How to Contact Me

Life on the central plains can get awfully lonely at times, so feel free to drop me a line! Here's how:

D'Abravanel, Jed
B.P. 6



Thursday, January 7, 2010

From Ait Mirikan to Ait Beni Yacoub

If you are reading this right now it means that I have survived my return trip to Morocco from my first trip to America in 22 months, at least the first two stages. The flight out of San Francisco was fine, and the TV's on the back of the seats were even working, though the program that shows you were you are in regards to your final destination and flight time had been disabled. The flight ended up running a bit late, but only about 10 minutes and that wasn't even much of a problem as the flight to Casablanca was delayed an hour. But the actual flight itself was fine, though I got a reminder where I was going when upon a successful landing a good number of the passengers clapped in honor of a successful landing and released a heartfelt "hamdullilah". At that point everything slowed down a bit.

Upon exiting the plane in the terminal their was a photographic exhibition to the life of John F. Kennedy that I just couldn't understand the point of, but which served as a welcoming sight upon reentering Morocco as a PCV, because in a way I am one of "Kennedy's Kids" even if I am one nearly 50 years after he began the program. The next step was the customs line, which I was saved from by a mounting need to use the bathroom after 30 nearly unmoving minutes in line, upon leaving the line and visiting the closest bathroom while I did receive the necessary relief I was worried I would be forced to spend even more time in line after losing my place in line. But, god be praised, upon exiting the local facilities I saw a whole row of nearly empty passport control lines, that by dint of their distance from the entry point for the room were being ignored by all of the incoming arrivals. So by lucky circumstance and an irate bowel, I cut my passport control line time at least in half - and then following a short interrogation by a passport control officer, who was sure I was a Moroccan National who spoke bad arabic, I was through the line!

I then ran to baggage claim, grabbed my delightfully unmolested bag - repacked slightly and was off running to catch the 5pm train - which I made by no more then a hair. I then made my way to the main Casablanca train station where I was to catch a connection to Rabat - a connection that kept on being delayed. First 15 minutes, then 40 minutes, followed by 50 minutes and finally by a whopping hour and fifteen minutes - this of course resulted in three separate trains all being condensed into one massive train. Now by three trains being condensed I don't mean that three regular size trains were put together, but rather that three scheduled trains worth of passengers were all fit on one train. But, in a homage to the give and take of Morocco - I was so relieved that it had arrived that I didn't care, because just moments before the train had pulled up the Moroccan Monsoon had decided to make an appearance and was threatening to quickly submerge both myself and my bags under five feet of water. The ride to Rabat from Casablanca then became the most overcrowded ride of my life - and most difficult to fight my way onto with my oh so petite bag. But eventually I got my bag into the train car, or at least the train bathroom where I sat propped up on the counter with another person sitting on the toilet, one person trapped in the corner and another person deep into my personal space sharing the counter with me. It wasn't so bad though, because between the four of us we had more room then the other 45 people sharing the space between the two train cars - furthermore the women who was sitting on the toilet had a labtop and spoke good english, as did the other passenger sharing the bathroom counter with me, so we listened to music and chatted the roughly hour long trip from Casablanca to Rabat.

I eventually arrived in Rabat a little before nine o'clock and closing in one 24 straight hours of travel from the moment I had said goodbye to Gregg and my Mom at the San Francisco Airports International Terminal curb. Furthermore I was worried, because what with delays I was arriving in Rabat, without a hotel reservation, 4 hours later then I was originally planning on arriving. But that concern turned out to be unjustified - as when I appeared at the reception desk of the hotel I normally stay at - after the five story ride in the worlds smallest elevator - they had just one room left. A room with my name on it, allowing me to just crawl into bed, place earplugs in my ears and a sleep mask over my face and pass out by 9:15PM. At least until the happy new years calls started at 12:15....but thats a story for another day....

