Sunday, August 30, 2009

Racism as I see it in Morocco

First, thanks to Jillian for your kind words. It's nice to hear that. I hope you don't change your mind after reading this next post. Let me reiterate the point that I've made in other posts: my experience is mostly from my village; it's not representative of Morocco as a whole.

Racism as I see it in Morocco

Before I get into this topic, a couple qualifiers. First, this is what I’ve witnessed; it doesn’t apply to all Moroccans. It would be pretty hypocritical to say, “All Moroccans are racist in this way.” Given that I live in one of the least educated, least cosmopolitan regions in the country, it’s likely that I witness stronger attitudes. Also, I apologize for any under or misrepresenting that I have done. It’s important to take my position as a white male into account when reading this post; obviously my perspective is different than a person of different race. Finally, this is a touchy issue; there’s no way to write it that reflects well on anyone. Same for America; if you wrote a history of racism in America, it would not be pretty.

There is a lot of racial tension between Arabs and Berbers (although I use the word Berber in this essay, Amazigh is the word that Berbers call themselves. Berber is the name that the Romans used, meaning barbarians). Berbers have been in Morocco for thousands of years, whereas Arabs came to the country starting in the 9th century A.D. There is a history of conflict between the two groups, with Arabs being the dominant side. As I experience it, most people identify their ethnicity (Arab or Berber) by the language that their parents speak, but the truth is much more complicated. Although Arabic is the dominant language in Morocco, some 70-90% of Moroccans have Berber blood in them. But it is rare to meet an Arabic speaker who identifies as ethnically Berber. I have experienced negative attitudes towards Berbers amongst Arabs. When I first started traveling in this country, I was excited to tell other Moroccans who I met that I spoke Berber. Surprisingly, this elicited negative reactions from a lot of people; now I only tell certain people in certain cities that I speak Berber. Several Arabic speakers have told me, “Berber is like Chinese to me.” Others question why I learn the language; they say that Arabic is the only worthwhile language in Morocco. I’ve been told that Berbers are stupid, backwards, and uneducated. One man told me that before Islam came to Morocco and saved the Berbers, they were subhuman. Provinces that are traditionally strong Berber regions (Khenifra, my province and the Rif) were neglected under the previous King, although this trend has reversed somewhat under the current King. Berber-speaking children are taught in Arabic by teachers that do not even speak Berber. On the other hand, there are plenty of Arabic speaking Moroccans that get along just fine with Berbers. Mostly the tension between the two groups is a small issue. I have even met people who have taught themselves Berber because they were interested in the history and culture of the country. And the negative attitudes do not run just one way, either. Just this week, in my site, a couple of young men were telling me how dangerous Arabs are and that I need to be careful when I travel amongst Arabs. In fact people say that quite a lot in my site.

I believe that Jews are the most hated ethnic group in Morocco. Historically, there used to be a large Jewish presence in Morocco. Many cities have a “mellah,” which was the Jewish section. However, more recently negative attitudes have become the norm. Hatred towards Jews is open and not apologized for. In my town, the Berber word for a Jew, Uday, is used as an insult. One time in a large group I told people not to say bad things about Jews, that it is racism. They asked me why I was defending Jews, was I a Jew? I tutor a local girl in English and I was asking her about racism in Morocco. I asked her why Moroccans are racist towards Jews. She said that it wasn’t racism. She said Moroccans don’t like Jews because they are dangerous and sneaky. During Peace Corps training, Jewish volunteers are encouraged by Moroccan staff to keep their ethnic identity a secret because “coming out” could irreparably damage their community’s perception of them. Although Moses is accepted by Muslims as a prophet and the “old” testament is a part of the Islamic canon, there is a passage in the Koran that vilifies Jews and Pagans (I wish I could find exact passage, sorry). I’ve met one person who professed not to hate Jews. We were having a discussion about the political situation in Israel/Palestine and he was being pretty unfair against Israel. He said that, even though he was criticizing Israel, he wasn’t racist; he had “lots of Jewish friends.”

Black people are the target of a less vehement sort of racism. There are a couple of darker men in my site and they are often jokingly, disparagingly teased as being black. One adjective for black is sometimes used to mean “bad.” My host family and I were talking about racism and they asked me if I held racist feelings against blacks. I said no. They asked if I would marry a black person. I said yes. They said that they weren’t racist, but that they would never let one of their family members marry a black person. Lighter skin is seen as being more beautiful. An older Moroccan woman said to me, “I’m ugly. Look at my skin: it’s black!”

Other ethnic groups are also the target of racism. East and South Asians come to mind. There are a couple volunteers of East Asian descent that are teased. Young men in my site will pull their eyes tight if we’re talking about China.

I believe that some Moroccans have racist attitudes towards Moroccans. I know this sounds strange, but a recent experience with another volunteer who (sort of) appears Moroccan solidified my opinion. This racism against Moroccans is felt most strongly by Moroccan women. Another way to state this attitude would be to say that sexist attitudes are common in Morocco and that they are directed most harshly and frequently at Moroccan women. If a woman appears Moroccan, different dress and behavior is expected of her. White female volunteers certainly receive harassment, but with my limited experience I would argue that it is of a different sort. Because of her appearance, the volunteer who (sort of) appears Moroccan was held to the standard expected of Moroccan women, exposing the double standard. Dressed conservatively by American standards, but with her hair uncovered, the volunteer received lots of vulgar sexual harassment from Moroccans – harassment that a white woman would probably not get in the same situation. Swimming in the ocean, the volunteer received vulgar invitations that a white volunteer probably would not receive in the same situation. In her site, the volunteer was assaulted in public, in plain view of several people. When asked, after the fact, why they didn’t come to her assistance, the people said, “Because she looked Moroccan.” The volunteer speaks Arabic well, making it easier to confuse her as Moroccan. She says that she sometimes intentionally makes mistakes so that people will be more likely to perceive her as American. I’ve heard of Moroccan looking male volunteers receiving milder harassment such as bars refusing to serve them alcohol, but primarily this racism affects women. A Moroccan certainly wouldn’t call this racism; they might say that white women are given more freedom because they aren’t Muslim. But if people are making a judgment about an individual because of their (perceived) membership of a racial group, that’s racism. Another example: in my site, the women from out of town (the teachers, nurses, and doctor) dress conservatively. It is expected of them. Female volunteers have come to visit me and they don’t cover their hair and don’t dress as conservatively as the Moroccan women. They have never received any harassment. There is a different standard for them. If this volunteer who (sort of) appears Moroccan came to my site, I would worry that men in my site might harass her.

