Saturday, June 23, 2007
IST, Part II – On the Agadir beach one can find tiger-striped seashells – they seemed very North Africa. Walking on the beach in North Africa, looking at the ocean – hard to remain upset about work-related things when there’s so much to appreciate about life.
Thursday we had a session on World-Wise Schools, the program where a volunteer is partnered with a school (I write to my nieces’ school). They showed part of a CD that goes to the partner schools to give them a sense of Peace Corps life – we saw a clip on the Dominican Republic. Naturally, baseball was prominently featured, and for a second I wondered what life would have been like had I been assigned to, say, San Pedro de Macoris. In the video the sexes mixed freely, dancing and having fun, and you could tell that people in the audience were getting restless – that is not the case here. When one of the volunteers in the video got on the back of a motorcycle – something that here would get you sent home – as Frank, who was sitting next to me, put it, there was a near-riot.
And as for gender roles here, I had a Gender and Development presentation prepared, and going into IST was told I was on the schedule, but when I arrived and looked at the agenda, it had been cut. I don’t know why it’s not important to the powers that be here. The Gender and Development Committee meets in Rabat next week and I think we need to work on some public relations for the committee with staff and also with volunteers – it’s a concept to them, and we need to give people ways to apply the concept to their work. I mentioned to the program assistant that if any of the presentations ran short I would like to give the GAD one, but of course when things ran short people were so happy for the free time that I don’t know how receptive people would have been. I did talk about GAD at some meals, and I sent the presentation and some practical suggestions to my stage afterwards, and I am not crushed at not actually getting another chance to present…the site/project presentation was plenty.
We also had our last shots – Hep A and B – remember all of those shots in PST? I had forgotten. Six months went by so quickly! We’ll have flu shots in the fall, but that’s it. We also had our language tests – as I said, I have decided to dedicate time this summer to really working on it with Tutor #3, and while I have improved since PST, I am not satisfied with where I stand. On Thursday afternoon we learned about grants – there are two major kinds that the Peace Corps sponsors. One is called a SPA grant – Small Project Assistance – where the money comes from USAID. The other is called PCPP – Peace Corps Partnership Program – where the money comes from private institutions and from friends and family of the volunteer asking for the grant. I had come here thinking that I would be doing grants – grant-writing is a skill I would like to work on while here – but now I am not so sure I will be. If I do, though, rest assured you will be asked for money! If you can’t or don’t want to wait, the GLOW camp is coming up and though I haven’t talked about it much lately, I am still involved – let me know if you want the fundraising info for it! You can also give to Peace Corps Morocco directly – kind of like Annual Giving, where it goes to unrestricted funds – again, if you’re interested in that let me know and I will tell you the logistics! I still hope to be able to write a grant while here – I guess I have worked on the computer grants with my cooperatives, but I need to look at the needs assessment again and see if there’s something else I can work on getting funds for. If only a new paint job at the artisana would qualify!
We then had a volunteer-only session with some of the PCV leadership – they did their best to manage it so that it was constructive airing of grievances as opposed to a lot of whining and complaining, but it contributed to the general feeling I had had all week that this was anything but inspiring and encouraging – I had come in already not expecting that, but still idealistically hoping for it. There were a lot of people who needed to vent, though, and this was probably a good forum. This was followed by a walk on the beach and some Indian food and a Magnum bar and the facial masks and some major girl talk with Rose, Ren and Jong. The four of us will meet in Chefchouan for a long weekend next month, inshallah (sorry, Arlene) – girl talk trumps talking about Peace Corps life!
Friday began with some remarks by the Country Director – mostly another talk about the out-of-site policy and also dispelling some myths that he had heard from the group that had just sworn in. I thought he was pretty good but there wasn’t a lot of love in the room. We were given two questions to answer by the end of the day – one, you have heard that there are a lot of out-of-site policy violations. If you believe this is true, what would you as country director do? And two, you have heard that there is a “culture of fear” created by the staff. If this is true, what would you as country director do? Not only did I think these were good questions, but I thought I had good answers to each – now we’ll see what gets done with this feedback.
