l'aventure africaine

our travel journal

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Smelly times are upon us

Hey there, it’s been a while since I last entertained you with my informative and enlightening point of view from morocco. For any of you out there who think that PCVs don’t work, or are just lazy bums freeloading on government money, I am writing this today to let you know that that is not the case. Those of you who have read previous posts of mine may think that we have dropped the ball on one of our most important tasks here and again, I can assure you, that is not the case. We initially had a great deal of success doing our field research followed by what can only be called a ‘dry’ spell that I know most volunteers in Morocco experience during the summer months when so many local people intelligently head for the beaches in an attempt to avoid the scorching summer sun.

Nonetheless, after scouring store after store, I have recently been encouraged to once again ramp up my exploration. Within the last couple weeks I have come across two magnificent new products that I think could really be popular if they were marketed correctly. First, there is the delicious smell of Nana. Why should a scent of this magnitude just be limited to nursing homes and our favorite granny’s house. Imagine: you are a family of four and you’ve just picked your kids up from their favorite grandparents’ house. They don’t want to leave. Their bawling their eyes out and nothing you do is working. Then you remember you just purchased Nana and begin spritzing the minivan. Instantly, the children are silenced, reliving their weekend of spoiling. Of course this is only one of any number of uses for this fine Eau d’ Toilette.

The next will certainly have a very specific market base, but with a little luck, it too can be expanded, bringing profits to all who invest. The name: Springer. I know what your thinking, “Of course, the smell of that favorite dog of the bourgeoisie, the springer spaniel.” But I feel the makers were going for a much different appeal, thus, I propose the Jerry Springer angle. Sure it’s a worthless show about all sorts of nothing, but we, the American people love our worthless shows all about nothing. Do you really want me to start naming them off? No, I didn’t think so. One, because it would take forever. Two, you know there would be one in the list that you watch!!!

Okay so enough about work! Yesterday around 11 or so the power went out. Not a completely strange occurrence, so I thought nothing of it. A few hours later however I decided that I would just check to see if other houses did in fact have their power out as well. Since our fuse box is only accessible from other part of the house where no one lives, I have no way of checking if it was just a fuse or something along those lines. Well, am walking around and lo and behold I hear a TV. Oh no. I have to go find the landlord and get into the house and possibly even buy a fuse and I don’t know if they sell them in town or if I’ll have to make the trek to centre for it. I find the landlord and we walk back. We call (by call I mean find him in his car on his way out of town) the local electrician to also come take a look. He opens the fuse box and flips the switch. Nothing. Great, larger problems than I thought. We go outside and… turns out… the meter reader man took my meter!! Fantastic, I’m thinking at this point. Simply disconnected it from the house. Most likely because no one had bothered to pay the bill for a while, which our landlord said he was going to bring to me but hadn’t yet. So this is quite the predicament. Well, no worries. Our local electrician was already on it. Back to his house, he grabbed an open ended extension cord and hooked me back up via our nice neighbor’s light switch in his courtyard. Powered up in no time at all. All we need now is our own meter back because this morning our landlord came back and quick disconnected it giving me instructions that if anybody came asking I was to say that I didn’t need anything. HMMM, something smells fishy besides our cat’s delicious sardine feast.

This just shows what is great and not so great about life in Morocco. In spite and as a result of all this, we are doing well.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

September is flying by, just like August did. The new group of Morocco trainees arrived this last week (Welcome to Morocco guys!), so we are no longer the newest kids here. The new group is half Small Business Development and half Youth Development. It’s fun for us to think back (not that far ago…) and remember what we were thinking and feeling when we got here. We haven’t been here for very long…but we’ve come a long way and done a lot of learning.

This past week, I (Jana) participated in a training for the Volunteer Support Network. It is a volunteer run group that is, well, exactly what it sounds like! :) Whoever is interested can sign up to go to the training, where you learn about issues that volunteers typically deal with, the “cycle” of volunteer life (there is a certain pattern of ups and downs that has been documented that most of us go through during our service), and a basic outline of a counseling session. We are obviously not professionals after this weekend, but we are able to do some kick-butt listening, and hopefully lead a volunteer through the steps to devise their own solution to their problem (if necessary – sometimes they just need someone to listen!). What we were learning was really interesting, and it’s a good feeling to know that you are prepared to help someone out if they need it. Our names now will go on a list of trained volunteers that people can call or e-mail if they want to talk, and we can assist in future trainings, if needed.

