Sunday, September 28, 2008

Women In My Community

Women In My Community
Despite gender relations being a huge issue here in Morocco, I haven’t really written about it much. I guess that I wanted to wait until I got a better understanding of what’s going on. That’s not to say that I completely understand now, I’m sure I’ll be updating this post a few months down the line. Also, while I’m writing about gender relations in my community, I think that many of the things are easily generalized to other rural communities in Morocco. In fact, from speaking with other volunteers and visiting other communities, I believe that women in my community have it relatively good. One hedge before I get into it: as a man, my view towards the issue is obviously limited. I’m sure there are some aspects to this topic that I am ignorant of.
It’s hard to know where to start with this issue. It’s also hard not to be really negative. Generally speaking, women in my community are treated as sub-humans. There are exceptions, which I will try to speak to, but mostly it’s really difficult to witness (and be complicit in) the everyday oppression that they are subjected to.
When I first arrived in my community, my host mom and I walked down to the spring to collect water. We walked past some other women and I said the standard greeting: ‘Salaam u walaykum’ (peace be upon you) to the women. Once we had passed by the other women, my host mom told me, “You don’t say salaam u walaykum to girls and women here. You say llayawn.” ‘Llayawn’ basically means God help you. For a couple weeks I continued to say ‘salaam u walaykum’ to women in my site; I felt like having a different greeting for women and men was kind of degrading. But women didn’t really respond to that greeting or were clearly uncomfortable, so I’ve switched to saying ‘llayawn.’ I don’t like to say it because it just enforces differences between genders, but people respect it a lot more.
Another thing that is easily noticed is women’s dress. Women wear as many layers of loose fitting clothing as they’re able to. The headscarf is worn by any girl over 14 or 15 and many small girls wear it as well. When women leave the house, they normally wrap a bed sheet around their whole body to completely cover themselves. There is one woman in my community who is about 18 years old who doesn’t wear a headscarf all the time. I asked my host mom about it and she was definitely ashamed to talk about it.
Before moving onto more subtle things, it’s important to note that there are strict gender lines and roles in other cultures as well. As a liberal Westerner, I don’t really like that, but it’s easier to understand. But there’s a big difference between defined gender roles and oppressing an entire gender.
All right, so the most distressing way that women are treated is the general disregard for their health and well-being. There is little expectation that time or resources will be used in order to improve a woman’s health. For example, my host mom has chronic stomach issues (probably due to her diet). She goes to the local health clinic (which is free) frequently to ask for medicine (which is free). The medicine they have at the health clinic isn’t going to solve her problems, so the nurses often prescribe her something that would require her to travel to our souq town and buy the medicine from the pharmacy. Going to the pharmacy is not big hassle since my host dad has to go souq every week to buy food anyways. The medicine prescribed for her costs 30 dirhams (about 4 dollars). Now, I know my host family has enough money to afford 30 dirhams for medicine because Peace Corps has paid them between 6,000 and 7,000 dirhams over the past 3 months to host me. And hosting me didn’t cost anywhere near that much, so they have money left over. But when I asked if she was going to get the prescription filled, she said it was too much money. I don’t know if there was an a discussion with my host dad about the medicine or what, but she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to get the medicine. (I bought the medicine for my host mom). Meanwhile, a month ago my host dad spent what must have been a considerable amount of money for a veterinarian to come to our house (from the souq town) to look at our sick cow.
I don’t think that women expect to be healthy here. The expectation is that they will work all day long, care for the children, cook the food, and not complain. At meal times, women give themselves the worst portions. Like the example with medicine, this is even the case in families where there is enough money to afford decent food for everyone. Plus, women spend so much time during meals serving the men that I’m not sure when they eat.
When I go and eat at other people’s houses, it’s always interesting to see whether or not I will eat with the women of the house. Women often eat in another room. When this happens, I wonder whether or not it’s being done purely for my benefit and the women normally eat with the men. It’s hard to tell.
I recently had a conversation with a man in a neighboring village that was especially depressing. He told me that he hated the king (which, by the way, was a total surprise – people never criticize the king because a) they genuinely like him or b) they’re afraid to). When I asked why he went into this long tirade about the king’s wife. She appears on television and does a lot of public appearances with important people. He said that a woman’s place is in the house and that the king was disgracing Morocco by letting his wife out in public like that. Furthermore, he was angry about how she dressed (often in pants). It’s important to note that the man was angry with the king for letting his wife do these things.
As for how women relate with me, there’s a whole range of reactions to my presence. Some women (mostly younger ones) are so ashamed that they won’t respond to my greetings. On the other hand, others (mostly older) greet me and talk to me in a totally comfortable way. The women that I’ve gotten to know through my host mom tend to be much more comfortable around me as well. Also, women who are apart of my host family have more normal relations with me. Part of women’s quietness around me is due to my own reticence; I never know how friendly to be with women because I’m afraid of crossing the line and offending someone.
There are a whole slew of other examples that just further the same points that I’ve been making. Oh, one important one to note is the age at girls get married here. 12 years old is acceptable, but I’d guess the norm is probably 15 or 16. This is despite a recent law that made marriage under the age of 18 illegal.
Now for some counter-examples. Like I said, there are women who I have pretty decent relations with and who are comfortable, especially my host mom. They tend to be women who couldn’t possibly feel threatened by me, sexually. There are men here who treat their wives in a reasonable way. Some women joke around with their husbands and disagree and argue with them. There are families who invite me into their house and where it’s appropriate to talk to women and girls in a pretty normal way. Another refreshing thing was the open, happy way that women act at weddings. They wear nicer clothes (often without the sheet) and some of them dance. It’s important to note these examples because it’s easy for me to overstate the oppression of women due to how it makes me feel.
Why does this happen? Well the guy who went on a tirade about the king’s wife said that letting women act like that was against Islam. The religious explanation is a frequent one for the disparities between men and women, but I don’t think it tells nearly the whole story. Many of the men who treat their wives like shit are bad Muslims. They don’t pray, they smoke, they drink, etc. I don’t buy the religious argument from someone who picks and chooses which part of a religion he wants to follow. I believe they’re using a religious excuse to enforce their dominance over women. A lot of men in my village are illiterate and even more of them have never read the Qu’ran. Furthermore, two men who treat their wives very well are two of the most devout men in the village. The Qu’ran may have some passages that prescribe inequality between men and women, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about working your wife into the ground and ignoring her needs for basic health care.
I often wonder what it would be like to be a woman volunteer in this country; I don’t think my previous post where I mused on the issue was very fair. It seems like there is a choice for women volunteers. One option is to try and act as you would in the states and be accepted for who you are. Of course, the problem with this choice is that the men in the community are never going to accept a woman as their equal. Another option is to try and integrate completely into your community and act as a Moroccan woman would. First of all, this seems extremely depressing. Additionally, you would lose any access to working with the powerful men in your community, which is often critical for the kind of work that we’re trying to do here. Many women probably choose the middle ground. But honestly, I can’t accurately imagine what that experience would be like.

