First off I just have to give a huge congratulations to OBAMA! It deserves a big lhamdulilah (thank god) though really I thank the American people for whose majority finally made a good decision! Thank you! And I can say for certain the greater portion of Moroccans I know thank you as well! Fun language side-note I simply can’t resist- McCain sounds almost exactly like ma kayn(sh), which is Arabic for “there isn’t.” Funny and I just really felt the need to share that.
Anyhow, my Obama joy came at the end of quite a little trip down south. I had some post Halloween fun with some friends and after recovering from a sour hangover on a long bus I arrived at my CBT site, the lovely little village I first called home and was adopted by in Morocco. It began awkward, with the guilt of taking so long to return and my poor Tam coupled with the fact that the dialect is very different, but soon enough we fell right back into place. I hadn’t forgotten how much I loved my first family in Morocco, but I was still surprised how much I enjoyed and missed their company in the less than 24-hour time I had to be with them again. My mom was loud and fast talking and nuts as ever, my sister as clingy and wanting, though a far better cook, and the boys just as sweet though disturbingly taller.
Now I am always and forever a great lover of couscous, but there has been a disappointing trend of couscous in my site. There are many varieties of couscous of course, but wet and dry define a lot. In my site it’s been un-spiced, with a few chickpeas and some sheep or chicken and about a gallon of aggu, or buttermilk, by my definition-disgusting. I totally respect them and their love of wet sour-milk drenched couscous, but I just don’t like it. As a result, I’ve been very deprived lately of my weekly quota of couscous, so when I went “home” down south I happily welcomed theirs. A wonderful big pile of it, quite salty and moistened only a bit with meat juices, and covered with collard greens, carrot, potato, pumpkin, parsnip, onion and zucchini, oh delicious. And I repeatedly praised the food, bumping up my sister’s self-esteem to great heights. The next morning I accompanied them on the daily task, though I wasn’t allowed to lift a finger, only observe, of shaking out and plucking off all the leaves of fig and various other trees done fruiting for the season to feed to the animals. It was a wonderful trip and I promised to return again in the spring, or at very latest, in the summer.
I made my long trip back north and, with much appreciated approval from Peace Corps staff we were all allowed to travel for the election. Just a few friends and I went to a PCV’s house who had this amazing little gadget which allows you to watch TV live on your computer. It was great, and though we all pooped out around two, after the first couple polls closed, we were awoke by one girl screeching around 4:30am, “He won! He won! He won!” Tired as I was, I was up, unbelieving, and unbelievably happy. We opened a bottle of terrible champagne, managed to each drink a small cup, watch McCain’s poor speech, Obama’s AMAZING speech and I definitely fell back to sleep with a big smile on my face.
We awoke late the next morning to hear more results and discuss the wonderful victories, and chat about what was gonna happen next, one friend said, “you know, it’s really weird to feel good about America again, like to feel inspired about the future” and we all felt similar. I’ve definitely been noticing more and more to be thankful for about America during my time here, but to truly be inspired about the future? Well I haven’t felt that for my home country in a long ass time. So, yay for us huh? I think so.
I returned to site, many texts of joy to other volunteers, some jumping up and down, and many congrats from Moroccans later, for a quick stint in site before turning around and leaving, again. And I really, really didn’t want to go. I was tired, and the thought of leaving my baby boy home alone in the cold was just not nice. But I had to go, to the great capital, Rabat, for MSM (mid-service meds), the second to last time my whole staj would be joined as a whole group. I was quite grumpy after the 6-hour bus ride, and some really awful harassment within an hour of arriving in the great city. I was tired, and I really didn’t feel like spending money or getting poked and prodded by anybody. But of course I got grumpier because that’s exactly what happened. A busy few days of labs, x-rays, dentist appointments, physicals and really expensive eating out. The food is great let me tell you, but I honestly far prefer my own cooking now, which is far cheaper and just as damn good, if not better.
