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Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Long Week Alone


At this point I have spent about 10 days in my house cooking for myself, cleaning less than I should, reading, writing, and working out enough to prevent utter complacency. Days run together and are divided into two distinct parts: morning (with water) and afternoon (without water). I can do dishes and fill drinking bottles when the water is on from 8-12, but once it’s off that’s it. So an average day looks like this: Up at 8 or 9 and working out until ten; eggs and coffee for breakfast, followed by water related chores. This is then followed by swearing at the half-assed Moroccan, well everything. Be it my dishwater backing up in my shower, along with every single sink in the house leaking, internet not working for any apparent reason, especially aggravating when my phone has full service… from the same tower. Couple that with the drafty windows and a leaking skylight, and I am almost convinced that many things in this country are made by the lowest bidder and this makes me oh so grateful for American building codes.

It’s Souq Day again today and, as I mentioned before, the Souq is two days long and starts up bright and early at 4:30am Saturday morning. So I got the rare “pleasure” of being woken up by barking (occasionally screaming) dogs, large herds of bleating sheep being inexplicably driven through the 4 foot wide alley beside my house. Also, no vehicle in Morocco is required to have a muffler and the truth is that most Moroccans do not know how to drive and the few that do should never ever have been given a horn. Truck drivers honk at least six times and then noisily get out to crunch up my alley and audibly (oh yes) piss beneath my window. On hot nights, of which there are mercifully few, I have to have my window open and enjoy this rousing audio presentation. Granted the windows, also being Moroccan, don’t shut out the sound anyway, but they do enough to make it possible to sleep through it. Those of you who know me, know just how much noise bothers me…

But this is the living situation I have chosen, and I am just venting. After all, a blog that is all wine (or in the case of this country, Grape Juice) and roses is simply not honest and no PCV just sails through their service with absolute ease… I am shooting for relative ease. Psychologically I am a textbook PCV and am gutting my way through the “initial vulnerability” period at a predictable pace. While I am enjoying myself, I am also incredibly homesick. There! I said it! Yes, I am homesick, I want nothing more than to be home in the southwest with my friends and family doing southwestern things like river trips and long perilous hikes in a more familiar, though still howling, wilderness. Now, this is what my heart and reptile brain tell me, with their fierce admonitions to get back into my comfort zone. But if I do that, what will I learn? And who will do my job? My brain acknowledges that the pros outweigh the cons by a huge amount; I have friends here, I have opportunities here, and a (very much) howling wilderness to explore with more caution than what I have previously exhibited thus far.

No, leaving Morocco early has not even crossed my mind as a consideration, simply because the things the siren song of my homesickness tells me I want will be there, relatively unchanged, when I return! I have a lifetime to enjoy the Southwest, but only a two year window to experience North Africa. Thus does my mental cycle spin round. Besides, I’ve only got 659 days left, and I have been here for 140 days already.

Other things keep me honest, and securely in Morocco for two years, aside from just my reasoning. One is a PCV in Paraguay (you know who you are!) who served as a Ranger with me at Grand Teton two years ago (yep, it’s been two years this month!). She lived with her host family much for much longer than me and had to watch setback after setback as she had her house built. She’s moved in as of now, and much happier for it and we occasionally talk and/or exchange letters across the Atlantic. She works for a rain forest reserve which is about as similar to the Atlas as it is to the surface of Mars. Yet our jobs are similar and we work for our countries’ version of the National Park Service in an Environmental Education capacity. If either of us were to leave, I think we'd let eachother down in some way. The second external factor is an RPCV friend of mine who I worked with during my season at Cape Hatteras and who said simply, and with a smile: “Charlie, if you get all the way to Africa and E.T. (early terminate) for any reason whatsoever, I will hunt you down like a dog and I will kill you.” Ah, yes that is an excellent motivator as well.

I had a question posed to me in a recent email that simply asked what the hell my job actually is. There is a reason I haven’t really detailed this yet, it is because during the “initial adjustment period” I am not allowed to actually “work” (does this mean learning Tamazight is considered “recreation”?). Mainly though, I do know what my job will be and I will post a blog entry all about it in about 3 weeks. I have a crucial meeting with my counterpart in a few days, and two weeks of environment sector technical training in the city of Azerou after that. When I return, I can begin my work in earnest, and then I will tell you the details.


I suppose I should write about some good occurrences this week. The first and foremost being the discovery that I am able to cook! Between the Huevos Rancheros stew detailed in last week’s entry, and last night’s achievement: Green Chili Queso Soup, it has been a good week in the food department. I received a large windfall of green chilies in two separate care packages (thanks guys!) and, along with the containers of ground Chimayo Red and Chimayo Green that I brought from home, most of my dishes have a great Southwestern flair to them. There was a Green Chili Cream-cheese Omelet a few mornings ago that I was quite pleased with. So, if nothing else, I can learn how to cook from my time here!

Other good things of course include the books I have been reading (keep track of them on my booklist on the sidebar of this page). Since my last entry, I finished “Teaching a Stone to Talk” by Annie Dillard and “The Milagro Beanfield War” by John Nichols; both were amazing and taught me a great deal in very different ways. My current books are “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner, and “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. A third that I am enjoying as well is a gem that I found in my favorite used book store in Durango, the “Southwest Book Trader”. It is called “The Wilderness Reader” and it cost about 2 dollars; it’s an old book as well from the 1970s and it has been beaten up and dragged around for much of its life. But here’s what makes it special: it’s a compilation of works on the American Wilderness and includes work by: William Byrd, William Bartram, Meriwether Lewis, George Catlin, John James Audubon, John C. Fremont, Francis Parkman, Henry David Thoreau, Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, Clarence Dutton, Verplanck Colvin, Isabella Bird, Plenty Coups, Theodore Roosevelt, John Burroughs, John Muir, Mary Austin, John C. Van Dyke, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edwin Way Teale, Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, John McPhee, and David Roberts. Pretty amazing stuff.

Other good things from this week are that I am enjoying playing my Mandolin a lot and have also gotten much better with the Penny-whistle (as one PCV described: The ultimate portable instrument). Also, despite the anti-social nature of this week, my language continues to improve.

So, in conclusion, it has been a long week alone. But I am learning more every day and this is as it should be. I have a feeling I will be well into the swing of things by the time Ramadan concludes in late September… my seven month anniversary.

Thanks for reading, I’ll try to make it more poetic next time,