Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ruth and the Big Move.

I'm moving!

Well, not me so much as my blog. Still Ruth of Arabia, just not here. Over here instead. I won't be posting here anymore, so don't email me about why I haven't blogged in a while.

See you on the other side.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Ruth and the One Year Milestone.

Typical, right? Sick, yet I can't sleep, when that's all I want and need to do. So here I am, at 3 am on a Thursday night/Friday morning, musing, when I should be sleeping. What's a girl to do but write? 

Today was the anniversary of being in Morocco for one full year. The past couple of weeks I've had lots of days thinking, one year ago today, I was packing my apartment, or leaving my job, or saying goodbye to friends, family and San Francisco. And a year ago today (well, yesterday now) I landed in Casablanca, with people I'd known for little more than 48 hours, tired, a bit dirty, and so excited for what was to come. And my group and I, we've made it through training, two host families, (sometimes) violent illnesses, frustrations and happy realizations of work, celebrations of small milestones like making ourselves understood in our new language, other PCVs comings and goings, and we're still going. With longer hair, a bit of a tan, a few bruises, and the ability to squat for hours thanks to those turkish toilets. 

And of course, there's nothing better than a milestone, of any size, to make one reflect on events. It's surreal to observe and realize the vast changes that can happen in one little year. I think the biggest realization that has come to me in these past couple of weeks of reflection is that while of course I am here to lend my time, skills and anything else I can to the women that I work with and my community, I also need to work out what I need to do in order to look back on these two years with a sense of accomplishment outside of that - for myself. And I don't know what that is yet, but ideas are forming. A friend asked me before I left whether I looked at Peace Corps as a time for personal reflection. Absolutely. 

As I look back, there's a certain part of me that is still sad about leaving, because I know that all the people I said goodbye to are leading their lives, with all of those vast changes that a year can bring, and I'm a little bit less a part of it - not through lack of trying on either side - but through nothing other than sheer distance, time differences and a sometimes dodgy Skype connection. But, then I also realize that this works both ways - there are so few people that can ever really understand what my experience here is about for me, or what I have become accustomed to - good or bad - on a daily basis in my little Moroccan town. And of course, I'm incredibly lucky to be able to participate in this experience - I'm going to bring back with me skills I never knew I had (like making tortillas and aforementioned squatting), have seen a side of Morocco that few tourists get the opportunity to see, and have formed friendships that will last my lifetime. Plus, I've now added camel trekking to my list of activities - can't do that in San Francisco. 

So to another 14 months. With all the couscous, travel, amoebic infections, reflection, work, and bug killing that it will undoubtedly bring. I can't imagine that the second half of this experience won't fly by as the first year has done. Onwards!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ruth and the Learning of Things

You'd think that after 11 months of using turkish toilets I would have learned. But no, that lesson was driven home only just today. Cell phones and turkish toilets don't mix. Cell phones and the most disgusting turkish ever really don't mix. Can cross that off the list of things to do while I'm here though. 

Despite that little incident, I had a very yummy lftur (breakfast) at my host aunts house - moroccan pancake thingers filled with kefta, onions and peppers, delicious cake with chocolate filling, the obligatory harira, and egg tagine for dinner too. Result!

Now for a things I've learned segment, based on the last few days: 
Food is not that important to survival, but chocolate, water and medicine for a funny tummy are essential. 
Don't drop your phone in a turkish toilet (see above). It will stop working. 
Blister beetles don't die easily. Do not assume they are dead even after six or seven gigantic whacks with a dictionary. 
Meringues are really hard to make if you don't have an electric whisk. 
I can make tortillas from scratch, as well as bread like my host aunts! Not muskina any more, Dad - I can make bread!! 
War and Peace is a really hard book to get in to. 
I really miss good mexican food, like Papalotes in San Francisco. I daydreamed about their salsa today. 
Ramadan is very good for losing track of time - neither my host aunt or myself knew the date today. 

I think that's all for now, but there's always more where that came from. 


Friday, August 19, 2011

Ruth and Ramadan.

