Saturday, November 28, 2009

Photo essay: My week in animals and meat.

My host family's hamar (hachak!) was not into being petted. Rakya nearly dropped my camera, she was laughing so hard. (Donkeys are considered dirty and shameful here, even as they are relied on to haul many times their weight for hours in the blazing desert sun.)

Today was 3id al Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, honoring Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. This year I managed to hide out long enough to miss most of the festivities ~ the killing of the sheep in every courtyard or on every rooftop, and my city apparently tidier than others, no blood running in the streets for us ~ but I did happen past this doorway on my walk through town today.

Dinner with the host family: Hooves and kebabs for them, fried potatoes and zucchini for me. Everybody wins!

Earlier this week, I helped Kaitlin pick out a couple of turkey drumsticks for her Thanksgiving dinner with Vish. Note the blood on the tiles of the butcher's shop.

The butcher was so tickled to hear us speaking Darija and Tashelheit, he tossed in a bag of innards ~ no extra charge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks, the giving of.

Laughing with Anny at her going-away party in Tioute.

Vish and Joy with the birthday feast they prepared for me.

Just a few things I'm thankful for:

The palpable sense of being surrounded by love, both by new friends here who feel like old friends already, and by enduring and ever-growing relationships back home, loved ones who do not feel at all far away.

My looming visit home, where those loved ones will be within hugging distance, where those beers will be within hoisting distance, where the Southern slice at YiaYia's will be within savoring distance.

In the meantime, care packages of unnecessary luxuries that bring home back to me ... Constant Comment tea, nag champa incense, peanut butter, books books books books books ...

Wonky podcasts.

The recent discovery of such delicacies for sale in Taroudant as panini bread (perfect substitute for tortillas), soy sauce and red wine vinegar.

Having survived, as of this week, an entire year here in my dusty southern village, and knowing that the second year will be, comparatively, a piece of cake.

Realizing how far I have come in that year. Learning, at last, the value of perserverence, of things not coming easily, of not giving up.

My host sister Kabira reminding me recently how, at first, I cried a lot and my face was hard like this (as she hit her palm against the wall). And look at me now, completely wllft (adjusted), she added, as we sat around the kitchen table, roaring in laughter over nothing in particular, making hlwa (cookies/sweets) to sell at her shop, me doing my best to ignore the distinctly non-OSHA-compliant process.

The amazing ability to communicate and forge connections across vast barriers. Common language isn't everything. Shared cultural norms, neither. A smile, a shrug, a pantomime, a raised eyebrow of understanding, and a new kindred spirit.

My firmly established vegetarian status in the days before L3id kbir, the biggest holiday in the Muslim calendar, the one my neighbors and students remind me of by slicing their fingers across the neck in the sheep-slaughtering manner. (You can see last year's post if you need an explicit reminder.) But, also, my greater understanding this year of the holiday and, once again, how we global peoples (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Pagan) are connected far more closely than we allow ourselves to realize.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Words aren't enough.

Our Peace Corps Morocco family is in shock at the sudden loss, far too young, of one of our own.

So-Youn was an exuberant soul, feisty and fiery and feminist. She could be tempestuous, but she also had a great deal of empathy and arms big enough to enfold those twice her size in the most generous of hugs. She held fast to her moral code, and her strong sense of right and wrong drove her to speak out, to rally for change and to lead by example. She gave a great haircut. She loved her work and her village. She had a great deal to look forward to.

She lived large. She was ~ no, is ~ an inspiration.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How cool is this?

CNN photo: Muriel Johnston, left, meets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Morocco.

(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday praised as "one of the best" the oldest Peace Corps volunteer in the world, an 85-year old Florida woman serving in Morocco.

Clinton recognized Muriel Johnston during a meet-and-greet session of U.S. Embassy officials and other Americans in Marrakech, Morocco. Clinton was representing the U.S. at an international conference in Morocco, during a trip that stretched from Pakistan to the Middle East.

"I have to recognize -- I just learned about this last night -- Muriel Johnston. Muriel? Stand up, Muriel," Clinton said to applause and cheers from Johnston's fellow Peace Corps workers and other Americans.

"My young staff said, 'Oh my goodness, Muriel Johnston, she's the oldest Peace Corps volunteer in the world.' I said, 'That's not the way we think about it.' No, Muriel and I might say she is one of the best Peace Corps volunteers in the world," Clinton said to more applause, emphasizing "best."

"And it's also a great reminder that in America in the 21st century, there are not only second acts, there's third acts and fourth acts and fifth acts and -- if you're ready to embrace new challenges," Clinton said.

Later, Clinton shook hands with Johnston and asked if she was enjoying herself.

"I'm having a wonderful time, " Johnston told the secretary.

Johnston is serving as a health worker in the Moroccan province of Azilal. She hails from New York but has lived in Sebastian, Florida, since 1992. Peace Corps headquarters in Washington confirmed that she is the oldest Peace Corps volunteer currently serving.

She is one of more than 7,600 Peace Corps volunteers at work in 75 countries.


The first-year health and environment volunteers were lucky enough to be at a training workshop in Marrakech when Sen. Clinton visited there this week.

I've not yet had the pleasure of meeting Muriel, but I've heard nothing but great things about her, including that she's one of the most active volunteers in her group. Time for me to stop complaining about getting older ~ look how much I have yet to accomplish!

And while I'm not a fan of everything Sen. Clinton has done (most notably her votes on the Iraq war), she has been a great role model for serious, strong, successful and powerful women.

It would have been a great honor to meet either one of them. However, despite various nefarious plots, I couldn't come up with a way to sneak past either Secret Service or Peace Corps security. Drats.

It's a beautiful morning ~ the temperatures have finally dropped into the 80s after an extended autumn heat wave. I wake to the pitter-patter of construction rubble raining down into my courtyard, the hammering of steel on concrete as a third floor goes up on a neighboring home. Time to head out into the countryside for a run before lunch with the host family. Life is good here ~ busy with classes, awash in project ideas and only a month to go before I'm home for the holidays. OK, life is more than good.

Quote of the day.

"Hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate."

~ the Buddha, Dhamapada, Chapter 1