Friday, May 29, 2009

busy bee

I apologize in advance for not updating this so much now. I want to more than ever for these are very exciting times and there is so much I want to share with you all, but its good because its busy and I don’t have as much cyber time as I used to. It’s too true what I was told before-that the last six months are the busiest. Busy as a bee, only rather than a field of flowers I’ve got a roomful of looms! Pattern weaving is going well and I’m putting in very long days and enjoying staying in site. I really have so much to tell you all about sheep shearing in the middle of nowhere, all the babies and the maternal instincts they have been inspiring in me, all the new podcasts I’m in love with (Savage Love is like crack), all the WWOOFing prospects I have and how excited I am to get to them, and the way I am humbled and taught more and more by this country each day. Oh and the list goes on. But in truth, as kind as you are in reading and possibly even enjoying my writing, it’s horrendously tortuous to write. Some things we love come easily, and others not so much. I do love writing but it stresses me out and I have countless blog posts started on some grand thought or event, but then I never have the energy to make any sense of it and appropriate for posting. So I may or may not be less present here for a bit, sorry!
Now for a fun little numbers update, because though many are excited for my return, they can never seem to remember when I am coming home. Nine days less than six months from now I will be an RPCV, so six months from today I will have been home for a couple days and even passed Thanksgiving with you all, what!? The 19th was my two year college graduation anniversary. The 19th also marked one month before I will be meeting my dear dad, stepmom and two sisters in Ireland. Uhh, less than 100 is the amount of dirhams I’d spent in the past couple weeks, and 0 is the number of times I’d left my village in two weeks (not counting my souk town 6k away) until our mandatory consolidation drill in Fes a couple days ago. Three is the number of babies I’ve held and fallen for in the same amount of time. Infinite is the number of weddings, baby naming ceremonies, and tea dates I have promised to attend in the coming months. 3 is the number of months there are before Ramadan. 25+ is the number of how many water bottles I have filled at any given time in preparation of summer days without running water. About 8 is the number of fruits now available and I really can’t get enough (I’m even making peach pie tonight). 5 is the number of times I’ve climbed the mountain in my site. (I hope to more than double that before I leave). Unknown is the number of people I can’t wait to see yet I know it’s equal to the number of people I will sorely miss. 6 is the number of days I hosted people in a row last week, and it was wonderful but it’s nice to be alone. I’m out of numbers, ask me something new.
As always, I love and miss you all, I’m really on the home stretch now!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

baby season

I love spring. It’s glorious. And after, by far and thus far, the most difficult winter of my life, it is equally the most beautiful spring of my life. And I have never been so thankful for earth’s great lessons of birth and renewal. The landscape is flying upward with new life. Since it was such a wet year its greener than ever, the mountains a richer brown than I could ever imagine. The fields are high with wheat and other grains, soon enough they will turn brown, be harvested and replanted with corn and grow even higher. Other fields are alive with the sweet scents of onions and garlic. There are red poppies popping up everywhere, brilliantly contrasted against all the green.

The storks have been back awhile, building nests, and now, in ones low enough for me to just barely see, are little brown chicks with eager beaks. There’s the usual overabundance of sad kittens and puppies as well as the happy, chirpy abundance of turkey and chicken chicks running down the dirt alleys. Then there are all the bigger animals; sheep, goats, horses, cows, donkeys; all are giving birth now. The dirty brown flocks of sheep are now juxtaposed by the fresh white fleece of new lambs. The kids never quiet. The few ponies and mules are adorable. The calves are cute enough to kiss. But there is nothing cuter than a baby donkey.

Donkeys work mighty hard here and just about every family in town seems to have one. While they aren’t overly cruel, since these animals need to stay healthy enough to work, they certainly lead no charmed life. They get quite sad and dirty real quick, but when they are young, oh my. During the transit strike Natalie and I walked to the next town for souq and on the way saw an adorable baby donkey near the road. The babies are not tied up, since they keep to the mother anyhow, and for a few months at least, they are as close to being free as they ever will be. On our way back they were still there and the baby donkey seemed to have found his way to the cookie jar because he was bouncing of the field. Almost as if he was playing with us. He’d look over, then bound up and frolic across the road, out a bit, and back, and then again. All of this clearly alarmed his mother, who was tied up near a rock shed. As we got closer he started running around the shed, hiding behind, then bounding out again, like a game of hide and seek. It was wonderful.

Fun fact you may or may not know-donkeys and llamas are excellent guard animals for herds of sheep, alpacas, and the like. Better than a dog even, they will guard flocks from wolves, I even hear they will break a predators back. So, if I can be successful and fortunate enough to have a small fiber animal enterprise as part of my way long distant future farm, I will certainly have one. Donkeys don’t provide fiber, but my goodness they have character.

Baby season does not end with the great births outdoors. Inside, women are popping out kids like crazy. Wedding season is in summer, almost no one gets married outside of summer, so many of the new brides get pregnant fast, and are having their first child somewhere between April and June. And this means sadikas, or baby naming ceremonies. One week after a child is born it is named and the family throws a party. Not in the sense we might think of course. This party is just a grand lunch for tons of people. Every family brings a cone or two of sugar (yes, literally a cone of sugar, weighing a kilo each) as a gift to celebrate the birth and hope for a sweet life. The men are served tea, pray, are fed lunch and pray some more. The women, in another huge room, chat, have a couple rounds of tea, kiss the baby, maybe dance, are fed, and leave. It’s the standard two course meal. The first usually a giant plate of meat and juices with olives or prunes and hard boiled eggs. The second is couscous, usually with milk and chickpeas and sweet boiled raisins. This kind of ceremony is very similar to a death ceremony; they are wonderful get togethers and remind you of how much you’ve integrated into the sweet little community and gotten to know such a different set of ceremonies. My counterparts sister in law just had a healthy boy two nights ago and I’m excited to attend the naming ceremony next week.

