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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Sights of Souk

Every Tuesday is Souk day in our town. The American equivalent of souk would probably be a farmer's market. But I'm not sure you'd be able to find a farmer's market quite like this.

Like most souks in Morocco, our souk is located on the edge of town, in a large walled off area, featuring grand arched entryways on three sides.

Jon wrote a very detailed account of what a typical souk day was like for him back in April, 2009. However, it's very difficult to describe the experience that is souk without visuals. So, I will now take you on a walking tour of our souk.

After you enter the archway you see tents lined up with people selling everything from used and new clothes, to housewares, to food. The vendors cluster around each other to sell similar items. All the produce is one area, while the used clothing is in another, which is next to the new clothing and across from the housewares, etc. It's actually very organized, though it might not seem like it at first.

These days I go to souk alone and very early, while most vendors are still setting out their wares and pitching their tents. This came about because I began to dislike going at 11 or 12 o'clock, when the sun is very hot and the souk is very crowded. For many people, souk is a time for socializing. It's almost the equivalent to a mall outing for American teenagers; it's a place to be seen. It's almost comical to see souk through the filter of my American eyes. I see girls dressed in their best (and wearing high heels) to wade their way through mud, trash, and excrement; but they look good doing it.

I, on the other hand, go to souk for different reasons. I mainly go there to buy produce for the entire week. Though there are a couple of places to buy produce throughout the week, the quality is usually sub-par. I like to go to souk early (about 8am) to beat the crowds, the heat, and to have the best selection of fruits and veggies.

Week after week I patronize the same vendors. They know me and I trust them to give me fair prices. Below is my "nut guy." He is my first stop every week and is the person I buy peanuts, almonds, raisins, and garlic from. He always gives me exactly three complementary dates which I eat while he fills my order. Below are pictures of him and his stall.

After getting my supply of nuts I go to my favorite veggie guy. His stall is big and he has a really great variety of veggies and some fruits, as you can see from the photos below. He has a deaf helper who is very insistent on putting my purchases in plastic bags, though I tell him over and over that I brought my own cloth bags and don't need their plastic ones. They were both very excited to see the pictures I was taking of the veggies...I think they thought I was very odd.

And as always, the noble donkeys know where to find the tastiest morsels from souk.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Morocco in Crochet

For the last week or so I've been working on a fun project. It all started with the crochet Moroccan style shoes that I designed several months ago to be made into earrings.

Then, when some friends came over a couple of weeks ago to visit, the idea of using the shoes for dolls came up. That's when I had the idea to make dolls to go with the shoes...

But I didn't want to stop with just dolls. I wanted accessories! First the shoes needed to be slightly redesigned to fit over the feet. For the boy I made shoes in bright yellow, a traditional color for mens shoes. He also got two hats. One is a white skull style cap (traditionally made in crochet anyway) and the other is a straw hat, usually worn by men while working in the fields.

And for the girl, I made a purse with sequins to match her shoes.

Of course they also needed a tajine with some bread so they could have something to eat...

I also have a very colorful Moroccan rug in progress for them to sit on while they eat...

Oh the possibilities are endless with this! Now I want to make pillows, a sheep skin rug, an embroidered table cloth, and of course Jellabas for both girl and boy (maroon for the girl, white for the boy). Have any suggestions for other items I could make? Leave me a comment below.

I introduced this project to the girls last Tuesday and they absolutely loved it, especially the tajine! Fatima, the main crocheter of the group was in Rabat all last week, so I can't wait to see what she thinks of all this when I show her tomorrow.


There are two or three cooperatives currently working with volunteers who make small dolls. I've always really liked the idea representing Moroccan culture in miniature, especially doll form because dolls are generally made for children and are a great way for young people to learn things, like about a different cultures for instance.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Ten newly finished objects

Ten UFOs (unfinished objects)

Ten different crochet coin purses featuring the same flower motif and four colors
(also unfinished)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Haiku of the day

need a crochet break
called my mom for her birthday
shepherd's pie tasty

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Close of Service Conference

Last week was our Close of Service Conference, which means that it's time to start saying good bye. It was really great to see everyone in our staj again. Out of the 29 Small Business Development volunteers that come to Morocco in 2008, 26 of us will finish our service this November. To commemorate the two years that we've spent together, Lisa Payne drew this lovely picture of our entire staj.

And here we are in the same configuration in photo form. As you can see, Lisa was pretty much spot on with her interpretation of us!

Top row (from left to right):
Jon Lindberg, Mike Lightman, Jonathan Santeliz, Joy Chen, Kristen Apa, Tim Michetti, Rebecca Luhrs

2nd row:
Emily Lindberg, Jennifer Jae Boyd, Steven Schnelle, Nathaniel Krause, Lynn Dines, April Koury, Courtney Healy (upper), Angie Bertramson (lower), Randy Leisenring (lower), Jared Imse (upper)

3rd row:
Lisa Payne, Maggie Downey, Colin Huerter, Michael Craig, Dena Thomas, Dan Hudner, Sarah Young, Terra Fuller, Cynthia Berning

In addition to the awesome drawing, each SBD volunteer received a superlative. Everyone pitched in with coming up with ones for our fellow stajmates, but I think it was Joy who was the mastermind. She was in charge of gathering them and making sure that everyone had a really good one. More on that later when I get the complete list from Joy.