viernes, 18 de febrero de 2011

Stay tuned for an update...

viernes, 8 de enero de 2010

etched on me

It's interesting to live and adjust to a place that you would never have imagined living in before. Things that would have seemed taboo or exotic have become normal and the only thing acceptable. I have lived in the Moroccan country side for almost two years. I speak the local dialect fluently and understand a lot of things about the culture that I would have probably never understood had I not been living in the midst of the people. When I walk out the door I automatically dress in a skirt, a long sleeved shirt and a head scarf. Anything else would feel uncomfortable to me, sort of as if I was wearing only underclothes. When I meet someone on the road, I no longer have to make the effort to figure out what I should say because I know it by heart and conversation comes easily. "Peace be upon you, how are things, are they well? How is your family, and your children? How is your health? and your work?, may God provide, may he grant you blessing. Good to see you too, God help you, bye bye, until next time." If I see someone that is a little more of an acquaintance, I know I will be invited over for tea or asked why I havent gone sooner. I will say that I have had things to do but that I hope to soon if God wills, inchallah. There are people that have earned my trust and love, and I have also learned who the ones are that I should avoid. I have learned that being a young single woman has a limited circle of direct influence in the tamazirt (berber country side). Since I am living alone and am not from here, it is also a strange thing that people wonder about. Many women my age are either married or are taking care of their parents and a household, helping raise neices and nephews, hoping that their husband to be will come soon looking for their hand in marriage. One thing that has helped is having a surrogate family and adopting them as my own. It helps people somewhat place me in the social structure of their lives. They call me their daughter and vouch for me in this complicated social web. When I go to weddings or other social events, I go with the women of this household. They introduce me as their sister and daughter. The people that trust them trust me more easily because they know I have a close relationship with them. At the same time, people who look down on them or are not close, keep their distance. I have been knit into the social structure and am, in a way, part of them. I have had a difficult time doing what my fellow young ladies in tamazirt don’t do. I don’t enjoy going to the market, where I am the only woman most of the time. It has been interesting to see the development of the closeness in my inner circles. In the beginning both I and the people I spend most of my time with saw only the differences, but little by little we learned to love those and accept them in one another. I havent assimilated fully, because that wasn’t my goal in coming here, but I have taken the time to let myself become known as a fellow human being from another culture. There are things that people had to accept about me, things I couldn’t change while being here. My faith and religion is one exmple, my life experiences that formed me is another. One of my goals in being here has been to adjust to a degree in which I would seem familiar and to build relationships in which it would also be necessary for both sides to accept and learn about differences. Instead of meeting the most people possible, I decided when I came here that my social circle would be small so that I could spend more time and develop deeper relationships with them. I can say they are like family to me. The bridges have been built and some barriers accepted. I also believe that not all barriers are visible. I will never know what it's like to grow up in the tamazirt and have it be the only place known to me my whole life. No one in tamazirt will know what it has been like to live my life either, and then come into their world and adjust to certain expectations while accepting I can never fulfill others. There have been many conversations about where I come from and the differences between it and the tamazirt. Health beliefs and practices have been discussed, being that my mother here is a traditional medicine woman. She uses herbal ingredients, incense, and burning as cures for any illness. It is interesting to see how she approaches western medicine. In the whole time that I have lived here I don’t think she or her husband have been to the local clinic. She was upset when her daughter in law had a C-section at a clinic in the city, saying that she knew how to birth that difficult birth naturally. As a health volunteer I enjoy talking to her and having conversations about our different experiences with health practices. I have "dropped" ideas to her that she has accepted and she has told me to do things that I have also tried, within reason. I refuse to be burned on my stomach for abdominal cramps. She also at times has said its ok for her to share a cup when she is sick, because it is God's will if the disease passes, if not- it wont. I have talked about treating water that has come into the cistern after a strong rain and have been told it doesn’t need to be treated because it is God's water. I did find a way around that by telling a certain family member to suggest it and they then treated their water since the advice came from within the family. I am in awe at how they can cure animals and take a cow that is on its death bed and revive it so that its stronger that it was before. One time the donkey had been refusing to eat for more than a day. My father said he knew what he would do. I went with him. He tied a small stick into the donkey's mouth so that it couldn’t close. He then poked the top of the donkey's mouth with a sharp wire and let it bleed. He milked the blood out with his hands, while the donkey struggled little to get away. He then asked me to bring the salt. He took salt in his hands and salted the donkey's mouth to help the wound close. Later that same day, the donkey was eating. He chuckled when I mentioned my surprise and said he is a doctor of animals. I have had many herbal teas here that have helped my stomach pain or a cold, but have also been able to talk about taking care of teeth. My host mom brushes her dentures everyday with a toothbrush now. When my nephew came from the US to visit with his mom and my own father, they happily boiled water for him, to prevent him from getting sick from the water. I think we have influenced eachother on many other levels also. Some things that I knew before coming here have deepend and others have birthed.I am Mariam now. Will I ever go back to who I was before? I believe not. There are experiences and people in our lives that mark us and shape us, so that we are so changed, it would be unimaginable to go back to who we were. I will carry what I have lived here wherever I go, from here onward. I am sure there are things that I don’t even realize have influenced me. But whoever I meet in the future outside of the tamazirt will see the mark it has left, realize it or not. I think it will always be hard to eat alone in the future, buy bread of which I do not know the origin or use barley flower of which I do not know the harvestors. It will be difficult to wear shoes on a carpet, or walk into a room without acknowledging everyone there. There are words in tashelheit I will always want to find in English and will end up bewildered for a lack there of. All of this is etched on me, like a tattoo scarred by fire or even like growing a new apendage. When I am far again I will feel its absence as such. They say when people loose a leg, it is extremely grevious, they sometimes forget that it is gone until they look at the empty place and stump as reality hits them aggressively. They feel an itch or an ache only to realize the foot is not there to scratch or the hand to squeeze for relief of having a cramp. I am bewildered to realize some of what will be gone, and the memory of a reality that will be behind, gone, a temporary past life. Who will I be when I return to the americas, and who will understand?

