May 1--Last Wednesday was the swearing in of the Spring 2009 group of volunteers of the Health Group for Morocco. All 61 of us. Unfortunately my camera took the opportunity to suffer from dead batteries. I promise that I will correct this asap. Monday I travel to Azilal by Grand Taxi- not very grand and filled with at least 6 passengers-two passengers and driver in the front, sometimes 4-and 3/ 4 in the back. I can buy extra seats to insure a little more comfort. The price is 18 durhams, about 2 dollars I think. But we are supposed to live within our Peace Corps allowance which means like the local population and not in a grand style. In Azilal I can buy an adapter for Moroccan electric and get the charger going.
The ceremony was very serious with speeches given by David Little, Director of Peace Corps Morocco, and various other PC people, 3 volunteers who had best mastered their particular dialect, and finally by the acting ambassador. Then we took the oath to defend the Constitution; etc: etc. The was followed by a reception of tea and cookies. I wore the special outfit my host fimily had gifted me with, a black jalaba with embroidery down the front and on the sleeves revealing a lavendar lining. This was complimented with a white head scarf and black slippers covered with sequins. Very elegant. My friends have promised copies or emails of the photos.
Next day we all left by grand taxi, loaded with luggage, admist teary farewells for our new sites. I of course had minimal luggage and returned to my original site: One of the PCVs was going as far as Azilal and we traveled together: Joey was met there by Jeff a current PCV, who guided me to the taxi to take to the souk. The souk is the big market held once a week. Finally there were enough travelers to fill the seats and I arrived to what seems like home at 4:45 after leaving at 10 for what is a 3 hour trip as the crow flies. Wow.
I arrive home to learn there was an on-going festival of horse racing by mounted Arab chieftans in full costume. There was a total fair-like air to the whole place: More later getting kicked out:
(A few days later)--The festival has been on since Thursday and still going strong. A series of tents surround the perimeter of a large field which has been denuded of vegation. Inside the circle are vendors selling everything from soap to sandals, and hundreds of people colorfully dressed in jalabas, caftans, jeans, and jackets marked with names of famous designers, and horses, horses everywhere. The horses are decked in regal saddles that look like fancy padded thrones, and draped with bright tassles. The people come by bus and van-with people hanging from the back and piled on the roofs-grand taxi, and car. It's the gathering place where everyboy greets everybody with s-salamu alayeakum, multiple kisses -man to man and woman to woman-opposite sexes shake hands. The babble of greetings fills the air as well as the deafening loud-speakered music, a monotomos beat led by drums, three tamborines, and a type of fiddle. My host family and I were there from five to closing at eleven. The afternoon had been really hot, but after sunset it was COLD. I woke up this morning with a stiff neck from fighting off the chill. The horse races continued with a galloping herd charging with shot-loaded rifles raised overhead and fired simultaneously as they reached the end of the enclosure. The whole event is carefully monitored by a host of uniformed guards. I was surprised at the orderly crowd. At one time the speaker system went out for about twenty minutes while the technician worked on it. They crowd waited patiently for the repair. In the US we would have had a riot. Love to all. Muriel in Morocco