Thursday, February 26, 2009

mika eshra! mika eshra! mika eshra!

Here’s a little video Natalie slyly shot at our most recent souq. Note the angry looking boy that walks along the bottom of the screen and read ahead.

I love souq. It can be frustrating at times, always at the mercy of the elements, but always some kind of adventure. The thought of going to a sad, fluorescent-lit supermarket for food and other necessities at my beckon call doesn’t appeal to me anymore in the slightest.

Souq, as I may have mentioned before, happens one day each week, the day depends on where you are. My village is too small for a souq, so we travel 6k away to the next town for Sunday souq, the next closest town has souq on Thursdays, and another on Tuesdays, and so on. Souq has different sections, or departments if you want to look at it that way. There’s the used clothing, shoes and whatnot section, the “plastic plantation” for all household products you might need, there are the spice guys, the bucket guys, the 3 dirham table, the furniture guys, the rug and blanket guys, the egg guys, the chicken guys and so on, and then of course, the main event, the fruit and veggie area.

Its much like the Farmer’s Market, you buy your produce by weight, only nothing is labeled and it’s very crowded. It used to stress me out and I was often not in the mood for crowds, but it’s so ingrained now. I love greeting people I know and being able to scoff at the few still quoting high prices like I’m a dumb tourist. Shoot, I’m amazigh dude!

One not so great aspect of souq is what this blog title is about-the mika eshra boys, and sometimes, girls. Mika is the word for plastic, any kind, including plastic bags, and eshra means ten. Ten refers to the cost in ryal. Something that first infuriated me but now is just an accepted little test of my multiplication memory is ryals. Except in the big cities, everyone quotes in ryals here. Even though the coin says 10, they only see 200 ryal. I know it’s odd, but its reality. So I’ve gotten quite used to it. The mika boys yell 10, for 10 ryal, which is half a dirham.

When you buy produce the seller will bag it up unless you protest like I do, in a regular mika. The boys sell these fancy, sturdy, big mika for fellas that didn’t bring real souq bags. I bring my extra mikas from home to separate veggies or just let them all get mixed up in my souq bag; I really don’t care, point being, I hate acquiring any new mika.

Since these boys are fascinated by foreigners and are dying to make some dirhams they often follow us all through souq, screaming “Mika eshra! Mika eshra! Mika eshara!” the whole way. I love kids, but not when they get bratty and gawking. We’ve told them off a few times, but ya know. Like all annoyances, you have to make a choice about whether you’re going to let it bug you or not. So that little boy in the video is one such little monster. You can also hear a donkey bray, see me sifting through zucchini, and men yelling “miya!” which means 100. Which is 5dirham, which is something under a dollar, I have no idea (I stopped thinking in dollars about three months into service).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Faith in Tom and Love for Aldo

There is much to say about my landlords negligence, his final roof fixing appearance the one day I couldn’t be here, my craze from not living in my house for a week, how grateful I am to Natalie for taking my cats and I in that week, not bathing for almost two weeks, the awful trip to a dear friend’s site to rescue his cat since he’s currently in America, locking ourselves in his house, being freed by a bobby pin, too many cat transport adventures, and the continual lesson in patience I attend every day. But I can’t catch you up on everything; right now I just have a little apology and a blurb on my Valentine’s Day.

First off I would like to apologize for my lack of faith in the new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. It seems he’s having a far better start than I feared, and I’m darn grateful. A great new blog I’ve come across is Epicurean Ideal, and her recent post, on Feb. 12, explains it all better than I can, so please check it out.

My Valentine’s Day was pretty uneventful; I returned from Azrou in time to go to the cooperative in the afternoon and attend their script class, then returned home and got my house fixed up a bit and the ferno returned to its proper place (the roof fixers kinda broke it) and settled back in. I made my newest favorite recipe, and ate my first home-cooked-all-alone meal in quite some time and watched a dumb movie. Then I decided the best valentine I could give myself was some Aldo Leopold. My real valentine, Bu, and I curled up and began A Sand County Almanac. I first read it my senior year of college for Environmental Ethics and Policy, and honestly all I can really remember about it was that I loved it and it brought me rare moments of peace in those crazy days. So this is take-two, and I plan to take it all in much better this time. I realized a few pages in that this year is actually the 60th anniversary of its publication, and it’s unbelievable how true and imperative its message remains.

Now I’ve really got to get cracking on trip planning-I leave for Spain and Germany in less than a month and haven’t thought it through at all! To be perfectly honest, I’m not even that interested in where I’m going or what I’ll be doing; I’ve lost the crazy wanderlust I had just a couple years ago. I’m excited for the break from Morocco, to have time with my awesome cousin, and to see how I act around not-PCVs. And I know myself well enough that I know I have to plan it down to the minute, even if I plan to break each and every plan. I hate going somewhere randomly, but just haven’t been able to tear myself away from planning for the next big trip, that one happening in nine months or so, that trip that not so much a trip as it is LIFE after Peace Corps.

I’ve grown far more loving lately of my experience here and I wholeheartedly and willingly mean to complete it now. Of course it’s far easier and more pleasant to go each day knowing what my later goal is, but wow! I’m soooo excited! I’ve been looking into so many different farms and philosophies on farming and styles and plants and animals and everything; it’s all incredibly overwhelming and yet invigorating. So, oddly, I have to force myself to take a break from planning my life and focus on my itty bitty vacation.