So, what else do we do here besides play with the cat and make tea? Our jobs right now (for the first few months or so…) are to learn the language, get to know the community, and start thinking about and planning for the work we’d like to do here. We learn oodles of stuff in training, but it’s only when we get to our community that we see what of all we learned will be useful and relevant. So, we’ve been here for a bit, and here is some of the stuff we are thinking about….of course, all of it is dependent upon whether there is interest in the community and various community members coming forward to get involved, etc. We always have to remember not to get too far ahead and excited about our own ideas that we just go ahead with them on our own. Our job is to bring new perspective, and find and bring together people and resources in the community to make things happen. We aren’t really the do-ers – we should be facilitators or co-trainers, etc. It is a tougher role, and takes longer, but leaves the community in a richer place than if we just did it ourselves… Anyways, back to the ideas…

1. Traditional Birth Attendant Training – Many of the women in our area, whether due to finances, distance to the hospital, or tradition, give birth at home, assisted by women in the community who are known to assist with birth, but generally have no formal training. PCV’s have done trainings going over things such as good hygiene practices, when to refer women to the hospital, HIV/AIDS, etc.

2. Men’s and Women’s Health Talks – Many of the issues in health are things that this culture would not be comfortable talking about in mixed gender groups. We are considering ways to meet, perhaps with women’s craft groups or the men’s associations to do health talks that could be about one issue, or perhaps cover a range of isssues.

3. Teaching Health in Schools – Many volunteers have done this and been really successful! Teaching health to kids is a great way to get the whole family involved, get to know your community, impact the future – good stuff. :)

4. Health lessons to those waiting at the local health clinic

5. Painting Murals – Another classic PCV activity. It’s a great way to leave a lasting health message, but also get people from the community involved in planning and creating!

This isn’t everything we’re thinking of, but we wanted to say a little bit about our work, since it is starting to get off the ground a little. We know that this is a lot of ideas, but also know that a lot of things will fall by the wayside. Some things may be fine ideas, but there isn’t community interest. There may be things that we think are great, but are misguided and won’t work for this community. Some things it just isn’t the right time for… so, we’re going with the have a lot of ideas and see what pans out approach.

That’s all for now! Ramadan is coming though… September 24th…. stay tuned…

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Answers, Stuff from Mike, and More Tea

Hi! Jana here. I realized that I am terrible at answering the questions that people ask in comments, and so I am going to be better at answering them! Here is some from the last entry.

About Jack...

"Will he be a house cat, or is there even such a thing in Morocco?"
Jack will be a housecat. Most cats here are not, they roam and I think probably have a few family's that are "home" where they get a little food. They are not generally mistreated, but tend to be a little skinny. Jack is not going to roam, but his house involves a courtyard where he can be outside, and at night hunt grasshoppers that are attracted to the light, so, he gets the best of both worlds I think. Staying away from other cats and the stray dogs around is safer for his little self, and keeps the fleas away!

"Is there any place to get drops for his eyes?" "Did you have to take him to the vet for his crusty eyes?"

Due to dust and flies, etc. eye concerns in people are pretty common here (the not very friendly trachoma used to be a big problem in our area, but due to a concentrated campaign to eradicate it, it is on the decline). Anyway, because of that eye cream is everywhere, and the doctor at the sbitar recommended using a little of that. I bought some last week, but his eyes, with some cleaning in the am and pm, are now non-crusty and the redness is gone... hopefully for good! I'm a little afraid to use human strength medicine on him, but don't think there is a pet pharmacy around...

What kind of food do you feed him?

Right now we are feeding him rice and tuna, eggs, bits of the meat we eat...whatever we have handy. I'm doing some internet research on kitten nutrition to try and make sure we are doing alright, but most of the sites talk about which manufactured food to purchase! Any advice here would be appreciated, if you happen to know something we should know.

