“Mskin” – a word in Darija language commonly used to describe sorrow or sympathy for someone.
People are constantly calling me “Mskina”.
Moroccan – “You live by yourself?”
Me – “Yes.”
Moroccan – “Aww mskina”
Moroccan – “Do you miss your parents?”
Me – “Yes.”
Moroccan – “Aww mskina”
Moroccan – “Do you know how to cook Moroccan food?”
Me – “No not really”
Moroccan – “Aww mskina”
In early September I found out that I had a low grade stress fracture from running to much and that I was going to have to be on crutches for 11 weeks. 11 weeks!!! 11 weeks hobbling around my little farm village. A village where the roads are uneven, covered in cracks and donkey shit. My apartment is on the second floor with two flights of stairs! Half the houses around here have stairs. Remember I have no car here either… I walk throughout my village, just like all the Moroccans do. I’m also used to routinely running through the farm fields for exercise, to work of stress and to fill my time. I also routinely helping my Moroccan family around the house. How on earth was I going to survive 11 weeks on crutches?!!
As I began using crutches and I realized how difficult they are to maneuver I found my anxiety creeping back into my life again. Now, whenever I leave my house I have to mentally prepare myself. Prepare myself for the considerable strength and extra time that it will take to get from point A to point B. Prepare myself emotionally for being bombarded with questions by villagers. People will look and stare as I hobble by. I can hear them whispering to each other. “What happened to her?!?!?! Aww mskina.” Every time I walk out of my house. My life was turning into an emotional rollercoaster. Going from good weeks to bad weeks. Weeks where I felt like the 11 weeks would fly by. To weeks where I felt like I was never going to heal. Where the skin under my armpits became so raw from the crutches it would almost start to bleed. Weeks where I was so thankful for my Moroccan family taking care of me, for my American family mentaling supporting me. To weeks where the weather turned for the worst (rain and snow already!) and made it nearly impossible to leave my house.
Peace Corps tests your resilience and patience even in healthy times, and it’s times like these where it almost pushes you to the limit. Yet I remind myself there is a light at the end of the tunnel. During this time I have experienced what it is like to live in a country where handicapped accessibility is not a big priority, especially when you get further away from the cities. Where going about your day becomes WAY more complicated. There’s no supermarket around the corner. No elevators or handicapped ramps readily available. I don’t have a car to drive to places or nice even sidewalks to walk around. It’s those things that make life just a bit easier when your mobility is compromised.
During this time I’m experiencing the privilege of being an American working for an American organization. All I did was call up the Peace Corps Doctors and tell them I had been feeling some pain in my shins for some time. They told me to come down to Rabat (the capital where the Peace Corps office is) to see the doctor. They paid for my transportation, my hotel, food, they even paid for my xray and MRI scan. When the doctor said I need to be on crutches they gave me crutches.
One of my Moroccan mothers has severe hip problems. The doctors have told her she needs to be bedridden and can only walk around with crutches. My Moroccan Baba (father) has no money and her oldest son is skeptical about buying crutches. When asking her why he won’t buy them she replies “I don’t know, but it’s his money, he gets to decide”. The decision of her having crutches isn’t even up to her, and I was just handed mine for free. She jokes about me giving her my crutches so she can walk. I awkwardly laugh saying they don’t belong to me as I sit next to her. I feel like crap. Here I am, my American privilege showing.
One day I was sitting next to one of my Moroccan sisters. I was sulking about how much I hate my crutches. About how badly I just wanted to walk. She turned to me and said “Thank god you will be able to walk. Look at Malak” (Malak is her 7 year daughter). Due to complications at birth she can not stretch out or bend her legs completely, they are constantly bent slightly and rigid. This means she can not stand up straight or walk straight without assistance. When she does stand up with some assistance it’s only for a couple of minutes because her legs are so weak. You can see in Malak’s eyes how badly she wants to walk and run around with the kids. Summertime and school breaks are especially hard for her. She sits outside on the steps as she watches the kids run by and she begs them to play with her. Her mother is constantly physically drained from carrying Malak around. Pushing her in her stroller to and from school on uneven crack ridden roads. The only way that Malak can truly walk is through surgery. They told me about this American Doctor they had seen who was going to take Malak to America for surgery. THIS YEAR!!! I was extremely worried and puzzled by this.
“Wait. You’re going to America???? For Surgery???? When? Where? Who’s paying for this??? You guys don’t know English.”
My Moroccan Family didn’t have many details. Lucky this summer I had the privilege of meeting their doctor. It turned out they were right. There is this American Moroccan Doctor who WOULD LIKE to bring Malak to America for surgery. BUT her case needs to be approved first. He works primarily in America.
Me – “So is this going to happen this year????”
Doctor – “No probably not. It can take up to two years to get everything in order. Her case hasn’t been accepted yet”
Me – “Ohhhhhhh…..”
Now try telling that to your host family in broken Arabic.
My Moroccan sister was right. Thank god there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me and I will be able to walk again after 11 weeks. Whereas the dream of Malak walking all depends on whether her case is accepted. And my Host Mom doesn’t even get to decide if she can have crutches or not! And here I am complaining about everyone calling me mskina, “poor thing”, every time I walk out my door. Or sulking about how hard it is to move around. The truth is, yes, it does suck! These 11 weeks have pushed me to my limits, but on the flip side I am very, very privileged. I have the best medical coverage I’ve ever had. This injury is only temporary. And after all this is over I get to go back to America. A place where health resources are readily available in comparison and the government has laws for handicapped accessibility. But that is not the case for most people around the world.
**********P.S GO VOTE AMERICA!!!!!!!! So we can keep our health care and make it even better!!! Btw, I voted absentee a couple weeks ago.**********