Thursday, May 10, 2012

Old Time/New Time and Summer!

Old Time/New Time

At the end of April "we" "switched" to daylight savings time. I put those words in quotation marks because the switch is not really a switch, we merely add a way to tell time. Why is "we" in quotes? Because the following actually operate on new time: Government buildings like schools and post offices, and the buses. That's it. Nobody else follows daylight savings time. Not shops, not markets, not individuals. They just learn that now the post office opens at 7am (old time) and the kids have to go back to school at 1pm (old time), following lunch. Any meeting you set up must be specified whether it is "old time" or "new time." Last year, when I first experienced this, I asked my Peace Corps friend Erika, when they get used to it and stop specifying. Her response was "...until it's old time again." And indeed, that was true.

This year is a little more complicated because Ramadan happens right in the middle of New Time. The Solution? On ~July 22nd when Ramadan starts, we will switch back to Old Time so people don't have to work as much during daylight hours when they are fasting. Then, when Ramadan is over in Mid-August, we will switch back to New Time until September 30th, when we will revert back to Old Time (a.k.a. Standard Time.)

Last year I thought this was so dumb. I thought "what is so hard about switching to daylight savings time?!" But now I enjoy how much more fluid time has become. (as if it weren't fluid already....) First of all, as time has gone by, I rarely follow time at all anyway. My day goes by calls-to-prayer and temperature. Also, women definitely don't follow New Time. My English lessons at the Woman's Center were always at 10am (old time) and now I show up at 11 (new time) and I'm still right on time.

It's Summer!!

How do I know?

1. It's definitely 90+ degrees during the day.
2. I have had no running water after 9am.
3. I have a strong desire to do laundry and use bleach.
4. I washed my sheets for the first time since Fall. (you can think that's gross-I have a hard time doing laundry when the water is 40 degrees.)
5. My uniform at home is the Gandora. Gandoras are long tunics that women wear inside the house. They are light weight and have loose, open sleeves kind of like a man's muscle shirt. They are gorgeous but strictly housewear. I have a floor length gandora, like in the picture, that is teal with yellow, red, and blue accents. I also have a creme thigh-length one with creme patching pants. The accent colors being lime green and orange. They are wonderful. I often cinch them at the waist with a shoelace and spend most of the day with the bottom tucked into the lace, so that I don't get it wet, what with all my laundry doing.
6. My attitude is very positive. I love the heat and the sunshine!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


