Monday, June 29, 2009

Travel Log, June 4-5, 2009

June 4, 2009
The Moroccans are such generous people. It is amazing how much they give us out of how little they have. One group was offered a lunch of rabbit today--they were admiring the family of rabbits, when the woman of the house picked one up to show them. The volunteers said "aaawwweee", when all of a sudden, she made a move to wring its neck. They screamed "WHOA WAIT WHAT?" Trying to explain they were just about to eat lunch, they frantically called Joey and had him inform them in Arabic. The rabbit was (probably temporarily) saved!

We get tea and bread every day, sometimes twice or thrice a day:
Gotta love mint tea and Familia
Amy loves chobbes

Most of the AZ team went off to whitewash today (and get offered adorable lunch), while my team, Rick, and Sarah returned to the foundation we were laying.

(Story continued on June 5, 2009)

We have to move lots of rocks today---some from the hill at first, but then just made our assembly line and moved river rocks from the pile to the site where T was building the foundation walls. He, S, and Rick used the hose filled with water to level the walls again.

Layers of rocks and cement

To mix cement, S shoveled sand, gravel, and cement powder into a pile and stirred in water (with a shovel). We had two barrels of it, but ran out. So, we gals took turns using the two buckets and walking down hill to the creek, filling them up, and returning to fill the barrels.

Mixin' cement
Carrying water from the river before we got Donkey

Beth and I met Charlotte on one trip. Charlotte is a LARGE spider.
From my journal:
Charlotte in doodle form
Actual picture of the one and only Charlotte:

We hate her.

Later, Sarah and Beth saw two of Charlotte's friends. They moved to a new watering hole.

The brother of the women for whom we are building noticed our slow process and lent us their DONKEY. (Hmar.) We filled two big jugs with water, loaded them on Donkey (I was just informed that Moroccans do NOT name donkeys), and led him (it was definitely a him) up to the site. He was a good boy [ohohoho just you wait], but occasionally brayed at the top of his lungs. When we were done, S let Amy ride him back, side-saddle. She was so pleased. :)

Rashida and Hanan with Donkey:
Rashida, Hanan, and Donkey
The girls and donkey

S is so mischievous. When we were depleting the river rock pile, we found another Charlotte (this would be #4). He told us that she would bite and make our arms swell up, so we screamed. He put on gloves, grabbed her by a leg, and chased us. Ha. Then Anna squished her. Whew.

(First day, we saw a scorpion. The men tore off its tail, and it died.)

After work, Melodie drove down from the village with B and S's two kids (Elias 3 and Titi 2) and W's young sisters (12 and 11). Beth, Sarah, and I piled into the truck with them and we drove to THE BEACH!!! Yes, we swam in the Mediterranean!! The sand was kind of "dirty", but the water temperature was perfect and view fantastic--of brown cliffs and sandbars, and blue sky and waves. There were (of course) mostly men on the beach, but there were a few women. They were all SO modest--in scarves, at least knee length capris, and dress on top of those. We wore big shirts over our suits out of respect (and I still kind of felt like a slut). W's sisters had only been to the beach a few times, and were scared but eager to go into the waves. Mel, Beth, and I had fun dragging them in! Joey brought a whole family who had never been to the beach (despite living within 45 minutes of it), and we all had a blast pulling them in, too.

Most modest I have ever been at a beach
Titi and Elias--sooo cute
Beth, Melodie, and Sarah!
My feet in Mediterranean sand

I napped for a while, and burned my neck and one ear. That takes talent.

That night, H came over to share his testimony (through M). He has an amazing one--he was a hashish dealer and druggie until a car accident that should have killed everyone in the car, but no one was too badly injured. Now his life has completely turned around and he is living for God.

I love listening to prayers in Arabic. It is such a beautiful language. I would love to learn it, man. We are picking up words in it and Rifi slowly!

June 5th, 2009

This morning, Beth and Callie went visiting with Melodie, and witnessed a riot in the marketplace! Mel. thinks it's due to the elections, which are next week.

Russ and my team (minus Beth) whitewashed, while the rest returned to the foundation house. First, we ran errands with Joey.

