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Monday, December 13, 2010

a Wild Month...

It was cold this evening. This is normal now, here in the Atlas, as winter as arrived after a long and glorious autumn. The poplars on the river are bare and the mountaintops are dusted with a delicate rime of snow. I lay back in my chair on the roof of my house and looked up at the sky. The stars were beginning to show small and cold against the blue darkness of the dusky sky and the half moon was perched, glowing at the very apex of the dome; neither coming nor going.

I lay there and listened to the sounds of the village around me; children playing in the street, dogs barking in the distance, every once and a while the grate and rumble of a vehicle passing my house. As the cold began to permeate my clothing I stood and looked down at my shadow cast by the moonlight. Long and thin, I could make out the folds of my dark cloak, and the peaked hood of the jelaba robe that I have taken to wearing every day. I looked out over the village, at the smoke rising from the chimneys of the mud houses, and the glowing string of street lights strung out along the road where it passed through the sleeping fields. It was so quiet and peaceful, I wished I could stay longer, but the cold forced me inside.


This has been a month of many things, some the normal every happenings of life here, and others wild, unexpected, and delightful. L’عid axatar, the great feast of Abraham, occurred mid month and I spent three days with my family and their relatives talking, laughing, and sharing in the holiday spirit. I was able to assist in the ritual sacrifice of a ram in front of the house and the subsequent butchering and consuming of the same animal. It was an excellent few days, though seeing the entire family together reminded of how much I miss being with mine and sharing in the easy camaraderie of kin.

Later in the month, I headed to Rabat the capital city in a wild day of traveling across the country by car and by train. It was good to be back there, and it felt fairly normal to navigate and spend time with my friends there. The committee of which I am a member met with Peace Corps staff in a small room at a hotel in the seaside town of Mehidia. While there we also got to meet the members of the new staging group of Volunteers who were just finishing up their two months of training, just as I had seven months before. Suddenly I realized that I was no longer among the newest volunteers in the country, and that the volunteers ahead of me would be leaving soon and suddenly I would be among the “experienced”. Soon enough I would be breaking in the replacements for my friends on the mountain who will be returning to their lives back in America.

In a moment of time alone, I stood on the beach and looked out over the dark Atlantic as the waves lapped at my toes and the warm sun beat down on my back. I thought of my country out there across the interminable swell, of my mountains, my desert, and the tall lighthouse where I worked all last summer, gazing out toward Morocco. So much has changed since then, and most of the change has been in me. Running back through my experiences of the past nine months, I had difficult thinking about all that had occurred and all of the things that had happened to and around me. So much behind me, and even more ahead, I look forward to it with excitement and caution. I no longer fear the unknown, as it is slowly revealing itself to be yet another chapter in the life of a global citizen.

A few days past that moment on the beach, I sat back in my seat and listened to the train clicking and whirring as it passed through countless small towns between Rabat and the port city of Casablanca. I adjusted my tie and looked out the window at a white minaret silhouetted against the blue sea as we passed. I was nervous, for whatever reason, to meet the people who were to pick me up at the railway station in the city. I was to spend Thanksgiving with an American family who lived in Casablanca and had bought a tie and dress belt for the occasion. I still looked a little rough around the edges, but I was clean at least and was ready for some time in upper echelons of Moroccan society; a direct contrast from my usual day to day experience.

As the family pulled up in their Subaru, the first I had seen since coming to Morocco, they greeted me warmly and helped me with my bags. Thanksgiving dinner was several courses of amazing food and wine served at an English speaking club in Casablanca. Dancing followed and I enjoyed mingling with my fellow Americans; one woman threw her arms around my neck simply because I was in the Peace Corps. Her hug and whispered thank you meant the world to me; I never get hugged anymore.

What followed was a string of four incredible days spent in a beautiful Villa by the sea, eating good food, taking hot showers, and playing tennis with the godson, who was my age, on a clay court behind the house. The godson, my new friend, took me out one night to see Casablanca and I enjoyed having drinks with him at Rick’s Café Americain (movie enthusiasts eat your heart out). We ended the evening on the top floor of a hotel looking out over the lights of the largest city in Morocco and the minaret of the Hassan II Mosque looming against the dark ocean. The next day we walked by the cafes and shops along the waterfront talking, laughing, and enjoying the salt air. The couple hosting me was incredibly kind and generous; they treated me like family and gave me the run of the house, sharing meals with me as well as their time. I learned much from them and I will always be grateful for the sanctuary they gave me from my sometimes harsh reality here. But all things must end I soon found myself back in Errachidia blinking in the Saharan sunlight, steeling myself for the long journey back to my site.

It took time getting back and I was fairly tired and depressed by the time I stepped off the transit at the top of the hill. But I heard a voice say my name behind me and my friend Mostafa threw an arm around my shoulders and shook my hand, demanding to know where I’d been. I smiled realizing that yeah, I was home.


So here I am in my little house in the Atlas, I have one last day remaining in my site before I start the long Journey home for a Christmas spent with my family and friends. I can't wait, and the time to leave will be here before I know it.

Thanks for reading,