So now it's week three of Ramadan, and I'm back on the fasting. I made it 7 whole days before my stomach decided that, really, it had had enough of being healthy for a while. I will spare everyone the details of what I've got and just say that I have enough drugs aimed directly at it that it should die any minute now. And so now I'm fasting again, which is going well. Still being woken up at 4am to eat rice and milk if I stay with my host aunts though… not altogether crazy about that, but this is what I do.
Ramadan has given me plenty of time to think, watch and read, which I'm happy for. I read an entire book in less than 12 hours. I'm completely up to date with Mad Men. My Kindle, iPod and computer have never been cleaner and more organized. Today I washed and packed away all my winter clothes as they were getting all dusty. Whatever will happen next?
All in all, it's a very quiet time in Morocco. Last week I was in Agadir, and it was amazingly quiet along the beach front, until 10 or 11 at night. Everyone is at home with their families, and since throughout most of Morocco it's the hottest time of the year, days are spent inside, in the cool. Luckily, my site has been abnormally cool - haven't even had my fan on recently. Hopefully it'll stay this way.
Until the lovely Annalisa gets here, back to the fasting, and with any luck my house will be the most organized place on the planet by the end of Ramadan.
p.s. Monday marked 11 months in Morocco. This time last year... I'd given notice on my job, my apartment... turned everything upside down. Who'd have thunk it?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ruth and the Big Fast. And the Break Fast.

August 2

I'm hungry. Not starving, but I could definitely eat. It's 3:15pm, and I'm trying to keep my mind occupied with things other than hunger and not being able to go in the kitchen. I've got a list of mindless, yet time consuming projects that I want to complete during Ramadan, so am getting started on those. But, I'm about to tidy myself and go over to my host family's house to experience the first night of breaking fast with them.

August 3

I've just gotten home from my host family, and I'm on to Day 2. I was successful on Day 1, and even managed to shock a few people with the fact that I was actually fasting - I guess they didn't expect me to be. It's going to be interesting doing this for the whole month though. I'm wondering how I'm going to feel about it by the end. When I arrived at my host aunt's house, we sat around chatting for a while, while they prepared harira (soup) for breaking fast. Around 7:30pm Amina served the men of the house, and then us with harira, dates and coffee. Then Amina and I went visiting to a couple of different houses - family, friends, and saw a couple of women from the association. When we returned Sadia had nearly finished preparing dinner, tajine, which we ate around 11pm, then pretty much immediately we all went to bed, around midnight. I was woken by the alarm going off at 3:30am, and promptly fell back asleep again, while my host aunts got up and served the men. Amina woke me again about 4:15am, and the three of us ate bread with oil and honey, rice with milk, and of course, mint tea, until about 5am. I'm not sure I slept much after this, so I'm definitely going to be taking a nap today.

And tonight I'm going to be staying home and breaking fast by myself, with a Bakewell tart and some Cadburys!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ruth and the Second Cricket War

Spoke too soon about the crickets. It's now the Second Cricket War: Return of the Cricket. This is what 97 dead crickets, one dead earwig and one dead moth looks like.

Just thought I would share what I woke up to this fine Sunday morning. (Although, please note, they were not swept into a neat little pile when I woke up. That was my fun task.)


Friday, July 29, 2011

Ruth and the Aftermath.

Aaaand I'm back. I know, I know. Long time. Don't worry, I have plenty of excuses prepared.

Excuse #1: Marche Maroc Essaouira.

Since late March another PCV and I worked on a craft fair for associations and cooperatives that work with PCVs across Morocco to attend in Essaouira (possibly my favorite place in Morocco). Everything went well, and as according to plan as could be expected. I think everyone had a good time, sold some product, and it was worth the living and breathing Marche Maroc, as well as blood, bruises and sweat (no tears, because there's no crying in Peace Corps). A little part of me is now wondering what to do with myself (oh, wait, there's still reports to be written and follow up to be done. Never mind.) Everyone who helped out was absolutely amazing - such a great team of helpers.

Excuse #2: London town.

Here's the short version: eating, drinking, catching up with my girls, dancing, more eating, some family time, shopping, museums (yay!), chatting, food shopping, trying on new shoes, more drinking, pub lunches, haircut, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, running for busses (thank you Al!), and more dancing. All while wearing little dresses I could never get away with in Morocco (never mind that it was raining.)

Here's the long version: I went to London for ten days, of which the first 36 hours was spent being the wide-eyed country girl in the big city - overwhelmed by the number of choices, and being able to pick things up in the supermarket instead of having to ask the man behind the counter for something. I saw lots of my favorite people, some family, and ate my way through town. Everyone agreed that I've gotten some color while living in the desert (shocker, that one) and by the end of two years of service my hair may well be blonde (damn you, sun).

I guess that's not *plenty* of excuses, but whatever. It brings me to the last three days, in which I've unpacked (kind of), slept (a lot) and been fed (a lot) by my host aunts. Plus, in contrast to the last time I returned home after a spell away, when there were nearly 100 dead crickets on my kitchen floor, this time? Maybe six or seven. It would seem the Cricket War is over. Bonus.

Next week begins Ramadan, so will report soon on fasting, breaking fast, harira (soup) and staying up late to eat. I promise to write more during my days of not eating and being hot.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Ruth and the Beating of the Drum.