While I was in Rabat I was reminded again, and will now remind all of you, of just how weird we PCVs are. Take stool samples, for example. While a year ago I got all red in the face and shy anyone farted or mentioned sex or talked about how ya, girls shit too, I’ve lost any and all pride now. They passed out those cute little plastic cups and caps, brown paper bags and wooden sticks (this last one just confused us) and sent us off. The main point of this of course is to check for parasites, which many of us acquire here. I thankfully have not, as of yet. But it was with much humor and far too little discretion that we ran around the classiest city in Morocco with our little poo samples to the lab, joking about who had and hadn’t yet, and where, and how and that we must hurry for if we don’t get it to the lab within half an hour it’s no good anymore and we have to do it again. I even complained that I had to use the brown paper bag, for I’d much rather take the brown paper bag home for making pita bread (it’s essential for keeping pita soft after baking, and the only place I know they are available is our PC med office) So anyhow, that was that.
To further delve into what no one needs to know, but possibly explains at least some part of my bad mood; the morning of my appointed physical and pap, oh joy, it was that time of the month again. Forgive my language, but “Fuck!” was my initial reaction to this most beautiful gift of womanhood this time around. Mostly I was just stinkin pissed because it meant I’d have to come all the way back to Rabat again soon. Oh well. More pricey food later, and second piercings in my ears (that was a yay moment) and we were finally released back to our sites. I made a stopover in Azrou to pick up a cat. A girl who is COSing but coming back for a job needed a cat sitter for 6 weeks, and I agreed. My boy needs a buddy when I’m away and it’s nice to have two lap warmers. The new gal is currently seated on my lap and Bu at my side. If it was only a maybe before I can say now it’s a fact that I’ve become a lonely crazy cat lady.
So back to site meant back to the cold. In my determination to me unhappy about having to be there I forgot to be thankful for the weather in Rabat. In hindsight Rabat was like fall in Ventura, so lovely. Not much different from the rest of the year, just a slight crisp chill in the air in the evening, and I love that. Even more depressing is that I missed going to the beach even once, but really just hadn’t had time. Back here, home, I’m remembering exactly why I hate winter so much. How the cold gets in your bones and never leaves, no matter how many cats or blankets or happy thoughts you can conjure up. And it’s not even that cold yet. Though it didn’t provide much warmth, the last thing I’ve been wanting to do is move more than five inches away from my electric heater, but due to too much rich food in Rabat I’ve got even more too much info for you all, the shits. I’m so sorry you have to hear that, but again, I really don’t care.
I also had another site visit yesterday, and no I don’t want to talk about it. No work isn’t going any better or worse. Mostly I just haven’t been here, but after my second trip to Rabat for the damn pap smear next week and Thanksgiving at another friend’s site, I hope to stay home more, survive Leid Al Adha and get back to work. Right now I’m reading. A lot again. Mostly to keep my mind off my mind, but also because I’ve got a lot of new books arriving soon and want to finish some I still have here. I’ve been reading Back to the Soil; The Jewish Farmers of Clarion, Utah, and Their World by Robert Alan Goldberg. I’ve been meaning to read this book for years, mostly just because I’m related to one of them, and it’s just kind of cool to read a book a blood relative was part of; but recently it hits home for real since my current little dream forming is farming. Also honestly, I don’t know that I could have gotten through a history book so easily before. I love history, but dry writing has never been a real good idea if I want to stay awake. This book isn’t written with any kind of special enthusiasm, but I love it! No tiredness here for sure, though it is a bit depressing because, after all, it is about a great failure.
I’m a good two thirds of the way through Back to the Soil, and I really don’t like starting a new book when I’m not done with another, but last night I was feeling cold, in the pits and just needed something else and began Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I read a few pages shy of 200 and went to bed at nearly 2am. Sometimes it’s just what I need, like Eat, Pray, Love, not because it’s a literary masterpiece but because it’s about some worried woman’s unhappy life and something they start doing to change it in some way, bitching the whole time. I don’t feel much sympathy, or even inspiration, I’m just happy for the time to not be bitching about the mess I think of my own life. And the best way for me to do that seems to be to read someone else doing the same thing. I don’t feel much in common with Julie; except maybe the food, and my worry that I’ll be a confused 20 or 30 or even 40 something, only without the loving husband in tote.
