Sunday, May 14, 2017


Last weekend we went to visit the family of our Amazir counterpart. We knew they lived in the mountains, and had pictured a rather barren landscape (and in fact, the steeper slopes don't support much vegetation), but we encountered green valleys, clear streams fed by melting snow, terraced fields of ripening wheat and fruit trees, and wide pastures with rambling herds of goat and sheep! 

When one thinks of Morocco, one may be inclined to think of deserts, camels, and labyrinthine marketplaces; but by travelling to the mountains, one finds vistas that are more like New Mexico! It was a perfect spring day, and the family had arranged a lunch which started with their own walnuts, moved on to goat (tajine and skewers) and ended with the apples they had grown. It was an unforgettable experience of true Moroccan hospitality and a spectacular landscape. 

A colorful collection of blankets for the cold winter months

Friday, May 5, 2017


The holiday of Ramadan is quickly approaching! The last class of the semester featured a bit of fantasy as the participants created a Griffin: one of the Mythical Animals (Hayawanat Khorafiya, in Darija) which had been part of a lesson earlier in the year. By sheer coincidence, there might be a connection between today's Griffin project and the previous week's Triceratops assemblage. Some historians speculate that the myth of the Griffin was created in ancient times when miners looking for gold found the bones of a Triceratops-type dinosaur in their excavations.     

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


The recent classes were a combination of animal imagery and construction (using discarded cardboard boxes). Last year the children made pandas and tigers in this manner, and this time they created a triceratops. While introducing the activity, we mentioned that some paleontologists speculate dinosaurs might have been very colorful, and this appears to have encouraged the children to use their imagination in coloring the triceratops before assembly. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Shapes and Colors

A few weeks ago, we took a break from the animal image curriculum, and had a session which dealt with the vocabulary of geometric shapes and colors. Handing out a page of shape outlines, we asked the children to fill them in with any color, then name the shape and its color in English. All Moroccans are familiar with the hexagon and pentagon, as they are the basis for traditional Moroccan patterns seen every day in decorative mosaics used on buildings around town. The one word every child knew was "star", as the starfish had been one of the sea creatures featured in a previous activity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stay tuned!

Recently our trusty MacBook has been having some problems, so we have been unable to upload photos. Hopefully we'll be able to figure out how to upload pics from our other devices. In the meantime, we will describe another activity which we have tried with the advanced English students. Showing them a narrative painting (like a Winslow Homer, N.C. Wyeth, Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth) we ask them to write a paragraph about what they imagine is happening. It's a great activity to practice written English, but it's also a good exercise in creative writing! 

 N.C. Wyeth ''Old Pew''

 Edward Hopper ''Nighthawks''

Andrew Wyeth ''Christina's World''

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Portraits of Tadla Azilal


These interviews have been part of our curriculum for the advanced English students at the Youth Center.

 The activity evolved in the following manner: As we became familiar with our community, we also became curious about the myriad small enterprises we encountered around town. We wondered how people decided on a vocation, and what were the rewards and pitfalls of their trade. When we asked our students, they could only provide vague speculations.

At  about the same time, we became aware of Brandon Stanton's ''Humans of New York'' interviews on Facebook. In this remarkable series, the author presents a photograph of an average New Yorker along with their short autobiographic statement. These interviews, which feature people you might pass every day, reveal the extraordinary hidden within the ordinary; simple stories as well as heroic struggles that make up each of our lives. The students were moved by these stories, and it occurred to us they might use the format to practice their written and spoken English while helping us and them better understand the community.  Here are some of the interviews:

Orange Juice Lady
by Ibtissam

It has been twenty years that I have worked this cart. I’m from Bengrir. As you know, in the countryside we live in miserable conditions. I never went to school. At the age of thirteen, I got married to my sister’s husband because she died giving birth to her fourth child. Thus, I found myself with a husband and my sister’s four kids, and before long, with three additional kids of my own, which makes seven. That’s why I was obliged to work ro help my poor husband. The kids have never gone to school. They all work to help and we can’t afford the school expenses anyway.

My day starts at dawn. After praying, I go with my husband to Oulad Moussa. We buy oranges from the wholesale market there. We bring 20 kilos of oranges (or more) to the house and seoparate the good and damaged oranges. After this, I do the house work. At El Asr time (mid-afternoon), my husband takes his cart to one place, and I take mine to another. Before, El Caid (inspector) was chasing us every day and taking all our things. I remember one day, he took my juicer three times. I was very upset, so I took my kids and went to the El Caid and said: “You are preventing me from earning my kids’ bread!” But he answered: “ I’m obliged to respect my supervisor’s orders.” Frankly, I understood very well what he told me. After a while, he helped us to have three nice new carts. 

Now, it’s been six months since they did that. We can earn 40 or 60 dirhams each day in the cold season, but it’s more profitable during the summer, because people need to refresh themselves with a glass of cold orange juice. Nevertheless, we can’t deny that we’re better off with those new carts, which we rent for only 300 dirhams every six months. Al Hamdoullah, that’s the grace and blessing for us. And because of this work, I can provide myself and my family with what we need.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Portraits of Tadla Azilal

Casa Technique
by Ibtissam

I have been cleaning the roads everyday for seven years. I came here from Bzou years ago when I made my ID. Since that day, I have never been back to Bzou. I used to help my father farm there, but after a while, my parents joined me here. When I was 19 years old, I got my ID and decided to look for work. I started as a waiter, then I worked with masons. It was hard for me because I was still a young boy. One day, I heard people talking about applying for the military, so I decided to apply. I went to the army barrack, and was surprised to find hundreds of other applicants. But it was clear there was favoritism. I saw many hands extended over my head passing small pieces of paper. At that moment, I realized what was going on, and my feelings were wounded to the extent that I cried. I decided to go and protest at the Province. At first, they would not let me see the captain in charge, but after I insisted, he agreed to meet me. I started complaining about what happened at the barrack, and was overwhelmed with emotion. When I finished talking, the captain reassured me and promised to help me at the next recruitment. When that day came, I travelled at night to a far mountain where people apply for the military. I still remember that I had to spend the night in the forest until daybreak. When I arrived at the recruitment place, a second shock was waiting for me. We were just three people from my region but we were all rejected. I looked desperately for the captain who had promised to help, and luckily, I found him in the middle of a crowd. He was friendly and made some negotiations on my behalf. Finally, I was accepted and was sent to Asfi for one year of training, and was then appointed to Casablanca with the modest salary of 800 DH per month. My rented room cost 500 DH, which left 300 for food. I could not endure the situation, so I resigned.

Again I worked in construction, carrying heavy sacks of sand up stairs. I still have shoulder and back ached because of that. One day, a sanitation company came to town looking to hire people, but nobody wanted to do such work. They came to me and asked, "Do you want to work with us? You will be paid every week." I said, yes, why not? So I signed a six-month contract to work, and after the contract expired, they told me I had been selected with six other persons to be permanent employees of Casa Technique. As a result, we had a raise and other advantages such as social insurance. Now I am pleased with my work which helps me raise my three children.