One year to go, Christmas nears.  December 6-18, 2019

This week marked the brink of where I now have one year remaining in Morocco, with scheduled departure on December 10th.  A few people from the last class left a little earlier, but not sure what determines that choice.


Some of the walls inside my house, and the Youth Center as well, are weeping.  They just don’t dry, which is one of the reasons Moroccans leave their windows open in winter apparently.  Last winter was much dryer and I don’t recall this problem.  On the wall of my office/library/storage room, there is a large map of the world painted.  All the little paper stickers with names of the countries are molding and falling off.  The Director went on the roof to see what could be done, clean a drain.  The cardboard I collected for crafts was soaked through, books are damp.  At home, the toilet paper is damp.  And, winter has just started.


We did have a week without rain, and I was back to taking my shortcuts.  I was even able to walk across the field to the souk.  A narrow path had been worn hard through the freshly tilled fields.  Sunrise is so late now, I was half-way there before I was out of the shadow of the city.  When I need to hang laundry on the roof before going to work, or soccer, it is still pitch-black dark, but for the stars.  At the souk, it was the first time I saw my landlady in her stall.  Then, near her, one of my coaches had a stall and I helped him open boxes.  I bought a few fruits and veggies, mostly a large bag of artichokes, fava beans, and a chicken.


The woman and her niece who lived in one of the roof top rooms moved out.  They are family to the man who runs Nour Association, so I will see them again.  Still, I miss them.


I must learn to cook Moroccan before leaving.  I have mostly been eating my own cooking, but had lunch with my Darija teacher and her roommate, meat cooked with artichoke stems, soooo delicious.  Equally so, my landlady brought me turkey meat, so savory I cannot describe it.  I tried duplicating her fava bean recipe, but fell quite short.


I experienced great joy in receiving two Thanksgiving cards from home.  My niece emailed me cute pictures of her two in school.  I am going through withdrawals due to running out of Game of Thrones episodes.  My friend that gave them to me says she has 4 more, which I will get from her in January.  I am keeping up with emails from the US, including government compliance stuff, but behind on writing friends.


Another friend died, Lynn Fontaine.  A fascinating woman, certainly the most well-read person I have known.  She was very instrumental in inspiring me to read, to enjoy history and ancient cultures.  Indeed, I can say she was one of the contributors to my thirst to know other cultures that helped bring me here.  We were quite the culture clash, she had it, I didn’t, LOL.  I will miss her.  Happily, I have a letter of hers on the wall to remind me of her every day.


At the Youth Center and Nour, English and other activities go on daily.  Our friend, Khalid came in and did one of his “Camp” activities, my summer English teacher has been quite busy, taking a teacher’s exam, and passing his driver’s exam.  In the “library” I have a small American flag by the English books, and small Moroccan flags by the Arabic books.  The kids like to put them together.  They asked me to sing our National Anthem, which I did.  They responded with theirs.  They still play the Moroccan National Anthem every day at 8:30 to open the schools, and you can hear it if you within a few blocks (though not as far away as the call to prayer from the minaret of the mosque).  Are you old enough to remember when we said the Pledge of Allegiance, hand on heart, in front of our flag at the beginning of every school day?


This being the week before Christmas, I have started the Christmas decorating and activities.  In my own home, my only décor are two adorable Hallmark ornaments , sent by my Aunt and sitting on the nightstand by my desk.  She also sent a cute Christmas towel and happy-face wood spoon that I will hang this week.  At the Youth Center, last week I gathered greens for wreaths.  I did not have the fortune of pine trees being cut down, as I did last year.  So, I asked the Gendarmerie if he thought it would be ok if I went to the grounds of the Military School, to gather what I could.  I thought it would be alright, and when I found the gate unlocked, I wandered in.  However, I did not get far before a guard caught me who had other ideas.  As Vonda would say “I gave him my confused look” and tried to assure him my presence was ok.  He was not buying it, but while I waited outside, he took my shears and cut me a few pine tips.  I thought, a dozen more bundles like this should do the job.  But then, a day or so later, they were cutting down olive trees at the post office.  I gathered a lot of those branches and with the help of two rings I had made at a local welder, I made lovely wreaths that I will hang today.


