Six months ago, I left the only home I had ever known to seek a stark, new life for myself—an intrepid act that I will probably never completely understand. The vision of my mom sobbing into my dad’s chest as I crossed the threshold into this new reality haunted me for days. “What am I doing? How could I possibly put my family through this,” I thought to myself as I boarded my one-way flight.
Yet here I am, six months later, lounging on the only piece of furniture I own (a Moroccan couch called a ponj), lazily messaging the WhatsApp chat I share with my parents titled, “Fam.” My mom attempted to name it, “We Are Family,” but I couldn’t read the words without a certain well-known Sister Sledge song latching onto my psyche and forcing itself on repeat like a broken record. Regardless, I’m pleased that this is the Peace Corps of today: A Peace Corps of iPhones and Androids, MacBooks and iPads, Skype and FaceTime. However, we are just as relevant as those who came before us—those who were inspired to serve on a crisp October evening back in 1960, when then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy first announced the idea for our Peace Corps on the steps of the Michigan Union building in Ann Arbor. Two generations apart, yet our collective experiences are fundamentally the same: We are friends, teachers, students, and neighbors. We are nomads, pioneers, novices, and neophytes. We are all Peace Corps Volunteers, and we do this for one experience:
The human experience.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Internet is widely available, but it’s painfully slow. The title of this blog post is a subtle joke about how I’m always watching webpages load slowly, or ripping my hair out while videos buffer.
- Speaking of which, BUFFERING IS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE.
- Also, to the hundreds of “Bonjours” and “Holas” I’ve received, I’m not French or Spanish.
- No, really. I don’t know what you’re saying in French. PLEASE speak Arabic.
- Yes, I’m serious. I “speak” Arabic… Ok, fine. I’m still learning.
- As a white woman, I’ve faced unwanted attention and harrowing street harassment, but I can’t even imagine what my friends of color are going through. One of my best friends here is a Kenyan-American, and every time I walk with him in a city, he gets “Bob Marley,” or some other black public figure’s name shouted at him. I admire his resilience.
- My Asian-American friends also have “Shinwa,” the Arabic word for “Chinese,” thrown at them constantly. I may never be able to understand, but I commiserate with them in solidarity as an ally and friend. They are changing numerous perceptions of what Moroccans think the standard American looks like, and that’s something I’ll never really be able to do.
- Six months went by much quicker than I expected. It was probably all of the reading and eating I did (17 books down and still going strong).
- Convincing Moroccans that I was an adult in the U.S. before I came here has proved exceptionally difficult. Single people can cook and clean, too!
- Speaking of which, no, I’m not married.
- Yeah, I’m serious.
- No, I’m not lonely.
- How could I possibly be lonely when I have an entire village checking in on me almost daily? I’ve truly never felt more loved or important than I do here.
- Muslims are wonderful people.
- Working with adolescent girls brings me to tears almost every time I see them. Students in the U.S. take their educations for granted, but students here definitely don’t—especially female students.
- Girls in small towns like the one I live in have so much working against them, that when I witness their remarkable spirit and work ethic, I’m left in sheer awe. Their families want them married out of high school, but they want so much more.
- I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the constant discomfort that pairs with living abroad.
- Morocco is quirky and strange.
- Life moves incredibly slow, which occasionally drives me nuts, but has ultimately helped me relax and enjoy the journey, rather than the outcome. In the grand scheme, who really cares if it took two hours to meet with the police? You probably made a friend while waiting in line who invited you over for couscous anyway.
- COUSCOUS. EVERY. FRIDAY. A BNIN BZAF (VERY DELICIOUS) MOROCCAN TRADITION.
- Most of the suggested packing lists I read before I came here were not relevant to Morocco at all. I brought all of my painfully outdoorsy, Pacific Northwest gear (i.e. Chacos), and left the vast majority of my stylish clothes back home.
- HEED MY WARNING, FUTURE MOROCCO PCVS, ESPECIALLY WOMEN: MOROCCANS ARE DAMN STYLISH. It must be a mixture of French influence and relatively accessible internet, because I feel so homely compared to these beautiful women. Had I done this differently, I would have brought my Taupe Suede Desert Wedges (sorry, mom) and left out one of my many pairs of sandals.
- I think the vast quantity of sugar in Moroccan tea leaves raging canker sores in the mouths of those who are unused to it. However, the sample size of this study is quite small (maybe it’s just me).
- I gained 15 pounds here and surprisingly don’t care as much as I thought I would. I still fit into my pants, so whatever. Plus, all sizes are accepted in this country.
- If only 20-year-old Abbie could see me now—eating so much khubs (bread) without a care in the world. I’ve come a long way since my not-so-long-ago days of extreme food guilt. NOW GIVE ME MORE KHUBS.
- I’m the first Peace Corps Volunteer in my site, so work is slow, but I’m developing closer relationships with my friends and neighbors because of it.
- The women here are resilient and strong, and I feel like they teach me something new whenever I spend time with them.
- Seriously, though… How did you get that stain out by just… RUBBING the fabric like that?!
- I’ve also realized that I came here with the idea that I would help young women, when in reality, they’ve helped me so much more.
- I love that I’m learning new skills and modes of communication; women adore laughing, gossiping, and giving high fives. Plus, don’t even think you can greet a female friend without kissing her on the cheek multiple times.
- It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here six months. It almost feels like an entirely different life.
- I’ve heard that time in Peace Corps is relative, but it truly is.
- The exciting part is that I have 21 more months, and I have so much more to learn.