The next morning I arose at 8:30 am or 12:30 am America time and made my way to the Peace Corps office for a quick email update to the family and review of the train schedule to plan the perfect, issue free, trip back to the village from the capital. After encountering a new security guard at the Peace Corps office who was unclear on the concept of volunteers being allowed in the office I accomplished all necessary tasks and made my way to the nicest or "zwinest" train station in Morocco. The Agdal station, which happens to be the section of Rabat where both the Peace Corps office and the majority of government ministries and a large number of embassies are located . After the previous nights interesting trip from Casablanca to Rabat I decided to really treat myself and to spare no expense, so I paid the extra 25 dirhams for a first class ticket from Rabat to Meknes. The first time I had ever treated myself to such an extravagance, and decidedly not the last. The first class cabin was air conditioned and the seats more roomy, cleaner and more comfortable, not to mention that it had its own steward and that for the equivalent of 4 dollars more I got at least ten times the rest and relaxation that I would have in my normal 2nd class recommendations - especially considering the 29.7 kilo bag I was lugging around.

Soon enough though my train ride was at an end, so I caught a petite taxi from the train station to the grand taxi station and easily acquired a taxi to Zeida, though the driver did demand an extra 20 dirhams for my bag, a normally outragious demand but one that didn't seem so out of line at the time and still doesn't now. From Zeida, "meat" capital of the known world it was a simple 30 km and one hour long trip to my lovely rock filled village. Where soon after arrival I feel into a well deserved coma, which I enjoyed very much for the 5 minutes I got to have it before my host family and neighbors began to come a calling...I was back.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summers Days

It is now summer time in Morocco, the start of my second summer here. The sun is starting to heat the dusty plains on which I live, while the snow continues to disappear from the mountains that hover far in the distance. The sun now rises earlier and earlier every day, calling to those who make this place home through its messengers, the rooster, donkey and sparrow. The village brought to life by these first stirrings of nature, slowly rouses itself - first the mothers, then their eldest daughters, followed by the men of the house and finally the children wipe the web of dreams from their eyes and emerge, blinking into the new day. The pace of the day is slow, languid, but the air is pregnant, bursting with the promise of activity.
The water is gathered, brought either from well or from the five public fountains that dot Sehba Roha, breathing life into the sun cracked soil. The bread is mixed and kneaded on ceramic bowls by the village women: Fatima, Khadija, Rebeha, Lazhore. Women of all ages, from the first blossoming of youth to the withered husk of old age, and of all shades from cream to coco and beyond to shades so dark as to absorb the light from the space around them. The bread after kneading is shaped into 10 inch wide round loaves and left to rise. While the bread rises wood is gathered and brought to the outdoor mud ovens in which the bread will be baked, the wood has been gathered from the apple orchards that surround my village, and which are themselves surrounded by scrub desert.
A desert that the young men and boys of the houses of Sehba Roha are preparing to leave for, to spend the day tending the family flock of sheep. But first a breakfast of mint tea, so pungent without sugar as to force a full body pucker upon you - and so sweet after the sugar is added so as to melt not just your teeth but the very bones of your jaw. Accompanying the tea, or whisky berber, is a square shaped fried bread named Milhwi, slathered in apricot jam and butter, margarine, olive oil or a fermented butter made from goat or cow milk, agaou. So reinforced the young men, often with a dog, and carrying a small tea pot and loaf of bread leave their homes and their village to spend the day wandering the high plateau in search of fodder for their sheep.

By this time the women have returned to their mud ovens, the bread has risen and the fires, stoked by the clippings from the apple trees, sufficiently hot. So Zeneb, Ito, Lahcena, Latifa and Najit sit upon their ankles, as they place loaf after loaf into the honey colored oven, blackened from the smoke and flames that lick its mouth. The sun rises ever higher and with it the temperature, 80 degrees by ten, 90 by noon, 100 by two - and still it rises. The five to ten loaves of bread needed for the day are soon baked and alerted by the call to prayer, the women move to the kitchen to begin the preparations for lunch.
Meanwhile the men of the household, after a breakfast similar to that of the boys and young men are having their mid morning snack in the fields, of tea and bread. It is June so the men are in the fields with hand scythes, bent at the back and sore in their right hand - from the circular motion they must make over and over to separate the head of the barley from the stalk. They mostly wear wide brimmed hats, woven from stalks - though some have wrapped scarves around their heads - creating a type of farmers turban. As they hear the mid day call to prayer they turn their backs on the fields and return to their houses, for it is time to turn their heads to the east and prostrate themselves towards Mecca, as well as time to sit out the hottest part of the day after lunch. Though after the next call to prayer they will return to the fields, often in the afternoon accompanied by the family donkey - so as to gather that days harvest from the fields and bring it home for storage and for eventual grinding.