Then we had some actual training! Fellow volunteers presented sessions on creativity, display techniques, the internet, shipping, craft fairs, free trade. And we had a reflection exercise! Top five things we like and dislike about our site, top five good and bad moments, etc. – these are what I had been looking for and they didn’t happen until the last two days. The last two days also featured two long walks with fellow volunteers – Rachel B and Linda, and then Rob – which also served as reflection exercises. I realized that I’m a little disappointed with what I have done so far and with the current plans I have for myself and my site. I have to do more exploration as to why and how to move forward from here; looking at what other volunteers have done and are doing was helpful because it gave me ideas of other things I could have done and can do, and somehow I avoided site envy or direct comparisons and can instead use the new ideas constructively. I had looked at IST as a benchmark where I would reframe what I am doing and move ahead, and as I mentioned I did not get the encouragement and inspiration I was hoping for, but instead I reinforced that what I get out of this is what I put into it, and as I process all of this I somehow found my own encouragement and inspiration to make the most of the next eighteen months, and I think I managed to leave the disappointment behind in the conference room and on the beach. Saturday night I went out with a big group – first dinner (sushi – the one thing I didn’t get in my trip home that I would have liked to get, with Christmas carols in the background, in Morocco – strange) and then out for a glass of wine. Most of the crowd went back to the hotel to get ready to go out, but I had to just keep going or I’d have lost the desire to go out, and luckily there were a few people ready to do the same. I was still out, then, when the crowd arrived at the English Pub – it was nice to be out with everyone for a while! Leaving early allowed for many hugs and farewells while people could still put a sentence together, and I miss everyone already.
Sunday morning we slept a little late – all week I had felt I could sleep until noon, and maybe there’ll be a day at home when I get the chance to do that – and said more farewells as people who had slept even later cycled through our breakfast table, and then took a last solo walk on the beach. Then – Rose and I had planned for a vacation day – not quite ready to go back to work, and wanting to take advantage of being in the southwest. Tiznit, south of Agadir, is known for its silver jewelry. Rose was ready to buy and she had definite goals in mind. I didn’t, per se, but with quality items at good prices, I was able to rise to the occasion! The taxi ride to Tiznit was also a source of inspiration – Rose and I talked about what we mid-career people have to offer the Peace Corps – and it got me excited about possibilities. We found a cute hotel in Tiznit, talked some more, and napped! Then went out for a late lunch/early dinner – the women in that part of Morocco wear colorful fabric wraps called l’haf as opposed to jellabas – they look cool in both senses of the word. I had to get a couple in orange and black. But I am not sure I can pull off wearing one at Reunions….somehow it doesn’t look the same on me as it does on the women down there. We then went to meet an artisan that the PCV in Tiznit works with, and then we met the PCV, Carolyn. She seems great – it would have been nice to spend more time with her, but she had other things going on – maybe we will cross paths again. And then we went to the jewelry souk and did a good job! The silver is not only of good quality and pricing, it also uses traditional Berber designs, so it is special. We went to the artisana with Carolyn the next morning and bought even more there. I won’t list my total bounty – let’s just say some earrings, necklaces and bracelets, leaving rings for another time or place. Rose did a good job too – shopping is always more fun when everyone buys!
Time to go – our plan was to go to Marrakesh and spend some quality time there, but as we were on the way to the taxi stand, Rose suggested we find a Spanish coastal village. It was fun to change our plans on the spur of the moment – and yes, we did inform the Peace Corps. Sidi Ifni is a magic place – we could tell the minute we got there. This was where the vacation day turned into a real vacation – I was as relaxed as I ever get, more relaxed than I almost always am. Rose looked at me and said all the stress was out of my face.