Finally, it would be terribly unfair to talk about racism in Morocco without discussing racist attitudes held by foreigners towards Moroccans. The histories of French and Spanish colonialism in Morocco are one of condescending paternalism and harsh suppression. Today, tourists treat Moroccan customs as exotic, queer curiosities to wonder and gawk at. I’ve heard some virulent, disdainful comments about Moroccans cleanliness and hygiene. Worse than the tourists, however, are the foreigners who live in Morocco and make terrible generalizations about Moroccans. Peace Corps volunteers, unfortunately, express some racist attitudes. You would think that living with Moroccans would improve volunteers’ ability to make distinctions between individuals within a group, but I think living here has increased racism amongst volunteers. “Moroccans are … stupid, unclean, sexist, dogmatic, lazy, etc.” If one were to substitute the word “Moroccans” for another group such as “blacks” or “Jews,” the statement would become unpalatable for the very person who uttered it. Yet volunteers make these sort of statements without batting an eye. I don’t want to hold myself up on a pedestal on this issue; I’m guilty of making sweeping generalizations as well.

So what to make of this? What I’ve written is kind of depressing. It calls into question the Peace Corps mission of increasing world friendship if Americans living in other countries increases animosity and misunderstanding. For the most part, PC volunteers are liberal do-gooders who had bought into the “world friendship” thing before they came over, making their conversion into bitter people all the more unfortunate. There are volunteers who have had negative experiences who will leave the country with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s sad to see. I argue, however, that good outweighs the bad. Personally, I’ve had some negative experiences, but I hope that readers of my blog recognize that my time here in Morocco has been overwhelmingly positive. I hold some negative opinions of Moroccan culture, but mostly the exchange between cultures has been good. I think that most volunteers would agree.

It’s Ramadan. For those unaware, Ramadan is the month that the Quran was revealed to the prophet Mohamed. It is a holy month in the Islamic calendar (the calendar is lunar, so Ramadan moves forward a little every year). Good Muslims should abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, sex, speaking bad words, having bad thoughts from sunup to sundown for the entire month. Sunup is the time when you can distinguish a black thread from a white one, meaning that is still dark – 4:15 am this morning in Morocco. Sundown is the setting of the sun, not darkness – 7:00 pm last night.

For me, Ramadan is a time of stomach pain and unhealthy eating patterns. I feel uncomfortably hungry for most of the afternoon. When I break fast, I normally gorge my shrunken stomach to the point where I am uncomfortably full for most of the night. Most people in my village eat two or three meals a day during Ramadan: break fast, dinner, and a meal at 3:30 am before the sunrises. I’m always too full to eat dinner and I don’t like waking up at 3 to eat and fall back to sleep on a full stomach, so I pretty much eat one meal a day.

The best part about Ramadan is that I get invited over to lots of people’s houses to break fast. Each house has slightly different food and it’s mostly all delicious. Thursday night I went over to one of my friend’s house for break fast and I ate a lot. I’m quite fond of his wife’s food. My stomach was feeling uncomfortably full. I went to my host family’s afterwards to say hi and my host mom gave me a bunch of grief about not coming to their house to break fast. She said that she had made extra food just for me and it was going to go bad. She asked me to have a piece of buchiya, a flat bread cooked on a skillet. My host mom’s buchiya is my favorite; she prepares it with large amounts of fresh, melted cow butter. So I said yes. After I finished eating, I really thought my stomach might burst. I told them how I was feeling and they taught me a Berber saying: “Cchigh s alln.” It means, “I ate with my eyes [and not my stomach].” It seemed very appropriate.

Things are good. Everything is slow during Ramadan. Work doesn’t happen as quickly, but I’m moving forward on a couple of projects. For our hammam project, it looks like a hammam is going to buy one of the stoves that we were “selling,” so that’s a very positive outcome. I might partner with the volunteer that I worked on the hammam project with to do a household stove conversion project. Mostly though, I lay around my house, reading and writing. I go out and hang out with people for a couple hours every day to pass the time. This year, a friend and I have taken to riding our bicycles to a nearby spring 30 minutes away in the couple hours right before break fast. It’s a good way to pass what is normally the hardest part of the fast.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I recently came to an important realization: the word “yes” or any affirmation in Morocco (or at least in the parts of Morocco that I’ve worked in) does not actually mean yes – or at least not always. There are times when “yes” means yes, but it often means “perhaps” or even “no.” Before I figured this out, I was often frustrated by miscommunication; I thought yes meant yes. But now that I’ve adapted a more fluid meaning for the word, it’s a lot less stressful. Although coming to this realization has been upsetting at times, I don’t want this post to sound negative. I’m just trying to pass on an interesting cultural difference. A couple examples help better illuminate my point. All the examples are related to work, but stuff like this happens with everyday life as well.

I am often approached by association members (civil society in Morocco) with project ideas. Some people think that I have a lot of money to throw around (although they are slowly being disabused of this notion) and so they want me to give them money for projects. At first I was very excited by these constant proposals – even if I didn’t have money to offer to these projects at least people were thinking about the needs of the community and we could progress from there. Whenever people proposed an infrastructure project (normally bathrooms or running water) to me, my big message to them was to prepare an estimate of all the materials that they would need for the project and how much it would cost – a budget. The water association in my town, for example, has asked me several times to help them replace the pipes; I tell them I need to know how many meters of pipe they need and how much it costs. They tell me, “OK, yeah, I will do that.” I tell them to figure out the project and tell me everything they would need. They started asking me over a year ago – I have yet to see a single estimate. Two explanations. First: they are illiterate and can’t write up a budget. My question, “Well why don’t they work with someone who is literate (there are many people who can read/write in my community) to prepare the estimate together?” Possible response: they are embarrassed to ask someone to help because it means admitting they are illiterate (although everyone knows that already). A second possible explanation is that an outside body installed the pipe system without their help, so the water association has no idea how much pipe they need or how much it costs – they just want me to replace it. So rather than tell me the problem (illiteracy and accompanying shame, ignorance about the situation) and allow me to address it, the water association told me, “Yes, OK, we can do that.”

Working on the hammam project, another volunteer and I have been trying to get the address of a hammam in the province that has upgraded their boiler. A trip to an already converted hammam would be an extremely useful tool for convincing hammam owners to make the conversion as well. For months we have been asking CDER (center for developing renewable energy), which is the organization that designed the improved stoves, for the address. Every time they tell us: “Yes, OK.” We have been asking for an address, phone number, even a name for something like 5 months now. Nothing. If they have the information, it would be painfully easy for them to give it to us. Nothing. What explanation can there be, other than that they don’t keep such records and just never told us that? They have been a generally motivated, helpful project partner, but they have not given us this information. They tell us they have it and they can give it to us. But nothing.