a glimpse into work

Blog post september 15 2009.

My friend and fellow volunteer and I want to give you an idea of what work is like in our volunteer service with the Peace Corps, we hope that it illustrates some of what we must encounter and how we go about it to reach certain goals.

The female identity we share with the moroccan women we work with enables us to work together and enpower and inspire one onother through the relationships we are a part of day to day.
Every day we wake up and know that we will encounter a woman and she will touch our hearts. I will meet up with a friend and she will greet me with a kiss on the hand and I will respond with a kiss on her head.
As women, many of us have and innate desire to hold each other accountable and set a standard of living while encouraging each other to live up to it. When we sit with the women outside before going in at dusk we witness how women share each others lives with one another. Women advise each other on childhood discipline, ways of preparing food for the family, techniques for home health care and remedies, and emotional support. Down to taking splinters out of each others hands from the daily greens and wood collection shows their care and interdependance.
Living here we have been taken in as sisters, daughters and aunties. We have been neutralized so as not to be seen as strangers, foreigners. We have been told, "stay here to live, you are now tashlheit". Because of the mutual desire to become familiar we have been able to enter and walk through the door of intimacy in our groups of rural berber women. Our shared lives allow us to inspire each other and be open to the group mentality. What we say does not go unheard because we are also known to listen.
We have found much satisfaction and 'baraka' (blessing) in being given the opportunnity to be in the inner circle, though we are technically "tinbrra" (outsiders). Our expectations that were held prior to coming have been met and superceded.
The lives of our peers have tought us much about being a woman and what it means to live well in rural berber morocco. After Fatiha become a mother and saw her husband come and leave as a migrant worker far away she took on a key role in her household. As appropriate in these areas, her inlaws house became her home. She became the steward of the family along with other daughters in law that are to become new sisters. Collecting fodder for the animals, preparing food, taking care of elderly inlaws and children, housework, and keeping up the family name is a daily endeavor.
As we began building trust, our eyes were openned to women's desires and needs either spoken or evident in their daily lives. We were able to take on a listening role and think about what we could do as volunteers to encourage improvement or change toward a better quality of life. Through their evident needs they inspired which direction we would take as volunteers and community members.
Health education and specifically an improvement in personal hygiene practices were evident needs we could address, and saw as important. Our clinic staff were aware of this and further encouraged us to work towards finding a strategy to meet the womens goal for improvement in their lifestyle.

As learned in Peace Corps training we implemented the "project development strategy".

It is as follows:

-Asses needs
-find key players in the community that should be involved
-Asses the sustainable solution together
-create goals based on needs
-create strategies to reach goals
-design the implementation of strategy
-put into action
-asses effectiveness and learn what improvements should be made for the future

Based on this timeline, we aproached our needs at hand. Knowing the needs, the people we determined as key players are the women in the community, the clinic staff, ministry of health and PC health program managers. In discussing the needs with each other and the key players we came up with a 2 part idea. We thought of something women could make for themselves that would encourage women's personal hygiene and resourcefulness: a cloth, re-usable menstrual pad. Along with this we concluded it would be important to have periodic educational talks addressing women's health, including personal hygiene and menstruation. We thought of strategies that eventually grew into a small business project and health education that would be 20 topics long. The topics to be covered include: How the body works, the female timeline, hygiene, menstruation, family planning, pregnancy, prenatal care, birth, infertility, miscarriage, baby's health, breasts, breast feeding, nutrition, male general health, AIDS, STI's, problems and going to someone, clinic, health while working, Ramadan, mental and emotional health, women's rights/ mudawana, needs of women, and talking to daughters.
In thinking about the cloth menstrual pads we came up with the idea of presenting the design to the local women's co-op. Although this is still in progress we have a basic strategy for implementation that we will present to the women and hopefully together work towards the goal: having cloth menstrual pads available for local women to buy at a low cost.