Moroccan women are pretty hardcore. You can give them the most limited of resources, and they will make it work, come hell or high water.

Last weekend I went to the end of the season hefla (party) at my association. It will be closed now until September or so, and what better way to close the year than with a party, right? So, about 35 women gathered in the association to celebrate. One drum, two buckets, a couple of skewers and a metal tray, and you got yourself a full blown music making machine on your hands. Literally for 6 hours, with the exception of breaking for food, they sung, clapped, danced, and beat that drum.

With one burner, they cooked 8 whole chickens with lemons and olives as well as a second course of sheep with prunes and olives. And made two rounds of tea. It's amazing what they can make out of what seems like nothing.

The other thing that I love about Moroccan women is their no-nonsense, take no prisoners attitude. You do not mess with them, and I for one, have no desire to be on the wrong side of any woman that can reach in to a red hot oven and pull out a tray with her bare hands.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Ruth and the War of Crickets.

Let me paint you a picture. It's 10.30 at night. A cricket chirps outside my front door, and a small moth flutters by my light. I sit near my fan and sip on my drink. Today's beautiful clear skies have led to a clear evening, and my village is peaceful.

Now, here's a different picture. It's 10.30 at night. It's 94 degrees inside my house, with its one window. That cricket outside my door is the largest and loudest I've ever experienced. He and all his cricket friends have been bombarding my house for the last two days, to the point where I can now kill one at twenty paces with my rubber house shoe. That small moth is small by Moroccan standards, which means it's the size of a small mouse, and it just dive bombed my head. That fan I'm sitting by is just pushing hot air around, and when I say sip my drink, I mean chug large quantities of cold water. And those beautiful clear skies made it hotter than nuts here today, and did not, despite all my pleas, lead to a cool evening, complete with breeze.

Today I went in to town to buy vegetables. I walked home from the main road, and in those 7 minutes - road to front door - I became absolutely drenched in sweat. I mean, ridiculous. I've sweated clean through two tops today, and am about to take my second cold bucket bath. I'm only just eating dinner, my first meal of the day, this late at night because it's been too hot to eat and cook until now (and still - 94 degrees?)

So yeah, it's hot.

But, all that said, I'm home, which is great, after having been traveling for the last couple of weeks. My tortoise is still alive, Pablo the lizard is still here - it's all good, despite the heat. The last two weeks have been action and fun packed, and the best couple of weeks in a long while. First IST, which was in the oceanside town of Mehdya, which is beautiful, and meant that after sessions were finished each day, we could all run and jump in to the gorgeous ocean. Then a trip to Porto last week for four days, which was glorious. I bathed in the spaciousness of not having to cram 7-10 people in a grand taxi; I marveled at the shopping center that served Caipirinhas to go; and I wondered at the feeling of wearing a tank top in public for the first time in 9 months. And Porto is beautiful to boot. All the makings of a great holiday - good friends, good food, good drinks, good city. Now, when can I do *that* again?

And so now, it's back to reality, and work. My craft fair project is swiftly approaching, and there's still plenty to be done. And off I go!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ruth and the Travel Bug

All of my blog posts start with something along the lines of what a crazy couple of weeks it's been. I've been putting off writing for the past couple of days because I wanted a more interesting way to start writing, but honestly, there is no other way. Everyday in this country is an adventure, in every sense. And the one of the ways that I have been able to deal with some of the frustrations I've encountered thus far is to keep as busy as possible, which inevitably leads me to start blog posts with how crazy it's been. It's a vicious circle.

I've been in and out of my village for the past couple of weeks, starting with a trip up to Rabat for a craft fair, which, as usual, was great fun and the perfect excuse to see everyone and catch up. Then it was down to Essaouira, since another PCV and I are in the midst of organizing a craft fair for artisans there. The good news is that we have received funding for the project, which means we can really start putting things in place now. I came back to my site for about a week, and followed that up with another wildly productive few days in Essaouira, which was great. So my lack of blog posting recently can be attributed to all this travel, and also to the fact that I have been computer-less, which is a whole other story, and one that I'm not going to go in to since a) it's really long and involved and b) I'm over it. But, happily, it has given me the chance to do a ton of reading. The only thing I'm not a fan of when it comes to traveling is coming home to a house full of a weeks' worth of dead crickets and unidentified black bugs. Pablo the lizard is not doing his job, clearly.

In the next few weeks, it's much more of the same, with the added bonus of a trip to London, in precisely 51 days, which I couldn't be more excited about. Dear London, You might want to stock up on hula hoops, dairy milk, pub lunches, ribena/robinsons, and bacon. Just saying. xoxo, Ruth.