For Most of April I was traveling. Last year, and all other years in recent history, Morocco's Spring Break was a single week.THIS YEAR the government decided to have Spring Break be two weeks long. (As if these kids aren't out of school enough as it is from a million holidays and strikes...) Last year, I coordinated the Ministry of Youth and Sport's English Immersion Camp in Oujda. This year I was assigned to a bit of a different task. I was assigned to coordinate a day camp at a Dar Chebab in Fes. This particular Dar Chebab was chosen because the newest set of Peace Corps Trainees arrived just a few weeks ago and one group of 6 is training at this particular Dar Chebab. Having a camp at the Dar Chebab not only is fun for the neighborhood kids, but it also gives the PCTrainees a chance to see what "camp" is like really early on in their experience. We taught English and did some games in English, and of course, taught the Macarena. It was an especially important time for the PCTs to see what is "normal" here. For example, we prepared a whole afternoon show for the local delegate of the ministry of youth and sports and...of course, he was a no-show. They also got to find out that is is normal for the Moroccan counselors to bust in on your English class, or any activity, and take it over. They're just trying to help. Smacking a misbehaving kid? Also normal. (Although I don't do it...) One particular PCT, Kitty, has a tremendous amount of camp experience under her belt from America. I heard her making a comment about a game we could play with our shoes off that she couldn't play in the states because "insurance wouldn't allow it." HA! All in all, camp week 1 was a great success.
This is a photo of me, the new PCTs, and some of the campers and counselors at the Fes camp. Getting to Camp Week 2 was a bit more of a challenge. The camp to which I was originally assigned for week 2 really didn't have room for me. And camps were canceling right and left for week two because...local delegations just didn't feel like hosting a week 2. I found my refuge though in Tetouan! Tetouan is a lovely mountain city very close to Tangier. It looks so much like Spain! Everything I read referred the the architecture as Andalusian. The kids at the camp were well behaved and spoke a surprising amount of English. I really bonded with a few of them. They also were incredibly participatory with all our activities including an epic 2-hour scavenger hunt that not even one group finished! I will definitely be recreating it for summer camp.
(Photo of Tetouan and it's beautiful white buildings.) Camp finished on a Friday so two other PCVs and I who'd been at Tetouan went up to Tangier for Friday and Saturday. I had been to Tangier last year to do the Special Olympics and really loved it. I went back thinking that my memory would prove false and it wasn't possibly as great a city as I remembered...well I was wrong! Tangier is absolutely just as fantastic as last year! There are so many fun tourists to "bonjour" in the street, so many winding avenues to follow, so many cafes and restaurants to sit at for hours on end. It's also very walkable. Plus, there is the beach and the port. It's humbling and thought-provoking to gaze across the water and stare dreamily at Spain, a mere and clear 8 miles away. Yes, not only is Tangier officially my favorite city in Morocco, it just may be my favorite city in the world, aside from Miami, of course.
This is a picture taken on our trip to Tangier last year of me and Xavier "accidentally" getting caught in a Russian tour group... As much as a loved seeing more of the country and traveling, there's nothing like home. I took a 12 hour bus from Tangier to Errachidia and then took a different bus from Errachidia back to Bouarfa. Once I started getting closer to Bouarfa, I could really see the atmosphere change. The air got thinner, the sky brighter. Everything had a tinge of dusty orange and I felt at ease and at home. The music playing on the bus was distinctly 3aloui, Moroccan/Algerian border music. Imagine you are on an old greyhound, windows wide open, women wrapped in colorful sheets, men with turbans all around you, it's hot and dusty and beautiful.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Glue Huffing!

My first experience with glue huffers was in Bogata Colombia when I was on a family vacation in 2nd grade (1994). I saw little kids with their faces breathing into a sock and I asked "mommy, what are they doing?" and she said "They're breathing glue. It gets them high and then they don't feel the hunger pangs." This shocked me, I felt so sorry for these hungry little boys. I think my mom said this to elicit that response. She then added "They probably won't live 'til their 12." And me being cheeky said "What if they're already 12?" I don't remember her response but I'm sure she rolled her eyes. I remember very little about this trip, but this particular scene stuck with me.

Glue huffers in Morocco are NOT cute little boys. And it's not a problem in Bouarfa, THANK GOD, but I have always seen them in Errachidia. You know a glue huffer because they walk around Out Of Their Mind, shaking really bad, drooling, slurring, and generally asking for money. They also have in their hand a plastic produce grocery bag. It looks empty but I guess it has clear glue in it and they take heavy breaths in and out of the bag.

Every time I've seen one, I haven't been alone, and I've generally been at a cafe sitting outside when they approach and ask for money. This last time though, I was killing time in Errachidia, waiting for my bus back to Bouarfa after the football game a couple of weeks ago. I bought a sandwich and headed for this pretty open air plaza with benches. I was sitting there minding my own business when a glue huffer approached. He hadn't started drooling yet but he was shaking and had the glue in his hand. And he got within a few feet of me and just kept saying "marry me, marry me, marry me, marry me, take me to France..." and I said the respectable phrase to say to beggars "May God make life easier on you" (Allah ysahal) and he took a step closer. So then I said "yallah, go away, Go away!!" And He took a step closer. Now I was a little alarmed and I picked up my backpack and started walking away. But he started following me and getting closer. I was getting a little scared. So I said in a LOUD voice "HSHUMA! Go Away!! Get away from me!" And two guys crossing the street a block away turned and yelled for him to leave, but didn't feel it necessitated coming any closer. So I continued walking away and he continued following me closely pleading "Marry me marry me marry me!" So I thought "OK I need to walk into a shop or something" So I walk toward the end of the plaza and into a little window front public notary with chairs and two women in it. I was searching for women on purpose because sisters protect their sisters and I thought maybe he wouldn't enter a shop full of women.