Currently the project is ready to initiate,it is only a matter of time. The key players are a core factor in the implementation and meeting the goals, without them, the project will not happen.
We are now working on the logistics. Where will we have the educational talks?, when?, Who will be there and how will we inform them that they are available? and so on.
In order for development to be effective it needs to be sustainable. One important way of increasing the probability is making sure the community is involved and active in the projects. It would be innefective if we came and told people what they should fo without them taking it in, agreeing, understanding and making the decision for themselves.

sábado, 9 de mayo de 2009

viernes, 8 de mayo de 2009

Rain and Harvest

This year it rained in Morocco; not just any rain, but flooding rain, torrential rain in many parts of the country. Rivers grew and snow weighed down adobe roofs in the high atlas. Many people couldn't believe their eyes. I couldn't believe my eyes. I saw my dirt, dry piece of land in front of the house grow morning glories that wrapped around one of the olive trees. I then saw green shoots coming out of the ground everywhere I looked. After 15 years of drought, Morocco saw real rain. My neighbors started planting a vegetable garden and women from all the house clusters in the valleys and mountains went out to plow the land with their donkeys. After some time I noticed the green shoots in the fields. Barley is what the berbers have been cultivating for centuries on these lands. When I first came here I noticed the terraced sides of mountains but it was evident nothing had grown there in a long time. Little by little the valley I live in was transformed. Everyone was saying it was "tamakhirt" a time of blessing and abundance. I had been waiting to see the rain ritual, 'belghonja', that had been passed down from ancestors for many generations in Morocco and other places in North Africa such as Algeria and Mauritania to ask for rain from the rain god, but now it has been changed to ask Allah for it instead. I asked the women the first time it rained if they had gone ahead and done the ritual without me and they laughed outloud and said- 'no, we wouldn't do it without you!!', the rain came on its own this year- now we don't have to do the ritual'. Dispite my dissapointment of not seen 'Belghonja', I did rejoice with the women when it rained. My host sister was distrought after one of the hard rains. She took 20 big buckets of water from the flooded stables. I am sure that the cows, sheep and chickens had no idea what was happening. A community nearby that lives across a river wasnt able to leave their mountain to get to the market and health clinic for two whole weeks. The river was too high for them to cross it and there is no bridge. The fields and terraced mountains were changing color into a bright green. Poppies started to grow among the barley in bright red. Some of the first times it rained there were no taxis or pickups to leave the mountains or any other sort of wheeled transport. It was as if there had been a snow storm in and people were afraid of the icy roads. After this short time without a way in or out, I did ride on those roads and noticed that in some places the road had been covered with gravel. It took a lot of imagination for me to see with my mind's eye, the water rushing so hard that it covered the roads and took gravel over top of it. I then understood why people had not been using their vehicles. I watched the barley grow and learned to peel it when it was still milky soft and juicy and eat it. I watched new white flowers bloom and the cactuses get much bigger. All of this has given me hope of large, sweet pommagranites this summer, flavorful watermelons and cantalopes. The Barley began to dry as all barley does and the fields and terraces began to grow yellow. People were talking about the harvest and how much work it would be. In April I started seeing women in the fields harvesting, bent over with white head coverings and many harvesting with bare hands, some with gloves and very few with sickles. Little by little the fields were bare with piles of barley stacked, getting ready for the next process of separating the hay and the grains. Not so long ago, people used their donkeys to grind down the barley. I've seen it done before; a donkey is taken in a circle around a pole he is tied to while he steps on the grains underfoot. I am told that with this much barley this year this process would take about two weeks for each family, all day, every day. I learned that most people rent the big makina (machine), that costs them 200 Dirhams an hour, but can do the barley-grinding in about three. 200 Dirhams is about 25 dollars.600 Dirhams is some people's monthly wages!! I was outraged that they would have to do this. I can't figure out how people can allow it to stay so expensive or who is earning this money beyond paying for the gasoline, making payments on the machine itself or paying the driver/worker. People work so hard, sowing and reaping and later making flower. The logic behind renting the machine is that it saves time, people's and their donkey's energy. Maybe in the future someone will start a payment on a machine and have the whole community help buy it; but no one knows if the rains will keep coming or if it was just a lucky year. I look forward to working with the women when they grind the barley by hand. It must be rewarding to them when they bite into that first loaf of bread baked in their outside mud oven. I was thinking the other day about the phrase "you will reap what you sow" and I think I have come to a deeper understanding. You will be rewarded for the work you put into something by the result it produces. Something that I have learned is that you don't just make a hole and plant a seed and then watch it grow and pick the fruit. Much labor must be put into sowing and much labor is required to reap what was sown. My host father is very protective of the family's barley piles outside the house, and I understand why. This is the labor of the whole family. He is afraid that someone's cigarette butt will be tossed into it by accident and burn all of their efforts, their time, their food and their money. I can hardly keep a garden growing in my yard. Weeds covered it. I said something to my neighbor about cutting them down but she said "let it be, they will die on their own". I let them grow... and they grew past my waist. I then took charge of what I had allowed to be sowed there by negligence. I bought a sickle and started cutting down what was creating homes for pests and wanted to avoid drawing more of them before the summer and scorpion season. In the other part of the yard which is shared by the neighbors and me, there were also weeds that took over. One morning I was walking back from staying with the host family for a couple of days. My host family's neihbor was also on her way to gather greens for the animals. We walked together and she walked me to my house. When she saw the yard her eyes grew large and she mentioned something about the weeds. I went into the house to get something and when I came out she was happily cutting the weeds and collecting them for her animals! She smiled sheepishly and said, "I hope I am not a thief", "your neighbor said I could have them". I laughed and said, "please! please take it all!". I let her use my new sickle and she went speedily on, humming to herlself. She took several basketfuls that day, went home and came back to continue. The baskets that they use to collect here are about two and half feet wide and three feet deep. They fill them so full though, that the greens stick out two feet more over the top. They tie it down with a rope over top and carry it on their backs with a strap around the forehead. After the weeds were cut down and taken from the yard, communal and my own fenced in area, I proceded to uproot the thick stems that were still there. I did my share of digging up and loosening part of the earth and planting some shoots that had been taken from other plants and sat in my kitchen in water until they grew roots.By the time I planted though, the heavy rains and cold weather were over and their growth and livelihood depended on manual watering by me. I am afraid I haven't done so well. Several plants have died. And because I fed a mother dog with her puppies one night, they have been sleeping on the plants that were actually doing ok. I went out a little while ago to take a look and now they have started digging holes in unlikely places, searching for 'only-they-know-what'. If I had a little gate, it might help keep them out. Even though the rains have come, and watered the 5 olive trees in our communal yard, they have flowered, but the flowers have dried instead of producing fruit. I am dissapointed, but hope that maybe next year they will give fruit. I had really hoped that I could cure my own olives in october with lemon juice, garlic, parsley and cilantro. We all reap what we sow and reap what we want to sow. Sometimes, the circumstances interfear, but if they don't, we are able to bite into that first barley loaf- the fruit of our labor.


