Sunday, October 19, 2008


On Tuesday morning I went to Ifrane to see the final presentation of the Worcester Polytechnic/Al Akhawayn students who have been working on the Ain Leuh web site. It’s not finished, but it’s off to a good start, and it was nice to be able to attend the presentation. I think this has been a good partnership and I hope that the collaboration of this program with PCVs in Ifrane Province will continue. More, I hope that they can come back next year and do more with the artisans here!

I felt in a rush to get to Rabat, but I decided to stay for the presentation of the group working with one of the Environment PCVs in the area – they examined the water issues in his village and proposed some solutions. After reading that article about water in Morocco and a couple of books on environmental issues recently, I think I found their presentation more interesting than the one I had a part in! Now I’m reading a New Yorker article about tunnels that I find fascinating. But I digress…. As I got to campus I remembered that the daughter of a Princeton classmate is a student there this fall. I didn’t think to contact her in advance, but I thought as long as I was there I might try to find her. An American student asked if she could help me – I asked her where Building Four was (and realized that I take it for granted that university buildings are named after donors) and asked her if she knew this student’s number – and she did, and I called her, and I had coffee with her and some of her friends. I still hope she can get to Azrou too, but at least I had a chance to see her while we were both in Morocco!

It did mean getting to Rabat later than I’d had in mind, but forces went my way – it hadn’t taken long for the Azrou to Ifrane taxi to fill, the Ifrane to Meknes one filled even more quickly, and I was right in front of the train’s open car – I prefer the open car to cars with compartments, but not all trains have them, and often there are no seats. Jong had secured a room at the Velleda for us to share, which eliminated a lot of stress. It’s always most convenient to stay there, and there wasn’t room for everyone in the group – kudos to Jong for taking care of it. Then I went to the radiology lab for my dental x-rays and mammogram, having arranged in advance to meet Bob and Linda in the waiting room so we could chat while we waited. It was warm in Rabat – warmer than it had been in Azrou for a while. I knew this intellectually but couldn’t bring myself to pack for it when it was so much cooler where I was coming from. Why is that?

Unlike all of the other PCV group activities, COS medicals are staggered – about half of the people come on the first day, about half on the second day, and a few come on the third day. I was scheduled for the middle day, so I was able to see most of the people who came both early and late, but not all. Both mid-service and COS medicals are done by sector – meaning only SBDs were there for them; YD’s are a week later. PST, IST, COS conference and 72-hour checkout have both sectors at the same time (though for the most part apart; part of the reason COS conference was so strange is that we spent so much of it together). Rose was one of the people on the first day, and she was also one of the people who had their exit interview on the same day as their medical day (there are two doctors and only one Country Director, so many, me included, had to stay an extra day for that – I thought I was the only one eager to get back to my site but it turned out I was not). So after the x-rays I sought out Rose – we had not emailed or IM'ed much since my trip to Sefrou at the beginning of Ramadan, so we had a lot to catch up on! Went with a group to the Goethe Institute for dinner – I wasn’t really in the mood for my usual pasta, but I should have ordered it anyway – was disappointed in my salad. We had some time to play rummy but were so tired that we called it an early night – and Rose went off to her hotel (she wasn’t lucky enough to get a room at the Velleda) and then left early the next morning.

Breakfast was a good time to see and talk to a lot of stagemates. We all go to the same place and almost always order the same thing – Toast (which is what we call the restaurant, though that is not its name), which is two slices of bread, cheese on that, eggs over easy on top of that, juice and coffee. I wasn’t in a rush, so I stayed there for several shifts of breakfasting stagemates. Then Jong and I took a walk in the Ville Nouvelle. Abdou has some beautiful coffee-table books of Moroccan carpets. I had decided that I can’t have every rug I’m in love with, but maybe I can get the books. I saw them in Rabat a while ago – but not this time. I have a couple of other chances – or maybe it’s not meant to be. Then – on to the dentist; let the appointments begin!

I had asked for an appointment in August because my tooth felt funny; at the time, he said we would just watch it. The x-ray indicated no cavities (I was waiting for them after Jen’s text from COS medicals last year – “three cavities - &*%!@ cultural integration!”). So what was it? Tell me if this is the latest trend in the States. He tested my bite and it turned out that only one set of teeth on each side is doing all of the work – so it felt funny because there was too much pressure on those teeth. So he shaved down the teeth and retested them (with a piece of paper with dye on it – if my teeth turned blue that meant they were touching and therefore working during chewing). The shaved-down teeth felt weird for a couple of days, but he had said it would take a couple of days to adjust, and now I think I have acclimated to it and no longer feel off. The funny feeling from before is gone. So - no cavities, and a cleaning and polishing.

And Bob and Linda had agreed to wait until after my appointment for lunch at the French Institute – we had eaten there together at mid-service meds, and now so much more time has passed. I had a nice, soft lunch – salmon and then chocolate mousse. Relaxing al fresco with interesting conversation led right into the next appointment – on to the Peace Corps office! I had time for a couple of quick hellos, and I left some RPCV Madison Calendars in the in-boxes of some of the staff people who have been most helpful to me, and I looked in the Peace Corps library for a John McPhee book (I had seen it in Peace Works on the list of new arrivals back in June, just before the GAD meeting – but by the time I was there for GAD it had been checked out (or shelved in a really good place) and it has not been available since – no luck there). And then on to the physical – relatively uneventful. I asked for but then forgot to follow up on my arrival weight so I could gauge that against my departure weight (which is less than I came with but more than my low, which I think was after PST and home stay). My head has been itchy, so I am on baby shampoo and argan oil for the time being. I got the flu shot - my final Peace Corps shot. And I secured an eye appointment for the next day. Then Connie, Jong and I walked back from the office; a healthy walk.

