Lately I’ve been using kind of a strange metaphor when I think about leaving. This “inbetween time”, when we are saying our goodbyes and packing up our lives, is harder than I thought (and I think harder than anyone really thought). To me, it’s similar to the final leg of a long journey on public transportation here in Morocco. When you’re on the bus, you have your ups and downs, but underneath it all, you just can’t wait to get home. To sit on your ponge and watch tv or make mac and cheese, or just relax and take a shower. But right near the end, right when I’m pulling up to the stop in Issafen, I get this feeling that I don’t want to get off the bus. It’s because I don’t want to deal with explaining to the person next to me that I’m getting off and can they please move so I can get out (which is usually met with “No, this is Issafen, you want to go to Tata, you are a tourist you don’t want to get off in Issafen, there are no hotels here”), getting off and finding my bag in the rubble of sacks, motos, and sometimes live animals under the bus, walking the 10 minutes to my house, putting away my things, and finally getting to the “relaxing” part that I mentioned before. All of that, in that moment that the bus rolls to a stop, seems daunting and always gives me a bit of anxiety. But then once I get through the “hard parts” I realize it wasn’t that hard, and being able to be alone in my house was worth the journey after all. It’s something that’s hard to explain, and even Peace Corps volunteers understand what I mean immediately, or don’t get it at all. But this anxious feeling is starting to creep up as my service rolls to a stop and I prepare for the journey home.
It’s hard to sum up two years in a few paragraphs, but I definitely know the things about Morocco I will and will not miss, and the things about America I am and am not looking forward too. So here it goes, and thanks to everyone who has supported me and kept in touch over the past two years. Your packages and letters have made all the difference in my service, and in many cases have helped me to keep going during the most difficult times.
Things I’ll Miss About Morocco
- Morning runs with Meredith and Rosie – Running in the mountains in Issafen has been an unforgettable experience… especially in the morning as the sun is rising and men from the outer villages are riding their donkeys in to town to visit shops and cafes. I think we ran the same route about 100 times and it never got old.
- Long bus rides – the scenery not the puking! Sometimes when I’m on a bus, and half the people are throwing up, and the guy next to me is playing music on his cell phone without earphones, I have to remember to just look out the window at what is most likely a beautiful site. Whether it be the mountains, the ocean, or the Saharan desert, it’s always something worth appreciating.
- Cheap travel – pretty self explanatory. A 10 hour bus ride costs about $15.
- My Kindergarten students – these past few days have been difficult because apart from telling everyone that I’m leaving, I also have to explain it to an array of 5 year olds who don’t really understand that there’s an “outside” to Morocco. I’m still not sure how successful these talks are going, but maybe that’s for the best.
- Along with cheap travel, being a 6 hour and $8 bus ride away from the ocean. Being able to escape to Agadir for the weekend was a life saver. It was like an entirely different world, and it was nice to be able to wear shorts and have a beer. And while I can do this in America, and I can live by a beach if I so choose, the dichotomy of my situation really made me appreciate different aspect of life.
- People who were nice and patient with my Arabic – Something I’ve realized since being here is how rude Americans can be about people that don’t speak English. I don’t know how many times I walked into a store and needed something but didn’t have the language, the man at the counter was often helpful, and then complimented my Arabic even though he DEFINITELY shouldn’t have. In America, if someone tried to mime something they needed to a store clerk, I’m sure they would be dismissed or ignored. Also, just generally nice people. Sure there are squabbles, but overall, when I walk down the street, I get more hellos than I probably ever will again.
- Leisure time – While my work schedule was always busy, my social one was not so much. In my town we didn’t have bars, or restaurants, or even cafes that we really wanted to hang out in. There were no sports teams, dance studios, art museums, or social activities in general that didn’t involve sitting around a table for hours and drinking tea. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and learned how to cook a lot of new things… I doubt I’ll ever get this alone time again.
