Sunday, September 26, 2010

From A Chaperone's Diary

It was a full moon. The moonlight lit all corners of the village. Where was I? Hidden in the sliver of a shadow, back pushed against a recently vacated house. Or trying to stay hidden as best as I could, wearing my white North Face jacket. *Shayma and her boyfriend are giggling and flirting to my right. I recounted the moments leading up to this. It was l’Aid Kbir. The day started with a big fanfare of events and I was overwhelmed by the newness of everything. When things started to slow down, Shayma instructed me to tell my host sisters that I was heading off to the hanut. Instead, we walked the opposite direction, meeting Hamza in the darkness. After thirty minutes of bickering and testing different stops, they decided this spot would do. This marked the first of many times I became the designated chaperone.

Shayma met her boyfriend multiple times afterwards. When darkness allowed, I gave them a respectable distance. I faithfully did this because I knew no one else could. And I thoroughly enjoyed our following conversations. We’d share experiences and thoughts on relationships. It was like a girls night, just without the wine. Over the course of a year, the relationship soured. She complained that he constantly seemed dejected. Uncomfortable silences replaced the cheerful banter on their dates. Before my second L’Aid Kbir in site, she broke things off. Smart girl. Good for her.

Shayma wasn’t the only girl I chaperoned. I’ve sat waiting in the village’s surrounding fields for *Naima’s “boyfriend” to come on motor. I’ve passed productive hours in the cyber, while *Silama and her interest sat chatting a couple computers down. I’ve blocked traffic in souq so that *Narjist could have a 20 minute “date.” I’ve inadvertently video chatted with a man living in Tangier, connecting him with *Zahra. I’ve even traveled 40 minutes to drink a panache with *Marian and her “telephone friend.” That was their first and, to my knowledge, only meeting.

I’m honored that they trust me in such a way. Then again, who else but a female foreigner could fill this roll? I’ve been privy to and a chaperone of so many dates it ought to be a “Secondary Project.”

Goal 1: To provide a safe, secure and supportive environment for girls to meet potential lovers.

Objective 1.1. Provide a list of “safe spots” for couples to meet.

Objective 1.2: Supervise young couples, providing professional chaperon services upon request.

Goal 2: Empower clients with important life skills in romance.

Objective 2.1. Put into practice skills necessary for a healthy romantic relationship. (PG of course!)

Objective 2.2. Empower clients to make informed decisions through setting S.M.A.R.T goals, monitoring outcomes and devising effective evaluations.

Objective 2.3. Be a good friend for each client. Listen and offer honest feedback.

Like all my other Peace Corps projects, teaching and learning goes both ways. I’ve learned and shared a lot on love, romance and marriage chatting and crocheting at the Women’s Center. They pry into my private life but also share their husband-wife dynamics and gossip about others. When I said I’m a long way from marriage, Sultana responded, “Get ready. There’s no escaping death and marriage.” Like many other Moroccans, she sees marriage for its economic and social purposes. Marriage doesn’t always have to do with love and romance. Aicha shared the two-year courtship with her husband. Other women added in how their marriages grew into love. I’ve never been less than intrigued, hearing women their age (40-50s) say on this topic.

After English tutoring one night, *Omayma and *Farida dove into the topic of careers, futures, romance and finding true love. They are both about my age, strong-willed and strong-minded girls. Least be said, they have a rather different view on love. We threw out hardball questions, ones none of us have sorted out (and quite frankly, don’t need to just yet).

There’s something to be said in how critically they’re approaching all this. I don’t have love figured out. And I know the girls I chaperone sure don’t either. But with each step and misstep, I learn something about myself, what I want/don’t want in man, what I want/don’t want in a relationship. I think there’s great value in taking such a risk. I hope that in chaperoning dates for girls, they learn the same.

*The names of all the girls are changed for their privacy.


One a separate, loosely-related note: CONGRATS TO SARAH AND BRAHIM!!! They recently tied the knot, in full Berber style. I hope they're finding their happily ever after.

Photos from Sarah and Brahim's Berber Wedding:

**Sarah, the American girl and traditional Berber bride.

**Brahim and Sarah cutting the cake. Berber wedding with some American flavor!

**Wedding parade, 14 cars strong.

**Traditional Amazigh Wedding Dance

**Me and dear staagmates sneaking a quick rest while the music blasts.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Wholehearted Thank-You, Dear Family and Friends

We have successfully raised $750 for the installation of electricity, making the Childcare Center fully operational!! We are on track to open doors in October. This village couldn't be more thrilled.

From my and everyone
in my village, THANK YOU for all your contributions. I cannot say enough to your warm responses and generous donations.

Please be on the lookout for photos of the project's completion soon!

**Photo of the newly built, Women’s Center upstairs. The women will move their Arabic literacy classes and Sewing classes to this room. The first floor will be a Childcare Center and host monthly children’s activities.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Color My World

This past August, I lead a Color Theory and Color Combinations workshop in Ain Leuh. This village, just a quick drive out from Azrou, tugs at your heart strings. It's small enough where everyone knows everyone but big enough to access almost all important amenities. Stairs wind up and down the hillside. Sheep graze in the outer fields. And come August, black berries grow abundantly alongside the village's streams and rivers.

