March 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Blogs - Morocco: Second Year: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Nichole Christensen in Morocco: Second Year

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: March 28, 2005: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Blogs - Morocco: Second Year: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Nichole Christensen in Morocco: Second Year

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Peace Corps Volunteer Nichole Christensen in Morocco: Second Year

Peace Corps Volunteer Nichole Christensen in Morocco: Second Year

"I have found the second year of my service to be much more interesting and compelling. I have tangible projects, friends within my community and the ability to travel with a certain ease. The first year was riddled with various problems."

Peace Corps Volunteer Nichole Christensen in Morocco: Second Year

Chronicles 3.28.05

18 months in Morocco…


I have found the second year of my service to be much more interesting and compelling. I have tangible projects, friends within my community and the ability to travel with a certain ease. The first year was riddled with various problems. I had problems communicating with the people in my community (which still exists, I have just learned to act as though I understand and to act out all things I need which are important). People within my community were very distrustful of me. They may well still be, but they welcome me more now. There are still some people that will always dislike me because I am American, but in general I have sensed a warming from people as they have come to see that I have lived here for a while with them and go through the same activities, trials and frustrations that they do. Everything I did last year was executed with multiple challenges. Now, I just know what to expect. Living here has definitely become easier with time.

My host family:
I have come to cherish my time with my host family these days. Together we have built a small book of memories in which various things that I have said and done are mused about. My host mother knows the food I like. She invites me to the house when she is preparing a dish she knows I enjoy.

They know my ways, my mannerisms, the clothes I wear and when to expect me. They send me messages now in English, the English I taught them last year. They have a wonderful time constructing sentences from vocabulary we studied together. In return, I send them messages from places I travel to letting them know that I am safe while conveying the perceived adventure of my life at the same time.

I enjoy this relationship. They know me. This has come from fourteen months of funny exchanges, weird situations and the many holidays shared together. They have developed memories with me which they like to share with visiting family members who do not know me as well. At the same time I can sense their pride at the growth of my still infantile language abilities and my understanding of the way the family works.

The women weavers have been steadily moving a long in the process of building a cooperative. Having a cooperative will enable them to benefit from the government in many ways. They have completed two orders from the United States. Each of these orders was custom made items that were challenging for the women. They take on new projects with enthusiasm, but sometimes do not realize all of what it will take to complete the tasks. One custom order, a large pillow, was ordered from them by someone who had seen their merchandise at the craft fair in the capital. The women completed the order, kind of misunderstanding what was needed to make the extra large pillow interesting. When the pillow was delivered, the woman didn’t feel that the pillow was worth the extra money, therefore did not pay the extra money. It was a difficult situation and environment, especially since I delivered it. When I returned to tell them of the situation and to give them their money, they were angered and argued with me exacting every single detail of the exchange from me. After, they dismissed it because they felt that in general I am good and only do things to help them. They sure were unhappy in the moment though and I still sense they do not get the idea of what was wrong with the pillow.

Working through these problems with them has also brought to my attention the various random problems that can occur. For a month there was no wool at the weekly market. The women buy the wool from the market to weave the pillows. Their work came to a halt in February because there was no wool due to the extreme cold weather we experienced this year. Finding a large loom to weave a special order for a bedspread was also a large challenge. Though the order (for three bedspreads) will be lucrative for them, the initial challenge of finding a large enough loom almost stopped the entire project. It has been fascinating to see the women pummel through each problem, working their way forward. It is difficult at the same time. Often I have to sit back and let them come up with solutions because it is part of a critical learning process. It is challenging for me though to sit and watch as they slowly move forward and even make mistakes along the way; especially when I can see the outcome vividly. But they are learning. That is what is important.

The shoemakers are about to enjoy some new success. They have recently been offered to sell their shoes out of a neighboring city that hosts a good number of tourists. They will be given a small shop in the Artisanat where they will not have to pay rent. This is being done to promote their craft in that city as well as to drive sales in the artisanat. This offer appears to have budded from a visit I took to that city just last week. I happened to have a sample of their shoes in my travel bag. They currently began experimenting with a new fabric being woven outside of Marrakech. Another volunteer has helped establish ties to a supplier there. I was traveling with Fatima and Samira (a weaver) on a multi-purpose trip to research shipping and reconnect with old contacts in order to receive some advice and training about the cooperative building process. We stopped in Azrou to speak to the delegate (the man in charge of the artisans in that area). I had met him previously and was eager to talk about the work I was doing with the weavers and the shoe makers. I showed him the shoes at the end of the meeting and he seemed quite impressed. Now, I can not say whether these two events are connected. All I can say though, that this is a great opportunity for the shoemakers.

When this story was posted in June 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Blogs - Morocco; Second Year


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