Thursday, October 28, 2010

The big finish. (Almost.)

Two weeks from tomorrow, I'll be signing my name to become a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Here's what comes to mind as the clock winds down ...

What I'll miss:

My people ~ my host family, my dedicated students, the meek and brassy (by turns) girls at the nedi nesswi, the many, many women who have reached beyond language, culture gaps and suspicion to bring me into their circles of laughter and comfort

The call to prayer, especially that first one, just before daybreak, in the sweet mellow voice of my neighborhood muezzin

Walking to the hanut around the corner in my jammies if I've run out of bread or milk

Walking everywhere ~ and, if it's too far to walk, using only public transportation

Never being in a hurry

Cries of Boki Boki Boki Boki Boki!!! from the little kids in my neighborhood each time I enter their view

Eating truly local and making virtually everything from scratch

The late-morning smell of fresh sunshine and terra-cotta charcoal braziers

Wide-open sunsets, and stars visible in the night sky, even in town

No snow! (not down here in the Souss Valley, anyway)

The overpoweringly sweet smell of a bunch of mint peeking out of a souq bag

The funky bright red/yellow/blue pattern of my sleeping pad, which I usually leave uncovered by sheets because I love the happy pattern (also because I'm lazy)

The repetitive, metallic, high-pitched whine of Berber pop music on the taxi radio

The thrill of a lukewarm Especial tallboy, snuck home from MarJan in the hidden depths of my backpack

The traditional break-fast meal during Ramadan: Harira (a tomato-based soup with chickpeas and spices), dates, hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with cumin, and chebekiya (a sticky-sweet pastry drizzled with honey and sesame seeds)

Leaving my private courtyard door wide open, all night, to welcome in the crisp evening air

The extra fervor and linger of that last bump of cheek against cheek that shows just how pleased my friend is to see me

What I won't:
Bargaining the price for everything from a piece of furniture to a kilo of tomatoes

Standing out / Constantly feeling as if I'm on stage

Dripping with sweat most of the time

Ca va, gazelle, labas 3lik, HellowHowAreYouFiiiiiine? (and worse)

Having to work out, in advance, anything new I want to say

Cockroaches and other home invaders

Being assumed to have money, because I am American

Being squeezed six to a taxi, plus the driver, plus any produce or packages or, sometimes, livestock

Being asked whether I pray; whether I fast; whether I drink or otherwise act hchuma; whether I eat couscous; why I speak Arabic; why I don't speak better Arabic; ...  

The rigors and limits of traveling only by taxi or bus É the waits, the breakdowns, the sweltering heat, the crowds rushing to push each other out of the way

The constant, high-pitched screeching of the family arguments upstairs

Meeting a woman in the street, having what I think is a heartfelt, understanding and mutually appreciative conversation about the work I do here, how wonderful Morocco is, and how much we are all alike ~ and then still being asked for dirhams, or clothes

The trials and errors of communication and culture when I am not fluent in the local language
What I hope I'll leave behind

The notion that a woman can lead an independent, productive life on her own terms

A few more kids who'll pass the English portion of their baccalaureate exams and go on to university

All the extra layers of clothing, especially in the dead of summer

My occasional bouts with agoraphobia

What I hope to bring back with me:

New friendships

Cumin on hard-boiled eggs

Touching my hand to my heart after shaking hands

The breakage of the Diet Coke addiction

Fresh vegetable juices (cucumber, beet, carrot)

Making simple, edible meals with only fresh, local ingredients

Outdoor shoes come off in the house

Making do with what I have, what I can afford, what's available

A greater respect for the greater world (particularly the Muslim world) among my acquaintances

More strength, patience and perseverance
What I fear about going home:

Being able to find a job that can sustain both my soul and my renewed Western lifestyle

Driving (after 2 ½ years ~ and in the snow, no less!)

Too many choices

Too high expectations

What I look forward to back home:

Spending extra time with the niece and nephews (and their parents and grandparents, of course!)

Rekindling old friendships

Hanging out at my neighborhood coffeehouse (or even, gasp, bar!) without being taken for a prostitute

Bookstores and libraries 

Iced soy toddy lattes, sipped on the go or (gasp!) in a public coffeehouse

A garden!
A gym!
A washing machine!

Set prices

Screen doors

Feta cheese
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Basically, any kind of cheese



Maggie's, YiaYia's, Oso, Grateful Bread, Open Harvest, new local discoveries

Beer ~ anytime, anywhere, in multiple varieties

My people ~ parents who support me unequivocally even when they don't understand me, a brother, sister-in-law and amazing niece and nephews who keep me laughing and feeling warm, girlfriends like sisters, everyone who gets me and makes me laugh and makes me think

* * *

Finally, my most fervent hope is that those of you at home, reading this blog, who might otherwise experience Muslims only through the prism of mainstream media, have come away with a more balanced perspective. Muslims are conservative and modern, righteous and carefree, black and white and all shades in between. They laugh and cry and love their families and sometimes get angry and usually feel badly afterward. They want to learn and grow, and they also want to share and give. They eat and sleep and shop and watch TV and read the news. They go to school, to work, to visit their families. They have a vast range of clothing, and of ideas. They disagree about their politics ~ and about their religion. They are just like ... the rest of us. They have been my caretakers, friends and family here. I have learned to second-guess my assumptions, to appreciate our commonalities, to recognize when I'm being played by those whom my fear would serve well.

I hope I have shared all of this adequately with you.


Ali said...

This is amazing. You are amazing. I can't believe I won't see you anymore in Morocco! Good luck saying goodbyes, packing, processing, and finding meaning. See you in the states, inchallah!

william said...

You don't like being sweaty all the time? What's wrong with you?

Lane said...

Beautiful post! Let me know when I can buy you a beer. I'd love to see you when you get back.