Thursday, January 28, 2010

Embraced. And bracelets.

Loubna and Somia with their new creations

So much has been happening in my site since I returned, I hardly know where to start, and I hardly have time to write it all up until I’m off to another activity.

Seems all my legwork is finally paying off. All those conversations with women I meet in the street (Why am I here? To teach at the dar chebab! Yes, there’s a dar chebab! Send your kids! Send your girls!) With girls (The dar chebab is a safe place for girls. I can talk with your parents if you like. Promise you’ll come? Good ~ see you Friday!). With boys (You want your baccalaurea degree, don’t you? Come practice your English so you can pass the English test!) With teachers (So you’ll remind your students again? Could I come speak to your class again?)

All those conversations that never seemed to result in anyone actually coming to the dar chebab.

That’s changed. My first day back at work, I found myself mobbed by at least 30 middle-schoolers, mostly girls, all excited to talk with me, few old enough to have started formal English classes at school. We set up new class times. We played board games and pingpong. We discussed where I’m from, why I’m so old and unmarried, whether I pray.

And they’re actually coming to the classes we set up ~ 20 strong per class. And they’re so excited to practice (Hello! Howareyoufine? Nicetomeetyou!) that I don’t even need to make up diverting games to keep them in the classroom.

The crowds are carrying over to Saturday’s Youth CafĂ©, and their enthusiasm ignites my own. Last week I bought 100 dirhams worth of embroidery floss (way too much, btw) and we made friendship bracelets. Brahim, one of my scholarship campers from last summer, makes a mean bracelet and was embarrassed but proud to be named the leader of Saturday’s activities. He got them all started on basic designs, and from their a sense of cooperation blossomed. Older kids helped younger ones. Girls and boys collaborated. Everyone traded their final projects. I doled out praise along with the yarn and scissors.


The dar chebab is just part of my madcap busy month. Classes have started again at the nedi neswi (women’s center), and that’s another layer of infectious enthusiasm. But what I’m really excited about is the Women’s Wellness Workshop we are planning for the end of next month. Launched by Trina and Joy, and embraced by all dozen female Peace Corps volunteers in our region, this will be two days of lessons in nutrition, basic hygiene and dental care, family planning and menstrual health, along with several examples of sport classes. Each of us is bringing three young women from our communities, with the expectation that those women will lead similar workshops when we return to the villages. Sustainability.

I couldn’t be more excited about this project, and the women I’m bringing are bubbing with nervous anticipation, knowing they have to help me lead a yoga session. The afternoon we 12 volunteers spent at Tanie’s new home, eating pizza and planning out the workshop, was the loveliest Sunday I've passed in awhile.

So much is going on here. And so of course I have to leave again … and again. This weekend I travel to Azrou for an English teaching workshop and to lead two days of Gender and Development training for the new crop of volunteers. Less than a week back in site before I head up north again for the spring meeting of the GAD Committee. Then a few days back in site before heading to the health workshop in Agadir.

Sigh. It’s all good stuff. But it keeps me away from my kids, and I’m afraid they’ll forget the dar chebab again and we’ll be back at square one.

Joy, Vish, and The Big Picture
A rant about “donations.”

I also returned to find a huge, heavy box waiting for me at the post office. Our Peace Corps librarian had sent me donations for the dar chebab’s library, books and other items donated via the U.S. Embassy.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Well, here’s what I would like to say to whoever donated these items:

Dear “donor”:

You know what? We are not your trash barrel! I think it’s great that you want to do something “for the children” ~ but put some thought into what you’re donating. What makes you think we want several copies of the “International Baccalaureate North American/Caribbean Biology Diploma Programme Summer 2004”? Or a 1960s biography of Winston Churchhill (written for adults with native-level English)?

Or the following titles on dusty, brittle VHS:

1992 Graduation
Elementary spring concert 1997
Spring Arts Fair 1985
WHO Assembly on AIDS (untitled but on VHS, so how up-to-date can the information be?)
Do you get some type of tax benefit for “donating” these items rather than putting them in the recycling bin? Do you get some type of feel-good buzz thinking you are helping kids in a developing country? If you don’t want your kid’s graduation tape anymore, what makes you think we do?

All this means is that we have to throw these things away for you. And it’s harder to dispose of anything in a developing country ~ both because garbage infrastructure is lacking and because people own so few things, it hurts to throw anything away.

We are not your landfill.

If you want to truly give, that’s great. A small monetary donation would go a long way toward buying simple beginner English books that could actually be used. Or send some simple children’s books ~ inexpensive, light and easy to ship.

I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from making in-kind donations. Just, please, give a little thought before you “give.”

Currently mourning: Howard Zinn, 1922-2010. A true American hero. “The People’s History of the United States” should be required reading; wish I had a copy of it here, now.
Currently celebrating: Fresh strawberries
Currently reading: "A Whistling Woman," A.S. Byatt; "Best American Essays 2009"; Prairie Schooner Summer 2009
Currently listening to: Whiskey Man and a Nowhere Girl; Thao with the Get Down Stay Down; Andrew Bird; and multiple other new playlists donated by Miz K and Miz A ... thanks, ladies!


tagalong said...

For the price of whatever it cost to ship that junk you could have bought pens or paper or other school supplies. What a waste! People are not thinking, are they?

Rachel said...

I'm so happy for you! I can't wait to hear about all your projects in detail. Travel safely lady, and I'll see you there, inchallah.

yusufa said...

I'd like to make donations for some of the items you listed in your blog (ie Wall-E, erasable boards, etc). . I will be in Casablanca in about two weeks time coming from the US.

Yusuf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jill said...

sounds so exciting!!! minus the poopy mailing. miss you!