Monday, January 31, 2011

But the World Needs Thneeds

So it seemed like no big deal. We were just going to Sale to plant some trees with the Boy Scouts. So we dress down for the occasion cause we're gonna get dirty. Real dirty. So things started to get weird when we were driving there caravan style and the police start to wave us through traffic.

It turns out we happened to be following the DCM. (If you, like me, don't speak Washingtonian Acronym.. DCM somehow stands for the person second in command to the US Ambassador.) When we pull in there are lots of Moroccans there to greet us. Lots of well dressed people who don't look anything like they came to plant trees. There's photographers, camera crews and refreshments. Wait, did we just win the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes or are we really here to plant trees? I'm glad I didn't wear my jeans with the hole in the butt...

Official tree planting involves lots of pictures, cutting things, talking and standing around before anything gets done. This is where Washingtonian Acronym meets Moroccan hospitality. This could take a while. So the DCM went off to attend to the official side of things. The Boy Scouts and what I'm thinking may be the Moroccan equivalent of Boy Scouts which I will refer to as the green vests (for obvious reasons) took pictures and well...didn't really know quite what to do with each other. While Americans are a bit stand-offish at first, Moroccans are very friendly people. Sometimes a little too friendly for American kids who adhere to the very western notion of personal space. There is a whole section of the Boy Scout handbook that talks about personal space very specifically. I know because I had to read and sign it. I'm pretty sure the boys earned a patch for "evading the touches of friendly strangers" badge. Or is that a pin?

So the DCM says a few words and so does the mayor of Sale. I wasn't in a vantage point to see any of this, but I'm assuming they cut something, like a ribbon. I just hope that ribbon didn't have any paper in it. Cause well, that would be bad eco-karma to harm trees while other trees are watching. Then the DCM has the honor of planting the first tree. No sooner did she pick up the shovel and like a shot the Americans organized, broke off into groups, distributed tools and sought off to find a tree to plant and dig in. We're American. This is simply what we're programmed to do.

We're short on tools, but the boys scoop the dirt with their hands, which is actually mud because of the rain. Boy Scouts do not need tools. As soon as one tree is planted we are on to the next. We must have been quite the spectacle because lots of townspeople were crowding around. And in our Once-ler-like productivity we didn't notice the absence of the green vests until we Americans were asked to stop planting trees. But the world needs thneeds. I mean trees of course. Apparently in our haste we didn't realize that we were supposed to have refreshments before planting. Which must be where the green vests were detained. Oh. Now I'm feeling like the Ugly American for not knowing the official tree planting protocol. But I have to make it to lunch with our Tunisian family leaving to go back to Tunisia the next day, then I have to make it to the grocery store so I have something to feed the kids at the sleepover we're having later...

So now we halt, or at least significantly slow down our tree planting machine to wait for the green vests. The thing is, the green vests don't have any tools. This may explain why we were invited to the tree planting in the first place. So the green vests arrive and we share our tools and finish planting together. It was a coca cola commercial moment. You know the old ones where people from all nationalities swayed in a circle and sang happy hippie songs about how much better the world would be if every consumer would just drink a coke. And we think how this was really way more of a cultural experience than any of us thought it would be. How we as Americans should slow down and savor the moment the way the rest of the world does. We thought about how much prettier the street would be with the trees. Until..

...we noticed the goats. And realized the goats are eating the trees! Forget the beautiful tree-lined streets. What will really line the streets is the poop of the goats after they have eaten all the leaves of those beautiful trees and defecated them all over town. But at least you know where to find some nice, healthy, well fed goats to feast on come next Eid. And I've heard you can entrap them fairly easily by surrounding them while swaying and singing the coke song.

Recommended reading: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Monday, January 24, 2011

Free to Be....Evacuees (That 70's Post)

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me
Where the children are free
Come with me take my hand and we'll live
In a land where the river runs free,
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be....evacuees.

That's how that song from the 70's went, right?

Let me recap the events of the last week and a half in Africa news. First, all the Peace Corps Volunteers in Niger were evacuated because of the kidnap and murder of two French citizens there which was claimed by al-Qaida. Within 24 hours, 98 volunteers left their villages, projects, friends and animals in Niger and were sent here to Rabat, Morocco. They all arrived here safe and got busy consoling each other (I've heard that's what the young kids call it nowadays.) It's over a week later and most volunteers have already returned home to the states to return to regular life or await reassignment within the Corps to another bug infested country. Believe it or not, there are people who couldn't get enough parasites, diarrhea, living in poverty and evacuating the first go round and want another turn to do it all over again. Or maybe it was the consoling.