Despite the extremely negative tone of this post, I’m doing pretty well. Ramadan is coming to an end – the day of celebration is either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the moon. I’m getting used to fasting and it’s not such a big deal anymore, although I’ll be happy when it ends. My next post will be a retrospective on Ramadan.
Work in my site is going well. I did a bunch of tooth brushing lessons in my school today. I’ve been talking with a local leader and he is going to help me talk to adults about dental hygiene as well. We’ve broken the community up into six groups and he’s going to organize discussion times for each group. I’m nervous about telling grown adults about the importance of brushing teeth (it feels condescending), but health education is my job here. Plus, I’m going to frame the discussion about dental hygiene as something that the parents need to help their children with.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I often mention something called souq in my posts, but I haven’t yet explained what it is. Souq is the name for the traveling market that comes to towns, most often on a weekly basis. There isn’t a souq in every town; for instance, my town doesn’t have a souq. Most towns that have over a few thousand people will have a souq.
The souq that I go to is in Tounfite, about a 45 min – 60 min transit ride away. My town has a small store, but it only has the absolute bare, non-perishable essentials – soap, rice, salt, sugar, tea, etc. If I go to Tounfite on a non-souq day I can find some fruits and vegetables, but not everything. And it’s also harder to find household/furniture items outside of souq. Also, everything is cheaper at souq. So I go to souq every week to buy what I need.
Souq is an experience. I’m pretty sure most Moroccan guidebooks recommend going to souq in order to see “the real Morocco.” Most souqs are packed with people pushing their way through the crowd. I’m lucky because Tounfite’s souq is relatively small and less crowded. I can find most everything I need there without having to deal with the chaos of a larger souq.
Souqs are divided into different sections: food, clothing, dishes/cooking stuff, carpets/blankets, animals, random crap. The food section is the most enjoyable to be in. Most all of the food is fairly local and the smell of walking through all the food laying out on the ground is nice. A vendor will normally have a couple different kinds of fruits/vegetables. You go up and ask him how much something costs. You can try to bargain over the price of food, but normally people are giving you a set price. If you don’t like the price you can just try another vendor. If you like the price that you get, the vendor will toss you a plastic bucket thing and you pick out the fruits/vegetables you want. You can get fruit/vegetables in half-kilogram increments. The prices of things are absurdly cheap. Right now an American dollar buys you about 7 to 8 dirhams. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of tomatoes costs 4 dirhams (up from 2 dirhams during the summer). Potatoes cost 3 dirhams. Carrots 3 dirhams. Green peppers 4 dirhams. Grapes 6 or 7 dirhams. Oranges 5 dirhams. Pomegranates 3 dirhams. Figs 7 dirhams. Everything is fresh and delicious. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before and it’s all grown locally.
The rest of souq isn’t quite as exciting. There is a little more bargaining involved, but not a whole lot. In bigger souqs where more tourists come, prices are more inflated. But here in Tounfite vendors mostly give us Americans reasonable prices. Sometimes we get overcharged, but it’s not too bad. Bargaining is tough because sometimes the price you’re initially quoted is as low as the vendor wants to go and he doesn’t expect to bargain. Other times you can bargain. So it’s tough to know when to try and bargain and when not to. Ideally, I like to ask someone I know how much I ought to pay for an item before I buy it. But all in all it’s hard to be a good bargainer because the money that Peace Corps gives me is more than I need.

