(Mona - Antoine's Youth Development replacement, Me and Kate)
Kate F. has been chosen as my replacement volunteer. I met her during one of the several sessions I was invited to facilitate at the Stage training site (near Agdz). The sessions gave me the opportunity to talk about my various projects and activities. Kate approached me one afternoon and said that she had a background in IT and marketing. The typing, brochure and Excel classes looked interesting to her. As did finding ways to market our pilot Hammock project. We talked to Tariq, the assistant Program Manager and he said he would consider our request. (Older volunteers often appreciate the opportunity to 'scope out' the new Stages, looking for a potential good match to their work/sites.) Kate and I were blessed: she was assigned to Agdz!
We've spent this week wandering around meeting families, stopping in at the Neddi, dreaming up ideas of how to improve or market the hammock, going to the weekly Souq, or sitting at a cafe and just sharing ideas and my history of work here. It is very good to have a solid week to work together and introduce her to key community members. Instead of her walking in completely ignorant as I did two years ago, with a rather unhelpful (and often inaccurate sheet of paper), she'll already have a number of good conversations (via Raja as translator) with girls whom she'll begin to teach English or Nadia, my host sister, who will become her informal counterpart. Tomorrow's schedule:
9AM: Work with Nadia in redrafting her quarterly reports in Excel (on a new computer)
11:30AM: Introduce Mona and Kate to the the local Caid (like a mayor)
12:30: Break for lunch (so I can do laundry, etc.)
2:30: Go to the douar and meet the Ben Mammas (artisan) family, the bamboo-furniture family, and the Badu family (Antoine's old host family, and whose father happens to be the local Sheikh, also on her list to meet).
4:30: Return to my house for a brochure class with Zahra, one of the eager Neddi girls who started a brochure with me over the summer. Either she or I haven't been around to finish it, and now she has great ideas to make a brochure advertising Agdz as a whole. She is very sharp and creative and I hope Kate, in time, can carry on her training and possibly turn this into some sort of occupation.
My emotions have been running a little high, having to say goodbye to very dear friends such as Frank or April or my host family (yesterday my host mother and I, trying to plan our last few weeks - realizing our days together are dwindling- looked at each other and burst into tears). There are many special families and girls and teachers that I have spent countless hours with over the past two years. I was also hoping to finish my graduate school applications before leaving, but as it is, I do not think time or mental energy will allow before I fly out of Morocco. And Close-of-Service paperwork for Peace Corps. And packing all my things and deciding who gets what, and if I should sell my laptop. And buying my last souvenirs. And picking up the special cut of a particular wood piece for local craftsmen to create spreaders for the hammock.
Over the last weeks a couple of other volunteers have approached me concerning various projects I was involved in. One girl is interested in taking up the shipping survey project, and hopefully lobbying the Ministry for rural shipping services. Another emailed to ask my impression of her site, as I recommended it from the April workshops and helped develop it over the summer with Tariq. She also noticed photos of me at the Zagora craft fair and said her specialty is exhibitions. Maybe she'll plan the next big craft fair in the region.
It is a very refreshing feeling to pass on knowledge capital, regional contacts, projects, and future hopes to new faces; to pour my experience and impressions into them and let them take these and run with them. Kate, at every turn over the past couple days, has exclaimed how much she likes Agdz and is enthusiastic about the projects I have kicked up. She has many creative ideas of her own and a good business head. Hopefully, however, I can continue to assist her and Nadia from the States with marketing hammocks once the prototype is complete. But in a few weeks I will walk away and Agdz will no longer be my little village, but hers.