Im sitting in my kitchen in my little town surrounded by mountains, its cold, and it has rained. I am sitting alone, but I am not lonely. I had the vision that I often have. I see myself in my house and then I slowly see from above. I see the town, then the mountains, then then tiznit province, then the souss region. I see people, movement, the ocean. I then see Morocco, I see the different places that I know; all of this in my minds eye. I see North Africa and southern europe then I see the oceans to the East and West, the mediterranean, the atlantic and the indian ocean. I then see the people in every continent. I have visions of people everywhere living their lives. I can look in closer if I desire. I imagine all of this, but it is as if it were real. I see the American continent. My heart says go nearer and so I look closer and I look at Argentina, I look at the north west, I look at Tucuman and I see the streets that I know. I see people in stores, on the streets and in their houses. People sitting out in the evening and children playing outside. I then see latin america in its many contexts and peoples. I see people from all walks of life and ethnicities, speaking many dialects and living their different ways of life. I smell the smells and feel the wind on my face as if I were there. I then shift my gaze back to north africa and into morocco again. I see people in the streets wearing djellabas and pointy leather slippers. The pointy hoods of the djellabas drawing attention as people walk the streets. I watch the old women in the fullbody cloth covering, bent over with age. Maybe they are widows, maybe they are tired and sad, maybe no one knows. They walk up to people holding out their right hand, saying: God bless your parents, God bless you, God bless the hand that receives and also gives. Some people then look away, others mumble something under their breath that is barely heard: may God provide for you. Still others take a cold coin from their pocket and place it in the upturned palm and look away. The one that looks the woman in the eye with kindness and gives a coin while pausing to say "may God provide for you" is the one that leaves an impression the longest. To him, this is not only a duty, he does it because he understands her, he sees her and he sees his own mother. My vision shifts again, back to Tucuman and I see children selling candy in the middle of the night at restaurants and cafes. They are clearly tired, have done this all day and will probably only sleep a little until they have to get up and continue. If they return home with any candy left in their little boxes they must also face the anger of a mother and perhaps a beating for not selling all that they were expected to sell. Some are too afraid to return home and stay in the streets with the other children they know well. My gaze shifts accross the ocean again to the middle east, to a place I have not seen yet with my own eyes. I see only what I imagine it to be like. I feel tension in the air and fear. I hear women screaming and children crying.There is a little boy who doesnt understand what is happening. All he knows is that there are fires and houses falling around him. His best friend has been taken in the arms of a man and he wasnt moving. He called to him and he didnt respond.Will he come back?. I then see Morocco again, the province of tiznit and I see into the mountains. I see my town and the clusters of houses along the valley and mountains sides. People are inside because it is after dark. In the sitting room people sit with blankets and talk. The daughters are preparing dinner in the kitchen and their father comes back from the mosque wrapped in his woolen cape and pointy hood. He says "peace be upon you" as he enters the sitting room. Everyone answers "and upon you also, peace". I think to myself, and wonder what people really desire when they desire peace? is it really so complicated? People desire peace so fiercely that in most places are willing to fight for it and even take lives and give their own if they must. I wonder if people realize the depth of what they are saying to eachother day in and day out as they greet eachother in peace. What kind of peace are they imparting to one another as they take their right hand and touch the left side of their chest, over their heart? What does it mean for me to say these words to people every day? Has it become only a greeting to people or does it still have the meaning and intention it was originally meant to have? As I consider this, i tell myself that all people desire peace no matter who they are. The fact is though, that peace means different things to different people and is attained in different ways depending on what the different definitions are. Can I wish peace upon someone without knowing what peace means to me?, or to them- as a matter of fact. yes, i guess so but it would be just another greeting. I strive to understand, to know. I do hope for peace. I do hope for peace and that it be upon us. I hope for peace for that child that lost his friend. I hope that he can understand one day what peace is, and that many times it will not seem to be around us, but it can be upon us. I think that man who gives the coin while looking the widow in the eyes understans something about peace, he acknowledges his kinship with her, and how he could be in her place, how it could be his own mother, and he gives her the respect he would also desire in her place, the kindness he knows his mother would want. The woman who receives the coin is grateful, but she is not thinking about the money. She sees the kind mans eyes and she sees a son. She sees what peace is. This womans life may be full of hardships but in this moment out of many, peace is upon her and she knows.