About Tea...

Is there mainly one kind of tea sold in your area, or do they have many varieties like we do here?

Tea sold here is Gunpowder green tea. Check out that link for good info. That is pretty much all that is used. In a trip to a bigger city that has a bigger supermarkety store, you can find herbal tea and "regular" tea bags.

Alright :) I'm going to finish up this tea business, and then Mike will finish up.

So, we just finished rinsing. Next step is just to pour out your rinse water into one of your cups, and then discard of the rinse water if you need the cup (depending on how many people you have) and clean it out.
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Fill the teapot about 2/3 full with water, and put it back on the buta.
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This is about what the tea looks like when it is done...about when it comes to a boil.
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There are two words for sugar. One for sugar that comes in a cone shape, and one for granulated sugar you use for baking, etc. Cone sugar is what you use for tea, but you have to break it up into chunks first. A lot of people in our area, including us, just find a rock...
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And then use it sort of like this to break up the cone.
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This is about how much sugar is in a typical pot in our area. Yes, it is sweet :)
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So, after putting in the sugar, the way to melt and mix up the sugar is to pour tea into the glasses and then pour the glasses back into the pot. It also helps to cool it down a little. Everyone I've seen pour tea here can do the really tall pour -- here is Michael doing a darn good demonstration...
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When you have poured the tea in several of the glasses and back into the pot, you taste it to make sure it's alright (meaning, does it have enough sugar?) and then pour out your glasses. More bubbles (from a tall pour) are better, and you only pour about 1/2 a glass full.
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Here is the man behind the tea. :) Now, enjoy tea, and the way we do it here is to add more water to the pot and put it back on the burner and make a second, and maybe third, pot, all with lots of good conversation and such.
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Okay, enough from me. :)

Here's Mike --

It’s been a crazy month for Jana and I and I don’t really even know where to begin. We are beginning to feel settled into the community a little, and even more so into our own house. We are starting to get a routine, but maintaining the motivation to continue working on things wanes at time when the temperature makes sleeping at night a tough task, and makes everything almost too hot to touch including walls, and the ground. Our little Jack has taken to sleeping in the bathroom because we usually take a couple showers in there, keeping the ground cooler. At first he thought it would be good to lay on the squat plate itself, but luckily a bath later, and a cover for the squat plate, and he sticks to the floor now. I haven’t yet given him a full blown shower but I have been getting my hands wet and wiping him and he seems to like that. I have never seen a cat pant so much. Anyways, we do have actual work and lives outside of the cat so I will move on.

This month has moved as quickly as we expected as we went to a SIDA, (French acronym for AIDS) training that was led by a volunteer who is about to finish up her service her in December. It was really a great opportunity to meet her and get her perspective on life here, the challenges and perspectives, but mostly techniques for overcoming those challenges. She commented that she appreciates Morocco because everything is a challenge, nothing and I mean nothing, is easy. Transportation is probably consistently the most difficult and frustrating because we have to use it but it is so unpredictable. For example, when we were trying to return from our SIDA training, we went to the bus station to ask when the bus would be there because we knew it only returned every other day. We were assured by someone who we thought worked there, or at least answered like he knew that yes, Monday the bus would be at the station and leave at 9. Perfect, that would get us home at a good hour. We show up and another guy washing buses says, oho… no bus here today -- it was here yesterday though and should be coming tomorrow. So we rushed to get a taxi to a different place about an hour and half away only to miss that bus at 10 by about 15 minutes. There was a taxi going to tata but it only had one spot, and of course we are two. We had to wait from 10:15 am until 4 pm when last bus arrived. It was packed, and we had to stand for the entire 5 or so hours it took for us to get home. That is was I call excruciatingly frustrating. But we rode home standing next to the sister of one of the ladies who works in our clinic as a cleaning/assistant type person. We had a nice chat and only the next day did we find out who she was. The point? None except to say I have yet to appreciate frustration, anger, and disappointment like our friend Lo has learned and to realize that while those things are challenges, if we overcome them, they are the things that mold us and make us the people we are supposed to be either by teaching us patience, love, or understanding or another life lesson.