We stayed at a hotel called the “Suerte Loca” and indeed did have crazy luck. The waiter spoke Spanish to us and Spanish came easily to me – again, more inspiration to buckle down on the Arabic (and then switch to French!). I had a delicious kiwi fruit juice and then we walked to the old Spanish part of town. The book describes Sidi Ifni as sleepy, even deserted-feeling, yet drawing people back year after year – if there’s any way at all to get back there, I want to be one of those drawn back. The houses are blue and white, and we photographed many a door, and then the center of town has the old consulate in bad shape and some art deco buildings in great shape. There’s just a nice feel to the town. We took a walk along the misty beach, with the sunset to one side, a red cliff to the other, and some big red boulders in front of us, and felt even more magic. Then we had more paella, with more Christmas carols in the background, and slept with the terrace door open so that we could hear the crashing surf. I don’t want to say too much more about Sidi Ifni because then the secret will be out, but again – magic, relaxation, crazy luck…. We had another walk on the beach in the morning, back to the red rocks, in completely different light, where we meditated and contemplated and worked on our tarot homework. And then it was time to go - on the way to the taxi stand we discovered more interesting parts of the town, for next time – and had a nice taxi ride to the hub outside of Agadir and a tough bus ride to Marrakesh. By the time we got there, we just wanted an orange juice and a quick dinner and bed – the life and energy of the Jemaa al-Fna were quite a contrast from the sleepy Spanish coastal town, but were welcome after the hustling at the transportation hub and our long bus ride.
So many things we wanted to do in Marrakesh the next day, but so little time. I had bought some harem pants the week before and wanted more, Linda had bought a shawl at the artisana and I wanted one, Rose wanted a pocketbook like Janeila’s at the souk…but instead of shopping, we went to the Jardin Majorelle, another peaceful space. Still working on my dream of seeing it in bloom in every season; this time the Museum of Islamic Art was open and it helped inspire Rose, whose background is as a museum curator. So it was a good choice for our limited time! On the train ride home we worked on to-do lists and personal action plans, and I am ready to get started on the next phase of my Peace Corps service!
First, though, I have a week in Rabat. Monday is a travel day – I’ll go via Fes, where I’ll see the dentist yet again, and then when I get to Rabat I’ll see the Peace Corps doctor about something that couldn’t be covered at IST (but isn’t life-threatening). Tuesday we have a warden meeting – I’m not sure what to expect there, but it should be interesting. I like being a warden (I’m the alternate for my group for this year and then I’ll be the warden) – you get to keep in touch with a group of people, though calling them when there are bombings or other security threats isn’t necessarily the most fun way to keep in touch. Wednesday would be travel back from the warden meeting and travel to GAD, so I am staying in Rabat to do some product research (i.e. go to the artisana), meet someone I met in Azrou a couple of weeks ago who might be a good lead on Sister Cities and on NGOs for GAD, and go to an eye doctor (I may have a little scratch on my cornea, and I am not taking chances with my eyes). Thursday and Friday are GAD. I’ll return Saturday for Amanda and Youssef’s wedding party, which is slated to be an all-right affair! I’ll try to write a quarterly report before I leave for Rabat – it’s time for one – but if not, I will be back in July!
Friday, June 22, 2007
IST, Part I - To those who have asked so far, I have answered that IST (In-Service Training – and a reminder that I need to work on that glossary!) was a mixed bag. My trip to the United States energized me, but when I arrived in Agadir I was drained; now I am back and re-energized, but not because of IST.
I bought out a taxi again in order to get the 7:29 train to Marrakesh from Meknes – before Rose emailed that she was planning to be on that train, I thought I was indifferent, but when I heard from her, I realized that I had been hoping she would want to be on the next one, so that I could sleep longer. Of course, once I was up, I was glad to be on the early train so that I could spend more time in Marrakesh. Rose instantly sensed the energy of the city and felt that Fes doesn’t hold a candle to it – I think I have been more charitable towards Fes, but her sense of it did reinforce my desire to explore Marrakesh more.
