Thursday, May 24, 2012

Journeying to the Desert

My whole being has been consumed with joy these past couple weeks. Everyday has brought something new. Everyday has brought insights into another’s life experience. Everyday has brought me into closer relationship with Moroccans. I am living so outside myself, and I feel liberated.

These past couple weeks were filled with many great memories with my family. My host brother, Sufian, took me on a day trip to the town of Sefrou outside of Fez, where we hiked and saw a beautiful waterfall. We took lots of pictures and shared a great afternoon. I will never forget the moment when I gave him a printed copy of a picture of us together. He said with a huge smile “I am so happy now, but I am sad you have to go.” I will always consider Sufian my brother.

I cooked pizza for my family, which they LOVED! They had never had pizza the way I made it..lots of fresh veggies. They said they would always make pizza like this from now on. I also helped my mom cook lots of great Moroccan lunches.

I continued to participate in Miriam’s preparation for marriage. I had a “girls” night with Miriam and my cousin, Bassma. I also stayed the night at her apartment with my other sister, Hudda. Bassma took me out in the city with Hudda, where we ate pizza and rode a horse drawn carriage around the city. Such a fun night! During my last night with my family, we danced and took lots of funny pictures.

Saying my good-byes to my host family was sad. My Mom cried as I hugged her and waved goodbye. My brothers gave me one final hug as they went off to school. I consciously stored Humza’a awesome smile in my long-term memory. Miriam and Bassma walked me to the taxi stand, where I gave them hugs and said my usual expressions (it became a daily ritual to exchange these expressions with one another)…Eziz Eliya (you are precious to me), hbiba kul nhar (my love everyday), and xti kul nhar (sister everyday). As they closed the door, tears welled up in my eyes. It’s amazing how I was able to form such deep relationships with individuals even though I had limited language. As I reflect on my stay with them, I am overcome with gratitude for their genuine kindness. The love that I have experienced in my host family was so pure and genuine. They have changed my life forever.

From Fez, I traveled by bus to Rabat, where I returned to the original hotel that I stayed in for orientation. It was nice to reconnect with other people in my training group, and I had a great day at a beach town outside of Rabat.

I also found out about my final site placement! Before the announcement of our final sites, the room of 110 volunteers was bursting with energy, anticipation, nervousness, and excitement. We all signed up for the Peace Corps with the knowledge that we could be placed anywhere in the country. However, now that we have been in county for two months, we have seen the beach, the mountains, the city, and the countryside and preferences and hopes about site placement had definitely surfaced. First, we were separated by region. They called my name and Elizabeth’s for region 5! (The south) We went into another room, where our regional manager had a map of the region on power point. One by one he put our faces on the map with a single click. My face went far southeast in the small desert village of Tissint. My initial reaction was laughter. For some reason, I found it funny that I would be placed far far away from everyone else in the middle of the desert. I think there was some fear rooted in my laughter as well. After a few other individuals were revealed their fate, my regional manager clicked his mouse and Elizabeth’s head floated right next to mine! We are site mates! I screamed with relief. I don’t think this type of situation has ever happened in Peace Corps history.

We were told by our regional manager that there are swiya hard (little hard) and hard sites. Our site is a hard site. Volunteers tend to get lonely at our site, so I am happy that the Peace Corps is using Elizabeth and I in a positive way. A guidebook describes our region as virtually uninhabited. Our village has one road, no bank, and very little resources. The heat will rise to as high 130 degrees in the summer! I am beyond excited about my site. I requested a smaller village, because I feel I will be able to integrate deeper into the community. Because there are few resources, there is also so much room for growth in my site. I will never be able to engage in a living experience like this in the states. I am excited to experience desert living!  

I swore in as an official volunteer yesterday and it felt awesome! All our hard work during training was celebrated in a ceremony that brought together the US Ambassador, the Moroccan Minister of Youth, our Community Director, Peace Corps Staff, and previous volunteers. They spoke words of inspiration and encouragement and applauded our commitment to service. Swearing in was comparable to graduation…a time where our past accomplishments are celebrated, but also a time to think about how we will carry our skills and talents out into the world. We are trained volunteers. Now it is our responsibility to apply our abilities to our communities and facilitate positive change. I found myself so happy about the knowledge that I will be living in this amazing country for two more years. This experience doesn’t stop at the end of training…it is only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what these next two years will bring. This experience has already been rich with growth and exploration. I feel I have learned so much about others, the Moroccan culture, and myself.

Today I am began my journey to the remote, rural desert town of Tissint, my home for the next years. I just took a train from Rabat to Marrakesh and a bus to the beautiful beach city of Agadir. I will spend one night here and then continue on to Tata tomorrow and Tissint on Saturday. That’s all for now…

LOVE to all my family and friends! You will be in for an adventure when you come visit me. : ) 

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