A project that I wrote a big grant for ended up falling through for political reasons, so I have to give back the grant money to Peace Corps. I went to Midelt, where I had deposited the money in a bank account. The bank teller there told me that the money is in a joint bank account and that I cannot access it without the authorization of the association that I was working with (and they cannot access without me). Frustrating. I told the bank that I was going to Rabat (7 hours away) the next day with the intention of giving the money back. I was pretty upset and letting them know it. Was there anything I could do to get the money? Answer, “No, you need the association.” Could a bank in Rabat help with the problem? Answer, “Yes, god willing.” Are you sure I won’t run into the same problem in Rabat? “It will be fine, god willing.” When I went to Rabat (I had other business there) the bank turned me away. I realized that the bank in Midelt was willing to tell me what I wanted to hear in order to get me out of their bank. But if fixing the money problem had been my sole purpose for travel to Rabat, they would have been sending me on a long, expensive journey for nothing.

Continuing this story, I then went to the man with whom I was working with to see how I could get the association’s permission. He told me that he would talk to the president and get their papers in order and that in 15 days I could get the money. I returned 15 days later and he told me to come back in another 15 days: “It’s no problem, really.” 20 days later he told me, (at least 50 days from the original promise) “The problem is almost fixed, really. I consider it practically resolved.” I asked him why he kept telling me that everything would be fixed in 15 days, but it wasn’t true. He said, “That’s just how Morocco is. You shouldn’t let it frustrate you. It’s how things work here.” It was aggrivating that he was excusing his own tardiness for larger cultural reasons, but at the same time I benefited from that message in the long run. I came in demanding that the problem be fixed, but really, he has no power over seeing it resolved. It came out later that what I really needed to do was to go to the Caid (regional Ministry of the Interior official) and ask him to put pressure on the president. But rather than admit his helplessness, the guy would rather promise me things that he couldn’t affect. I went to the Caid today, he called the guy and the Caid told me, “The problem is resolved, you will be able to get your money in a few days.” I feel a little better about it after having talked to the authority that is the Caid, but I have finally learnt enough to expect more problems. Whether or not the Caid actually has power over seeing the problem resolved, I have no idea.

That experience has been very instructive, but two other episodes, where I was on the other side of the dialogue really drove home the “Yes=Yes/Maybe/No” idea.

An association guy asked me if I could help him organize a blood drive. I was skeptical, but told him I would look into it and answer in a week. A week later, I came back and told him I had no resources that could be helpful; I wasn’t interested in doing the project. I was blunt and honest – I didn’t want him to get his hopes up. He said, “Oh, well, keep looking, you’ll find something.” I told him, “To be honest with you, do not to expect anything from me.” He said, “It’s OK, God willing, I’m sure if you look you will come across a way to help me.” I realized that I had given the wrong response: I wasn’t supposed to be so honest. I was supposed to tell him “yes” even though I didn’t mean it.

For the hammam project, another volunteer and I were in Rabat with Peace Corps programming staff and an association from Midelt (where the project is based). At the end of the meeting, PC programming put a lot of pressure on the association member to provide transport for hammam owners to Ifrane (2 hours away) if necessary. He told the association guy that it was critical that they contribute to the project in this way. I knew that the association guy could not provide such accommodations for 20 people, but he told our programming yes. In Peace Corps’ office, asked by a man of superior status, he could not say “no,” even though he could not actually give what was being asked of him.

This is hardly an exhaustive list; I could think of 10 more such examples. What to make of this all? Well, it’s frustrating, first of all. It’s difficult/impossible to make plans for future work if you are dependent on the word of someone that you have no reason to trust. There is little correlation between what is promised and what actually happens. I thought: “maybe there’s some cultural thing that I am missing and a Moroccan knows when a ‘yes’ is a ‘yes’ and when it’s a ‘no.’ But a couple other episodes make me think that this is not the case – our Peace Corps programming staff (Moroccan) was just as fooled by the promises of CDER. I think, in the end, unless you know someone very well, you cannot take their word at face value. You must be skeptical and expect things to work out different than you plan.

Western writers often attribute this uncertainty to the “inchallah” (God willing) factor. Muslims often follow any talk of the future with “inchallah” to demonstrate God’s ultimate control over their destiny – it’s not really up to them. Sometimes “inchallah” is used to politely turn down an invitation. For example, the other morning in Midelt, I was invited to come over to tea in the afternoon. I told the invitee that I was leaving Midelt in 30 minutes; I wouldn’t be able to come over. The guy again invited me over and I said, “Inchallah.” The guy knows I won’t come over.

While the “inchallah” thing partially explains “yes=yes/maybe/no,” it’s incomplete. “Inchallah” is one way that people say “yes” and mean “no,” but it’s not the only way. Furthermore, it doesn’t explain why people can’t just say “no.” For me, the biggest reason is about saving face. In many of the examples I gave above, the person put in the position of making a promise would lose face if they said “no” and admitted that they had no control over the situation. Appearing powerful is important here and people are especially inclined to appear capable/powerful to the American. Take the case of the man telling me that the money problem would be fixed in 15 days: In all actuality, he has no/little control over the problem. But he likes me coming into his office because it makes him look important and he likes talking to me. So he keeps giving me an excuse to return (before I learned that the project had fallen through, he kept telling me it was nearly ready to be started even though he knew it was already failed). When he fails to come through on his promises, he can hide behind Moroccan bureaucracy (a problem that I acerbically criticized in another post). Generally, when people fail to come through on their promises there are no repercussions or consequences – it’s almost expected. In all the cases that I have had my expectations not met, I have no power to hold the person accountable.