We found a hotel in the cheap-hotel area (the first one in – and it turned out to be more than adequate – i.e. Western toilet with paper, hot shower with shelf – closer to Princeton dorm than to luxury romantic hotel, though) and set out to meet Rob for coffee and a snack. His site may be unbeautiful, as he put it, but he has Marrakesh at his doorstep! I was eager to take a walk and to show Rose more of the city, so we left him waiting for another volunteer and went to the artisana. I finally got the pictures of the displays there that I didn’t get last time, and then we met back up with Rob for a lovely Italian dinner. It made a difference to stay in Marrakesh – without the time pressure of getting to a remote site by dark, we were able to wander the souks, have fresh orange juice at one of the stands at the Jemaa el-Fna, and go out for wine with some of the other PCVs staying over on the way to Agadir (actually I had to abandon that idea because the bar was too smoky, but at least I said hello to people I hadn’t seen in a while).
Sunday morning we had breakfast with Ina, who had been in TimHdit with us for CBT – she had some stories to tell, and it was good to be there for her and to realize that we are all there for each other – whatever trepidation I might have had about seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while, about relationships becoming stronger or weaker with time and distance, about group dynamics and potential awkwardness, dissolved. We had time for another little walk, and then it was on to Agadir by bus – we sat with Linda and Bob, the married couple in our stage, and learned all about Figuig, their town, in the very southeast corner of the country. The road was twisty, through mountains, and we were in the very back seat, so maybe that’s why I arrived drained – I certainly didn’t feel drained in Marrakesh. Maybe I was just dehydrated – I still haven’t mastered the art of perfecting my food and water intake on long trips. Or maybe I actually was stressed with the anticipation of giving presentations, of strained relations with staff, of having my counterpart there, of knowing that after IST we have mid-service medicals and then COS (close-of-service) conference and then actual COS and that’s it for our being together as a group – and that the group will dwindle each time.
Agadir is a resort town on the Atlantic Coast. It suffered an earthquake on February 29, 1960 and the entire old town was destroyed. It now is responsible for half of Morocco’s tourism – hard to believe when there is so much of the country that is exotic and historic, but it is an inexpensive beach vacation for Europeans. I took a walk along the beach and felt disappointed – I was expecting a really nice resort and then I realized that it’s an inexpensive beach resort for Europeans – it reminded me of Mexico (not that there aren’t nice parts of Mexico, but you get the idea). After that initial impression, though, I was happy to be there – after all, a walk on the beach is a walk on the beach, good for the soul. The bay kind of reminded me of the Malibu headlands – if Malibu had a big lighted “God, Country, King” in Arabic on the mountain, that is. We had our only dinner as a group (the rest of the week we went out on our own) and then Rose and I talked with Janeila in our room. Hadn’t seen much of her since she changed sites!
