Friday, March 19, 2010

Reflection on first six months

In celebration of my 6th month anniversary in Morocco I would like to take the time to reflect on my 1st six months of experiences.

It’s hard to believe that it has already been six months since I walked away from my parents in Detroit Metro Airport with a bag on my back and a mind full of unanswered questions. As heavy as both of those things were I felt lighter due to the confidence in my heart and unknown driving force behind me. This was the first time I would be going more than 3 weeks without spending time with my parents and the first time I was truly going it alone.

The strength within me was strong as steel but it was no match to the strength I would be building over the following six months. But it’s a funny way that my new strength was built. I was essentially broken down into a mere child, new to the world, and built back up again to an independent adult ready to handle anything.

During my nine week training program I was reduced from the age of 23 to about the age of two in many different ways. I had to learn how to walk, dress, eat, talk, even how to go to the bathroom all over again. Being with three other Americans and one Moroccan teacher helped me find my way because without them I literally wouldn’t have known how to survive.

There were so many things that I did not think I could handle during my training period. I remember in my first days wondering how I was even going to be able to buy bread for myself. Listening to stories from the volunteer in our town who was near the end of her service, I became intimidated and lost all feelings of confidence I once had back home. Without even knowing how to buy bread I didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to travel across Morocco alone.

There were days that I felt so drained due to all the learning taking place as well as so incapable of doing anything for myself. My best friend Yorda was no stranger to hearing, “tell me what to wear, tell me what to eat, tell me where I need to go” from me. Even though she was just as overwhelmed as me I often made her break things down into the simplest of all term for me so I didn’t have to think for myself.

But being broken down like that makes you realize that everything you though was so easy may not be quite so easy anymore. You are given opportunities for tiny daily accomplishments that seem so small to a Moroccan but to you are truly so big. The first time I bought bread for myself was an accomplishment. The first time I walked somewhere in town alone was an accomplishment. Day after day these things added up and I became more and more confident once again.

Many small accomplishments later it became time for us all to finish training and go off on our own to our new homes for two years. This was the most intimidating challenge of all. Weeks before this I couldn’t even picture myself alone in a Moroccan city and at this point I wasn’t even sure I was ready. But the same thing happened that had been happening since I had left home two months before. Something was driving me forward and it was something that I knew I had to do.

Thing after thing happens and I find myself surviving. Challenges arise and new experiences await and with each passing one I am built up stronger and stronger.

Being in a situation that you don’t have much ability to change you find that changing yourself is the best way to cope. Not change resulting in the loss of who you are but change that adapts you to your surroundings. I often whisper the words, God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, to myself when I am trying to get through a challenging situation. Being here for six months I am clear on the things that are not going to change because of my presence and I am still figuring out the things that I can change.

But most of all the change has happened in myself. I have grown more in my six months in Morocco than I have ever grown in my life. Literally (I gained 14 pounds). But in all seriousness I came here to see what I am made of and each day I an figuring out that I am made of some pretty tough stuff.