Now that we have made it to our hometown, more than a day’s travel from where we began our journey in Morocco, we have had some time to reflect on our first months here. The past weeks have been mostly characterized by difficult goodbyes, which we have taken to mean that we have been fortunate enough to cross paths with some really great people. Here is a short list of some of our most difficult goodbyes.
Baba Abdelali, Mama Khadija, and sisters Fatimzahra, Koutar, and Bouchra
Each and every one of them went out of his or her way to make us feel comfortable. Baba worked with us on our Arabic and took days off from his chicken shop so that we could all spend weekends together. Mama prepared delicious meals and worried excessively if we ever weren’t home on time. Fatimzahra was the peacekeeper, always patient with her sisters and helping her mother look after us and the rest of the family. Koutar was a firecraker who loved to practice her English, play Power UNO, and stir up trouble with her youngest sister. Bouchra, the baby, is indisputably among the most adorable three-year-olds on the planet, and was absolutely fascinated when we were finally able to form complete thoughts in Darija. Since we said our goodbyes, they have called to check in on us regularly (despite our underdeveloped phone manner). Our family grew by five in January, and we are anxiously awaiting a return visit up north.
Thanks to his phenomenal attendance of our sessions at the youth center and many an evening spent at our family’s home for kaskarut and games, we are now fortunate enough to count Soufiane among our greatest friends in Morocco. His patience with our language and willingness to share his time and attention was an asset to us during our first three months. He helped us communicate when our Darija broke down, but was still always adament that we practice. On paper, we have just three host sisters, but we consider Soufiane family.
Naima, Anooj, Scarlett, and Madeleine
Our group of five plus our fearless leader. Virtually every single day for three months we spent in each other’s company and we didn’t rip each other to shreds. As if that didn’t already speak volumes, we actually had quite a great time together. Together we laughed and cried our way through cultural missteps, linguistic triumphs and pitfalls, stress management exercises, and youth development curriculum. We didn’t turn our backs on one another despite infrequent bathing and excessively repetitive jokes. United by our love for Naima, our excitement to be here, and our distaste for negativity, we flourished. Thank you.
Our first three months in Peace Corps Morocco were influenced in an enormous and beautiful way by this woman. With her patience during our most obnoxious moments and her faith in our ability and our intention, she built a sort of sanctuary during a particularly stressful time in our service. She would solve any problem and answer any question, and still find time to laugh with us, play with us, and be with us. She’s hilarious in an adorable and unexpected sort of way. Our entire CBT agrees, without exception, that she is a superhero.
If the group was ever in need of a pick-me-up of the goofy, goobery, pun-tastic, cheesy, sarcastic, light-hearted, fun, and sincerely intentional type, Anooj delivered. He fell right out of a Holton-variety stork and into our hearts, into the hearts of 101 new Peace Corps Volunteers, and more importantly, into the hearts of Moroccans. We spent more hours laughing and talking with Anooj than we care to admit, and learning that we’d be on opposite ends of the country for our two years of service was our only heartbreak. He will continue to support us and inspire us from miles and miles away, and we hope that we can do the same for him.