Teaching solo, weather changing, Moroccan hospital. October 23-28, 2018. I am writing on Sunday morning, waiting to leave for Sefrou, a nearby larger town. This morning I texted the folks back home in Fair Play, knowing it was the Halloween party. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures of friends in costume. This Tuesday our PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) group will be helping our local PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) to put on a Halloween party at the Dar Shbaab. The youth will have assorted fun activities; face painting, coloring pumpkin forms, 4 corners and finishing with Trick or Treat. Here each child participating will get one piece of candy, not a sack full.
As a group, we have been teaching English and fun activities, in the Dar Shbaab. I have participated in activities teaching vegetables, fruit, other foods, colors, teamwork, clothing and more. This past week I taught my first solo class. I was a wreck, not sleeping, nauseous, just nerves. But I survived. My first class was supposed to be middle school English, but I had no students. This is not too unusual, but still, a disappointment. Immediately following I planned an activity for anyone age 12 and over. But my only students were 11. Still, they were my favorite local kids and so I ran with it. I am trying to teach them to run their own meeting, over the course of the remaining weeks I have here. The ones who attended were very engaged and got the basic concept. Most important, they want to come back, despite my language and teaching limitations.
Last night I had a wonderful dinner at the home of one of the other volunteers. Her host parents own the only restaurant (8 seats?) in town, and of course, everything was fabulous. Then, I went to meet my host Mom at a wedding and arrived just in time to eat again. I was seated in the bedroom of the young woman with the new baby that we visited just the day before. These were friends, but some relatives were there also. It was an aunt that corralled me into that room. We did not get home until after Midnight. About visiting new mothers…the poor girl is in bed the whole time as a stream of visitors come in to visit. A table is in the room and people are constantly fed. This is also the way with sick people, streams of visitors, so the family is constantly cooking and cleaning to accommodate. In this case, the family of the groom were apparently the same family as the baby, so every room had visitors eating. I was eventually taken to the top floor to my Mom and met the bride. So, it was a two-sugar-cone week. There was also a death, and other babies, but apparently not close enough to warrant a visit.
Today the weather took a serious turn for the colder, with 2-4 inches of snow on cars coming down the hill. No snow in my village, but lots of wind and rain. Everyone complains about the cold, but all the houses have open windows and frequently the door or in our case, doors. One of my windows was blowing open, so I was given a fork to hold it shut. You can see daylight around the frames. I have seen butane heaters at the souk, but do not think I could get away with buying one. Most of my cold weather clothing is in the suitcase that I will not see until December. Fortunately, I did keep my warm coat, gloves and enough clothes to be ok. I may need to buy one sweater. Also, thankfully, I have flannel pajamas and my polar fleece robe.
So, when we were heading out to go to Sefrou to visit grandma in the hospital, I was looking forward to a warm car ride. Nope. I was in the back and the window was rolled down in front. This from the same uncle that has told me how cold it is over the past 2 hours. Hmmm. Uncle’s car had a few issues, but at least the uncle #2 put a new windshield wiper on the car for us. Uncle #1 must have called ahead. In hindsight, we may have been outside the limits of PC recommendations.
My experience with the Moroccan hospital was far from definitive. I did not see how they handle emergencies, nor surgeries. I don’t really know what is even wrong with grandma. I thought she was symptomatic of a stroke, but looking at her chart, they only thing I could see was monitoring blood sugar, so she could have been having a problem with diabetes. She seemed alert and was sitting up, so death is not as imminent as was feared. We parked near the emergency entrance, but were sent around to the other side. I did not see any reception area, but everyone seemed to know where they were going. We may have come in a back way. I did not see any nursing stations. Windows were open and all areas of the hospital I visited were cold. Grandma was on the third floor, in a room with 6 beds. There was no window to close the opening, even though it was cold enough to see snow on nearby hills. I did not see anyone in medical attire, nurse or doctor. All 6 patients in the room were women, of various ages and apparent illness. It appeared that the hospital supplied the sheets, but the families supplied the blankets. All had a small table, but no chairs for visitors. All the patients had bags and assorted containers of food. I could not tell if the hospital provided food, but the families just wanted to bring favorite dishes, or if you were on your own. Most had visitors. When we arrived that meant grandma had 7. Up and down the hall, the scene was the same. Because it was Sunday afternoon, the number of visitors was likely greater than at other times. At 5:00 pm the guards started coming to the room and telling us we needed to leave. We had only been there a few minutes. Families protested because of the confusion over the time (more on that below) not changing, but the guards were determined. Apparently, grandma had received an IV, and perhaps other treatment, but it did not seem that much was being done for her. I am suspect she (and the family) would be better off if she were home.
After arriving home, we took a short walk to see the plastering job that my dad is doing, next door to the one brother that I only met once, by chance, in a street introduction. We talked briefly with him and his two children, both of whom I recognize from the Dar Shbaab. I gather there is some issue between his wife and the family, but not sure. In any event, we did not go in. We went to my sister, Cowthra’s house. They were huddled in blankets, so we joined them. We stayed for Kaskaroot and she is as good a cook as Hassanna.
About the time change, or lack thereof. Like home, Morocco has been accustomed to using daylight savings time. They call it “new time”. Many Moroccans ignore the new time, and just keep their clocks on “old time” year-round. Two days ago, the Moroccan government decided they would not drop the clock back to “old time”. They passed a law to keep the “new time” year-round. So, can you imagine if that happened in the US? With a 2 day notice? Likewise here, it is going to cause chaos come Monday morning. All the automatic clocks, such as on cell phones, automatically fell back last night and so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Everyone I talked to here is just incredulous. Had they gone the other way, keeping “old time” I doubt to many would have objected. I am told that during the religious month of Ramadan they throw the new time out the window anyway. Even Peace Corps took all day to decide what time we should be at work/class tomorrow. We are on the official “new” time, but if the schools don’t do the same, we will not know when we will get kids at the Dar Shbaab.