August 2, 2002 - Seattle Times: A T-shirt tussle in Morocco

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: August 2, 2002 - Seattle Times: A T-shirt tussle in Morocco

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A T-shirt tussle in Morocco

A T-shirt tussle in Morocco

A T-shirt tussle in Morocco

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CASABLANCA, Morocco I flew into the Casablanca airport two weeks ago with Jessie Israel of the University of Washington's Center for Women & Democracy, vanguard of a team of nine Seattle women volunteers who have been training Moroccan women to run for office.

Groggy and overheated after 15 hours in transit, Jessie and I were loaded down with personal luggage and two oversized boxes of T-shirts and coffee mugs, gifts for women attending the five-day session sponsored by the center and by the National Democratic Institute.

The other Seattle volunteers sailed through customs, but Jessie and I were detained, shunted aside by uniformed officers who demanded to know the contents of the boxes.

Jessie, fluent in French after her Peace Corps years in Ghana, explained about the T-shirts and mugs.

"You will sell these T-shirts," charged the officer.

"No, they are gifts," said Jessie. The gendarmes insisted they had to inspect.

We waited, hot under the collar, as they located a box cutter, haphazardly slit the tape and pawed through the boxes. Volleys of French followed. It became obvious the guards wanted something: maybe a bribe, certainly some T-shirts. But Jessie stood her ground.

Eventually, the men backed off, but not without a final indignity. With a leer, one asked Jessie, "Madame or mademoiselle?" Jessie gave him a "drop dead" look as we clumsily retaped the packages and made our exit.

Just one regret: a shame to miss seeing those overbearing officers wearing T-shirts with a picture of Rosie the Riveter and a caption that read: "Moroccan women are strong."

That afternoon, some hours later, it was education time, Morocco style, for Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire, the woman who successfully sued the tobacco companies, and her Harvard Law School-bound daughter, Courtney Gregoire.

Unwilling to wait for a guide, mother and daughter headed for the medina, Casablanca's old city, only to find themselves mobbed by hustlers and vendors.

One wily vendor, pointing to Courtney, said, "Fifty-five camels for her."

Gregoire joked, "Aw, how would I get 55 camels home?"

The next day, the Gregoires were back in the old city. Again the vendors were eyeing the lovely Courtney. And they were prepared to deal: "Seventy camels and a Mercedes."

Spoilsport Christine scorned the offer. How would that look? After all, this is the giant-killer who engineered the demise of the advertising icon known as Joe Camel.

Once the school for candidates concluded in a sea of sisterly hugs, I took a side trip to Fez, an inland city that was ancient when Columbus reached the New World. The next day, still bedazzled by scenes from the medieval city, I taxied solo to the train station to find my way back to the coast.

Boarding what I only hoped was the right train, I encountered a djellaba-clad man. To my surprise, he asked in English, "Where are you from?"

"Seattle, Washington."

"Seattle," he mulled. "Do you know Rick Steves?"

Jean Godden appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Phone 206-464-8300. E-mail: jgodden More columns:

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Story Source: Seattle Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; COS - Ghana; Women's Issues



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