Afternoon has now come, and the women of the village are now congregating outside of their homes, on their stoops to do certain low intensity tasks and chat with one another. Possibly they are unrolling the yarn from sweaters they have purchased at weekly market - to be used in making blankets, rugs and djeelaba's or they could be sifting through dry-goods, also purchased at weekly market, to separate the small stones and clumps of dried mud from the lentils, beans, or any of a dozen other food items. This is the women's chance to visit and gossip - after a day of cleaning the house and washing clothes, gathering water, gathering wood for the bread oven, cooking breakfast and lunch, baking bread, making carpets and often working in the fields and gathering fodder for the animals as well.
Meanwhile the men and boys start to trickle in from the fields and desert. The children and younger men will congregate by the school to play soccer - and watch others play soccer, depending on age a forcefulness of personality. Meanwhile the men will find their way to the road that abuts the village on one side, and will balance on their ankles and walk up and down the road - stopping and greeting those they encounter. Moving from group to group, groups that congregate outside the village cafe, Rachid's store, Mustapha's store and Mohammeds store. Eventually as the sun begins to kiss the mountains and the sky turns from blue to pink to orange and then blood red and purple the men will find their way either home or to the cafe. If they find their way to the cafe they will not find coffee or tea, but they will find cigarette smoke, soda and cards being played - for hours on end, for as long as the village equivalent of the dive bar is open. For those who make their way home they will find tea and bread for a afternoon snack waiting.
So ends another day in the Berber village of Sehba Roha, population 671, at the edge of the Middle Atlas Mtns...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Economics Of Apples

For those in the dark about the agricultural output of Morocco let me put worry out of your minds, this country is a breadbasket and while prices have risen due to the global Food Crisis no one is in danger of starvation. That said, it is about time I said something specific about the crop that graces the fields that surround my village; namely apples.

The apple while common to my area is not well adapted to the nvironment, as the raising of apples is a water intensive activity - more so then other fruits such as peaches or cherries - but it is exceptionally profitable. A kilo of apples in a Rabat or Tangier routinely sells for 25 dirhams a kilo - or roughly 5 dollars a pound - not a bad price when one considers the cost of living in rural Morocco. For example my weekly groceries, purchased at my weekly market, are only rarely more then 25 dirhams total with vegtables normally going for around 3 - 5 dirhams a kilo. In short raising apples a family can make a comfortable living.

One of the major apple related problems though is that most families can't make a living from them - as most apple orchards in my area aren't owned by the local inhabitants of the rural villages - but rather by absentee landlords living in the urban centers of modern Morocco, whose first priority is not reinvesting their profits in the local community. Another issue is water - while this year has been wet and filled with snow - most years arent. This is an issue as apples are one of the most irrigation intensive fruit crops - especially when drip irrigation is not used. It is an even more serious concern where I live as most springs are used for irrigation, while private wells are used for drinking water. Alarming when weells run dry as they did last summer. But a useful starting point in discussing projects with people in my village.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Only Thing That Stays the Same is Change...

I was gone for some 20 days from my village, and when I arrived home on Tuesday afternoon after racing a blizzard through the Middle Atlas I had a few surprises:

1. My host brother, Smail, has moved to Oujda on the border with Algeria to string power lines. This after nearly a year at home and no prospect of work when I left for Italy - I know, we had a very specific conversation on the subject. He didn't really want to leave home - but the problem with rural Morocco - especially if you don't own a farm, is that if their are no jobs their really is no money.

2. A 20 year old man who lives in the mountains above my village died last week from exposure after being trapped on my volcano in a storm. Yes, I do live in Africa - but yes it is also cold. Also, I do not understand how the shepherds and their flocks of sheep do it - living at or below zero exposed to the elements wearing little clothing and carrying even less gear.

