On the tenth day, I realized I needed to learn dirija and learn it fast. I could hardly ask for water let alone begin trying to understand that my host mom wanted my clothes to wash the next day.
Saying that the Peace Corps is difficult is obvious. Of course it is difficult. Imagine moving to a new country where the people largely speak a language you have never even attempted to speak. Then, after a few short days full of medical warnings and security warnings and language lessons, you are dropped off in some random city or town where the only other Americans are four or five of your fellow volunteers. You immediately move in with a host family, meeting them only briefly at a kaskrut held by your LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator). They smile and shake your hand and look at you like you are the weirdest thing to walk through their door. They open their mouth and out comes a flood of darija, the moroccan dialect of Arabic that mixes French and Spanish influences to create a language of complexity and confusion. Suddenly, the weight of your decision to join the Peace Corps – no, the reality of your decision – punches you in the face and into the tiled floor of your host mom’s sala. Shocked and dazed at the gravity of the situation – and you aren’t quite over that diarrhea from a couple of days ago – you consider leaving on the next flight out of Morocco.
It is a brief moment of panic, though. Soon it slinks away, and the day of tension and melancholy shifts into something different. Not better, not worse, but different. You start to catch a word or two of darija (shwya shwya – little by little), the arabic dubbed Turkish soap operas your host mom watches make you laugh with their dramatic faces, your fellow volunteers steer you away from flandering in a myopic whirlpool, and you start to see the people and city around you. You start to shuf (look) around, and it is good.
Walking down the street, on a hot day in late September, you see gangs of boys riding bikes, men sitting at qhwas (cafes) sipping their atay (tea), women strolling through the souq, and the hanut storeowners and souq vendors calling out to passerbys. The city bustles and lives and thrives whether you are here or not. Having this opportunity, then, is an honor, an honor that the people of this city and this country willingly open their homes and their communities to a stranger from another country.
I came to Morocco to help. After all, I am a mtuTuw3e m3e hay’at salaam, a volunteer. Instead, I have this premonition that it won’t be just the Moroccans that I interact with that grow in the next two years.
On Saturday, I went to my first Moroccan wedding. It was outside the city, farmlands replacing the packed homes of the city. A large group of people milled around the tents set up outside talking and kissing each other in greeting. Fast paced music played from inside one of the tents while in the other men young to old lounged on rugs barefooted. The sun was setting and the sky was aglow, soft and orange. Morocco has some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. I look forward to witnessing many more of these Moroccan sunsets. Inshallah.
keep on keeping on,