Meanwhile in Tunisia, peaceful demonstrations about unemployment and corruption suddenly turned violent and tanks lined the streets, bullets flew, fires were set. And while the president of Tunisia fled to Saudi Arabia, there wasn't a mandatory evacuation of Americans. But, US embassy families were offered the option to be evacuated to, you guessed it, Rabat while things quieted down or until there was a more imminent threat and evacuations would be mandatory. Now those families who didn't mind the tanks, tear-gas and political upheaval were allowed to stay and some did. You know how when there is a category 5 hurricane and your Uncle Jed is determined to ride it out in his double wide trailer? We Americans do like to exercise our First Amendment right to tenacity. That is the first right, right? Now that I think about it, maybe Uncle Jed was on to something. Being evacuated, staying in a hotel room with your kids with no toys and no school for an undetermined amount of time? Violence does start at home after all.

The Moroccan Embassy started preparing for the Tunisian Evacuees. This is how I came to meet my evacuee, let's just call her Jennifer for anonymity's sake (and because she was born in the 70's, and there's an overwhelming possibility that her name actually is Jennifer.) The two best cruise directors at the embassy, Janice and Bobbie (yes, better than Julie McCoy and with much better hair) furiously planned activities and paired American families in Morocco with evacuee families. So Jenny (yes, we're on a nick-name basis now), has 3 kids that fit right in my kids ages. At first glance you would figure that's why they matched us up. But now I'm not so sure.

It didn't take long to discover that we're very much alike, cause Jenny and I are quick like that. We're both sarcastic and laid back. Our temperament is the same, we like the same kind of music, have the same sense of humor, the same ideas on raising our kids and for God's sake we're both Political Science majors. Really who else would major in something so completely and utterly useless? Oh my god, she's my freakin' twin! (Except that we aren't the same age or born in the same city or have the same mom or in anyway actually related....that I know of.) So I'm thinking the Embassy has secret files on us and devised an intricate plan for us to meet and discover that we really are the wonder twins. Wait would I take the form of water or would she? So maybe that's farfetched. But I figure it's either that or somebody at the embassy should change their career to matchmaker. And they could have a show and call it like The Dating Game or something like that and make a butt load of money.

For now, Jenny and kids are still here in Morocco awaiting word from the embassy on whether than can return to Tunisia or get sent back to the states. I'm going to miss them when they go, but maybe we can see each other now and again. I did just buy those tickets to go to Egypt (again) and yu know with all the turbulence there right now maybe we'll get evacuated Tunisia. (That is if they even let us into Egypt this time.) It could happen. Or Jenny and I could get some purple tights and save the world with our useless political science degrees. Which is probably more likely...

For more about Peace Corps Volunteers you can read my post Feed the World.
And for the skinny on why we were held captive in the Cairo airport you can peruse my post Cairo (uh-oh).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I love wine, especially red. Always red. I wish I was a wine aficionado knowing all the ins and outs of the whole process. But I'm way to lazy to look up and then retain all that information. Or is it that the wine drinking has killed those brain cells that would have safely stored and then later retrieved that information? I know what I like when I drink it, but only in the $10 and under range. So I guess in the whole wine spectrum I would be more wino than aficionado.

So when friends Agnes, Matthew, Nupur and Michael are going wine tasting I want in too. That is if winos are allowed of course. So we drive south of Rabat through breath taking twisty turny landscapes. Unfortunately, lingering too long on the breath taking in a car leads to barf letting or near barf letting. After an hour we're there, wherever there is. There aren't a whole lot of signs, but there are alot of grapes. Must be the place.

Our guide meets us and we start our tour at the vats. And remember I'm really not good with numbers or retaining information because I'm a wino. So suffice it to say the vats hold a hell of alot of wine at 11 degrees Celsius. (I only "remember" that cause I took a picture of the thermometer). Blah, blah, blah hectares of grapes. I have no clue how much a hectare is. My grandpa's first name was Hector though. Oh look glasses. He's getting glasses! We're starting at a nice big shiny vat and he turns the nozzle and out comes a white. Ok, I can choke down some white. It's made with a combination of the grapes that they grow on-site. And no of course I don't remember which ones. But wow, it's good even though it's a couple months from bottling and it's white. We all agree and this is the first wine of the day even. You know, the one you really actually taste with a clear palate and clear head. After that we head to the rose vat. Now in Hawaii this would be called happa wine. It's not red, it's not white. And I usually don't like happa wine. But, it's got hints of grapefruitiness, kinda like someone splashed some fresca in your glass. Holy crap I like it!

