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Monday 29 November 2010

I arrived in Morocco the same day as the girls returned from their summer holiday. I was to stay in Dar Asni the first week then move up to Dar Tinmel the following, so I was kept very busy trying to learn the Khadija's from the Fatima's, as well as attempting oragami in order for me to teach them and painting one of the outer walls with handprints, as well as the token Scottish flag. The week flew by, all the new experiences blurring into one every passing day, like the language and food which were probably my two biggest hurdles and before I knew it I was on the winding road up to Talat N'Yacoub, a small, isolated burber village 50km deeper into the Atlas Mountains.

From then on everything was full steam ahead, I started to love the food (probably due to Khadija, the brilliant cook) and I managed to communicate with the girls with basic hand signals and broken French, or "Franglais" as I have recently heard it called. Everyone was very welcoming and soon I had got into my daily routine, this included a daily walk, sometimes on my own but usually with the girls, all bickering over who got to listen to my iPod! It was on these walks that I really got to know the girls and I was able to differentiate between the loud and the quiet, the cuddly and the independent, the cheeky and the shy- but most importantly they were all lovely, even when they were shouting at me (thinking the louder they say something the more likely I was to understand it, gradually most of them realised this wasn't the case and gave up after a blank look and shrug of my shoulders!)

With 20 girls, 12 of them new and none of them having ever studied English I decided to start a programme called "English with Eily," making 20 individual booklets containing the likes of numbers, the alphabet, weekdays, months, food, clothing etc. and I like the girls take charge of their individual cover designs. To encourage them further and to enable me to follow their progress I made a chart with the girls names and different topics we would cover, after a topic is complete the girl receives a tick, bringing a healthy touch of competition to the learning process. That is one thing I have noticed particularly about the attitudes of the girls here, they are all so willing and wanting to learn, wanting to prove themselves. Today for example I was sitting out on the Terrace with one girl who has been particularly struggling and we got through the alphabet, numbers (to 20), weekdays, months and animals, I was very proud!

In the evenings I have done some other activities with the girls, other than just English, teaching them to make origami fish (my speciality) and origami stars, a slightly more challenging and fiddly process which lead to me making 20 origami stars for 20 very confused little faces. Simpler tasks have been making snowflakes and tissue paper flowers which now line the walls. I have also taught them games, like Heads Down, Thumbs Up (a personal favourite) and uno, which was exhausting to say the least! The girls all love to sing, so I have attempted to teach them a couple of songs and hand jibes, and in return they have taught me a few more difficult ones that involve ducking down and concentrating hard!

The Terrace is beautiful and a place I have spent a lot of my time, the sun shines daily. Whether it be playing hopscotch which the girls, reading or listening to music (often with one of the girls who had come up and sweetly asked "musique, s'il vous plait Eily"). One afternoon I noticed the bare walls of the terrace and decided to paint the names of the girls along one wall, so they could do their hand-prints underneath. Hopefully in the following years it will become a tradition and the walls will be covered with lots of little hand-prints of the girls.

I have really enjoyed my time at Dar Tinmel, and although it has been difficult at times, being so isolated from everything I am familar with; the girls are so affectionate they make you feel as though you are really part of their community. I have also managed to pick up a little bit of the local language, which gets a lot of laughs. I hope the girls have gained something from me, as I have from them. Hopefully one day I will return to see their transformation from catipillars to the beautiful butterflies they are on the path to becoming.

Eily Craig

Tuesday 9 November 2010

We made it to the summit!!

Living in Asni without climbing the Toubkal…it wasn’t conceivable. We always had an excuse…too tired…too hot in the summer…no time…But this time we were really motivated and last week end (30 & 31 October) we made it, Latifa (Dar Asni house mother), Fairouze (volunteer) and I!! We were lucky because the Kasbah took care of us, and we had a great guide (thank you Mike and Hajj Maurice :) )

We left Dar Asni early in the morning on Saturday 30th to have breakfast in the Kasbah and we left Imlil at 10.00 am. We had a beautiful weather, the first hours were easy and we really appreciate the beautiful landscape. We had a sweet tea at Sidi Chamharouch and we stopped for lunch almost an hour after this place.

The Kasbah team was dealing with the food and as it was a trek we were expecting sandwiches…but they did much better!!! We had a real lunch with a delicious mixed salad and so and so…that we were full and can not get up and continue our trek :)
But we did and the afternoon was harder, we were tired, and change would have it that I was sick during the week end…grrrrrr

We were continually asking to the guide “where is the refuge?!” and he was continually answering “just here, behind this mountain” “yallah, yallah” :(
And we were so happy to see the refuge finally; around 4.30 pm…we were already proud of us even if we hadn’t done the hardest part…
The refuge was full of people from different countries and it was interesting to discuss with them around the fire-place.
We slept early…heuuuuu…Latifa slept early, she snored all through the night whereas Fairouze and I were trying to sleep…and we slept at 5 am but it was too late we had to get up to leave the refuge at
And the climbing was really hard, the higher we climb the colder it becomes. We stopped several times and I can’t remember how many “yallah, yallah” I've heard from our guide!!! Poor guide, he will remember us :)
But he really impressed us; he was running on the mountain! It was crazy!!

We finally reached the top at 10.00 am! The wind was really strong but once in the summit we forgot everything and we just appreciate this amazing and so beautiful landscape around us…the guide once again surprised us because he took a lot of food out of his bag: bread, fruits, dates… :)

It was easier going down and we were back to Imlil at 7.00 pm. We spent the night in Imlil and on Monday morning we were back to Dar Asni where the girls were waiting for us :)
It was a good experience and we’ll do it again, we would run this time like our guide did :)


Tuesday 2 November 2010

Two days of fun with the girlguiding UK

  • We had the opportunity to welcome the 27th and the 28th of October 2010 the girlguiding UK for their annual visit. Those two days were full of activities, motivation and enjoyment. The first day, we made two groups, one in charge of painting jars of garden with flashy colours and the other one was explaining to the girls of Dar Asni how to sew and decorate a bag, make key rings with pearls and realize plastic decorative objects which reflect the light. The girls really appreciated it as they love colours, discovering new things and new people. The fact that the girlguiding are older than the girls of Dar Asni was a huge asset because they were like their big sisters and the organisation worked very well! Even if there was the language barrier, it was not a difficulty for the girlguiding to understand what the girls wanted to do, to explain to them how to play typical English games and so on!!!

    The second day was dedicated to Halloween. We fund it interesting to make the girls discover Halloween and to explain to them what is its sense. While one group was continuing manual activities with the girls and making Halloween frieze, the other one were filling pots with flowers and cactus bought for the occasion. Then, after eating a delicious fish tajine we started emptying the pumpkin and making a cake with the flesh. It was really funny because nobody had ever made this recipe! Well, after a certain hesitation and confusion…we finally did it! It is a pity you did not stay longer girls to taste it! And what about the empty pumpkins? Well, we put candles inside and placed them in front of the door. When the girls came back from the school late in the afternoon, we all took photos all around the pumpkins.

You can find more pictures on our facebook page :


The new academic year started...

Just few words to give you some news about EFA and the girls. We started the new academic year since almost 1 month and everything is good! Lot of work…and a lot of fun of course!

I’m still here volunteering in the houses until January, and we have two new volunteers with us:

- Dar Asni : Fairouze JEBLI – 26 years old – from France.

- Dar Tinmel : Eily CRAIG – 18 years old – From Scotland.
And I’m working between both houses. The third house is still under construction but it will open soon.
You will have more pictures and stories about the new volunteers’ life through this blog...