Swearing-in, New Town, New Family. November 26-December 2, 2018. Indeed, the farewell at the Taxi was tearful. It took two taxis to get us to Meknes, due to all our luggage. Again, we had a full schedule of classes. The most exciting part was meeting our new “supervisors”. In most cases, as in mine, this will be the Director of the Youth Center. He was a very likable guy and we communicated pretty well. I learned my Language Proficiency Interview results and I received an “intermediate low”. Considering how I have struggled, I am pleased enough.
I bought a traditional 2-layer Kaftan to wear for the swearing-in ceremony (in Tierra Roja red). I had a few photos taken, but don’t like any of them, so you might not see me in that outfit. The swearing in ceremony was more elaborate than I expected and we were on the news (though I did not see it). All of our Directors and a boat-load of dignitaries were on hand. Speeches were given by the Moroccan Minister of Youth and Sport, our Country Director for Peace Corps, two volunteers and the acting Ambassador. Printed programs, official photos, a reception, all very nice. I am now an official Peace Corps Volunteer!
After the ceremony, I hung around the hotel a bit, not quite ready to lose the outfit, but then decided to see something new of the town. Instead, I remembered that the Roman Ruins of Volubilis, 3rd century BC, were not far. Finally, I found the right taxi stand, and immediately they wanted to hose me for too much money. I thought myself pretty smart to avoid the 300 DH price ($30) for a driver there, back, with 2 hours at the site. Instead, I took a 10 DH taxi to the nearby town of Moulay Idriss. Well, there they had me, because it was too late in the day to negotiate or chance being stranded. I needed to pay 150 DH for a cab to the site (normally a fare walk or 4 DH taxi) but that included the guy waiting for me and taking me back to Meknes (a 14 DH, two part taxi for you future travelers, if you are earlier in the day). Tourists pay a 70 DH admission, but because I asked for the Moroccan ticket, it was only 10 DH. As for the ruins themselves, they were well worth the trip and I will return with more time. I could have easily spent 3 hours there, even more. Go early and bring a lunch, or lunch in Moulay Idriss. Ralph and Melinda Mendelson had shown me photos and inspired me to go there.
The next day I did not leave Meknes until 10. Our frequent driver, Rachid, came from Immouzzeir to take me, and my tons of stuff. This was pricey by Moroccan standards, but well worth it.
My new family is very nice, and as before, not quite what the report forecast. I am living in house even nicer than before. It is more modern, very tall ceilings, I have my own bathroom with a western toilet (though will use a common shower room downstairs), heck the whole 2nd floor is mine. Mine is the only room furnished there. There is a nice washing machine, that spins, so the clothes dried fast. Still good food.
The mother is reported to be in her 70s. She is confused about who I am and why I am here. The middle sister lives here and runs the house and attached hanoot. She has a darling, 5 year-old, little girl. She is divorced. She is great and trying to help me with my language. There is also an older brother here, but he does not say anything. There is another, wonderful sister that lives just across the alley, with her husband and twin boy & girl of 7 years. These families are educated, so finding language solutions is easier, as they can read and write. The children have school 6 days, the older ones have French classes on Sunday (in addition to their school French and English). I went with the kids to their Karate class last night, and at the end the teacher posed the entire class, me in the middle for a photo. The parents are tough task-masters on the homework. There is another, younger, brother, a carpenter, who lives locally. Neither of these brothers is married, papa is deceased. There is also a brother living in Marakesh, with wife and two children, who speaks fluent English. They put the poor man on the phone for any little thing. There is an older sister who is supposed to be here, but she is working out-of-town, picking olives.
At the beginning, my job is just to get to know the town and introduce myself around. I did the official duty of reporting to authorities. The first afternoon, as soon as lunch was finished, my host sister and two representatives of the Nour organization, accompanied me to see the Bashawiya (documents official) and Gendarmerie (Royal Police). Along the way we were intercepted by the Moqaddem (Local informant guy). All were very nice. I have spent about half the time since then with my family, and the other half walking the streets, mapping and introducing myself to people. I went inside my Dar Shbaab. It is un-inhabitable in its current condition. However, the inside is freshly painted and today the front pile of debris was removed, so I remain hopeful. I met the woman who runs the local women’s weaving cooperative. I met the Director and three teachers from one of the schools. I met a nurse at the hospital. I’ve met numerous shop owners, and even two who were friends with former volunteers here. I met a lot of the young people. I have been very fortunate there has been excellent weather to facilitate all this outside work to get me started. My Youth Center Director said that he would call me to meet as soon as his desk was clear. Today the Center was locked up, but I will check every day. I gathered some pine cuttings for the beginnings of holiday decorations and plan to have a Christmas party. Everyone I meet is very friendly and forgiving of my poor Darija. Still, I have already started asking some (a couple of teachers really) for recommendations for a tutor. I attended my Nieces’/nephew’s Karate class and met lots of kids there, as well as the very popular teacher. He had the whole class pose for a photo with me. Well that is it for now. After we walk the kids to school, I will accompany one of my sisters to the weekly souk tomorrow. More about the town in my next post.