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!

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