Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fixing up, Sleeping in, Covering up

I woke up startled one morning last week to knocking on my door and easily recognized voice of my landlord yelling "waa HAddou!" (my name is Haddou, here, fyi)

I put on some pants, ran to the door, and opened it up.

"What are you sick?!" my landlord asked me.

"...yes?" I replied.. while wondering what time it was. My mind and body told me it must've been sometime around 7am, but the way the sun came into my courtyard and casted familiar shadows implied otherwise. 12pm. Damn.

I have been on a shameful kick of sleeping in. So, as work was scheduled by my landlord to lay down layers of plastic on my roof and put dirt on top of that, I was determined to show my landlord I am not lazy afterall. It was a two-day job. Monday, I woke before they got here, did my dishes from dinner (as water is turned off at night to avoid pipe bursting) and cracked a bunch of walnuts to serve up as a snack for the workers. I lended a hand where I could, avoiding stepping on anyone's toes. I lifted heavy things to the extreme caution of my landlord, and applied sunscreen to my nose on two occassions. I helped my landlord's wife with lunch, and overrall, I think I impressed.

Enter day two, Tuesday. I woke up at 6am to run to my bathroom. I haven't had the d in a while so I guess I was due. I'm pretty sure it was the milk someone gave me from their homegrown dairy farm. I drank it without fear, which was dumb. I went back to sleep remembering my landlord told me to sleep in since they're gonna come in the afternoon anyway. I heard working around 9, but was exhausted so I went back to sleep. Noon came up all too fast. Now, I was sick at 6, but I felt ok other than embarrassment. I got the look like, c'mon now you lazy American. I reverted to an old trick I played in elementary school and up- playing sick.

"Oh I'm sick I think it was the milk I'm dizzy my stomach hurts."

The trick is to really show the pain and anguish in the eyes/eyebrows. Anyway, I didn't feel like anyone believed me, so I stepped it up a knotch and told them I'm going to the pharmacy to get medicine. That'll show 'em. I put a box of Ibuprofen in my pocket in case I was questioned upon my return. I returned.. no one cared. I climbed up on my roof and just took the baskets of dirt that were hauled up and spread it evenly across my roof. I really like the way they build the houses here. At one point my landlord's wife exclaimed he's (me) healthy now but my landlord said he the sleep was killing him. Oh well. Still got a good bit of work done on the roof, and when they left, I took to putting up shelves, putting some nails in the wall for coat hangers and toilet paper holder.

In other news, to not make myself look so bad, I'll talk about some real work updates. Had some meetings with the teachers this past week and today about Environmental Club activities and Earth Day celebrations. We figured out what kind of trees we want... down to the genus. I hope I can get them. We want 30 trees total for 2 schools, so I think I'll have to do a few trips into Azilal to get them all. We're also going to paint rocks and murals so I got prices on that to write a small proposal for those. A special viewing of Planet Earth in French will be a highlight. We are talking about creating a garden, too, and one teacher suggested threatening the kids to deter them from destroying it. Threatening is also lost and won in the eyes and eyebrows. I hope to get at least 10 trees planted this week with the Environmental Club. Talks of a large-scale trash pickup are being discussed, but we'll see how it goes... there does seem to be a lot more trash than usual here right now, so it would do a lot of good. Might be attributed to the cold.

Water Chateau Project update- waiting for the skilled worker to come back from vacation still. Just need a couple more bits of information from a meeting with him and the proposal for that project will be finished.

Tourism/Travel Guide to my site- working on it!

I wrote too much to spell check it myself, and the spell checker on this website thinks I'm writing in French. Sorry for any grammatical or spelling errers. I hate those.

LP Butz

After writing this I felt I should describe housing construction/renovation out here in the country. Walls are contructed from a mixture of rocks and mud, and are about half of a meter thick. They are built 'brick by brick' but the bricks are piled on and made on top of each other where they stand. The length of each 'brick' is about a meter and its height is about 3/4 of a meter. Two boards of wood are placed parallel to each other with appropiate distance in terms of thickness. The muddy/rocky mixture is piled in, while it is tamped down, more poured in, tamped down more, and repeat until that brick is complete. Once walls are completed, lots of trunks are placed over top to begin constructing the roof. Smaller branches follow these large planks, and smaller brush and shrubs follow these. After that, a layer of plastic sheeting is laid down. On top of the plastic sheeting, fine and moist dirt is laid down evenly across the entire surface. Following the dirt, rocky soil is dumped on top of this until entirely covered. This is the basic and archetypal method of contructing houses where I live. There exists many variations based on what is available in a given community. Please comment if there are any questions or I didn't describe it very well. For what we did to my house mentioned above, we removed all the dirt, relaid new plastic, and put new dirt down again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1st, yo.