On Monday I still felt dehydrated, and having people tell me I looked drained, tired and sad didn’t help (I preferred it when people told me I looked great at Reunions!). The hotel didn’t provide water, and I was borderline – or more than borderline – cranky. I mentioned it to a higher-up and he said, “yes, that’s a problem here – you should get your own.” Is that a good answer? Not to someone dehydrated, it’s not! We hadn’t been told much about IST beforehand, which I also did not think was a good idea – I would have liked an agenda, some reflection questions, some idea of what to bring and what to expect to come back with. I knew we were each going to give presentations about our sites, our work to date, and our expected primary and secondary projects, but that’s about all I knew. The meeting started with introductions and then with a presentation by the Ministry of the Artisana about its strategy (which does not seem to be exactly in step with the Peace Corps strategy – for example, they are emphasizing individual artisans and many of us are still working with cooperatives; conversely, grants and other things available to Peace Corps Volunteers are for cooperatives and other community groups, and individual artisans are not eligible). Then the PCV presentations took up the rest of the first day, all of the second, and half of the third. I picked a good time slot, second on the second day – by Wednesday lunchtime it was draining, even for those who didn’t come drained, and being in a hot room didn’t help. I had asked and therefore was told to make it a 10-minute presentation, with ten minutes for translation and ten for questions, but it appeared that not everyone got that message – several presentations were long and/or cut off, and there were no questions at all and no feedback. It was interesting to hear what everyone was doing and to see pictures of their sites, their artisans and their products. Mine might have been too short in comparison, both because I had designed it to be ten minutes long and because everyone had been in Azrou, and the program manager told my counterpart it wasn’t good enough. I had already had a private audience scheduled with her at her suggestion, and hearing this from my counterpart instead of from her put me in tears (she had also told another volunteer that she plays games with me, so I was already in a tizzy about that. Maybe I am not over the fact that in sixth grade, Mrs. Wertman told the class that I wasn’t smart, I just memorize. Or maybe it’s not a good thing to talk about people when they are not there). I also had a bad headache – haven’t had one of those in a while. Anyway, at the private meeting she told me my project was fine but that my presentation didn’t highlight it enough – which left me somewhat confused but also relieved – and that I have the highest percentage of time out of site of anyone in the stage. I had suspected that this was the real issue she had with me, and I think I was right. Then she told me I looked stressed and asked if I was taking care of myself – which caused yet another meltdown. I told her that travel out-of-site was one of my major ways to de-stress, and neither one of us knew what to say about that. I grounded myself for the moment as a show of good faith, but there are some long weekends coming up which are chances to get to places that are too far for a Saturday night, and I asked for those. I also mentioned that I had already told my counterpart that I was starting a new exercise/stress management plan for myself after IST and that I was going to spend more time on language this summer, with the Peace Corps LCF who is Tutor #3, and that he would see me less – so now everyone knows and should be all right with it!
I think I came out of the meeting okay, if not with clarification, but more interesting is what was going on outside the early-in-the-week sessions. On Monday night, Rose, Janeila and I took a walk along the beach – again, it grew on me – and ate at a restaurant accompanied by an Atlantic sunset. I finally had the paella I was looking for in February in Al Hoceima! And the waiter kept bringing us roses – first little ones on toothpicks, then a big bouquet by our table, then two each as we got the bill, and then napkins folded into roses! It was quite comical – as was the lounge-singer live music. No “Melancholy Baby,” but just about everything else. And then I discovered my new love – the double chocolate Magnum bar. Chocolate ice cream with a chocolate coating – rich, rich, rich, but not too much for me. I had one every day for the rest of the week (further fuel for the upcoming exercise/stress management program). Then Janeila read our tarot cards (separately). I’m trying to think if there’s anything in the tarot reading that I can share with the general public and nothing immediately comes to mind. Oh – maybe the career section – she told me that volunteerism is not in my future; I’m too good with money. She said I will do something I have always wanted to do and that men around me will help me. Her reading was really good – she positioned it as entertainment and maybe more, but she is a spiritual person and I think there’s a lot to what she was saying. She gave me a homework assignment, and then in three to six months I can have another reading and we’ll see what the cards have to say. Tuesday, with my headache and just after my meeting, I had only a Magnum bar for dinner, a solo walk along the beach, a visit to a bird zoo which was quite calming, and then I went to bed early.
As the week wore on, I slowly but surely had a chance to talk to almost everyone, at least for a little while, be it at a meal, by the pool, at a break or on the beach. Most of the PCVs went out drinking every night – not my thing. On Wednesday night, Ren and Rachel held a girls’ night in (boys welcome), in my honor, to cheer me up – I was really touched. To give up a night out, to even think of doing that for anyone, much less doing it for me – I’m clutching my hand to my heart just thinking about it. That makes it hard to type, though. Anyway, we were going to do facials but couldn’t find beauty products (until the next night!) so basically we sat around and played cards – my kind of socializing! Our stage’s game of choice is still (what I call) 500 rummy, but we played nertz as well (scroll back to the fall to refresh yourself on that one!).