In my community there is a water association that takes care of the chateau (water tower) and the pump that fills the chateau. Every year there is an election to fill the seven spots in the association. The yearly election was just held on Wednesday and I attended it; it was a site to behold.
There was no better place to meet, so everyone who wanted to participate gathered in the local schoolroom. About 70 men packed into the room and squeezed into the pupils’ desks or stood in the back.
It’s really hard to describe the chaos that was the meeting. There are different norms about politeness and respecting the speaker here. One person would talk and inevitably he would be interrupted by someone else. This interruption would then degenerate into everyone yelling at the top of their lungs. It was difficult for me to understand everything that was being said, but the actual topic of the election was not always being discussed. There were lots of insults and lots of meaningless things. People would threaten to walk out on the meeting and they would leave the room and end up walking back in immediately. Sometimes men would physically grab each other and threaten further violence, but nothing serious ever happened. This yelling could easily last for 20 minutes until the people in charge banged something loud enough to get attention back. The meeting lasted for three to four hours and I’m not sure that anything productive was ever discussed. In the end, the vote overwhelmingly returned the current members of the association back to their positions. So, despite all the anger and discord, it seems that most everyone is happy with the status quo. As an outsider, it’s really hard not to simply condemn all the chaos as wasteful and pointless. As a product of a liberal arts education that stressed tolerance and acceptance, I’m trained to try and understand another perspective. I’m sure there is some explanation for all the yelling and arguing that I witnessed and that perhaps it served some important social function, but I’m hard pressed to come up with it on my own.
The meeting was a microcosm for how men interact with one another here. There is lots of angry yelling over any point of conflict. And this anger has been exacerbated by Ramadan – everyone’s tired, hungry and thirsty all the time. I’m quicker to anger as well. Yet despite the passion, people are quick to forgive as well. People are yelling one second and best friends the next. In that way, the culture has a leg up on the Western way of doing things, where I think we tend to hold grudges longer. Maybe because people are free to express their feelings in an honest way, they can accept the conflict as inevitable and thus get over their anger more easily. Also, since people don’t hold anything back, there is no lingering resentment that goes unexpressed. Does that make sense?