Frank had suggested going back to Le Grand Comptoir, but I couldn’t follow a fancy French lunch with a fancy French dinner, and I had a taste for the American Club’s Santa Fe Chicken Wrap, so I persuaded him and a bunch of others to go there. In a bunch, you really only get to talk to the people nearest you, but given all the meals, I had a chance to talk to almost everyone. Where people seemed so negative at COS Conference – burnt out, checked out – now people were in a good mood, looking forward to what’s next. Most of the people in my stage don’t have definite plans – in fact, most have no idea – but nobody seems worried about it. Some are applying to graduate school in the fall and want to get a job to fill the nine months, some will go back and look for jobs, a couple (only a couple!) have jobs, but most seem to be taking some sort of time off. Everyone seems to have a place to base themselves but some have no idea of where they’ll live – so I feel right in step! Before I left last week I made it a point to have an exit plan – I think I will go to Asilah for the weekend after Thanksgiving with Rose, and then take the ferry to Spain, visit Gibraltar again, take the train to Madrid and see the Prado, and then fly to Bangkok. But I couldn’t plan any farther than that; I am glad to have that much done, and I’ll make more plans as I go along. I priced out tickets but didn’t buy one yet; most people seem to have their initial tickets but I’m not the only one in my position. I’ll try to buy that ticket this week. Janeila had arrived – she was staggered to the final day – and had no place to stay; the hotel found an extra mattress and she shared our room; it was nice to have that chance to talk and to play more cards. I hadn’t seen much of her at COS Conference.

Toast for breakfast on Thursday; I was in the early shift, because I had an 8:30 eye appointment. This was a different doctor and different location from the ones I'd had in the past. Somehow taxi number one dropped me off at the Algerian Embassy (not sure how he got that out of what I said and showed him) and taxi number two took me on a long tour of Rabat before dropping me off. I used to say nothing here is easy and I guess I needed a reminder! I spent all morning in the waiting room – so much for my idea of medina shopping – but I used the time productively, writing to my World-Wise Schools class. And it was worth the wait - I felt that I had finally been acknowledged, diagnosed, resolved, taken care of. Mind you, I hadn’t felt that I wasn’t before, but after the appointment I felt an emotional release – I guess I had some pent-up fears and concerns that I wasn’t conscious of. I have complained of irritation since IST and have had eye drops and off-and-on gels – now I have thirteen boxes of three kinds of eye drops (some single-use, all multiple times a day, hence the quantity) for dry eye (or maybe I should call it Dry Eye – need to find out if that is something here or something I will always have) and allergies – and already after just two days I feel so much better. My eyes have felt so sore for so long…. In addition, sometimes I feel I see a blur. Turns out I have secondary cataracts, which is not uncommon. From a google search:

During cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy, pulp-like material from the lens of the eye. The outer layer of the lens, called the capsule, is left in place to hold the artificial lens. Following cataract surgery, many patients experience clouding of this tissue. This condition is called a secondary cataract. It is quite common and results in the same symptoms of reduced vision as were caused by the original cataract. The onset of a secondary cataract may occur months or even years after the original surgery. If it happens in one eye, it will likely occur in the other. Secondary cataracts can be easily treated with a laser. It is a brief and painless outpatient procedure that is performed without the need for anesthesia or a surgical incision. The laser makes a small opening in the clouded capsule behind the artificial lens. This allows light to reach the retina without distortion. The result is improved vision. Your activities are not limited following the laser treatment. In most cases, improvement in vision is noticed within minutes after the procedure.

The doctor likened it to a windshield wiper cleaning the lens – one quick swish. I can’t do this before I leave because of the follow-up required, but I can wait until I get back; the blur sometimes bothers me but it's nowhere near as bad as it had gotten before my surgery. In addition, I need a new prescription. I didn’t think this was possible given that the lenses now in my eyes are made of plastic, but I spoke with my eye doctor at home last year when I was in a bit of a panic (oh yeah, I was worried about it and called him up – but once he said it was possible I put it out of my mind - so maybe that's why I wasn't consciously concerned and pushing more here); I had already decided I would wait until I get back for that change, but the PCMO may want to do it now – doesn’t make sense to me given that it will change again once I have the surgery, but she has to call Washington to check with them.

To be continued….

I was just wondering if you could post a dictionary of acronyms somewhere on this site. Some I remember, but others I frequently forget. Since I'm assuming this blog will continue online even after COS (one I remember), it would be helpful to have.

That has been requested before - I put one together but I never did post it, did I? I think I was waiting for more acronyms.
MORE acronyms? Aren't there enough??

BTW, will you continue the blog after COS? Perhaps on your travels? I had a dream last night that we had this discussion, so I feel compelled to actually ask the question now.
I have been thinking about that, actually. I think it makes sense to continue the blog as it relates to my experiences here - different cultures, culture shock and re-integration when I return, and the like - and writing this had been a needed outlet for writing - but I haven't decided.

There can't be that many more acronyms...
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?