3. The new Imam, Ali, left the village. My village has now had six Imams since June. This might tell you something about my village and my villagers. Sometimes they argue - a lot. The old Imam, Hassan, the first one I met, has moved back to Zeida - a way of rubbing it in the face of my village that he was a good Imam. Or at least I think that might be part of his motivation...

4. Nora, my 23 year old host sister accompanied her husband and his family to Casablanca to see some of the family off on the Haj to Mecca. Afterwards she decided to stay - just because. Possibly just because she had never been in a place with weather as nice as that of Rabat's. Anyway - no one is sure when she is coming back, though they are pretty sure she is...

5. In personal news I finally got my Carte De Sejour today, right after I got back from the reason I needed it - travelling outside Morocco! Thanks red tape! How I love efficiency!

So that's the news from the foot of La Rais. Their might be more - after all when I first asked my host dad what was new in the village he said "Kif Waloo" - nothing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Florence and Rome - Or a Return to the West

Well, it has come off. Or at least it has been pulled off, my great holiday season escape to the western world went off without a hitch. Granted their were a few small discomforts along the way - especially on either end during my independent travel sections. But all and all - a fantastic trip. For 15 days I travelled with my friend Emelia and her family - and for 15 days I forgot all about the worries, nuisances and stresses of everyday life in my developing world village. Now for the hardest part: going back.

As soon as I process THAT, i'll update. Suffice it to say that - after two weeks of hot showers, cheese, wine, mushrooms, functional public transportation, uncovered women, friendship, holiday festivities, good espresso, warmth, good conversation and an overall constant feeling of ease and relaxation - the transition may be rough. But if for no other reason then to recharge my batteries and remind me that i'm loved and have good friends and people in my life, who believe i'm doing something important and couragous - it was worth it.

I also learned the importance of treating myself well, that I don't always need to be testing myself - or taking the difficult path. That sometimes it's alright to treat yourself and just be yourself. So I return - recharged, recommitted and ready to not burn out. To instead do what it takes to keep myself going strong. Because before this trip - I was about ready to call it quits, throw in the towel and give up (both on Morocco, and on my self - my ability to create change and hence my reason and value in this world).

And so I must say thanks to Emelia and her entire family: Ken, Mary-Beth, Halie and Christine. You helped me more then you know, and I appriciate your generosity and kind hearts more then you can fathom.

Now back to work!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Battles With Bureaucrats

