My new town, the souk, First week in the Youth Center. December 3-10, 2018. My new town actually encompasses several small hamlets, all of which send their middle school and high school children to the largest of these, which we will call “the village”. The Village is the center of government for the town, and where I live. When you approach the town from a few miles out, you see the Village perched atop a bare mountain, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains in the distance. Just below the Village is the second largest of the hamlets, or neighborhoods, called the Station. It is a 30-minute walk or 20ȼ (2 DH) taxi ride. This is also the location of the weekly Souk. The Village is quite a bit larger and more modern than my first village. The streets are wide enough to accommodate cars, mostly paved. Many people have cars. More people have more of their teeth. There is a fairly good-sized park and some small ones. There are numerous government establishments and municipalities, some tree lined streets, large trash cans around town for public use, many wifi cafes (though you still do not see women in them), a post office (yes, I now have a permanent address), at least three banks, a marché (place where you can always buy meat and vegetables, covered shops, but the customer stands outside), a middle-school, high school, a public primary school and at least two private primary schools. The stores are all still small hanoots, where you might get 1-2 customers in the larger ones, but at most, you stand outside and order. I have not seen a restaurant, but there are a few street vendors and bakeries. There are more types of stores, including hardware, plumbing fixtures, cabinet makers and more. When you come up to the Village, it is not only at the top of the hill, but the edge of a cliff. Walk to that edge of town and there is a breathtaking view of a vast valley between the cliff and those snow-capped mountains. Not quite as wide as the San Joaquin valley, but impressive. We not only have taxi service to three towns, including Sefrou and Fes, but also large buses to Rabat and Marakesh, as well as “market vans”.
Today I had my first market van experience. My host sister and I taxied to “the Station”, where we caught another taxi to Sefrou, the county seat. She had her final court appearance for her divorce and I went to the Police station to apply for my Carte Sejour (Green Card). We shopped a bit and saw lots of people she knows. The Marché in Sefrou is a bit like the Ancient Cities of Fes and Meknes, except not as tight and not nearly as large, but still only foot traffic. More practical than magical. On the way home we caught the market van, which was so stereotypical. You enter the back of the bus where a guy (not the driver) takes money and manages stops by yelling up to the driver. There are 15 seats and standing room. This one had curtains on the windows, which I was happy to pull out of my view. As people get off and on, sometimes the money guy is hanging out the back door as the van starts moving. Goods may be in your lap or on the roof. And yes, there was at least one guy with live birds in a shopping bag. Not sure if they were chickens, but one kept poking his head out. My sister started some Moroccan folk music on her phone and we were all rocking along. People get in and out of taxis and vans anywhere along the road, as space permits. We had to get out at the Station and catch another taxi to the Village.
Monday is Souk day in the Station. I went last Monday, and while we did not go today, due to Sefrou, it did have a major impact on our transportation. This is quite a large souk with most everything you might need for the house, as well as the dinner table. A large fish area, large butchery and chicken area. Chickens are killed to order, whereas larger beasts are done elsewhere. The heads are normally still attached, at least to the goats, so you can see they are fresh. There are big areas of fruits, vegetables, grains and spices, housewares, clothing (used and new), you name it. The street above is chaos.
This past Tuesday I finally started work at my Youth Center. My Director and a few other guys were re-hanging all the pictures and bulletin boards and glass to fill open windows, all following the recent painting. I began cleaning. I am sure the bathroom and floors have never been cleaned. After 4 days of scrubbing and scraping on hands and knees, the bathroom is quite tolerable, but the floors still look like they have never been cleaned. Oh well, at least I know. A few visitors wandered in as we worked. I taught my first (impromptu) English class to three young girls while I cleaned. Yes, I am versatile. Now don’t get the idea anyone expected me to clean. The men and children seem unphased by the filth and confused by my cleaning. However, every house I have been in here is very clean. It was just something I needed to be comfortable. I also scored a lot of pine greenery from a tree being cut down, for holiday swags and garlands.
On Saturday we started letting the children in. They played ping-pong and checkers, a few got a minute with the drum set (still not sure who is teaching music, but there is a little equipment). And we got most of them to fill out forms with name, number, age, school, time/day available and what activities they want to see in the center. Not surprisingly, they all said Ping-Pong. Very few could think beyond what was right in front of them. This upcoming week will also be information gathering. I hope to close the ping-pong table and see if it changes the input. I have scheduled community input meetings and holiday events, with cultural exchange, English, art, and a party. More on those as they unfold.
Moroccan Family happenings. The older brother returned to Casablanca. Apparently, he was only here to take care of some paperwork at the county seat, since this is his official residence. The twins had their 9th birthday. My sister that I live with is taking driving lessons. The older sister has finished picking olives and due home tomorrow morning.
As I said, my house is very nice, but still cold. Even though we have been reaching low 70s every day, the interior just will not warm. My windows do not have daylight or wind coming around the frames. There is a hot water heater for bathing, but not at the sinks. My host sister is another a good cook, and bakes a lot, but unlike the first, she does use boxed mixes and convenience foods for several things. There is a microwave, though it is used as food storage. Bigger kitchen, dining room. Even though there are normal height chairs in the house, the table and stools we use are short, squatty (the last house we sat on the floor). Morocco is the largest exporter of sardines in the world, and we eat them a lot here. I really like the fried ones, but the baked ones are larger, and though tasty, need a lot of work to skin and de-bone. Most meals are meat and vegetables, with seasonings, cooked in a pressure cooker. Excellent. Another common dish is cooked tomatoes, sometimes with eggs. Always lots of fresh bread.
I am connecting with other volunteers in my region, mostly through group chats on Whatsap. Many of us will be convening for Christmas Eve & Day, back in my first village, as the PCV there is hosting. Therefore, I get a homecoming and an American gathering.