Sunday, October 30, 2005

Milking the Cow

The view from my host family's house in TimHdit

My attemp to try and milk a cow. You can even see the milk flowing. Yum!

We’re back at our CBT (community based training) site in TimHdit, town of supposedly 15,000 people 20 minutes or so outside of Azrou. I say supposedly because it seems as if there are only 5,000 people there but they tend to include the surrounding villages into their numbers. We went there a few weeks ago for about a week. This time, we’re in TimHdit for 2 weeks. FYI: There’s no Internet in TimHdit and I’m actually back in Azrou for the day doing this journal entry. There are 5 of us: Eileen, Lauren, Katie, Christine and me. Our language teacher Fatima makes six. We all live at separate host family houses. For the most part, are families are all related. I am living with the President of TimHdit. His wife and my host mom’s brother is the Shik. The Shik is Christine’s host father. His daughter, Suaad, is Lauren’s host mom. Christine’s host mom and Katie’s host mom are best friends. Or maybe it’s Lauren and Katie’s host moms that are best friends? Are you following me here? It’s a little confusing and it took us awhile to figure out who was related to whom but I think we have it now.
During CBT, we have language class and community research projects all day. We all go home to our host families late in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day with them. There are a few things that I’ve had a chance to do with my host family. This time around, I got to help with the making of Lfdur. Everyone is fasting here for Ramadan so the whole day is basically spent preparing food for the breaking of the fast. I helped make bread, scale and filet fish (yeah to being a Florida girl), skin and chop two chickens for kebobs and, my personal favorite, make mint tea. I’m finally acquiring those domestic skills I’ve been lacking for oh so many years. It was actually really fun being in the kitchen. I’m starting to realize what it’s like to be in a country that doesn’t depend on the fast food industry. Trust me, I definitely have days when all I crave is a Cook Out hamburger, onion rings and large sweet tea. It is comforting, however, to know that the food your eating is fresh (remember my chicken story?)
Speaking of fresh, another thing I’ve been able to do while at CBT is milk a cow. The neighbor, also named Fatima, helps out with a lot of the house and field work at my host family’s house. When I came home from school and saw her milking the cow I thought, hey, what the heck! It doesn’t look that hard. Well, well! First of all, I completely felt like I was violating the poor heifer. I mean, how would you feel if someone tried to milk you? When I got over that thought and really started to milk ol’ Bessie, I realized it was definitely harder than it looks. When I had enough of the mocking and laughing from those that were around me, I stepped back and handed the reigns back to Fatima. Hopefully, for my benefit and the cows, that will be the last time I milk anything in this country.

Seeing the King

Picture Captions:

The streets of Khenifra

Festive chics at the souq

The carpet souq

Last week, we got to take a break from our training in Azrou and go on field trips. The purpose of the field trips was to see the everyday life of a current volunteer. More or less, it was to give us a glimpse of what our lives are going to be like for the next two years. Deandra, a fellow trainee, and I went to Khenifra, a city of 100,000 people about an hour south of Azrou. We stayed with Nichole, a volunteer that has been in Morocco for two years. Nichole was awesome. She showed us around the town and introduced us to some great people. She took us to the carpet souq and the regular souq. Because this was the first time we got to “live on our own”, we were responsible for buying and making our own food. The first day we were there, we went to the market and bought some eggs, bread, and pasta and picked out our chicken. That’s right! I said picked out a chicken. Things are a little different here in Morocco. When our cravings in the States call for poultry, we either drive to the nearest Chica-fil-let and order a #1 with extra mustard or go to the nearest Winn Dixie and pick up a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Not here, my friends. Here in Morocco, you stroll by your local chicken shack, point at which chicken you want and wait for the person to kill it, feather it and put it in a bag for you to take home and eat it. There’s just something about cooking a chicken when its blood is still warm. Well, that didn’t stop the three of us. We had some killer fried chicken that night (no pun intended).
Fresh chicken wasn’t the most exciting thing that happened while we were in Khenifra. The King of Morocco made an appearance while we were there. First we heard he was coming on Saturday, then Sunday and then Monday. Finally, I think he arrived on either Tuesday or Wednesday. This was a very exciting event for the people of Khenifra. The city bused people in from surrounding areas and had everyone stand behind railings by the street. We were really lucky. The King was literally in Nichole’s backyard. Even so, we did have to wait on the street for 5 hours in the drizzling rain. That, I tolerated. What I could not tolerate and what almost drove me insane were the little kids that surrounded us. The streets were filled with kids because they got to get out of school early to see the King. Where their mothers were, I had no idea. They were all cute and innocent at first and then it was pushing, shoving and yelling. The little girls started playing with my hair and touching my face. Then, to make matters even worse, there was this creepy security officer that kept walking past us and saying my name like he was Hannibal Lechter or something … “heelllloo Saaarrraaa.” Really creepy! He asked me if I was married and if I wanted to come have Lfdur (the breaking of the fast during Ramadan) at his house. Then he said something that I didn’t understand so I repeated it to myself to see if I could recognize it. Half way through I realized he was trying to convert me to Islam. That was the last I spoke to Red Dragon.
Regardless of all that, we finally did get to see the King. It was really exciting. We all felt like 12-year-old girls waiting outside of an NSync concert. It was all we did that day. Waiting 5 hours to see the King for 20 seconds is a lot of work.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