Life in America may be considered constrained by bureaucratic red tape by some, but in comparison to Morocco it is a cake walk. A three hour wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles may set you back half a day, but the application process for a Carte de Sejour may set you back three weeks - and still not arrive after all paperwork is completed and submitted for another nine months; if you are lucky. And if you aren't, well, then you are like everyone else - because from what i've seen no one is that lucky with the Bureaucrats.
Case in point, an AIDS (SIDA in french) testing that I was helping to plan with a Moroccan association in my souk (market) town. In order to work on planning this testing I came in to my Souk town bright and early at 8 am on a Monday - for what looked to be a half days worth of work - I hoped to return to my village and my own bed by the time the sun set. Rather my early morning meeting with the President of the local association got pushed back - as he disappeared into the ether - until 8 pm that night. It wasn't too big a deal, and I was still patient at that point. We discussed logistics, came up with an action plan and a list of government officials whom we would need to contact. We agree to meet the next day at 10 am to start the process of getting all the relevant signatures - from the local clinic, from the office of the caid and from the president of the commune. The next day rolled around - and we at 10 am - as I sat drinking a cup of tea with one of my Souk town volunteers, Logan, who should appear at the cafe where we sat if not the Nurse Chief Major of the local clinic - just the man who I needed to meet with! What luck, we started to chat, inquire as to each others health,that of our respective families and of course discuss the weather. After a few moments the president of the association who I was working with appeared as well, everyone who needed to be involved in the conversation that needed to happen was present. The president brought up the topic of the SIDA testing, the Nurse Chief Major smiled shook his head and chuckled slightly.
"A SIDA testing here? Wonderful, who gave you this idea?"
My friend the president of the association informed the Chief Major that it was the provincial minister of health who had contacted him to organize the testing. The Chief Major nodded sagely and slowly brought his hand up to his head, ran it through his thinning silver speckled hair and brought it back down to rub his chin before replying.
"Of course, we will talk about it tomorrow when you come by the clinic. Come in the morning, after all today is a holiday."
And so ended the work that was accomplished on my second day in my Souk town.
The next day rolled around and by ten the president of the local association and I had met. We soon dived into the morass of the bureaucratic world of Morocco, and with deft handling on the part of the president and with me standing by smiling and occasionally inquiring as to peoples health and other trivialities, basically doing my job of adding legitimacy to the whole undertaking, by 11:30 we were done and all the permissions needed were gained and the project planned. Then I decided to work on getting permission for my upcoming vacation to Italy. Now Peace Corps regulations require that I notify the local ministry of health if I plan on taking vacation days, I don't need their permission but I do need proof, in the form of a signature, that I made them aware of my intentions before submitting the form to the Peace Corps for approval. The Peace Corps doesn't care who signs it - so long as it is signed by counterpart or higher authority.
Upon showing the pertinent form to the Chief Major, who I ran into on the way to the Mosque, he told me to show it to the clinic doctor as he didn't have permission to sign such a form. Rather then argue I acquiesced and left my Chief Major to his daily prayers, and made my own way to the house of my souk towns doctor. Upon showing him the form he also refused to sign - saying once again it wasn't within his powers to sign such a form for me. At this point I called my assistant programming manager, Rachid, after explaining the problem I handed the phone to the doctor to straighten the issue out. Suffice it to say it didn't get any straighter - rather the doctor refused to sign it before taking to the Provincial Minister of Health in Khenifra the next day. So he asked me to return the day, in the morning, and stated that after he talked to the Minister permission (and a trip to Italy) would be mine. So be it. I would stay in my Souk town another day.
Moments after the previous interaction had come to its conclusion I received a call from Mina - the Peace Corps Safety and Security Officer - stating that I needed to go into the Gendarmery the next day. Why? Because a new rotation of gendarmes had recently transitioned in and the new Chief Gendarme couldn't find record that I had applied for a Carte de Sejour, and didn't believe that I had a receipt for one or was legally in the country. At this point I was wavering between an all encompassing rage on one hand and a black pit of despair on the other, one deeper than the Abyssal Trench. But instead I just went and had a cup of tea - thankful that at least I had good friends in my souk town who wouldn't mind me spending yet another night on their couches.
The next day I presented myself at 10 am at the clinic, and the doctor promptly showed me into the office and called the Ministry of Health. The line was busy - perplexed he came to a final decision.
"What you must do is submit the paper to Khenifra, we can mail it, which will take 15 days. Or you may hand deliver it - in which case it will be signed as soon as presented. But I will not sign it. It is not permitted."
I then ripped my hair out - strand by strand. Or rather I felt like doing so, rather I politely excused my self from the clinic silently cursing him and the system in which he operates. When my counterpart had submitted his own vacation forms to the ministry that 15 day period had turned into two months - and he did not receive the necessary signature until the day of his own vacation. As for traveling to Khenifra - I did not relish the thought of six hours of travel on a cramped, cold, overcrowded bus - plus likely a day of having to wait in a small stifling office as Ministry official after official stopped in to greet me and submit me to cup after, after cup of over sweetened tea. Instead I called my assistant programming manager and told him what had occurred.
"Ohhh, don't worry about it Jed. Just submit it - we don't need the signature."
Of course, if the clinic knew I hadn't submitted it, issues would emerge. I'm not going by again until after I get back.
As for the Chief Gendarme, after five minutes in his office he had found the form he hadn't been able to find. The key was he looked through his files - of course he couldn't have done that if I hadn't been in his office. With that cleared up he sent me on my way - saying I should have my Carte de Sejour in no time and that I should come back before leaving to Italy to get my receipt of application stamped so that I don't get turned back at customs. It has now been a month, went back in today and no carte de sejour and now I must return next monday to get another form.

Oh and the SIDA stage? It got canceled when it snowed - the officials from Khenifra didn't want to try and blaze a way through the 1/8 of an inch that covered the road. So is life in Morocco.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Service Training Report

I recently had an Inservice Training, and for it I had to write a report about my site - background, health conditions and priorities - after writing it I realized that it might help explain to those of you reading my blog a bit more about my site, how I spend my time in it and what kind of work I do and am trying to do. All place names have been replaced with a series of X's due to security concerns. Enjoy!

