Right now, we're at a cyber cafe in Minnehaha, which is pretty inexpensive (4 dirhams/hour, which is the equivalent of about 50 cents). This doesn't seem to be a bad option, as there are at least 10 cyber cafes in our town, and it is much less expensive than having internet in our future apartment (~300Dh/month). We'll see.
Our first full day as volunteers was quite nice. We took a walk around town and went to the summit of a nearby hill to get some photos. Our view was obstructed by some trees, so we decided to walk a bit further along the ridge of the hill. We came upon a shepherd who warned us of his dogs that were ahead a bit. He accompanied us toward a safe spot and after we got some shots, he invited us to his house to "shrb atay" (drink tea). His place was small, but warm. It was made of mud. He also had satellite television. Moroccans LOVE satellite television. It was a strange mix of old and new, archaic and technological.
When asked what we were doing in Minnehaha, we introduced ourselves as American Peace Corps volunteers. He approved. We talked about our families, how long we had been in Morocco, how long we had been studying Darija, etc. We mentioned the man that we were working alongside, and he nodded, indicating that he knew our counterpart from the mosque. After that, we was like peas and carrots. He invited us over to his house for l'Eid Kbir as he vigorously demanded that I eat more olives ("kul zitun! kul zitun! kul! kul! kul!) But I think i'm getting better at resisting the command "kul." Both of us are. If only we had such resistance during the CBT phase; we could have avoided 2 months of GI trauma.
The next day, Sunday, we went with our little sisters to a "running" practice. There are a few men who volunteer as coaches and meet with about 50 or 60 kids. The kids do warm-up exercises, run, stretch, do various training drills, and play athletic-oriented games. We met at a soccer field and walked with one of the volunteers to a small wooded hill about a half mile away from the field. The kids ran. I acted mostly as a photographer; after a short while, Emily started exercising along with the kids. She said it was a good way to keep warm. After a few hours, we walked back to town, and upon departing, the volunteers invited us (or me, I wasn't quite sure) to a cafe for later in the day.
As women are mostly forbidden from cafes, I thought it wise to go by myself. We talked about the Peace Corps, and what Emily and I would be doing in Morocco, and for how long. I don't think they believed me, or maybe it's just that they didn't understand me, because they kept asking for clarification. After that, they started talking among themselves. I don't mind this, because our weakness is understanding Moroccans when they speak. Whenever I get the chance to listen, I definitely take advantage of it. Later, when we departed, one of the volunteers invited both Emily and myself to meet one of his friends and an American student the following day. Of course, I accepted, as I was very curious why there was another American in this small, secluded town in the middle of Morocco.
We met the following day at a cafe and talked about lots of things, mainly Amazigh-ism, and its importance in Morocco today. Many have heard of the term "berber," but that term is viewed as derogatory by Moroccans who identify with their heritage. They would much more prefer to be referred to as Amazighs; "berber" is a term given to them by the French in the early 20th century. It translates, roughly, as "animal." Needless to say, pro-amazigh-ism is an important stance among the residents of the Middle Atlas, especially in Minnehaha.
This week, we also met with the artisans of our association. There are 12 woodcarvers in the co-operative; I got to meet with 10 of them. Emily met with 2 of the women of the adjoining neddy (a neddy is a women's association...its a general term, neddy's can produce any number of things: weavings, crochet, knitting, embroidery, etc).
One woman that Emily met with was working on a cross-stitch pillowcase and the other was crocheting a washcloth that people use to scrub themselves at the Hammam. The men that I met with were working on bowls mostly. Very large low bowls in which women knead bread. It's all very awesome and we will undoubtedly have many pictures later!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!
Unfortunately, we are not going to bestow upon our host family an amazing dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie!...hopefully, we'll be prepared to do that for Christmas.
Talk with you all later,
Emily and Jon