At the end of March I officially closed out my Peace Corps service in Morocco. I can’t believe I am now a Returned Peace Corps volunteer! It was an emotional goodbye, because I have become so integrated into my community, Sidi Bou Othman. My village has become home. I loved my work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco- engaging in cultural exchange every day, and working on programs and projects to help develop youths skills: teaching English and Spanish, co-facilitating Life skills and leadership program, and establishing the first community library. I feel like I have had great success in my service, and I am so proud! I preferred to say “nshufik min bad (“see you later”) instead of “bislema” (“goodbye”) to all my friends, because I know I will return to Morocco one day to visit.
I started to prepare to leave by giving away most of my things to the new volunteer at my site but also to community members, cleaning out my apartment, and packing my suitcases. The new volunteer will take over my apartment.
During my last week in Sidi Bou Othman my counterparts at the youth center organized a goodbye party for me. They all said such encouraging words, thanking me for all my work at the youth center, where they said I had made a huge impact on the youth and community. They called me their sister and said we are family now. My brothers also gave me certificates and presents, commissioned a local artist to paint a picture of me, and sang the song “See you again” by Wiz Khalifa. The beginning is: “It’s been a long day, without you, my friend; And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again; We’ve come a long way from where we began; Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again; When I see you again.”
The Pasha, or local Sheriff, attended too, and said he had met lots of Peace Corps volunteers over the years, but never anyone like me. He said I had become Moroccan! The Pasha also gave me a special mention for establishing the community library and said everyone will always remember me for that. I reciprocated with a speech (in Darija!) encouraging my counterparts to continue the work we had begun and to work hard to achieve their dreams in life. I gave the Director of the youth center a frame with photos of the activities we had worked on together and others photos, cards, and materials/supplies to continue programs and projects. At an international women’s day party at the girls dormitory, my service was also recognized and in my farewell parting, I emphasized the importance of education.
I also made sure to enjoy my favorite Moroccan foods, like tagine, couscous, rafissa, djej mahamur, lehem u barqoq amongst other, with my friends my last weeks in Sidi Bou Othman. They all tried to convince me to stay in Morocco, saying I should extend my service or teach English in Marrakesh, and also gave me more presents, which I stuffed into my luggage. Their caring welcome and hospitality is something I will never forget. I gave them photos and cards and together we reflected on all the fun times we had shared the past two years: cooking together, breaking the fast during Ramadan, and attending baptism and wedding celebrations. My neighbors and I organized an afternoon snack, and at this typical gathering of women, two neighbors who had recently given birth finally got to meet each other. My last night, my closest friend arranged for a local henna artist to decorate my hands and feet in beautiful designs! It still hasn’t washed off! She also baked my favorite breads, msemem and batbout, to take back with me! At the airport, the security guards joked about all the bread I had in my luggage. Hahaha!
Then I traveled to Peace Corps Morocco headquarters in Rabat to complete administrative and medical check outs with a couple of other Peace Corps volunteers from my group. I will really miss being a Peace Corps volunteer. Maybe I will serve again, in a south American country, when I am retired. The Peace Corps staff in Morocco were great mentors. They also said encouraging words to me as I closed out. They said I had been an exemplary volunteer and were sure I would have success in my life. They hoped I would return to Morocco, maybe in the Foreign Service. I wrote them cards and bought them roses as a thank you. Finally, we had a ‘stamp out’ ceremony where we signed our name in a book and then banged a drum.
Now I am in Madrid with family, relaxing after the last overwhelming couple of weeks in Peace Corps service and in Morocco by eating well and going out to talks and exhibits. I am making plans for the Fall either graduate school or a job.
So, I will say “bislema” (“goodbye”) to my blog readers. I want to thank all of you for following it during my Peace Corps service. Keeping a blog as allowed me the space to reflect on my experience and to express it in writing. I especially want to thank family and friends for proof reading my blog posts. A book with my blog posts and photos is my next project. I hope that you have sensed my enjoyment and experienced along with me the generosity of the Moroccan people and their rich culture.