(written on June 7, 2009)

Errands like...picking up wood, dropping it off, picking up cement, dropping it off, etc. Then, we WHITEWASHED. We had been warned to wear crummy clothes. Good thing. Painting the lime-water mixture on the walls wasn't so bad, but CEILINGS! We were all so nicely dribbled. We put the second coat on every inside wall (this house had four rooms, bathroom, and kitchen) and got most of the outside done. I got to paint the outside walls by laying on the roof and painting top down. SWEET.

Beeb and Russ paint paint paint
I love painting on the roof!

FOR houses are all whitewashed (for light and to keep it cool) with bright cobalt blue window shutters and door frames. So pretty. We were thrilled to be served coffee with fresh milk rather than the usual toothpaste-flavored syrup. This family was so nice. The dad and three boys helped and taught us more Rifi/Arabic. They were so cute--about 5-12 years old--and played marbles with Anna.

My buds

(note the excited woman on the roof)
White and Blue

This is their old house, which was destroyed in the 2004 earthquake:
Rubble from the 2004 earthquake

Joey picked us up and drove off to get B and H. As we drove up, we saw them running and swatting the air. OH NO! They were swarmed by BEES. They jumped into the van and brought a few with'm. The guys swatted with hats and girls screamed and then they were gone. Whew. B was stung twice on his head. After about ten minutes, he became really dizzy...we stopped and decided to take him to a clinic. We dropped him and Joey off, and continued to lunch at the other site. Poor guys--it was an hour late! Thankfully, B was ok--we picked him up on the way home.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travel log, June 3, 2009

(Relaxing after a first hard day of work)

[All pictures from Al Hoceima will be here.]

First Moroccan breakfast!

After a tasty breakfast (coffee and pastries), we set off for another long car ride--this time, five or six hours long. The valley was covered in fog, but we finally rose above to see this amazing view:
We drove through and finally out of a huge cloud.

We watched the countryside go by--so many cacti, bushy trees, red-red dirt, rising hills (some even with snow), random houses or roadside towns, and lots of donkeys and men. Sooo many men. ("That's Morocco--men standing around in groups doing nothing.") Few women are out and about.

We drove through the Moroccan drug capital (straaaight through), and were offered hashish by a man on a bicycle (we refused).

At a gas station, we had our first real Moroccan squatty potty experience! All five of us crammed into the two-stall bathroom with some kleenex, hand sanitizer, and unfortunately, a camera. It was QUITE an experience. Anna says it was "really fun!!!' and video taped us all describing our time. [Thankfully, it has yet to show up online. That I know of.]

Gas station loot:
"Coca-cola" looks like "Jesus" in Arabic.

We finally arrived in AH around 2 or 3pm, in tme for lunch--communal stew plate with fingers and bread! We met the other team that's here for 2 weeks: six people from Phoenix, AZ. Callie (16) and her father Rick, Susanna, Russ, Sandy, and Sarah. they are terrific. I am so glad we aren't the only volunteers!

Several people live here permanently: Joey, Dani, and sons Josiah (2) and Benson (1), Moroccans M and S and daughter Amal (2) and newborn baby Miriam, and S and W and newborn baby Aimed. Dee and Dick (who are amazing) come here often, and are staying for a couple of months. They are in their 70s and lived in the Congo and France for over 30 years, teaching highschool.

We got to the FOR house in AH and met the kiddies!

After eating, and to avoid sleeping too early, Beth and I joined Mel in a ride to AH. We saw the MEDITERRANEAN!! It is, in fact, lovely, and AH looks just like a Mediterranean cliff town should look. (In my mind.) We drank cafe au lait (kahawa a leb?) at a cafe overlooking the sea and relaxed in the sunshine and cool breeze. The AZ team joined us, and we had a great time getting to know each other!
Tired Beth enjoys seaside coffee.

Because I left my DisneyWorld sunglasses on the EasyJet jet (SADNESS), we visited "Morocco's Claire's", Bigdil, and bought some for about $3. Nice.

Dinner was incredible. W and S cook for us (and are paid). They made...french fries covered in a tomato sauce (vaguely like salsa) and scrambled eggs. Interesting. It was meziehn (good)! (Beth and I are going to have Moroccan parties at home and serve this. No one will believe us.)

After dinner, B and I sat on the rooftop, admired the view of the town and hills, the sound of the cars (we pretended it was the sea) and call to prayer, and smell of...Morocco? The smell is dirt and flowers and probably manure. [I kind of miss it.]

