I wake up early in the morning. This whole thing of giving and receiving has been going round my head all night. I don’t think it’s very healthy for the people here, no matter how poor they are, to be asking and randomly receiving stuff from foreigners. We play a part in this as well, and I don’t want to be encouraging this kind of dynamic. Of course I’d love to give something, but not like this. Frank is still asleep and I’m hatching a plan…
I’d like us to inspire the kids to make their own balls from stuff that they have available to them. We could show them how to sew a ball, to fill it with grains or beans and then show them how to juggle. If we did this in a school, we might make it a little project in French or English, depending on what language they are studying, and use the time to communicate with each other and get to know each other.
Frank wakes up, and together we spin this idea a bit further. By the time the sun is up and it’s school time, we are ready.
The boy comes past, offering us some hand woven cushion covers, probably hand-made by his mother, however, we are more interested in meeting his teachers.
There are three teachers and they arrive together in a car from Khenifra, closely followed by a mini-bus full of children.
We start talking to the teachers, explaining our idea. The teacher stops us in our tracks. The problem is, you can’t just come into the school, you’ll have to found a charity, and then we need to ask for permission from the state, but yes, let’s stay in contact per email and we’ll see what we can do for next year. I see our idea belly-flopping, but Frank continues to talk, explaining that we are just passing by, not sure what will happen next year, we are here now to meet and exchange ideas.
He likes where our idea comes from, he also doesn’t think it a good thing if the children get in the habit of asking strangers for gifts. Eventually he says, come and have a look at the school, and for the second time in 4 days, we’ve managed to short-circuit the correct procedures for getting inside a school. We witness a lovely, lively Arabic lesson from a very passionate teacher (he is very proud to say that some of his students from this very remote community have gone on to University). We communicate with the children and Frank eases his way into drawing onto the blackboard the items needed to make a ball oneself. Using his clowning skills, he mimes throwing a ball to the children, getting them involved. The teacher is hooked too and we have free reign for a few minutes. We present our idea to the children, complete with where it came from, and we thank the young boy for having inspired us, by asking for a ball.
By the time we leave it is break time, and the teachers invite us to the staff room for tea, a cosily decorated space near the school (they leave the kids to their own devices during break time). Tea turns out to be a very tasty meal, prepared by the bus driver who doubles up as a more than competent cook. We check today’s route with him (a policeman had already described it as la misère, but we wanted a second opinion), and he convinces us to return to Khenifra rather than attempting the treacherous mountain route, which we had our sights on. Rather grudgingly we heed his advice and wend our way through the forest and beautiful valley all the way back to Khenifra.
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