When I went in I said "can I sit here? I'm scared of that man." BUT he FOLLOWED ME INTO THE OFFICE saying "marry me marry me marry me, take me to France." And the two ladies made the connection of what was happening and said to him "Get out of here, my son. leave! She's married! She's married! right you're married?!" And while I thought that it was strange that these women were trying to reason with a clearly unreasonable man, I said "Yes! I'm WAY married!" (I added the pronoun for "I" at the end of the adjective married to make it stronger. MAZUJA, ANA! MUZUJA, ANA!" But he still didn't leave and still continued his pleadings. So the women threatened to call the police saying "my son, I'm calling the gendarmes!" (Police) But he still didn't leave, so one of the women left the shop and got a couple of guys who came in and, quite anti-climactically, threw him out....And then he re-entered "Take me to France, Take me to France!" and the same guys pushed him out of the shop, and then continued physically pushing him, forcing him to walk all the way to the corner, and then he FINALLY went away on his own.

The nice ladies let me sit in their shop until I calmed down because I was obviously a little shaken up by all of this. They mumbled amongst themselves "hshuma hushma, this poor girl. hshuma on him...." After a few minutes, I got up and walked to the bus station and these ladies insisted on escorting me all the way there. Back to Bouarfa!

I've never seen glue huffers here. Maybe they come out at night? I doubt it though because glue huffing messes your brain up so bad, after a certain point, it's not like you can live a normal life during the day and be a closet glue huffer roaming the streets at night. It fries your brain so that even when you're not high, after a while of doing it, you're still shaky and drooly.

The Adventure Never Ends.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slavery in Mauritania

Recently CNN did a piece called "Slavery's Last Stronghold" on the prevalence of Slaves in Mauritania. (Read it Here)

The Introduction is as follows: "Mauritania’s endless sea of sand dunes hides an open secret: An estimated 10% to 20% of the population lives in slavery. But as one woman’s journey shows, the first step toward freedom is realizing you're enslaved." Written by John D. Sutter.

Mauritania borders the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as its own, and which the United States recognizes as an independent territory being occupied by Morocco. Peace Corps was active in Mauritania until about August 2009 when the volunteers were evacuated. Volunteers are generally only evacuated when the volunteer's safety is at risk, usually due to politics. In this case, apparently the group Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb was making its presence known in the region. Niger and Nigeria were also evacuated around the same time. (Morocco was evacuated in 2003 because of strong anti-American sentiment after we invaded Iraq) Technically, it has "suspended" the Peace Corps program in Mauritania, and not completely stopped it. This means that Peace Corps will, supposedly, return when conditions are safer.

One PC/Morocco volunteer I know, who has already completed his service, was part of the group of volunteers who was evacuated from Mauritania. After a little over a year in Mauritania, I suppose he decided he wasn't finished yet, and re-upped for another two years in Morocco.

I wanted more information on this slavery in Mauritania that I had never even heard about. So I asked this RPCV (returned PC volunteer) what his thoughts were on the article. His response was this:

The documentary certainly misrepresented a lot. Nothing they said was factually incorrect but they highlighted a few abuses, ignored a lot of context and made it seem a lot worse than it is. Many white moor families had a black moor family that "belonged to them." They would cook and do chores etc and while, I'm sure there were many cases of abuses, the system functioned because of lack of economic alternatives, not cruelty. No industries economically benefited from slavery. That was all mentioned but certainly not emphasized in the documentary probably because the reporters spent a total of 8 days in Mauritania. PC Mauritania was hard because it was a poor country without a lot of luxuries but in some ways it was easier than Morocco. People were welcoming and had fewer preconceived notions based on tourism. Harassment was lower and communities were closer. Mauritania has a host of serious problems, corrupt government, desertification, lack of water/enough wells, poor education system etc. Slavery will go away when those problems are fixed not when CNN airs a poorly made documentary.