martes, 25 de noviembre de 2008

Basic Tashalheet Vocabulary- #1

Basic Tashalheet Vocabulary- #1

(there is no standard transcription of tashalheet, so until I study my phonetics this will have to do)

Hello- Azul (or mostly used is the Arabic "Peace be upon you"- 'a Salam u aleikum'- its response is 'u aleikum a salam')
How are you?- Manik an tgit?
What's up- Ma tawat? , Ma tskart?
Are you happy?- is tfjjijt?
Are you content?- is trishkt?
Fine, thanks to God- Labas, nchkr Rbbi
Things are good- kolshi bikhir
I am happy- Fijjijgh
Things are peaceful- thena loqt/ iHna Lhal

And you (f) ?- ima kmmi?
And you (m) ?- ima kiyyi?

What is your name (f)?- Ma dam ism?
What is your name (m)?- Ma dak ism?
What is his/her name?- Ma as ism?

My name is...- Ism inu…
Call me…- Ism iyyi

Where are you from? (m)- Gh mani tgit?
Where are you from? (f)- Ult mani tgit?
I am from…- Gigh mn...

Why?- Makh
Where?- Mani
Where is..?- Manza?
When?- Manuwg
What?- Ma
Who?- Menwa
How many?- Mnshk?
How much/many?- Mnaw?

Where are you going?- mani trit?
Where is…?- Mani gh illa?

The bathroom- bit- lma (this is Arabic but used in tashalheit). Always excuse yourself for referring to something dirty with 'Hashak' after it. Ie. 'Manza bitlma?, hashak'

What is this?- Maiga ghwa?

guest contributer!!

This is a contribution from a friend of mine and language tutor- Mohamed. I believe it is important consider different views of Moroccan life and culture. In this contribution, Mohamed talks about how many Moroccans view aesthetics and beauty in the oposite sex. Enjoy!

Hi, my name is Mohamed ABOUABDELLAH .I ’m Moroccan, Muslim and a teacher of English in a high school. I’ll talk about what beauty is in Morocco and how Moroccans view it.

Generally, beauty in Morocco is influenced by Islam, traditions, State rules and gender .Moroccans appreciate and admire beauty and try to express it non-orally in poetry, stories as well as in painting. It’s usually hard for them to express their feelings orally, especially for women. The latter prefer tall, well-built, slim, wise, strong and well-dressed men. Men that are influential, responsible and independent. Women in Morocco consider men the leader, the decision-maker and reliable.

On the other hand, Moroccan men like best women who are naturally beautiful (without “artificial” cosmetics), medium-sized and gentle. They are called: the gentle sex. They want them to wear vase-shaped and tight clothes ( jellabas, kaftan, mlhfa ,tkshita) .In the south of Morocco (in the desert), women have to be very fat so as to be beautiful. So, they’re using herbs and sea-water (the way they use them is a top secret) so that they look pretty in the eyes of men. Their buttocks have to be large and fat to attract men’s attention. For cosmetics, women prefer to use natural ones such as Argan oil for their skin and olive oil for their hair, black powder called kohl for their eyes, miswak (twig) for their teeth ,hanna (red mixture) to decorate their hands(girls and women) and their feet (women only).It’s also used to dye their hair. Plastic surgeries are not generally thought of and are considered out of their reach.

