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

January 21, 2009

UFOs, And Other Such Nonsense

Last Monday I really thought “This is it; my toes are so frozen I’m going to have to amputate them myself.” I had this thought as I was trapped inside my sleeping bag, under a heavy blanket, clothed in two pairs of long johns (one of fleece), three pairs of socks, a bandana, a wool hat, a scarf, two hooded sweatshirts and three undershirts. The only part of me exposed to the balmy 31 degrees in my bedroom was my left eyeball, and for a moment I wondered if eyes could freeze, too.

Getting out of bed these days takes a herculean effort that goes way beyond what it takes to hang laundry on the line in 130 degree heat. [I will read this in August to remind myself] But on Monday I forced myself into a standing position, literally yelped as I stepped out of my sleeping bag, and sprinted across the courtyard to the safety of my tiny kitchen. Let the winter morning ritual begin! The time was 5:30 am, and there was no indication that the sun intended on making an appearance.

…Light the stove to heat up water for morning ablutions. Heat up yesterday’s coffee and milk, conveniently refrigerated on the counter. Cut up two bananas and cover them with plain yogurt. Stand as near to stove as possible without catching fleece outer layer on fire. Do small dance while waiting, to warm up the body and defrost the brain cells. Peek outside to see if the sun has started rising yet. Shoo away the cat that has stealthily run inside for warmth and is now staring at the wall (a new and bizarre habit of his). Close door and stand near stove again. What a morning!

My Internet day schedule has been completely off ever since Ramadan. There was the GRE, Mid-Service Medicals, a few personal trips, the holidays, my family’s visit and our trip to Spain, and here I am in 2009 trying to finally reestablish some semblance of a routine. So last Monday, as I flew from room to room in the pre-dawn hours trying to prepare for my daytrip it occurred to me that I didn’t really know whether the bus that used to run at 7:30 am still did so. The way buses run around here the 7:30 am bus could come at 6:30 am, at 12:00 pm or not at all. I’ve waited up to 5 hours for a bus to never come, and that’s no exaggeration.

While washing my face with the glorious warm water I reflected on my newfound patience for odd bus schedules, and also a long list of other things such as a marked lack of queues, tools that break after first use (or before use), the way in which my neighbors knock on my windows, leaky roofs, bugs in the flour and rice… I had to interrupt myself and move on to the next task so as not to miss the bus that may not come. [I often have to stop myself from indulging in trains of thought that manifest themselves as lists; when you have a lot of time on your hands it’s alarming how much of it you can devote to one subject if you’re not careful.]

Remembering a month’s worth of laundry I had attempted the day before, I ran outside with a flashlight, naïve visions of it being dry floating about in my head. The line was underwear and socks from one end to the other, and as I got close I had to blink my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. My underwear was frozen solid to the line. As the winter sun’s rays made a weak attempt to stretch past the buttes to the east and kiss the jagged peaks to the west I found myself laughing aloud in my tiny garden and knocking on my rock-hard undies just like my neighbors at the windows. Quick check of the time: 6:15 am. No time for pictures. “I may have to try that again just for fun” I thought to myself as I ran to my bedroom with my stack of icy unmentionables and deposited them on the plastic lawn chair in the corner. Get dressed. Comb hair. Finish breakfast. Brush teeth. Slippers off. Shoes on. Off you go.

At 6:45 am as the sun was finally making a convincing appearance I locked up the house and set out down the path to wait for the bus. Mr. Potato Bed decided to come along with me, and played his favorite game of Walk Betwixt Her Legs all the way to the road (a game that on more than one occasion has got me thinking that I’m going to be that PCV that gets sent home for medical complications after tripping over a pesky cat). Walking along watching the cat I was only able to glance up once or twice so as not to break my neck. Eyes up. Eyes down. Eyes up. Eyes down. Eyes up… What’s this? For the second time that morning I found myself blinking so as to be sure the vision was clear.

Flying across the pale blue morning sky was… well, an unidentified flying object. As I quickly processed the speed and trajectory of the… well, the UFO, my thought pattern was as such: An airplane. We don’t see many of those. That airplane sure does move fast. That’s not an airplane. Moving entirely too fast to be an airplane. Holy cow! It’s on fire! Is it a rocket? It just split into 3 pieces! It’s on fire! Really on fire! It’s headed for the mountains! No. Wait. Over the mountain. What the heck was that?! Did anyone else see that? Oh my gosh, have I gone crazy?! I wonder what time the bus will come. It never comes on time.

[Note: I did not make this up about the fiery object because I could think of nothing else to write. If I were to make something up it would probably be about how I was walking down the road and I found a beautiful Chipotle burrito, a tray of Arcaro’s white pizza, a hot shower, a copy of today’s New York Times and a working laptop with Internet. That’s how PCVs dream...]

I looked around me. There was another person off in the distance, presumably waiting for the bus as well (but one can never assume). He didn’t seem at all like a person who had just seen a UFO. The cat stared up at me, not at all phased by the fiery object that had just flown across the sky either. Apparently in this here mountain village UFOs are no big deal.

I stood still for a good 2 minutes calculating my next move. Do I get out the camera and hope it happens again? Do I text someone to see if something has happened? But who? And what do I think happened? Did I just see what I think I saw? What did I see? Should I talk to that man? What is the word for UFO in Tashlheit? Oh, the questions were making me quite tired for so early in the day. The cat shook me out of my alien daze by pouncing on an invisible something just to my left; I had better go find a good rock to sit on, think about this some more and wait for the bus.

The rocks were entirely too cold to sit on, so I jumped in place and stared at the sky. My neck cramped and the cold air made my nose ache, but I kept that head tipped back. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but I sure wasn’t going to miss it. The image of the UFO blazed across my mind as the sun itself finally peaked over the horizon. And then something TRULY unusual happened… the bus came trudging up that hill at 7:30 am sharp. Right on time.

Frostbit toes, frozen underwear, UFOs, the bus keeping a schedule… mmm, and the warmth of the hand warmers I had stuck in my shoes. Now that’s a list! As I nestled into a seat by the window and put on my dilapidated headphones a thought occurred to me; if this morning is any indication of the year to come, 2009 certainly is going to be one for the books