The Call to Prayer is so interesting. It's beautiful in an eerie, haunting way. There are two mosques within sight from the roof, and each sing different prayers which combine in an stirringly dissonant way. It happens about five times a day, including one at 4am. Now THAT was creepy. And LOUD.

Amy, Anna, Beth, and I are sharing a room filled with three bunkbeds. We share a bathroom with S and W. The bathroom is just one tiled room with a toilet next to a shower head, so everything gets wet when you wash. You just use a huge squeegee to mop the water into a drain in the middle of the floor. It's fairly entertaining.

The FOR house is beautifully [what? that's right...] tiled in blue, white, and yellow. Windows and doors are always open, and it stays pleasantly cool.

[Susanna, Amy, Dee, and I went on a walk after dinner, too, but I forgot to write about it.]
Pictures from the walk:
Brilliant purple thistles dot the brown and green landscape

This is two seconds from the house:
I loved it

I stood on African dirt:
It's Africa dirt!

Century plants are also everywhere:
Century plants!

This morning, we rolled out of bed at 5:30am, put on grubby clothes, and met for breakfast and devotions at 6am. Russ and Rick are graciously letting us join their study on Ephesians. Breakfast was bread and nutella, hardboiled eggs, bananas, yogurt, and coffee (Bertolino's coffee, for you Tacoma people).

Beth and I load up at 6:45am!
Sandy, Jess, Beth, Dee, Anna, and Susanna

So, here's a schedule for you:
Typical day
6:00am--breakfast and devotions
6:45am--leave house
7:00am--start work
10:00am--tea and bread
2:00pm--lunch and end of work!
afternoon--visiting, relaxing, shopping, beaching...
4:00pm--tea and snacks
evening--free time

FIRST DAY OF WORK!!! We gals raised money over the course of months (thanks to many of you!) to build one whole house for a widow and a divorcee with a cutie pie three year old daughter. Amazingly, we got to work on THEIR HOUSE today! [FOR always has several houses in progress.] It was just a shallow ditch outline when we arrived, on a hill with a ton of red rocks and scrubby cacti.

The men and other Moroccan workers (paid staff of FOR) set to work making rebar pillars and digging with picks and shovels to make the ditch for the foundation deeper.

We gals became EXPERT rock throwers, carriers, rollers, and shovers--walking up the hill, moving rocks ("fist-sized to as big as you can") down the hill, and walking back up. This lasted from 7am until at least 11am, when I switched duties and learned how to swing a pick!! "I've been workin' on the saaaame droid, all the live-long daaay!" ran through my head. [10000 points to whomever tells me what that's from.]

The Work Site.

They use red rocks from the hill and grey rocks from the river for many, many things:
Step one. Carry rocks down hill and make piles.

Russ and M talked to me for a while about what I do (ie I'm a PhD student in physics) and asked me tons of questions, which I had to answer in very every-day terms and examples. M (who is very educated) wanted to be able to explain to the other workers (mostly uneducated) what I do. It was rather difficult to get to that level of simplicity!

We had delicious tea at 10am. sarah and Amy picked it up from Rashida and Fayida--the widow and divorcee--at their brother's house across the creek valley from the work site. We all paused for bread, butter (Familia!), jam, pastries, and MINT TEA. Mint tea is ubiquitous. It is made with buckets (buckets I tell you) of sugar. It's not baaad...but will get old! [Oooh how old it got.]

Susanna, Callie, and I visited the ladies in the afternoon, and had a lovely time playing charades and speaking in broken Arabic and Spanish to try to communicate. They introduced us to Hanan, the three year old, and showed us where they live now: a small mud building next to the slightly bigger home of the brother and his family. They offered us fresh and delicious almonds ["ejoos" in Rifi--the native language of the Rif Berbers]. The grandmother was there, too, and she was adorable and spoke some Spanish.

After the ditch was deep enough, Tuhammy filled it in with rocks, like a puzzle, and layers of cement:

Step two. After digging ditch, fill in ditch with layers of cement and rocks.

all around, except for spots for pillars.

Then, we leveled the middle section using a hose filled with water to gauge the levelness:
Step Three. Make sure foundation outline is level.

