Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I am so glad I went to Marrakesh! It’s far, but now that I know I can get there and back in a Saturday night trip, I will do it again. I like it there; like the feel – and of course I love my friends there. I think I might like it better than Fes, though it is a goal to spend enough time there to feel I know it as well as I feel I know Fes, and then decide! I caught a 7:29 train and arrived only a little late, at around 2:39, and spent the afternoon with Rob, Janeila and Dominique. They all have sites in the area and work with the same artisana delegate; they were meeting to discuss a presentation they are working on together. I had noticed on the Volubilis day that people who see each other often have their own rhythm, and I wasn’t quite in synch with these three, either – tired and dehydrated and hungry and lightheaded from the travel. Got to the restaurant after the kitchen closed; they had finished their pizza and but had left a piece for me. Then we went to the English-bookstore café, where they had lemon tarts and I had gazpacho (yes, Cynthia!). So I was behind by a course and I felt a little behind in the conversation, but it was fine just to listen and great to be with them. Rob’s my best friend here and I just don’t see him enough, Janeila and I have had great visits, and Dominique was my roommate in Rabat and in Azrou and even though we haven’t kept in touch much, she is still on my list of favorite PCVs. I realized something, though – in a way I wish I had seen one for lunch, one for dinner and one for breakfast – at last I have figured out why I visit seven sets of people in four days over the holidays. But that’s not the nature of most Peace Corps gatherings. We then went to a couple of art galleries and an art supply store – real stores, not ones with Moroccan artisanal things; the new part of Marrakesh is much more interesting than the new part of Fes in that respect, and it warrants more exploration as well, but this was a trip to see people and to just be there, not to sightsee. And there were more jacarandas in bloom! I think Azrou is at too high an altitude to have them. Janeila and Dominique headed for the bus and Rob and I took a walk that lifted my spirits – more on that later. We caught up to them at the ice cream place, where they had stopped on the way to the bus – but they were finishing up as I started mine, and then they left for good. Rob and I then headed to the Jemaa al-Fna – not for tourist things but for a drink (fresh orange juice). We passed by the artisana and I hesitated – I still want to take pictures of the displays – but this was not the trip for that, and I am pleased that I passed on it. Then it was time for us to go – Marrakesh was “full” (five PCVs had signed up for the weekend) so I had myself put on the log for Tameslohte, Rob’s site. It’s a conservative site, so he could not host a female overnight, but there is a nice auberge there (with a pool for perhaps another time?). He and I had a delicious dinner there, with some one-on-one conversation – still the best way to have quality time with someone, as opposed to in even a small group. I stayed in a Berber tent as opposed to a room. Actually, it wasn’t a Berber tent, not like the kind I look imagine staying in for a desert camel trek trip, but rather four walls with a tent for a roof with an opening above the door that had no screen, so the mosquitoes could get in. The tent was good in concept, but the sound of (non-biting) mosquitoes buzzing in my ear kept me awake just about all night, and I am still recovering from the lack of sleep, just in time to really disrupt my even-on-a-good-day restless sleep when I go away this weekend. The tent’s name was Zagora, so in some way I made up for not going to the craft fair. Sunday was a leisurely breakfast and then back to the train - bypassing the artisana yet again. The train ride was rough – hot, crying baby, man who smelled like smoke, lightheaded yet again – no sleep, but on the train ride down and back I started and finished “The Caliph’s House,” a cute, but not great, “vicarious genre” (that’s what it says on the cover; a good name for the genre) book that has good insights into Moroccan culture, so I would recommend it to those of you out there wanting to relate more to my experience, and I do now want to get to Casablanca again, where the book was set. Next I want to read “A Year in Marrakesh” so I can pass that along, and then I will be ready for a book that’s NOT about Morocco or the Peace Corps. When I got to the grand taxi in Meknes, someone had asked me how Marrakesh was – the driver from Saturday morning; I had bought five places in the taxi to make sure I was on time for the train. He hadn’t seemed all that friendly so early in the morning, but he gave me a welcoming smile on Sunday night, which touched me and brought me out of the zombie-like trance I had fallen into on the train. Travel here is not easy – and the train is much easier than the buses and grand taxis –but if I stop writing about going away on the weekends, you will know it has broken my spirit.
