|Doors Open to the Power of Friendship|
FFI Conference Ends - Sunday, September 19This morning, members of Friendship Force Clubs of continental Africa presented about their country, language, non-profit organizations (SOAR), and their clubs.
|Project SOAR helps girls rise and soar in Morocco|
We heard from Morocco, South Africa, Uganda and Ghana.
|Frederick from Uganda|
One of the speakers was a Moroccan Woman who told her story. She is a modern Muslim woman with a PhD. Her parents who had limited education were very encouraging to her and told her she should never have to depend on a man to support her. She is married to a nice man who also supports her work.
I asked her after her talk if her parents and in particular her father were exceptionally supportive or was this the norm? After hearing a previous talk by the founders of soar, child brides under the age of fifteen have doubled in the last two years in Morocco.
She replied that it is not that poor father's have less affection or concern for their daughters than her father did, but they have fewer options. Muslims do not practice birth control and it is difficult to feed and care for large families. It has been particularly difficult for subsistence farmers with the drought of the last few years.
Out of concern for their daughters' well being and those of the younger children, eligible daughters are married off to men who can afford to feed and care for them better than the father. Generally these girls have already had to drop out of school because the parents needed them to work to help support the family, but girls with little schooling do not contribute much to the family's income. There is so much to learn. It was fascinating.
Our afternoon was free to shop, pack, hangout at the pool, or go on additional tours. Russ and I chose to pack and hang out at the pool. We attended the gala dinner in the evening where we began to say goodbye to our FFI Sacramento friends, and the new friends we made.
Discover Morocco Tour Begins Day 1 - Berber Life - Monday, September 20Today ends the Friendship Force International Conference. Our first plenary session carried over the theme of learning about Africa and an invitation to the 40th anniversary of Friendship Force at the Manchester, England World Conference in late August 2017.
The second part of the plenary session was on the strides forward the FFI staff is making in communications with a new website that will be released this fall. The conference was closed by our CEO reading a poem by Maya Angelou and with all of the members singing the song, Let there be peace in the world and let it start with me. It was an inspirational song at a time when the news around the world is not peaceful. We have a lot of work to do!
Having packed our bags prior to the plenary session, when the conference ended we rolled out the door and boarded our Discover Morocco Tour Bus. On our trip, in addition to Russ and I, there is a couple from Germany, two women from Pennsylvania, two women from Australia, and a man from New Zealand. There are nine of us on a bus capable of seating 20, so we each have a window seat with room to spare, very nice indeed. I had spoken to one member who had gone on the pre-conference tour, and she hoped we would get the same guide, Ali, that their group had. She spoke highly of him.
We are lucky, Ali is our guide.
He has prepared for each of us luggage tags, small coin purses with small denomination of coins for toilets, a personalized guide book (our names on the front in English, Arabic, and Berber). The guide book includes common phrases, maps, history, culture. We each have our own large water bottle with our names. We may not drink any other water or brush our teeth from any other source unless it has been boiled first for tea and coffee.
Best of all, Ali speaks excellent, understandable English. We are heading out of Marrakech west where we will be spending the night in a Berber Village and experience making our own dinner, tajine and bread.
There is a striking contrast between metropolitan Marrakech and the rural villages we drive through in Morocco. The city is modern, tidy, paved with the old Medina in the middle. It is reminiscent of a French Colonial era. The country side is poor, run down, with dirt store fronts and tattered awnings, and scattered with litter. There is a higher prevalence of donkey carts and traditionally dressed women.
The Berber Village and cultural center where we will spend the night is in the rolling hills of rock and dust desert with green patches of olive trees and prickly pears. Our riad is on the outskirts of the village on a dirt road. It is very plain looking on the outside,
but very comfortable and traditional on the inside. It is certainly more rustic than the accommodations we have had in Marrakech. There is no wifi here.
We enter into a lovely central courtyard with areas to relax and lounge.
There is one hand towel for us to share. Our room is blue with twin beds and thick thermal walls of adobe, no windows to the outside so it is very dark unless we turn on the light or open the door for light and some fresh air.
When we arrive, we are greeted by our host Mohammed who speaks good English and is very welcoming. Mohammed and his wife Fazia who speaks some English are the owners the house and operate the cultural center/rabat have two children, 4 year old Lena, and 1 year old Azia (both cute little girls).
There mother is Fazia. There are other members of the family (two of Fazia's Aunts) and close friends who help with running the center and caring for the guests.