We head inside to sample the two reds. FINALLY! And they don't disappoint. Now during this whole tour Agnes and Mr. tour guide have developed this repertoire. Now first of all, this was bound to happen. After all Agnes is French. And it's pronounced On-yes in French. She's worldly, intelligent, vivacious and sexy. Now Agnes and I are both Sagittariuses. Oh no we're not, now we're Ophiuchuses. Now that just sounds dirty and wrong. You would think that we would have alot of similarities, but you see, she is quite refined and elegant and I'm a granola crunching wino. Ok, I am part French, but the only the parts that rarely wear deodorant anymore, don't get washed everyday anymore and legs that don't get shaved for far too long at a time anymore. I think I just confirmed my own granola-ness. Cheers! Wine bong anyone?

So we head to the warehouse to see the barrels. But the electricity is out, so it we can't get in. Oh, yes that's right. We're still in Morocco. And this is how things are in Morocco. The power outage is indefinite and so our tour is at an end. Agnes asks if we can have a picnic on their lawn before we leave. And who can say no to a sexy French woman? Right. No one. So we set up camp, and they bring us two bottles of wine gratis to accompany our lunch. And what's another glass of wine? We finish and get ready to leave when Mr. tour guy informs us that the power is back on. So the tour is back on.

Now the owner is back at the vineyard, so he accompanies us and uncorks the barrels for us to taste. And one doesn't want to disappoint by refusing, especially when he's joining us. Who am I to deny his generosity? It would be rude. He leads us on through to bottling and packaging. We need to leave the winery to get home, but it seems that one can't leave. At least not without having one more, just one more glass of wine at the owner's insistence. And if you give a wino some wine, she's gonna need some cheese and crackers to go with it....

So we head to the wine tasting room where there is indeed more wine and yes, cheese and crackers and more chit chat. At this point it seems impossible that we'll ever leave the winery. And really why would we want to? Wait, why do we have to leave? Oh, cause we have kids to return home to. Wait, we have kids? I guess they can wait just 2 minutes more while I nibble, sip and chat a bit longer. I swear we were all trying to leave though!

Ok, we've really got to go now. But the the owner tells Agnes they have just one more thing to show us. And to pull the car up to the warehouse. They pile in about 15 bottles of wine. I'm not sure that they gave it to us, so much as Agnes. But she was nice enough to share, so it didn't matter. So the moral of the story: Do not go wine tasting without a sexy French woman. And no, you can not have Agnes. She's our sexy French lady. Go get your own!

Friday, January 14, 2011

One Grain of Rice

One day at pilates we start talking about food. Ok that's actually everyday, everywhere in Morocco. When you don't live on your home turf you quite often lament those comfort foods you grew up with, but can't get in here in Morocco. We also toss around new food discoveries too, but somehow the lamenting always comes out the winner. So Sara, fitness guru extraordinaire and always one to look at things in a positive light, starts talking about the grain market here in town. If you live in the developed world and can go get any grain you want at any store you want practically 24 hours a day, this may not sound particularly exciting to you. But if you live in Rabat and are down to that one grain of brown rice because it's so expensive to buy at the supermarket, the possibility of multiplying your supply inexpensively is exhilarating. So grain market? Did someone say field trip?

Now I like healthy food. I really do. But Sara takes it to a whole other level. Like Sara's face lights up when she talks about making her own ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise from scratch and home brewing this mystery potion called kombucha. Drinking something that's fermented from whey that has sat in a warm room for days with a mysterious name just sounds scary like a chemistry experiment gone awry. Ok, so not only is Sara bubbly, fit, smart, beautiful, with all her do it yourself nutrition power she's probably got the most pristinely scrubbed sparkly insides known to man. If I didn't love her I would probably have to hate her. But, I think that's chemically if not karmacally impossible.

