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Sunday 29 May 2011

Visit of the Kasbah Tamadot & school party

It seems like it is just one party after another here at Dar Asni. First there was the open day, then the party for Mouna’s and Cook Latifa’s return and Jenny going and now we have mint tea at Tamadot.

Jenny has the idea that it would be a lovely treat if she and I took the girls to Tamadot for tea. They live so close but have never been in. So we emailed then and asked if this would be possible and how much it would be. They got back to us saying tit would be their pleasure and the tea would be free. So after much towing and throwing trying to find a date it was decided we would go on Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th of May. When Tuesday came the girls where so excited and kept asking me “Tamadot today?” “You go Tamadot?” “I go Tamadot?” When I said yes to these they would then hug and kiss me, say happy there are and thank me.

It was raining when the time came to leave, both on Tuesday and Wednesday. This did not dampen the girls sprits though and they where singing away in the transport that Tamadot has sent for us. As soon as the girls got through the gate they were silent. I had to encourage them all up to the front door with them clinging on to each other and me. They were so overwhelmed by its beauty. Senna, 1st lesse, said “It’s so beautiful!” In an awe struck voice and the other girls agreed. Then we were ushered through the door by the lovely Ariane, Deputy General Manager, and up the stairs to where we would have tea. It was a lovely court yard with swimming pool in the middle, which had rose petals floating on the surface.

The Tea was brilliant; we had traditional Moroccan mint tea with little pastries and cakes. The girls where very shy at first but with help from Idris, who works at Tamadot as well as doing our gym club, we managed to get them to relax a little. After tea a very proud Idris took us on a tour of the grounds. It was breath taking. The girls where so amazed by all the different plants, swimming pools, works of arts and most of all the amazing gym. Idris was like a proud father as he showed us around and took hundreds of photos for the girls.

Then it was time to leave as we all had to back in time for gym. After it being hard to get them through the front door it was now hard to get out of the door due to the amount of photos being taken but eventually we made it. All that was talked about for the next few days was Tamadot and how wonderful it is.

The week of Tamadot had come in the middle of exams for most of the girls, so it was a welcome break. By the Friday a lot of the Lesse exams where over and some of the girls were having parties with their classes. Khadija Ait Hmed and Samira, both 1st lesse, invited me to go to one of these parties. I had to be ready to leave at 8am as the party was to be held in a couple of lesions which had finished but they still had lessons the rest of the day. So off I went carrying a huge tea pot full of mint tea. When we got to school it turned out the girls had not ask the director if I could be there. So we stood in his office whilst he asked about me and told the girls off. I felt just like a naughty school girl again, stood up straight with my hands behind my back and eyes down looking ashamed. Eventually he said that I was able to stay and so off we went with many thank yous. When we arrived at the class room all the tables had been pushed to the edges or to the middle to make one large table. On this table sat 3 yummy cakes, plates and glasses. It had been decorated with rose petals and looked very lovely.

The room was full of boys and a few girls all dressed nicely and which the laid table it looked like it was going to be a good party. The only thing which spoilt it in my opinion was the fact the floor was so filthy, it was covered in mud, rubbish and cigarette ends, which I found out later they were the teachers from when he smokes during lessons. The music got going the boys had brought a sound system, a drum and a Moroccan guitar. It took a while for everyone to get up and dance, the girls where shy and very outnumbered due to the fact that there are many more boys at the school and in every class. But in the end the whole room was filled with people dancing. I danced with Samira and her friend, trying to copy them with limited success. Everyone was laughing and joking and having a good time, it was great.

Just when I was wondering when we where going to eat the cakes the director came in. He was not happy! It turns out that they had not asked permission to have a party. There seemed to be a theme developing, everyone seems to do just as they like. The director told us all off teachers included and said to turn the music off. As soon as he was out of the door the maths teacher got up and turned the music back on. We did however quieten down a little and it was time for cake, which was very yummy. After cake it was time for hundreds of photos. Another thing I have noticed about Moroccans, they like to take a lot of photos. After the photos, which took a long time, it was time for lesions and for me to go. The party was really good and the girls who had not finished their exams yet were jealous but they will get their party soon.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Marathon in Asni & walk to Oukaimden

On Sunday 8th May 15 of the girls from Dar Asni took part in a Marathon, organised by the Kasbah Tamadot and Kasbah Du Toubkal. The girls ran/ walked 8Km and men ran 19Km. It was said to be a great event and created lots of excitement throughout the whole valley.

The fastest girl at Dar Asni was Zahra Amizl, 1st Lesse, and she came 5th out of all the girls. The girls where all very stiff the next day, the girls who did not race found it very amusing to watch them all hobbling around. However the pain was worth it as the three fastest girls, Zahra, Sanna Ait Omar and Fatiha Id Ali, will be getting a trip to Marrakech thanks to of Mother Latifa. This is to encourage all the girls to take part next year. A big well done too all the girls who took part.

