I’ve been working on this post in my head for about three months. It’s not easy to wrap-up 27 months living in another country. It’s also not easy to talk about it. I mean it’s easy to talk about, but difficult to truly express what it was like. You can’t just wrap-up that time, emotions and daily life in a sentence or two. Thankfully I’ve had many friends who were very curious about my Peace Corps journey and have asked lots of questions.
Living in another country, in a culture so drastically different from your own, teaches you a lot about yourself. And you change. And those changes affect how you relate to family and friends – and that can make things rough to manage.
People think that you do Peace Corps or international work to change others. But it’s really about change and growth within yourself. This is not to say that I didn’t have an impact on my community. I know I made a lasting, positive impression on those I lived and worked with daily.
At my age (late 40s) and with my background (professional development training / executive leadership graduate program), I thought I knew myself and didn’t need to change anything. Boy was I wrong! Life is all about learning and growing.
Before leaving for Morocco, many people expressed concern on how I would adjust to living in a Muslim country. But the hardest adjustment has been being back in the US. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few things that took getting used to living in Morocco. But once I adjusted I found I enjoyed life there and I miss many parts of the culture.
What were the hard adjustments, how did I change and what’s been hard to adjust to being back?
*choices: I learned quickly there are few to no choices in Morocco…if you want an omelette you can have one with cheese or one with tomatoes, but not cheese and tomatoes together; I learned that I like the simplicity of no choices and now am overwhelmed with all the choices we have in the US (way too many in my opinion)
*unrelenting heat: I lived in the southeast portion of the country near the Sahara and while the winters were nice during the day (and fairly cold at night), the heat of the summer was intense; I lived in a cement block building with no insulation and no AC, took taxis that never rolled the windows down and drank 120 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated and now being back in the US I have major issues with air conditioning – it’s simply too cold.
*time: In America, I was used to things happening on time, being on time to meetings and actually knowing what time it is on a daily basis. Not so in Morocco. When you set a meeting with someone they will respond ‘Inshallah’ meaning God willing it will happen. And that means they may or may not show up and if they do they probably will not be on time. Morocco also operates on Old Time and New Time – when the clocks change not everyone changes with them so you always have to ask which time when setting a meeting. While I don’t miss this aspect of life in Morocco, I do miss the more relaxed, laid back, go with the flow lifestyle.
What do I miss?
*food: daily I miss the fresh vegetables and in season fruits I had access to. The fruits in American, even in season, just taste bland. I miss Couscous Friday. I miss the fresh bread made daily. I miss the dates and olives. I miss lubia (white beans).
*time: as I mentioned above, I miss the relaxed lifestyle of Morocco. I miss sitting for hours at a cafe by myself or with other volunteers. I miss watching the Turkish soap operas with my family and all of us taking a nap after lunch.
*family: I miss both my host families, my counterpart Fatiha, my PC family, and my community – all who opened their homes and hearts to me and helped me navigate this culture so different from mine (I don’t miss the boys who threw rocks at my house)
There are many small things that I miss – too many to name honestly.
Living in Morocco taught me how to truly live in the moment, to be able to sit in silence, to not stress over small things, to not be inconvenienced by inconveniences, to be more flexible and know that everything will work out. Inshallah.
**My Peace Corps service was from September 2016 to December 2018
**I have an exciting new adventure coming up and can’t wait to tell everyone about it so stayed tuned!