Islam greatly affects beauty, especially among women. It says that women must cover their body except their face. This hinders men to see and appreciate beautiful women .If women are uncovered, they‘re said to be disrespectful and tend to have a bad reputation. Flirtation is also forbidden is Islam .Instead, if you love a woman, you will have to marry her (In fact, four women are acceptable). Additionally, State rules say that there shouldn’t be any meeting or dating of lovers except if they are married. Lovers may be arrested if they‘re found in suspicious areas. Finally, gender affects beauty .Morocco is still a man-ruled society (though there are some changes).As a result, men seem to have more rights to express and enjoy beauty than women. If a woman is trying to show her love, she can be regarded as a prostitute, which makes Moroccan women so perplexed and timid.

In brief , beauty in Morocco is measured by appearance, character, as well as origin (the family).But, nowadays there are external factors that affect beauty in Morocco ,like the internet and satellite TV .These factors make The Moroccan new generations appear like Americans or Europeans in their thought and appearance.

sábado, 13 de septiembre de 2008

viernes, 29 de agosto de 2008

Free Woman

come and sit
speak to me
in your ancient toungue
tell me your stories
I will listen, I will love

you teach me to value rain
I have always loved it,
but did not understand
what life is
without it

sing to me, I will clap to your rhythms
teach me to make bread in your oven
my hands have never been this close
to the fire
but I know they will not burn

teach me to draw water
to crack Argan
to use the stone grinder
teach me to dance like you do
teach me to speak
so I can respond to you

your eyes are beautiful
between the cloths of your white veil
when they are the only thing I see
there is no way to miss their charm

teach me to sing with your
harmony and melody that come
from your past
I have never heard such voices
flowing like river over stones
the tone changing
when I least expect

teach me patience,
you wait with grace for everything
for rain, for warmth, for water
you work for hours cracking Argan
building the fire, making bread,

teach me to count time with the moon
teach me to love your people like you do

teach me to be like you,
to be a hard-working, hospitable woman
to be strong, to be perseverant,
teach me to value my life,
like you value yours
beautiful moroccan, tamazight woman

can you tell me where
your people came from?
there are traces now, only traces
I know

you are the owner of your land,
you are free to stay or go
though you stay, with your home, with your Argan
you stay because you are free
you stay, free woman
tamazight woman

E Greenman

viernes, 15 de agosto de 2008

this time she asked, and no one gave...

"Llah i saHel"- "May God make your life easier"

photos taken by E Greenman.2008

some context :)

4th of April, 2008

I’ve been in Morocco now for one month. This has been an amazing time of discovery and opening my eyes to things that I have now seen for the first few times in my life. I’ve been hearing dialects around me, the call to prayer five times a day, new bird songs and greetings that are wonderfully extensive and warm. I’ve been going to different cities and towns to experience different things as part of my training. I’ve seen mountains, reservoirs, rivers, fields of barley and alfalfa, almond, olive, date and fig trees. I am in a place where the lines blur between Islam, cultural traditions and folk customs/superstitions, Imazighen (berber) Moroccan culture, Arab culture, European culture, customs that go back thousands of years, and customs that modernity/technology has brought to large pockets of this kingdom. For the first time I am living under the government of a king (Mohamed VI), in a Muslim land, in the north of Africa, a place where I am a minority.

25th of May, 2008

I am at my final ‘site’, a small town in the mountains in the province of Tiznit, the Souss valley. I am 70 Km from the sea and live with an Amazigh family that is very kind. They speak to me with patience and try to understand me when I do. My language is at the point where I can communicate the necessary and sometimes to the point of humor. I can understand the general idea and maybe a third of what is said. I had a good ending to my training, got close to a few people that I now love dearly and miss. I like my new town and I know with time I will grow to love it. The valley and mountains surrounding are covered with Argan trees, from which comes the most expensive oil in the world, “Argan Oil”. In the valley are date-palms, pomegranate, olive, some almond, and henna trees among others. Today I was in the fields with my host sister Zayna and some friends from our neighborhood cluster of houses. They picked some pomegranates that we ate a little green. In the evening before the sun sets I go down a path behind the house with my sister, mother and sister in law to sit under an Argan tree with women neighbors. When I sit there I feel like I am in something out of a story. The sky changes as we sit. The women talk and laugh sitting in a half circle on sack pillows, stones, cardboard pieces and cloths. They wear a cloth over their head, some covering the bottom half of their face below the nose, some over it. They wear mostly a combination of yellow and white cloths they call “adel”. Before we go out, Zayna always asks “where is your zeef”? I then go and get my black silk covering that I wear on my own head (only covering my hair and tied at the back of my head). I don’t know if this is what I will do always, but I feel like I make her proud when I wear it. The women feel more comfortable around me, and in some way I become a part of them. The sun begins to set behind the tree and some of the women’s children play around us. There is one old woman I started to call Khalti (aunt- mother’s sister). There is something special about her. She is always laughing, I also sense that she is genuine and sincere. She is beautiful and frail. Her bones have begun to come together as they tend to do with age, when the muscles grow tired of holding them up. Her name is Ijju.
One evening I was staring at the mountains to the North and saw two caves near the top. I asked what they are called in Tashalheet and what lives in them. “they are Ifren”- they said- “and wild pigs, L’heloof, live in them- they come down at night to eat near the houses”. There is man next door that is said to be 120 years old. He is blind and with time his mind has gotten lost in all of his experiences. I sat next to him today when I was visiting. There was a moment when he put his hand out, found mine and held it. I felt that he was comforted from within his darkness. He kept calling to God.. “Rbbi, Rbbi, Rbbi…”
I wonder what part of my village’s culture is influenced by Islam, folk Islam, and arab culture, European influences and the media , and what part is Amazigh coming from the ancesters that have been in this land for centuries past. One of my favorite Amazigh things is the singing and the rhythms. From the first time I saw people clapping to music, I noticed they go to the second beat automatically. It’s hard for me, since I am used to going to main beat when I clap with the rhythm. Today I gave Zayna some yerba and told her it is tea from Argentina. She prepared it the same way she prepares Moroccan green tea, on the fire and with a lot of sugar. It turned out to be a really good Mate cocido that she really liked. She wants us to make some when we have our neighborhood lunch outside next Thursday under our Argan tree. I was really touched that I could share this part of me with her, if even just a little. This is a story, I realize; my story.

