Thursday, September 9, 2010

A year in the life

Me, in my first week in Morocco

Looking back on the last year of my life it is unbelievable how much has happened and how much has been packed into 12 short months. In 12 months I have gone from a child to an adult all over again and learned how to survive in a new country and culture.

When I first got to Morocco I was a toddler in many ways. I had to learn how to eat differently, use the toilet, bathe myself, dress, speak, understand, read, and buy things. I had many people helping me with that process between Peace Corps supportive staff and my fellow trainees going through the same things. I remember talking to current volunteers during that time and not being able to believe that I was going to get to the point they were at someday. And someday soon. Only having two years total here, I was going to have to re-grow up, very fast.

I remember talking about things like traveling alone, finding a place to live, and paying bills. Again I didn’t believe for a second that I was going to be doing it. How was I going to look for an apartment in a place where I barely understood the language let alone how local real estate works.

The day after I swore in as a volunteer and graduated from the training program was probably the strangest day of my life. I woke up that morning to say goodbye to all of my fellow trainees, who had become my new family, and to see them off across the entire country of Morocco. And I was going to have to set off alone to my new site, not sure what to expect or who I would meet. It was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. Even harder than leaving my parents because I knew I was going off completely on my own. No staff would be there to greet me and there would be no Americans in close range to seek safety from.

In the first few months in my site things went fast. Unbelievably, in that time I found an apartment, applied for my Moroccan identity card, met some nice people, paid bills, and started work. All those things that I couldn’t see myself doing just a few months prior, I was doing successfully. As time continued to roll on many other firsts and accomplishments were taking place. The first time I traveled very far alone was frightening at first but once it was over I had proven to myself that I could do it. Now every time since I always have the confidence to know that I can tackle this challenge.

Sometimes staring down the 14 months I still have left in my service leaves me feeling a little lonely and homesick. But looking back at the 12 that I already have under my belt I am astonished. In retrospect the events of the last 12 months of my life have transpired so quickly I know the next 14 will probably do the same. When 14 months feels intimidating I just remember to get through one day at a time. Peace Corps, to me, has been like being on a moving treadmill. Things keep going on and I keep walking with some force driving me forward. I’ve got no choice but to keep going.

The things that I’ve seen , the people that I’ve met, and the experiences that I have had in these past 12 months make this experience seem like a dream. It’s hard to believe that me, Alex Cash, can call myself the sister of a lovely Moroccan teenager who looks up to me, and the best friend of a welcoming Moroccan woman who feels she can tell me anything. I’ve been blessed to be a part of people’s lives here. When all this is behind me and all I have are memories I’m not going to remember the struggles, the English classes that I taught, or attempts at working against a preconceived system, I am going to remember the moments that I spent with the people who cared about me most. The people who loved me for what I am, even if I was different.

My mission here is simple. Be someone that people can say what they need to say to. Be someone’s support. Make someone realize they can be who they are with me, even if it goes against what they were taught. If I have an effect on just one person’s life then my service has been worth my while.

PS I just noticed that this is my 100th entry. Pretty fitting for my year anniversary.

Me, at summer camp