I. Background
The Commune Rural of XXXXXX is located on the extreme southern edge of the Middle Atlas, with the majority of its population located at and around the base of an extinct volcano, L’Rais. The commune was created by government decree in 1992 and is situated on the extreme northeastern edge of the province of Khenifra, and is bordered by the communes of XXXXXX. The ancient souk town of Itzer, is the administrative headquarters of the region and is where most government services are to be found for the surrounding communes, including: postal service, medical, police and caidat.
The commune itself is composed of roughly 15 douars, with the population predominantly found in three clusters. The first, and primary cluster of douars is located along Rural Route 503, constructed in 1946 by the French, which traverses the commune and serves as the primary transportation artery, which culminates in Fez, roughly 3 hours travel by public transportation. The principal douars which one encounters along RR 503 are, in order of location west to east: XXXX (560 people ), XXXXX (492 people) and XXXX (463 people). In addition to those douars located adjacent to the road are those scattered between XXXX and XXXXX, each located roughly one to three kilometers from RR 503: XXXX (164 people) and XXXXX (an artificial government conglomeration of three separate small douars which share a Moshe but little else) (190 people). The second cluster is located along a dirt road that branches off from the main road just prior to the Commune building in XXXX and is composed of: XXXX (298 people), XXXXX (157 people) and XXXXX (476 people). The third and final cluster is found along a road that branches off approximately four kilometers past XXXX traveling eastwards along RR 503 and is located at the edge of a plateau. It is composed of three douars: XXXX (413 people), XXXXX (560) and XXXX (471 people). The total population of the commune is believed to be 4,244 in approximately 700 homes, spread out over roughly 3000 Sq. Km.
Geographically the majority of the commune is pre-Saharan scrub plain interspersed with two large agricultural areas and the remnants of a once extensive forest ecosystem which has been logged into the aforementioned scrub plain. The soil of the commune is largely volcanic, and while well suited for agriculture is also exceptionally rocky. The agriculturally productive area of the commune is restricted to two areas, those sections watered by the spring La Rais and those at the edge of the plateau composed of those douars in the third population cluster. The spring La Rais is a viable source year round, with a late summer flow of 10.16 M3/S, this spring currently served the agricultural needs of all of the douars in the first population cluster – extending 10 kilometers from source – and has traditionally served those douars that compose the second population cluster, but due to an extended period of periodic droughts in the region, beginning around 1980, the water flow has steadily, if slowly decreased. The second agricultural area is at the edge of the plateau on which the Middle Atlas Range is located, and benefits from a sudden and extreme elevation drop of at places up to 80 meters which results in numerous seasonal and year round springs – estimated at between one and two dozen. As such while the remainder of XXXX often appears arid and lunar in the summer months, those areas at the edge of the Plateau are graced by natural grasslands and extensive non-irrigated stands of trees as well as extensive fields of crops not cultivated in other areas of the commune.
The primary economic activities of the commune are agricultural in nature, including subsistence and cash crop farming as well as the raising of domesticated animals, for local consumption. The primary cash crop of XXXX, as in the entire region of Midelt, is the apple. While landownership is somewhat restricted, with a handful of large farms producing the majority of the apples, small holders also contribute a significant amount to local production. Generally the farm practices are fairly modern, with a majority of producers, though not all, utilizing drip irrigation, large scale refrigeration facilities and with some limited use of nylon orchard covers. All and all though, while apples have provided a significant influx of financial liquidity into the local community – which manifests itself in the near universal presence of Pour Flush Latrines within the commune – with the increasing aridity of the region apples are likely not long to remain a reliable crop.
Ethnographically the population of XXXX is mixed, with roughly equal portions claiming Arabic or Berber origins. The question of ethnic origin though is not reflected in language use within the commune where nearly 80% of the population is proficient in Arabic and where no more then 40% routinely use Tamazight, either inside or outside of the home. A trend exacerbated by the prevalent ignorance of the children of Berber parents of the Tamazight language. The tribal structure of the commune itself is complicated with seemingly every village claiming a separate tribal identification. The name of the commune itself is derived from the name of a local tribe, Ait Ben Yacoub, a group which itself is not the most numerous group within the commune and while it historically dominated the area is now mostly found in the douars of XXXX, XXXX and in the mountains between the commune and the town of Giegou (province of Boulman) where they are found more extensively. A further example of the tribal variety is the village of XXXX, a converted Ksar, and primarily Arabic village, whose inhabitants have lived in the region for at least one hundred and fifty years but whose ancestors originally migrated from the region around Meknes, where they had migrated from the Draa Valley in the sixteenth century. This tribal variety is found not only between douars, but also within them. For example the douar of XXXX is composed of no less then five groups: the Harritine, Sahrwein, Ait Cherouchen, Cherfa and the Ait Ben Yacoub – who are themselves divided into three-sub clans: the Ait Lahcen, the Ait Makha and the Ait Omar. Suffice it to say that this ethnic diversity poses difficulties for the formation of inter-ethnic and tribal cooperation outside of traditional religious forums – such as the village mosque, which in some douars such as XXXX is not itself free from strive (from the middle of July until the end of October the Mosque has had four separate Fiqhs).

