Well not really "the far side of the world" but from my perch in America it seem that way. I created this blog, as a place to share my stories, observations and creative impulses that crop up in my day-to-day life during my Peace Corps service.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Boston Your My Home...

On Monday November 14th I informed the Peace Corps that I would be early terminating (ET) my service, I will not go into the details as to what brought me to make that no-turning-back phone call, lets just say it was the combination of many things that added up to "...Time for this one to come home". But I made the call without reservations, because I have felt all along in this process that had me moving to Africa to serve in the Peace Corps that if at anytime I felt the pull from home either externally or internally that I would go where I was needed more. If you read my musing here at all you know that I have many "philosophical" issues with the Peace Corps as an organization and the way it laid out (or lack of) the structure of the Small Business Development Program that I was assigned, along with the news last February that SBD program was being terminated and would not continue beyond 2012. When I sat back and weighed it all it became clear to me that after over 14 months living and serving in Morocco it was time for me to leave... so I did.

The six days between the minute I made the call and the time I touched down in Logan Airport was an exhausting period, much like leaving to come to Morocco, putting a cap on 14 months in a 5 day window is mentally tiring... between closing a life in my city of Sefrou, medical exams in Rabat and getting all the proper signatures to leave is crazy busy. Yet come Friday afternoon I was done and Saturday hopped a multi-leg flight to Boston and into the arms of my loved ones... exhausted but happy to be home. Now it is time to enjoy the holidays with family get reaquianted with America and look forward to 2012 and beyond.

The following is from my DOS (description of service) that I had to fill out for the Peace Coprs before they let me leave...haha.

During his service, James’s main responsibilities included:
Marketing and Graphic Design. Upon getting settled in Sefrou after swearing-in I quickly decide that my skills could be best used in Morocco by helping as many artisans around the country versus the Peace Corps’s simplistic view of working with just one artisan in my site. Upon meeting my “counterparts” and seeing that they had been the benefit of multiple PCVs over the last decade and well advanced in their business, I became very comfortable with the path I had chosen. Also at this time we began to learn that the Small Business Development Program was being terminated in Morocco which further feed my need to branch out of the antiquated model that the Peace Corps employs in the SBD program.

Below is a list of completed tasks within my first year as a PCV:
(January-April) Worked Marketing/Advertising for the Marché Maroc Fés Craft Show, working within a three person marketing team we redesigned the logo and branding of the Marché Maroc name. Marché Maroc Fés craft fair was the most successful one to date and I would like to think that bringing a more professional look to the branding played a small part. The Marketing team had grand plans to take the Marché Maroc to a much higher level while preparing HCN to take over leadership roles within the structure of the Craft Fair. But with the demise of the SBD program in Morocco the timeframe to accomplish handing over the craft fair to HNC was impossible and became pointless.
(February-March) Created a business card for the Coopérative Ismoune in Tighassaline.
April-June) Created a business card for the Coopérative Andaz Nouska in Midelt, redrew the coopérative’s logo to supply them with a high resolution file to be use for future marketing material. Created a tri-fold, full-color brochure for Coopérative Andaz Nouska.
(May) Design a logo for the Coopérative Charouk in .
(March-April) Designed a new logo, business card, and labels for the argan oil Association Dchers-Commune Sidi dahmane in Taroudant.
(May-June) Designed a logo for Tigmi Bags a Coopérative in Tigmijjou.
(June-July) Redesigned a product brochure for the Coopérative Adwal in Rabet El Khira.
(September) Designed a new logo and business cards for Coopérative Toudart Iwsta in Midelt.
Additional activities James participated in:
Health: Created a medication form for illiterate patience, using icons along French and Arabic text. (The idea of a YD PCV)
(June) Created a product/sales tracking form for Marche Maroc, using icons and French. (Idea of two PCVs(SBD))
(February) Did some cartoons for a PCV for the handling and storage food around her village. Do not know the outcome of the illustrations.
(April and June) Drawing of city maps for both Marche Maroc cities (Fes and Essouria)
(June) Gave a presentation at IST along with a 2nd year PCV on Marketing and Design.
(Spring) One of the originators of the Marche Maroc Sustainability Committee, but soon decided to remove myself from this project. My reason for withdrawing from this committee was that I saw it as a complete dead end when upper levels of Peace Corps could not see the benefit and gave lackluster support for the sustainability of the Marche Maroc craft fairs.
(Summer) Working with English speakers in Sefrou to practice their language skills as there are very few English speakers in my city.
(February) Helped local artisan get a travel visa to America for her oldest son to accompany her to the Santa Fe Craft Fair.

