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Friday 5 June 2009

First week of holidays

Last week I had to say goodbye to the girls as they headed home for the summer holidays. They had a very busy last week, studying for their final exams, but got to relax and have a bit of fun with a visit from some Girl Guides from the UK who dropped in on Monday and Tuesday. They played games, learnt to cook marshmallows over a fire, made English crepes, and made friendship bracelets. The girls had a great time, and it was a great way to reward all their hard work! We also put on a bit of a party on one of their last nights where the girls performed a quiz show with questions from their exams, as well as some less scholarly activities- charades, celebrity heads, and lots of dancing!

Wednesday was not so much fun, as the girls trickled off one by one to go home for the summer. There was lots of tears and hugs and kisses – the girls love it here at Dar Asni. But Latifa and I plan to visit most of the girls at their homes over the next few weeks so I’ll get one last chance to say goodbye to my new-found Moroccan sisters.

This last week with the girls away, Latifa and I took a holiday away from the house. We spent Wednesday to Saturday at Latifa’s house in Moulaybrahim, a lovely village just a 10 minute drive from Asni. She lives with her parents, one sister, her brother and his wife and an adorable baby nephew. They are such a lovely family and made me feel very welcome. Their house is quite luxurious, with 3 floors, the 2nd undergoing renovations at the moment. The 3rd floor- or roof- is home to their sheep and rabbits, and also their private Hammam.

We went for plenty of walks over the few days I was there, checking out the local scenery and visiting other relatives in Moulaybrahim. It seems Latifa knows every person living in the village. We would be heading back through the village at sunset after a walk around the fields, and get dragged into every second house for a cup of coffee and biscuits and meet another flock of little cousins.

On one occasion, we ventured down the mountain to the river below and found a beautiful clearing where we spent the afternoon picking grass for their sheep. Which meant we had to trek back up the mountain carrying the buldging bags of grass on our backs! Luckily a man passed us on a donkey and offered to carry the bags up for us, and we found them waiting for us next to Latifa’s front door.

On my second night, I ventured up to their Hammam. I survived. Afterwards I took in the view from the rooftop, which is spectacular at night; a few blinking lights from the houses in the village below, lots of stars, the mountains, and a winding road that leads to Marrakech.

On Saturday, we took the winding road to Marrakech to visit more of Latifa’s family. We shared a taxi with 5 other people, Latifa and I squashed in the front with the driver. In Marrakech, we saw Maryk, and told her all about our plans for the house. We’ll be doing lots of renovating over the next few weeks; the girls won’t know the place when the return in September! Maryk gave us a generous amount of money to complete our To-Do list, so I’ll keep you updated on how it all goes. We spent Saturday night at Latifa’s aunt’s place in a village just outside Marrakech, home of La Plage de Marrakech- a big dam which is very popular in the summer. More little cousins to meet and play with, and I spent most of the night working on my Arabic with 10 year old Jamaal as I tried to sound out the words in his Arabic text book, then I helped him with his French text book (not sure I was that much help there…).

Next day, back into Marrakech. In the evening, Latifa, her sister Naema, her few month old daughter, Romessa, and I went to the Souks. Latifa bought a couple of summer Jalebas, and I bought a purple hijab. When it got dark we walked through the summery streets of Marrakech, me pushing Romessa in her pram (stopping by a patisserie for cake and yoghurt) to Naema and her husband Rashid’s place where we spent the night.

The next day we visited another one of Latifa’s aunts, where Latifa lived while she went to school in Marrakech and did her Baccalaureat. Another beautiful 3 story house. We had a delicious lunch and hung out there until the sun had gone down- it gets very hot during the day in Marrakech. So when the sun was low enough, we ventured outside and went to the ‘big gardens’ to watch the sun set. I found out that Morocco, in Arabic is Al-Maghreb, which means the West, but indicates that it is the place where the sun sets.

On Tuesday, back to Asni! We shared a taxi with a couple of ancient looking men with very few teeth, who cackled and shouted about something evidently hilarious for the whole trip.
So it was a busy week, and I think I’ve met most of Latifa’s huge family now, which was a great pleasure.

Now we have a couple of days rest before the work begins on the house. We have a long To-Do list to get through that will keep us on our toes for the next 3 weeks. I’ll keep you all up to date with how it goes!