I laced up my dusty black b-ball shoes and started down the four flights of stairs. Floyd and I took the familiar walk from his appartment to the petit-taxi stand across the busiest street in Errachidia. The approach of lunch has predictably cleared the cafe sitters from downtown.
“Peace be upon you, Omar.”
“And peace be upon you too Farid. And you too Farid’s friend.”
Omar is the local sandwich man. Many a lunch hour has been spent at Omar’s corner sando stand. Despite Omar’s fine personality, his sandwiches just aren’t up to snuff. Lucky for us, Floyd and I had a lunch date with a man named Ismail Harouni. Ismail is the Mudir (director) of the 4th Spring Language Immersion Camp of Errachidia” His day job is as the Mudir of the Dar Chebab (Youth House) and as Floyd’s primary counterpart. As we made the turn into Boutalamine I spotted Ismail and Adil walking in our direction. We hopped out of the taxi and handed mul-taxi the standard six Dirhams.
As we backtracked to meet them I felt some excited nervous butterflies. I saw Ismail’s straight white teeth smiling from under a salt and pepper moustache. His long stride indicated a bit of a hurry. We approached one another and I took the mudir’s right hand in mine. I put my left hand upon his right shoulder. We leaned in and put our right cheeks together.
“La bas Charley.”
“La bas Si Mudir. Key’dayer ?”
“La bas elik?”
“It’s all good. All good. Everything is all good.”
“All thanks be to god.”
Fourth and final kiss.
“All thanks be to god.”
I felt ready for camp. Ready for a chance to really do something well. My job was being the Coordinator for ten other Peace Corps Volunteers at camp. For now though Floyd and I were making a house call. We were meeting Ismail the Mudir and Adil, the sports director of camp, for couscous at the Mudir’s house. The hurry in their step earlier was because the call of the Muezzin had sounded just before. Mid-day prayer on Fridays here are a big deal and ahead on the right we could see many d’jellaba-clad men entering the mosque. The Mudir dropped us off at his house and hustled with Adil to the house of prayer.
Floyd and I sat on the traditional Moroccan ponges discussing the madness that is the NBA’s western conference this year as the Mudir’s daughter brought us sweet mint tea and and big plates of almonds and peanuts. Floyd is my top dog on everything for this camp. We have worked two previous camps together, including last years incarnation of this camp. This Spring Camp shindig was happening at the place where he works everyday and with his every-day Mudir. Floyd was ready to go to work.
When the Mudir and Adil returned they were quickly followed in by his daughter carrying a silver basin and soap dish in one hand and a kettle of warm water in the other. The next thing presented was an extremely tall tower of couscous. On top of the grains in a wide ring toward the edge of the plate were steamed and sauced garbanzo beans. Perched in the middle of the plate was a big roasted chicken. Finally on top of the chicken were carmalized onions with a delicious cinnamon and sugar taste. I have learned good Moroccan table manners and just as any good Maghribi would do I quickly had a defined triangle of food and was loving every bite of it.
When the food was finished we talked shop about the camp. We wanted to discuss possibilities and details and expectations for the camp. After 1001 niceties with the Mudir over lunch Floyd and I hit the road and headed back to his apartment.
For Whom The Bell Tolls sucked me in for a few minutes before I dozed off. Not a whole lot later our first crew of volunteers started showing up. In walked Scott McKenzie, Scott Robinson and Justin Fravel. They would lead Environment Club, Intermediate English, and Art Club respectively. Scotty Mac I have known for a long time. Cool guy. Very red. Very hairy. The other two I have met once without much of an impression being made. They looked enthusiastic enough though. The next person to show up was Linley Wartenberg. Linley is 40 and wound tighter than the guts of a baseball. Linley was followed by Amy Dolinger. I had never met Amy before but was very happy that she signed up to do GGLOW (Guys and Girls Leading Our World) club with us this year.
With dinner time coming upon us we headed over to the Centre’ D’Accuiel that was to be our home for the next week. It is the same location as last year and I felt comfortable in a familiar setting. I took notice of the awful-but-memorable painting on one of the walls and had a moment of reminiscing.
The gals from the kitchen were not yet on call so the Mudir handed me 200 Dirhams for the crew to get us through three meals. As a group we headed back across town a ways to the “Super Marche.” Spaghetti was decided upon after much equivocation. All the fixins plus a package of 12 papier hygenique rolls added up to 110 Dhs. When we returned to the center we found no gas for the stoves and one of the Scotts volunteered to run back and pick up tuna for sandwiches. Another 35 Dhs to the wind. A few more hours of music and lesson planing and a session of recreational relaxing we headed off to bed.
The room was crazy. Six volunteers and seven beds and room for not much else. It was crazy cramped. I took a moment to grasp my surroundings and sweating the close quarters. The transition is not fun or easy from lots of alone time to constant company for better or worse. Laying in bed my head was flickering from thought to thought. “When can I get back to Goulmima to put my laundry inside? One hundred total kids. The Mudir is an alright guy. Floyd snores like a maniac. How cool would a recommendation letter in Arabic look?” It was a long time until I slept but when I finally did it was a good deep sleep.