So we arrive at the grain market where there is more rice, couscous, millet, oats, corn, rye, bulgar (and other grains I wasn't savvy enough to know what the hell they were) than I have ever seen in one place. Yes, even bigger than the Marjane couscous aisle. Vendors have their own stalls to display their grains in what is the most overwhelming grain experience, as if I've had so many grain experiences in my life. The question is how do I get in touch with what my grain needs really are? The women working in the grain market are acutely in touch with their grain needs. They are sitting on the ground criss-cross applesauce sorting the grains by hand. I never thought about how my grains were sorted or by whom before or that they even needed sorting. Sara did astutely notice that the grain women had the most immaculate posture. And they do. Why do I see a "grain-sorting" exercise in my near future?

I must buy something, anything from the GWIPs (Grain Women with Immaculate Posture), especially brown rice. However to get to the GWIPs one must bargain with the MWIGS (Males With Impressive Grain Supplies). There are so many vendors to choose from and so many grains to choose. And Sara is in a moral dilemma because she's bought from two different vendors before and they both remember her and welcome her like she's their long lost cousin from the states that they haven't seen in 20 years. They are suave and know exactly what they are doing.

Me however, I'm a free agent with no loyalties to any one grain guy. So I choose the guy with the biggest supply. I'm ordering up some chick pea flour, hand rolled whole wheat couscous, dates, dried pineapple and brown rice (which is at least 40d cheaper than buying it at Marjane). Now why would brown rice be more expensive than white rice anyway because it's actually more work to make brown rice white? Once I'm done pondering the riceness of it all, I whip out my hygienic glass bottles for him to fill with olive oil. He takes out what looks like the dustiest dirtiest looking plastic water bottle that has the fresh pressed oil in it. I don't know why shopping in supermarkets strips our consciousness of the fact that our food actually comes from somewhere, other people touch it, and that even in the states the FDA has an acceptable number of bug parts and rat droppings that your ketchup (and every other food item) can have. Life is filled with dirt, gangly fly legs and rat poo. And with that said, I may start making my own ketchup too. I'm sure Sara will give me a tutorial with perfect posture even.

After I made my purchase (and ketchup epiphany) Sara heads back to her #1 grain guy to give him a little action. And he knows how to treat a woman. He's got the olive oil out with a fresh frisbee of Moroccan bread and he insists we indulge. He's got us post kick-ass workout and it's lunch time so we're totally gorging ourselves until we're drunk on carbs. Then we notice the pot simmering at our feet. Grain guy helps another customer and we lift the lid and peek inside. It's the men's lunch. I wonder who made the lunch. But then I do know that they know how to treat a woman, so I already know the answer. The real question is how many bug parts are in it and which ones? Sara settles up her bill for her grains and we bid the market adeiu.

So I've got all this chickpea flour. Now what the hell am I going to do with it? Zucchini chickpea pancakes anyone? Yeah, my kids thought the same thing. They would have rather calculated the rat poo/chickpea flour ratio than eat it. Hey, at least we have next years science fair project figured out. Either that or the kids could calculate how many grains of rice you would have if you started with one grain and doubled it everyday for 30 days. I think that might be plagarism though.

Recommended reading: One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi (My kids favorite book when they were small and even now that they're not so small.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Serial Killer

I'm a serial killer. I can't help myself. I've tried to stop. Yet whenever the opportunity presents itself I'm there with my trowel and hoe. No plant is safe in my path. I must confess that I've also unintentionally murdered the 1st grade tadpoles and roasted our guinea pig in the sun last year when I accidentally left him outside while I cleaned his cage. I'm pretty sure that was karma though because that guinea pig was evil. Not that that justifies anything. I feel horrible guilt and remorse. So why oh why would I devise a plot (complete with trowel and hoe) to kill again?

Romaine, spinach and arugula are reasons 1, 2 and 3. Oh you can get lettuce here. You have the choice of affordable wilty, dirt caked, bug laden lettuce or the perfect romaine at the souk with the guy who totally rips you off. And trust me I've totally let souk guy use me and paid him handsomely to do it. When a girl needs a romaine fix she needs a romaine fix ok? My break-up with the romaine pimp is long overdue. I've always wanted a garden, but knowing my penchant for plant slaughter and living in arid, garden-scarfing wildlife filled Colorado adds more than a few challenging elements. So I figure it's better to attempt this whole garden thing out in sunny, balmy, moist Rabat where the odds are stacked more in our favor. And with our heavily secured gated yard the garden's only predator is a turtle named Mary (because of the Great Immaculate Turtle Conception of 2010). But the plants sill have to survive the 4 kids and me, garden enemy #1. This has got to be the most perilous adventure we have attempted. Maybe not for us, but definitely for the seeds that we sow...