So there you have another side to it. The photos of Mauritania were so beautiful and I imagine it is a lot what southern Morocco/Western Sahara territory looks like. I know the dress is the same because I have seen it even going as far West as Ourzazate. During our Peace Corps service we are absolutely forbidden to visit the Western Sahara Territory because it is supposedly dangerous, although I think it has more to do with that the U.S. doesn't recognize it as belonging to Morocco. I hope I get a chance to make it at least to Tan Tan, (basically the edge of Morocco, the edge of where we are allowed to go) before I leave and see this vast no-man's land.

(the "A" marks Tan Tan and the dotted line marks the border between "Morocco" and Western Sahara. Where I'd REALLY like to go is Dakhla, which is the coastal city in the middle of Western Sahara. It's supposed to be beautiful and have some of the best surfing in the world, not that I surf.)

And now, for your viewing pleasure, is a video of my friend and colleague, Socorra, doing a duet with a Moroccan woman playing the Oud for a celebration of International Woman's Day. Never thought I'd see a Cross Cultural Duet of Pat Benatar's "Love is a battlefield"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Focus on Football

I didn't grow up with sports, but I did grow up with ballet (and a strict teacher!). I credit ballet with having taught me discipline, structure, and work ethic; skills I apply to my everyday life. I theorize that kids who grow up playing organized sports acquire these same skills as well as learning to work together towards a common goal and honing individual strengths at the same time.

One of the volunteers here, Xavier Rathlev, has a partnership with an American high schooler working on his Eagle Scout project. Through this boy scout, Xavier had a bunch of football equipment sent to Morocco, enough to make a couple formidable flag football teams. Trials with bringing the football to the Dar Chebab worked overwhelmingly well and he has since been swarmed by children on a daily basis demanding the football that they know is hidden in his backpack. He formed a team pretty quickly, but weekly practices seemed to wane with no prospect of any kind of game against another team. So that's when our friend Ross Wood stepped in and used some of the equipment the boyscout sent to form his own team in Erfoud, his site, about 1.5hrs away from Goulmima, Xavier's site. This was a great motivator.

The First Ever American Flag Football game in Morocco was thus scheduled for March 11th, 2012.

Where do I fit into all this? Xavier and Ross have undoubtedly been my biggest collaborators/partners-in-crime/support system during my Peace Corps service. Once a match was scheduled I was appointed as "head of the boosters" of the Goulmima team. Mostly that meant that my job was to create a buzz about the upcoming game amongst Moroccans in the Goulmima region and amongst Peace Corps volunteers- especially ones who might want to start a team of their own. My cold calling skills from my fundraising days certainly came in handy. The day of the game, we had a full 10% of Peace Corps Volunteers in the country attend! While we didn't have thousands of local spectators attend the game, fliers were passed out at the high school and at souk. The turnout was not too shabby. The photo below shows just a small portion of the audience, which was mainly made up of guys anywhere from 10 to 40.

(Photo by fellow volunteer Katy Howell-Burke)

The day went off without a hitch despite the huge upset of Erfoud winning the game. It was especially moving to see the the players lining up on the sidelines before the match and think that even four months ago the notion of football, or these kids playing on any sports team, didn't exist. I was very proud to be there and to recognize and appreciate all the hard work that went into making the event happen; especially from Xavier, Ross, this Eagle Scout who donated the supplies, Xavier's brothers who dragged two large-enough-to-carry-a-dead-body-in duffel bags to Europe full of football supplies for Xavier to pick up there. (And the minimal impediments of the Moroccan government officials, of course.)

Other Peace Corps Volunteers have begun the preparation to start teams in at least three other cities in Morocco.

