Monday, November 5, 2012

Ridin' Solo

I am not a solitary person. Growing up, I was the girl who wanted to do everything with friends or family - shopping, eating, studying, watching TV,  playing outside, traveling, etc. Simple errands were more fun with Sabrina, swimming was better with Anna and no TRL show was successful without Christy by my side. As I've gotten older, I've been forced to do these activities as an individual. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I consistently put myself in situations where I had to sink or swim - solo. Semesters abroad and eventually living abroad taught me that I needed to spend more time alone in order to balance the overwhelming nature of conforming to a new culture. This has always been my greatest challenge - being a natural extrovert who has chosen to live in isolating circumstances. 

I remember my first Peace Corps interview - so excited to start on the path to this lifelong dream, but also aware that it would be my greatest challenge yet. Every time recruiters asked for my greatest fear regarding service, I knew it was isolation and loneliness. A few weeks into my return to Morocco and a week after my site mate's departure, I struggle with the combination of boredom, isolation and feeling disconnected from the world I live in. There are times when I feel on top of the world; having lunch with my community, connecting with the local shopkeeper, having tea with my landlord's extended family or even small personal challenges of finishing literature or connecting with a friend in the States. There are other times when I want nothing more than to get in a car, drive to the nearest big city and freaking having a beer and a cheeseburger with Americans. These feelings normally occur on the exact same day, or certainly within the same week. In a given day, I can praise God while I watch the sunrise and curse my restlessness during the sunset. It's not the same intense fluctuation as during training or my first month in site, but it's a child-sized roller coaster on certain days.

The interesting part about service is not that I am actually alone. When I choose it, I can be surrounded by my community all day long (or even all night long, if it suits my mood). My host family frequently asks if I am lonely, and I know that I am considered to be part of multiple families around town. Being with them makes me feel connected, loved and comfortable. It also makes me feel tired, inept with language and empty. I feel at ease in their presence, but also desire the comfort of my own home, dress and choice in food.

I am slowly learning to balance my own familiar need of connectedness with my newer desire for introverted self reflection. At this point, I take several hours a day to read literature, do devotions, sing, talk with family or friends and cook while also visiting members of my community during the afternoon or lunch hour. My hope is that as I begin to teach and gain energy from being passionate about my students' education, I will have additional energy to be involved in the lives' of the community members. Soon I won't have to read for three hours a day, but will be content with only a an hour of "me" time. 

At this point, I am doing my best to be patient with myself and my own transition into site and daily life in Morocco. I try to be kind when I don't have the energy for a Moroccan wedding, but also say "yes" to as many invitations as possible. It's a slow learning process, but I can feel myself growing stronger as the days pass me by. I grow accustomed to sitting and doing seemingly "nothing" for hours on end with Moroccans, to  cherish my rooftops sunsets and to be cheered with a successful trip to the patisserie. For the first time in Morocco, I feel content.

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