Monday, March 22, 2010
In 2006, the Moroccan government introduced a national program called Moukawalati that partners with banking institutions, and advises entrepreneurs on business plans and management practices. The initiative’s mission was to create 30,000 small enterprises by 2008, however the program only financed 2,000 businesses in this time period1. The significant gap between projected and actual results suggests that government officials lacked an understanding of the economic and entrepreneurial climate in Morocco. The program underwent changes and was re-launched in 2009.
My research asks, ‘What are the major challenges for entrepreneurs in Morocco and does Moukawalati fully address these challenges?’ This project investigates the incentives and barriers of entrepreneurship from the perspectives of the 1) program administrators, 2) program employees 3) entrepreneurs working with and outside of Moukawalati, and 4) potential entrepreneurs, namely university students.
That, above, is my next 8 months in a nutshell. I will be on the university campuses in Fez, handing out surveys about attitudes towards entrepreneurship. I will be interviewing people who work with and run the Moukawalati program. I will be talking with owners of locally-owned and newly-started small businesses. There will, inevitably, be a lot of ‘hanging out,’ too.
As of yet, I have not really established a normal routine. Any day or week looks different from the next. Twice a week, I take French lessons and twice a week I go to aerobics class. Other than this, I float from one task to the next. Sometimes I am at the public university or one of the private colleges collecting surveys. Sometimes I am traveling to the city of Rabat to interview program directors. And sometimes, my work just means organizing my data and writing some emails while at home.
The research life is a mixed blessing because you really make your own schedule. I fluctuate between feeling like I am doing so little with my time and feeling like I am accomplishing something. But listening to other’s experiences with Fulbright, this seems to be a completely normal issue.
So I am taking it one day at a time and doing the best that I can. A saying I use often in conversations about my language skills but also nicely describes my research – (nuqta bi nuqta kihamal l-wed) drop by drop the river fills.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
1. Clothes. It’s amazing how little clothes you can manage to live with. I have 6 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 7 skirts, 3 pairs of pajamas, 1 hoodie, 1 fleece jacket, and a handful of scarves. Plus socks and underwear. That’s it. And I don’t feel I need much more. As a typical American girl, I have a lot of clothes in my closet at home. But this has been a good demonstration of how much you actually NEED.
2. Generosity. I am kind of a stingy person – I can admit it – I don’t like to spend money and I wasn’t one to give generous handouts to others. But generosity is a great part of the culture here and it has begun to change me. Suddenly, a whole candy bar just seems like too much and I always find someone to give half to. I give away small things (toothpaste, phone charger) to my friends if they are in need of it. I share my lunch with the people next to me on the train, and they share theirs’ with me. Although a lesson that many kindergarteners master, I have finally learned the joy of sharing.
3. Attention. I’ve always been quite shy and I don’t really like being the center of attention. But as a foreigner here with a pale complexion, blond hair, and a young face mixed with a culture that does not condemn staring at someone for as long as you like, I can often feel like the center of attention. Just walking down the street or walking into a café, I can have about 10 sets of eyes on me –children, women, and men (especially men) alike. I’ve grown quite used to it, and know that it’s just curiosity. Heck, even now, I find myself staring at the tourists in the old medina.
4. Patience and flexibility. These are BIG ones. You cannot live at the same pace of life in Morocco as you do in the US. You cannot be in a rush. You cannot expect to get everything on your to-do list done. Something will go wrong, things will not happen the way you imagined they would, and sometimes you just have to wait and see. If you have patience, sometimes you will get what you want, sometimes you won’t, and sometimes you will get more than you could have ever asked for. This I vague because it applies to just about everything I do here.
5. Cleanliness. Before I came to Morocco (pre-2007) I was a daily shower-er. I was into sports and had practice every day, so I had to wash myself each day. Now that I am less active, showering is always optional. This winter I typically showered only every 4 days or so. I know, I know, many of you are cringing right now, but I tell you I always felt clean. Really, your body regulates how much oil it produces on your hair and skin depending on how often you wash it off. So it takes much longer for my hair and skin to become greasy than it did before.
Well, that's just the top of the list - some more shallow than others. I could go on for longer, but I will save some for other milestones. It is a post like this that really illustrates the name of my blog, lost in translation. You can read what I learned but I have a hard time really describing how the learning process came about and how I have really changed. But I guess this is good enough for now :)
Monday, March 1, 2010
I am home for the night cooking some dinner at about 8:30pm on Thursday when I get a text from my housemate, Najma, asking if I want to go to a concert that night. I was kind of settled in for the night, but I thought, "why not? I don't have to wake up early tomorrow," so I said I would go. Well, the start time kept getting pushed back and I heard a few different places that the concert might be held. What kind of concert is this? I think. Finally, Najma and her friend Abdelrahman show up at the house around 11pm to head to the concert.
We walk out to the main fountain area outside the medina, and there are small crowds of men standing around, clearly waiting for something to happen. So we wait too. Abdelrahman runs off for a few minutes and comes back with another man who says he will take us inside to the concert hall. We are pulled pass groups of young Moroccans and into a big traditional house that is filled with about 200 finely dressed Moroccan men and women waiting anxiously for the concert. He leads us to a place on a couch to sit -- which just happens to be behind where my host mom and dad are sitting! I greet them and we are both excited and surprised to see each other. My host parents brag to the others around them that I speak Arabic and before I know it I have 5 new Moroccan girlfriends to chat with until the concert starts. Here is a video of the beginning:
If it's not clear, there is man dancing in the middle of the circle with an ornate platter on his head that is smoking a special type of insense. After this portion, the band sat down and played music. Meanwhile, everyone in the hall was served tea and many, many cookies. Around 1:30am the concert was still going strong but Najma and I decided to head home.
Not a bad end to what I thought would be a typical Thurday night!
(below) My host parents!