Mud, meat, butagaz and soccer. November 19-December 5, 2019 (part 3 of 3)
During these past two weeks we have had a lot of rain, which means a lot of mud. This is especially pronounced because of all the street construction. My house sits at the bottom of a sloped street. I am fortunate that my entry is slightly elevated and has a large concrete slab. My next-door neighbor, however, is really battling, digging ditches to try to keep the mud from flowing into her house. My normal walk from my door to work is to the left, on a dirt road past a field. It took me a couple of times of scraping thick mud off my boots to learn it was worth the time to go the long way around. The souk has really been a mess. I did not know that there were actually concrete walkways through the vegetable/fruit area, until two weeks ago, when men were clearing the mud from them and piling it up in empty stalls.
The weather has played a big part in our efforts with soccer as well. We have had some really tough days, with lots of coach no-shows, even though a lot of the kids showed up. Even if it was nice during practice/game time, if it was raining in the morning, they don’t come. Last weekend, however, the weather was glorious, and every team had at least one coach, for the first time. 63 of our 88 kids were there as well. I also had young men approaching me that they wanted to be coaches. Dare I hope we have reached the “tipping point”? I think not. Not yet.
My hope and drive stems from one boy, more than any thing else. He was one of the kids who always wanted soccer, helped organize the soccer club, agreed to be treasurer, and is there every practice and every game. Three weeks ago he found me calling all the players’ homes, reminding the parents of their practice times. Seeing me struggle, he took the phone and made the calls. For the last two weeks, he has come to the Youth Center on Friday, and made nearly 100 calls for me. When his coach did not show up, he became the coach for two teams at practice. When I needed a referee, he refereed 3 games of younger kids after his own.
If a 14-year-old boy gives me motivation, the Peace Corps does it’s best to take it away. After tweaking the Grants proposal to satisfy the committee, and being praised for my proposal, I got a call from my Regional Manager, saying my proposal was approved. I needed the link to ask supporters for donations. He would have our tech guy (the same one that had me tweak) get that for me. The committee was thrilled, we bought our insurance (we were prevented from spending money before approval) and a few balls. By now, I should know better than to believe anything my Regional Manager says, but no. Many previous “not fit to print” episodes. Tech guy says that the grant was not approved and the Country Director wants me to reduce the number of balls, as it would set a bad precedent. Had I been told this prior to making the announcement to the committee, it would not have been a big deal, but now it makes us all (Peace Corps) look like idiots. All the documents need to be re-signed with the revision. There are other complications, which I will spare you.
Part of the grant proposal requires 25% of the money to come from Moroccan sources. The families paid their insurance. I have been soliciting two national sponsors for the bulk of the uniform money, but a small portion of the uniform money is to come from local business sponsors. In return for 200 dirham ($20) they get their name on all their team’s jerseys and one for themselves. Seeing the kids and their coaches have been dragging their feet, and knowing that my 14-year-old wonder boy had approached 3 businesses and been rejected, I decided to go with him. Beforehand, I asked my friends at the office supply store if they would donate. They agreed, but I did not want the boy to know. So, first we visited a few other shops, large hardware/appliance/furniture stores. Every owner was vehement “I do not have a business!! Go ask someone in The Station.” They were verging on angry. Now, of course, this is ridiculous, to pretend your store, with its large inventory, and long history, is not a business. It is such a no-brainer to me, and yet, just another example of how the cultures are so different. No body supports others, they just don’t. Even the advertisement and gift of the shirt were not enough to overcome. Hopefully, my committee will help me with making these non-business owners understand.
The latest on Coke. The PR manager said that they have a policy against marketing to anyone under 12, but suggested they help with the coaches. I wrote back that it is a great idea, with potential ways that could happen, but still waiting to hear again. The bank I solicited can’t even manage to open an account for us in what, 2 months now, let alone give an answer on the sponsorship.
We reorganized the teams, loading all the no-show/rare-show kids onto one big team. Hopefully, in this way there will be enough to play in a match. Kids with school on Saturday are all on the one team that practices Sunday. I also moved the little guy (9-10) practice time to the last slot, instead of the first. Whether this, or the sun, we did have our biggest turnout in that age group. It also keeps them out of the older kids’ activities. Our last coaches meeting went very well, with our two newest young coaches really getting involved.
Life beyond soccer, I got another haircut. My bangs are quite short and overall, not good. My Darija lessons continue. A few weeks ago, I visited my butcher and he happened to have a nice Chuck Roast on the counter, which I bought and enjoyed. I tried to explain to his son what I wanted, but got something totally different, so it is back to just hamburger. Here, gas is not plumbed into the houses. You must go to your neighborhood hanoot and buy/trade for a new tank, as we do for a gas BBQ at home. The gas always runs out in the middle of a shower or cooking. If not for the obvious decadence, I would have a spare. Binge watching Game of Thrones, sometimes 3 episodes a night. Sadly, that means they will be finished soon.
In the Youth Center, we took down our Fall decorations, including removing leaves from our big cardboard tree, and replacing them with snow. The kids also wanted olive leaves (why not) as olives are the main industry here. Olive picking is in full swing now and will go well into next year. I hope I have mentioned what a great group of kids I have this season. They don’t fight, they are sweet, they like the activities. The problem man, that created so much grief for me, moved with his entire family, to another city. Since the music program lost the teachers, we don’t have those youth. I did not realize how much they brought a very aggressive element to the Center. The teacher was certainly not the cause, he was a gentle soul (though his assistant was a bit of a wild man).
My historian friend that moved to Tangier, looking for work, got off to a promising start. A connection got him a job. When he showed up for work, the HR person did not show up. He sat there for 3 days, HR no show. Two weeks later, still waiting, though they told him to wait at home. Morocco.
My last meeting with my host sister was filled with things not fit to print, too personal to the family. Except to say I love her, forgive her, and wish her well. I hope I see her again, but unlike the last time, when I had no idea what was behind the estrangement, this time we both do.