed having people around we don’t get to see too much of!

That’s about all about that. :) Mike and I have been working lately on our (required) Water Resource Guide for our area. We need to become experts (just by talking to all the current local experts) on what the water situation is in our area. For example, how many water towers (although they are usually on mountains, not towers, in our area) there are and how many people are served by each, and how they are fed, and if there are people without access to public water, etc. We are compiling this info both for use locally and for the government ministry in charge of such things. For example if we were to notice some particular need, our community can use that information to rally the people to solve it, or to apply for a grant, or maybe even just hold some sort of training. The ministry can use the information from all the volunteers to see how things are moving towards their goals.

We’ll write more soon, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


So, finally! Here is the scoop on Ramadan. Definitely not the whole scoop, because Mike and I are far from qualified to deliver that, but we can give you our perspective. As always, we can’t speak for a whole religion or even a whole country when it comes to traditions and beliefs around Ramadan, but we can give you our take on what life is like for those in our villages this time of year!

What is Ramadan? Let’s see if I can find a good source here…. okay, here, from Wikipedia, Ramadan is "is the ninth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, established in the year 638. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month."

The Islamic calendar is lunar, and moves forward on our calendar about 10 or 11 days each year. Holidays then move a little bit each year, and this year Ramadan began September 24th and yesterday was the holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan (I'll come back to that...).

Okay, so onto how people live out the ideas from the definition above. Fasting, which is abstaining from both food and water, is observed during daylight hours. People eat a pre-dawn meal, at this time of year around 4 am, and try and stock up on energy and water to last them through the day. Fasting is observed until sundown, right now around 6:15, where people eat a fast breaking meal, usually consisting of Harira, a Moroccan soup, called Harira, is served, and various breads and sweets. Dates and juices are also typical of this meal. Moroccan tea is, of course, present, and people will make a type of coffee, a little bit of instant coffee mixed with a much larger portion of sweetened milk, sometimes as well. Depending on the economic level or tradition of the family, some will eat their regular dinner meal around 10 or 10:30. Staying up later is normal during Ramadan, and some people may stay up until their pre-dawn meal, and then sleep.

Fasting is a requirement in Islam, so everyone participates, although there are exceptions for those who are sick, pregnant, nursing, or traveling, among others. Fasting is also not just from food or water. Participants are to refrain from things like smoking, intercourse, and gossip, and in general are to be more mindful of their behavior and the influences around them ("bad" movies, music, etc.)

This is just a very brief sketch of the month (I didn't even really touch on the charitable aspects of Ramadan!!), so please let us know if you have questions, and here are some great resources if you want to investigate further.

Wikipedia Ramadan Article

An Idiot's Guide to Ramadan, BBC

Sawm: Fasting the Month of Ramadan

I do want to tell a quick story though that does touch on both the kindness of Moroccans, and Ramadan charitableness. :)

I was traveling a couple of days ago, and was close to the end of about a 4 hour taxi ride. We were only about 20 or so minutes outside of Tata, but it was time to break the fast, and the taxi occupants decided not to wait until we got to town. The problem was we were driving through lots of little villages, and there were no cafes to be seen for travellers to stop at. One of the riders spotted a door open to a tiny hanut, and we quickly pulled over to buy some water and yogurt...not as good as a meal at home for my taxi mate guys, but... so I wander into the hanut, definately searching for some water, and one of my fellow taxi riders insists on buying both of us yogurt and muffins. As a woman traveler in Morocco, we have to be aware of people with wrong intentions, but there was not a bit of that in his face, he was just doing a kind thing. That is cool enough, but as we were sitting and breaking the fast, men and women from the surrounding houses kept showing up with bowls of soup or dates or cookies... even tea. We had an impromptu feast! It was that much cooler because no one was surprised, or making a big deal out of it, on the giving or receiving end. There was appreciation for sure, but it was accepted that this is just how it is -- it's just part of the culture to take care of each other and make you feel at home even in the middle of a strange douar.

Anyway, just one of those Peace Corps moments... :)

Yesterday we celebrated Eid L'ftur, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, so I'll write about that next time!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


So, here are some random pictures, and I promise to have some Ramadan info soon. I had an informative entry about 1/2 written, and managed to delete it...don't ask. :)

This is a cute camel pic Mike took one evening.

This one defies description. :)

A little Jack update. :) He's doing well, and pitching in helping Mike sort through some donated soccer shorts and jerseys.

And here's a Huffman family pic. :)

Will write more soon!