It’s not like it takes much to get me thinking about food, for it’s the one thing I do good here, but the book is much about food, so here go yet more words on the subject. Have I mentioned I never want to live a life where I need a microwave again? Well I really mean it. I’ve lived a year without micro-waved food and love it. If I can say one positive thing about my overseas experience it’s my love and appreciation of food, or really, that process that keeps us alive physically, and the fulfillment making such things from scratch brings, which greatly contributes to mental health as well. A great inspiration of course was reading The Omnivores Dilemma, but more it just reaffirmed and gave weight to beliefs I had but didn’t believe in (yes I know that makes no sense, I’ve told you before I’m just one long, nonsensical run-on).
So I recently got a package from home containing, among other items, lots of food products. I will admit right off the bat here that there with always remain a special place in my heart my greatest comfort food, mac n cheese, I know it’s all obtuse ingredients but it tastes like something good from childhood so I’m ok with the indulgence once in a blue moon. But I do recognize now the ridiculousness of processed food more than ever. I’ve always known they’re not quite real, there all chemicals, they’re just easy food for our fast paced lives, whatever. But I honestly always thought they tasted fine. And when time is money, if it’s edible I’m gonna eat it. Well I have changed. I thank you kindly for sending me such things, but I can honestly say now, there is no need to send anymore.
I came home from the trip down south, having missed suq I had no veggies and no energy so without worry I popped open one such ten-minute meal in a bag for, well, a meal. The poor pieces of quick cooking pasta sadly dozed around the boiling water with the powder to soon form a supposedly rich creamy-broccoli garlic sauce. Nonsense. It was terrible. If I hadn’t been so hungry I’d have thrown it out. Still without veggies, the next day I had another packet, same directions, supposedly different favor. Two more revelations came about from this process, a) both tasted exactly the same (which makes sense after reading Michael Pollan’s book and finding out that most of the ingredients are in fact the same-some product of corn, and after a year of my taste buds growing used to actually tasting different foods together) and b) it was ridiculously sad to be done cooking dinner in ten minutes. It’s not like I have all the free time in the world here but I’m now accustomed to actually setting aside more time preparing my meal than eating it, far more, and I like that. I enjoy chopping and sautéing and discovering how much of one spice I can handle and how much of another the dish needs, it’s fun, meditative and oh so fulfilling to eat! After some unhappy quick meals, suq day arrived and I made some amazing soups of my own.
I have many fears about returning to the states, and a big one is definitely falling back into the routine of eating and being content with such easy food I’m afraid it won’t take long at all for my taste buds to accept bland microwave products again and to think that gourmet food is only something you can get in restaurants or on big holidays like Thanksgiving, worthy of the work of actual cooking. Because in the states, unlike here, it’s easier to eat food from a bag than off the land. Which is why I’ve just got to become a farm girl right?
I do feel a little bad, and confused, and lacking in articulate wording lately. As I’ve spoken to family members recently I don’t know how to explain exactly what this “thing” is that I want to do so badly when I get back, at least not without sounding like a dumb hippie. No don’t want to go back to school, not at all actually, I don’t even really want to travel. I want to farm. I want to be on the land. Maybe it’s the odd juxtaposition of my newfound love of real food, combined with my newfound weight gain of 11 pounds due to lack of enough exercise despite such good food (no exaggeration, I just got weighed in Rabat), but I want to live simple, as Julie said, “Maybe I needed to make like a potato, winnow myself down, be a part of something that was not easy, just simple.”
For there is a huge difference between simple and easy. I say often that the people live here simply, but in no way does that mean to imply they live easy. Compared to my standard of living in the states, physically at least, life here is anything but easy. I would say mentally life in the states may have been anything but easy due to all the contradictions I was living, all the distractions from what I truly deem important and valuable to life. Maybe I need to go back to therapy, or better, I just need to start listening to my own advice. At some point you have to sit down with yourself and admit what it is that you know makes you smile, what will keep the light on in your soul. I over complicate myself, but I am quite simple, and maybe life would be easier if I would live in such a way. I am so tired. I don’t know just how to go about doing this thing, this dreamy thing, but it’s making me smile and that’s what I need right now.