Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wedding Season: Year 2

Last year I wrote a post about weddings in my site. Well its that time of year again, although this years weddings have been quite different.

Last week there were two days (Monday and Tuesday) where, between my community and the one a mile down the road from us, there were 20 weddings. Everyone has their weddings on the same day so that they dont have to feed the whole community (everyone is invited to every wedding). I went to 6 of the weddings, spending most of my time at my cousins wedding (where my camera was broken). Lots of being crammed into a windowless room with 50 other people, sitting on the floor, drinking tea, eating sheep meat, dancing, drumming, and singing. Its really the only time of year where girls and boys get to spend significant amount of time in the same room.

On Thursday, I got up at 6am to catch a transit. I traveled until 7pm, arriving in Rabat. Thursday night I spent with a Swarthmore alum doing a Fulbright in Rabat. We went out to a nice restaurant where they serve good cheese, pork products, and beer. Delicious. The next day I got up and went to the Peace Corps office to work on grad school applications.

The next day, some other volunteers arrived in Rabat and we hung out and got ready for the wedding that night. My program managers daughter was getting married and he generously invited volunteers to the wedding. One word for the wedding: WOW. It was quite similar to an American wedding, sans alcohol. There were real tables with chairs-I cant tell you how much of a difference having chairs makes.

It was so much fun. The food was delicious. From 9pm to 1am we were served coffee and cakes. For dinner there was bastilla (a pastry sort of thing with fish) and roasted chickens. Then after dinner we had more cakes, including a real wedding cake.

As good as the food was, dancing was the highlight of the night. Every hour or so the bride would be carried into the main room on top of a throne, wearing a new dress each time. People would get up from their tables and clap as she was paraded in while the band played music (6 total parades). Once the throne was set down, everyone would start dancing. I danced all night long (until 430am). There was a group of 17 year old girls who were very excited to have an American boy who would dance with them. It felt weird at first, but it was completely appropriate. The girls fathers would come dance with us at times, giving me thumbs ups and showing me how to dance (key to dancing in Rabat: shake your hips and do something silly with your hands).

That was Saturday night. We got back to our hotel around 5am. Sunday morning I caught a 2pm bus to a friends house that is kind of close to my site. I relaxed with him and tried to catch up on my sleep. Back to my site on Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday were kind of slow. There was another wedding in my site, which I attended (my friends brothers).

Thursday I got the invitations drawn up (in Arabic) for the Maternal and Child Health Workshop, which is happening on the 28th of this month. That afternoon I helped my family harvest corn, which provides a good story:

My host dad is unable to do all the work himself and I am an unreliable worker, so my host dad often pays his nephew (Mimoon) to help him with the work. Basically, we go out to the fields, cut down the corn (stalk and all) with sickles, and Mimoon takes the corn back to the house (a mile away) on a mule. Towards the end of the day, Mimoon was getting frustrated and tired, so he started loading the mule very high with corn so as to reduce the number of trips he had to make. Each time my host Dad told him he had loaded the mule too high. With just a couple loads remaining, Mimoon returned to report that the mule had fallen and that he had left the corn in the road. We loaded the mule again (again my host dad told him it was too much corn). We decided that this would be the last load for the day, so my host dad and I accompanied Mimoon. In order to get through the house, we have to go through a sort of pass, where the path is bad and a fall could be potentially disastrous. This is where the mule had fallen last time, with the corn laying by the side of the road. Well going through the pass, the mule started stumbling, then started walking backwards down the mountain (a 45 degree angle). Loaded high with corn, there was no way that it wouldnt fall. It did a back flip, landing on its back, then another full 360 degree back flip, landing on its back at the bottom of the hill, 30 vertical feet below the pass. I thought for sure it would have broken its neck. It was one of the most hard core things I ever watched. Amazingly, it got up. My host dad broke into some of the meanest curses (directed at Mimoon) Ive ever heard. Meanwhile Mimoon is yelling at my host dad as well for making him work too much. We ended up loading the mule back up with much less corn on its back and returning a couple times to pick up the corn from the previous fall. Everyone was very tired and angry. That night, I went to another wedding.

Friday I woke up and biked to an outer douar, where I had to inform women about the training date. There happened to be a wedding there, which I was obliged to attend before going on with my work. The husbands of the women changed their minds and said that they couldnt go. So we had to recruit two different women, which was greatly complicated by the wedding going on.

Saturday afternoon I walked to another outer douar, to inform women there and attend ANOTHER wedding. Informing the women was easy there, but I was tired and it was difficult to gracefully exit the wedding. This morning (Sunday), I got up at 6am to walk 10km to the main road, where I caught transit to market. And here I am in Tounfite.

Its been a busy couple of weeks and with the workshop fast approaching, the next 2 weeks will be even busier. Im happy to be working, mostly I just hope that the workshop goes well. I think I have everything planned out, but inevitable there will be problems that I cannot foresee.

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