The kids and I made a Christmas Tree from cardboard.  Actually, I pieced together the cardboard to the shape of a tree and painted it green, over the weekend.  Then, yesterday, the kids covered it with strips of green tissue.  We made snowflakes from white paper and today we will make ornaments for our tree.  I am still hoping to find a box big enough to make our fireplace to hang our stockings for Santa.  Tomorrow we will decorate Christmas cookies, being baked by my host sister.  On Friday we will have our little Christmas party, with the cookies and hot chocolate.


Christmas Eve I will travel to the house of two volunteers, meeting other PCVs there, to share a Christmas dinner.  It takes 5-6 taxis to get there, passing through beautiful national forests along the way.  This past Monday I went to Immouzier and Fes, gathering ingredients I need for my potato medley and sweet potatoes.  Hopefully the brown sugar will arrive from home before then.  Along the way, I had coffee with three other volunteers, including the new girl assigned to work in my first village.  She told strange tails of her Youth Center Director grabbing her ear in public and telling her to go stay in her house the rest of the day.  He also put her on a bus, not telling her they were going to Chefchaouan (a very long journey, maybe 7 hours each way).  So crazy!  Nothing like that has ever happened to me.  People lie to me all the time, but never a sign of disrespect such as she described.  Fortunately, she stood up to him and our Regional Manager straightened the guy out.


Lastly, I have been spending a lot of time noting the chronicles of the soccer project.  Still no word from Coke or the bank about sponsorship, despite my additional emails.  Below is the entry from this weekend.  I don’t normally use names in my blog, for privacy, but these are such fleeting characters I hope there is no offense.  A fairly good week, just so you know.


On December 10th, at the Associations Committee meeting, Best Coach was not in attendance and indeed, he has resigned.  We had a new adult coach, however, one of the fathers of a new player.  We split the big team into the two age groups and gave him the 13-14-year-old Tsunamis.  I changed the name of the 11-12 Tsunamis to Cyclones.  Also, PDSA will assist DMA with his team.  Nour is still working on getting the documents from the Deleague in Sefrou, so that we can practice in a more controlled environment.  We confirmed that there will be no changing of teams due to player request.  Ilyass’ father was contacted and he will accompany him to practice for a discussion.  The problems of the inconsistent attendance of coaches, and the rock incident were discussed.  We are like hamsters on a wheel, every time we add a coach, we lose a coach.  DMA did not bring the uniforms as promised, but will do so tomorrow.  Nour will sponsor a team, but I told him that the team must solicit him and bring me the money.  We now have the FIFA rules in Arabic as well as French.  I had them printed from PDFs and spiral bound (4 parts each for ease of use).  Coaches chose the 3 rules of the week.


On December 11th, DMA did not show for our uniforms meeting, but came 2 days later.  We agreed that the two teams of uniforms donated by his friend would be valued at whatever we paid for the first set purchased (budgeted at 1100).  The larger set would be used by his team and he would donate an additional 200 dirham to be listed as the team sponsor.  The smaller set would be used by Nour husband’s team, and he would pay 200 Dirham to be listed as the team sponsor.  He said he would go with me to Fes, but would not say when.