June 27, 2008

I feel myself stretching on the inside; not like the rubber of a balloon that tenses as the balloon grows and eventually will pop, but like a stem or shoot that receives nourishment and must stretch upward toward the sun in order to put the new vitamins and energy into action from within. I am being nourished and watered. I am a fertile earth, even though I live in a place where there has been drought for the past 15 years. It is the beginning of summer and at least 43 C (109 F) today. I asked the women, jokingly, if they would please do the rain ritual, Belghonja, because the heat is too much for me. We laughed. I slept with a wet sheet last night. Don’t tell my host family- they would be outraged and say that I am bringing illness upon myself! In response I would probably try not to grin and say that I always say “b’ismillah” ( in the name of God) before doing it and that they shouldn’t worry.
I’ve been eating cactus fruit every day for the past two weeks. For a long time, my sister wouldn’t let me peel them because she was afraid I would be filled with thorns. One day I convinced her it would be ok and wanted to learn. She hesitated but let me do it. After peeling one, I decided it’s really too complicated for me, and not one of my natural talents. I got thorns in my fingers from peeling the fruit, lips from eating it, and two in my eyelid after rubbing my eye! Good thing my sister in law, Sfia, is an expert with the tweezers. We laughed, and ofcourse I had to tell my sister she was right- she should peel the takinareet.
I finally saw a wild pig, after waiting and watching while sitting outside so many evenings with the women. Finally, one day at dusk, everyone yelled “Mariam!, smokol! L’helof 3yn!” and pointed because they knew how much I had been anticipating it. It was really too far away to enjoy fully. He was cute, though, in his ugliness. I still want to see piglets!