I got back on Sunday from my vacation in Chaouen. My last post was about the hike through the mountains, which was the best part of the trip. I spent the rest of the week walking around Chaouen and seeing the sites there. It is a beautiful medina, painted a dreamy, light blue. Being right next to the mountain, the city is flush with springs; there is a public fountain around every bend in the road. The only downside to Chaouen is all the tourists. Since the city is small compared to other tourist destinations and the tourists all tend to concentrate in the medina, they really stand out. I also went to Oued Laou for a day. It’s a small town on the Mediterranean. It was good to lie on the beach for a day and swim.
On the bus ride back to my site, I had one of the most normal interactions I’ve ever had in Morocco. I was sitting next to a 24-year-old woman who lives alone in Meknes. We talked about her work (she is a agricultural technician) and about my impressions of Morocco. Religion never once came up. When the bus stopped for break-fast (it was the first day of Ramadan), there was a mad scramble for food. She bought us both food and we sat down together and ate it. I know this all sounds boring, but to me it was a very pleasant reminder of how modern other parts of Morocco are. I’ve never had a meal with a Moroccan female in public before.
Back in site, Ramadan has started. Last year I was enthusiastic about fasting and people gave me a lot of encouragement. This year, I’m much less enthusiastic and everyone expects that I’ll fast. It’s going to be a lot harder not to eat something in the privacy of my house.
I just finished reading a book called 1491, by Charles C. Mann. I recommend it highly. It’s a synthesis of recent archaeological work that challenges the prevailing wisdom about the Americas before Columbus. It’s thesis is that the Americas were vastly more populated with more advanced civilizations than we learned about in high school. Not everything in it is new, but it was a real eye opener for me. It’s an especially good book for anyone who is feeling that his or her white guilt levels are low.
Besides being hungry and thirsty, everything here is good. As you can tell from the sarcastic tone of my post (written before my vacation) I probably needed some time away from work. I’ll try to post again this Sunday to get back on my weekly schedule.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Sorry for posting late. I am on a trip; I thought I had uploaded my post to my USB, but I hadnt. So I have to write this post from the cyber. Next weeks post will probably be a couple days late as well. This entry is going to be sort of a running diary again; I dont know how else to describe whats happened the last few days.


Friday morning I woke up early in my site and caught transit to Tounfite, then Boumia. Another volunteer and I had a meeting with an association guy about a project. It went alright. I took transit to Midelt, had lunch, then caught a bus to Meknes. I was trying to find transit to Chefchouen, but there was none til the next morning. Hotels were very full, so I got a spot on a roof. In Meknes I had some interesting conversations. The one that stands out is with this group of guys sitting on the hotel stoop. We got into the normal religious discussions and I heard the most insensitive things Ive heard yet. The guy had some confused ideas about christianity and he was just railing on the religion. I didnt know how to respond; suppose I really was a Believer, how dare he say such virulent things about my religion? Would I ever dare to challenge Islam like that to a Muslime? No. He started talking about how there are mosques in every country, so the call to prayer is always going off somewhere. He said "I think if the call to prayers stop, the world would stop turning." Which obviously shows an ignorance for history. Most of the time talking with people about religion makes me more tolerant, this conversation made me less so.

The next day I got up at 330 am (actually, I didnt sleep. I stayed up til 330.) I took the 4 oclock bus to Chefchouen, getting in at around 830 or 9. I was amazed by the towns medina. Many of the buildings are painted this dreamy light blue color. It feels very tranquil in the morning. I had breakfast, bought some food, then started my trek.

The town is originally called Chouen, which means "peaks." Chefchouen means "look at the peaks." Either way, the name is appropriate. The peaks are big and awe inspiring. Theyre not actually that high in altitude (the highest nearby peak is 2000 meters, compared to the 3800m peak near my village) but they start from near sea level. They are the greenest peaks in Morocco, by far. They sit right near the Mederiteranean Coast, so they get a ton of precipitation from the Sea. Trees are everywhere, its so green. Springs and streams seem to be around every turn. The mountains are very steep, which means that youre constantly doing switchbacks; changing your perspective of the mountain. The first day was a hard hike. It was hot, I was very tired, and I had to climb like 800 some vertical meters to get to this pass. Great views of the mountain and looking back into the valley. I made it through the pass and descended a little way to where a small house converted to hotel was. In the valley, the climate changed noticeably. On the Chouen side it had been hot and kind of dry. Now it was cool and wet. The trees were different. The hotel was comfortable with good food and a shower.

The next day was an even more amazing hike. The mountains were even steeper and the climate was quite different. A bank of low clouds rolled in off the ocean and kept things wet and cool for most of the day. I had my Lonely Planet Map and two paragraph description of the days hike as my guide, but that turned out to be insufficient. I later realized that the Lonely Planet Map says "not suitable for navigation." Oops. After some scrambling over backcountry I ended up on a path, although not the path that I thought I was on. (My motto for the hike was: Im not looking for the path, just a path that goes in the right direction). I dropped down into a mostly dry river bed and hiked down it, going North, for a while. The going was tough. The rocks were big and it was obvious that in Spring time the bed was full of rushing water. The cliffs on either side of the river bed loomed over me, high and impossibly steep. The river bed started to fill with water and I saw a path heading up the mountain in the direction of the village that I was aiming for, so I took it. I made it high up on one bank of the river, looking down several hundred vertical feet at the river below. My guidebook said that I ought to "descend down to Akchour (the village with hotel I was planning to stay in)" at this point. I ended up on the wrong path, however, and made my way back down to the river bed. At this point in the river bed, it was now a slowly flowing river. I got wet and ended up wading through portions. The cliffs were now directly next to the river. Before, if a part in the river was impassable, I would scramble on the riverbank around the difficult part. This was no longer an option.

I was a little worried, but the guidebook gave me some hope. I was about 1 or 2 miles south of the village. One mile from the village, on the river bed that I was walking, there is a tourist attraction (a river carved bridge that towers over the river). The guidebook says that it is possible to walk from the attraction to the village. So if I could just make it to this bridge, I would be in business. The river was getting more and more difficult; the water was getting deeper. I was carrying a pack with camera, Ipod, and phone, so I couldnt exactly get it wet. After a little while, I came upon three Moroccans swimming in the river. They had stopped at this swimming hole where the water was quite deep and slow, maybe 15 feet. There was no way around the swimming hole. I had no path. The guys saw my dilemma and told me they would help me swim the sack over to the other side. It seemed like a good idea, or at least the best one that was available. Have you ever tried to swim while holding something above your head? Well I hadnt. Its very difficult. My sack had 3 books in it, some clothes, some other stuff, so it wasnt light. But between the 4 of us, we passed, dropped, and swam the bag across the (long) swimming hole. I walked the rest of the way with these guys and hung out with them the rest of the night.
The next day, Monday, I walked back to Chouen. The last day was thankfully relatively easy. There were lots of confusing paths, but the area was more inhabited so I could ask for directions.

What to say? These mountains are amazing. I couldnt stop taking pictures; over 200. The people living back in the mountains have interesting lives. They are extremely isolated. The roads are terrible. I cant imagine what its like in winter. I wouldnt call them welcoming, but they were nice to me. One thing that I havent mentioned thus far is their sources of income: basic farming, herding goats, basic tourist stuff, and growing marijuana (actually kif, which is less potent than marijuana). Marijuana fields cover the land that is flat enough to grow on (most of the land isnt flat enough). I read that 90 percent of farmable land in these mountains is used for marijuana. The Rif mountains are historically the most neglected area in Morocco. Underdeveloped, underfunded, poor. Cultivating marijuana has brought these people some money. The downside of it is that most all the farmers, as far as I could tell, smoke a lot. Kids as well. The kif plant is such a pervasive part of their lives.

