“Oodree! Oodree! Oodree!” Is what I hear every time I walk out my door. Children bombard me on the streets. I kid you not, BOMBARD ME!!!! Circle me!!!! Chase me down the street!!!! All to give me kisses, high fives and say hello. Women kiss me on the check begging me to come over for tea (sometimes they literally pull me into their house) and men too say hello with a smile as I pass them by.
I’ve been in my final site for 6 months and Morocco for a total of 8 months. I can’t help but reflect on when I was back in America and my biggest fear before I left was loneliness. Worrying about whether or not I would have a support system. A family that loves me, a community that would welcome me. A country that I could call my home. But I took that huge leap of faith and I no longer have that fear.
Don’t get me wrong, I do experience a form of loneliness from time to time. The longing to have a conversation were I don’t have to worry about whether I will be understood or not. Or trying to have people empathize with me on just how hard being a Peace Corps volunteer truly is. But at the end of the day those struggles are out weighed by all the positives.
I was not the only one who took a huge leap of faith, that was also true for my Moroccan counterpart and his family. This past week I asked my brother Abdelhaq (who is also my main counterpart) “alash bghiti khdam m3a Hayet Salam?” (Why did you want to work with Peace Corps?) After a long conversation I realized just how much Abdelhaq was taking a leap of faith as well. Taking in a complete stranger, working with them side by side. Opening his house. Allowing someone to be part of his family. And that he did, and not just Abdelhaq, but his large family and the entire community. Opening their homes, allowing me into their lives, telling me “ma5ssiksh Hshumi. Hadi dar dyalik” (you don’t need to be shy, this is your home).
That right there is what makes Peace Corps so beautiful! People taking me in, protecting me, feeding me, caring for me as if I was their own. This culture exchange, this blind willingness to open doors, to open hearts.
A couple weeks ago my parents came for their first visit. I had many emotions rolling through my body. Nervous, scared, excited, and happy, all at the same time. I image this is what it feels like when your parents are about to meet your future in laws and your in laws are from a different country with a completely different culture. At one point in the taxi ride I said “Oh my god I think I’m going to throw up!”
There’s only so much I can say to try and capture this love, affection and playfulness that I receive from and exchange with my community and Moroccan family in a blog. So it was extremely important to me for my parents to witness this first hand.
And of course, like any first meet and greet, it was kinda of awkward at first. Different cultures, different customs and should I state the obvious, different languages. But thank god for kids to break the ice, to get us all laughing…. the universal language. Quickly my parents saw why and just how happy I am even though they couldn’t understand what the heck was being said.
So tomorrow my parents go back to California and I stay in the place I now call home.