Saturday, June 19, 2010

Making in Morocco; Refections

A few months ago I subscribed to a podcast called CraftSanity, by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood. It's an interview show about "art, craft and creativity" and is produced by Jennifer "in the hope that it will help us all live long and crafty lives." It's a great podcast with an accompanying blog which features interesting tutorials and stories about Jennifer's crafty life and the crafty lives of the people she interviews. It has been a tremendous asset to me since I've been here in Morocco. Whenever I find myself working out a new product design at home I almost always have the iPod on listening to a podcast, and hers is by far my favorite because it's so inspirational to listen to other artists' stories while I'm trying to create something.

Jennifer's been pod casting for about four and a half years now, so I have a lot of pod casts to catch up on (which is awesome because I don't have to wait a week or two for her to publish a new one). I've been making my way backwards and the other day I listened to episode #59 with Anne Landre about her Mother's Day Project.

As Jennifer states at the begging of the interview, this podcast is heavier than her usual interviews. The purpose of the Mother's Day Project "is to draw attention to the human cost of the Iraq War."

About half way through the podcast Jennifer said something that struck me personally and made me reflect on my work here in a way that I haven't really done before. She said, "I wish we could figure out a better way to solve issues...if we got a lot of women together and chatted and sat around and just made things maybe we could solve some issues sounds so trivial and ridicules but I'd rather see something like that then blowing things up."

In a lot of ways, I guess you can say that is what I do here. Morocco is a peaceful country. It is also a Muslim country. There have been a few instances where I felt that people I know in the States were apprehensive about the fact that I'm spending over two years of my life in a Muslim country. In a way I understand their apprehensions because they only have TV as a reference. I don't think that the American media does a good enough job in distinguishing between people who are doing bad things (like killing other people and themselves) and people who aren't. The media makes a lot of Americans think that the Muslim Religion is what's to blame by saying things like "the Muslim terrorist" or The Muslim extremist." The word "Muslim" is thrown around a lot, while the important words terrorist and extremist become secondary, to the point where Americans just associate those words with the Muslim Religion.

I have lived in Morocco for nearly two years at this point and can say with confidence that Moroccans don't hate Americans. They are warm, welcoming and patient people.

Jennifer's comment struck me because on a daily basis I am literally sitting in a circle of young women making things, listening, and talking. I believe that this has been the real reason to any success that I have had here. Verbal language has never been my strongest asset. Though my language has gotten to the point where I am comfortable in most situations, my best form of communication has been with my hands. Yes, I do provide technical training, like showing Fatima new crochet techniques and how to write her own patterns, or teaching Omima (below) how to master the chain stitch, but this is not what is really important.

What is important is that the women and I learn to put faces to the words "American" and "Muslim." We are all just people and we are good people. The girls are happy that I'm here and don't want me to go, which to me is the highest complement they could ever pay me.

Before coming to Morocco I didn't know what to expect. I knew that Peace Corps doesn't place volunteers in places that are dangerous. Of course, when you're so far away for such a long time your friends and family will always worry about you. I know this has been the case for me. I just hope that the work I've done to write about my experience here, both on my blog and in e-mails, has done a good job in showing the people who care about me back home that this is a place with good people.

Every volunteer wants to make some kind of a difference and fulfill one if not all three of the goals of Peace Corps (see side panel of this blog and read the "three goals of Peace Corps) and I am no different.

note: The pictures featured in this post where taken this past Friday.


Jennifer said...

What a lovely post, Emily. You're doing exactly the sort of work that makes a difference. Using art and craft to bridge cultural divides is such a powerful thing. I would be honored to crochet with your group. Keep up the great work and keep documenting your experiences. Your readers can learn so much from your adventure. Thanks so much for sharing your story! All the best to you and you and the women you craft with!

B said...

What a lovely post, Emily ~ you put it so well. The connections we make, individual and collective, really are such an important part of Peace Corps work.

Emily and Jon said...

Thank you for your lovely comments Jennifer and B!