Besides being tired and hungry from fasting, I’ve been very healthy recently, which is a nice change. It’s amazing how much good health can easily lift my spirits. I’ve been in my house for nearly three weeks now and it’s starting to feel more like my home. Ramadan has been nice because people like to see me fasting with them. Also, I’ve been invited into many homes to break fast, which has allowed me to meet more people and get to know others better. Being invited into homes has also let me meet more women, which is nice. So I’m doing well. The other news is that the weather has noticeably changed here. It rains a little bit nearly every day – some days it rains a lot. It’s also getting colder. I hope all is well in the States and I miss you all.
One more thing, I’ve been asked by a fellow Swarthmore graduate to write an article for the newspaper that he works for. If there is some entry that you’ve all found particularly interesting, I’d like to know about it so I can write on that for my article.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just Hangin’ Out

Just Hangin’ Out

In two previous blog entries, I’ve passionately defended the amount of work that Moroccan men do, at least the men in my community. And I’ll stand by it; living in an agricultural community means you have to work hard. But I want to clarify one thing: women do work harder. They work in the fields and in the house. And always with a child on their backs. I have extra respect for women during Ramadan – cooking all that delicious food while you’re fasting cannot be easy.
So, the men work hard, but they do have down time. In fact, it’s a lot of down time. Some men spend most of their down time in their house, watching TV or just hanging out. Some men play cards or another game called fili. Others walk around. But the majority of men just sit around in the middle of town and hang out. There are about five hangout places in my town and at least one of them will have men hanging out at some point from sun up to sun down. It’s not hard to find a conversation.
My village has about 450 people in it, about half of them men. While the women are often from other villages, the men were almost all born in my village. So the men have known each other their whole lives. For a long time my question was: when you’re hanging out with the same people for several hours a day everyday for your whole life, what the hell do you talk about? It’s a hard question for me to answer because it’s difficult for me to understand conversations between other people. They speak faster, they mumble more, and they don’t stop to clarify my questions. Also, if I lose the thread of the conversation, it’s almost impossible to understand without context. So, before, I often just dazed out when people were having a conversation I wasn’t involved in. It was too hard for me to understand.
But today I was hanging out with a bunch of guys and they got tired of talking to me (there are only so many times they can ask me about Barack Obama) and started their own conversation. And I mostly understood it! At first they talked about the prices of things in the weekly market. They beat this topic to death. One guy repeated the price of dates about ten or fifteen times. Not exaggerating. Then they started talking about some guy who they all sort of knew who had recently died. He had some kind of handicap and they spent a lot of time talking about that. They would talk about how he died, where he was from, his family etc. Then just as the conversation was dying out, someone else would join the group and they would go through the whole thing again with the new guy.
I haven’t really talked about this topic yet, but hanging out in this setting is how I spend a lot of my time. This is the vast majority of my “work” right now. There’s not really a whole lot to say about it; we’re just sitting around, talking. Sometimes they talk to me, but sometimes they go off onto conversations like this. It can be pretty dull at times, but now that I’m understanding better it’s more interesting.

This I believe…

Some of my nearby volunteer friends and I have started a “creative writing society.” Our first assignment was to write an essay entitled “This I Believe.” The topic was inspired by an NPR segment. Here is my essay:

I believe in the earth, the moon, the sun, and the stars. The natural world is my sanctuary and it is the greatest, most awesome power that I know or can imagine. When I climb a mountain on a clear day and I’ve sweated through my shirt and the wind is whipping around me and I can see for miles in every direction, I believe. When the skies darken with clouds and the heavens unleash gigantic drops of rain and thunder reverberates through the air and the rivers and creaks run over, I believe. When the waves roll through my body and my lips taste the salt of the sea and my skin turns red and burns, I believe. When the sun sets below the horizon of corn and soybeans and clouds turn red, purple, orange, blue and purple, I believe. When the winter sky drops a foot of snow on the land and the cold feels its way slowly through my clothes and my snot freezes and I have to keep moving to stay warm, I believe. I often forget the power of the natural world and am always thankful to be reminded.
I also believe in and am astounded by the power of the human brain. I do not believe in a soul or any other manifestation of the immaterial within the human body, or anywhere else for that matter. I do not believe in life after death. Human consciousness is what fascinates me. Although we may feel like the pilot of a human ship, carefully guiding our actions through daily life, our brains and our thoughts are nothing more than neurons firing. Instincts and reactions are the real guiding force behind what we do and how we act. We’re much less in control than we think we are. But our consciousness fools us into believing that we have complete control, which is an empowering illusion.
Although this conception of human thought and identity is perhaps cold and lacking sentimentality or feeling, I believe strongly in human connection; I believe it is the most important part of my existence. I believe in love and friendship and empathy and connection between people. I believe in talking and listening and sharing and honest, soul-bearing experiences that help us understand each other. I believe that people express their love, feelings, and affection in a myriad of ways, but not nearly frequently enough. I know because I am guilty of this. I miss my mother and father and sister and family and friends back home because the connections I have with them make my life full. I look forward to the moments when I feel connected to them across the Atlantic Ocean through letters, emails, phone calls, or a chance event that reminds me of them. Yet while I miss those important people in my life that are not around me, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to form new connections with new people from new places and backgrounds and experiences.