Peace Corps does not have any sites for volunteers in the Rif, mostly because of the drugs. The drugs would be a big obstacle for a volunteer, but it is exactly the sort of place that Peace Corps work could be helpful. It would be extremely interesting to learn about the people of the Rif.

Im back from the trek now, in Chouen. The city itself is overflowing with tourists. Ive been speaking with them a lot and Im developing a negative opinion. Theyre ignorant and disrespectful of the culture. Before I came to the hostel, there was this French guy who had been living in Chouen for 2 months at the hostel. He had learned a couple words in Arabic; the other tourists at the hostel look up to him as being wordly and knowledgeable about Morocco. I couldnt believe it; this guys been living in a hotel for 2 months in one of the most touristy cities in the country, smoking hash and drinking all the time. Great. But Im trying to get over my negative feelings for the tourists, its unfair.

So far, this feels like a blessed vacation. The trek was incredible. Every bend in the path brought a new surprise. Reflecting honestly on my choices on the trek, I may have been not planned well enough ahead of time. But every time that I was in a pinch, I had some luck. The two biggest languages here are Arabic and Spanish, so those are fun to practice. My Arabic is coming along nicely, but I would need some prolonged exposure if I was going to get good.

I hope all is well. Im meeting another volunteer here in a couple hours (ive been alone this whole time). Well stay in Chouen for another day, then head up to the Med Coast. Ramadan starts Saturday, so I would like to be back in my site for that. Take care.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Week

This entry is a journal of my week. This week was busier and involved more traveling than the average week.

Woke up early – 4:50 a.m. old time. Waited a little while for a transit and caught something at 5:15. Got to Tounfite and ate breakfast. My host family had given me some money to buy food and send back to them, so I took care of that. Then I went to Boumia, then Itzer. I went to Laura’s house to meet with her and Logan. Logan and I talked a lot about the presentation that he was going to give about the hammam project. We talked about the project in general, future project ideas and other things. I showed him the report I’d written about the hammam project and we made some changes. We also talked about camping a night out in the mountains. I was trying to figure out my plan for the next day (whether or not I was going to Khenifra for a Ministry of Health meeting) so I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I wasn’t able to get in touch with anyone about Khenifra, so I decided to do it. We left around sunset and walked for maybe an hour and a half to a place that Logan and I had been before. It was a beautiful and cool night. The moon was 3/4 full and we could see really well even after the sun was all the way down. We decided to take a “short-cut” that ended up adding 15 minutes onto our walk. We were walking across some prickly, rocky ground wearing only plastic sandals. I kicked some thorny plants a couple times, but it wasn’t bad. We got to the camp and started a fire. We warmed up some stir-fried rice and put it in a sandwich with some sardines. It was pretty tasty. Logan had brought 2 beers with us and they were cooling in the creek; I went and grabbed them and we cracked ‘em open. It was a really nice night and we sat there talking for hours. Mostly we talked about the hammam project, but we also got into Peace Corps criticism quite a bit. We both feel that Peace Corps has potential to be more potent and effective and we’d like to see it change. Later, we talked about development in general…which invariably led to discussions about our future careers. It’s difficult to pass on that topic of conversation. Probably around midnight we decided to call it a night. The sleeping bag that I had borrowed was a little thin and the night was chilly, so I was a little cold. But not enough to prevent me from sleeping OK.

We woke up around 730 or 8, ate breakfast and walked back. The return walk was much quicker because we didn’t take the short cut. I tried to get in touch with people at the Ministry of Health and my Peace Corps programming staff to figure out whether or not I had a meeting the following day in Khenifra. I’m still trying to get authorization from the Ministry for a couple projects. Well after some miscommunication and confusion, it turned out I couldn’t go. The Ministry guy that is assigned to Peace Corps volunteers is on a vacation and so I can’t have contact with the Ministry without him. He may be in Khenifra Wednesday or Thursday so I might go to the city then. After I got that figured out, I went to Boumia. From Boumia, Tounfite. I did some errands in Tounfite and then went to David and Kristin LaFever’s old host family for afternoon snack. There is a newborn in the family and she was there. She is a cute little baby. Following that, I went to the cyber cafe. From there a volunteer’s house in Tounfite to go to sleep.

I woke up early again Tuesday to catch transport back to my site. Tuesday happened to be a national holiday and the normal transit that I take in the mornings was not running, so I had to wait several hours. I finally got to site and went to my host family’s house for lunch. I was tired in the afternoon and took a nap. I hung out outside with people in my site in the evening. I had dinner at my host family’s.

I woke up at 5:30 Wednesday to catch transit. The transit was late and I waited til 6:15 before leaving. The ride was slow and the transit was having engine issues. I didn’t get to Boumia (normally a 2 hour ride) until 9. I went to a café to have breakfast and wait for the volunteer (Logan) that I was meeting. We were meeting in order to go to a hammam in Boumia that had expressed interest in converting its stove. When Logan got to the café we sat for a while and talked about strategy. Then we went to the hammam and talked to the owner. We have grant money to offer a couple hammams as enticement to make the conversion soon. We made our offer and told the guy we would be back in a week with the contract and he would have to make a decision then. He was receptive and I think that the hammam will decide to convert their boiler. Then we went to the pharmacy to look for speculums, which I need if the doctors from my site are going to do exams on women here in Boumia. Next, I called my representative at the Ministry of Health in Khenifra. He told me that he could meet with me the next morning. So I waited a little while in Boumia before a bus to Khenifra pulled up. Two hours and half sweaty, sleepy hours later I was in Khenifra. It was 5 o’clock by this point. I have a friend in a town nearby Khenifra, so I took a taxi to her site. A couple other volunteers were there. We made dinner and then went to the carnival that is in town. I rode a Ferris wheel. We went for a walk around town, returned to the volunteer’s house, and went to sleep.

