last full PCV-style week

Posted in Uncategorized by Diana on March 26, 2012

Today begins my last full PCV-style work week.

Oddly enough, I’m not out at souk, the one weekly community event that I really enjoyed participating in during my service. I’m not visiting my usual vendors, the men who I’ve come to rely on for nishan prices in our transactions.

When I finally stepped out of my house this morning – hey, some mornings are more difficult than others for me to get moving – I went to see my local officials so that they could sign off on my checkout papers.

What did I learn?

The Xalifa is no longer here as in he no longer works in Imi nTlit. Who have I been sending my travel texts to then?

In addition, I was reminded that officials, or anyone with some official standing, love to apply stamps on top of their signatures. It’s their equivalent of notarizing something…or elevating their own importance on paper.

When I returned to my house, I was greeted by MS3aud, the friendly hanut man next door, and, surprise surprise, an Englishman! Apparently the lad, Andy, had come through Imi nTlit two years ago and was returning to visit his friend, MS3aud. I chatted with Andy for a while.

The most blatant health problem that he picked up on was dental hygiene/poor dental care. He talked about how he and his mother had paid for a Moroccan family to get their teeth cleaned and repaired. While sponsoring one family was an easy solution, Andy soon realized that it’d be impossible, both practically and financially, to do that for every Moroccan family he befriended. He asked me to ask MS3aud, who himself is missing several of his teeth, why people didn’t take better care of their teeth.

Wow…that was awkward. The directness of the question is a very Western concept. Moroccans pride themselves on being indirect in their questions and inquiries.

Talking to Andy reminded me of how naïve/quick I was to formulate opinions about Moroccan people early on. Coming in, I knew I wasn’t going to solve most of their problems but I was still optimistic about simple solutions. “Brushing their teeth is such an easy idea,” I thought, “It’s a long term investment in their teeth.” Here’s the thing: people here aren’t used to thinking about the big picture and long term. They worry about the day-to-day, i.e., feeding their family, tending the livestock, and working in the fields. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are seen as luxury items that come from having discretionary income. Either that or items of necessity only after someone in the immediate family is told by a fellow Moroccan who s/he can relate to the importance of dental hygiene. It’s a message that needs to be repeated over and over by Moroccans themselves. While the intent of outsiders, i.e., foreigners, are good, it doesn’t really play into the Moroccan mindset of healthcare.

I wish this mode of thinking were easier to explain. During one part of the conversation, I sensed that Andy was getting defensive about dental hygiene so I reassured him that I agreed with him on the topic. As an educated foreigner, I can see how it’s easy to come into a village, say what could be improved, and then leave; however, as an educated foreigner who’s lived in my village for two years, I can also tell you that talking about change is much easier than getting people to implement.

Beyond recognizing how my perspective of development has evolved over two years, I find humor in noticing how much of the culture has been ingrained in my social interactions. For instance, when we were saying goodbye, he moved in for what would have been a harmless one-arm hug while I stuck out my hand to prevent him from violating my personal space. I had to remind him that hugs, especially between a man and woman who just met, are culturally inappropriate. Haha.

In a week and a half, I will have completed my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Yikes.


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