I unfortunately did not get to see the marathon as I was at one of the girls house, Fatiha Bouchaka, who is in first collage and has very little english. This was a good chance for me to practice my new tashlahid skills. This was not the first time I had been to a girls house and so I thought I knew what to expect. However after 3 hours in the back of a crowed van I knew I was going to be higher and further away from Asni then before. Then we carried on climbing up a rocky path. Finally we turned a corner and I got my first sight of her village, Tachdirt. It was spectacular! As i got closer I could see that there where several gites in the village. I asked Fatiha about this and she explained through many hand movements and 4 different languages that Tachdirt is on the popular trekking rout from Imlil to Oukaimden. She also explained that “tomorrow we will be walking to Oukaimden”. I was wondering how i was going to cope wearing only small impractical shoes, when I decided that I must have not understood her properly. I soon forgot about this though when I reached the house and was introduced to her mother and father. We had the traditional mint tea followed by a tajeen. We pasted Saturday afternoon by lazing around watching TV and taking a stroll around the village. Then to bed early after another lovely tajeen. This is the sort of weekend I was expecting and wanted after a hard weeks gardening but it wasn’t to last.

Just as the sun was peaking out from behind the mountains and the birds where starting to sing, it was time to get up. This was very early for a Sunday, all the other times the girls have had a nice lie in. It soon came apparent to me why we where up so early, we were walking to Oukaïmeden. So after a hearty breakfast Fatiha, Rokaya and I where on our way.

Just a little further up the path we saw tourists and the girls decided it would be good fun to catch them up. So off we went running up the mountain side. When we caught them up they were shocked to see us, all rapped up warm in little shoes no bag and only a small amount of water. This is understandable as they, looking most other people who trek in the mountains, had shorts and T-shirts on, walking boot and a big bag full of water, food and other emergency equipment. They where even more shocked when I told them we would be going to Oukaïmeden and back in a day. It is about 17km to Oukaïmeden up and over a pass and then back down the other side to get the bottom of the barrage at the bottom of the valley.

We said good bye to the tourists who were having a sit and carried on walking up in sun surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains. After several hours of walking we all of a sudden reached the pass over and there in front of us was the valley of Oukaïmeden. It was stunning completely different from Jenny’s snowy pictures of the day trip. The valley was green with new growth and there where wild flowers everywhere. As we walked down surrounded by vibrant greens, yellows, pinks and blues, I watched the butterflies flapping around and felt at peace.

In the basin of the valley was the lake and barrage. It looked like a painting with the clear blue water, green mountain sides and bright yellow daffodils. The closer we got the more wonderful it became. A strange noise was coming from the lake; we were all wonder what it was, as we drew closer to the edge the ground leaped up. There were hundreds of bright green frogs sunbathing in the grass desperate to escape our approach by jumping into the water. That is when I realised what all the noise was, hidden by the flowers around the edge of the water was thousands of frogs all singing their mating call. After a stroll around the lake and many pictures at the barrage we went to Rokaya’s brother’s house for lunch. And then we started the long walk back up the mountain and down the other side. We where all so tired when we got back that we went straight to sleep. It was such a wonderful day and I was so glad that I had done it even if I was tired and stiff the next morning.

Emma Clayton

Monday 9 May 2011

How time flies!

I cannot believe that my 10 weeks at Dar Asni are nearly over, just 1 week left.

The weather improved eventually and the house was so much warmer and then it changed! It became quite chilly and wet, winter woollies again!! Today it has changed for the better-blue skies and sunshine. I hope that my last week here will be a warm one, both inside and out!

A lot has happened since I wrote before. A big event was the EFA Open Day and the opening of the new house at Ouirgane on Sunday 1st May. This was a lovely day. The girls from Dar Tinmel stayed at Dar Ouirgane on Saturday night and helped with last minute cleaning and tidying on the Sunday morning. Samira, the cook at Dar Ouirgane had made heaps of biscuits and msimen, tea, coffee and fresh orange juice for a delicious mid-morning feast. Mike and some of the girls gave speeches and then the house was officially opened by Nigel and Angela Parker. At lunch time everyone headed for The Kasbah Du Toubkal to meet the Asni girls and for another feast-salad, tajine, couscous and fruit. After lunch the girls entertained us all with singing and dancing. An amazing day of food and fun! It was so lovely to see all the girls enjoying such a special occasion.

In March the girls from Asni were joined by the girls from Dar Ouirgane for a day trip to Oukaimeden. This is Morocco's largest ski resort. We all had fun playing in the snow and some of us ventured to the top of the mountain on the ski lift- I was encouraged to go by some of the girls but was terrified, I'm not good with heights!! We had a yummy picnic and ended the day with mint tea at a cafe.

I spent a weekend at Dar Tinmel with the other volunteers. We went on a trip to Tizi'n test, a beautiful region in the mountains. The drive there was a little hair-raising though-really narrow winding road with steep drops!! Just before returning to the house we visited Tinmel mosque, such a beautiful place but unfortunately it was late so a little too dark to fully appreciate its magnificence. This weekend I am going to a girls house, she lives at Talet N'Yacoub so I am hoping for a daylight visit.

