I have gotten requests from some people to just write a normal blog post about what I do every day, rather than my usual self-righteous/self-deprecating introspections. I’ll try, but please just humor me if I editorialize or go off into space every now and then.
Every morning I wake up with about 30 minutes to spare until my Darija class starts. I eat a quick breakfast at home or on-the-go (coffee and some bread/cheese) and go to class. I have Darija class from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM with the other Americans in my Community-Based Training site. Our Language & Culture Facilitator (LCF) teaches us in her home here. She is amazing :)
I have about two hours of break after class, where I go home to lots of children, and my host sisters. My host mom or one of my host sisters (who also is a mom herself) makes lunch. Usually lunch is tagine, salad and lots of bread. By this time there’s about 7-8 people in the host family’s living room, gathered around the tagine to eat. There is never a quiet moment in my house. Usually once my post-lunch food coma has been induced, I go to my room for 30 minutes or so for some quiet time. Then I’m off for my afternoon.
My LCF and the five other people in my training site meet at the youth association near my house. We work on our computers to prepare for our volunteer work here in Imouzzer. We have met with the leader of the association to discuss how we can be helpful here. To start, we are going to be holding free English classes at the women’s center, youth association, and girls’ dormitory (this is where girls from the countryside sleep during the week so they can attend secondary school here).
Basically, our service here is just training for our service at our main sites, which we’ll go to in December. We are learning about how to implement tools from Participatory Analysis for Community Development (PACA), which is a methodology designed to communicate information, identify needs, and lay the groundwork for community action to solve problems. A big part of PACA relies on the development agent (me) eliciting a partnership with representative segments of the local community to analyze, identify projects, determine indicators, monitor, and evaluate.
In Imouzzer, my CBT group is learning how to do that by the example of our Language and Cultural Facilitator as both leader and translator. With the LCF’s coordination, we have visited and met with representatives from the youth association, women’s center, girls’ dormitory, and local high school. The most direct practice we’ve had so far was a “community mapping” activity we did with about 70 girls in the dormitory, aged 13-19.
We asked the girls to group up and map how they saw their community, the areas where they had access, and what they hope to see in their community in the future. They also wrote down the types of things they did over the weekend. Activities like these showed us how effective ideas are not created in a vacuum, and the role of the volunteer is more of a facilitator, or orchestrator, then a spearhead of any initiative.
There is usually “kaskrut” (snack) around 7 pm, which consists of delicious bread that is basically just butter, and then some more butter, and some tea. Pictures of carboload below, which is why I might need to buy all new pants. From kaskrut until bedtime it’s very relaxed. My host siblings play or do homework, and a lot of times we dance to youtube videos. Obviously my host sisters are way better dancers than me, but no stopping me, unfortunately. Sometimes I eat dinner, and sometimes I insist that I’m still full from kaskrut.
It’s usually around this time, when I’m just contemplatively sitting in my family’s living room, that I realize I’m in Morocco as a Peace Corps Trainee. It seems like I overanalyzed this decision for so many years, and now that I’m here, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. It seems like I took my decisions and myself a bit too seriously from DC. The hardest part of my Peace Corps service has nothing to do with Peace Corps being hard—the hardest part (so far) is just being away from home. It’s not hard to sit around eating bread with friendly and hospitable people. It’s hard when I think that I’m not going to live at home for the next two years. Okay, actually, it’s also hard feeling like an idiot in Darija, but that’s a reality of any international experience where you don't know the language.
Besides, as a close friend reminded me via an insightful webcomic, we don’t make choices to be happy, but rather, because we’re interested. And as another close friend’s favorite author said, life has less to do with passion than with choosing curiosity over fear. I think I’m lucky that my friends are full of wisdom and motivation. Every day before I go to sleep, I read a page from a book of notes from Atlas Corps Fellows, and it reminds me that every up, down, and feeling of uncertainty is okay. Curiosity usually doesn’t lead us to idealistic, easy, or even resolvable situations, but that doesn’t mean I should regret following it.
I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it's a very gentle friend, and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Passion is not so constant, not so gentle, not so forgiving, and sometimes not so available. And so when we live in a world that has come to fetishize passion above all, there's a great deal of pressure around that.
Around 11:30 pm or midnight I try to go to sleep, but it’s really hard because I get nervous that I won’t be able to sleep. That’s because every time I start trying to go to sleep, I totally forget to think about my life in the context of one day. The distractions of daily life are not there to remind me that I’m just one human out of 7 billion, and tonight is just one night out of hopefully many. I had the same problems back home, and they have nothing to do with location. All of these big questions decide to creep into my brain such as:
What will the next two years look like? What will happen if I never fall asleep? What if coming to Morocco was the wrong decision? What if I never matter to anyone? What if I don’t have strengths? What if I hurt people during the day? What if I was rude or selfish? What if I’m tired tomorrow and can’t take full advantage of the day? What if I'm wasting taxpayer dollars by being here? Why do I feel so stressed out when my life is so easy? What if I spend my whole life wrapped up in invisible problems that I created in my own mind?
It's very angsty stuff, I know. Like P!nk's 2002 hit "Don't Let Me Get Me." No matter how great my life is, these questions won’t go away. They’re not based in reality. I think my sleep issues are getting better as I try to get out of my own overanalytical, self-conscious head. I try to remember that, judging from the past, none of these self-centered “what if’s” actualizing will change this beautiful and terrible world.
If I can’t get out of my head, I wake up my host sister and she reminds me of the above, by being there and talking with me. At least my biggest personal problems (which aren’t very big)—like insomnia and over-analysis—are also what connect me with other people.
Fajr means dawn in Arabic and refers to the time when there’s the first call to prayer (adhan) of the day; usually around 4:30 or 5:00 am. Sometimes, if I wake up, I get to be reminded of God’s greatness during this time. When the adhan does wake me up, I briefly think about the people around the world who wake up to pray at this time. I wonder if they have an easier time realizing how small we all are. I still don’t know, and it’s hard to imagine having the faith and dedication to wake up that early and pray every day.
I think that unwavering faith is one of those things you can’t really understand unless you have it yourself. I wish I could see through both lenses and identify the better view. But for now I live without personal prayer, and most of the time, without Fajr. I guess the only thing I live with is uncertainty, which is okay with me.