Monday, December 3, 2007

my pee steams; that's how cold it is here

27 November

I’m wound up in my warm cocoon, consisting of my down sleeping bag, a heavy fleece blanket, a heavier faux wool blanket and a real hand-woven wool blanket that I swear weighs more than I do. Only my fingers are exposed to the freezing air because I want to write. Tonight is my first night in my new home, for good. First night away from any English speaker, the first night I am alone with myself and my thoughts since I left America. Quick recap- the LPI, Thanksgiving, swearing in, and beginning my life as a volunteer. . .

The LPI, or Language Proficiency Interview, is the oral exam we all take at the end of training, pretty self-explanatory. Bring together the fact that I am terrible test taker, a slow learner and have allowed the stress of this entirely new planet I’ve landed on as somewhat of an excuse for me to not put in 100% and you get my current level of language skill. I was one of the very few to score so low on my LPI that I am now on what feels like a kind of academic probation. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and in a way I am thankful for the extra push. What is important is that I want to learn the language and I’m in this for the full term. I also no longer have any distractions or excuses - no one in my town speaks English so when I need something I have to find a way to tell them myself.

On Thanksgiving the YDers and a few SBDers and the kitchen staff prepared and unbelievably wonderful and accurate meal, which made the holiday even sadder for me; I was tasting thanksgiving but not seeing family. Everyone says the holidays are hard when you’re away and I never wanted to believe it but it’s painfully true. It was also hard because Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in my family as a great excuse for a reunion and taking over half a park in Los Angeles. I’m so glad I went home last year or I’d be going on five years away. On top of that, I walked by a black Ford Focus while wandering around Fes that day and it made me miss Ashley all the more as the other three of my past four Thanksgivings were spent with her- once with our favorite college professors, once by ourselves (well, almost), and once up in Wisconsin with her grand family.

A couple days of more lectures and last minute treats like McDonalds passed and then training was over! As of yesterday I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer, sworn in with my staj of 67- the largest ever for Morocco and the first in I don’t know how long to have no one leave yet. Mbruk! Congrats! Overall, Fes was hectic and not the city I'd pictured, Ouarzazate and the “dirty south” will always be dear to my heart as my first home in Morocco. And then we all left, in staggered goodbyes, to do what we came here to do? . . .

I found myself more okay with leaving Peace Corps Training as the forth taxi I took on the relatively short route to my site wound up the mountains. Sandwiched between the rickety door and the other four people sharing the back seat with me, I somehow had 40 minutes of real peace. As the window grew colder and the mountains turned white and grew bigger, I felt comforted. Mountains are always home to me. There is something so beautiful and unattainable about a great mountain; the same moment I feel protected by its presence, I feel afraid of its power. It is such great mass of something and reminds me of a figure in childhood I can’t quite place. And then the taxi ride was over and now I’m here, at home.

Though it was an alright day overall, this evening I received some very unwelcome news and with no one to vent to, and really not wanting to think at all, I began reading. I have no idea when the last time was that I picked up a book and just read for the hell of it, but it’s been at least a year. Reading is so wonderful. My good friend here told me I had to read Eat, Pray, Love and it’s the only book I have, so to take my mind off all the many worries tormenting me, I began reading. What weight can be lifted from such light tasks! Ah, and you know when you put on some music just to take your mind off of things, then hear the lyrics and wonder how the hell you could pick something so randomly and have it say exactly what you need to hear? Well that’s what Eat, Pray, Love did for me tonight dammit! It was inspiring, reassuring and allowed my mind to fall back into place and being sensible. The hardest thing about reading enjoyable writing is that it breaks open again and again my deep desire to be a writer. Though I love to write, I hate to make sense and writing is just about the most frustrating and worrisome process in the world for me. Much like dancing and stand-up comedy and teaching; I love these things but I’m just not made for them. I will find a passion I’m good for, inshallah.

So what’s the consensus in this moment of calm after two and a half months of whirlwind? That I’m only myself... as often as I’d like to think I’m different or growing into another person, and for my time in the Peace Corps I’ve certainly tried; really I’m just the same. And being better at that is really what I’d like to grow towards, not away from. How funny we all are; sorry but I just crack myself up sometimes when my minds on a rampage of thought. After years of withholding, I tried some indulgence, and am settling back into something more like me. I know my instincts are right, the difficulty now is remembering to follow them. In a nutshell, don’t you hate it when you have to tell yourself “I told you so!” In moments of revelation I feel I begin to sound more like my mom (the one who gave me the name Briana, not my adoptive Moroccan mother). Though I often fight it because her beliefs are frustratingly intangible and ever-changing, they always come from the heart, which is often why it is so painful. And I miss her like a bricks been thrown at my chest tonight, but I’ll be fine, because I can already hear her voice saying, so annoyingly, “its okay bri, the universe is with you.”

It is now nearly 2am and I have a big day tomorrow of getting to know the artisans, with my limited language, attempting to find my mom’s package of warm clothes, finding a tutor . . . oh I’ve got a to-do list going now that puts even those during finals week in college to shame. I have a lot to do, but I have time to do it. I’m going to be tired tomorrow, but when your head needs to be cleared, there’s no stopping it. Tonight I miss my mom, maybe instead of nightmares about random things, I’ll go horseback riding with her in my dreams, actually I bet that’s what she’s doing this very moment.

28 November

Okay I admit it, I’m avoiding. Not that anything bad is going on, besides my lack of any communication, I just can’t stop reading. Twenty four hours after I picked up the book and began, I am now 147 pages in, oops. But it’s a good book and I’ve been overwhelmed and quite helpless. After working on my to-do list (and by working on I mean perfecting and adding to the list, not actually accomplishing the tasks on it, as usual) and being embarrassed by sitting there like a dumb rock while my family wonders why I can’t talk, I dove into my book. Speaking of rocks, that’s also the way I feel right now- stone. It has only been one day and I am cold to the bone. It burns it’s so cold. I just haven’t found the little ways to get warm, and I’ve never lived in constant cold before. Don’t worry and think I’m gonna die of cold; it’s just a strange thing to deal with. It makes me not want to do anything, particularly the daily unavoidable tasks like going to the bathroom, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, changing clothes, moving around. Eek. And somehow no matter how many layers I have on, my body doesn’t seem to want to heat them up. For a moment I’m fantasizing that I have fur, and am jealous of sheep. Or maybe if I rub hot peppers on my skin it will burn me warm. I think part of my brain may have frozen too.

Ah and while I had a rare night without nightmares and though I didn’t dream of horseback riding, I did dream of weaving (I couldn’t find the shed even though it was only plain weave!), an old high school friend I haven’t thought of in a long time and feeling beautiful. Odd but refreshing dreams. Suppose the elevation could be getting to me too, I’m nearly even with Denver.

29 November

Since I haven’t been able to post this yet, I may as well keep adding on! Cultural fun for the night: food. In America I might enjoy oatmeal with cinnamon, sugar and raisins for breakfast and maybe some pasta with butter and salt for dinner. In Morocco I may be served oatmeal with salt for breakfast and pasta with raisins, sugar and cinnamon for dinner. Food for thought?

I will talk about the cooperative; ya know like, my job, soon, I just don’t wanna quite yet. And I’ll have more pics up on my picasa site once I gather them from other volunteers. Here's one from swearing in, look out-fresh volunteers!

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