So for the past four weeks, I've been hunkered down in site, trying to really understand working here, what that means, and how I fit in to it. And it's difficult. It's such a different working environment here, that makes work as a volunteer incredibly hard to get one's head around. Work is preceded by relationships with the people you work with; as volunteers we are working 24 hours a day, because it's not defined by going to the office or how many reports you can write. It's defined by having a good conversation with someone, and making a plan to do something productive next week. It's defined by building the relationship with the people you work with, so that they trust you enough to listen to your ideas. And it's also defined by showing the commitment to being there, whether 'there' be at the association when there's only seven people instead of forty because all the roads are flooded, or whether 'there' is at someone's house to celebrate a birth or mourn a death. All of which is pretty far removed from the traditional sense of the word work. But that commitment goes a really long way in a society that is based on community and in which people go out of their way to help and welcome an outsider. And I'm sure that all volunteers go through this struggle to define their role wherever they are, but I'm also sure that it won't be until toward the end my service that it will really make sense.
So I've been helping my women prepare themselves for an upcoming craft fair (check it out here and here) in Fes, which has resulted in a month of trials and tribulations, crazy, misunderstood conversations, and trips to various towns to buy supplies, but definitely productive. My women have been busily making more product that they know sells well, we've been adjusting one of their current products which usually means I end up playing the mannequin when I go to the association each afternoon, and a couple of women have been experimenting with a new product - pictures of that will come soon. Fes will be the first craft fair that my women have been to in a while, so I'm excited that they are participating, and I'm excited to go to Fes, since I've not been before. Yippee!
More excitement - after Fes, my parents will be arriving in Marrakech, where I will meet them and spend a few days, followed by a few days in Agadir. My host family and the women in my association are excited to meet them, and for them to see Ain Chaib, and I'm looking forward to being able to explore Agadir a little more thoroughly, including the souk there, which seems immense. And I'm looking forward to the look on my Mum's face when she sees how many people get in a grand taxi :)
Oh, and something else to mention, because it was awesome and super unexpected - last weekend five other volunteers arranged a surprise birthday gathering for me, complete with Mexican food, marble cake with sprinkles (yes, sprinkles!), amazing fudge, and hummus with yummy bread, amongst other things. I had no idea this was being plotted against me, but thanks to my awesome region mates, they totally had me fooled.
Anyway, that's all for now. More after the excitement of the next couple of weeks. If I can stand it.