I know it’s been months, but I’ll hope you’ll forgive my lack of update. I’m writing from Issafen, a small Berber village in the mountains southwest of Agadir.
Internet is sparse as is cheese, cold sodas, good ice cream, and (of course) alcohol. In Errachidia I lived within a 5 minute walk of both a grand taxi stand, being able to get a taxi anywhere at any time, and a bus station, with buses leaving on the hour to cities in the north, south, east, and west. Here in Issafen, there are two daily buses that leave for Agadir and a few that leave to another larger city to the west (Tata). That is, of course, unless there’s a bus strike, in which case one must stand on the road (the only road that runs through town) and wait for a taxi or a transit. In order to take Rose (my dog) to the vet, I have to bring her on a bus or rent out an entire taxi to either Agadir (4 hours away) or Marrakesh (7 hours away). In order to buy her dog food, I have to do the same. There is no wi-fi in my town, no showers or hamams (bath houses). In my town of between 1000 and 2000 I know of two people that have a car. Instead of having to wait in a tedious line and arguing with the post office worker about “whether or not he feels like getting my package” from the back room that day, the one post office worker in my town, in the usually empty post office, takes initiative to let ME know if I have a package. When I walk down the street, instead of snide comments or harassment I get “hello!”s and “how are you?”s. Every time I walk down the street, I see someone I know, a person I work with, or a student that attends one of my classes. My town doesn’t have a high school, so if youth that age want to attend high school, they go to Tata (and hour and a half away) for the week and sleep in dorms and return home on the weekends. My town has the only middle school in the area, hosting the same sort of dorm setting. The youth center is situated right next to these dorms, which are also about a 5 to 10 minute walk outside of town, offering the youth center as the best/only space for kids to participate in extra curricular activities. Therefore, the dar chebab always has kids. It’s quite a different experience, and while traveling is a huge pain, everything else pretty much makes up for it.
Since arriving in site two months ago, we’ve held a few parties at the dar chebab (pictures to come soon), cleaned, organized, and prepared the neddi for it’s yearly opening, and started a busy schedule of classes and programs with the middle schoolers, I’ve found no issue with trying to find work. The youth here are eager, the women take it upon themselves to tell us we don’t know how to do anything and then insist on teaching us, and the mere act of brandishing a soccer ball ensures an entire day of play. I’m currently working on expanding the women’s empowerment program I did in Errachidia a few months ago, but this time on a larger scale and over a longer period of time. The program will take off in the beginning of February, if it gets funded, and will commence at the end of March. It will focus on educating girls about different kinds of leadership and empowerment around the world, facilitated by Moroccan women, and will conclude with each participating city choosing a project to help their community see them as leaders and help expose them to the importance of volunteerism and service. I’ve also began helping with Issafen’s kindergarten classes (!) and safe to say Meredith (my site mate) and I will have a very busy year.
In other news, I ran my first race, a 7K in Tata! Meredith and I are training for the half marathon in Marrakech at the end of January, and used the opportunity for some practice! In was an interesting experience, there was a lot of press, all interested in interviewing the only three non-Moroccans, even to the point of asking us to be late the start of the race. If I’ve learned anything about the press in Morocco it’s that they’re ruthless, and in my opinion just plain rude and manner-less, when it comes to covering a public event. During the art show and lecture series in Errachidia, a member of the press interrupted a speech in front of a lecture hall full of students to interview someone on the panel. Multiple new sources impeded our participation in the 7K and made us feel guilty when we refused to give an interview, making it seem as if we were the rude ones. So while it irks me to watch people get attacked by the press in America, people leaving hospitals and county jails, it makes me proud that it’s common courtesy in our country for the press to shut up during moments of public proclamation.
I took a trip to Marrakech for a regional meeting, bringing Rose with me, so she could get fixed. It was stressful and long, to say the least, lugging her and her kennel in numerous taxis and a bus, but now I know that in America I will never complain about pet care!
I am also heading home! Just for the holidays. I’ll be spending two days in Paris and one day in Dublin on my way back and will be in Milwaukee for both Christmas and New Years. I’m extremely looking forward to the trip and will be eating a lot of Culvers and drinking a lot of Starbucks.
It’s starting to get cold in Issafen and the rest of the country, the mind-numbing heat is going away and we’re all starting to pile up the blankets and put on the thermals. Everyone here is hoping for snow! I hope it’s starting to fall for you wherever you may be in the world as well.