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

October 18, 2008

It's Been Too Long

One year down and one year to go; I simply can’t believe that’s where I am in my Peace Corps service. Five years ago this adventure was just another item on my “list”, and to be honest with you I never really thought I’d get here. And yet, here I am, leading an everyday life in a tiny town in the Anti Atlas Mountains of Morocco as if this is exactly where I was meant to be. I have settled in and day-to-day life has become effortless.

I told someone recently that I’m a little worried about this new level of comfort; the “abnormal” has now become the mundane. Over the course of my first few months in Morocco I was positively brimming with stories to share and oddities to recount. Even if I wasn’t physically in Maryland, my mind was still working as if I was there, my culture grounded in the United States. Now when I nearly get run over by a pair of amorous stray donkeys or I kill yet another scorpion, when young, hip teenagers blast Celine Dion or I down a glass of fresh buttermilk and ask for more it seems totally normal… nothing to write home about.

This may all seem like fantastic progress. Perhaps you’re thinking “finally she has fully adjusted”. But as much as I’m enjoying that there’s so little left that’s unfamiliar or frightening, I think it’s sad that I’m noticing the “funny” things less and less. After all, those are what shape the stories; the quirks about this experience are what make it an adventure for everyone at home even if the events are a normal part of my life here now.

So as I sat down to write the first blog entry in two months (!) I thought to myself “Nothing has really happened. What can I possibly write about?” But in all honesty, if I look at it from your point of view, that’s simply not true. In fact, in August I attempted to climb the tallest peak in North Africa but got sick at the refuge 11,000 feet up and had to admit defeat (I will go back and climb it, the mountain can’t win!). I also got to explore the beautiful High Atlas for the first time, saw the quaint town of Taroudant for the first time, was nursed back to health by my dear friend Anny, and enjoyed an amazing festival in my town during which I got to meet one of the most famous female Tashlheit singers in Morocco.

In September I experienced my first Ramadan at site (the last one was in Ouarzazate). I fasted for the first week, but due to the persistent and mysterious mountain illness had to stop. Also, fall began and brought with it badly needed cooler weather, I signed up to take the GRE, I finally met my host mother and a great number of other host family members I had never met, incorporated Bingo! into my English lessons with overwhelming success, ate Pizza Hut and McDonalds for the first time in at least a year (pizza was delicious, but I could have done without the latter), got to go to the beach twice, and was able to visit with a number of dear friends. Life is pretty boring here, right?

As I look at what went on in August and September I marvel at the fact that in my mind’s eye those were by far the two quietest months I’ve spent here. You’ll notice that there is very little work other than the English lessons incorporated into that time period: as the summer progressed the girls travelled to see family, and then when Ramadan hit it was simply too warm and too difficult for them to come to the women’s center. Perhaps I felt that so little happened because I no longer had somewhere to be on a daily basis. It was exactly for that reason that most of September was spent praying for October to come quick, and now that it has I feel as if I am on the downward slope of a rollercoaster.

Only two weeks of October have passed and already we have had yet another festival, I winterized my bedroom and finally got to hang up some of my clothes, I had an amazing girls weekend at the beach complete with lots of coffee, conversation, used clothes shopping (I tripled my wardrobe for about $13 US), Indian, Chinese and Mexican food, I’ve begun corresponding with my WWS students in the US (thanks for the letters! I loved them!), am working on some new projects with my tutor, have started drawing again, and hosted some ladies from my cyber town for lunch and tea at my house. No wonder life seems to have dramatically increased in speed; and the next few months leave little time for R&R.

One of my best friends who was a volunteer in Namibia has told me numerous times that the first year you spend wishing you could leave, and the second you spend wishing it wouldn’t end. I am now getting to understand what she meant, even if only two short weeks ago I couldn’t fathom that’s where I would be emotionally now. Folks, this experience is flying by, and I fear that I’ve already lost time to do all that I wanted. And even worse, I fear that the little things will no longer be noticed in the frenzy of the last year and so I will unconsciously allow the beauty of this experience to make less and less of an impression on me. Perhaps my new mantra should be: Let this new level of comfort not mask the beautiful moments to come in the next year.

