Thanksgiving, PCV style
|Adam prepping tomatoes for stuffing|
I was in a tiny village east of Rich last week, celebrating Thanksgiving with nine other PCVs.
I got there on Wednesday after a 12-hour trip from Rabat that included a 2-hour train ride, then a series of grand taxi rides for the remainder of the trip (about 400 km). Grand taxis are my least favorite form of mass transport here. All the grand taxis are either 5-passenger Mercedes or Peugeot station wagons. They never leave until they're “full,” that is, have six paying customers. So it's 7 people in a 5-passenger vehicle. Sometimes they'll stop and pick up yet another person. And they seldom count children as passengers. It can be a real ordeal, but often it's the only choice, so you just make the best of it. It was near dusk when I arrived in Rich and met up with a couple of other PCVs. We spent the last hour and a half in a tiny Peugeot van that seats comfortably four. We had ten. That's Peace Corps in Morocco.
For our Thanksgiving dinner, we had a real feast: the chicken type of turkey, my cauliflower-cheese pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, collard greens, a potato-eggplant casserole, stuffed tomatoes, cranberry-quince sauce, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and brownies. After dinner we played Celebrity, a charades-like party game, till almost midnight, then talked until nearly two. The next day, we took a 3-hour hike up into the mountains.
And on Saturday, we all headed home. Only an 8 and a half hour trip for me this time, including my 45 minute walk home after I got to Kalaa. Most of it was by transit and grand taxi, too, though my friends Zoe &Adam were with me, so we always bought out the back seat (4 places for the 3 of us), which made it almost like luxury travel!
|The two Graces and Zoe in "old|
lady" shawls typical of Grace's site
|Off to climb a mountain|
A couple days after I got home, I was surprised to find kids going from door to door, chanting and asking for treats– or money. They were dressed in robes and a few had masks on. It reminded me a little of Halloween. At dinner that night, I mentioned it to my host family. Yes, they said, it was tshura. - known as Ashura to Jews and Arabic speaking Muslims – which commemorates Moses' deliverance from the Egyptians, and which falls on the 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim (lunar) calendar. I was surprised because I didn't recall it happening last year.
I was even more surprised when all the women in the room asked me for money. “But you're not children!” I said. They laughed. “Oh, women go around, too!” “You're kidding,” I said. No, they said, still holding out their hands. I gave them each a dirham (about 12 and a half cents), which is what I'd given the kids. “Cheapskate,” they called me. It was all good-natured, but for me it was one of those jarring cultural moments. Not that the kids went door to door, but that women did too. It was a reminder of the role of women here in the bled (countryside), their lack of autonomy and control of money, that they were, in effect, on a par with children in relation to the man of the house.
Christmas is Coming
The fame of my cookie cutters has spread. Adam and Zoe ordered several sets, but with Moroccan themes – a camel, a tagine, a palm tree, a kasbah, and a Moroccan flag. The orders now number eight sets. My host brother Mohammed (a very fine dagger-maker) delivered them the other day. These designs were a little trickier than the traditional ones I had him make for me last year, so Fatima, a host sister, and I baked a test batch of cookies to try them out. And it's a good thing we did, because there were a few minor difficulties with them, which led me to modify the design a bit. But that didn't affect the taste of the cookies. They were gone in two days. All in the name of product development!
I went away for Christmas last year, but this year I'm planning to have Christmas at my house. I'll have a celebration for my host family on the 23rd, insha'allah, then on the 24th some of my PCV friends will arrive and we'll spend a few days of cooking, eating, and conviviality. I have a good-sized oven (rare in Morocco), so we're even going to try to roast a turkey! I'll send pictures.