Week 8, December 14th, started out very bad, got better, then worse.  Ah, the roller coaster never stops.  The stadium was relatively quiet.  The weather was great.  I only had to wear one pair of pants, and stripped the jacket on arrival.  I had split the Tsunamis into two teams.  There were now 20, and we had a new coach.  The new coach, El Mansour, would take the 13-14-year-olds, as his son was in that age group.  He insisted on a 3:00 start time, then did not show up.  He sent the list with his son, and when I called him, he said he was sick.  He did not sound sick.  I had arrived at 2:00, in order to secure a portion of the field.  Only 2 players arrived at 3:00.  New coach of the Bears, El Bransi, had arrived early and offered to run them through exercises and drills.  I said they would play with another team tomorrow only.  At 4:00, I had 1 of the 4 coaches, and chaos.  Feriat, the returning coach of the Tornadoes, arrived early and managed 8 of his players and one new boy without a team.  There were 10 Earthquakes (but no Butahr), 9 Spartans (but no Kerrich) and 5 Warriors (but no Swifi, Kmimess or Rifaai) with no coaches.  I told them to start exercising, which some did, others refused.  El Bransi took the Earthquakes from 4-4:30, when Boutahr arrived, then he went to the Warriors from 4:30 to 5:00.  Kerrich arrived at 4:20 to coach his Spartans.  Things were smooth for nearly 30 minutes.  At 5:00, El Bransi was there for his 7 Bears.  Boutahr was there, co-coach for the Lions, whose main coach, Sari, did not show.  However, he was off playing with some other kids.  I convinced him to spend at least some time with the 4 Lions who were there.  Also, at 5:00 the 11-12-year-old Cyclones (former Tsunamis, before the split) had one of their planned coaches, Ghanam, and 6 players.  Blattik did not show.  Additionally, 3 of the older Tsunamis that formerly played with Ghanam/Blattik showed up at this time and practiced with him.  One, a tall boy, El Kandoussi, has a habit of showing up at the wrong time and I warned him this would be the last time he would be allowed to play if he did so.  I had 5 Tsunamis between the two times, but had already scratched their game.  Three times the boys sitting on the 15-foot walls threw our colored, plastic, drill domes over the wall and I had to send someone to get them.  Even the old man pushing his herd of sheep around the stadium was stealing our domes.  Kids crush them with bikes and feet when not stealing them.  We lost 2 of the tall cones last week.  Only 3 of our 5 balls will hold air for more than an hour.  I did not have any luck with this week’s LSG, The Joker.  I knew my language was not good enough to explain it, but thought they would all get it, since it is similar to a game they play at camp.  No sign of Ilyass and his father.


On Sunday, another beautiful day, I arrived just after 8:00, to secure the field.  This means leaving home in the dark.  At 9:00, I had 4 Warriors, with the 2 Tsunamis, ready to play 7 Spartans, but not one of the 4 coaches.  I called Swifi, normally dependable, to learn he was with his Mountain group.  I asked a young man I did not know to be the umpire, which he did, so the game went on.  At 10:00, 5 Cyclones plus 2 Tsunamis, with coach Ghanam (and Blattik was there, but not helping), played 9 Earthquakes, with coach Butahr showing up as we were starting.  Three of Ghanam’s friends said they want to be coaches.  Moudon will take the Warriors next week, Younsse will join the Cyclones and Mssissi will take the Tsunamis.  Also, Izam will start with the Lions next week.  Amalouie arrived about 10:30 to begin practice with his 10 Hurricanes.  I hate the fact he is so often late, but he is a fabulous coach to his kids and is still there more often than any other member of the AC.  The team solicited and won his Nour Association’s sponsorship of their Jerseys.  They will now be the Stars.  At 11:00, his team played 8 Tornadoes plus the one boy from the New team, with coach Feriat.  We had to stop the game for 2 boys fighting.  Amalouie issued a stern warning, they hugged and made up.  I took their pictures and gave another warning, low voice talking-too.  At 12:00, 7 Bears, with coach El Bransi, played 5 Lions, with coach Sari and the team’s new coach Izam.  Our tiniest player, Ousamma Boutaher (brother to coach Boutahr) cannot attend Saturday, due to school.  We agreed to let him practice with Amalouie, but play with his Lions.  I took two big hits with balls, one at the end of the day straight to the nose.  Problem man won’t stop asking me for money, for the thousandth time.  The swarm is like a bubble around me, but as many of the non-player-trouble-makers become players, it has slightly reduced.  Now they just ask me repeatedly “when do I play?” and “what time is it now?”.