Below are some photos from the last few months. Enjoy!




This was shot on a beach south of Agadir in July. It reminded me a lot of the Outer Banks on a grey day.

When I went to the High Atlas in August the blackberries were just perfect for eating. Perhaps this is when I picked up the mysterious illness? Totally worth it! They were delicious!

Alex and Anny pick blackberries while I wait patiently to enjoy the fruits of their labor (ha ha ha)

We went on a hike the first day we were in the mountains and ended up at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall where we all dipped out feet in. The water was freezing!

No need for a fridge. The mountain water was cold enough for this shop owner to use as a cooler for the drinks he was selling.

In the High Atlas is the mountain Jebel Toubkal, that stands just under 14,000 feet. It is the tallest peak in North Africa and the third tallest peak in Africa. This is a picture taken in the first few hours of our day hike to the refuge. That's me in the pink with the red backpack.

It took us about nine hours to get to the refuge, and while the climb wasn't technically difficult as the day wore on I became really tired. At this point I was still smiling, though!

We stopped for tea and coffee on the way up. It was about a third of the way into the hike and we were ready to sit and take a load off.

About an hour from the refuge we came upon this lovely patch of green, green grass. It was the most green I've seen since coming to this country.

Right when I got back from Toubkal they had a festival in my town. It was a cultural festival with Moroccan goods and music. These are all the decorative items the girls made to sell at the festival, all laid out the day before at the women's center.

This is a picture of the road through my town all dressed up for the festivities.

Here is the girls' tent at the festival. It reminded me a lot of my previous job!

Here I am getting some free henna in a booth three over from ours. It was great fun and the woman couldn't get over that I spoke Tashlheit.

Ah, yes. The women could not resist dressing me up in the traditional clothing and taking pictures. That's me.

One of the concerts was a woman named Raissa Fatima Tabaamrante, who is one of the most famous female Tashlheit singers in Morocco. She came on stage at 2:30 AM, by which time I was falling asleep unfortunately. But I did keep my head up and eyes open long enough to take some pictures.

Traditional tamazigt dancers

Here I am, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4:15 AM meeting the famous singer. Again, she thought it was hilarious that I was speaking Tashlheit.

So as the cold weather settled in, along with it came the rain. My house seems to have sprung a few leaks, and this is my salon after a particularly ugly downpour. We needed the rain, just not inside my house.

Two of my fellow PCVs and I are working on making an instructional yoga video for volunteers to use at home. Here Amelia and I are prentending to be very engrossed in the filming. We actually took this after we were done...

Here we are, the whole crew. Amelia, Mindy and myself. We had a great time and the weather was perfect. Now if I could just get my computer to work long enough to finish editing it...

Meg enjoying delicious snacks after the shoot.

This is a pencil drawing I did for my parents of a woman wearing the white veil of my town. I've finally started drawing again after almost a 7 year hiatus.

I found this giant toad in my garden. Isn't it fantastic?

I thought you may all be interested to see how I do things like dishes without running water. The perks are that I get to spend most of my time outside, and the sun heats up and dries them after I'm finished cleaning the dishes.

Mr. Potato Bed asleep under his old potato bed

This is Mr. Potato Bed's girlfriend. At first she was very scared of me, but now she comes around begging just as he does. She doesn't have a name yet. Any suggestions?

I love this picture of him!

I usually have quite the black thumb, but here in Morocco I have been successful in growing basil. Now I have more of it than I know what to do! I've been eating a lot of pesto and pasta recently...

Me, Mr. Potato Bed and the basil hangin' out on the front stoop on a particularly lovely evening.

I made this winter hat for my friend Matthew. Here he is modeling it.

In October we had yet another festival, although this one was more like a week long giant market and MANY more people came. This shot was actually taken the morning after it ended.

Here I am dressing for yet another midnight concert. We had a great time and everyone was amazed to see that I wore the traditional dress instead of my Western clothes. We had a great time and I didn't get to sleep until 5 AM!