Speaking of broken spirit, mine still is, somewhat, and it has been for about a month, but the details are too personal for a blog so I will leave it at that. As with everything else, things are magnified here – though I think that in this case the feelings would have been just as deep back in the U.S. However, I received a sign from above today – again, too personal for the blog – so I have been reminded that someone is looking out for me and that things are as they are meant to be.
I used to have places to recharge – my bed in Chicago was a place to cry, to dream, to review, to plan, to feel snug. That bed is not in storage – it was cast out into the street, too old to be donated, but I miss it. I used to go up to my roof to look at the stars and talk to the universe (by the way, on that sleepless mosquito night I saw the Milky Way again, and my first sighting of the year of the Summer Triangle, my favorite constellation). I would go for walks by the lake and think or meditate and have thoughts come to me. I don’t have a place like that here. My bed is a place of tossing and turning. My roof has nice views but somehow I don’t feel comfortable there. I would take Azrou walks (with Rob or others) in training but now, with running into people I see and/or harassment, I don’t get a sense of peace, and the mountains don’t give me that comfort either, at least not yet. Which reminds me – I should mention that the people I saw this weekend all talked about getting harassment to convert to Islam – I have had none of that here. The walk in Marrakesh between the art supply store and the ice cream was a walk that buoyed me a bit, but it wasn’t long enough, and I wonder where else I can find them here. There are walks for me this weekend – across Central Park or around the reservoir, several on the Princeton campus – so I guess my trip comes at a good time. But with IST coming up, there’s looming pressure, and I’m already feeling down. I think I’ll be able to put IST on the back burner while I am away, but I am stressed about it. More on that next week. As for Reunions, I always feel treasured there, which is one reason why I go, but I am trying to minimize my expectations – I fear that I will be so jet-lagged and just plain old worn out that I might not be my usual cheery self.
Yesterday was another dentist appointment in Fes and another episode of lightheadedness – I had the appointment right before lunch, and he gave me some sort of rinse and told me not to eat or drink for an hour. I used the hour wisely (Marjane) but felt like I was going to faint – so I had some mediocre food at the Marjane café and came right home. I have to go back to the dentist in fifteen days! One follow-up visit was a good idea but another? Not that I have a problem about going to Fes again – there’s a Fulbright scholar there who worked with the Princeton professor who was here with the alumni group, and I would like to meet her. Maybe a new friend! Amanda and Youssef came along for the ride (they were going to look for wedding rings in Fes but then it was time for Amanda's train to Rabat for her last few days as a PCV!). She told me that I was the Moroccan equivalent of a bridesmaid for her wedding party next month - I had no idea! She has been encouraging me to buy a Moroccan party dress, saying that I will get plenty of use out of it when I do (sounds like the tux rule). I had been resisting since I honestly don't know how many other weddings I will attend while here but now I guess I have no choice!
And then on last night, Rose, Kareem and Kareem’s artisan came back from Zagora. It sounded like a lot of work before they left – sitting with the artisans in a tent all day in desert heat. Turned out that they felt like it was a vacation – the fifteen or so PCVs sat by the pool all day and then sat in the tents for a few hours each evening, got to catch up with each other and see what each other is working on. Would I have felt like I was on vacation too, or would I have been overwhelmed by the group dynamics? My rock-carver apparently had a busy booth, so that was good.
Tomorrow is more photography and finalizing my packing and I leave early, early Thursday morning. It will take almost as long to get from Azrou to Casablanca as it does from Casablanca to JFK, and then almost as long again to get from JFK to Princeton. Somehow that doesn’t seem right. I have always been fortunate to live near a major airport! Maybe that needs to go on the list of criteria for next place – no matter where I live I will want to get away. But, comment that I posted this morning notwithstanding, and lack of contemplation space aside, I do feel happy when I go away and come back to Azrou. It is home.