While I have liked football since my first home game at SMU, my freshman year, I have learned more about football in the last year and a half of conversations with Xavier than in my entire life prior to Peace Corps. Despite remedial tutoring, and against my better judgments, I was entrusted with the responsibility of being one of the "line judges." I was very nervous and did mess up one play towards the beginning, but I did alright for the rest of the game. In the following video, I can be spotted sprinting around for flashes of a second in a gray sweatshirt.

The song in the background of the video is from the band The S7rawa Boys, whom I have blogged about before here, and whom MTV has also blogged about! The lead rapper, SiMo Klay, is also Goulmima's quarterback and a hard working high school student who has picked up fluent English in his spare time.

We have also gotten press from the International Federation of American Football! They wrote an article about the game, which you can find HERE.

IN BOUARFA NEWS! My environmental science fair competition is THIS WEEKEND! I'm a little nervous about pulling it off since through the majority of the planning my Dar Chebab was closed and I now have no site mate to help me with logistics. (Who is going to entertain the guests while I make tea for the judges!?!) So wish me luck! The winners of this local competition get to go to a final competition in Oujda next month, hosted by another volunteer.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Site Mate/Laarobiya

The bad news: Hubbell has left me. Yes, my dearly beloved site mate that I had hoped would come and work with the Moroccan male youth, a population I have all but given up on, has left. He has moved to greener pastures- namely Ourzazate- a city with supermarkets, cheese, wine, an international airport, and (perhaps most importantly) other volunteers. So I am now back to being the only volunteer for 250km. So lame. He is a black belt in Kung Fu and the Ministry of Youth and Sports just opened a new sports center and they wanted someone with some real sports skills to come and teach there. So he got a site change. They figured this was easiest since he'd just moved here and hadn't gotten too attached yet.

The Good news: While Hubbell was still here, we got to check something off my Moroccan Bucket list! A visit to Laarobiya!! (pronounced Lah-roh-BI-ya- with the Lah, being how your Brooklyn, Jewish grandmother might yell to someone named "Larry" down the hall- nasally) Laarobiya means "countryside" so they say. How I would explain it would be the desert where the nomads live.

In the photos you may recognize these characters from my Eid Kbir photos, the Kaddouri family. Mrs. Kaddouri's sister married a nomad and adopted their lifestyle, so that was who we were supposed to go visit. When we got there though, Mrs. Kaddouri's sister and her husband had gone into Bouarfa for the day to go shopping. We were instead hosted by Mrs. Kaddouri's brother-in-law's other wife.

This is the typical tent of the nomad of the Beni Guil tribe. The Beni Guils are the Arab pastoralists in this region. They also live in western Algeria. They herd goats and sheep mostly. They don't move too frequently. The tent is made of woven wool. I would estimate it to be 30ftx15ft.

Don't think that they are living in tents because they are poor- oh no- many of these nomads have houses in Bouarfa and Oujda, and almost all have land rovers, trucks, and donkey drawn carriages. Some even have enough money that they feel comfortable keeping it in a bank. (Most people here do not have bank accounts.) I noted to my dad how interesting it was how these nomads will drive into Bouarfa and go to the bank and unload stacks and stacks of cash. "My, how lucrative is the shepherding business!" To which he suggested that they might be dealing in other industries, along the closed Moroccan/Algerian border, than just herding. Whatever is the case, these people have no desire to live a settled life in a house. They are nomads. This is their life. And they are happy to be living this way.

This shows the inside of the tent. Youssef is stooping, but down the center at its tallest point, it is tall enough for me to stand up, though maybe not someone who clears 6ft. Above this fire is a hole in the tent to let the smoke out. Their fuel is tumbleweed. What a staged photo this is though! I told the madam of the tent that I wanted to take a photo of her preparing tea for us, as we'd just arrived, but she said "no way can you photograph me!" so the boys immediately cozied up by the fire and posed.

Ok, Ok, so I accidentally photographed her just a bit. Here is Mr. Kaddouri "tending" the fire and Mrs. Kaddouri sitting in the foreground. In he background you can see our hostess. She's got a pink hijab on, covered by a black hijab on top of that.