I woke up at 6:20 Thursday to catch transit back to Khenifra for my 8 am meeting. I got to the Ministry of Health and met with the Peace Corps contact there. Basically all I wanted from his was authorization for two projects: the training for local women to be “community health leaders” and pelvic exams for sex workers in Boumia. I explained the projects to him and then we waited for about 45 minutes for his supervisor to show up. The delegue (the man who normally gives permission for these sort of projects) was on vacation so we met with the second in command. He told me that the doctors who I wanted to do the exams could not do them because they were too far and the Ministry would have to pay for their transit. I told him that my association could pay for their transit costs and that the exams would be done on a Saturday – when they don’t have work. He said it was impossible, without giving explanation. He said the doctor in Boumia (a man) could do the exams. He also said that the exams couldn’t happen on the date that we had planned and that they would have to be delayed for several weeks (even though the Ministry is providing nothing but permission). As for the community health leader project, he said it was fine and that I ought to draw up a formal proposal to get permission. So the Peace Corps contact and I went back to his office and he drew up two draft proposals (in the required formal language) for me to work on. I supposed to send the proposals to him when I get them finalized and he told me they will be approved. All in all it was very frustrating. I went to a café and waited for a couple hours for the bus back to Boumia. I got into Boumia around 3 and then took a taxi to Tounfite by 4. In Tounfite I did some errands, then went to a café to wait for my transit. But for some unknown reason it had gone back early, so I had missed the last transit to my site. So I got some food and went to a volunteer’s house (who wasn’t there) to watch a movie and go to sleep.

I woke up at 7 to catch the transit back to my site. I got into my site and went to my house. I did some laundry and hung it out to dry. Then I fell asleep. I woke up and went to my host family’s for lunch. They chastised me for being out of town so much this week. In the afternoon, I read and then went to a house where I tutor a girl in English. I have pretty honest conversations with her about gender relations in Morocco and other interesting issues. In the evening, I hung out outside with men from my village. I had dinner at my host family’s.

I slept in (8 o’clock). When I woke up, I watched a movie (The Breakfast Club), did some dishes, and read for a while. I went to my host family’s for lunch. In the afternoon, I walked around town a little and talked to people. I also spent some time in my house, watching the news and reading. I had dinner at my host family’s and wrote this entry.

So that was my week. It involved more running around the province than most other weeks. It was pretty tiring and frustrating at times. The progress on the hammam project was the most positive thing that happened. It’s good to have a couple different projects going on because it means that all my eggs are not in one basket. If one project is struggling or frustrating, I have another to fall back on.

I read a Time magazine article this week that was pretty critical of Obama and it got me thinking. I’m pretty happy with how he’s handling foreign policy. He’s making progress on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Iraq is going as well as could be expected. He’s convinced the Pakistani government to police its own borders. I don’t really like the cross-border drone attacks, but a recent one just killed a Taliban leader. And just the presence of someone who is not Bush does a lot for our image around the world.

Where he’s really having trouble is with domestic issues. The climate change bill is the biggest failing so far. Cap and trade has failed in Europe so far – emissions targets have not been met. Furthermore, the bill was only able to squeak through Congress because of concessions made to Democrats from big industry states. 85% of the quota credits will be given away (rather than auctioned), which opens to process up to cronyism and corruption. I hope I’m wrong, but I predict that the bill will fail to meet the emissions targets it has set. Worse is that the passage of the bill has pacified enough activists into thinking that the problem is being addressed. If you believe that climate change is a serious problem facing our world, please, be skeptical of a bill that was passed with the approval of the American coal industry.

Health care reform is also turning out to be a stumbling block. During the campaign, the big talk was about universal coverage/mandates. That doesn’t seem like a political possibility at this point. The bigger concern to me is curbing health care costs, which are projected to expand out of control in the coming decades. We have one of the least efficient health care systems in the world. Once again, political calculus in Congress seems to be preventing any genuine reform.

I’m happy with the stimulus and generally his handling of the economy. The stimulus was big and fast, which was the most important thing. But I’m worried that the people in charge of inventing new regulations for the financial industry don’t really know the best way to regulate the industry. I don’t think people understand the industry. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs, which received bailout money, posted a $3 billion profit in the second quarter. But unemployment is at 9.6%.

Domestically, Obama has been restricted by conservative Democrats in Congress. Democrats from Ohio, West Virginia, etc hold the deciding votes. Knowing that he may not be able to pressure these Democrats into voting for truly revolutionary measures, Obama has given Congress all the power to write the important bills. Maybe this is the only way to get the bills through, but bills like the climate change bill are barely worth being passed as they are. Furthermore, giving Congress all the power has meant that representatives get to dole out huge projects to their constituents. Just the kind of waste that Obama campaigned against.

So that’s what I think of Obama. I’m worried that instead of being a remarkable, revolutionary president at a time when great change was needed, he will, more or less, maintain the status quo. Despite his initial popularity, he is still a slave to Congress. He is unwilling/unable to demand that his party toe the line.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

5 Legs Passenger Side Front, 3 Driver Side Front

On Wednesday I was in Boumia at around 7 pm. After 3 tiring days of work in Midelt, I was waiting for transport to Tounfite where I would spend the night. There were 9 other people who were also waiting for transport to Tounfite, creating possible competition for seats. A station wagon taxi pulled up looking to go to Tounfite. Everyone pushed their way towards the taxi; I went to the trunk and put my stuff there. A station wagon taxi can fit 10 people plus the driver, so I wasn’t too worried about getting a seat. The back row is smaller – three people squeeze into it. The middle row is bigger, it seats four. The passenger front gets two. These seats were all taken by the time I got my stuff situated in the trunk. Normally, the tenth passenger sits to the left of the driver. However, the driver of this taxi was a little bigger than normal and I wouldn’t really fit there. So I was instructed to sit to his right. I was sitting partially on the seat and partially on some metal/plastic thing in between the front seats. There wasn’t room for both my legs right next to the gas pedal, so my right leg was swung over on top of the left leg of the passenger to my right – 5 legs in the passenger side front. My left leg was near the gas pedal. In between my legs was the stick shift. My left arm went around the driver, out the window. And my right arm went around the back of the passenger seat. I was literally sprawled across the front row, sharing it with three grown men. The other passengers in the car loved it that I knew where the 10th passenger had to sit. The journey started. I quickly realized that shifting in and out of 2nd and 4th gear would be an uncomfortable proposition; the gear shifter came very close to my crotch. The driver’s forearm rested in my groin area when he changed gears. While accelerating he would shift gears – from 2nd to 3rd, for example – and leave his hand on the shifter (and forearm on my groin) in anticipation of another shifting of gears (to 4th). Despite this invasion of personal space, I found I didn’t really care. My left arm quickly fell asleep. I thought about telling people that my arm was falling asleep (in Tam you say: a fox has taken my arm) because people would love it. Halfway through the journey the man to my right moved his arm and started squeezing his fist – obviously his arm had fallen asleep. So I loudly asked if a fox had taken his arm and everyone started cracking up. After 50 minutes of discomfort, we pulled into Tounfite. I got out of the car and was able to limp to my destination.