My last post seemed a bit rude in hindsight and I want to let you all know how much I truly love this country, its people, and my life overall here, and I won’t be making a surprise early return. The trials and frustrations here are only vital lessons in patience and everything else I still have to learn. I’m not deliriously happy, but I’m also not constantly wishing I was somewhere else-I am grateful for the overall experience here, and for the crazy way this time and this country has helped me finally recognize my calling.
I feel I haven’t said it in awhile, so I will - I love and miss you all dearly and do look forward to the day we’re reunited, and it will feel so good!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

raindrops keep fallin on my head

Ya, and not when I’m outdoors, it’s raining in my damn house! But I will explain fully soon, right now I have to backtrack a bit.

Months ago now we’ve been trying to plan a weekend to do a SIDA TOT (AIDS Training of Trainers) for the volunteers in my region, and we finally got it set for the last weekend of January, and I was set to be the host. Since November the weather has only gotten worse and worse, with fleeting and teasing bouts of sunshiny-beautiful days in between. But each time a new storm comes, whether its rain or snow, or both and more, my house continues to disintegrate more and more. The melt from the snow a week or so ago finally broke through to my ferno room-so it was leaking in EVERY room. The weather flipped over into absolute loveliness after that, enough that parts of town actually dried; for once we had dirt rather than mud! It was so nice. I was nervous about hosting because the weather can change so fast, but we went for it anyway.

Everyone arrived at some point on Friday, making a total of seven sleeping in my little abode. It got a bit muggy, but lhamdullah we got through the weekend dry and the trainees did an awesome SIDA and STI tea talk with the women at the cooperative. Being the host, I wasn’t trained, I just cooked and cleaned. I cooked my ass off all weekend, and enjoyed every minute of it! It’s possible I’m just meant to be a housewife, because I friggin love just cookin it up for people! Just a little taste of what I made-stuffed peppers with homemade ricotta, cinnamon rolls, rosemary breakfast potatoes, pumpkin curry chickpea soup, English muffin bread, sloppy lentils, spinach b├ęchamel lasagna (only I used spaghetti instead of lasagna noodles, and this dish was much thanks to Jed and his generous contribution of parmesan from Italy), butternut cookies, lemon zest cake…and some other stuff. Sorry for the vanity, but I had so much fun doing it!

Sunday morning everyone made their way off and I prepared my house for a new guest just as the weather began to turn from muggy to freezing wind and spitty snow. Though exhausted by the training, Nat and another PCV helped me clean the house; I was excited, it would be my first time hosting a
couch surfer! Around lunch time the weather really started getting bad-extremely windy and wet snowy rain, or rainy snow, I don’t know what to call it, except that it was a mushkil amkor (big problem). She arrived around 2pm, as did the leaks in my house. While my couch surfing profile promises a quaint mud house, a sweet Berber village, and beautiful Middle Atlas Mountains, this poor girl would see none of that. We all prepared an awesome late Asian style lunch of egg rolls (thanks to Nat), rice dishes and peanut sauce and hung out by the ferno hoping the weather might clear up. It didn’t.

It also happened to be this Aussie’s birthday, so I crushed candy canes from a holiday package and we had peppermint brownies and chatted with intermittent comments like, “oh shit, there’s another leak!” and shrieks when it hit your face, or down the back of your neck, etc., and so the night went. There was no safe place. We shifted ponjes around awkwardly and managed to find spots we thought were free from the dripping. The wind kept up, but it was hardly raining outside, and yet inside my house you’d think there was a monsoon. I actually slept rather well until about 5:30am when I had to pee like none other (I’d been listening to water dropping all night ya know) and realized my entire right side was wet and water was dripping on my pillow an inch from my face. Apparently in sleep I had been hit in the face enough that I had rolled over and been hugging the ponj of my friend to get away from it-I realized this when I got up and realized my back was completely tweaked. Everyone else was in some state of dampness as well. So that was a fun night.

The other PCV left and my poor guest who didn’t think she’d be so close to literally couch surfing, Natalie and I spent a good two hours removing endless buckets of water from my house. My entire neighborhood now truly understands that I wasn’t exaggerating when I told them “guri bzaf timqa; taddartinu am wasif!” (“I have so many leaks; my house is like a river!”). Everyone is having really bad leak issues, but generally have one safe room to sleep in. My landlord will now be getting an earful from a few angry women. So after all that, and moving everything valuable I own to the half of one room that seemed to be safe we got the hell out of there.

We went to survey the damage at Nat’s house only to find, lhamdullah, no leaks! We could hardly believe it and after warming up a bit we went back to my house to gather the few dry blankets I had, some movies and the cats. The girl was a real sport about it all, and Nat’s house started leaking a bit, but nowhere near the downpour within my house. She took off this morning for Chef, Nat went off to tutoring, and I’m catching up online and refusing to return home. I’m just so bummed. I love my house and I’m so damn tired of being wet and cold. Rain rain go away! Come again another day… or not… please just wait til my roof is fixed.