II. Methodology
If I had been asked to write this report after residing in XXXXX for only a short period, a week, a month, three months, then I would have written questions – put together a form, and gone door to door blundering through awkward conversations with absolute strangers in a language I don’t understand – speaking in a way that those I asked wouldn’t have understood either. Rather then that tact, I took a conversational, dialogue based evaluative method – one where I knew what kind of things I wanted to learn, one that held those desires in the back of my mind at all times, but one that also restrained me from asking those questions, until the time was right. So that even if I was learning things about the commune, about the health of the community, it didn’t seem like I was interviewing every one I spoke with, because I was foremost building connections, relationships and sometimes friendships – friendships that would make asking those awkward questions about health and health practices seem less awkward and more like the concerns of a friend, a neighbor.
Coupled with a conversational, relationship based interview style I have always kept my eyes open – so that I learned as much from simple observation through the sharing of a single communal village space as from interview and discussion. So that while my methodology may not be quantitatively rigorous it is qualitatively rich, dripping with experience and knowledge – knowledge much deeper and more truthful then plain statistics on a page. Because, while now I could get those statistics if I had a need to – for grant or government project – they would not have given me in the past any kind of worthwhile view into the life experience of the inhabitants of Ait Ben Yacoub, and the gathering of those statistics would likely have served to separate me farther into the category known as “Aromi” and I would remain, and always would remain known, not as “Jed”, but as the “American”.