Wednesday during the day, after the PCV reports, we learned about the new Small Business Development Sector five-year goals and objectives and were asked to add tasks, knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA – another Peace Corps acronym!). In the breakout session, someone mentioned that I was good at this and indeed, it is right up my alley, so when the program manager was looking for volunteers to finish all of the KSA after IST, I volunteered and am now coordinating the committee (which is going to be a lot of work in a short timeframe, but it is fun to think strategically).
What turned the week around was some energy work done on me by Janeila. As she put it, another service that a fellow PCV can offer – at PST I did some yoga and relearned knitting and crocheting – since PST I have learned photography tips, display methods and will work on web site development, with other PCVs – but between the tarot reading and the energy work, Janeila’s offerings might have been of most value to me. I felt lighter and more energetic and more enthusiastic than I have been in a while (Reunions excepted) – I feel cleared. I would like to be able to do this for myself – yoga and meditation are part of the new exercise/stress management plan – but if I get into a funk again I am going to see Janeila!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Reunions! Before I launch into my narrative, I will answer what may be the first questions you would ask – was it hard to be there, and was it hard to come back – no, and no. I had a little bit of culture shock at the Casablanca airport, but New York and New Jersey did not seem the least bit foreign, and I have had harder times getting back to Chicago at times than I did getting back to Morocco.
The ride to the airport and the flight were uneventful – my theory is that if I plan to sleep I can’t, and if I have something I really want to read or do I sleep; I couldn’t sleep, but I did read. Recorded my impressions on Thursday afternoon:
Humidity. Air conditioning. Landing at JFK – same JFK who founded the Peace Corps. First billboard I see – Lewis and Clark. Then one for the America’s Cup – I would watch that if I were at home. Wish I hadn’t lost my cell phone – where’s a phone booth to call Tony? Customs form asked if I had handled or touched farm animals – I have been in close proximity but have done neither. On the customs line, a woman in a head scarf next to a Hasidic Jew – welcome to New York. Sports talk radio – in a New York accent. Passing the SAS building – the exit that leads to my childhood home. Passing Shea and LaGuardia. Billy Joel on CD. Does everyone in New York have an ipod or a cell phone? Why am I the only person walking around in a rush? We passed a building with Arabic lettering – will I be able to read that next time? Traffic. What food do I miss and most want to eat? Nothing comes to mind immediately – it did more when I came in from Chicago than it does now. Hmmm….wait…Starbucks looks good. A cold shower at my sister’s – I had a nice, hot one in Morocco; where’s the love? An old man talking to me in a store – not exactly harassment, but not my own little world either. A $20 bill. Nobody here is wearing a sheet around herself or bedroom slippers. Resisting the urge to use Arabic to say please and thank you. A wide sidewalk with no cafes. Everyone looks familiar (look – Americans!) but I don’t recognize them. Times Square not as busy as the Jemaa el-Fna. Have to get on the train so I can get to New Jersey by dark – wait, no I don’t! I wasn’t bombarded with these thoughts – they just passed through my head. I’ve never been one to take my surroundings for granted; I always look around and appreciate, and I was able to do so here too.
My father would always ask me what room I was assigned and I am happy to report that it was 116 Dodge-Osborn, my freshman-year dorm, and that I went into my freshman-year room for maybe the first time since freshman year. I then went on to the 30th Reunion courtyard (even though we were a satellite class of ‘82’s 25th Reunion, I’ve always been something of a Class of ’77 groupie). One of the first people I saw was someone I was specifically looking for, Vincent. We had had a discussion four years ago at Reunions, in which I had told him that I would love to take time off and travel and see the world, maybe even live in another culture for a while, but that I couldn’t do it. He looked at me and said, “but can’t you?” I didn’t have his current address, so he didn’t know where I was, and I had to find him and tell him and thank him for asking that question. Stayed up later than I thought I would considering how tired I was, talking to Vincent and other friends, but I also expected to be sleep-deprived, and staying in a hot dorm room facing the courtyard with its blaring music at night and loud breakfast setup in the morning was part of the experience.
