Saturday, November 20, 2010

Starting The Next Chapter

About one week ago, on November 12, 2010, Jon and I went from being PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) to RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers). The following are some photos from that day.

Our Small Business Development group together for one last picture.

Our community based training group.

Angie and Terra.

"Stamping Out"

After November 12th we returned back to our site for a couple of days to pack up our stuff and clean out our house. On November 16, the day before 3id Kabir, we traveled to our friend Lisa's site. We left our town shortly after dawn and the drive was one of the most beautiful we've ever had.

Lisa suggested that we go to souk one last time to get some photos. Being the day before the most major holiday in Morocco, we knew that it would be crazy, and sure enough, it was. Most of these pictures were taken while my camera hung at waist level around my neck so as to draw less attention to myself and not make people uncomfortable.

Lisa and Jon standing in front of the horse-draw carriage we took to get to the souk.

The Next day was a full day of sheep slaughtering and eating in celebration of 3id kabir. The following are some of my favorite photos from that day. *Warning, some pictures may not be for all audiences.

Yesterday Jon and I left Morocco and are now doing some traveling in Europe before embarking on a transatlantic cruise and then finally returning home. It is just the beginning of the next chapter of our lives.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Saying Goodbye

As I mentioned in my last post, our replacement, Kathy, came for her site visit this week. It was also our last full week of being Peace Corps volunteers in our site. And so, it was a busy week of introductions and saying goodbye.

On Tuesday, Hefida, the President of the cooperative, invited me to her home in the nearby bled (country) town for dinner and to spend the night. It was wonderful to finally meet her family and see where she lives.

Hefida has nine siblings. All are grown and most have moved to other areas of Morocco and even France, so now it's just her, one of her brothers, and her parents living at home. But with plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins as neighbors, they still have plenty of family nearby.

Below is Hefida holding her two-year-old cousin Marwa. As you can see, she's super cute. Just think, she was just born when we got here!

The weather has been beautiful all week (a big difference from when we had our site visit two years ago), so on Wednesday morning Hefida took me on a short walk trough the fields that surround her home. We saw sheep, turkeys, and plenty of olive trees.

We were supposed to return to town after breakfast, so of course I ended up staying for lunch (cous cous, even though it was Wednesday), and in the afternoon the ladies showed Kathy how they make paper.

Yesterday morning I was pleasantly surprised to find them already working on their next batch of handmade paper when I came in. I brought two old bed sheets and one of our gray blankets to be cut down so that they could make more paper at a time. Hafida helped me with cutting down the sheets while Fatima and Achora worked on forming the paper. By the end of the morning they had made 32 more sheets of paper!

Then in the afternoon the girls threw a goodbye party for me. At first, there was some concern over the fact that no one brought a CD player, but that was quickly remedied by them singing the songs themselves. They were songs that I recognized from my time here but still didn't know the meanings of so a couple of times I asked. One song was about an Arab man wanting to marry a Berber woman, but not understanding the customs of his in-laws.

And of course there was plenty of tea, sweets, coffee, and dancing.

Here's a picture of all of us on the steps of the Artisana taken yesterday after the party. I'm really going to miss this group!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Warm Welcome + Happy Halloween

I just wanted to give a warm welcome to Kathleen, the Peace Corps Trainee who will swear in as a volunteer later this month and take over for us in our site. She just arrived yesterday afternoon and I hope that we didn't completely bombard her with too much information all at once.

It's just that there is a lot to talk about. The truth is, we didn't get a whole lot of information from the volunteer that we replaced two years ago and that is a very frustrating situation to be in.

Ever since our site visit two years ago I vowed that the volunteer(s) replacing us would be a lot more informed than we were.

Think about it, we've been here for two years and we know what's going on here. I want my work to continue and I want the new volunteer to take what I've done and build on it. We want her to stand on our shoulders, not have to start from scratch. And to do that she needs as much information as possible, even if it is a little overwhelming at first.

This is a very busy and emotional time for us. We're almost done, we're excited about going home, we'll miss the people we've become close to, we have to tie things up with the electric company, phone company and our landlord, but we can't think of this as being the end of our work. Filling Kathleen in on our site is one of the most important things I will do as a volunteer.

If you are currently a Peace Corps volunteer, think about how you felt when you first got to site and what you would have liked the volunteer you replaced to do. If you did replace another volunteer, did you feel that you were given an accurate description of your site? Do you feel that there were a lot of really simple things that you would have been a lot better off knowing from the begining, if only the volunteer would have shared that information? It's very important that the new volunteer learns things for themselves, but why make them start from square one if they don't have to?

On an unrelated note, Happy Halloween!!! Jon and I traveled to see our good friend Lisa on Saturday and as always it was a day full of cooking, eating and EATING! Though she hasn't updated her Peace Corps blog in a long while (to the dismay of my mother) she also has a wonderful food blog (recipes included) for your food ogling pleasure! Though I know that Halloween was just yesterday, you should still check out her pumpkin marshmallow post because the flavor has a very fall feel and could be easily adapted for a Thanksgiving treat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Week In Paper Making

This past week was very eventful for the Al Falah cooperative. This is the week that we finally made paper in the Artisana.

I'm really grateful to all the volunteers who ordered large greeting cards and bookmarks from the coop. I'm afraid that without these orders the ladies would not have been motivated enough to make paper again before I left, mostly due to the fact that Fatima and Hefida (the two members that have made paper before) have been and will be traveling a lot recently.

They made twenty two sheets of paper on Tuesday all by themselves, meaning that I only supervised the operation and gave them little reminders when I saw that they had forgotten a step, but I did not form a single sheet of that paper.

I was very pleased to see Fatima and Hefida explain the process to the other girls present. They were visually proud that they knew this very unusual skill, and that they were already so proficient at it.

By Thursday morning the paper was already dry and they were ready to tear down the sheets to make cards and bookmarks and cut out envelopes from a pattern I had made.

Hefida worked on drawing out new designs for the cards and both Hefida and Ashora worked on embroidering them.

By Friday they had two cards complete with another on the way. They have orders for a total of ten cards and three or four bookmarks, which they wont have any trouble filling by their deadline of November 9th. They do very well filling orders using the color chart of embroidery threads I made for them back when they were working with Mushmina making t-shirts. (To see an Al Falah t-shirt for sale click here.)

I'm really hoping that they will stick with this project and that the next volunteer encourages them to expand their line of paper products. Because greeting cards are not really appealing to the Moroccan market (for the most part), it will be very important that they continue going to craft fairs that cater to a tourist market if they choose to continue with this product line.