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July 29, 2008 Environmental Festival

The President had asked us to show up by 8:30, so the PCVs who were helping out agreed to meet for breakfast at 7:30. (Breakfast is important. It’s also a chance to patronize the best patisserie in Morocco – the best I’ve yet seen, anyway.)

Some of us got to the mural wall by 8:30; others trickled in over the next hour. The President was there, though, and glad to see us. He had set up a huge tent, and we set about getting other things together: tables and chairs inside, etc. A woman brought us tea and cake (miskota), which made me rue the juice and pastry I’d downed half an hour earlier. But I still managed to do right by the excellent miskota.

The kids showed up a while later, and The President explained what they were to do. About 75 picture frames had been painted on the wall, each about 1 m x 1.5 m, and the kids got to paint individual murals within them. There were also some larger frames, maybe 2 m x 1.5 m, which were to be painted by some professional artists and the PCVs. (Two of the PCVs have serious artistic ability – the rest of us agreed to paint in whatever they outlined.)

The kids showed up in steadily increasing numbers. Around noon, I walked the length of the wall – probably about two city blocks – doing a headcount. People were walking around, and I probably counted a few passersby by mistake, but my highly unscientific snapshot headcount came up with 142 people: 70 boys, 14 men, 55 girls, and 13 women. I had expected to have about 80% boys, so the fact that it was under 50% delighted me.

A total of 240 kids signed the Association’s list saying that they had come, so apparently a lot had already left when I did my headcount. Given how hot it was, I'm not surprised that some people didn't stick around that long; under the tent, it was a cool and breezy 98 degrees (yes, like the band) but out in the sun, we clocked a solid 109. Yowza.

That night, there was a party, complete with DJ, hip-hop stars, traditional musicians, Qur’an reading, and the awarding of prizes to the boys with the best murals. (Yes, all boys.) Interspersed with all these events was The President, talking about environmental protection and what the people of SouqTown can do. I counted heads at the party, and got around 300. (They were moving too much to have a precise number, but it was close to that.) Also, tons of them were women, who were scarce at the mural painting.

I’m thrilled that there was such great turnout for an “Environmental Festival”. I don’t know what the population of SouqTown is, but it’s probably around 5000, meaning that several percent of everyone in town was involved, either in painting a mural or in attending the party. :D

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