Sunday, January 15, 2012

Don't Trust That Map

Last week, my English classes made community maps. Community mapping is a Peace Corp community assessment tool where different groups (in this case, boys and girls) draw their community and label the places where they go regularly, occasionally and other important locations. The idea is to get an idea of how people see their community. The girls drew a highly abstract representation of Kalaa, while the boys got in a heated argument about the exact layout of the roads in Kalaa and then begged to be allowed to use the computer so they could look up a map of the town. One of the girls, Ibtissam, who would have been happier in the boys’ group, was frustrated by how imprecise the other girls were being.

IBTISSAM: Teacher, this is a bad map.
ME: It’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
IBTISSAM: No, it is a lie.
ME: There’s no right way to draw a map. I just want to know how you see Kalaa.
IBTISSAM: Don’t follow this map. You’ll get lost. Where do you want to go?
ME: No, no, I’m not trying to get a map of the town for myself. I’m not trying to find anything.
IBTISSAM: This map isn’t true. I will take you where you want to go.
ME: No really, I’m good.
IBTISSAM: Are you busy this weekend.
ME: No?
IBTISSAM: Good. I will show you Kalaa. I will show you everything. Ignore this map.

So, this weekend, Ibtissam and I explored Kalaa. First, she took me to her house for harira and to introduce me to her family. I met her sisters (one of whom I know from a different English class, but had no idea was related to Ibtissam) and made awkward conversation with her father (who I could mostly understand) and her grandmother (who I couldn’t – Darija without teeth sounds way different from Darija with teeth). Then Ibtissam and I headed out. We walked through the medina and stopped by the culture center where the PJD was having a celebration of their recent victories in November’s elections. Then Ibtissam took me through a back alley into a part of town I’d never seen before. There were a herd of goats and sheep munching on trash by a mosque, and Ibtissam laughed at how delighted I was.

“My grandfather has goats and sheep and chickens on his farm,” she told me.

“Mine… does not,” I responded while making clucking noises at the lambs to get its attention.

She pointed out a bunch of buildings I didn’t know Kalaa had and showed me where other buildings were. I now know where the hospital is, not that I’m sure I could find my way back, and the Moroccan equivalent of the DMV. I now know that we have an art exhibit across the street from the old medina and that there are dormitories for kids from the countryside who attend middle and high school in Kalaa.

Ibtissam was right – it was a lot more useful than the community maps my students drew.

Banana Man
Doors In Morocco PJD
Little Lambs Eat Ivy
Top: Fruit sellers at a small souq (market) in the medina; Middle: Continuing with my theme of Doors in Morocco, the back door to a mosque in the medina (left), Party sign of the PJD. A lot of walls in Morocco have a designated area for political messages and graffiti (right); Bottom: A real life Twitter conversation about lambs in my site. @til_midnight: Walked past lambs frolicking in a field on my way home. Frolicking. Lambs. @bethyafarrell: did you remind them of their future 3id kbir fate?! @til_midnight: It's good to know people will be able to eat sheep face for many l3ids to come.

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