Friday, March 20, 2009

6 month mark

I realize it has been a while since I've posted. I apologize for this. I credit my absence here to being busy. More importantly perhaps I'm feeling scattered. I haven't had a neat and tidy event or thought to write to you, and I dislike a scattered incoherent blog-post. But how about a work update?

February brought me travels to a nearby city with 5 women from my town that I nominated to attend the "Women's Empowerment Conference." I think the event passed well, and although I got mixed feedback from the women (I tried to bring a diverse group with differing backgrounds and agendas) I think in the end it had a powerful impact on them. One came back and really took charge of the "Internation Women's Day" event in our city and another took charge in getting another women's association together.

A related travel story: When returning from the conference I was loaded into a bus packed with other women coming form the conference and going threw our town before they went on to connecting transportation to their towns. At the last minute we were loaded with even more women from the conference to the point that they had to bring in chairs for some people to sit in the aisle. This is not an uncommon practice in a "stuffit" (this is what they are referred to by Moroccans), but it is illegal and uncomfortable, and unsafe. At one point we almost hit a truck in front of us that stopped suddenly without signaling, we swerved out of the way in time. A while later down the road we were pulled over by the local authorities who had a complaint with our stuffed "stuffit". An argument ensued and at one point some of the women on the bus suggested I talk with the authorities and say that we were all returning from the same conference and that I was with an American organization, Peace Corps, etc. I was not interested in divulging any of this information--nor in having Peace Corps endorse unsafe travel practices which I had no part in. I asked why I should tell them this and since no one had a good answer and the fine looked like it was payed, we were once again on our way. We passed another city with authorities on the road, but we were warned ahead of time and closed all the curtains. No stopping us this time. We finally made it back close to sunset and I was extremely glad to get out of there.

I've since been busy running from one organization to the next. I've continued teaching English, although I'd rather start phasing it out. Attendance is very mixed and only a few students seem to come every week, the others randomly making it difficult to have a lesson building on the last. I will start teaching other handicrafts like jewelry making, as an interest and expectation exists. Supplies are always an issue for these projects and I'm trying to find the most sustainable avenues. I'm also trying to facilitate a grant that a previous volunteer helped bring to a wood cooperative right before he left.

Alright, there is my work update. I will try to be a little more regular with blog-updates too. I shoot for once a week or at least every-other week. Please check my flicker account (photos to the upper-right) which I seem to update more frequently. Pictures say more words than I do!


Loda said...

Oh my, Lisa! That bus scene sounds just like a scene out of Jewel of the Nile!!! Crazy!!! Are there a bunch of giant wicker baskets in the market place that you can hide from Nazis in, too?

gold-dragontsu said...

That stuffit situation sounds like it was quite uncomfortable, physically, safety-wise, and because of the "name-drop" thing (or affiliation-drop thing, I suppose)... It sounds like you handled it well, though.

Going to a language class half-heartedly seems like it would be similar to going to Calculus class every other week. It's hard enough when you attend every day. :}

I haven't tried posting recently, so hopefully this goes through. If not, I'll send some telepathic messages of good wishes instead. ;)

~Gold Dragon

Lisa said...

Loda- Yes actually, there are giant wicker baskets in the souq (market place) that I can hide from Nazis...fortunately we are short on Nazis, but the baskets are there just in case.

Gold Dragon- I only handled it by not handling it, I'm still frustrated by the whole thing. Drivers continue to abuse the passenger limits and they continue to pay small amounts to the authorities (not sure if they are fines or bribes, or both) but it doesn't stop them from putting people's lives in danger. Particularly on the winding mountain roads this is insane! Traffic accidents are the #1 killer in Morocco by a long shot.
I wish I could have spoken up against this system but I didn't, and even if I did I'm not sure if it would have done anything. At least I didn't allow PC to "endorse" it.

gold-dragontsu said...

*nods* It sounds like a bit of a tricky situation. In the U.S., if we were to observe something illegal, the normal reaction would be to report it to the police. However, if the authorities are being bribed or otherwise not taking any action to eliminate the safety risk, it sounds like that option isn't available...

This isn't even considering the advisability of potentially stirring up the waters, so to speak... Even if people's lives might be endangered, I guess I'm not necessarily courageous enough to speak up about it in a foreign environment... If I were one of the people crammed into the aisle, it might be different.

Perhaps another idea would be to address it with the people involved (i.e. the "stuffites", to coin a term ;). I guess the problem with this suggestion is that it might not be a simple matter of waiting around for another bus. If placed in a similar situation where the options were to stay in a strange place overnight or ride using an unsafe mode of transportation, I'd really have to think about it.

Ultimately, I suppose it's the responsibility of a number of groups of people. The authorities shouldn't stand for administering a slap-on-the-wrist judgement. The transportation industry should become more interested in safety than earning a few extra bucks from excess passengers. The people should develop an awareness of the dangers and consider the risks more seriously. Perhaps if two of those three groups committed to change, that would be enough, but I don't know the culture at all to recognize if that's feasible or not.

~Gold Dragon