Finally, we got to eat LUNCH. Dee and Sandy brought amazing lentils and Moroccan bread and melon (looked like honeydew, but was more flavorful). [We sat on the prickly ground and, again, used bread like utensils and ate out of a common dish, which sat in the dirt. We also had communal water jugs at the work site--for the men and volunteers! No room for the germophobe--we all adapted, some more quickly than others.]

Then, we drove home. Whew! After a truly amazing shower, I journaled, lunged, drank tea and ate cookies with nutella and peanut butter, and adored Dee more than ever, because she made me COFFEE. Dee is amazing. She prayed for all four of us--prayed that we make it. Hahahahahahahem. Yes...

I really, really enjoy coffee in the FOR house

Dinner was rice, chicken, and a salad of tomato and cucumber. Mmmm! [Do NOT eat lettuce in a place you wouldn't drink the water. We were told that it, if anything, would definitely make us sick.]

Now, bedtime!

Travel log, June 1-2, 2009

[All pictures can be found on my Flickr site. See link at left; I am moosicalmath.]

June 1, 2009

Aaagh! We're landing in Madrid at 8:00am.


June 2, 2009

I am in Chefchaouen, Morocco!! It's about 8:15am and Beth is in the shower. :)


(I am now on the rooftop of the FOR house in Al Hoceima.)

We spent several hours in the Madrid Barajas airport, mostly staring at each other in jetlag daze or trying to speak Spanish to random people. We got Euros from the ATM, bought jamon y queso y cafe con leche, and stressed over our luggage and EasyJet's stringent requirements. Praise the Lord--both our carry-on and checked bags passed!
Sisters in Madrid!

Beth and Anna reflect on Spain

We changed into "Morocco Clothes" before boarding for Tangier. There are guidelines we must follow to be respectful of the conservative Moroccans and the reputation of the Americans of FOR--and to call less attention to ourselves (if that's possible): long, loose pants (or skirts) and long-sleeved, loose shirts that cover our backsides.

Landing in Tangier was incredible. We were in AFRICA. It was hot, dry, and beautiful. In the airport, we were pulled out of the passport control line to visit the health control center. They checked all Americans and Mexicans for swine flu. Yep. We still don't have it. They interrogated us about our plans and wanted addresses for every stop we'd make. We didn't have the addresses, but promised one official to call his cell phone as soon as we got them. It was a fine first visit with the Moroccan police. The gendarme as it were. (We have since learned that one is not allowed to photograph any gov't building or official. Too bad.)

Melodie picked us up and we piled into her truck for the long, long drive. It's seven hours to AH, on windy, dusty, often not-well-paved mountain roads. As she just drove it straight there, we stopped after an hour in Tetouan to get water and ice cream, and after another hour to spend the night in Chefchaouen.

Sights on the road:
Love the painted truck
On our way to Chefchaouen.

We parked outside the medina and found a hotel in the heart of it. The medina is gorgeous! Chefchaouen is famous for its blue doors contrasted by whitewashed walls and brilliantly colored goods in the market. Our hotel was very old, with stone walls and tile floors and wrought iron fixings. Beth and I shared a 650 Dh ($70ish) room whose ceiling was tiled in a blue and red star pattern. The window opened to blue walls leading up to the sky. Beth and I wanted to put the bathroom in our suitcase--it was terra cotta and copper and blue tiled. We heart.

We loved our window.
We loved our ceiling.

Dinner was served in a restaurant across the stone street. I loved the tables (again, tiled) and couches (sooo cushy). I ate pastilla de pollo (a very Spanish dish, phyllo dough filled with ground chicken, veggies, and spices, topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon), harira (Moroccan tomato-based chicken soup), and flan. People speak a lot of Spanish here (it's just south of Spain, across the Mediterranean). It's fun trying to communicate with my long-forgotten Spanish and my new Arabic words!

I love baby sis.

After dinner, we walked around the hilly, narrow, stone medina streets and enjoyed the bustling market. (Bustling even in the dark!) Beth and Amy bought wool blankets from a fair trade/co-op stop, and I found a wrought iron hook and green tiled mirror for my new apartment. We also saw (according to Beth, according to Wikipedia on Chefchaouen) the world's ONLY octagonal minaret. Oh yes.

World's only octagonal minaret!

Chef. is famous for blue and white


Then, we slept well for ten hours. :)