10th of August, 2008

Most men in my town wear tunics. When it’s cooler out they have long sleeves and hoods, and as it gets warmer I see shorter and shorter sleeves and no hood. There are some that also wear a cloth wrapped around their head above their ears in a sort of circle, mostly yellow, white, black or blue. Others wear small white hats with no rim that end slightly above their ears. When I sit out with the women in the evenings under our Argan tree, there is a man that walks by, a little ways away, always with his hood on. The girls know that I like to watch him and point him out to me, as they take their own head coverings and drape it across their faces. I find it amusing to see the point of the hood vertical above his head, bobbing up and down as he walks. He always walks by at 8:00 o’clock. I told them I wondered why it is always at the same time. They told me he is going home to pray, because the call will be heard soon. Some time goes by and I begin to hear different calls to prayer echo one another from all sides. Different voices of boys and men, some high pitched, some low. I hear Baba, my host father, call from the nearest mosque. “Allahu Akbar..”- God is most great; “Allahu Akbar” – God is most great; “La Ilaha illa Allah” – There is no God but God; “hayya ‘ala-ssalah” – Come to prayer; “hayya ‘ala-lfalah” – Come to good.. As I listen, the women around me begin to chant the Koran under their breath. Some get up to go home to pray, one walks a little further away from where we are and lays down a prayer rug. This man that has gone home every day at 8, is facing North East, standing on one end of his rug, then bowing down on his knees and touching his forehead to the floor as many are in their own homes or at the mosque doing the same. I listen to the women chanting in a language they do not know, but have learned fragments of, to be able to pray to God and recite from the Koran. My neighbor boy, who is six, has gone almost every day this summer, to mosque, to be taught the Koran. I find this part of this culture fascinating. People are very devout, very serious about their faith. I sit with some of the women under that same tree, until the sky begins to grow dark, and we get up to go, saying “until tomorrow if it is God’s will”, “God help you”, “God’s grace be upon you”. “ar sbaH inchallah”, “Lla y3awn Rbbi”, “Akm IsabH Rbbi”. We walk our own ways. I pass more trees and different kinds of cactuses, with my neighbor boy holding my hand. My host sister walks in front of me with her adel (head covering) long in the back almost reaching her knees. We go on the same path we take every evening, walk past the back of the house and go around to the front door and say “b’ismillah”- In the name of God- as we walk in the door . “It’s hot tonight” I say, “can we sleep on the terrace again”? “Yes, Zayna says, take up the mats. I love sleeping on the roof. Before my host mother, Fadma, went on her trip to see her sons in the north of Morocco, we all slept up there. It was me, A3tman, Zayna, Yami (mother), and a little further off lay Baba. Zayna and Yami would come up to hang blankets up around us on clothes lines, “to give us some privacy” they said. Yami had to sleep with a cloth over her, across the clothes lines like a tent, because she said the stars give her headaches. I smiled when she said this. I don’t doubt her, it is just that when you hear something you have never heard before it is amusing. We layed down mats and blankets and after we ate, we slept all in a row, my neighbor boy A3tman holding my hand as he drifted off. In the morning I heard roosters at five and saw my host mother, through my sleepy eyes, bowing for her first prayer of the day. I hadn’t woken for the call that day, like I had most days, from the first day I had arrived in Morocco. I heard the call in Rabat, Ouarzazate, Toundout, Agadir, Tiznit, Marrakesh, and I heard the call here, in my town many times at the crack of dawn. The call is comforting to me. I know I will miss it when I am gone. During the day, my host father takes his binoculars and goes up the hill behind the house with the sheep. My host mother, when she was still here, would go to the fields to collect food for the animals in a basket that she carried on her back. Zayna would get up to feed the animals, make bread, pick cactus fruit, and make lunch. After lunch we all had our afternoon sleep. We said “timkeliwin”, good afternoon (but usually used before a nap). There are things I know I will miss, and miss already since having moved to my own little house in the center of town, ten minutes walk to our Argan tree. As I write this, I know I will be going to sit with the women this evening. I want to talk with them, play with their children, hear the gossip, and I want to see the man walk by at 8. After that I will come home, along with those who go home to pray. I will come to my house where there are cats that come for food, potted plants out front that need watering, a tea waiting to be made, and my house, that will be empty without me. I will say, “Ar SbaH inchallah”.., until tomorrow, if it is God’s will. I hope it is.

11th of August, 2008

August is the wedding season. If I am not invited one week to a couple weddings, I hear that there has been one, people that I know have been up till five in the morning, or I hear the cheering as trucks drive by in the middle of the night or early morning following the bride who is making the rounds before she goes to her husband. Families save a long time, if not all their lives, for the weddings of their daughters. The two weddings I have been to in the past week were like feasts with at least a hundred or more people. The wedding takes place in the bride’s house and is a mixture of celebration and mourning. In the rural areas of Tiznit, the bride stays in her room while the guests celebrate the occasion in other rooms and on the terrace. The women celebrate separate from the men and each has their own music and song, sometimes accompanied with dancing. In the first wedding, I knew the bride. People sat around her in her room, crying with her, her close friends, siblings and other family members walked in and out. It was as if they took turns mourning with her, in these moments they knew she should not be alone. After a night of eating with the women on the terrace, joining them in clapping to their drums and singing, sleeping next to them on the same roof, I went in the morning after breakfast to see my friend, the sixteen year old bride who would soon go on a long trip to live with her husband’s family in the city of Casablanca. I was accompanied by another girl. As we walked in, someone was walking out. We sat there with her for a time and as her tears came to her eyes, I felt my own coming to mine. Her grief and joy mixed together like honey and vinegar hung in the room and draped around me. Soon her grandmother came along with some of her close relatives. They covered her in a white cloth tied around her head and waist. A branch tied to her head and a red cloth over her face. When she was ready, the family led her out to the hallway as we followed. It was time for her to go. As we walked through the hall, the wedding guests began to follow behind us in a big crowd, many of them crying. The bride let out a shriek and sobs followed. I saw her shoulders shaking. Her grandmother led her by the shoulders as a basket with sugar cubes, dates and almonds was tossed on her. She was walked all the way out the door and into a car that would drive her around the mountains of her village as a last farewell. Pick up trucks and other cars followed full of wedding guests cheering and some crying. After the cars left, I and the people that stayed behind walked back to the house. This whole time, I wondered where her mother was. We walked in silently, solemnly and sat around, some crying, some preparing a second round of tea. I saw people standing outside a room. It seemed the bride’s mother had been in there the whole time. Now it was her turn to be comforted. Her daughter was leaving.
I admire the freedom people take to express the combined nature of weddings. Celebration takes place for the new life the bride will have with her husband, but she is also allowed to grieve her goodbyes and her loss. Aren’t most things in our lives like this? There is beauty in accepting both sides of life, and strength in allowing our hearts to take part in the contrasting realities that shape us with their power.

lunes, 14 de julio de 2008

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