Monthly Archives: April 2010

Site Visit!

I spent the last week at my site:

A view from the hill above my town – if you click on this picture to make it larger, I think you should be able to get some idea of the geology of the area. I would love a roadside geology book of errachidia province; the rocks are on display everywhere and look very well molded (they twist and turn and slant every which way, the sandstone looks like pancakes stacked on each other, and there’s a lot of color variation in the road cuts).

A small sample of the igran, or fields. This particular plot is being watered and allowed to run wild; therefore it is covered in beautiful poppies. In the very near future, a woman or two will come out here with a little scythe called tamgurt and gather all of the plants from this plot (collectively called ‘hashish’) to feed cows/sheep/chickens/mules that are kept in a separate enclosure, generally but not always in old buildings with no roofs. Beyond the poppies you can see wheat, one of the primary things grown in the fields here.

Wheat, by the way, tastes a lot like corn when you pick it green from the field and eat it raw.

As for my work at my site, it’s going to be interesting to see what I do. My host uncle is the president of the association (think community nonprofit), and today they’re hosting a trash pick up at my site.  I was told one of my tasks was going to be education about sustainably harvesting a rosemary-esque plant here, and my host family, without prompting, pointed out piles of the plant here picked by the roots and told me it was hshuma (shameful, essentially) – so someone has talked to at least some of the community about how to pick the plant. There’s also a lmadrasa (elementary school) and college (middle school) that I may be able to work with. The main reason I’m at my site is because a dam is going in at the base of the foothills, so the Ministry of Water and Forests would very much like to see projects which reduce erosion so that the dam doesn’t fill up with sediment.  It sounds like tree planting may be in order, so I’ll need to figure out what trees are appropriate for the area – there are no trees on the hills, so I don’t know if there is a native tree answer to this problem. Luckily for me, I still have a few months of language learning left to do before I’m expected to tackle anything, so I have plenty of time to learn.

Time for breakfast. Bslama!

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hub 3

Salam u3alaykum!
I’ve spent about another week at my site, and tomorrow I’ll head off for another week and a
half there – and then when I get back to the hub, I’ll learn my final site! All the PCTs are
very excited about that moment. Will I be in the North? South? Mountains? Desert? Will the
language that I’m learning be the same language and/or dialect spoken at my site? My time
here is full of questions.
A few cool things that have happened in the last week or so include, but are not limited to:
I got henna! It was done with a hypodermic needle (placed on the skin, the needle was for
precision). I had expected henna last week, but the person was busy on the day I was
expecting it… but then last night a fellow PCT at my site, Charlie, showed up at my house
with his host brother and said that his host sister had arranged for me to get henna. Off we
went, around 7, and we found his host sister sifting henna powder through a cloth. She mixed
the fine powder that had made it through the cloth with a liquid that looked like it came
from a sode bottle – sprite or ginger ale or something similar. Then her friend sucked it
into the needle and surprisingly quickly drew a very intricate design of flowers and leaves
on my hands. It was done in four stages – right hand face up, left hand face up, and then
each face down. When the henna was considered dry enough, another person would dip a cotton
ball in a mixture of tea leaves, sugar, and a little bit of water. It was very sticky. Both
Charlie’s younger host sister and my host sister got the same treatment. I was told not to
wash my hands with water until the next morning, and they also said I should cover my hands
with perfume. They walked me home a little after 9, and everyone determined my host mom
should feed me dinner. I was full, so I just begged off dinner entirely. My host mom
protested a bit, and then doused my hands (and me, for good measure) in perfume and sent me
to bed. I spent about 20 minutes this morning washing henna off my hands – it’s lighter than
expected, but still really awesome.
On Sunday, I went to Fatima’s house along with the other PCTs at my site. This Fatima is our
cook, and she’d invited us over for tea. As she was leading us to her site, she invited a
French woman who lived along the way (surprise!). The French woman was an interesting
Bohemian type who was finishing up a year in Morocco as some sort of secretary employed by
her government for the village commune. I didn’t understand all of it, but she was nice, and
I could understand more of her French than I expected to be able to. I long for the days
when the French r was my nemesis! It has nothing on the 3 (ayn).
Not too much else has been going on. We’ve been hammering language pretty hard in the
morning, lunch is always beyond expectation, and in the afternoon we do cultural activities
that are sometimes forced and sometimes really neat – and we often walk in the fields, which
are beautiful. The wheat is tall and flowering, almonds dates, almonds, and figs are
growing, new flowers are popping up…. always a good time in the fields.
For this coming week, I have a few things planned. On Saturday we get out of class early,
and the same girl who planned my henna is going to take us all out on a long walk again
(last week we went to this big rock with a great view four villages over and drank tea). On
Sunday, after breakfast I’m going back to my host mother’s family’s house in the village
across the river. I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen there, but it involves a 16
year old teaching me Tamazight as I teach her English. I like Khadija, so I’m looking
forward to it.
Ns g lman!