Project/tasks started but not completed at this date:
I was asked my staff member to look over the ARM Art Resource Manual) that prior PCVs had created... to edit and re-layout the manual. I started this and got to a point where I was missing material and never had a chance to finish it.
(August -) Began creating a product catalog for Tigmi Bags a Coopérative in Tigmijjou, which could be the backbone of a website.
(October -) Started a product brochure for the Coopérative Toudart Iwsta in Midelt, but project has stalled due to artisan not supplying information.
(September -) Created a “beta” Wordpress website for the purpose of redesigning the current Wordpress website for the Coopérative Adwal in Rabet El Khira, but the holidays and lack of input form the coop has stalled this project.
The uncompleted project could still be completed by me from America if the PCV and I agree to continue or the PCV can complete the project themselves or with another PCV.
Not bad for a years worth of work... :) I removed the refernce to all the PCVs I worked in tandem on each project for this posting (to protect the innocent..haha). I have NO regrets about my joining the Peace Corps, my service in Maroc, or my decision to leaving early... life is too short to fret and too precious not to embrace every minute.

bslama Maroc.... hello America.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Something New... Something Old

Something New: Decided to travel to Fes today and pickup a few things... so a grand taxi is needed. Off I go to the grand taxi stand for Fes and low and behold there is an area with police like fences and everyone is waiting in an orderly line to ge into the next cab... OMG did the earth stop spinning, people here waiting in a line to get the next taxi instead of he circus shitshowI have witnessed for 15 months. And now for the kicker... people actually seemed to like the idea... WTF why wouldn't they there is order first come first served versus a free-for-all. I smiled and thought there is hope after all.
Something Old and Gets Old: Well once again I was in a full taxi and the woman next to me starts getting sick... throwing up into a plastic bag. Now I know people get sick, but this has to be the 4-5th time I have been in a taxi and this happens and of course almost every bus ride has at least 2 or 3 people getting sick. Not sure why I shared that but I did.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thats One Big Friggin Door...

Working on the door... still not complete but almost there, I will be putting my paints down for a few days as I address some pressing issues that need to resolve. I will get back to it and work on the shadows above the door and refine the reflections on the vehicle... so far I am very happy with this piece and looking forward to signing it. I have a few other doorways in Morocco to capture... inshallah I will create a series of a half dozen of so.

Thank for taking the time to look at my work... today is Sunday and that means I follow football at night here... no video just a scroll across my screen telling me who did what... of course we are talking football not soccer. I am in the fantasy football league here in Peace Corps Maroc and holding my own.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random Thoughts and Fears

Piles of Skins... Last night as I was getting ready to crawl under bzzf blankets I glanced out my window to see the piles of fresh sheep skins lining the sidewalk... fast forward to early this morning as I opened the windows to a beautiful "Paris" blue sky and low and behold all but a few of the skins were gone... where did they go in 7 hours? I can hear every sound that takes place outside my window and I did not here any commotion such as the lifting and hauling of a ton plus of sheep skins? Maybe the big bad wolf came by.
Sheep's Head and other delights... So I am hanging out at the local fire pit (think Pats tailgating) watching sheep heads and feet being cooked to a charcoal black... the heads freshly removed fom the body are carried in buckets or plastiic bags to the fire pit and tossed on the grill... eyes wide open and all. These young men covered in smoke make 15Dhs for each head and hooves... they were very busy. So as we wait for the head to be cooked to perfection I am discussion the possiblities of once again eating the head of this animal... so as the conversation lulls I say with a smirk on my face... "you know there is nothing better than a little"head" in the afternoon..." knowing full well that no one has any idea what I mean... and of course they all agree that head in the afternoon or evening for that matter is great. Sometimes I need those moments to keep me grounded... (yes I am bad)
Fear in the Turk... There is no other way to discribe the panic that runs through you when in a small turkish toilet you lose the grip on something and it begins to fall... TOWARD THE HOLE....NOOOOOOO!!! The panic starts the second it leaves your hand...you convulse trying to grab it and yet it is still traveling downward... as it hits the tile and spins and rolls always toward the hole of no return you starts playing goalie to keep it from the horror.... please Lord I do not want to have to fish this out of the hole. Sometimes it is just the cap to the deodorant... but sometimes it is more important such as your tooth brush. I keep a bottle in the hole as a plug when not in use for a number of reasons... from odor, if something lives in there to keep it in there, but mainly to stop the something from falling down it.
Movie time... Last night I watched a movie that I got from a friend, The Legend of the Fall with many great actors... as I was reading the subtitles about 20 minutes into the movie I realized that it was in French... why did it take me 20 minutes to make that connection. Have I been away from english for so long... or was I just so cold and tired that my brain stopped functioning... either way I watched the whole movie and enjoyed it.
Painting versus work... having a hard time getting motivated todo real work these days... I am painting which is great but I need to clear my head to get two projects back underway... inshallah.
That is it for today... day two of the holiday and I have an invite for more sheep.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bab Number II

