l'aventure africaine

our travel journal

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Late Thanksgiving Wish!

We are a little late, but we want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you had a meaningful holiday wherever you are, and whatever you ate! If it was turkey, okay, we are a little jealous... but, even without turkey, we have oh-so-much to be thankful for, and a lot of our gratitude is for the dear family and friends who read this from time to time, and we want you to know we love and miss you!

Time for some pictures! We remembered to get our camera out for a Thanksgiving fiesta this past weekend...

Aaron and April swung by our place on their way into town, and participated in our kitchen beautification project/guestbook. :) Our kitchen walls are plain cement and are begging to be drawn on! You should come visit and draw too! No, I mean it. Come visit! :)

The feast took place at the home of one of our fellow Tata volunteers and a darn cool gal (um, she's in a pic in a minute) but one aspect of her beautifully decorated home is this very comfy hammock, demonstrated here by my handsome husband.

There is our hostess with the mostest! Vanina and Aaron and I... I'm sure we were doing something important... or they were anyway... peeling something...

The two Tata Michaels carving the chickens... :) So much food... so good...

We took a tour of Vanina's village, which is filled with cool passageways and tunnely areas, but unfortunately none of the pictures turned out but this one!

And finally, Van and I putting up her Christmas decorations. We are very proud of our little tree. :) Thanks Vanina for letting me help! Without a non-stop Christmas radio station, day after Thanksgiving sales, and well, really cold weather, it sometimes just doesn't feel like the end of November, but it is surprising how hanging tinsel and putting up ornaments makes you feel all festive...even in the desert. :)

I'm not sure if Sudan is in the news there as much as it is on the BBC around here, but if it isn't, it really should be! I found an interesting link today that rates your state's politicians actions in relationship to Sudan. See how your people are doing... http://www.darfurscores.org/
If you are interested in learning more about the genocide occurring in Sudan, check out these links and please, please take action!!

Two blog-style sites with updated information and news about Sudan:

For good measure BBC on Sudan

"Sleepless in Sudan" is the blog of an aid worker who, although now posted elsewhere, was blogging her experiences straight from Darfur. It is worth reading through all of her blog, but this post is all about what we can do to help.

I know if you've read our blog for a while, a lot of this info is not new, but hopefully this is new for someone, or maybe today it finds you at a time where you have a free minute to investigate. Not to go all drama girl on the blog, but this is our chance to ask those in power to do something (!) rather than look back and remember the tragedy and wonder what we could have done... okay, rant concluded. Thanks for listening. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Uncle Mike and Aunt Jana

So, those are our new titles. :) Sadly, I am not able to post a picture right now, but check out Nugget News for info on and pictures of our new little nephew. :) That's fun to say!

The basics? Graham Lee Huffman, was born at 12:36 am on November 11, 2006 to Mike's brother Craig and his wife Anissa. He is 7 lbs. 13 oz., and 21 inches.

Everyone is happy and healthy and labor was quick!

Welcome to the world little Graham -- we love you like crazy already and can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

questions answered

I guess it’s my turn to add a little something about where we live.

First things first, I’ll try to answer question. Anytime we talk about appearances we tread on dangerous ground and because of this we must say that we can only report what we see and have observed in our limited time here. As in all countries there is intermarriage. In Morocco, marriage between Arabs and Berbers is relatively common and therefore the lines between these two cultures is growing closer. This obviously includes appearance. Nonetheless, the village we live in is considered an Arabic one and the neighboring one only 1 km away that speaks Berber is considered by many here to contain the “darker” skinned people. While, I will admit that a large number of people from that village do in fact have darker skin there is an extremely high number of people in our very own village that also have dark skin, yet speak Arabic as their first language. Some of the discrepancy is due undoubtedly to the fact that for hundreds of years, darker skinned sub-Saharan Africans have come to Morocco, many as slaves, concubines, or as hired armies, and now the descendants of these people live in all parts of Morocco, and consequently identify both as Arabs and Berbers. In the northern portions of the country, Berbers tend to have fairer skin and may even possess blue or green eyes and lighter hair colors such as red. So all of this to say that differences may be observed, but in doing so, one will undoubtedly make incorrect assumptions about the person or group of persons being observed.*

Clothing for men varies quite a bit depending upon what the occasion is. Men who work in towns or at government offices typically wear slacks and buttoned shirts. Men who want to relax may be found wearing track suits or the more traditional foqiya (some version of that dress thing I was wearing) here in the south. In the north track suits or the more famous jellaba is typically worn. There is very little difference between these except that the jellaba has a hood. For men, they are often brown so when the weather is bad and everyone has their hoods up it looks like there are a bunch of ewoks walking around. In the south, there is a “traditional” foqiya that is blue with some gold embroidering. As far as I can tell in our area there is very little difference between what Arab men and Berber men wear. I would say that the greater difference is between north and south due to climate differences.

* Information was taken from Orin Hargraves’ book Culture Shock: Morocco

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A little info about our village...

We thought we’d take a little bit of space to tell you about our douar (village) and community. Just some basic stuff like who lives here, what we do for a living, how many of us there are, and all that. Hopefully too a little bit about what is worn here, what kinds of things are eaten…but let’s start with the basics!

First, here is a little map of our douar and the ones around us. We didn’t put names of douars for security’s sake, so it is a little vague, but gives the general picture. Our douar is about 4 kilometers from the main road, and the farthest douar (the one we haven’t visited) is 11. These are all considered our site, or area to work, although it isn’t expected that we’ll hit all of them equally, just that we’ll seek out the greatest needs and people interested in working with us.

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Okay, so, our douar has about 1100 people in it, and that translates to about 125 households. Some employment is in our local government or schools, in the little city about 15 km away, or in one of our little shops in town. There is a large percentage of men who seek jobs in other parts of Morocco, both in private businesses and in the military. Also, some families have sons and daughters living and working abroad. France is very common, because French is taught in schools to all children and used in official documents, etc., but places like Spain or Italy are possible as well.

The whole of Morocco is composed of people of Arabic and Berber descent. We are located in the province of Tata, which is composed primarily of people of Berber descent who speak a Berber dialect called Tashelheet. For a reason we don’t know yet, our little group of douars, except for one, speak Arabic. Despite this, in most of the douars there is strong Berber influence on the culture. In addition, there is a strong cultural influence from the south of Morocco and the Saharan culture there. For example, the way we demonstrated of making tea is generally acknowledged here to be “Saharawi.”

Dress is one readily apparent thing influenced by this mix of cultures. From the south comes the Saharan wrap that is worn by some women here. (For a picture of me displaying it, click here. In some of the douars here, that is all that is worn. In our douar about half of the women wear that, and about half wear the Berber influenced dress. For some women, it just depends on the day! The Berber women’s wear consists of a multi-layered satiny skirt, usually in white or light blue, and long of course. On top they wear a black scarf. Aha, I found a picture...

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(From this website...http://lexicorient.com/morocco/tata.htm)

Just a quick note, pictures are sensitive things in this culture. People are often hesitant to let you take them, unless they know you well, because they are not sure who all will see them, and that they will be respectfully used. For that reason we've been slow to use our camera in town. We imagine eventually we'll start taking pictures of people we know and memories around town and all, but even when we do, we can't post them online without asking the people in them... Many people in town are quite unfamiliar with the internet, but even if they did fully understand, probably wouldn't feel comfortable with pictures in such a public place... We want to share our lives with you, and so we just want to explain why pictures of the people around us may be scarce, but we'll do our best!

That’s probably a good amount of info for now, we’ll add some more next week, and let us know if you have any particular questions you’d like us to answer!!