I then floated from one engagement from the next, including time for spontaneity. Coffee with Lisa led into a walk on Nassau Street with Kyra and then the Maclean Society lunch with Arlene and then hanging around the tent with Mike and family (missed doing a jigsaw puzzle with them) and then a lecture by the editor of The Nation (every so often I do want to take advantage of the rich offering of programming that Reunions offers!) and then the Princeton Alumni Weekly reception (I am going to take over writing the class notes columns for next year, and I am happy to be able to do that) and then an hour to myself, during which I bought the running shoes that were the one thing I really wanted to get while I was home – everything else on my list could be sent to me, but those I had to be fitted for. An unplanned-in-advance dinner with Carol and Mike – sure, I just saw them in Fes, but we still had a lot to talk about! The humidity gave way to torrential thunderstorms, but undaunted, I returned to the tent, saw that La had signed in, called her and dragged her around with me in a mission to find someone. The evening ended with a WaWa run for Tastykakes – mmmm, Tastykakes!
Saturday was coffee with La and then a walk with Kyra in the Institute Woods – a first for her, and I hadn’t done it all that often myself – the moral equivalent of the walks we’ve been taking on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan for the past few summers. A class lunch and meeting – we have a good group of regulars now, and it’s fun to spend time with them; I’ve never done all that much with the class, feeling that most of my friends are in other classes, but I now seek out classmates. The P-rade – mission from the night before accomplished, and for perhaps that or perhaps other reasons it seemed to go by more quickly than usual. My sister and nieces had planned to come, but given the heat and humidity, I am glad I talked them out of it. After the P-rade, an ice cream with Howie (all right, so maybe there were foods I needed after all) and then instead of the usual running around I just went to Quad and stayed there – instead of my coming and going to various places I talked to the various people who came and went to Quad. On to the concert and fireworks, with what ended up being a big group of people. I spent most of the concert time talking with Rick, the person it had been my mission to find the night before – lots to talk about. The fireworks were great; Princeton has some of the best fireworks I have ever seen, and I appreciated them all the more not having the weekly Navy Pier fireworks from my roof. Rick and I then went to his truck to listen to the Pistons game (I had watched a Pistons game with him at Reunions in ’89 or ’90 – a long time ago) and talked some more – considering how much time is spent with so many people at Reunions, I had a lot of one-on-one talks this year. This one covered 28 years….
My friend Steve once referred to Reunions as “Roon’s ego-gratification weekend.” I feel loved and treasured there in a way I feel possibly nowhere else, and this year was no exception. It was fun to wear my orange-and-black Moroccan clothes, and I felt that my darker hair gave me superpowers. I also felt unburdened – for so many years now I would go back to New York and/or Princeton and wonder what I was doing – should I move back to New York? Should I try to get a job at Princeton? When would I finally have some news to report about my next move, and what would it be? Last year I was not quite ready to discuss my decision to come here, but I realized that I had to tell people. This year I feel happy with where I am for the first time in a long, long time, and I was able to enjoy the experience without plaguing myself with questions about what I was doing with my life. This time next year I might be back in the same boat, wondering what I am going to do next, or maybe I will still feel happy and unburdened, or maybe I will even know where I am going next.
And I do want to reiterate that I am happy! Yes, I’ve had some bouts of feeling blue, and I’ve chosen to write about them here rather than paint a rosy picture all the time, but know that I am happy and not to be worried about. I did get a big lift from seeing old friends, though, and I may consider spending the money to call people more often or even visiting again between now and next Reunions, but I am happy. I received some other interesting comments on the blog:
- When you don’t write for a few days I worry about you.
- When you write so often I worry about you.
- When you write about daily life as opposed to your travels it’s interesting.
- When you write about your travels it makes me want to go there.
So I’m just going to keep writing everything that I want to share!