We are served a wonderful couscous vegetarian lunch with fresh fruit for desert.
and time afterward to relax, then we carefully observe the multistep, Moroccan mint tea making ritual as there will be a tea making contest this evening.
After our tea, it is time to start preparing dinner! Four of our group takes the donkeys and containers to the community well a 45 minute walk from the house. Five of us head to the indoor/outdoor kitchen area. Russ is in the bread making group of three, and Phyllis and I are making the tangine with Fazia.
Fazia has already started the charcoal burners on which each container will sit.
There are four tajine containers. Fazia prepares the ingredients for two containers, and we each prepare one by following her step by step example. There a rough chunks of fatty beef in each (perhaps 1 lb or half a kilo). On top of the beef we lay on onions, garlic, oil, tumeric, ginger, salt, and pepper.
Russ is following Fatima's (Fazia's Aunt) instructions on how to make bread. First he sifts, adds......, mixes it with water. It looks gooey, and his hands are covered in sticky dough. They knead the bread. Fatima has worked her bread hard and it looks light and fluffy. Russ still has goo on his fingers.
They let the dough rest for a bit, then make round balls and begin to flatten the balls into thick flat cakes. In the time it takes Russ, Beth and Jennifer to make one flat cake, Fatima has made at least a dozen more.
The cakes are left to rest under a covered cloth while the tajine stews and Fatima builds a fire in the outdoor oven for the bread.
While the bread rises and is baked, and the tajine stews, we go for a walk around the village. Lena and her Uncle or family friend? Lead the way.
The sun is going down and people are sitting and relaxing outside of their homes. We take a few photos, asking permission as we go. The people are smiling, generous, and no one asked me for money, which was quite common in Marrakech.
I had a sweet experience, as I passed one household. A little girl 3 or 4 was peaking out the door way from a raised open porch. A woman was also standing in the door way. I waved at the little girl and the woman smiled at me. I asked if I could take a photo and she happily said yes. When I had photographed her and the little girl. As Friendship Force Ambassadors we bring culture and experience to people eager to learn about the world, and in return we learn much about the world, people, and cultures we often misunderstand from our western perspective.
She encouraged the little girl to come forward and greet me. I extended by hand upward to her, saying "bonjour". Instead of taking my hand, she leaned down, placed her hands on both of my shoulders, kissed me once on the left cheek, and then on the right which is the traditional way Berber/Moroccan women and girls greet one another. I was quite touched. She then giggled and ran back into the house, suddenly becoming quite shy.
We returned to our riad and enjoyed our tajine meal along with potato salad, flat bread, and water, with fruit for desert (apples, grapes, bananas) It was delicious. Now it was time for the tea making contest.
Seven tea making stations were set up (two of our group did not wish to participate) with a low table and chair, with a tray that had a teapot, two glasses, one with green tea, one with peppermint, and a small dish with huge chunks of sugar. We were each given a number. The judges sat at a table across from us with a notepad and paper. One of the judges, came around and offered us boiling water for the tea. He watched quite closely as water was added to the pot. I tried to remember the steps.
Step one: rinse out the teapot with boiling water. Add the tea. Pour a 1/4 cup of boiling water into the pot on top of the dry leaves. Wait long enough, 1 minute for the tea leaves to thicken into a slurry. Pour off the water into the little cup (cleans dust and debris from the tea leaves).
Step two: add stems of fresh peppermint and chunks of sugar ( I do not use all of the sugar even though I know the Berbers like it very sweet). Fill teapot with boiling water and let it sit for a few seconds for the sugar to dissolve.
Step three: Swirl the pot, and pour a glass of tea raising the teapot high above the so that it creates a long drop to the glass, aerating the tea and creating a bubbly foam layer at the top of the glass. Pour the tea back in the pot. Repeat the process two more times for sweet tea, and only one more time for unsweetened tea.
Serve tea by the long drop method so there is foam on the top.
Once everyone had completed the tea making, the glasses of tea were brought to the judges table in numerical order. Fatima was one of the tasting judges, as were two men, the uncle and perhaps a cousin. Each sipped the tea and gave the recording judges a number between 1 an 5.
The final scores were given. They ranged from 9-13 points. It was like Dancing with the Stars for mirror ball. And I got the high score! Yes. You are all invited over for Moroccan mint tea when we return home. I will serve you award winning mint tea. I received an award certificate, and a Moroccan teapot. Lovely! Such fun.
By the time the tea party was over, it was 9:30 and I was beat, and the children were very tired. Fatima would get up the following morning to make more bread, and everyone turned in.
All is well with the Worrall Travel R's in the Berber Village, Morocco.