My parents always had a garden while I was growing up. We composted on it all fall and winter. I have vivid memories of the enourmous compost bucket in the mud room and how I would choke back the vomit from the pungent, putrid rotting organicness inside and then treking it out in the freezing cold to dump it on the garden. I only composed because well, you knew you'd be in trouble if that apple core made it's way into the trash and you got busted and had to endure the lecture of how you were throwing away perfectly good garden marinade. And then come spring I would help turn the soil and prepare it for the growing season. Not because I really cared about the garden, but because I could find some really fat juicy worms and I could collect them. (Obviously we didn't have cable, video games or the internet back then.) The process after my worm farm was a blur to me as I wasn't very interested in how that swiss chard got from the garden to my plate cause I would prefer it not make it there in the first place. I'm sure you can guess the fate of my treasured worm collection when I completely forgot about it and went to play catch with one of my brothers instead. Wormslaughter by neglect.

The time has come to fill the hole in our yard that used to be occupied by a fish pond. I know that sounds quaint, but trust me these were high maintenance fish and they blighted the yard so they were relocated to a nice little pond in the country. You thought I was going to kill them didn't you? Come to think of it, I never did check to see if they actually swam away after we abruptly dumped them into their new home. With the fish gone, we filled in the big gaping landfill with hedge clippings and got some soil and started to compost on it. Jade has taken over the role of compost nazi. Forget about your parents finding that banana peel in the trash, if your kid does and berates you for it, it actually feels a whole lot worse. Trust me. I have been caught trying to pour the last cup of leftover coffee down the drain. And a nine year old can really lay on the environmental guilt like no one else. Ok. I'm sorry. It won't happen again Jade. In the future I will save it for the garden. Can you send me to my room so I can read a book now? Please? Damn, I tried.

All the kids bring their special talents to the garden. Jade is of course President, VP, EPA inspector of the garden and it's cheering section. Ember is officially in charge of anything that needs stomping, raking, hoeing and impaling. So basically, she is the Demolition Team. We are glad for her to have an outlet that diverts her destruction from her siblings, at least temporarily. The boys are in for any heavy lifting, getting dirty duty and if the treasury would only allow them an earth mover, crane, plow, harvester or anything mechanical. Craig and I of course are the treasurers. And since we are the treasury we have denied repeated requests to purchase a jethro tull (and no not the fluted back ground music kind, although that might not be a bad idea.), the boys interest in Family Gardening 101 is waning.

We've ordered our seeds. I know that sounds simple, but when you live overseas and try to get organic seeds (or anything else for that matter) sent to you here it's like an act of god. It usually takes a day and several phone conversations with a customer service representative (in India). And once you get that confirmation order number you put it in your safe and guard it with your life because that right there is a binding legal document that yes indeed _____________(fill in the blank) will arrive anywhere between 3 months and 3 years time. Now send me my freaking organic seeds already! My soil contains at least 11 essential vitamins and minerals and a handful of parasites, I've got two team members who are about to abandon the project, the EPA inspector is breathing down my neck, Ember the destoyer is running out of garden to desecrate and mutha Mary the immaculate conceiving turtle may have even more mouths to feed by the time it's sprouting! That is if I don't kill it first...

Recommended reading:

Green Barbarians by Ellen Sandbeck (Especially good for those living in Africa as it covers why having intestital parasites is good for you.)

Sh*t my Dad Says by Justin Halpern (Because it's funny as sh*t and reminds me a bit of my dad. Love you pop!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Other Man

As some of my closest friends know, I have another man in my life. I see him a couple times a week. Jade met him a few weeks ago and told me how cute he is. It's true. He doesn't speak English and I don't speak Arabic or French. But it doesn't matter. We speak the language of love.

You see Barack (yes, that's his name) is my favorite parking guy. Now if you don't live in Morocco you may think it's weird to have a favorite parking guy. But if you live in Morocco, you have already pictured your own favorite parking guy in your head and probably got the comforting smell of exhaust fumes accompanied by the urgent need to scrounge up some coins to tip him.

My guy works the parking lot of my favorite grocery store. I don't want to even tell you which one. Because, I admit it, I'm jealous and I don't want to share him. Oh I know he has other clients, but I like to think that I'm his favorite. I think this not because I have an overinflated ego, but because I over tip him. This is why I'm pretty damn sure he'll forsake all others for me. At least in my presence.

