If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

October 8, 2007

CBT Or Bust!

Since my last entry from the cozy confines of the our hotel in lovely Ouarzazate region, we have completed our first phase of CBT (Community Based Training) where we lived with our first host families and began to learn our new language of Tashlheet. Life has certainly been full of pleasant surprises: I can honestly say that my host family is lovely, their house is truly comfortable and offers the most picturesque view of the kasbah and river bed in the whole town, and the weather is quickly improving (there is even some snow at the very tops of the highest mountains!).

My group of six was lucky enough to be stationed in a small town in the Ouarzazate region which is world famous for it’s well preserved UNESCO-protected kasbah. The town centers around the kasbah and the huge numbers of tourists it attracts each year, and each one of our host families earns a living from this steady source of income. Some of the host families own auberges, others earn a living as tour guides, some are artisans and bazaar owners that sell Moroccan wares, and families such as mine own tahanuts (shops) where visitors can stock up on candy, soda, and post cards.

Each day our group heads to school from 9am to around 4 or 5pm, during which time we are lead in language lessons by our LCF (Language and Cultural Facilitator) Amina and we work on the projects that we must complete for our training. During the first phase of our training our groups were charged with meeting the artisans in our villages, conducting interviews and collecting data on said artisans, and putting together a report to present once back with the whole group in Ouarzazate.

We initially established a relationship with a gentleman named Mohamed who is a potter, woodworker, and stone carver (to name a few). His shop inside the confines of the kasbah is a mix of Moroccan buy/sell items that he purchases in Marrakech, and a collection of the clay kasbah models, wooden antique locks and stone items such as trivets that he makes himself. Mohamed has been unbelievably patient with us, especially since it’s Ramadan and we have kept him busy with lots of questions for him that go on for a very long time every time we show up! I feel especially comfortable with him because he reminds me of my own grandfather with regards to his concerns about his village; he’s very involved in the community (put out trashcans in and around the kasbah!), volunteers his time to wire the electricity for village weddings and parties, and is very concerned with creating a training space for the youth of the village to learn the traditional craft and artisan skills of their ancestors that are in peril of being lost completely.

About halfway through our stay we were asked to talk to the weavers of the village as well. It was really exciting to conduct these interviews because the weavers are women and they spend the vast majority of their time inside their homes, so in order for us to talk to them we had to go their houses. All of the women were incredibly welcoming (as are all Moroccans - they’re famous for it) and accommodating, and they answered all of our questions without reservation. We also got to see some one of the women demonstrate weaving a rug -- her fingers moved so fast it was hard to keep up.

What we found so far is that the needs of this town vary significantly from those of the other sites that our fellow trainees are exploring. Our village has such a steady influx of tourists all year (even in the “off season” there are busloads of them trekking through the village each day) that they are not in dire need of a new source of income. The other unique element is that whereas in many other towns the women’s work does not directly contribute to the financial gains of the family, in our village many of the women work with the men to upkeep the auberges and entertain the tourists, and therefore they do not have the time to create enough woven goods to depend on as income.

In the next phase of our training we’ll most likely be working with Mohamed to learn more about his business and how he develops his products. I’m particularly excited about going back to the kasbah, especially since it’s super lovely to hike up to the top and enjoy the wind and the amazing views.

In closing, I think it would be fun if you could email me any questions you have and I can post the questions and answers as my next blog entry. Hope everyone’s doing well!



My training group in front of our school.

A view of our classroom

The pathway down to the kasbah

A camel hamming it up for the camera

Mohamed’s shop in the kasbah

The group waiting for a taxi to go to souq (no produce in our town!)

View of the whole kasbah from the river bed down below

Climbing up the kasbah

Meg rockin’ the kasbah

Panoramic view of the village

Top of the kasbah

Cool Pic of valley below

Cool pic of the top of the kasbah

Descending the Kasbah (with a view of the dry river bed in the background)

Panoramic view plaza back at our training site (the colors are correct, I’ve never seen a sunset like it!)