As i have written it is cold in my home and getting colder... so to keep warm I will need to paint, for anyone who has ever watched me work a canvas I am in constant motion. I stand and walk and move back and forth looking at the work from all angles... this is a good method when the temperature in my home is under 55 degrees. The blood is moving and I am lost in the work... my fingers start off cold and almost numb but minutes into it I am unaware of the cold and my fingers are no longer stiff.

This is the underpainting for my latest in Moroccan door series... ok there is no series (yet) so this is my second door. Using Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue and a little white I thinned the paint with turps and a little Stand oil. The door is a well perserved and wooden and the tile roof above it is Morrocan green.

I will let this sit today and maybe start another piece if the mood strikes me. It is almost time to eat sheep.... as Homer Simpson might say "mmmmmm openface sheep sandwich....arggggggh."

Sheep Heads Soup...

Today is l'3id Kbir and there are sheep heads being cooked in the vacant field outside my window, but there is a different feel to the holiday here or at least on the surface. Back in TimHdite it was a carnival atmosphere with the killing of many sheep the game of the day... there was utter joy in the killing. Boujloud... people dancing and marching around wearing the just skinned sheep skins playing music and in general looking like a surreal version of a Disney parade.
Here in a larger city it is more subdued, like Easter morning very quiet and everything shutdown, with the few exceptions, such as the fore-mentioned grilling of sheepheads and the man with the grinding wheel sharpening knives.
For the last few days the sound of sheep being carted, dragged, herded around Sefrou has been the norm... do these animals know what time of year it is, can they sense that they are about to be slaughter in a very disturbing way. Held down and their necks slashed until they bleed out... it takes minutes and you can hear the poor animal gasp for each breathe as it shudders and just when you think it has finally sucummed to death... it has one last gasp of life... it is brutal... very brutal.
I understand the religious story and why sheep are killed and eaten... I just cant wrap my head around the way it is done... I do not see the respect for the animal... something has been lost from what I can see. But I am from a different cultural and I am sure there are many things that people here would find harsh or strange in my world. So I am about to embark once again into a week of nothing but eating sheep parts... most if not all of it... I hope this week goes by quickly.
Soon I will head out to eat with friend... I am clean and have my best clothes on (... well I dont really have nice clothes... so they are clean) I will bring a gift from the States that my Mom sent... baby clothes for the twins and get prepared to eat whatever is put before me... please no sheep head this year.
Mbruk l'3id...

A Hard Rain is Fallin... and Baby it Cold Inside... Again

After almost 9 months of no or very little rain the last week has been very New England like... forrid rain for days, temperatures in the 40-50's and a cold home... about to get colder. After a few days of heavy rains I also discovered that my kitchen ceiling leaks and spent one night catching water and mopping the floor. It took a little bit of time but I got the water to pool in one direction and into my wash tub... humdullah.
Now my home is not quite as cold as it was last year at this time in TimHdite but it is heading there... so far I am up to two heavy wool blankets, sleeping with my hat on again and during the day wearing a fleece, two shirts, coveralls and a hat indoors... when I go out I can remove the fleece..haha.
Time to breakout my small electric heater and crawl under the blankets and close my bedroom door and live in there once the sun sets. I guess the hardest part is that my fingers are aways cold and drawing and painting takes a little while to warm them up. It was my hope to be able to get through November without using the heater, but that is not happening... I can live with cold outside... it is insane to live that way indoors... last night I saw my breathe again in my house, that is never a good sign. The days of three cold bucket baths to cool off are done... now I may not bathe for days.