Now that I’m recovered from my illness, I’m enjoying Ramadan a lot more, although I’m still tired a lot of the time. I have my television set up in my house. The news on the TV now is the hurricane hitting Texas; I wonder how that is impacting people back home. School is about to start in my village. The teachers came back from their summer vacations and I broke fast with them. Hopefully I will be working and teaching with them soon.
I’ve been feeling extra accepted by my community recently. Maybe it’s my improving language skills, maybe it’s because I’m fasting for Ramadan, or maybe it’s just been long enough that people are liking me more. People tell me: “you are a part of the community now. You can break fast at anyone’s house you like. Everyone in town likes you and thinks you are good.” People talk about my language ability when I’m around and they say things like, “he doesn’t always understand, but if you stop and explain it to him, he will understand. He knows Tamazight. His words are good.” I’ve also heard people say that I am the truth and that my words are the truth. I’ve been craving this kind of acceptance as long as I’ve been here and it feels really good to get it. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made so far. Hope all is well in the States.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Give to a Good Cause

Give to a Good Cause

The villages that make up my site are mostly isolated from emergency health care. There is a small health care center in my village, but it is not equipped to handle an emergency; in fact it’s only open a few hours every day. Thus, most women in my site give birth in their homes, with only the help of other women. My site is not unique in this respect – most rural villages in Morocco lack access to a birthing center. The World Health Organization writes that the lack of midwives and access to support during birth is one of the greatest and most easily remedied causes of death in the developing world.

For this reason, a nearby volunteer has organized a training for traditional birthing attendants (midwives). I have been able to recruit a number of women (11) from my village and other villages nearby to come to the training. The women will be paid a small sum of 40 dirhams (about 6 dollars) per day for the week of training.

I believe this training will be very beneficial for my village. Currently, maternal and child mortality is a problem. By learning the basics of caring for a woman during birth, hopefully the midwives will be able to alleviate the problem death during childbirth. Additionally, having a formal training for midwives and paying them for their time legitimizes and gives value to the thankless work that they currently do.

Unfortunately, despite being a development organization, Peace Corps does not have much money available for projects like these. Therefore, volunteers must ask their family and friends to give to support their projects. So I am asking for your money. If you’d like to give, go to Click on “donate now.” Then click on “give to volunteer projects". Then search for projects by country (Morocco) volunteer name (Hansen) or project description (safe birthing workshop). The donation is tax deductible, so you’re essentially giving your tax money to save little children and their mothers in Morocco.

A shameless attempt to pull at your heartstrings: sitting in my health care center one day an older women came in crying. Her daughter had died the night before during childbirth. The woman had died because she hemorrhaged and bled to death. There are plenty of different reasons that this woman died. She was young (17) when she was giving birth. She was poor and undernourished. She did not receive any prenatal care. She did not have access to a doctor or modern technologies to assist with the birth. Some of these causes of death are not going to change here in my site for a long time – poverty is here to stay for the foreseeable future. But by empowering some of the women in my site to better care for their fellow community members, we can hopefully reverse the most immediate of these causes and prevent unnecessary deaths and improve the quality of life in rural Morocco.

If you want to give, act quick; there are other volunteers whose families are giving as well. If we receive our requested amount, the site will close to donations. Not to worry, I promise there will be future opportunities to give if you miss out on this one. Also, I don’t want to mean to discourage donations, but don’t feel like you need to break the bank on this. The budget for the training is modest. A little bit really will make a difference. Thank you very much.