Last night I felt quite proud of myself. I heated up my small shower room with my butane heater which frightens me, shaved in front of it while I heated up my big water kettle, then took a nice, warm, bucketbath. I'm getting quite good at taking them, and feel about 90% as clean as I would be if I took a regular shower. I even washed my hair and washed off my body so well that my beard shavings washed away so no itching today! Then I made my first real dinner here.. after eh.. 9 months in site? I'm not counting tuna and egg sandwiches, or my staple ramen soup dinners. Cut up some onion, washed and cubbed 3 potatos, cooked that up pretty good, then threw an egg on there. So good, I'm going to make that again for dinner. Hell, I might even get fancy and throw two eggs in there but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Food is very cheap here, which is a huge plus. A kilo of potatos cost me 5Dh, an onion cost me 0.5Dh, and the eggs were a gift from my host family. So that hearty meal cost me about 60 cents.

This morning I had to drag myself out of bed for 12 o'clock lunch at Bassu's house (my landlord). I say drag because I've been on a small kick of getting up at 1. Contrast this with getting up at 5 the first two weeks I've been back in Morocco and I think it cancels out. Anywho, it's been snowing and has been fairly cold (around 30F during the day) so when I got to Bassu's, his wife quickly ushered me inside to the stove and got that fired up so I could get warm. We talked for a while, then had delicious tagine with potatos, carrots, beans, onions, and chicken. Oh! and tomato. For dessert we had oranges and tea. Delicious. Best way to start my day. While I was leaving, Bassu and his wife told me (and always do) to stop only coming over to their house when they invite me because 'their house is my house'. I know they mean it, but maybe it's just inherent for me to feel guilty to just drop in. If it gets colder, I may do the drop-in.

On exiting Bassu's house, I began to read a text message I received from my sitemate, Tracy, and I apparently made the mistake of encroaching on one of the most viscious animal's space that lives here- the rooster. I was surprised when something hit my leg with some force, and looked down to see the cock, very angry, and gearing up for another attack. Maybe he thought I was looking at his chicken wife, or he just woke up on the wrong side of the roost, but he was displeased. He flew at me again but I kind of kicked him off me... then I ran away like a little girl. No one saw, thank goodness.

Afterwards I went to the cafe I usually go to and watched the news and protests in Egypt on the television with some friends there. The kids who play pool there convinced me to play, but I had to have a partner, and we lost. Not counting it on my personal billiards record. Anyway, the owner of the cafe speaks some english, and I asked him to help me with a list of all the Auberges and Gites in my site. I got the list from the Ministry of Tourism in our province capitol, but it only lists the owner's names so I needed to know what villages they were in (there at 27 villages in total here). My goal is to create a book and website that lists all the gites/hotels in my site so tourists can see their options when coming here. I want to then expand it to throughout my province as there are many natural wonders here. Any Moroccan I talk about it to seems to really like the idea.

After I got information on the nearly 40 hotels here, I decided to come back home. I feel bad staying inside today but it's cold and snowing. When the sun is out I hate being in my house and would rather be outside talking with people, but today doesn't seem to be an option. Suppose that's all for now. Went on a rant, there, apologies. Here's a picture from my house/porch to where the snow will be coming from in about an hour, I'd say. Melts in the morning though.

