Reflections from the 1/3 mark

I sit here staring up at the stars.  The first shooting stars of the night should be come at any moment.  There is no moon—making tonight the perfect opportunity.  It took me a couple minutes to find the darkest place to sit.   A place where the dim yellow light of the city doesn’t interfere with the night sky.  I sit there and stare up at the sky.

That’s when it hits me.  I don’t know how to tell you what I am experiencing.  I can tell you about the stars.  I can tell you about the dim light of the city.  Hell.  I can tell you about the dogs wailing off in the distance—in their eternal fight for more territory.  I can show you the mountain behind my city and how tell you how angry I am that it is being mined into the groud.  I can point out the mosque I can see from my roof and explain to you that I can hear the call to prayer—every day—five times a day.

But that will only graze the surface.  There’s no way for me to paint a picture that properly tells you how amazing this experience is.  How difficult it is.  How I’ve cried for hours.  How I’ve been numb for days.  How I’ve been happier than I’ve been in a very long time.  There’s no way to put 90% of what I see into words.  Sure, I write to you every day in my diary.  I tell you what I encounter on a daily basis.  But I pick and choose.  If I wrote a full account of what I came across every day—I wouldn’t experience as much because I’d be writing for hours on end.

The only way I can get you to understand what I am going through is by bringing you here.  My parents are coming in a month.  As I figure out what to do with their short time here, I’m hit with a strange dilemma.  I want to fit in so much.  But I have to accept that they won’t be able to see what I see.  I can wander this country without being much stress anymore.  That’s not going to be the case with my parents.  It’ll be a whirlwind.  They will understand my life much better.  But it still won’t put them in my shoes.

As I sit here looking up at the stars, I can tell you that I am lonely.  And that’s okay.   Today marks 1/3 of service.  That is a strange comfort to me.  I can feel time passing—a necessity to remind myself that I will be back home someday—even if I do not understand where home is anymore.  It also reminds me of how much time I have left.  A deep reminder that I need to fit as much as I can in to the little time I have left here.

It impossible to tell you about the passage of time.  I look back home and see people living their lives.  A few things have changed, but life remains the same.  Meanwhile, I’ve been sucked into a vortex.  The person I was nine months ago wouldn’t recognize the person I am today.   I could Early Terminate right now.  I could go home.  I could see my friends and family.  You.  I could eat the food I so desperately want to eat.  It would be good for a week.  Maybe a month.  But I wouldn’t know what to do.  How do you explain what has happened to you when you can’t even understand it yourself?

540 days from now, I’ll sit out here again.  Downstairs my apartment will be bare—picked apart my new volunteers who are just starting out.  It’ll be my last night in the apartment.  In the morning I’ll hand over the keys.  I’ll get in a Grand Taxi and say goodbye to this strange town.  Sitting there, staring up at the stars, I’ll breath.  I’ll cry.  I’ll laugh.   I’ll be terrified and excited about the idea of returning to America—much like how I felt in the days prior to coming here.   I will have come full circle—ready for my next adventure.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the ride and continue writing.

My first month in the Peace Corps

I will continue to have extremely spotty internet connection until I am sworn in in late March and (cross you finger) placed in a site that actually has internet.  Until then, we will have to do with these long updates.  Luckily they come with lots of awesome pictures.

1. On warm days, my host dad spends hours basket weaving:

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2. The finished product is incredible:

 

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3. The view from the view reminds me of home.  I miss Colorado:

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4. Me with my host parents:

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5. The gang on a walk to “the lake” (It’s kinda just a river…but their language doesn’t differentiate)

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6. Kids playing by the river to the Darisha version of “Ring Around the Rosy.”  Their version involves brushing your teeth rather than mass death by plague.

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7. Art looking at the beautiful Mid-Atlas Mountains:

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8. People ride donkeys (hamal hashak) here all the time:

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9. A beautiful view from the town over:

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10. When it rains, it gets mighty cold.  No indoor heating means its 10 degrees colder inside.  We’ve already had several nights where we can see our breath as we go to sleep:

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11. A quick view of my small town:

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12. A view that makes this area seem not so poor:

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13. A beautiful sunset over my city:

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14. The Mosque in my town is easily the biggest building around:

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15. My host mother presenting couscous.  It’s a Friday special:

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It’s been a good couple of weeks since my last update.  It may be cold, but I am getting used to the routine that the cold creates.  As for being disconnected…it’s kinda nice to get away for a while.  I got my second shower of homestay today—which was nice.  We get one a week it seems.  The time is kind of flying.  In five weeks, it’ll be my 24th birthday and I will get my final destination—where I’ll spend my entire service.

I’ve been writing sooooo much.  I write at least one letter to America each day.  I’ve gotten to know the postmaster of this town quite well.  His name is Ali and he is intent on getting me to marry a Moroccan Woman (not gonna happen).  I also write in my leather-bound journal once or twice a day (thank you Sofia).  In the first four weeks here, I have covered more than 40 pages.  I honestly think I may fill up this entire (rather large) journal before I reach six month.  It is great writing practice.

I’ll update again the next time I have internet.

~Richard

 

Video Blogging and Heading to Fes

Tomorrow we head off to Fes for the start of our Pre-Service Training.  From there, I will head to the Atlas mountains to start working with children in a building called the Dalshabob.  It should be amazing.  I am having plenty of up days and couple down days.  It is all culminating on tomorrow when we meet our host family.  Once I get through tomorrow, I think my worries will start to wane.  I’ve been told I will live in a home  owned by a Moroccan solider with two adult sons.

Today I will be uploading one of my most popular pieces from when I was a teenager.  I called it Imminent Death.  I used people I know in short skit crazed situations.  This was a way I got in touch with the side of me I didn’t realize I had until my first really close friends brought it out of me.  Here is the first one.  It is very short.  I am having problems uploading the other nine.  I will try to upload more the next time I am on (I have no idea when that will be).

Imminent Death: Problem With Furbies

 

End of my first Week in the Peace Corps

The orientation week for the Peace Corps has been tiring.  We have full schedules everyday (except today–that’s how I explored Rabat).  The pictures should be below.  I have three more days in this city until I head off to the Atlas Mountains to start my Pre-Service training….which includes some extreme 4-hours a day language training.  I already got a hold on basic Moroccan Arabic.  I hope I can continue making this kind of progress.

I finally found an Internet Cafe that has stable internet.  I was able to Skype with my whole family plus my girl.  It’s been great to catch up with everyone after a week with sketchy internet.  I hope you enjoy the photos.  I am going to continue posting old writings while I get settled here in Morocco.  In honor of President Obama’s second inauguration  here is a piece about the Presidential Election of 2004.  Enjoy my first attempts at political writing (from back when I was 15).

November 2nd, 2004