The rat is smarter than I am, soccer progress, new discoveries. September 23-October 6, 2019 (1 of 3)
So much has been happening in the two weeks since I last wrote, I will break it into 3 posts. First, this one about ongoing life. Second, my host grandmother’s death. Third, my trip to Maghraoua.
It is amazing how I can constantly be making new discoveries in my own town. Something as big as peanut butter, or as small as a laundry service. Often, this is because when businesses are closed, you see metal doors, with no indication of what lies beyond, or tucked in little allies. In this case, the discoveries were in the neighborhood of the souk, and to the south of my normal trek. Just yesterday there were three big ones; a hanoot with a color printer, a new restaurant with a nice garden atmosphere, and the train station. Most residents are unaware, that despite the name that translates to “train station”, the neighborhood where the souk is, once had a train station. My historian friend showed it to me. Though the tracks have been removed, as a “we’ll show you who’s boss” move to the French when Morocco gained independence in 1956, and most of the name covered, the building still stands.
The color printer was discovered when one of my association leaders took me there to order a big sign, to advertise the community football meeting. A great deal of my time has been spent in meetings to organize the introduction of the program to the community. One of the associations agreed to be our official legal conduit to activity, providing the stamp of authority needed for the school and everything. We created the budget, registration packets, official (in a certain format and stamped with authority) announcements, unofficial (colorful) announcements, met with insurance companies, and much more. The meetings with youth are like meeting with children, because they are. Two of my supporting associations have fallen away, but the remaining three (plus Dar Shbaab and Peace Corps makes 5) are strong enough to carry it through. The big Community Meeting is October 11th, and there is still a lot of preparation to be done.
Most of my time is routine, going to the Dar Shbaab, providing recreational and learning activities for the youth. The major shift from vacation to school time seems behind us. It only took a month from the first day of school to classes seriously get started. All youth need to re-subscribe their Dar Shbaab membership for the new year. It only costs $1 (and two little photos) for a whole year, but it is like pulling teeth. They come in and start to play, but if the Director is there, he tells them to subscribe and they run out. I am there from 9-6, 5 days a week, at this time (no Sundays). In addition to the difficult soccer kids, I have an amazing small group that has asked me to help them start a basketball group. The leader of that group has even created his own trading card game, and has asked me to help him with that. Oh! If I only had 10 like him!
I started a new year of English students, at Nour. The Life Skills for Girls has some new members. My Darija lessons have started again, twice a week.
I do laundry, keep working on learning to cook chicken, water the plants, feed the stray momma kitty when it demands, try to keep up with emails, clean the house and youth center. I go to the souk and Marche. I make a point of being out and about, see and be seen, as much as possible. My host sister has returned to visiting every night. I have returned to visiting the family from time to time, but not as often as before.
Last week I battled a rat, but the rat won. I keep a brick over the cover to the sewer, but I must remove it to drain the washing machine. “Hmmm, why is the hole filled with brown fur?” I asked myself at 6 in the morning. Hey! That is a rat! So… after laundry, I supposed I should kill him. Now, I actually debated about this, because I have only seen one cockroach in all the time since Camp Saidia. What if the rat is eating the cockroaches? Oh well, I set a trap and left the hole open. Mind you, this is not inside the house, but an enclosed outdoor utility area. All day, no action on the trap, so I re-covered the hole and went to bed. When I heard loud banging at 2 in the morning, I asked myself, what are those ladies doing upstairs? When I went to the bathroom at 4:15, and the banging was coming from the utility area, I peaked through the kitchen window with my flashlight, to see the rat waddle away from the door, under the washing machine. Big one, 10-inch body. The banging was him trying to eat his way through the kitchen door, as I had trapped him. Bait gone from trap, not sprung. Reset. This went on the rest of the pre-dawn. He tripped it once, but not even a whisker. Landlady came down twice. Finally, in the morning, I was going out of town, so I opened the drain to let him escape. No sign of him since.
Despite all the problems with the mail, two birthday cards made it through, making me exceedingly happy! My package sent from home was returned to the US, marked unclaimed. But it never made it further than Casablanca. Grrrrrr.
I had a big report due for Peace Corps, covering all activities for the past 6 months. It is quite elaborate, needing to be coded in all sorts of Government-Speak. The tricky parts are getting the right codes in phase one so that the activities show up where you need them in phase two. I also managed to find a host family for the new man who will be joining me in December. We were visited by the PCVs, a married couple, who worked here from 2011-2013. They were sweet and I got to spend some time with them. They were the ones that connected me with their former host family, who agreed to host again.
Today I went to the Prune Festival, in a tiny town, barely more than a wide spot in the road, just about a 10-minute taxi, or bus, drive from here. They had the requisite farm products associations tent area, a small souk, pop-up tent restaurants and a Fantasia exhibition. I mentioned seeing one in Immouzier for just a few minutes. This is glorious fun! Beautifully costumed riders, fancy saddles, magnificent stallions and gunpowder! There were maybe 5 different groups, taking turns, forming a line and running at full speed to the end of the run. Here they pull up at the last minute and fire the long riffles into the air. They are judged on synchronization. Very Moroccan, though my historian friend tells me they do this in Algeria also. Prior to the beginning of the Fantasia, there was a massive, free, circumcision event. People were crowding into a building with their tiny boys, dressed in tiny white galabias and tiny, maroon velvet hats to have the deed done. Outside there were two traditional music groups, costumed and keeping things lively. Ambulances stood by, whether for the babies or the horse riders, or both, I am not sure. There were many vendors of assorted nougat style candies, popcorn, dried figs, fruit and more. Last night and tonight they had live music on a professional sound stage, but I am required to be back before dark. Plus, I wanted to get this blog posted!