Things I Won’t Miss About Morocco
- Sexual harassment – this, without question, will be the number one part of Morocco I am not sad to leave. I debated whether or not to write about this, I think it’s important to stay positive, and I thought there may be a time when the harassment would start to seem easier or trivial. Unfortunately that moment never came. I can only hope eventually Morocco comes around. If not, they’ll begin to lose tourists, and industry they rely on in larger cities and the north. They’ll begin to lose aid and development, and they’ll begin to fall behind on the rest of the globe’s movement towards gender equality. I love Issafen and have loved my time here, but I can’t honestly say I would recommend a female friend to visit Morocco, and certainly not alone.
- The times there is no electricity, water, cell phone service, and internet. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but I’m looking forward to it happening less frequently in the states.
- Animal cruelty – Probably my second biggest qualm with Moroccan culture. Not only watching children throw rocks and torture animals, but the hypocrisy that underlies it. Whenever I or other volunteers try to address this, we’re met with eye rolls and “you don’t understand”s. No, I think I understand, throwing rocks at dogs (and people for that matter) is wrong, in every culture, anywhere in the world.
- People speaking French to me after I tell them repeatedly, in Arabic, that I speak Arabic. This really only happens when I travel in larger cities, and I understand sometimes people see a foreigner as a way to practice their language skills, but I don’t speak French, and when I tell you once, even twice, please listen.
- Francs, Ryals, Dirhams… WHAT IS THE CURRENCY OF YOUR COUNTRY?
- Bucket bathing and hand washing laundry. I hate it. Washing machines and showers for life!
- People telling me that if I sit on the floor I’ll become infertile. Welp, I don’t think that’s scientifically accurate.
Things I’m not excited for in America
- Constant technology – sitting at a friend’s house, at a restaurant, or a bar and having everyone looking at their smartphones is going to take some real getting use to.
- Everything will be extremely expensive! I pay 75 cents for a liter and a half of water here, paying anything over a dollar for water in America will seem pretty superfluous.
- No care packages – I know this seems funny, because why would I need a care package when anything I would be getting in a care package I can buy myself, but I can’t express how much snail mail and packages improved my happiness. Maybe knowing that someone is thinking of me, or just the reminder that small things can make all the difference on a bad day.
- Halloween – I only write this now because the holiday has recently passed, but just general excuses for adults to be extremely drunk in public and shirk responsibilities, with or without Halloween, seems like a waste of time and money.
- This is less a “dislike” than something I’m nervous about, but I’ve become much more direct (which for some people may be hard to believe) since living in Morocco. I’ve definitely forgotten about customer service in America (“The customer is always right” is definitely not a sentiment they have here), but when something is wrong, it usually results in an argument and I’m not afraid to fight. This, undoubtedly, isn’t acceptable in America, but hopefully I’ll be able to harness that energy in a positive way.
- Islamaphobia/general “Idiot-ness” – I’m sure it will happen, questions like “did you meet any terrorists?” or “what are muslims like?”. If you’re reading this blog, don’t ask these questions, and to anyone that does, don’t be surprised at the kraken I will release.
Things I’m excited for in America (figured I should end this on a high note)
- Family and friends all the time! I can call them on the phone and meet up with them for drinks!
- Food – again, if I want anything, I can drive to a restaurant or a store and buy what I need/want whenever, wherever, YES. I don’t have to wait a week to buy vegetables and I don’t have to travel 5 hours for cheese and peanut butter… it will be amazing. Also, coffee shops where there is wi-fi and women? Yes please!
- Technology – While I may be scared of how technology has taken over the lives of most Americans, I’m excited to join the party, in a more restrained way. I’m definitely getting a smartphone, and am excited to be able to look up directions, restaurants, addresses, or anything whenever I need.
- English – People are going to speak English! All the time! I don’t have to do charades if I want an obscure object from the hardware store.
- Schedules – I’m an extremely schedule oriented person, and while I’ve adapted a lot better than I thought I would to the “Inchallah” lifestyle (Inchallah meaning “god willing” or “hopefully”), and being able to meet in a professional setting without an hour tea break and meeting everyone’s entire family, new baby, and donkey, I’m excited for appointments that are on time and on topic.
- Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years – The end of November until the beginning of January is by far the best month and a half of the year. I may hate on Halloween, but I’ll in turn hate on anyone that hates on the “holiday” season. I’m ready for fireplaces, Christmas trees, pumpkin pies, and snow.
I’ll see you all in less than two weeks! Can you believe it?