10% Done With Service

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Today marks a 10% completion of my Peace Corps service.  80 days down.  720 to go.  As I settle into my community, I am having my fair share of successes and failures.  I feel comfortable walking all the streets of my gorgeous mountainside town.  Youth that will be in my English classes come up to me all the time to talk in broken sentences (Broken Arabic from me; broken English from them).

 

I’m enjoying going to the park on a daily basis and reading.  On my first full day here, I went to a park and read for an hour.  This 20 year old approached me and told me I was the first person he had ever seen read in public in Bhalil.  I was kind of in awe of that statement.  He said that, when it wasn’t time to study, all the students really cared about was soccer.  After walking around town, I believe him.  There’s always at least one game going on in some part of the town.

 

Before he left, he asked me about America.  He followed up by saying he was going to get there some day.  It’s not the first time I have heard this.  There’s this “Path to a Better Life” that most people in developing nations tend to follow.  Here in Morocco, step on is to get into University and become fluent in English and a European Language while studying something important—like becoming a doctor.  Knowing the language and the study will help them get to their European country of choice.  For my stranger in the park, it was Germany.  But Germany is not intended to be the final destination.  America is always the final destination—even in today’s world.

 

For my friend in the park, “I will die in Las Vegas, if God Wills It.”

 

These are the moments that I live for.  I’ve already had several.  Yesterday, I found a road that looped around the outside of the entire town.  After taking a wrong turn, I found myself at a dead end.  It was beautiful.  The road dead-ended because it reached a cliff that overlooks the entire town and the entire countryside around the town.  I stood there for maybe 20 seconds before a man approached me.

 

His English was perfect and he didn’t let me speak in Arabic.  We talked for half an hour.  He lived in the States for 18 years during the prime of his life.  His life story was incredible.  I wanted to keep talking to him all day.  His perspective was unlike anything I have ever heard before.  At the end of the conversation, he pointed to a building next to this beautiful overlook and told me it was for rent—and almost perfect for my budget.  I can’t wait to go back and check it out.  His business is right downstairs from the apartment.  I would love to be next door to a person who can tell a great story.

 

Things are going well.

 

Let’s keep it that way for the next 80 days.

 

 

 

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

 

Day Three

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I am officially wrapping up Day 3 of 800 on my Peace Corps adventure.  I am starting a new method of blogging.  In this method, I write my updates in a word document…and upload them whenever the internet decides to work.  Sound like a plan?  Good.  Anyway, this will be the first night since Saturday that I have been able to get a true full night’s sleep.  I think I may just faint right now.  Sleep sounds so glorious.

The flight and bus rides went smoothly.  I converted my money over just a few hours ago at 8.17 Dirham per American dollar.  To put that in perspective, we went to a café a little bit later.  I got a pastry for 5 Dirham and my friend got a coffee for 5 Dirham.  The exchange rate is going to heavily favor us.  It’s kinda nice not to worry about buying little things like food.  I can afford it.  At least for now.

We have one week left in Rabat before we break apart into small language groups.  This is going to be a crazy week full of meeting a bunch of people, getting a bunch of shots, learning basic Arabic, and survival skills.  Emotionally I have been all over the place—from wondering why I decided to do this one moment to sitting back and relaxing the next.  This week in Rabat will be a good way to test the waters.

 

Live from Philly

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The plane ride went smoothly.  When I got to Philadelphia International Airport, I met up with the four others from Colorado.  We split a fun ride into the heart of Philly.  I immediately dropped off my bags and went to orientation.  Fives hours of orientations while hungry and tired…At least I got to meet a lot of new people.  This has been a great start.  Although I still feel like the anti-social one.  That is kind of how I work though.

We leave the hotel at 9:00am tomorrow morning.  We immediatly get on a bus for JFK airport.  The 8 hour flight will bring us into Casablanca overnight.  Then, it’s straight to Rabat–the capital of Morocco.  It is going to be a long day of traveling.  But all I know is: 1 Day Down.  799 to go.

Why Haikus Make Me Smile

I miss your eyes—and
waking up to see them there
looking back at me
–Sofia

There is something beautiful in the way Haikus work.  I’ve written poems, flash fiction, short stories, and novels.  But now, thanks to a lovely lady in my life, I am finding the beauty in Haikus.     They capture the same thing I hope to capture in all my writing–the emotion of the moment.  With a Haiku, however, we are limited to 17 syllables (5,7,5).  It is the perfect tool to force a writer to be concise.  I think it will be a great tool for me.  I have become much more precise in my writing over the past three years.  This will force it even further.

Today, after a shortened day of work, I am getting back to work.  I was able to write almost 1,300 words today.  I need to break the 1,00 mark today.  Unfortunately, as I develop this story, i know full well that I will not be able to share much or any of what I am writing for years to come.  That is okay.  I will continue to update my old poems and writing in the weeks to come.  It’ll be enough to hold you over until the writing blog also becomes a travel blog.  Here is today’s poem:

The Sight of You

How to Write Memories

Getting back into the swing of writing has helped me immensely.  I love these memories more than anything right now.  I am going to make a bit of a change to the Memory Challenge…although you will not notice.  I am starting to talk about private things.  Although I am okay sharing my private memories…I don’t want to share other people’s private memories.  As a result, I am now changing all names.  Unless you know me personally…and pretty well…you should not know who I am talking about.

I spent three and half hours today talking with my favorite teacher for high school.  My mind has erupted with activity from the intelligent conversation.  She also gave me a book to read.  As soon as I’m done reading Mockingjay, this will be my next challenge.  It is Stephen King’s alternative history book about the failed assassination attempt on JFK.  I can’t wait to read it.

Day Seventeen: Losing Your Mother, Again

More Memories to Come

I have been neglecting my writing a bit too much in the past month.  I am trying to get back in the swing of things now that the final draft of “The Stagner Chronicle” is complete.  Getting back is easy with things like the Memory Challenge.  I am going to try to do one each day like I originally intended.

With 39 days until I leave for the Peace Corps, I can’t help but find myself evaluating my life and decisions.  My time in Fort Collins has been fun, but it is time for me to move on.  I can’t wait to start my service–even if I am scared.  Even my back up plans–for if the Peace Corps doesn’t pan out–have me somewhere other than Colorado.  I just need to find my own life.  I can’t wait for it to start.  39 days is too long…

Day Sixteen: Lightning in the Cemetery

Multiple Climaxes Revisited

I just finished the third draft of my latest novel.  I believe it is quite clean and ready for the eyes of family members and friends.  While reading it this time, I realized that I had organized the book in strange way.  I knew I gave it multiple climaxes.  That was on purpose.  What I didn’t realize was that each one was a different kind of climax.  First comes to the action climax.  Then comes the emotional climax.  Lastly comes to the story’s climax.  Each one has its own purpose.

I am very happy with the progress I have made on this novel–considering I’ve only really been working on it for three months or so.  I can’t wait to have someone else read it.  I’ll focus on something else tomorrow (probably the memory challenge).  After than, I am taking a road trip to see and old friend halfway across Colorado (I’m thinking about taking the long way past Colorado Springs to see how bad the fire is).  Until then!

Much Love,
Richard