National Pastime

Picture Captions:

Katie not too happy about waking up at 3:30 in the morning to eat. I'm always happy to eat!

Our severly injured soccer team.

I know that I haven't written in a long time. I told you guys I was going to be bad at this. I did, however, have quite the exciting evening tonight and I wanted to share it with you. Currently, we're in the second week of Ramadan. For those who don't know what that is, it's the month of fasting in the Islamic world. I, along with other volunteers, have decided to fast as well. It's actually not as bad as one would think. Yes, there are times in the middle of the day when all you want to do is grab a liter of water and chug the whole thing but you try to resist the urge and carry on. It's basically readjusting your eating schedule. The girls in my room are all fasting so we wake up at 4 in the morning and eat bread, cheese, fruit and drink plenty of water. I like to throw in a snickers or a twix in the mix, but that's just me. This early morning feeding frenzy usually helps us get through the day until we break the fast. This is called Lfdur and it usually occurs around 6 or 6:30 PM. Lfdur isn't a big meal. It's mainly some sort of soup, bread, eggs, dates and shebekiah, a really sweet honey treat. Moroccans love their sweets! Dinner is after that and it's around 10 PM. So, there's basically a lot of time to eat, just not while the sun is up. Because of Ramadan, we've been getting out of language classes and sessions at 4 or 4:30 instead of 6. So between 4:30 and 6 we have nothing to do and we can't eat.
Today, a handful of us decided that we needed some sort of exercise and decided to find an empty field and play soccer. Yes, that's right, I said it ... SOCCER ... the national sport in Morocco. We tumble onto the rocky, and I mean rocky, field and gave it a go. At first there was only one Moroccan boy watching us attempt to play. Incidentally, he was wearing a Tar Heels cap. I stopped for a moment, let out a sigh and continued my sport. It wasn't long before we had a large audience of Moroccan boys. There was a group of 5 or 6 teenagers in one corner and another group of maybe 10 kids right behind one of our goals. The site of a bunch of Americans trying to play soccer must have been the most amusing thing that they had seen in a long time. I mean, there were 7 year olds just flat out laughing at us. We couldn't even keep the ball in play for more than 20 seconds at a time. And then, to make matters even worse, I took a shot straight in the face and hit the ground. I even chipped a tooth ( don't worry mom, I didn't really need it. ) The left side of my face was a little swollen so I sat out for a few minutes. Minutes later, sweet little Rachel side-swept Cory and he went tumbling to the ground. Natural instinct had his hand break the fall and he came up with a bloody "hey I look like an axe murder" hand. That didn't stop Cory so he continued to play until we insisted on him going in to dress his hand due to the splattered blood all over the field. Anne also took a dive on the field and skinned her knee. Cory eventually came back in the game just to be socked right in the sternum and have all the living breathe knocked out of him. It was quite a pathetic site. We felt like a bunch of geriatrics hobbling off the field. Funny thing is, we all couldn't wait to get back out there the next day and do it all over again. I mean, come on, we didn't give everyone a chance to get injured and that's not really team spirit.