|< previous | next >Letters Home: Kelly Benvenuto in MoroccoContents | NCPR Home|
Last Friday was the end of Ramadan. It is a big festival know as Eid. It sort of reminded me of Thanksgiving in that there is an extraordinary amount of food, and family and friends spend the day visiting each other. It is also a time that men and women generally wear traditional clothing. I saw my 19-year-old brother, who is normally dressed in fashionable jeans, t-shirt and sun-glasses, wearing a bright yellow caftan with pointy yellow leather slippers, and a yellow turban. Unfortunately, he changed before I had an opportunity to take a picture of him.
Then on Saturday, we left for our village stay. We spent five days in the village of Loutichina; the name means "the thirsty land." None of the families had running water, and electricity was provided by a single solar panel for each home. While there, I helped fetch water from a well, knead bread, make mint tea and peel potatoes. One day we went on an 8-mile hike through the region; at different points we talked about the poverty of the area, the rural exodus and attempts at development. Our professor was actually born in the village, but they moved to a nearby city when he was young so that he could get a good education.
We stopped at his cousin's house on our hike to see the traditional means of weaving. These women will spend perhaps 3 days weaving a small rug, the yarn will cost about 20dh, and then they sell them for about 50dh. That means they earn less than a dollar a day when you consider that they need to take a taxi to the nearest city to sell the rugs, blankets and pillow covers that they make. Our professor, who is big into development, wants to set up a cooperative for the women, and perhaps a website so they can sell directly to the consumer and cut out the middle men who take most of the profits.
We stopped at another one of his cousin's houses for a lunch of bread with butter and honey, and mint tea. Following lunch, we had a discussion with the women in the family, exchanging questions on marriage, women's roles, education and leisure time. That was one of the best parts of the trip.
The family I stayed with didn't know any French (only one man in the village actually spoke French), so I really had to put my Darija skills to work. It was pretty challenging, but I liked that even though I didn't understand, they kept talking to me. I relied on words like "yes, no, maybe, thank you, good, a little, and I'm full" and lots of gestures, smiles and laughter.
One evening my aunt hennaed my hands. I was a little nervous, as some other girls on my program had some pretty strange designs, not at all like the intricate designs you can get in the cities. In fact, one afternoon we played "psychology hands," where one person would show one hand, and then we had to say what immediately came to mind. Answers ranged from Africa to a turtle to Fallopian tubes. I like mine though; I have flowers on the backs of my hands, a flower on one palm, my name in Arabic on the other, and my fingers are striped sort of like candy canes.
I thoroughly enjoyed being in the countryside. The fresh air, the wind in the trees, and being able to walk and only see people in the distance was a nice change of pace from Rabat. I think that that's the North Country girl in me.
Anyway, on our return, a couple of friends and I went to the hammam to wash away the five days worth of sweat and dirt. In other news, I am done with my seminar and Arabic class, and am preparing for my Independent Study Project. Today I went caftan shopping with my mother, sister, cousin and an American friend. I fully expected it to take many shops and hours of looking, but I fell in love with the second one I tried on. I feel sort of like a princess wearing it. That's about it from here. I hope you are well.
Much love, Kelly
2005 North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617-1475