**View of Ain Leuh from Randy's house.

Ain Leuh's weaving cooperative was founded in the 1970s. Their style is a hallmark of traditional, Berber weaving. I would argue that they have highest quality carpets in Morocco. Their designs are impeccably intricate and tight. At Marache Maroc R
abat, they pulled in almost 10 percent of the total sales. Tbark allah 3lihom. And I cannot say enough about the enthusiasm and hearts of these coop ladies! These past two years, they've learned a lot from PCV Randy, whose done fantastic work to transform their showroom and workspace. Things are certainly lookin' good in Ain Leuh!

**I found my magic carpet! Thank you Naima.

Randy and the women had asked for a color workshop several months prior. Things fell through but worked out perfectly to coincide with "Adult Camp." While their craftsmanship is unparalleled, they could use some work in their color choices. I took t
he color workshop Lindsey Dunnagan, an RPCV and exceptionally talented artist, developed and added other ways to think of color. I ended the workshop with a discussion on color schemes and a group critic of their products. I hope this blog post helps other PCVs and their work on color!

Materials You Need:

- Red, blue and yellow food coloring
- 6 clear tea glasses
- 1 large blank color wheel
- blank color wheels, one for each participant (I found it helpful to have stars denoting where the primary colo
rs will go)
- Red, blue and yellow food coloring
- Brushes
- Pallets to mix colors on
- Water cups

Fill three tea glasses with water. Add a drop of food coloring in each
tea glass. Explain th at red, blue and yellow are the primary colors, from which all colors come. Ask for volunteers to mix the primary colors and create secondary colors (purple, orange and green). It's always a good idea to check with the participants and make sure they understand what happened. Quiz them orally before moving onto the next step!

Make a color wheel from these six tea glasses. Remove the secondary colors from view. Have the participants place the secondary colors in between the correct two primary colors.

**Me explaining secondary colors.

Next pass out the blank color wheels, paints, brushes and water. Have the participants make their own colors wheels using only red, blue and yellow paints.

**Women making their own color wheels.

Then explain the following color pamphlet. Review basic relationships between colors. Also stress feelings associated with certain colors.

I wanted to show how all this information related to them and their work. The other PCVs helped me pick out different pieces from their showroom. We talked through the color choices and made suggestions for improvements. Khadija was particularly quic
k in catching on.

I showed them photos of the ocean, summer flowers, Moroc
can desert, etc. I used an online color palette generator to pull out key colors in each photo. From these print outs, the women could clearly see common color schemes. Again, allow time for discussion and feedback. Quiz the participants and let them show you they're understanding these concepts.

Afterwards, have the women make their own color scheme. I asked one weaver to share her yarn and thread. Whenever doing a product development workshop, connect as many dots as possible. The women giggled and laughed. PCVs and I walked around the circle, helping the women with their choices.

**Digging into Khadija's string to make their own color schemes.

In the end, there are no hard and fast rules to color fun. Stress creative imagination and experimentation along with taking inventory. What are the customers saying about certain color schemes? Look at what they're buying and what they're not buying! Take inventory. Khadija and Khadija seemed to truly internalize everything I said. And I'm happy they seemed to take something away from the workshop.

When you try this, remember to think of your audience and how they can best apply these concepts. Good luck!

More Photos from Adult Camp:

**Ready to take on those blackberry bushes!

**The best part of blackberry picking.
This comes second to waking up each morning to french toast with blackberry jam.

**Pedicures followed by Project Runway!
Anyone whose seen my feet knows how greatly appreciated they were after this scrub.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Living in Art: Doors, Wires and Tiles

Since coming to Morocco, I've developed an obsession for doors. Some follow the classic Arab architecture. Some are rectangular with added wire designs. Others are rundown, with chipped paint. I often slow my pace around these doors and wonder. What could be inside? What type of people live there? If the door could talk, what story would it tell?

**Chefchauoen Doors

**Beth and I posing!

Equally impressive are Morocco's mosaic tiles. They give life to walls and add artistic value to fountains. The different specs of color pull your attention here and there. I have several tile patterns in my bedroom. After two years, I'm still not bored looking at them. What a feast for your eyes!

**In the Marrakech Artisana Ensemble

**Mina and I in front of a fountain in Rabat

**Zleej found in Fes

And did I mention the wire patterns?! I love it when spiraling wires are added to the most humblest windows. Even the saddest streets, with plastic bags flying about, I can find windows with those signature swirls. And that can make all the difference.

**A view of Fes from Hotel Boujloud.

**Wiring in the windows adds an unexpected twist.

For a side summer project, I wanted to bring pieces of that world into my home. My house lacked character and color. Photos of my new bedroom are posted in an earlier blog. Now I've completed interior renovations to my house! Take a look!

**Filled in with tiles fragments found in my village.


**Kitchen/walkway area

**This pattern (above) I took from the design on my CBT host family's windows (below).