Despite ongoing changes and stresses with host families and Darija, life has started to normalize in Immouzer. We have grown accustomed to the daily tasks of eating with our right hand, using a Turk, and the perhaps even found a bit of privacy in the collective world. Every volunteer has their own trick for pursuing sanity: chess in the cafe, daily yoga or jogging sessions, chocolate or maybe a weekly warm bucket bath.
Our “balanced” state of mind is not to be confused with actual normalcy largely found in our hometowns. For many volunteers, including myself, my normal is acknowledging my rollercoaster of emotions throughout the day. I frequently feel excited and confident in Darija in the morning, reflective and/or teary in the afternoon, exhausted by the end of class, and rejuvenated late in the evening. Laundry and simple conversation is overwhelming on Tuesday before discussions and dance parties occur on Wednesday. I consider myself to be emotional in everyday life, but the highs and lows of immersion consistently surprise me. I feel it all.
Adding to the joys and stresses of Community-Based Training is the quasi-high school atmosphere produced by placing young Americans in a stressful situation. We have a way of isolating a victim, nominating a leader and falling into the familiar roles of the “in” and the “out” crowds. Thousands of miles from home, the jock still picks on the band geek. Unfortunately this behaviour does not end with training; we were warned yesterday of the dangers of “Volunteer-on-Volunteer” emotional damage and gossip. It’s sobering to realize that your newly created support system may become your worst enemies. I have already fallen prey to the easy bonding of bashing, criticizing and tearing down others. Thankfully this is the trial run. Inshallah, we have gained enough from training to create a healthier “normal” in our final site, including who to trust and when to keep our mouths shut.
This week marks the transition from PC trainees to PC volunteers. On Saturday morning we will say goodbye to our host families and return to the company of 110 Americans in Rabat. Following final site placement announcements, additional training and relaxation, we will be sworn in as volunteers next Wednesday. The next day, we will part ways to track down transportation to our individual sites, officially marking the beginning of our service. Bslama to the “current normal” and MarHba to Wide Open Spaces of our own.