It's exam time at the moment, many of the girls are spending a lot of time revising so have less time for activities. Emma and I have started to spend time in the garden doing some weeding- we hope to get all the invasive weeds out so that it is easier to maintain. Future volunteers this would be a great job for you to continue!

The girls here are so lovely. It has been great fun getting to know them and doing activities with them. I can see that their English language skills are developing, sadly my Arabic is not doing as well! I have loved being in Asni. I think the locals are getting used to us visiting the post office, wandering in the crowded souks on Saturday and buying goodies-chocolate, biscuits and yogurt- in the shops. I will so miss these experiences; the local people are so friendly and welcoming. Taxi rides are another thing I will miss, 6 people squashed in a car driving at high speed on mountain roads! Emma, Angela and I caused a stir when we caught a taxi to meet Kitty in Ouirgane, it was raining, we had lots of bags and were carrying pick-axes and rakes, the workers at the garage watched and laughed, I wonder if we made their day!

My friends and family have been very kind and sent craft kits and games. I think the girls were as excited as I was when the parcels arrived and enjoyed helping me open them. My nephew and one of my nieces and her class at school have written letters to the girls with pictures of their school. I hope to get all the girls to write a short letter back. My niece and her classmates cannot wait for me to deliver the letters and to show them pictures of the girls and of Morocco.

Emma and I have arranged for the girls at Dar Asni to have tea at Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson's Moroccan Retreat), sadly I will not be here when they go on 17th and 18th May but Emma will take pictures for me. We were invited to tea and for a tour which was lovely and it enabled me to see the place. It is beautiful but very expensive. We hope the Kasbah will maintain links with the charity via their website and guests who wish to donate to local people. Emma will tell you more once the girls have visited.

I think I had better stop my rambling now. I hope this will inspire you to visit Morocco, volunteer for EFA or to donate to such a worthwhile charity.

Jenny Hitchcock

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Dar Asni volunteer II

Hi my name is Emma and I arrived at the same time as Jenny so I thought she could do the first blog as we are both at Dar Asni together. I am also from England but I did not know jenny before we arrived. As I have been here for two months now I have got used to lots of the differences and I find it easy to with my hands apart from cous cous which still goes everywhere.

The thing I still find most difficult is gym. The girls at Dar Asni along with House mother Latifa, Jenny and I go to the gym twice a week. the gym club is run by a kind Moroccan man called Idris, who works at Tamadot, Richard Branson's place. As well as doing so very vigorous aerobics we also learn self defence moves. These can some times be very tricky and it causes many giggles when I get in a muddle with them and fall flat on my face.

Last week my mother came for a visit. She stayed with me here in Dar Asni for a few days. She helped me teach some of the older girls how to give someone directions in English and played lots of games of pairs, which is the game of the moment, with the younger ones. Also during the week I went with my mum up to Dar Tinmel to visit the girls and Angela up there. Whist we where there we taught the girls to make friendship bracelets with some wool my mum had brought with her. The girls really enjoyed this and made some lovely brightly coloured creations.

Later on some of the girls really wanted to show us the Tinmal Mosque but it was too hot to walk there so we all pilled in to the back of a van full of moroccan men on their way home after a day souk. My mum was shocked at how many people we managed to fit in, a mere 28. When we arrived at the turning to Tinmal we all hoped out and started the steep wending walk up to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, there was a light breeze and the air was full of the sounds and senses of spring. Then as we turned the last corner the mosque came in to full view. It was stunning, the sun on the walls and the snow capped mountain in the back ground. The girls proudly showed us around spectacular monument and then all of a sudden it was time to go as it was getting dark. We then spent a wonderful night playing games on the roof terrace with the girls until it got so dark we could no longer see. In morning it was time for my mum and I to head back to Dar Asni but we had had a great time with the girls at Tinmal who are so lively and happy. The girls can always be found on the roof terrace playing a complex game of stones, which I have yet to master.

In what seemed like no time at all it was time for my mum to leave. But as we said good bye to one visitor we said hello to another, Binkou the tortoise. He was given to the girls by the boys at the government boarding house, who found him outside. Mother Latifa decided to paint him bright colours so that he would be easier to find. All the girls have been really excited about having a pet especially one so good at hind and seek.

The girls are very busy at the moment with exams and spend much of their time revising. This has given Jenny and I the chance to get outside and do some gardening. Not only have we been doing our own garden but we also went up to Dar Ouirgane. They had had lots of plants donated on the open day by Andy which needed planting. So with the help of Kitty, Angela, Mina and some of the girls there we made the garden look beautiful. Mina is now very proud of her garden and I hope Andy will be happy with what we have done when he next visits.

I am really enjoying my time here and I can't wait for next few weeks, we have some exciting things planed but I will tell you all about then later.

Emma Clayton