This is the mother of all updates! However, there aren't enough pictures to describe what the past few weeks have been like! I've tried to put all the pictures in chronological order, but it might be off some, so bear with me. Ok, lets start!
When we drove from our Seminar Site to our CBT site (for the first phase), we paused at a stop where barbary apes are known to congregate. I believe it is part of the national park around our Seminar Site. So, we drove up to the hairy lil' buggers and pulled some snacks out for 'em.
There were about 15-20 surprisingly tame apes in their troop. They even took the food right out of our hands. They are clearly fed quite regularly. I kinda wanted to pour a whole box of crackers or cookies out on the ground to see what kind of anarchy would ensue, but that probably wouldn't have been culturally sensitive (among the apes, that is...).
So we parted our primate ways. The trip to our CBT site took about 1.5 hours and was a pretty amazing drive through the middle Atlas Mountains.
The path cut through a few valleys and cliffs, sometimes coming perilously close to the edge! Much of the drive was silent, as we were awestruck with the scenery and linguistically limited. The grand taxi driver tried communicating to us a few things here and there, but didn't have a great amount of success.
When we finally arrived at our CBT, all 6 of us were met by members of our host family, who took us to our homes. Our host sister took us home and we tried to communicate that afternoon/evening about our family, our home, and ourselves in general.
As a side-note, I have decided not to post photos or specific information about host country family members or other host country nationals until I get permission.
One day soon after our arrival, the Peace Corps volunteer that works in our site showed us her apartment. We went to the roof (what a view!) and I snapped this picture of Emily. Notice the plateau in the background. We later hiked that plateau...there are pictures of the hike a little bit below!
One morning, as we walked to school, I turned around and snapped a picture of our family's house (The upstairs one with the blue windows).
We took an amazing trek one Sunday. Our group plus our Language and Culture Facilitator, the president of the town's association, and another random guy all went. The hike was pretty exhausting, but well worth the sweat! At our first "checkpoint," we took a quick break to admire the view. Unfortunately, as it was Ramadan, we were unable to drink water in plain sight of practicing Muslims.
Here's the view facing the direction that we came.
We walked up and down a few more valleys and ended up at a giant dam. The last valley before the dam was lush with fruit trees, especially apple. Here's a nice shot of the valley looking with the dam in the distance.
As we walked back toward town, we passed a few farmers with crates upon crates of apples! One of us asked the farmers if we could buy a few apples from them and they refused us! In fact, they offered to take us up to their trees so that we could help them pick some apples and take some for ourselves - for free! The apple trees were so small, but were bursting with fruit! This was an interesting cross-cultural experience. It turned out that one of their managers that was on site spoke a little bit of English that he learned from a Peace Corps volunteer a few years back. After this experience, we headed back to town and started phase 2 of our trek.
As mentioned above, we hiked to a plateau that is visible from our town. The hike took about 40 minutes, and we basically walked along the path of a grass-covered stream path until we got close to the base of the plateau. In the above picture, a flock of sheep were seen grazing close by. I couldn't resist taking a quick shot with the plateau in the background.
Of course, once we got to the base of the plateau, it was a quick hike up to the top (maybe 10 minutes max). However, it wasn't an easy hike. The plateau was quite steep in places and there wasn't an established trail that led to the top. No biggie. We made it up safely, and took some photos, and rested, and feasted on some AMAZING apples! They were the most delicious apples that we've ever had, to be sure! The above shot is our CBT site from the top of the plateau.
Random gorgeous rainbow picture!
Here's a shot of our CBT group as we make our way through the older quarter of our town. We were on our way to the home of 1 of the 6 weavers of the association whom we interviewed. The women were all very hospitable, offering us food and drink, even though they were all fasting. Many of their homes were quite amazing as well, resembling a series of caverns with their large, open rooms and short, narrow hallways.
Midway during this first CBT phase, the president of the town weaving/artisan association organized an art exhibition at a local dar shebab (youth center). A few bits of information are necessary for background purposes. The town has NEVER had an art exhibition before and the dar shebab had not been in use for a very long time. So, naturally, we trainees felt that this was a very amazing opportunity for learning and integrating within the community. The president was very encouraging about our participation, so we all helped out in the ways that we could. Emily and I helped to organize the artwork and assisted in hanging rugs/paintings/etc. The above picture is a shot of us in our jellabas. Well, not OUR jellabas, but ones that were furnished to us by our family! Jellabas are traditional Moroccan clothing that is worn over shirts and pants.
Here is a sample of the artisans' work. There are about 6 really motivated artists in this small town that do the majority of the weaving.
In addition to weavers, there are artists in the association who draw, paint, and sculpt. Here is a shot of one artist's work in particular. These "bone sculptures" were quite a conversation starter! In his sculptures/wall hangings, this artist not only used locally obtained animal skeleton fragments, but he also used pine cones, partially woven fabric, wool yarn, and various shockingly bright colors of paint among other media. Quite interesting!
We took a walk out in the street in our jellabas and couldn't resist taking a shot of this thuggy/grim reapery image.
In addition to language classes, we were also doing analysis of our interviews of the 6 local weavers. Emily and I had incorporated some of our cartooning abilities in this analysis, and our group mates took this picture as they were making fun of the fact that we were similarly dressed. We actually did not plan to match...
Here's the completed "Daily Schedules" graphic that we were working on. It basically lists how the 6 women spend their time during Ramadan (the 9th or 10th month of the Muslim calendar, I forget exactly) and during the rest of the year. The key is at the bottom of the poster.
Here's the completed "Seasonal Calendar" graphic that Emily drew and helped design. The donkey (hashak) in the middle was just for fun! This basically shows how different aspects of life change for the weavers throughout the year.
And lastly, here is a beautiful shot of the skyline near our home. There were so many opportunities for pictures like this.
Our second phase of CBT starts this Saturday (October 11) and lasts until Halloween!! We are looking forward to increasing our language, completing projects (for the association) that we have devised, and generally furthering our aptitude in this society. We may or may not do blog updates during that time. We have access to internet there, so it all depends on our amount of spare time.
It will be cold, however. We'll be sure to bring much warmer clothes this time around!