This last week was spent back in my old training grounds, Ain Leuh. I spent my first three months in Morocco there, nestled in the mountains. Once again Ramadan is approaching and it felt almost as if I never left when the taxi pulled up and I took the long, steep staircase up to the PCV’s house.
My second stay in Ain Leuh had its ups and downs. I came to help out with an Environment Camp. My main role was in helping with a mural to be painted on one of the long walls just below the park (which was also to be cleaned as part of the camp). Originally I had planned to do some other art-recycling projects with the kids, but this didn’t work out (and considering the activities I had been thinking of were for a younger audience than our 16-18 year old campers, I’m glad I didn’t). The mural itself was pretty successful. We had two other PCV artists, Jon and Emily, as well as several other volunteers making sure of its success.
We wanted the campers whose town we were in to have a big role in seeing the mural go up. One young artist drew up an environment-themed picture that we translated onto the long wall. We had some good hands in there making sure the mural was painted carefully, but my favorite helpers were the younger kids that came up looking for a way to get in on the action. I think the youngest were even more careful with the paint than the oldest.
Collectively I think the PCVs felt disappointed in the way the camp was run. It was clear that not all the money was being used the way it should have been. Also, there was a lack of adult supervision and group activities beyond the morning work (mural painting and park-cleaning). This lead to too much free time and too many opportunities to get into trouble. It was made clear to us just before the camp started that we were not to overstep our bounds in taking control of the camp. In the end, we decided to not become further involved than the project we had already started with the mural.
It is frustrating feeling helpless in this situation. What more could we have done? Things like corruption are not easy to tackle, but it is hard to sit by and watch. A lot of people seem to accept it as just the way things are.
By comparison the Spring English Camp I was involved in worked so much better.
The flip side of my camp experience was the time I got to bond with the PCVs who came out to help with the camp. It was the longest I have stayed over at a PCVs house, and we all got along very well. It was fun to share good food and conversation, games…and most importantly, berry picking.
By serendipitous timing, we arrived for camp just as the wild blackberries were ripening along the roads. For this berry-starved PCV this was nearly miraculous! The berries ripened fast enough that we could go out daily and collect more berries. In the morning before camp I would grab my berry-picking stick and any other eager volunteers and went out to gather. The hunt is exciting. I’ve never lived in a place with blackberries or their cousins so I haven’t had the experience of fighting prickly thorns and precarious ditches to nab the juiciest berries.
With them we made pancake/French toast syrup, Blackberry custard pie, and jam to take home. It is exciting to eat in season, like an unexpected gift. The season is so brief though, and limited to the cooler, wetter mountains, that it was hard to go back to my berry-free site.
Next year I’ll be ready.
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