Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Souq & Blue Bear update

Hi everyone!

I hope that you all had a nice Christmas and will have a fun New Years! Jon and I were invited to spend New Years Eve with a couple of nearby volunteers, but because of a number of reasons we decided to decline. Besides, as it turns out it's a very rainy and foggy day, which isn't very good conditions for traveling on these mountain roads.

One of the reasons that we didn't want to go away was because we where supposed to look at a potential house for rent that our host mother found. We also talked with our counterpart and my tutor about potential houses. We're still waiting, but we have a whole month. That's what Jon keeps telling me! After 5 months of living out of a suitcase, finally having a place of our own will be like heaven.

Yesterday was Souk day. Jon and I finally took an inventory of all the things that we bought from the previous volunteer so that we would know exactly what we still needed to buy. We figured we could buy some of the smaller items little by little (like kitchen supplies and blankets), so that we wouldn't have to do it all at once when we move in. The only things we ended up buying yesterday was a tea pot and some glasses, but we also priced a lot of other items as well.

The thing about Souk is that it's cheap, but you're also expected to bargain on most items, especially the ones we're looking to buy (you don't bargain on vegetables for example, which are already at rock-bottom prices, unless you plan on haggling for a half an hour to save 6 cents). So we'll probably go over the prices we got with our family to determine if they are fair. It's very common for foreigners to be charged more for things, but we've found that people seem to be pretty fair in our small town, maybe because they don't see many foreigners, or maybe because they see us week after week.

At any rate, we like to go to the Souk just to see all the excitement. It's kinda like having a big festival in town every week. Any this week was even more exciting, there where more venders there than we had ever seen. That's because they're getting ready for a holiday called Eashura. We can give more details about the holiday later, but part of it involves giving gifts to children and playing small drums. Therefore, there where tons of venders who sold either the drums or the small plastic toys (the really chintsy stuff found at a dollar store). We saw a few of these drums the other day when our family got some out from years past. they're made out of ceramic and some sort of skin for the part you beat. We bought somewhat large and very nicely painted drum at the Souk, only to find that our family had also bought one for us! So now we each have one. Of course they proclaimed that the bigger one was Jon's. Anyway, it was a beautiful day for the Souk and we had a great time looking around.

So this past week I decided to have a little fun and make an outfit for Blue Bear. It didn't really take very long, I worked on it a little at a time in the evening mostly. I started with the sweater first but then decided that he needed a hat (well, Jon was strongly encouraging me to make a hat too). I thought the pointy design with the tassel looked very Moroccan, since pointy is all the rage here and tassels can be found on many Jellabas (but usually women's I think). As usual, I made up the design myself, not that any patterns would exist for this particular bear anyway. Designing is the part that is most fun for me. And look at how happy Blue Bear is to have a warm outfit for the winter!

Happy New Year!

emily and jon

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jon's Language Progress

Just wanted everyone to know that a wood carver at my association yesterday mentioned that my Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is comparable to his Tamazight-speaking grandmother who knows little Arabic. And I laughed. I think that part's important.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Just wanted to let you guys know how we're celebrating our christmas in Morocco.

step one, cookies.
Yesterday, Christmas eve, we (me and some of my female relatives here), baked three different types of Christmas cookies; chocolate chunk with crushed candy canes, peanut butter oatmeal (not too much oatmeal), and gingerbread cookies :) All in all, it kinda turned out to be a culinary catastrophe. Jon was no help at all, but was able to coordinate the "tree" decorating. With our two younger sisters and cousin they strung popcorn and made paper snowflakes, which where taped to the tree (pictures later). Meanwhile, in my limited vocabulary and even more limited cooking ability, I struggled through making cookies with nothing to measure with, limited directions (we didn't even have directions for the gingerbread at all), and no temperature control for the oven. I think i was starting to catch on by the third batch and it wouldn't have been so bad if i could have made all these mistakes in the privacy of my own kitchen. but our Moroccan family was very encouraging, kinda in the way you encourage a five year old when doing something for the first time. So all the cookies are hard as rocks, but tasty just the same...they are good dunked in tea. One of my mistakes was the sugar...way too much, but that's not really a problem here in my opinion. we also introduced things that the Moroccans found very strange for ginger and nutmeg. Also, there is no molasses in Morocco, so we used this caramel stuff, not a bad substitute. I will begin my intensive cookie-baking training with Mom and Grandma as soon as I return to the states. But before that, i hope to pick up a thing or two from my host mom (like making her amazing bread) and Lisa, the nearby volunteer and culinary master.

Step two; stockings.
so late last night we told our family about "papa noel" and the tradition of hanging up our sock over the window (no fireplaces here folks). Jon and I demonstrated by draping our socks over the curtain rod. Unfortunately our family didn't follow, until after we turned in for the night. Around midnight we gathered the socks and tried to figure out whose was whose....which we where wrong. we got our bothers' sock mixed up with our Moms' and the two girls where mixed up as well...oops. but besides that, the stockings where a big hit.

Step three, presents.
throught the months of november and december i have been making presents for my family here: a wool bag for our mom, scarf for our brother, funny slippers for one sister, and a headband for our other sister. yesterday morning we wrapped them in newsprint, which we decorated ourselves. Those too where a hit. so I guess two out of three isn't bad.

All in all it hasn't been a bad Christmas experience. We're looking forward to a call from my parents this evening and we'll probably take a walk later, I hope. Thankfully I got my wish, which was to NOT have a white Christmas this year! Merry Christmas everyone!


ps here are some pictures

Our delicious Christmas bricks!

l'3id Kbir, et al.

It snows in Minnehaha! Here's the proof!

In our down time, when it's nice, we take walks around our town. Here's Emily with our town behind her walking on "the road to Meknes!"

Our l'Eid Kbir was great! It's a sacrificial holiday that celebrates Abraham's obedience to God, as when Abraham was about to obey the order to sacrifice his son, God replaced his son with a sheep. Hence, every year, each family that is able to do so purchases a sheep, has it slaughtered, and feasts upon it for about a week!

Unfortunately, the slaughter took place in a very dimly lit part of our house, so we weren't able to get any decent "up close" pictures to show. No problem; if you're determined and resourceful, you'll be able to find slaughter pics and other goodies on other Peace Corps Volunteers' blogs! During the morning of L'Eid Kbir, this was our view from our living room window:

However, we did get some pictures of the l'Eid eve celebration and our family preparing the organs for our lunch: liver, heart, lungs, and other organs deliciously wrapped in fat, flame-grilled to perfection, and served between hand-made bread! Wouldn't this concept do well in America!

We recently visited our friend Lisa, who lives in a town close to Minnehaha. It's not nestled in the mountains like our town is, therefore, it's somewhat warmer than Minnehaha. We took a stroll around her town and ended up in a pretty nice park, which apparently housed monkeys and even lions at one point. The cages looked like they could barely contain a group of teenage boys... Lisa's host mother said, laughing, that the animals all died as a result of the cold. Seems like a big oversight on the part of the animal's's a shot from within the park.

We also celebrated Christmas at Lisa's house with her family. The first night we were there, we made eggnog and started on our gingerbread house. The second night, we made chocolate and mint cookies and finished our gingerbread house. Check out the pictures: