We have been exchanging email and gifts with a former student of our school. Sharon is serving in the Peace Corp. She is helping people care for new born babies in Morocco. Our Jordan Road volunteers sent an assortment of snacks for Sharon to share with the local village children. Sharon sent the typical snack - figs!!!
Mon, 06 May 2002
Everything here has been going along as always. The Moroccan king is in the United States (a fact someone points out to me almost daily) have you seen him on the news? All of us health volunteers are on our way to Agadir for training this week. I'm not so much looking forward to the training but rather the week on the coast with people I haven't seen since we all left for our villages in October. That and the opportunity to speak just in English. Just over a week ago we got back from our version of Take Our Daughters to Work when the volunteers in the Azilal region met in Beni Mellal with 19 girls to show them life in the city. The girls had never been in cars before (and were throwing up the ENTIRE way from motion sickness) and never did figure our how to work the door handles or the window rollers. While in Beni Mellel, we all went to a college (which is actually the junior high school) where they got to speak with girls who had come to the school from small Berber villages like theirs. Any student from my village wishing to go on past 6th grade would end up at one of these colleges which are set up like boarding schools. They also got to see a university art school where women art students helped them paint pictures to take home with them. There was a theatre show with clowns who later taught a class on puppet making which was a big hit and then the girls split up to go with women to their workplaces to see things like a doctor; hairdresser; shop owner, seamstress, etc at work. The whole long weekend was a hit with the girls but they were pretty exausted and ready to go home by the end of it all. I think they enjoyed watching the traffic and the way people in the city dress as they walked down the street as much as the actual events. But that was the point. All the girls stayed in a women's center so it was really just a massive slumber party all weekend long. The volunteers who were there (when we weren't worrying about someone getting run over by a car) couldn't get over trying to see things through the eyes of these girls who have never so much as seen a paved road before and were suddenly confronting a world about 100 years ahead of life in their own villages. It would be nice if these girls could go home and say to their parents that they really want to continue their education now in the city but children out in the rural areas rarely have that much choice in their own futures. I hope that at least one of the three girls I brought with me (whose father is a shopkeeper and thus a little better off and worldly than most families in Ait Blal) might get the opportunity to finish school. But the real goal of the project for me was to just give these girls the chance to know the rest of the world exists. Then, when they have daughters, perhaps they will push their husbands to send them to school when the time comes because they will remember this trip and know their kids will have more chances in their lives if they send them to school. This is probably 20 years down the road, long after all of the volunteers will be back home in America, but it is worth shooting for anyway. So that was our big week in the city and everyone made it back without getting run over so we at least accomplished our short term goal.
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002
There was a minor incident at the post office when I tried to send the note to your class in the box with everything else. For reasons passing understanding this is apparently illegal. So, there is a box coming eventually I hope. Actually sending the coin was illegal too, I am racking up quite a record over here in Morocco. I am returning home after attending the swear in ceremony for the new volunteers. Unfortunately the ambassador couldn't come as is the custom since she is helping to prepare for the king's visit to America this weekend which has the embassy in a bit of an uproar. Also the ceremony was somewhat curtailed since it is temporarily illegal (there is a disturbing theme to this email) to hold any kind of celebration in Morocco to sympathize with the recent tragedies in Palestine. Even the king cancelled his own wedding reception last week. People here are understandably upset to say the least but there haven't been any riots or violent protests here yet so we'll see. Colin Powell dropped by for a meeting with the king here last week on his way to Israel and every person in my village with a shortwave radio ran over to tell me about it. I think they were happy to be included in the arab world's important players. Otherwise, all is normal and if Allah and Mother Nature agree I will be going back to my village tomorrow. There have been a lot of rain and, something new, mud and rock slides pretty well cutting us off from the rest of the world at times. Next week, very exciting news, we are participating in Take Our Daughters to Work Day (Moroccan-Peace Corps style) and the volunteers in my province will be meeting in the province capital with girls from our villages to introduce them to city life. They will get to see a music school, the high school, the women's center, go on field trips, the whole exhausting nine yards. These girls have probably never been out of Ait Blal before, never seen even a paved road in their lives. I'll be sure to give you an update when it's all over.