And so it is spring. Alive with renewal and rebirth and very happy people. Happy because the crops will be so bountiful this year, because it is warm, and because I understand them just a bit better than last year. It’s a good time of year. The year I went to college you could say is the first year I spent with real seasons. In southern California we do in fact, aside from popular belief, have all four seasons, they are just not very different. We generally have a wet and dry season, but the change is fairly moderate. So it’s true I never had to live in snow or endure months of incredible heat, nor truly experience the short but beautiful season of autumn and the turning of the leaves or the great green rebirth of spring. I considered myself quite lucky in California after my first winter in Kansas City. I got over the pretty snow soon after my first, of many, falls flat on my ass on the ice.

Now I just don’t know. After surviving such a harsh winter, the gift of such a glorious spring makes up for it and then some. To be a farmer is to live according to seasons and at the mercy of the weather. I don’t know where I’ll end up, and even though seasons exist everywhere you go, I don’t know if moderate California will be it. Or at least the weather paradise I am from. Time and experience will tell.

Side-note on being thankful: abundant bugs are a part of spring and I’ve been dealing with them rather well. I welcome spiders, my cat catches flies, roaches are few and the ants aren’t here just yet. But there is another critter I have no tolerance for and yesterday morning I kinda flipped out. Dozily waking up, I randomly felt behind my ear and discovered a tick! I don’t think he’d actually bitten me yet, but was certainly curled up in a prime spot for feasting. I smashed him to smithereens and then checked my whole body and Bu. I freaked out because besides being nasty, ticks are very dangerous. You may remember a post sometime two summers ago when I was working for the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and my boss and I accidentally found ourselves in a tick infested wood. He taught me a lot about the dangers of lime disease, and drove me straight home, ending the workday early, and ordering me to shower, scour my body and be sure to get any buggers off. It’s a good thing he was strict because I did find two or three crawlers which otherwise may have latched on and provided me with the chance of an awful lifelong disease. I’m very thankful for my health, and the doctors assure us lime disease does not exist in Morocco, but I’m still going to be extra careful.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

you wanna piece of Morocco?

4 May 2009

I’m enjoying a night by myself after a good, long work week. Last Tuesday Alia Kate, founder of Kantara Crafts, came to Morocco yet again. Some months ago she put in orders with the Cooperative I work with and came by for a few days to hang out and pick up the work. She was very happy with the results and bought out the other great hanbils they had (including one for the Caid, which wasn’t actually available, but they like her so much they said she could buy it, the Caid could wait!). An important part of her business is to understand the women and the culture as well as supporting them by purchasing their work; her site is much more informative and accurate than I of course, so visit it! Here’s what she writes as Kantara’s Mission: "Kantara Crafts imports fair-trade rugs and textiles directly from women's cooperatives, thereby empowering the artisans to promote their financial independence as well as their creative freedom, while spurring growth and development in rural regions of Morocco"

In the process I too learned a lot about organizing command orders with the women, and have since begun thinking about what I am going to order to bring back with me to the states. I emailed my immediate family about what they might want because I do want to be able to have something tangible to give those I have missed and have missed me for over two years, but have been informed that more of you may want to order something. These women are incredible and the product is of the highest quality. You know I’m not a business person, and I’m not advertizing or even asking because it will benefit them. I’m just being honest. You really get the better deal. In fact it even kinda sucks for me because it’s a pain in the butt to ship stuff from here, but I’m of course happy to do it. Anyhow, I have put up an album entitled Cooperative Atma on facebook so check that out if you’re interested.

Be specific, or at least give me a guide. With a command order with these women you will get just what you ask for. If there is a particular color scheme or design you like then let me know, and the size. Prices vary greatly and depend on size and the complexity of design; areas of solid color, for instance, cost less than areas of pattern. They are all cotton warp and wool weft (meaning, the tassels you see on the end are cotton, but all you see in the rest is wool). They can do solid wool warp and weft but it would cost a decent amount more money and time because they have to process and spin the warp yarn very differently than the rest. If you are interested in that let me know. I just wanted to open this up to anyone. I figure anyone who dares read this ridiculous blog is among those that might be interested in a product of the amazing women and community I live among. If you do want something email me, comment on this post, or on the facebook album, or any other of the various ways you can think of to contact me. I’m not getting a cut or anything so the money will go directly to the women who made the work and shipping (unless of course someone wants to visit me sometime this summer-to see beautiful Morocco and take some rugs home, hint, hint, HINT)

above photo courtesy of Alia Kate

Now onto the rest of the weeks work…On May 3rd the first annual SIDA (AIDS) marathon was held in Midelt and it was a hit! Some other awesome volunteers and an awesome Moroccan association have been planning it for months and I just went to help out. I arrived to find I was on dinner crew, ha, but what’s new. I’m way out of shape so I happily took the photography job rather than running. The Moroccan support and interest was phenomenal, the kids were excited, and the whole thing really went well. It really helped to promote SIDA and STI awareness and I’m so grateful I could take part in it. After the great success and hard work we (just Americans) had a grand evening of drinking and dancing. I’d been holding off on drinking since returning from Europe, not only did I want to savor the memory of truly good beer, I’ve also been trying to save extra money and staying in site keeps me from both drinking and spending. Wonderful how that works actually.

And now I’m home, with my wonderful boy Bu and the great calm I feel when back here. Among the many glories of spring I’m discovering once again that veggies actually mold and go bad when not frozen, and I need to do some house fixing like the screens on my windows, to keep flies as well as foreign cats out. Work is going great and my only sadness stems from thought of how much I’ll miss this wonderful place. I’ll post again soon on the wonders of spring.