I left Morocco eleven months ago. I am currently sitting at a café in a small town in Senegal after talking on Whatsapp with my mom and we had this simultaneous thought that it was time for me to write a final blog post for my Morocco blog. This is no easy task, and I assure you it is an emotional one for me. Even knowing that my parents and I are likely the only ones to ever see this post, the idea of closure to my experience seems tough. My 27 months in the Peace Corps changed my entire being, in ways that I treasure and in ways that still perplex, challenge, and confuse me. There is a continuous tension between the person I am now and the person I was before I left for my service and it’s a tension that infiltrates most of interactions on an everyday basis. Click play and read on.
A quick update on me (though I doubt anybody reads this that wouldn’t know this already): I am currently living in New York City getting my Masters in a one-year intensive program and working a job in Social Justice Education. In short, I went from living in the rural Sahara working just a few hours a day and getting ample sleep, healthy food, and exercise on a budget of $280 a month to living in a gigantic concrete jungle working between work and class from 9am-9pm daily with a monthly rent that is almost three times my monthly earning in Morocco. I bring this up not only to juxtapose the intense change I have put myself through but also to bring up how alarmingly fast the transition was back into United States life. There are some days when my time in Morocco seems like a total blur. Life post-Morocco has been either getting reacquainted with people and places and things I haven’t seen or doing this whole 12-hour a day gig so time to actually sit down and think about Peace Corps life hasn’t been plenty but there are subtle reminders every day that bring me back, in the most unexpected ways to the most unexpected memories.
Some of the most important lessons I carry? Well first of all is a life that is relational rather than transactional. Capitalism has an intense hold of our minds and bodies and when people spend, they often spend with their gain in mind rather than the human narrative that made that transaction possible. Focusing on the land and labor that creates what we spend on urges community health and relationship to be a part of the equation. We are unfortunately stuck in a Catch 22 in the United States and much of the world as most of our spending options feed into funding corporations within inhumane intent, but the more we can uncover these narratives, the more we can slow down our own lives and acknowledge the lives of others. Another major lesson is in an awareness of the discomfort around change and the self awareness it takes to orient frustration from it in a meaningful direction. I cannot blame my discomfort on my surroundings, but rather on the nature of change and that growth is not upwards, nor is it comparable. I can’t say what growth you are going through and what impact it is having on you and I certainly cannot say that my experiences have put me through “more” growth than anybody else. They have put me through a different growth and while I’m still trying to figure out how I am going to end up because of it, I am forever thankful for the constant reminder that the only thing permanent in this life is that is it always changing. When those changes feel rough, I cannot take them out on my surroundings… that is how boundaries between people are reinforced.
In thinking of what I want this last post to center, I think of all the people I miss; the people who made my time in Morocco what it was and the people who it both hurts to be without yet are with me daily. So who are some the people who I spent my 27 months with?
Mama Khadija, Habiba, Najwa, and Achraf: These four people made up my host family. I don’t know if any amount of words could reflect the gratitude that I feel for them. I have never experienced and unquestioned acceptance into another’s family in the way that they gave to me and I was cared for as a family member every day of my service by them. I will never forget my last night before heading to Close of Service sitting at their house trying to hold back tears as we looked through old pictures of the family and talked about our past two years together.
Moha: My brilliant, talented, artist brother. Moha and his family “took me in” after my site change and not only gave me a place to live, but hosted me for many a meal and Moha became my closest friend in my second town as well as main work partner. From trips into the gorges to our hours on end sitting in the art gallery and doing art classes to our daily lunches, I miss Moha every day.
Nabil: I feel like this is a hard one for me to write about. I met Nabil in a city over from my site during a Peacebuilding Conference in my first year of service and he instantly became one of my closest relationships in Morocco (and perhaps on the globe). Some of my last days in Morocco were spent with him and his family in Marrakech… our relationship most closely mirrors that of my most intimate friendships today. We provide safety and challenge for each other, and I can’t wait to see him again soon. Nabil is, quite simply put, the little brother I always wanted.
Simo Blil: Simo and I met my first day after I finished training and arrived in site. He was introduced to me as the theatre teacher who also taught personal development and lifeskills. Needless to say, we hit it off. We co-organized TEDx in our community and he continually awed me with the amazing lessons that he planned for our students every weekend. He is truly one of the most gifted community educators I have ever met.
Othman: Othman is one of my best friends from the first site that I was placed in. We climbed a mountain together, rocked out on guitars in an abandoned Rotary building, and deconstructed society (through words… it was the best we could do). He is brilliant and a lover of the Harry Potter series, which in fact, were key in teaching him English.
Amina, Khadija, Fatima, and Hannan: These four were my counterparts in my first site and ran community classes as a team. All four of them would show up at my classes with huge smiles on their faces and whenever I went back to visit my first site I would get to spend time with them. All four of them ran classes at two women’s centers and would put in hours beyond expectation to learn and create lessons, as well as build relationships with the women outside of class. They planned this huge picnic for me a couple days before I left Morocco where they brought all my students from my first site together to see me off.
Mustapha, Aya, and Wisal: Mustapha was my landlord and dear friend in my first town. Aya and Wisal are his niece and daughter. They took care of me throughout my time living below them. Mustapha and I would spend evenings sitting around our apartments playing music, cards, and coloring with the girls.
Khadija, Fatima, Hassna, Abdelkarim, and Mohammed: I once saw a small group of girls leave my class in tears. When I approached them to figure out what was going on, the idea of self esteem came up, and they said they had a hard time comparing themselves to other people in my classes. With that, we started a small group with a couple other students that would meet for about six hours a week and we became a positivity and self worth club where we did some language practice but mainly built each other up. My transition to my second site was extremely difficult for me in terms of integrating into another community, but this group of students became my motivation for work every day.
Yassine and Abelatif: I learned a lot from these two in terms of carrying around the pain of others. I found myself near the end of my second year carrying a lot of anger on behalf of other people and these two came into my life with the reminder that nobody asked me to hold the oppressions of others and that I retained the choice to use the compassion attached to those oppressions as a reason to act with love.
Of course there are also my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers (Hannah, Chip, Jodie, Zach, Julie, Edwin, Kareema, Rebecca, Menges, Andy, Tania and Bri just to name a few) who were and continue to be really important parts of my life. I truly wouldn’t have made in through my experience without the support of all of you. Finally, I want to thank my family and their continued love for me and my often irrational, impulsive decision making that causes me to do things like drop my second major, apply for early graduation, and submit an application for the peace corps in a 24-hour window. When I submitted my application in September 2012, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Challenge and all, I wouldn’t accept anything else as my truth today.
With that, I ask you, how do we leverage the things that we love with the things we don’t want to return to? Being a year out of service, I juxtapose very different truths and realities that I have lived, and have found myself in each of those realities longing for things that the other has. I continue to believe that this world I seek where these longings come together is possible. I am excited to continue to fight for that world to exist. Thank you all for being a part of this journey with me. I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.