Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to milk a difficult cow, and other life lessons

A lot has happened since the last update so I'll try to catch up...

We just got back from our third CBT (Community-Based Training). It has its ups and downs. One the one hand, 8 hours of language classes a day is really draining. Living with a host family is its own stress - I can only bathe once a week, I don't understand anything they say to me, and even when I do understand them its usually really personal questions I don't want to anwser! On the other hand, my village is quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth. The Festival of the Roses is approaching and the roses are in full bloom all over the valley, in the fields and on the cliff overlooking the river. I haven't had a chance to take my camera out to the fields yet, but I will get some photos next time, inshallah.

The photos below are of my village from a rooftop (sorry about the poor quality, better ones to come!), my bedroom at my host family's house, and my CBT group of trainees cooking lunch.

The women in my host family have slowly been letting me help them out with their daily work. I went to the fields and picked roses to sell, collected figs for dinner, learned how to make couscous from scratch, and carried the huge bag of feed from the fields strapped to my back as the Berber women do. I also helped wrestle a cow. Yeah, you heard me. Apparently cows really don't like to be milked the first time! The process is as follows: tie cow's head to ground, hold by horns. Meanwhile, two women tie a rope around one of the cow's hind legs and hold it tight. A fourth woman holds the baby calf and a fifth proceeds to try to milk it. Optional: have 3 other women stand around and yell at the cow for not cooperating! I left before this spectacle was over, but the next night our family had agho with dinner - a sour homemade yogurt from fresh cow's milk - so I guess it was successful!

Television is a central part of every household. Every house in Morocco - even mud huts without running water - has a TV and a satellite dish! Every night I sit with my family and watch Mexican telenovellas dubbed in Arabic (which no one in my house understands). What I found a little odd was that the only thing considered inappropriate on television is embraces between men and women. Graphic violence or drug use? No problem. Husband and wife kissing? Channel change!

Another part of our experience has been dealing with tourists. Tourism provides a lot of income for my village and all of Morocco, but tourists themselves are often really obnoxious. For example, I frequently see Europeans walking around in little more than a bathing suit - in a country where women DO NOT show their arms or legs. One woman and her husband stripped down in the river in our village in front of some local women, and then proceeded to take pictures (without asking) of the women doing their washing. Most of this stuff you wouldn't even do at home in Europe, so why would you do it here?!! I can only attribute that level of insensetivity to a kind of "zoo" mentality, as though the people who live here are mere attractions to be photographed.

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