Soccer, snow and hacking.  October 7-27, 2019


It has been nearly three weeks since I have written.  It seems that all my efforts have been directed toward today, the first practices of our new soccer league.


Discussions that led to this day began back in May, but things move slowly here, when they move at all.  Two weeks ago, was the big community meeting.  I had a big banner made for the central square, I posted notices in all the popular places, visited every school.  The turnout was less than hoped, but we did garner a few new coaches.


At the same time, we had begun registering children between the ages of 9-14 to play.  They needed to have their parents register their permission with the Beledia, and bring us a stamped copy.  They needed a certificate of health from the doctor, birth certificate, two pictures, family contact information and 29 dirhams ($3) to cover the cost of their insurance.  My host sister helped me by calling all the children’s families who had expressed interest.  By the time of our first practice, we had registered 57.  Our goal is 100, and we were concerned that there would be many more wanting to play.  Why weren’t there more?  We gave out lots more packets.


We had our first coaches training yesterday.  Nearly half of those who had committed to coach were no-shows, despite confirming they would be there just a day or two prior.  One of the no-shows was the man at the very heart of our committee.  Another, who was occasionally coming to committee meetings and helped determine the time of the meeting, was sitting a block away at the coffee shop.  Ah, Morocco.  A friend helped with translation and it was a good meeting.  We had a fun ice breaker, talked about goals and how we will achieve them, practiced our first “life skills” game together, saw a training video with drill recommendations.  Good to go!  Sort of.  The truth is that thanks to all the no-shows, we had one team with no coach at all, and one with only a teenager.  Our goal was to have one dependable, responsible adult, paired with a willing teenager to coach each team.  Four of the coaches are not mentally developed enough to be in this position.  Do we forge ahead, or quit before the first game?  Forge ahead.


The day started with a bad omen.  As I lay in bed, waiting for the alarm, I realize it is daylight outside.  Not good.  Both phones say it is 6:30.  I take the laundry to the roof to hang and it is very light, hmmm.  I come back down to see that my watch says 7:45.  You see, here in Morocco there is no time change, but someone forgot to tell the phones and phone company.  None the less, I arrived by 8:30.  Only a few children were there by 9, no coaches, no one to open the gate of the school to our field.  So, I began calisthenics on the side of the road.  I called the one member of our committee who is a rock and he got there quickly to get us in.  I was able to convince one of the dads to become a coach, at least to give it a try.  Another Dad stayed for a while as well.  I also had one teenager.  This first group, from 9-10:00 were the two teams of boys 9-10 years old.  It was ok for a first time.


Soon the older kids, who were not due until either 10:30 or 12:00, started wandering in and creating havoc.  They were all over the play area, stealing the balls and playing, fighting, you name it.  Ah, children.  It became a full-time job just keeping them off the small field.  Our “field” is a cement slab with goal posts, surrounded by dry thistles.  Nothing like the beautiful lawns of soccer fields in California.


Each session was the same, 10 minutes for calisthenics, followed by our Life Skills game “juggling favorites”, though it was very difficult to get the groups to stick to the game.  The focus being to learn names and the favorite things of your teammates while passing the ball.  Instead, most just wanted to see how far they could kick the ball.  I met with each group to ask them to choose a color for their jerseys and a team name.  Everyone want to be red/eagles.  So, the first team to sign up a sponsor gets first choice of a name and color, in the order received.  Each team needs to find a local business to sponsor them.  The sponsoring business pays 200 dirhams ($20) to have their name on the team jersey and the owner of the business gets one jersey for himself as well.  A great deal, but we are in Morocco, so not a done deal yet.


We made it through the day without injury, a huge concern as the insurance is not yet in place.  And, we have taken a huge step, but only the first of 32 weeks with a very frail support system.  This week we hope to finalize banking and insurance.


One of my projects has been to look for a national sponsor.  I made a proposal to the local bank, but can’t even get my friendly local manager to call the powers that be.  Despite all his enthusiasm, he has not found the time to do so in two weeks.  I have had my eye on Coca Cola all along, but all the information, (phone numbers, etc), available from Coca Cola home office in Atlanta and the internet were just not working.  Finally, I decided to just go to Casablanca and try to make contact.  This is like leaving Redding on a bus for Los Angeles, without a clue where you will find this big business that you know is there somewhere.


The Casablanca bus depot is wild.  There must be 500 buses there.  As soon as you step off the bus you are being hit by guys hawking taxi services.  Sorry boys, after my 7 ½ hour bus ride, I just need a bathroom.  Found a guy that knew where Coke was, and agreed to his outrageous price because it was “so far”.  We arrived at the address and there was nothing.  But to his credit, he got out and talked to a shop keeper who told him where it would be a little further up the road.  There, we found no signage, just a big gate.  There was a small sign telling us to pull up to the gate, and when we did a man appeared at the little window.  I told him who I was looking for and he lit up and let me in.  Taxi leaves.  Then another man crossed the yard to help, and explains that Omar Bennit was transferred to Dubai.  Still, he very kindly drives me across town to the new office and tells me who to see to learn his replacement.  Long-story-short there, I meet the nice young intern of the new head of public relations and get all the correct contact info, but the new woman was in Algeria this week.  We shall see.  (late addition, I have a meeting with Coke next week.  Wish me luck!)


Another project has been to look for any assistance with training coaches from the outside.  I found “Grassroots Soccer” and finally had an online conference call with them last week.  It is a great program, but has little to do with soccer.  It is a health program, primarily aimed at AIDS awareness.  I think that I can incorporate it, but need to soften up my coaches and players with life skills activities more closely related to soccer first.  The Peace Corps website was blocking me from submitting my Grant Proposal, so finally got our tech guy to submit it for me.  Ah, technology.


Which leads me to my big problem of the last few weeks, hacking!  Some hacker has taken every email I have ever written and resent it with a damaging attachment.  This also led to a complete freezing of my access to Outlook, even though the hackers continue to use it.  Fortunately, the GoDaddy tech taught me how to access emails through their website, so at least I can communicate.  Calls to Microsoft have so far yielded zippo.


Aside from soccer, life goes on.  There was a nice little birthday party for my host niece.  I continue to work on my kitchen cabinet project.  I had a terrible allergic reaction to something, but still do not know what.  Lots of Benadryl and Ibuprofen later I was ok.  We had our first taste of winter with snow on the mountains, first day of double layers and a jacket.  I put thick plastic sheeting in all the windows and replaced the florescent bulbs with the warmer incandescent ones.  I still have Darija lessons twice a week, and my teacher said she overheard kids saying they can’t play tricks on me now because I know Darija (not).  The graffiti problem has grown worse, even to my Youth Center (does Amine really love Wafae?).  I have a few English groups, between the Youth Center and Nour.  In between all, the kids and I have been working on Halloween décor for a little party on Halloween.


I have had a few nice messages from family and friends at home, and always look forward to those.  Sounds as though California is really turning into a third-world country with all the staged power outages, not to mention the devastation of more fires despite the precautions.  I am told that the grapes are all harvested and looked fabulous.  I won’t be sending many emails until I resolve the Outlook problem.