After having some tea, some fresh goat's milk, fresh butter on fresh bread, and some Moroccan dates. We "kids" were sent outside to wander around the desert and climb a mountain while the ladies started cooking lunch. The men, after that, were not allowed in the tent at all. We ate lunch separately and the men even ate outside in some other structure.

Riding a donkey up semi-rocky terrain is a lot like riding a bumpy theme park ride; you can't stop laughing because you feel like you're going to fall off and you're being jostled around, but at the same time you're only about four feet off the ground so you can't allow yourself to be too terrified. This is my favorite of our donkey photos. Alae, who is four, was being really selfish with the donkey and didn't want to share, thus throwing a temper tantrum. Sanae was trying to secure him saying it was going to be alright. Hubbell is just laughing and wielding the go-faster-donkey! stick, Loubna, Alae's mother, is looking on, laughing. And Mostapha, another Kaddouri sibling, is probably yelling at Hubbell to use his go-faster-donkey! stick to make the donkey go faster and make Alae scream even more.

Alae and I look very calm here but there was still a lot of yelping and laughing on my part. Alae adjusted pretty quickly to the donkey and rode it all the way up the mountain. Youssef was an expert at that other donkey and the third was not in the mood for passengers at all, so we all took turns riding the other two.

This is a photo of me and Hicham, who was the son of the "other wife". He was the one guiding us up the mountain, which you can see behind us. I would say it was about 60F. A little chilly but sunny.

Just look at that view. It was incredible how far we were able to see. That is a dry river running through the middle.

It is days like this one that make me remember how lucky I am to be where I am. I have days where we might say "Bouarfa won today!" meaning I end the day feeling defeated. This is mostly due to the male youth in this country. (I've rehearsed a new response to "why don't you marry a Moroccan boy?" "Because 99% make lewd comments to me from the second I step out my door!") But there are days, like this one, where I can say that I won. Where I finish the day just over the moon to be exactly where I am. These are days where I've had particularly moving hours at the Dar Chebab, where I've really connected to the kids there. This also happens on days where I get entrenched in the culture: cultural festivities like weddings or baby-naming-parties**, or even seeing how people live out their daily lives. This nomad day is a good example.

I am to the point where I can't imagine never having come here. I can't imagine not knowing what I didn't know a year and a half ago. Today I went and ate lunch at a friend's house and after we women ate couscous on the floor of their house and then gazed at turkish soap operas, I thought to myself "How odd this would have been to me just two years ago... and now it seems totally normal." All in all, I'll take the bad with the good any day, to be able to experience everything that I have here- and will continue to experience over my next 8 months in Morocco.

**A baby-naming-party as I call it is called a "sabou3" (the 3 being a really really nasally A). In our American culture, the parents generally pick a name for the baby before its born and then have a "baby shower" to help prepare. In a culture where until very recently many, many babies died shortly after birth, or many mothers miscarried, a baby was not planned for until after it was already born. This is still followed today. I before-birth baby shower would be the ultimate jinxing of the pregnancy. So a baby has no name for its first week. The baby also has no clothes or anything else for the first week either- until the baby-naming-party where the baby gets its names and gifts. The infant mortality rate is still VERY high in Rural Morocco and most children are still born at home. I met one mother who has given birth to 8 live children and only 2 have lived past the 1-year mark. She's currently pregnant. Prenatal health is still virtually non-existent here and pregnant women will even fast during Ramadan up until the time of the baby's birth. This wikipedia page has infant mortality at "only" about 30 for every 1000 live births. But keep in mind that this figure also includes the modern cities.
(Note: the Beni Guil, for some reason, do a "tleta yam" or baby naming party on the third day, not the seventh. Not sure why. Maybe their survival rates are traditionally higher?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sometimes you just have to go with it...