LP Butz

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Side story; I've had some nights last month before I went back to America where I heard noises in my roof. Surprisingly enough I didn't just cower under my covers but I immediately went out to investigate with pocketknife in hand. I expected to see a herd of goats (has happened before.. well there were 2) on top of my roof but my flashlight revealed nothing. I turned off my flashlight and listened, I heard some movement. I went into one of my rooms with the unfinished ceiling and my light and I caught the end of a very large rat and its tail crawling into my bedroom ceiling crevice. It can't get into my bedroom as the ceiling is finished so I thought I'd leave it alone. Then I got a package with Spam, left it out, and it got eaten by this rat. Actions were then taken, and I put poison out for it the week before I left. I left out some cookies to test the water, and they weren't eaten- I eliminated my pest. I went home, returned, and saw no real signs of it still being around. If it really wanted to it can go into a box I have in an open room but no dice. But no terrible odors either... but it has been winter so I expected the smells to surface come springtime anyway.
Well today the rat either rose from the dead.. or I'm dealing with a cat. Had a half kilo of goat meat wrapped up in tinfoil and plastic, put it on a chair in a cold room with a reasonable hole in the wall. I left for about an hour to visit my host family, returned, and it was gone. Gone. I peered around with furrowed brows but can make no allegations yet beside it either being a cat or zombie rat. If it was the rat then I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. It would've been almost the same size as it. Whatever it is, will be got.
On a lighter note, I ate dinner with my landlord's family tonight. Tagine.. and delicious as always. I told them that I want the next kitten they see, and they said ok. Also had tea today with my host family (best tea I've ever had) and some snacks. They invited me over for dinner tomorrow after souq which I look forward to. Souq days are always busy for me, as I do my shopping but also meet with community members from further away in my valley when we get the chance. I need to get on the same page with one association president about the construction of a water chateau and new drinking water system tomorrow, and also find out from another president/artisan when we will go out and collect fallen food for his woodshop. The fallen wood we will collect comes from an indigenous boxwood tree species, and I would very much like to start a nursery for it, but I need to do some research on it. He also has some trash bins left over from a previous volunteer's project and we want to give them to some schools down by me. We just need to decide on a time.. Also am meeting with the teachers tomorrow to begin talks/plans on an Earth Day celebration. The Earth Day website is terrible to navigate by the way... wanted to get some lesson plan ideas or contact them about what we might do but the links on the site put me in a circle. Anyway, I've gone off on a rant, so that'll be it for me. Also, read a bit about the happenings in Tunis right now.. crazy stuff. Should get you started:
LP Butz

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Returning

Coming back to Maroc, I wasn't entirely sure how I would feel. Being at home felt like... being at home. I quickly got accustomed to showering everyday, wearing clean clothes, and looking presentable. I felt quite sure of myself every time I stepped out. When I was on my last connecting flight back here, it kind of hit me. I became stressed and unsure of myself, my language, or my ability to do any of the projects I told people back home I was working on. I sulked. I let myself sulk, then as I travelled back to my site, I saw the beauty that is Maghrib. I felt the culture and I felt the people. I became reassured of myself with every person I talked to.. minus a tourist I ran into on my last leg back to site. Long story short... it's a shame when people see me with a tourist and expect that we are friends because their actions then reflect on me. The tourist was quite odd, the kind of odd that laughs a little too long and watches a little too long. After a long taxi ride through the mountain passes I became more and more uncomfortable with the fact that I had to play translator and something of a dignitary. The volunteer I replaced told me just to stay away from tourists as tourist/local relations can sometimes become strained and you find yourself in the middle. Oh, how right he was. Had a couple other run-ins that were worse than this, but from now on I am avoiding travellers at many a cost.
Do I want to help travellers? Yes, I do, but if it comes at the expense of my own reputation I worked hard for, then no. I told the tourist today that he can do what he wishes as it is his vacation, but this is my life. He seemed to understand.
I was driven directly to my house, and took my bags in to start unpacking a little and already heard a knock on my door 5 minutes later. It was my landlord's son and he asked me over for lunch. I told him I was sorry and that I had already eaten but Thank You. He was stubborn but he understood. I was not at all surprised to have recieved a meal invitation so quickly after my vacation. I am sure to have many more. It is that kindness which I missed so much. It is that kindness that sets (at least) rural Morocco apart from the world I know. It is that kindness that reinforces my agenda to serve, help, and educate here.
Anywho, I am about to go back out to see the people I love, the ones who took me in and made me their friend and family member. I will hopefully have more to come soon. While I was home, many people asked me to blog, and I thought it before to be trivial, but I want to try my best to blog. So, first day, first entry. Life is good.
L.P. Butz

Friday, December 3, 2010

First Entry

After being thoroughly confused by the creating of a blog process, I am still left confused. Anywho, hopefully I can safely put this somewhere in my facebook profile and then just notify the updates. Today also marks the first day with internet in my humble abode. I've had electricity for almost two weeks now, and this house is really starting to feel like home.
There are too many damn options for this blog. I don't like it one bit. Labels, previews, editing, comments, settings. Choices? no thank you.