Saturday, October 07, 2006

Community Based Training (CBT) and Me

CBT. I said I would include more on this unique aspect of the Peace Corps training process, and here it is. Community Based Training (CBT) is immersion into a town with a small group of other volunteers, so that we can learn both the language and culture directly from real Moroccan families. As I said in the last post, my town was Ait Ridi. It is a small town, just west of Kelaa M’Gouna, which should be on most maps

The region is known of its Rose festival, because the local industry is growing and picking roses. Everything is about roses, and shops in Kala are pink with floor to high ceiling racks and racks of rose based products. Want rose soap? They have 5 kinds. Rose shampoo? 6. Rose air freshener? More types than I can count. Its was truly a rosey place. Interestingly, the roses are not the huge American Beauty variety with petals that ooze a soft, warm, sensuousness. They are a smaller rose, one grown not for its beauty but only for its oil. The roses are grown in long rows and picked in the morning, then sent to the processing factory in Kala to be steamed boiled and extracted. While I am no expert in this process, I am under the impression that it produces different grades of oil, something like the olive oil extraction process. Not exactly romantic, but I have found the reality of Morocco is usually not the same as in movies.

Ait Ridi is a small town, that stretches out in a fertile valley at the junction of two slow muddy rivers. The area has slowly been growing and now several town closely abut to each other so that a person can walk from one town to the next and have no idea of it. Not unlike American suburbs. Most people in Ait Ridi have some economic connection to farming. My host mother worked in the fields most days, and we raised a cow (sold to market during my time), goats, and chickens as well. The farming fields in Morocco are much smaller than their American counterparts and the work is done manually, often without the help of tractors towing tillers. In many places the irrigation is down via "targua's", which essentially divert the water from small streams that flow around the perimeters into the field and flood it as often as is needed and practical. Even in macaque, which is solidly in the Sahara Desert this is how watering is down in the small fields close to town. The main targua's are community property, and the smaller ones leading to individual fields are privately owned and maintained.

Interestingly my host father was a welder. Here in Morocco, the job of welder is more related to "metal artist" than "joiner of metal". He made doors, window grills, and various things for around the house. Many of the people in the Small Business Development work with artisans such as carpenters or welders. Its been interesting to see how while both Morocco and America have people working in these vocations, the work done can be very different.

In any case, my CBT had 4 people in it. Dave, Kellie, Becca, and myself. Because we all got to be pretty close with each other it is possible that their names will surface later. Becca is the closest person from my stage to me, so I see her more regularly than any of the other group. Dave and Kellie are on the other side of the Atlas Mountains near Azile. All volunteers are assigned to a host family, and they went from helping us take the first baby steps in the language to being people who I still send a text message or a short phone call now and again. A really great family, and one that can help shed some light on who is in a Moroccan family. But, that is for another post :)

We rotate though CBT on increasingly long stints. First 4 days, then 6, finally 8 or 9. This alternates with our time in Ouarzazate, so between the two we are bombarded morning to night with language and culture. At CBT we met at the home of our Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF), which is a really fancy title for "personal teacher". So daily when my two host sisters (age 4 and 6) were getting ready to go off to preschool and kindergarten, I was drinking down cups of coffee to prepare for my day at my own little "madrasa".

As we rotated off of CBT each group would meet and we would get our rooms back at our training hotel in Oz and everyone could share new stories of horribly embarrising events that happened to them.

Its funny to look back on CBT as being one the more idealic times that I have had so far in Morocco, but it really was. Partly because I was with other volenteers most of the time. And partly because I was not living on my own and doing all the work associted with keeping my own house. By comparison, Ait Ridi, is a lush and green area compaired to M'ssici, and maybe that left an impression on me to. in anycase, CBT was learning experience and a gradual entry into Moroccan society.

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