Sunday it was on to Shea Stadium – so it is NOT 27 months without baseball after all! But when you amortize 7 ½ innings over that amount of time (maybe I will add another nine or so next year) it’s almost going without. I have taken my nieces to a game for a few years now, and Gary has joined us ever since we completely randomly sat right next to him at a game a few years ago; this year my sister and brother-in-law joined too. The knish was disappointing (another food I suppose I had been looking forward to) and the Mets lost and it started to rain, but it was good to be in the ballpark. One of the highlights was an at-bat by Julio Franco, the only major leaguer older than I am. But there was also pitching and hitting and cheering and the scoreboard and the music and a person a few rows ahead of us who had a Reunions wristband on and Mr. Met and a couple of HBPs and a few innings there where there wasn’t a hit yet and I thought maybe, maybe….
And then the Annual Card Game! Once again, I appreciate the flexibility on the part of the other players to accommodate my schedule (and have already mentioned Reunions Sunday next year as the next playing opportunity). The universe showed that some things are just meant to be when Bill and I once again trounced Gary and Marty, and we feasted on Chinese food and Junior’s Cheesecake (a couple of salads on Friday were quite welcome, and when all was said and done I wouldn’t have minded some sushi, but I fared well on my trip, considering I arrived with no particular food agenda).
Monday was a New York day with family and friends. First, a much-needed massage. Then meeting up with two Wharton friends (and key members of the support team) – Debbie (who came in from New Jersey) and Elisa (who came in from Virginia). We had coffee (so in five days I went to Starbucks more often than I would in an average month if not season) and then lunch. I had in mind that we would go to a drug store and a grocery store and a computer store and that I would fill the suitcase I had brought with me, but we did none of the above – good thing I had brought the running shoes on Friday, so I took care of the one thing I really needed! I then went to my sister’s osteopath. I don’t know what a typical osteopath does, but this one is kind of new-age, and she told me my future was completely blocked and that all of my problems were in my head and that I wasn’t zen enough and a few other things, and she gave me Bach flower remedies and will continue to treat me from afar based on my energy. It all makes sense to me….
Elisa and I then walked across the park (Debbie having left after lunch) and watched my niece in a drama-class performance. Then we walked home (I guess I chose walking and talking over filling the suitcase), had some tomato-cheddar soup (my second of the weekend and another welcome food!) and somehow it was time to go to the airport. I made some phone calls from there, including the invention of an ingenious new game – charades by phone. You talk, and the other person has to guess what you are gesturing. Great idea, eh? All right, so I was sleep-deprived…and I capped that off by not sleeping a wink on my overnight flight to Casablanca.
I did have a great idea – getting rid of stuff. On the way over I wished I had had an extra week so I could go to the storage space and get rid of things while I no longer feel so attached to them. That evolved into hiring someone and having friends in Chicago supervise while this is done for me in my absence. It is still an evolving idea, but it would be great to continue to unburden myself while I am gone!
Seeing old friends also made me feel less stressed about IST. I’ve been too sensitive lately and now I feel like my old cheery self, a free agent who can spend time with the cliques as I please. I want to be passionate about what I do here but not have it be as all-consuming as it may have been – my life may be here for now, but it is not my whole life. Being a little more detached while still remaining involved will give me a better perspective, I think. I am also glad that I did as much work on my presentation and general preparation as I did before I left, because it is taking some time to get back in the swing. I unpacked, did laundry, washed the floors, checked in at the artisana, went to the post office, took naps, saw Amanda and Youssef…and now I have tutoring, reviewing the presentation, reading up on Agadir, and packing…. We don’t have an agenda for In-Service Training so I don’t really know what to expect, but whereas last week I felt overwhelmed, this week I feel ready to go with the flow, enjoy seeing everyone for one of the few remaining times we will be together during our service, and make the most of being in Agadir, a resort city on the Atlantic! I don’t think I will bring my computer with me so I may not write again until it is over – I think I will be back on the 20th.