If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

December 24, 2007


Now that I've had time to think (and believe me I have plenty of time to do that these days), it occurred to me that I have written very little on this blog since I left home. What's the purpose of having a blog if you don't use it? I know I've posted pictures, but that's not the only reason I started this thing; I really created it to share my experience here in Morocco. So, without further ado, here's what I've been thinking and doing lately...

I'm nestled in a small town in the Anti Atlas mountains in the Souss region. What little information I received about my new home sited there being around 3000 residents. I have a very difficult time believing there are even half that many people, especially since my duar (village), which is one of only a handful that make up the greater town, has 9 houses in it. It's quiet, small town living here in the shadow of the beautiful, craggy mountains, and I'm quickly getting comfortable.

To give you an idea of the amenities we enjoy here, there are a couple small tahanouts (shops) that carry everything from notebooks to eggs. There's also a teleboutique (phone booths), a small sbittar (health clinic), bosta (post office), a small government center for local officials, an elementary and middle school, and a Nedi (women's center - where I'm working). One of the most exciting things is that once a week we also have a great souk (market) that brings with it fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, clothing, home supplies, and all sorts of other things. Want a fresh chicken for dinner? You can meet meat and then eat meat! (right, Paul?) Does your donkey need a tune-up? No problem!

This probably seems like a minor highlight, but in our CBT town there was no chance to get your hands on fresh fruits and veggies, etc. without travelling. And while I have no intention of complaining, because I've certainly been able to make my way all around this country and haven't had one problem, travel here does take planning, waiting and a great deal of patience. Having a souk in my town is a fantastic perk that many other volunteers cannot boast.

Now, there are a few things that we do not have in town, namely a cyber cafe. So in order to send emails, update my blog, etc. I have to travel a little over an hour by bus to a bigger town every Monday to do so. The upshot of this is that it gives me a chance to see a good friend of mine (Mahri) from my CBT group and a new friend (Brooke) from YD every week. It also gives me a chance to pick up any miscellaneous hard-to-find items that aren't available in my town. What do I mean? Well, last time I picked up a hole-punch. I've never been so excited about a hole-punch in my life!

The pace of day-to-day living is certainly different than what I was used to in LA and DC. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I have faced is finding it within myself to simply relax and accept that I'm on Moroccan time now (what we refer to as "island time" in the U.S. I believe). At first I struggled with this because I'm a serial multitasker as many of you know, but I've actually come to find enjoyment in simple daily tasks such as laundry. In fact, laundry takes up a whole day now! I wash, rinse, wring out and hang to dry each and every piece of clothing by hand. It's quite therapeutic and it gives me an excuse to play in water and spend a day outside (except for jeans - they are a pain). I guess what I'm getting at is that I feel as if I've finally accepted that this completely unrecognizable life I'm now living can be just as (if not more) fulfilling than anything I did before if I allow myself to start looking at things in a new and different way.

What is the most difficult challenge I'm faced with currently, though? Well, as the holiday season is in high gear at home I've become acutely aware of the fact that not only am I thousands of miles away from my beloved family and friends, but I'm in a country where these holidays are not recognized. Before joining PC I was aware that I would be missing some of the most beloved holidays and events, but it didn't ever occur to me that I would not see any evidence of these things unless I created it for myself.

I've been consumed this past week with thoughts of home, images of decorations and friends and family reuniting dancing in my head, memories of smells and tastes that scream December, and an overwhelming desire to simply sit in the living room by the tree with my family and talk or laugh, or just be. The question is, is it worse to torture myself with these thoughts, or to simply block them out and not think about it at all?

While I've been grappling with this jumbled mess of holiday emotions and questions I've busied myself with listening to Christmas music and making cheesy little decorations for myself and my friends. I recently learned some basic crocheting techniques and crocheted myself a tree. It screams "Charlie Brown's Christmas" to me, but that makes me like it even more. I think the people in the town think this decoration is very odd, and believe me when I say I've had a very hard time explaining it in my limited language. But I have a feeling that this decoration will be in my life a very long time, and 30 years from now my kids will be begging their mother to get rid of that horrible crocheted decoration on the door.

So the other day as the souk was emptying out in the frenzy right before l'Eid Mqorn, I finished up some light shopping and headed to the post office in hopes that a package my mom and sister sent had arrived. I had promised myself that no matter what it was, I was going to keep it to open on Christmas morning. Sure enough there were a couple of letters (thank you!), four issues of Newsweek, and a box waiting for me. Yay! I trekked up the hill to the house, ripped open the letters as soon as my feet were through the door, and then settled in to catch up on some world news. Oh, but that box to my left was like a siren song and I couldn't keep it off my mind. I kept thinking "Maybe I should just open it". And then "No, if I open it then I won't have anything to open on Christmas". I went back and forth like this for atleast an hour, but finally my curiosity got the better of me and I tore into it to find out what glorious things were inside.

I can't tell you how happy I am that I opened that box early. Inside was the most lovely little tree with working mini lights and mini ornaments to decorate with. It even had a tree skirt! I immediately turned on some holiday music, made a pot of tea and got busy decorating my beautiful tree. I was so happy that I had given in to the voices in my head and opened the box. And just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any better, I realized that they had also sent me a new adaptor.

Now, to give you a little background, after our last CBT visit in early November I realized I had left my only adaptor behind. And, unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a replacement until the end of the month in Fes. In the mean time I borrowed various friends' adaptors, and my laptop started acting up. I knew the problem was related to the power and the batteries, but I couldn't quite pinpoint it. Anyhow, the first week of December the laptop stopped working completely. I was in shock, not just because I knew it was going to seriously complicate my work here, but also because although I had bothered to invest in a sizeable external hard drive to back up my work, I hadn't actually done any "backing up". How could I be so foolish?!

So now here I was with a new adaptor in my hand and a bit of hope in my heart that it may solve my laptop problems. I quickly pulled out the computer, attached the new adaptor, plugged it in and rejoiced when the little charging lights finally appeared. Yeeeehaaaw! A Christmas miracle! I bet Mom and Mara had no idea how very much that package was really going to mean to me. I know I didn't!

Life here is a daily challenge, but when moments like this happen and I am reunited with hope and optimism, I am able to feel closer to those at home that I love so much. I won't be there this Christmas for all the hustle and bustle, to visit with family and friends, to hang my ornaments on the tree or exchange gifts. I made this decision and I have to face that. In the true spirit of the holiday, I will simply have to appreciate the little joys of the day and know that as much as I miss everyone back home, they miss me too.

So this Christmas I will light my little tree, bake a little cake and make some hot chocolate, play some Christmas music, and (weather permitting) take a hike up the mountain to watch the sunset. I will simply stop torturing myself with thoughts of what could be, and enjoy what is.

Peace and love and joy to all of you (and yours) this holiday season!