The first time I met him, he spotted me coming out of the store struggling to push my crappy Moroccan grocery cart and proceeded to gently take it and push it to my car. How's that for chivalry? How did he know which car was mine you ask? Well, first, I drive a minivan which only foreigners drive here. Second, it has a yellow diplomatic license plate which clearly identifies me as an American. And, third she’s battered and has thus earned the name Battlecar Gallactica and the instant recognition that goes with it.

Apparently objects REALLY are alot closer than they appear in the mirror.

Barack loads up my car and I figure that's more than the standard rate of 2 dirhams (the equivalent of less than 20 cents USD) worth of work so, I give him 10 dirham. So needless to say a love affair was born. I always look for him in that cramped little parking lot and he always looks for my 10 dirham. I mean me. Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving through a street in Agdal that I rarely go down back by the French school. And I saw her, in her car, acting all meek, like she didn't know if she could back up more or not. And there he was. Barack. Working another street in a different part of town and directing her in her Citroen. Yeah, it's all sporty, new and unblemished. That bitch! Oh god, I bet she just got it washed that day to make it all nice and shiny for him too.

I didn't go see him for nearly two weeks after that. Ok, so I was out of town for most of that. But, still, no matter. I'm sure he felt my distant rage. And forgoing that $1.50 (depending on the exhange rate) that I give him a week probably really hurt. He's learned his lesson. I could totally see the remorse in his eyes when he loaded up my groceries this morning. Right before I caught him oogling that beautiful Mercedes I was parked next to.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feed the World

I love to cook healthy meals. I love to try new foods. And I love to eat. Although I love all these things there's one problem. My kids don't always share my enthusiasm. Somehow eggplant, lentils, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, salmon, quinoa and goat cheese just don't excite them the way it does me. And because I'm stubborn or just have a really long learning curve or am an incredible dumbass or all of the above, this does not deter my efforts. I have this fantasy if I just serve it the right way one day they are going to have the epiphany...."oh my god I can't get enough arugula. Thanks mom!" I know that day is never going to come, while I'm alive anyway. But, wouldn't it be great to serve these meals to someone who truly appreciates them....while I am alive? And where oh where would I find that person?


When we first moved to Morocco we had all these crazy delusional ideas of how much inter African travel we were going to do as a family to get the varied spectrum of African life. One of my many, many problems is that I am an idea person and I get really excited about things without researching first. Duh. This plan was totally flawed from the get go. First of all, travel within Africa is ridiculously expensive. Times that by 6. So take a trip to Ghana or send a kid to college? To the more remote African countries there is often only a flight once a week. Bye bye Togo. Then there will be some kind of crazy connection in Dubai or in Europe somewhere that's totally out of the way and will double or triple the travel time. Have you spent 40 hours stuck in an airport with 4 kids? If that isn't enough, these flights are usually at 2am in the morning because that's when the aircraft is available. My family does have a problem getting up to alarm clock set for the middle of the night and making it to the airport. Then that one kid doesn't go to college AND we don't go to Ghana. That's not to say that we won't get to some of these places, just not as many as I originally fantasized...

The Peace Corps has almost 300 volunteers in Morocco. Not only that, Peace Corps Volunteers travel from 14 different West African countries to come to Rabat for health care that they can't get in their host country. Some of these are medical things are serious, but a lot are less dire like getting your wisdom teeth out or an abnormal pap. I can't imagine how fun it's gotta be to get from your site to the nearest airport which is a trek in and of itself taking hours or days to get there. And then fly for hours and hours to know that you're coming to get another pap. Remind me to be thankful that I get to skip the 40 hour pre-exam anticipation and unvagina friendly camel ride and just get right down to it next time I go to the gyno.

Now these volunteers have been living on their own in a village, speaking the local language (whatever it may be), eating the local foods, freezing (if they are up in the mountains of Morocco in winter) or scorching if they live near the equator and getting their bearings in a country where they are the foreigner and everyone knows it. And oh yeah, they only get a small stipend just enough to live in poverty like the rest of the villagers. If you've never considered volunteering for the Peace Corps I'm sure you are now. Oh yeah, alot of them don't have hot water forget that long relaxing shower to let the stress of the situation melt away.

Homeless volunteers looking for a nice hot meal and a bit of home? Me looking for someone to feed flax seed to? YES! This creates the perfect symbiotic relationship. We have them over and get a whole night of their stories of travel and adventure. They get a night of a home cooked meal (more than likely containing flax seed) with native English speakers. (Some of them aren't speakers as much as whiners.) But at least it's in English right? And me? I get a food deprived captive audience to cook for. I figure it's win-win for everyone.

