We're swearing in this Thursday!!! That's when PCTs become PCVs. Sorry I haven't been writing regularly on this blog. Time passes too fast. And I realize that words are inadequate. They cannot capture everything as I'm experiencing Peace Corps. So those are my lame excuses for not writing. But here's an attempt to recount what I've been up to.
Wrapping up CBT
the CBT phase of training has come and gone. I think I already miss the 50 cent and A-kon hits the school's neighbor had on repeat. Winter winds have swept through town. My family has installed their inferno. Actually, they've installed this inferno twice. I guess the first time was a false alarm. The weather hinted coldness but not enough to keep the inferno out. But within that same week, my host family pulled out the inferno again and rearranged the room for the second time. This reminded me of what my brother and I would do as kids. When we shared a room, my brother and I would come up with a new way of rearranging furniture every couple months.
This also means that my host family asked me if I was cold at least six times a day- when I wake up, while i eat breakfast, just before I leave for school, when I come home from school, during dinner and before I snuggle into bed. I've repeatedly explained that in America, I grew up in the north. Typically, there is snow on the ground from late November until February. I like the cold. Winter is my favorite season. But all that was to no avail. I think they're particularly nervous since I walk around the house barefoot.
In this CBT Phase, everyone in my group implemented small projects. They all fed into Cynthia's project of creating a website. Go look up our new website: http://www.afcmaroc.org/. It's a glimpse of the amazing Artisana I was able to work with. P.S. that's my beautiful back on the left-hand corner during a hike to the cedar forests. We hiked nearly 30 km that day!
My project was an attempt to capture product uniqueness. Moroccans originally wove carpets to tell a story. AFC does not explicitly convey this notion to the consumer. No record exists for the names and meanings behind motifs and designs used in their carpets. Thus, I set out to label, name and organize the motifs used. The idea behind my project was far too ambitious for the limited timeframe we had in CBT. Furthermore, the knowledge behind these carpets did not pass down with the knowledge of weaving. More often than not, weavers knew how to weave designs but did not know the name or meaning. More interestingly, different women called the same motifs different things. Some motifs- such as bananas and boats, came as a surprise since these do not represent Itzer/the region. While the anthropologist in me would love to dive into the history of this, it's more important to sit all the weavers down and have them name their designs and motifs. Taking commission orders would be such a big step for the association. Dispite these obsticles, I was able to make a catalogue of designs. I've handed off my notes and photos to the current PCV in Itzer. And I'm happy to have transferred computer cataloguing skills to an AFC member. A good resource to make this project sustainable!
CBT ended with a community farewell party. I helped make pizzas and apple crisp. Our cook made bastilla, an incredibly delicious mix of philo dough, chicken, almonds, eggs, cilantro, cinnamon and sugar. Moroccans love their sweets. We also had two big cakes! No one left hungry. It was great having all the wonderful host families and Artisana members gather around for dinner. And there was dancing! We had a great cross-cultural experience trading greatest dance moves. Life is better when done with a dance step.
Saying goodbye to my host family took even longer. My host mother and sister started crying. And I cry when other people are crying. It made me realise the different cultural conditioning we have. In the States, I'm never with everyone I love. To a certain extent, I can pick up house, leave and still be happy. With my family, whose lived in this town for generations, people don't come and go. They stay. Inshallah I will get to break bread and drink tea with them again.
Coming back from CBT, we only had two days in Azrou for seminar. There was a wonderful rumble of excitement the night staff announced our sites. It felt like Christmas morning. Though I had a million questions running through my mind, it was exciting to have a name and a location of "home." My site is about an hour from Agadir. Even though I'd like to travel the world, for these next two years my heart will be in this little town an hour from Agadir.
Going on site visit means I've already traveled a good bit around Morocco. I've stopped in Meknes, Marrakesh and Agadir before making it to my future home. I'll be chasing beach sunsets for the next two years. The artisan cooperative I'll be working with crochets, knits and embroiders. They're products have evolved over the years. They've made tunics, pillow cases, bracelets, handbands and soap bags. I'll be the third PCV in this site. Previous volunteers have already built a solid foundation for this netti but still is more work to be done. Know that I'm in the right place, coming in at the right time. Talking to the previous volunteer, I could almost see myself and the women two years from now. (Photo of me, Leslie- former PCV and President of the Association.)
Life is good. There are still a million little things which make me smile each day. That hasn't changed.