Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Nearly all the best things that came to me in life
have been unexpected, u n p l a n n e d by me."
--Carl Sandburg

What are my days like? I get that question a lot. Quite frankly, no two days are quite the same. I don't have a nine to five job. As America's two year loan to this Moroccan community, I have a marathon to run. I set goals and formed small projects, with a semi-lucid timetable. Crossing off project to-dos dictate my days. Yet in between lies my life here. This past Monday was no exception.

I beat the sun, ran and showered. My nedi has its douar exhibition this week. And I have personal and business-related errands to complete. So I thought- errands in my souq town, return for lunch, then head to the women's center to help set-up, stay until the evening and call it a day. But plans change.

My souq town lies two kilometers from my village. For various reasons, I do not like to browse through town. Since arriving, I have become increasingly efficient with errands. Monday was a record. Stopping at the market, purchasing raw materials, sending a bracelet order and renewing my temporary Moroccan residence card took under an hour! Moroccans can move on Moroccan time. When it comes to souq errands, I prefer to move like a New Yorker.

Therefore, I had extra time to stop by the RARBA office. During IST (In-Service Training), a fellow PCV presented the idea of organizing a regional craft fair. Inshallah, Peace Corps will partner with local municipalities and Moroccan organizations to host these craft fairs. We want to create a venue where artisans who work with PCVs can sell their goods. In addition, these craft fairs also serve as a skills-building conference for artisans. The basic idea: pilot four-day craft fair in Fes, with the fourth day consisting of various workshops (ie costing and pricing, grant writing, succession planning). That was why I stopped by Howara's RARBA office. RARBA is a network of Argan biosphere reserve associations. Among many functions, they train member associations in grant-writing. Wouldn't it be great to use existing Moroccan human capacity in our project? I need a price quote.

Thankfully Miloud was in the office! Thankfully he understood my Darija! I explained the basic premise of this project and asked for a price estimate. This spurred an exciting conversation about sustainable development, development work and Morocco. An hour happily ticked by with mint tea, bread and argan oil. Before I left, Miloud mentioned there would be a celebration tonight in a member organization nearby. He insisted I attend. I could see the work they do and RARBA. Sure. Why not? I have no important to-dos after sundown.

I spent the afternoon transforming my village's nedi into exhibition mode. I hung up table clothes and ceramics work. I arranged and rearranged items to show-off and sell this week. (Please note that this exhibition's audience is local Moroccans. And let's just say, we have differing tastes and preferences.) We wrapped up around seven. And then followed a series of surprises.

1) Frenchies! Miloud explained that members from a French association happened to be visiting. They would also be accompanying us to this event. This association supplies and finances small projects with Moroccan schools. Its members are French seniors, who had toured Morocco several years back and have since decided to invest deeper. Unfortunately, I have forgotten all my French. But we had an exciting conversation, nevertheless. I spoke in Darija. They spoke in French. HCNs translated for us! What a collection of development workers- French donors, Moroccan "change" agents and a PCV.

2) Four cakes! With five additional passengers, we had to wait for another car to arrive. In the meantime, Miloud invited us to his sister's apartment. Her son had just graduated from a culinary school in Agadir. He baked four cakes. How perfectly convenient! Here we are, going to a party, only to stuff ourselves with gourmet cakes beforehand.

3) I have been to Moroccan parties. I have been to Moroccan weddings. However, all of them pale in comparison to this one. Question Association leaders on past work and projects? Forget it. This was not the right place or the right time. At least 700 people were there. Fully catered. Moroccans drummers. Berber dancers. Six piece band. Three course meal- chicken, beef and fruit. Festivities carried on late into the night. It had to. Dinner did not start until eleven o'clock. The ladies did not eat until past midnight. The band didn't set up until eleven thirty. Microphone testing began around ten. The high-pitched singing didn't start until one in the morning. Of course. Why would like night unfold any other way?

I could not asked for a better, unscripted day.

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