The Importance of Talking to Strangers

I'm on a very good schedule where I wake up at about 8am every morning. These past three days have been warm so I've tried to get outside. This morning I decided to hike up Trek Oujda (Road towards Oujda) which is seriously uphill and a bit rocky and mountainous. On the way I zoomed past a mother and her little girl. After reaching a certain point I decided it was time to turn around and head back down so I could get home and make lunch. Well, when I was going back down I passed this same woman and her daughter again, and this time they stopped me and INSISTED I come to their house.

So I followed her as she took a path off Trek Oujda toward the abandoned magnesium mine. The French found magnesium in the area in the 1940s, and mined it for about 10 years before Morocco starting insisting on independence (won in 1956). While the French were in the area they built large homes for the French men who oversaw the mining. Now in these homes are Moroccan families who are generally squatters. Don't take this to mean that these are temporary, shabby homes. These families have lived in these houses for a couple of generations now and take care of them. I think the government just turns a blind eye to it.

This woman who took me home, her husband, and her four daughters (between 3 and 13 years old) all live in one of these houses. When we got to the outside, I couldn't believe what I was looking at. It was a large white house whose front door was reached by a colonial, round, front porch, with sets of stairs on both sides. Large windows with shutters were all around. When we stepped inside, I thought I was stepping into some kind of time warp- if you can imagine a French, kitschy home, untouched since the 1940s in terms of construction. It was one story but had very high ceilings, very beautifully detailed tile floors but NOT typical Moroccan tiles, which run up the wall. The bathroom had a BATH TUB of blue porcelain, with matching toilet and bidet. The bedrooms were large with small fire places (never seen fire places in Morocco- most have indoor coal-burning ovens, if anything) set with white bricks and a mantle. The kitchen had white tile counter tops and the lights had old stainless steel fixtures. (It's rare to see light fixtures at all) Besides cracks in the walls, the house looked like it had been maintained and had a very "lived in" feel.

As I arrived, the daughters were so excited to see a visitor and they followed me around and introduced themselves nervously. As customary, a pot of tea was put on for me, although really it was close to lunchtime. I told her I already had a lunch appointment but the truth was I didn't really want to eat their food because it looked like they didn't have much to spare. While the tea was heating up, they gave me a tour of their backyard. The fact that they even have a backyard is interesting. In Morocco, most houses are more like ground level apartment complexes, with neighbors on all sides, sharing your walls. But not in "Petit France d l'Mine Manganese"! Their backyard has areas enclosed by chickenwire that have chickens, rabbits, pigeons, turkeys, a dog, and ducks. The section for the ducks even has a little concrete, built-in pool where they can swim. They also are growing cabbage, potatoes, and pommegranates. They have three home-made bee hives (although they bought the bees).

After tea, I left along with two of her daughters who were on their way to the elementary school that is closest to them. (25 minute walk or so.) As we were walking, other children were walking towards the road from out in the desert so I asked the older daughter (11) if those were children who live in tents. (meaning nomads, but I can never remember the word for nomad.) And she said that they were. Then we passed a government building. I asked what they do there and she said that it's a place for the nomads to come and hang out laundry, receive some public assistance like money and food. It's also a health clinic and just general nomadic support. I didn't know such a place existed. She called it the Khiriya.

I got their phone numbers and so I may go visit them again. Walking up to the old mine is a bit of a trek but it'd be nice to walk up and be able to have tea somewhere. I love the Moroccan culture of just GRABBING a clear foreigner and "welcoming" her by bringing her into your home and giving her tea and offering her everything you have- mi casa es tu casa is an understatement in Morocco as to the level of hospitality and generosity here.

This is a satellite photo where my site is at bottom center, and the mine is directly north of it, center, its latitude being even with the word "Photo" on the right and the "+" on the left.

This is the mine up close. The quadrant of houses at the bottom of the photo is what I refer to in this blog. That big "road" running through the mine is a train track that used to take the magnesium up north toward Oujda. They say it doesn't work any more but this family I was with told me there are still people working in it.

And in case you were wondering what surrounds my site....

There is a size scale in the corner left of each of these photos.