Reverse-culture shock hasn’t been as jarring as how a few RPCVs made it sound. Then again, I didn’t expect to feel overwhelmed during my first time back in an American supermarket – that’s a common anecdote shared by RPCVs about their initial moments at home.
For me, it’s been the little things that took me by surprise:
- Instant – and hot! – water on demand. During my first night home, I turned on the hot water with the expectation that there’d be a delay in water coming out from there. Nope! Not only did the water fall out of the faucet the moment I turned it on, but it was also HOT! Yes, HOT! I am getting excited about instant hot water. In Imi nTlit, tap water wasn’t always readily available in my house. If I wanted hot water, I had to boil it. Now? I just turn a knob.
- Eating with my left hand is socially acceptable. Before Morocco, I used utensils with my right hand but snacked with my left (e.g., chips and cookies). In Morocco, I got used to only eating with my right hand in public (though, towards the end of my service, I did “rebel” and snack with my left hand – scandalous, I know). Now, I’m sort of back to snacking with my left. The only difference? I feel like people are watching me use my left hand to eat. I know that’s not the case…but I haven’t been able to shake that feeling off.
- Wearing a scarf…feels like a security blanket. In rural Morocco, a females hide the shape of their body. In America, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear fitted clothing. Then again…this last bit could be a weather thing. It could also be a style thing. It could also be me dressing for the occasion and a scarf so happens to work with making an outfit just that more versatile.
Life in America…oh, and did I mention I got a smart phone? Progress, I know.
Mary said to her husband Gerry, “That girl ahead looks beautiful…she could be Diana.” A second later, Mary realizes, “Hey – that girl IS Diana!”
Mary, another PCV and sometimes mother-figure of our Essa province.
bslama, Imi nTlit. congee imzeen g Essaouira. minibad s Rabat d Casablanca. Inshallah.
(translation: Goodbye, Imi nTlit. Small vacation in Essaouira. Later to Rabat and Casablanca. God willing.)
I spent my last day hanging out with my most cherished ladies (and a handful of fellas in the process):
- Lunch #1 with my host family: Fadma, Fatima, Khadija, Mina, Rkiya, Hayat, Hussain, the still untitled older woman who is generally in a sour mood but always sweet with me (and later Aicha at Tamounte). Fadma’s pregnant belly is getting bigger. I surprised them with a photo album filled with pictures I took of/with the family. In return, the girls gifted me a bottle of amlou.
- Lunch #2 with Fabulous Fatima and her daughter. I learned from Fatima that she and Aicha Hussain (my host grandmother) are no longer on speaking terms. (Whaa?? They were such good friends when I was living with the host family!) Besides that piece of news, I learned more about Fatima’s family.
- Tea with Spicy Aicha. I haven’t seen her in such a long time! I know, it’s largely my fault. I’m so happy I saw her today. I had just left Fabulous Fatima’s and was heading to my house when, having walked past the path up to her house, I turned around and made myself go to her house. Honestly, I am SO happy I did! I would’ve been really bummed if I hadn’t. I learned that her husband passed away about a month and a half ago. Her youngest granddaughter is so big now. Spicy Aicha…you have such a spirit about you. Aicha was dressed in white colors, indicative of a wife in mourning. Her husband had been ill for a long time. Since Aicha was still in the 4-month mourning period, I wasn’t able to get a picture with her. Instead, I took pictures with her granddaughters.
- The women of Tamounte Cooperative – all the ladies (there are too many to list, so many that I don’t even know their names by heart!), girls (i.e., Latifa and Khadija), and, of course, Taarabt and Rachida. I spent some time chatting with Aicha, my host grandmother, helping the women sort argan, and a bit more time chatting with the girls, Taarabt and Rachida. I learned that there are new products – soap made with local herbs and natural scents! I also learned that the cooperative has a website up – that I want to check out! When I left, Rachida and Taarabt gifted me with three 30-ml bottles of cosmetic argan oil and a bar of argan soap. I’m excited about all of them. Honestly…I hope I can somehow continue doing business with them. Perhaps I can start a distribution “center” from the US. Hmm…
- Mohammed, my hanut man. I returned an empty Fanta bottle and, in the process, said goodbye to him. In my two years here, he was always patient with me as I tried to remember the items I wanted to buy as well as the name of the items.
- Dinner with Little Fatima and her family: grandmother Aicha, aunt Amina, aunt Fatima and brother Ahmed. For evening tea, Aunt Fatima surprised me with a chocolate chip cake! There were four lit candles on the cake as she brought the tray of helwa into the room! Too…wonderful. I actually had them restage the candles because I forgot my camera when I first went to their house; consequently, I ran home – lHamdullah it was so close! – fetched my camera, ran back into the house, and asked to get pictures taken with the cake. Super, super thoughtful!
By the time dinner came out, I was still stuffed from all the food (bread) that I ate earlier in the day. Even so, I was a sport and ate my part of dinner. Why? Because this was my last meal in the village!
I know I didn’t say goodbye to everyone here – that would’ve been impossible. Instead, I chose to say goodbye to those who, in one way or another, showed me kindness of an intangible kind. Who knows, maybe these people were so hospitable because they knew/thought I was coming from a more privileged background and would not take advantage of them and their kindness…but I want to believe that was not the case.
The wonderful people of Imi nTlit…you’ve kept my heart warm these past two years. As I told many people today, you have been my family for two years. Thank you.
Funny story of the day: My PCV friend’s friend who is an American non-PCV male tried giving me a hug as he was leaving in my site. His movement made it closer to a hug than the Englishman’s did; even so, I managed to push/gentle nudge his enclosing arms away from me and stand firm about not hugging any males by sticking out my hand for a handshake.
Yesterday, as I sat around waiting for some type of transportation to drive through my village that would take me to Smimou, I thought about a couple questions that I anticipate being asked after I return to the US:
(1) Knowing what you know now, would you do Peace Corps again?
(2) Would you change anything about your Peace Corps service?
To the first question, my answer is: Yes, I would do my service again, my service being the one I am just about to complete. No*, I would not go on a second tour of Peace Corps service. (*at least in the foreseeable future. I mean, never say never, right?) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it because I did – read my PC blog, createmyworld.wordpress.com – rather, it’s because one of my goals was to join the Peace Corps.
To the second question, my answer is again two-fold. On the one hand, no – my time in Morocco was the way it was because that’s how I chose to shape my service. On the other hand, yes – there’s so much that could still be done. So much that, in hindsight, I see I could have done. Then again, it’s also in hindsight that you see how things could have been different, isn’t it?
Perspective…that’s one of the many things that Peace Corps has taught me to appreciate.
It’s my second-to-last night in site. I gave away my things to a PCV, her friend, and Little Fatima’s family today. Except for the items I plan to pack up, this house that I’ve rented for the past two years is barren of all things mine. Well, except for my two-year calendar. I’ve decided that my PC calendar will be the last thing that I take down. How do I feel about PC at this moment?
If you allow yourself to make it through these two years, through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and then allow yourself to build yourself up, this time on more secure footing than before, then you will come out of the experience on the other side.
I could go on and on about my experience and all that I’ve learned but, in the interest of keeping this short, I will say two final things:
(1) Peace Corps was/has/is a personal experience – that was my intent and that is what I achieved.
(2) Peace Corps…what an incredible journey.