April 12th – We all wake up at different times and meet in the sunny courtyard. I’m sitting there with my legs up on a chair when Rebecca, Kate and the boys find me. We have one more day of leisure in Marrakesh before our entire group arrives and we start traveling around the country to meet the Nest loan recipients we’ve come all this way to meet. We plan to take full advantage of this time by exploring traditional Moroccan spa techniques, right here in the hotel. Once downstairs in the spa, we change into our bathing suits and go into the steamroom changing area. We have signed up for Hammam, the traditional Moroccan scrub. I’m not quite sure what this means yet, but people rave about it so I agree to try it. Before we enter the steamroom, the spa woman instructs us to remove our bathing suit tops. None of us are comfortable with this, but we do as we’re told. The steamroom is beautiful, with a little candle shrine in the corner and four wooden “beds” with rubber mats on them. We each lay down on them and steam for about 15 minutes. The spa worker comes back into the room and one at a time, takes us to another corner and rinses our bodies by pouring hot water from a bowl over each part of us. She then puts some kind of soap or lotion all over us and leaves us to steam for another fifteen minutes or so. When she returns she gives each of our bodies an intense scrub with what feels like a brillo pad. I want to tell her to lighten up on the intensity of it, but I’m afraid to speak up – chances are she won’t understand a word I’m saying anyway. When she finishes, I’m sure I must be bleeding. As she rinses the brown flakes off my body, I realize they are dead pieces of skin. Gross. Next, I am led to a private room with a Jacuzzi, which I have to myself for about a half hour before Rebecca comes in and I am led out to my massage. The massage room has two beds, and Kate is already in the middle of hers. At some point during my massage, Kate leaves and Rebecca comes in, so I basically experience a couple’s massage with each of them. We’re all a whole lot closer after this experience. I fall sleep on the table after mine, and Rebecca gently wakes me up and tells me it’s time to go.
We have to meet for lunch in five minutes, so we meet the boys in the lobby full of argon oil and wet hair. They walk us to Mama Africa, a small café that actually seems more Jamaican than African, with reggae playing and Bob Marley flags draped on the walls. I order some salad that includes rice, lettuce, tomato, avocado, bananas, pineapple and shrimp. It is delicious. Kate orders a sandwich called “lots of love.” I’ll have the cappuccino with lots of love, please. Jenny from Houston is with us now, and sits next to me in a chair that has a backing carved into the shape of Africa.
After our delicious lunch we walk through a craft fair taking place down the street, but the boys tell us not to buy anything here, to wait for the craft fair where the women we loan to will be selling their crafts. Both Tim and Brian are doing business development in the Peace Corps and are the ones teaching these local artisans how to turn their crafts into businesses. That’s where we come in- to give them the small loans they need to further grow and develop their business. So obviously we’re all a lot more invested in these women and would prefer to buy from them at the craft fair the boys set up, which will take place in Marrakesh a few days from now. Tomorrow we head up to the mountains to Fes, and then Midelt to see Brian’s cooperative of artisans. Tonight, the rest of our group, four more girls from San Francisco, will join us. Until then, I’m laying on the roof of our hotel until the sun goes down, enjoying this one leisurely day in Morocco.