So I'm wondering, as every other mother does. How can I instill this gratefulness that the Peace Corps Volunteers have into my children? I think it's pretty obvious. All I need to do is drop the kids off in a village somewhere for two years with a plastic spork, a stick of gum, an avocado pit and a laptop. Their mission will be to create a recycling program, teach the villagers English and ensure there is clean drinking water. It will be like Survivorman meets Peace Corps Volunteer. After two years their final exam would be to navigate their way back home hiking, biking, repelling, busing, taxing and or cameling. (Ok, I added a little Amazing Race in the mix.) Maybe that's a bit unrealistic. I'm pretty sure they would need flint. Oh well. In the mean time I guess I'll just continue to ensnare and feed the world one Peace Corps Volunteer at a time.

Peace Corps Trivia: What are the top two most common medical ailments of Peace Corps Volunteers?


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Circle of

When we lived in Colorado we had this whole circle of clothes thing going on. In other words a hand-me-down legacy. We would get boy clothes passed down from Eva. If the item made it through both of my boys then I would hand them down to Vincent. We got girl clothes from Linda and Judy that would first go to Jade (my oldest daughter), then I would pass them on to Molly (Jade's best friend) and then they would return to me for Ember and then if it made it through all that I would pass the girls clothes on to Eva and thus, completing the Circle of Clothes.

Of course then we went and broke the circle by moving to Morocco. We've been here now for 9 months and my kids have inevitably outgrown some clothes. Then of course there are the things that they never wore. Like Jade will not wear tank tops because she doesn't like to show her armpits. We all have our own weird things right? Then because Ember has a big sister idol worshipping thing going on she won't wear (or eat, or play or enjoy) anything that Jade didn't. So when we combine all the clothes that are outgrown (or unfit for wearing because they expose your armpits, etc.) we have 3 garden size trash bags full of perfectly good clothes in need of a home. And I must complete the circle.

So I ask my friend Olivia who just adopted a beautiful Moroccan boy from an orphanage just last month if she knew of one where I could drop off clothes to donate. And of course she does. The orphanage she adopted from has children of all ages so she offers to go with us. I'm especially excited and a bit anxious for my kids to see the orphanage. See, all four of our kids were adopted from Russian orphanages. Not having orphanages in the states they have never seen one from the outside and being young when we adopted them they don't have memories of their own from the inside.

My kids have always known they're adopted. As the years have gone by the questions that they ask about their adoptions change. Some of my kids are very open in school and with friends about being adopted and others are not. They all know their Russian names and think they are pretty funny. And even though none of my kids are biologically related to each other, their Russian heritage binds them. Well, they are probably more bound by the fact that they fight, wrestle, bicker, argue, poke, spit and call each other names just like any other siblings do. And just like other siblings when someone outside the familial circle is picking on their sister (or brother) they will be the first to remind that outsider that no....that's MY job! And in some sadistic way it's sweet and heart warming as long as no one ends up in the emergency room.

None of the smaller kids are outside on the orphange grounds, as their play time is earlier in the morning. We are greeted by a few of the older special needs kids who also reside there. Even though this isn't the orphanage that I got my kids from the emotion is still overwhelming. My kids are focused on the bags or clothes gleaning just passing glimpses at the orphanage kids. But, the second we get back in the car, the questions start. Why do those kids look different? How do the kids get to the orphanage from wherever they are born? Why did their parents dump them there? Why don't we have orphanages in America? I much prefer these questions to the bigger daily questions I routinely get. Why do we cut down the rain forest when we know it's bad? What is the square root of pi? Why doesn't everyone get along and we can just have world peace? Why doesn't Jade get in trouble? What's for dinner? Or my personal favorite, why do you get to do all the fun stuff? Um. Really?

So after a thorough orphanage interrogation by the kids we head to the Chellah to let our kids play. One Moroccan, one American and four Russians. And for a moment there was world peace while they played. They should have had medals for tag. And there should have been Olympic theme playing in the background. (FYI, the Moroccan was substituted for another player on account of his drinking problem. Yeah, milk.) Then of course when it's time to go the Russian team started infighting. (They tower over the other athletes and I heard they're on steroids anyway. Disqualified.) Which brings me to yeah and why doesn't everyone just get along so we can have world peace anyway?


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