III. Findings
Birthing Practices
Learning about birthing practices, while always a difficult task for a male in Morocco, is exceptionally difficult in XXXX due to an incident that occurred five years ago. At that time a child died during the birthing process, which led to a crackdown by the local gendarmerie on Traditional Birth Attendants in the area, including both verbal and physical intimidation and continual harassment. The aim of this intervention on the part of the Gendarmes was to eliminate the use of Traditional Birth Attendants in the area – a task they seemingly succeeded at – and redirect all births to govement operated birthing centers in Zeida, Midelt, Azrou or Khenifra. I say they seemingly succeeded because no women that I have spoken to in the Commune will admit to using a Traditional Birth Attendant, and no women will admit to currently being a Traditional Birth Attendant, though after five months of continuous habitation in the village of XXXX my host mother admitted to in the past practicing Midwifery before Rheumatism and the crackdown on the part of the gendarmes forced her into retirement.
Family Planning
Family planning is widely practiced within the area, with the most common request in the Sbitar being for Birth Control Pills. In addition to the simple request for pills there is also proof of their use, with families averaging three children today, as compared to the past when seven to ten children was not unusual.
Diarhial Diseases & Sanitation
The most common ailment in XXXX, especially among children and infants, is diarrhea. This is related to both issues with water sources and a lack of sanitation within the home – most often due to a lack of soap within the home. The concept of diarrhea, while understood is often unclear and I am unsure if people separate the concept of diarrhea from regular bowel movements.
Water Sources
An ongoing and omni-present problem in XXXX is water; simply put there isn’t enough of it. The average well depth is between 30 to 50 meters and for large periods of this past summer ran dry. The Sbitar only received running water two weeks ago, and the vast majority of homes in all of the douars do not have running water. XXXX and XXXX each have a system of community fountains and both are in the process of upgrading their water systems using government loans and limited community fundraising – with a goal of providing running water to all of the houses in their communities. The remaining douars remain off of any sort of grid and rely on personal and community wells as well as a smattering of small community chateaus. In addition to community and personal wells, the springs around XXXX & XXXX and the spring La Rais provide water mainly for agriculture – a troubling finding when one considers the situation in XXXX. XXXX is located in a former Ksar. Where the majority of people make use of personal wells rather thean the abundant springs which surround it, these wells are often located less then ten meters, from both pit flush latrines and barns a situation that has resulted in the presence of Fecal Streptococal Bacteria in all wells that were tested during a Ministry of Health visit in late July.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections are not addressed in the Sbitar in XXX and people remain largely in the dark as to what they are, how they are transmitted and how to prevent their transmission. I have reason to believe it to be a large problem in the area though – due to the prevalence of STI’s in Boumia and the extent to which men travel to Boumia and the amount of time spent in the cafĂ© culture of Zaida.
There is a lack of knowledge of the importance of micro-nutrients in diet, especially Iodine, Iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. This knowledge deficit is especially common in women, especially older, who have had little formal education and whose food landscape is being transformed by the increased industrialization of food production in Morocco.
Dental Hygiene
Is an area of central concern, as among a large portion of the adult population knowledge is near nonexistent and practice is nonexistent. This leads to a serious deficit in the children of the area who are not receiving instruction in the school or positive reinforcement at home in regard to dental care while their diets incorporate increasing amounts of processed and refined sugar into their diets.
Skin Diseases
Corresponding to the scarcity of water and lack of a hammam in XXXX, is the prevalence of skin diseases. In addition to those caused by hygiene and easily identified, there is a disease that leads to the appearance of extensive white spots across the body, La Birsa in Arabic, that I don’t’ believe to be either Vitiligo, Tinea versicolor or Pinta.
Sbitar Staff and Physical Condition
The Sbitar itself is staffed by one nurse, who specializes in children’s vaccination and minor injuries, all other medical issues are referred to the doctors in either XXX or Zeida. Since my arrival their have been no rural vaccination drives, though the doctor in XXX did visit the sbitar in XXX one day a week for three consecutive weeks for consultations. Medical waste is disposed of by simple trash fire, which do not reach a temperature at which sharps would be rendered harmless, though the medical waste once burned is disposed of in a rock field roughly 50 meters from all human habitations and rarely visited by anyone aside from sbitar staff.

IV. Health Priorities
The areas that I have identified as being in greatest need of work, as well as most realistic to work on, are as follows – in order of priority:
1) Assessing and addressing deficits in water supply and in
cleanliness of sources.
2) Improving sanitation facilities in schools.
3) Improving the physical health infrastructure of the local clinic, as well as working to bring knowledge, skills and attitudes from outside health organizations into the clinic to improve the health conditions of those in site more quickly then possible through government initiatives. For example: optics organizations, SIDA testing organizations, skin disease organizations. This also includes health education within the sbitar on vaccination days.

V. Conclusions
After six months in my site I am still learning about my site, still encountering obstacles and still making contacts. My time has been complicated by not speaking Arabic, which has impacted my ability to work with a large portion, if not majority, of my population. My work is also challenged by the lack of interest by organizations in doing any work not guaranteed funding from the start and by the lack of interest on the part of people in starting any new organization. While I understand this to be a common difficulty for a first volunteer, I find it no less frustrating knowing it to be a common difficulty. Due to the difficult nature of civil society within XXXX I will focus on what can be done utilizing outside resources, as relaying on resources and organizations within XXXX would at this point result in little but two years of headaches and afternoons spent twiddling my thumbs. Hopefully though I will be able to include more members of the community in my work as they begin to see tangible benefits from my time spent within XXXX, if not within my time then in that of my successor.