Friday, March 15, 2013

March Madness

Coming off the success of a colorful wall calendar, a few weeks of solid teaching and the first round of a student public speaking competition at the Dar Chebab, I was on cloud nine. For the first time in Tazarine I was simultaneously secure in my community, consistent in my work and solid in the majority of my relationships. Kicking ass and taking names, but you know, in that balanced and healthy way. Nearing the one year mark of my arrival in Morocco, the horizon looked bright and full of promise.

Completed Wall Magazine, love the colors!
 Energized by my new found "normal" in Tazarine, I zoomed off to volunteer for an Interfaith Dialogue hosted 20 minutes outside of Marrakesh in a town named Tamesloht. A Peace Corps volunteer and her amazing counterpart have been working with a local association to hold this event and despite the obvious complications of interfaith work in any context, they managed to obtain the necessary grants and support.

The subject matter of the event centered on cultural and political reasons for the dialogue, the history of both Jews and Christians in Morocco and discussions on appropriate steps for continued exchanges. Given the diverse groups represented, presentations were given in either French, Darija, Standard Arabic or English and then summarized into French by the "MC" or "Animator" of the event. As one of three volunteers with a working knowledge of French, I spent my time translating for others and soaking up the fascinating intertwining of languages present in Morocco.

The event included a delicious couscous lunch under tents stolen from Medieval Times, delicious cookies and even the killer combination of Brie and walnuts. Bread with potatoes can only seduce the palate for so long and it was good to eat a real meal again. I need a small child to come and cook interesting food for me, any takers? All food set aside, the day was restorative from a spiritual side as well. Caught up in the daily life in Tazarine, it's easy to forget some of my larger goals, projects and hopes for my service. Not too long ago, this included an interfaith dialogue among volunteers - a venue for peer education and support. After losing my amazing counterpart over the summer and the devastating long term effects of the assault a few days after, this project was put on hold. How fitting that I should attend this event just over six months after the summer events that tore it apart.

Truthfully, many of my projects have been sidelined by the events of the summer. As much as I try to put it behind me, there are constant reminders of the pain that I experienced and the security that was stolen. The subject comes up without warning: endless scars that time hasn't yet healed. Physical scars serve as a reminder during my morning yoga, mental scars which keep me from traveling alone in cities, emotional scars that come to the surface during phone calls home, spiritual scars which cause me to disregard disciplines for the fear of what will come from further reflection.

Other projects are ready for me - English Club, Theater, Public Speaking, Health workshops, Music class,  Dance and my interest in interfaith work. Yet, none of these can have my full attention until I put the assault to rest. As part of my ongoing March madness, I finished compiling a list of issues surrounding my assault and possible solutions for Peace Corps. I hate to think of another volunteer facing the same lackluster counseling and minimal follow-up following a similar event and I took it as my responsibility to voice this concern. My return to Morocco had everything to do with the tremendous care of other volunteers, family, friends and my faith; I am blessed with such a support system, but not all volunteers are so lucky. Revisiting the details of that day hurt, but I pray that my voice will be heard and will make a difference. Completing the email summary and the subsequent conversation with my country director allowed me to take another step in my recovery. The scars remain, the tears still come, both are fading, but neither are gone.

As I come out of yet another emotional round of healing, it is time to refocus on a few larger goals of my service, starting with the interfaith dialogue. Nearly a year into my service, I refuse to be held hostage by the events of last summer. I pray for the energy to forge into life-giving projects, the courage to take back my service and the strength to sail confidently against the wind.

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