Hiding or Fitting In?

Swearing In Ceremony

It’s been a while since I’ve updated.  The end of Peace Corps training is rather intense.  The studying mixes with the goodbye.  The goodbyes mix with finding out where you are going to spend the next two years of your life.  Anticipation mixes with anxiety.  Anxiety mixes with insanity.  Because every time I find myself realizing that I’m in Africa…I think to myself, “This is insane.”  Whether I’m frustrated or genuinely enjoying myself, being a part of Peace Corps is crazy.


I’ve been in my final site for 36 hours.  It’s already been more than I could ever have anticipated.  As I walked toward my Host Family’s house, a random man started walking with me.  His English was pretty good so we started talking.  It took less than a minute before he asked me if I was Muslim.   I stumbled.  I knew this question was coming.  So few people in my training site knew English that I never had to deal with the question.  Suddenly I was dealing with it.  I said no, which brought up the inevitable follow-up question: “Are you Christian.”  Unsure of how to respond, I said, “Yes.  In America.”


It was my first act of hiding myself.  Many of my encounters involves simply not talking about certain aspects of myself that wouldn’t be culturally appropriate—like a dating life.  But this is different.  I will get this question a lot.  I have been advised by Peace Corps Volunteers to simple state that I am Christian.  Although I’ve been Agnostic all my life, now I have to hide it in a way that I’ve never had to in America.  Sure, it wasn’t always something openly accepted in America….but I never felt like I had to hide it.  Now I’m not entirely sure.


After by encounter with the stranger, I stopped at a park and tried to figure out the map I’d been given.  A few minutes later, my nine year old host brother found me and brought me back to my house.  It’s quite a nice house.  The older brother speaks English.  The mother is an amazing cook.  The father is a Headmaster at a private primary school.  All this in a beautiful mountainside town.


I spent yesterday exploring Bhalil.  I found the place that I’ll be teaching English.  I explored random road and forced myself to get lost.  In a town of 15,000 or so, I feel the need to explore every side road—it shouldn’t be too hard.  The town is amazing and I’ve already had plenty of random coversations with strangers—in broken English and broken Moroccan Arabic.


Conversation Recap:
Stranger: What is your name.
Me: My name is Rachid.  What is your name?
Stranger: My name is yours.
Me: Your name is Rachid?
Stranger: No.  My name is Isyers.
Me: Oooooo


I’ve been in country for 75 days.  I’m already starting to feel comfortable in my own skin here.  A lot has changed on the homefront.  I’m having a hard time staying in contact with my friends.  Relationships are changing with those I felt closest too.  It’s all a very complicated process.  I don’t that will change.  With time, however, I’ll feel like 800 days is doable.   Right now, 2015 feels like a long way off.  Which could be a good thing or a bad thing.  I’m doing my best to turn it into a good thing.


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