Six-Month Retrospective

My plane touched down in Casablanca on the morning of March 4th. It’s hard for me to believe, but that means that I’ve been in Morocco for just over six months now. I got to my site on May 21st, so about 3 and half months in my site. 21 months remain. So far, it’s been an amazing experience and I’m learning a lot. So how has the time met the expectations that I had for it?

One pleasant surprise is that I have more work than I thought I would this early on. Not that I’m working a lot – I’m not. But I thought I wouldn’t be doing any work at all in the first few months in my site. In addition to the midwife training, there are a number of projects that are in the beginning stages that hopefully will come to fruition.

One disappointing thing is my friendships here: my best ones are with other Peace Corps volunteers. I value their friendships very much and I’m glad to have them. But I was kind of hoping that my best friendships would be with people in my village. I would call a number of people in my site my friends, but there are a number of barriers that make it hard to have a completely open relationship.

While I’m on the topic of hardships, there are four things that make the Peace Corps hard. The first is being away from family and friends. Sometimes I think I’m crazy for traveling so far away from everyone I know. The second is the lack of consistent work. Even though I’m working more than I thought I would, it’s still not very much. I have a lot of free time. That aspect is already improving and hopefully it will continue to do so. A third thing is the constant attempts to convert me to Islam. And by constant I mean it comes up in the majority of conversations I have, especially during Ramadan. It’s a sign that people like me and they want me to join their community in a spiritual way as well, but it doesn’t feel like that. It’s tiring and frustrating. And finally is being sick a lot of the time. I get mildly sick about once a week and pretty sick about once a month. It sucks my energy and it’s unpleasant. Hopefully, now that I’m living in my own house and cooking my own food, that will change.

A big reason that I wanted to join the Peace Corps was to experience another culture. That’s a pretty trite way of saying what I’m trying to express; culture doesn’t really capture what I mean. I’ve always been amazed at the different way that people look at the world. People’s experiences shape their minds and their outlook on life. Even in America the differences are vast. Sometimes people’s behavior is completely inexplicable when you look at it from your perspective. I think once you understand where someone is coming from, his or her behavior can start to make some sense.

And so in Morocco, I’m learning about another way to look at the world. It’s really different here and sometime I’ll do some a bigger entry and expand on the thoughts I have. The most obvious difference is the pervasiveness of religion in life and in particular the fatalistic approach that people take. There are a number of phrases that release the speaker from responsibility and exemplify this fatalistic attitude, but my favorite is “annay ishtaben” (whatever is written [by God]). There are plenty of other differences too: ideas about family and community, ideas about money and wealth, ideas about work, ideas about relationships with the opposite sex, ideas about health and health care, etc. And it all adds up to a very different way of looking at the world that can sometimes appear totally bizarre to an outside observer.

One great success I’ve had so far has been with my language. Now, I’m far from fluent and I still struggle in conversations a lot of the time. But for the most part I’m doing pretty well. Tamazight is a really hard language to learn, but I’m progressing. I’m already better than some volunteers who have been here for a year or more and I’m definitely one of the best in my volunteer class. I attribute my success to having studied languages in the past, studying a lot now, and having lots and lots of conversations with people. My French, on the other hand, has plateaued. I have just a couple conversations in French a week and so it’s hard to progress. I might start reading some French books in order to boost my vocabulary. Also, I’m going to start working on Arabic pretty soon; I just received the textbook from the Peace Corps library.

All in all, it’s been a good six months. Like I said, there are definitely some parts that make the experience difficult. But overriding those things that make me doubt my decision are some very positive aspects. I feel like I will make a positive difference in my community. I am learning so much and expanding the way that I think about the world. The volunteer community is very supportive and makes the hard times easier. And it’s a great challenge that gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I also want to say that the support I get from home in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, comments on my blog, packages, etc. means a great deal to me and that I couldn’t be here without that support.


As I wrote above, I’ve moved into my own house. I’ve included a picture of my bed/living room. The house is small, but fulfills my needs. Plus, its size will be a huge advantage in the winter when I have to heat it. Having moved out of my host family’s house, I do miss them, but I’m welcome there whenever I want. It’s Ramadan now, which is whole new experience. I’ll be doing a whole post on Ramadan sometime soon. A local association and I just finished writing an application to the Foundation of France asking for money to improve the trash collection and disposal system in my site. And as soon as school starts in my site, I’ll be doing dental hygiene lessons there. Hope all is well at home.