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.

Spending Time on Yourself

One of the best things about the Peace Corps is that it forces you to confront yourself.  The quote that comes to mind is, “You can never avoid yourself because–no matter where you go–there you are.”  The solitude that comes with service amplifies that.  You get to figure out who you are alone–and in an environment you don’t understand.  You go through endless existential crisis and emotional collapses.  But the most amazing thing blossoms out.  You become a better you.  Spending so much time thinking and realizing the truth about your life forces you to confront your problems head-on.

I am loving this opportunity.  I am finding a way to be a better me while simultaneously being a better friend to the people that I care about.  It’s hard to remold yourself after adulthood, but it is quite nice to see the changes inside me.

Her is day five from the 50-Day Memory Challenge:

Day Five: How She Lost Her Mother Twice

 

The Staj of Love: The Story of Zero Early Terminations

Swearing In Ceremony

I am going to write this entry as carefully as I can.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am advised to write about my experiences rather than the Peace Corps itself (as is the case with all government jobs).  But something special is happening here in Morocco—and I feel I must address it.

95 new volunteers came to Morocco on the 16th of January.  This size is fairly large—but that’s because Peace Corps is rather active in Morocco.  On average, each incoming group will lose around 1/3 of their group over the two years in country.  A lot of these are volunteers are lost during the intensive training process.  Many more are lost when the work dies down for a month or two.  In the end, every group losses a significant part of the group.

My group has been in Morocco for 20 weeks.  There are still 95 of us.  No one has left.  We went through the same intensive training and have not lost a single volunteer.  We made our adjustment to our final site and have not lost a single volunteer.  Many volunteers have been extremely sick—but they have not left.  One of our volunteers even lost his father—but he returned to his site after the funeral.

One of the best parts of Peace Corps is that you can Early Terminate whenever you like—no problem.  You will not receive the benefits of being a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, but you are not punished or given a “dishonorable discharge.”  This great policy, however, also plagues the Peace Corps.  Without any real punishment, it is extremely difficult for them to curb the 30-33% crop out rate.

So what is happening in Morocco?  I’ve spent plenty of time talking about this subject with other volunteers.  The longer we last without losing anyone, the more we feel like we are becoming part of something special.  That being said, the longer this goes on, the harder it will be for someone to leave if they feel like they need to.  So, I want to let the other 94 volunteers know that none of us will look down upon you if you find the need to go home.  Our mental and physical health comes first.

All Peace Corps Morocco Volunteers are about to hit the difficult season.  Summer in Morocco gets so hot that many cities and youth centers shut down for an extended amount of time.  However, the PC administration in Morocco seems to have listened to the troubles of past volunteers.  We were brought into country in January so that we would be somewhat integrated before this downtime.  Plus, we have plenty of opportunities to continue working through the summer.

But what I really want to point out is the people.  We refer to ourselves as “The Staj of Love.”  With 13 married couples and several volunteers with significant others back in The States, we have far fewer single volunteers than most incoming groups.  But what I find most impressive is the way our group has bonded.  We have built such a support system amongst ourselves that each person seems to have an outlet and a mentor.

I, for one, have severely considered the idea of Early Termination twice so far.  Both times I have talked with fellow members from “The Staj of Love.”  They helped me change my perspective.  They helped me realize that I am here for several reasons that I had never realized.  Although I have only become close to a few members of our group, I have witnessed and heard of the support that we have been giving each other—and I can’t help but be impressed.

I know our “Zero Early Terminations” headline will soon disappear.  There are too many circumstances.  Difficult situations in site.  The death of family members back home.  Unforeseen circumstances.  I know that we will not go our full 27 months without seeing someone go home.  But that doesn’t matter.  The fact is, we are about to go to a training that will bring us to five month in-county.  Five months in Africa without losing a single person.

I am proud to be part of “The Staj of Love.”

A Fine Frenzy

I am officially addicted to the band “A Fine Frenzy.”  As you will see in today’s poem, I even borrowed a phrase from their hit, “Almost Lover.”  The song is fascinating.  It might just be me, though.  A woman’s voice entangled in a piano is one of the most beautiful sounds I can think of.  I recommend that everybody click through and listen to the song.

For any of my followers, I suspect you will see a change in my writing.  I feel like I am standing at another crossroads.  I’ve crossed plenty in my 8,500 days of life.  Many have been small…several have grown in significance.  Today, as I watch my closest friend prepare to move 1,000 miles away, I know this crossroads will be significant.  With less than 200 days until I enter the Peace Corp, I want to do all that I can to create the life I’ve been waiting for.  =)  Enjoy the poem.

These Days We Wait