When I left Midelt it was about 5:30 pm. I got into Boumia at 6:20. I waited for transport until 7. After 50 minutes in transit to Tounfite, it was only 6:50 pm. How did this happen? Rural areas do not observe Daylight Savings Time in Morocco. It was like changing time zones.


This was another busy week for work, mostly with the hammam project. As a reminder, other volunteers and I have been trying to organize a meeting with hammam owners in a nearby town/city to convince them to switch their stoves to a much more efficient design so as to decrease wood consumption. I went to Midelt on Monday and met up with the volunteers. One was quite sick, so he went to the house we were staying in. The other volunteer, a Moroccan association president who has been critical in organizing the project, and I walked around town finishing up with invitations. The next day, Tuesday, we had lots of logistical stuff to take care of. Getting the key to the conference room from someone, which took lots of running around and permission seeking. Getting a projector, which also took lots of running around. Buying food, setting up the conference room, buying supplies (folders, notebooks), calling the hammam owners, and general last-minute setting up. We worked from 10 in the morning to 10 at night. The next day, Wednesday, we were up and off to the center by 7:30. The presentation was due to start at 9 am and we had a couple more loose ends to tie together. The first hammam owner arrived at about 8:50. A Peace Corps programming staff was there (she was the introductory presenter for the meeting) and the hammam owner talked with her for a while. After 9, more owners started trickling in. By 9:30, most of the invitees were there. Moroccan meetings traditionally start late. Our main presenter, a man from the Center of Development of Renewable Resources in Morocco was still not there. At 10 he was still not there – an hour after the meeting was supposed to start. We served tea and waited. At 10:30 he was still not there. I was pretty pissed at this point. We had called him and he was on his way, but we weren’t sure when he was going to get there. I couldn’t believe he would be so irresponsible/impolite to be this late. We have been working with this man for months and he is going to be late on the most important day? One hammam owner left (the one who had arrived early) and we were worrying that others might start to leave. We got a call from the presenter at 10:35 saying he was 20 minutes away, so the Peace Corps introductory speaker started. Just as she was finishing, the guy arrived and started his presentation.

Despite all the frustration and worry for us Americans, the presentation went really well. In the end, I don’t think it mattered to the hammam owners (who were the target audience) that the guy was nearly 2 hours late. It was a good lesson in attitudes about time for us Americans. The hammam owners were mostly interested in the new stoves – they should be: it will save them tons of money in wood costs. There are a couple main objections: 1) can we see a stove in action before we buy one? 2) will it work in colder weather? and 3) I just replaced my boiler; I will wait until I need a new one before I buy one of your stoves. The first objection should soon be remedied, we are trying to find the address of a hammam with a new stove relatively close by. The second objection is a needless worry: the stoves work in places colder than Midelt. The third objection is a poor argument: the improved stove will save the owner tons of money; the recently installed stove is a sunk cost. Despite these objections, at the end of the meeting we had 5 owners who were interested in buying a stove in the near future. Other owners were adapting more of a “wait and see approach.” I expect that if there were a functioning stove in another hammam in Midelt, they would also make the conversion. So, the meeting seems to have been a success. We have some grant money to offer as an enticement to the first owners to make the conversion, so we have to write that grant and submit it. Then we have to decide how to distribute that money. Also we have to write a report on the meeting and project in general. I wrote up a report for Peace Corps that I've copied to the end of the email if you want to read more.

After the meeting wrapped up around 3 pm, we went back to a volunteer’s house to rehash how the meeting went and share a celebratory beer. I had a couple errands to take care of, then I found transit to Boumia…, which is where this whole post started.


When I got back to my site on Thursday morning, I had more work to do, of a different nature. My family is in the midst of their wheat harvest. I’ve learned enough about the work to be helpful and they depend on me to help out a little. My host dad is 73, so he isn’t very productive. My host mom is from out of town and doesn’t always know what’s going on. So the three of us make quite a site out in the fields. The main work of the last two days was gathering the wheat that had been harvested, stuffing it into giant plastic sacks, loading it on our mule, and walking the mule to a central site in town. It took a while. The fields weren’t as far away as last year (which was like 12 km – those fields lie fallow every other year), but they were far enough. Once we had gathered all the wheat, the threshing machine came and I helped throw wheat in the machine, which is an unpleasant job. Now we have 7 big sacks of wheat for bread.

My host Dad and I were unloading the last sack of wheat from the mule and the mule got upset and stepped on my big toe. I was being stupid that day and only wearing sandals. It hurt a little bit and started bleeding. We finished the work and my host Dad took a look at the toe. He looks at me and says something that I don’t really understand. He repeats it: “Give it water of liver.” I understand the words now, but the meaning is escaping me. He says, “Give it your water. Your water.” Ah, he wants me to piss on the wound. Interesting that pee is “liver water.” Instead of peeing on the wound, I washed it and applied antiseptic.

I was pretty helpful this year and my host family appreciated that. It was hard work, but I’d rather be active and helping than sitting in my house. It’s also a good experience to understand what people here go through in order to feed themselves. It makes me thankful for industrial agriculture. Without large-scale agriculture, everyone would have to slave away just to feed themselves. Education and development fall by the wayside when you’re working so hard to meet your basic needs. I’ve long been a critic of the American industrial food production system and it certainly needs to change, but I’m thankful that I don’t have to work long days to produce food as my life’s work.

Two of my host mom’s sisters are staying at my host family’s house. They have been there for about 3 weeks now. They do almost all of the housework while my host mom is out in the fields. They are educated and unused to life in the countryside. It makes me feel sorry for my host mom to know that she came from a wealthy, educated family and ended up here. I was talking with the sisters one day and they mentioned to me that this was their vacation. I said, “You took a vacation, came here, and found a bunch of work to do.” One of them told me, “That’s how it is. A woman can never be a guest. She is always working.”

When I was in Tounfite on Wednesday night, I had dinner with another volunteer’s house family (3 women) and a female volunteer. These women are used to volunteers. Also, I’ve known them for over a year now and they are very comfortable with me. We were talking about the midwife training (the family will host several of the trainees) and the women started telling birthing stories. One of the women partially gave birth while on the (squat) toilet). One of their friends gave birth in her pants. There was a story about a woman who went to cut wood in the mountains, finished cutting the wood, gave birth, then walked the donkey back to town with the baby on her back. One of the woman told me, “American women go to the hospital and relax. We work work work, then when we start labor we push it out really fast and keep working.” Wow.

Things are good. The success of the hammam owner meeting was encouraging. I may have some more exciting work this coming week: STI and HIV/AIDS work. I have some organizing to do to set up the event. I have to go to the provincial capital (Khenifra) to get authorization. Khenifra is a miserably hot city in the summer, so I’m not looking forward to that.



The Eastern High Atlas and Middle Atlas Mountains support hundreds of small villages and thousands of people. The natural resources in the mountains make life possible for the inhabitants. Trees provide energy for heating and cooking in addition to income from selling wood. Furthermore, as herders and farmers, people of these communities rely on high quality soil to grow their crops and feed their sheep.

With the help of community partners, the volunteers in these mountains have identified deforestation as a threat to the way of life of the mountain Berbers. Population in the region has exploded in recent decades. Additionally, standard of living has improved for inhabitants. These two factors mean that more people are consuming more resources, putting a stress on the natural resources. The dual stresses on the forests: shepherding and cutting trees for fuel threaten the future of life in these mountains. Resources are currently being consumed at an unsustainable rate. There are already mountain villages that have run out of trees to cut for firewood and herders are forced to take their herders further to find grass for their sheep and goats. It is potentially an existential threat.

In nearby towns such as Boumia, Itzer, Tounfite, Zeida, and Midelt, hammams (public baths) consume a substantial amount of wood. Heating water for washing requires hundreds of kilograms of wood in each hammam per day. The concentrated use of wood means that the reduction of wood in a few hammams has the potential to make a noticeable impact on the forests. Targeting individual wood use would require the behavior change of hundreds or thousands of individuals to have an impact on the forests. While far from solving the problems of deforestation and overgrazing, introducing improved stoves to hammams could have a measurable impact on the forest.

The Center for the Development of Renewable Resources (CDER) in Morocco has developed a stove for hammams that reduces consumption of wood significantly. CDER has worked with hammam owners and trained boilermakers resulting in several hundred to a thousand hammams converting to the more efficient stove. However, there are no efficient hammam stoves in the immediate region.


The goal of the volunteers is to introduce local hammam owners to the technology of CDER in the hope that owners will want to convert their hammams.

On March 24th, volunteers organized a meeting in Itzer for local hammam owners. The meeting was funded by IDRB, which gave a presentation on renewable resource technology. Following the IDRB speaker, a representative from CDER (Mr. Makouai) gave a presentation on the CDER and technology for the hammam. Following the presentations, CDER representatives accompanied hammam owners and volunteers to four hammams, where diagnostics were done. The CDER representative told hammam owners that their hammams were too small and had too few clientele to make the conversion feasible. The meeting succeeded in spreading information about the improved hammam stoves, but it failed to convert any hammams.

Following this meeting, volunteers sought a nearby town that would have hammams more suitable to conversion; Midelt was the obvious choice. A town of over 30,000, Midelt will soon become the provincial capital. There are over 20 hammams in Midelt and several that have a large clientele base. Volunteers pitched the idea of hammam conversion to the president of the association Jeunes Sans Frontieres, Hicham Ouyouba. Hicham was excited about the project and willing to help.

In late May, on the advice of CDER representatives, volunteers and Hicham collected diagnostic information from 20 Midelt hammams. Although the data was far from perfect, it gave volunteers an insight into which hammams would be ideal for conversion. Working closely with CDER and PC programming staff, volunteers started to plan and organize a meeting for Midelt hammam owners. CDER’s presentation in Itzer was not designed with the intent to convince hammam owners to convert their hammams; volunteers hoped to advise CDER so as to improve their presentation and tailor it to their audience.

After some delay, the meeting with Midelt hammam owners (as well as some from Boumia) took place on July 29th. CDER and PC organized the delivery of a prototype stove to be on display during the meeting. Naima Oumousa, programming assistant for the Environment program, gave an introductory talk that explained the project and especially the environmental reasons that motivated Peace Corps. Volunteers wanted the hammam owners to know that the volunteers were not profiting from the sale of the improved stove. Next, Mr. Makouai from CDER gave a presentation explaining how the stove worked and how the stove would save hammam owners money. Throughout the project, volunteers have stressed to hammam owners that the stove is a good business move in addition to addressing environmental issues. A boilermaker from Marrakech who had constructed some fifty improved stoves accompanied Mr. Makouai. His experience and expertise were key in addressing the issues brought up by hammam owners. A spirited debate followed in which hammam owners seriously considered the implications of converting their hammams. The main remaining obstacle to conversion was that hammam owners wanted to see a functioning improved stove. Other concerns were how the stove would function in Midelt’s cold environment and the fact that some owners had recently bought new stoves for their boilers. Nonetheless, owners were very positive about the idea and several are seriously considering making a conversion. When the Naima told the hammam owners that there was a possibility of funding assistance for the conversion, four owners were willing to sign up to be considered for immediate conversion. Two of these hammams were poor candidates for conversion (as judged by the data gathered by volunteers two months prior), but two were excellent candidates.

The next step is working with these two hammams to ensure that a conversion is made. The volunteers believe that if a hammam is converted in Midelt and other owners are able to see that the stove works and saves money that other owners will make a conversions.


The meeting had two primary goals: First, to push a small number of hammams towards immediate conversion (with the added incentive of financial assistance). Second, to make the rest of the hammam owners aware of the technology and pique their interest enough to make them consider conversion in the coming years. Thus, it seems that the meeting accomplished both of its primary goals. However, more work remains.

There were also several positive secondary outcomes that resulted from the meeting. The capacity of CDER to make a targeted presentation to hammam owners was improved. The association Jeunes Sans Frontieres, in particular Hicham Ouyouba was heavily involved in the project. Their capacity certainly increased as a result of the project. Furthermore, the meeting and the work that went into preparing it increased community awareness of the environmental threats posed by deforestation and irresponsible use of natural resources.

Additionally, the meeting required the cooperation of several different organizations. PC programming provided invaluable advice and guidance, financial support, and gave an important presentation. CDER provided information, critical contacts, technical support, and gave the keynote presentation. IDRB was a primary financial supporter and advisor. Avance, an American association based in Midelt, provided financial support and gave advice. Jeunes Sans Frontieres was a critical partner, providing volunteers with contact to hammam owners, organizing the meeting, and helping with logistical issues. Their support was very important to the success of the meeting. Bringing all these different groups together provided them with potential work partners.

The volunteers would like to thank all of their partners. Peace Corps programming staff deserves special thanks for their help. In particular, the personal attention that Naima Oumousa gave to the project made it possible. Jeunes Sans Frontieres and its president Hicham Ouyouba also deserve a special thanks. He was also the primary community partner for the SIDA awareness run in Midelt. For two large volunteer projects over the course of 6 months, he has been the ideal partner for Peace Corps volunteers. He is intelligent, motivated, well-connected, and willing to provide his full support to a volunteer.