Saturday, June 27, 2009

On breathing easy

Since being notified of my grant, there was just one more hurdle to be cleared – medical clearance. The rational version of me wasn’t worried about it, but paranoia started eating away at me. I figured the only thing that could possibly hold me back was Tuberculosis. 21st century America doesn’t tend to be too concerned with TB but I thought it would be so poetically tragic if I somehow contracted it and had my grant taken away. My paranoia was irrational, but not completely unfounded, thanks to brother’s recent run-in with TB.

But, hamdulilah, my lungs are officially Tuberculin free. The paperwork hasn’t made it to the authorities yet, but things are looking good for an early September departure. Last week I attended a 3-day orientation. I found out that I will probably not get an additional language grant (LAME!!) but that a nice-sized language allowance is included in my research grant itself, so I’ll be able to take some classes in the Moroccan dialect – with the shwia’s and the bizaf’s and the lack of vowels.

The orientation made me antsy to get going. Just hearing words like “wakha” (which means “okay” in Moroccan), and hearing people flow from English to Moroccan to English to French all in the same sentence made me nostalgic for my other home.

I’ll probably go back and live with the Khattabis (my old host family) for a bit. The oldest daughter, Dounia had her first son a week ago. I can’t wait to see the little guy. I expect that they'll be my home base until I find an apartment, hopefully in the same part of the Medina.

Suddenly I feel like the next 2 months before I leave will be very long. I have an extensive reading list in preparation for my research, but I’m starting to get jittery. At least now that I know I don’t have Tuberculosis I can breathe easy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On my reason for blogging

I had a blog in high school and my early college years. At its prime it captured the way the 16-year-old version of myself looked at the world. Most of it is pretty silly - I'm not 16 anymore and I’m hardly amused by the things that seemed so adventurous then. I chronicled the days of getting hopelessly lost with Miss Margie Bennington (before the days of GPS), my narrow escapes with police officers (my driving has much improved since then), and the day-to-day life of a light-hearted, if rather sarcastic high school student.

The blog continued into college, but eventually fizzled out. I always attributed this to the fact that college life was mundane and I ran out of material. This doesn't seem to make sense, though, since my life in high school wasn't particularly flashy either. I think the real problem is that I realized that my audience was much bigger than I thought. Periodically throughout my freshman year I would meet people, and they'd say "Hey! You're MegPav! I read your blog all the time!" This always creeped me out a little, and in the end had an adverse effect on my blogging. I became too conscious of my audience and my writing lost its freshness. I abandoned the blog during my sophomore year, resurrecting it once every 6 months or so, only so I wouldn't forget particular anecdotes that I hold dear for some bizarre reason or another.

I tried to blog during my first stint in Morocco, but got bored with it pretty fast. I was drinking from the fire hose, and all attempts to communicate that failed miserably, so I gave that one up too, and poured my thoughts into emails to my family and friends. Occasionally I search through my gmail archives to remember the details of a long-lost anecdote. A recent exploration of past emails reminded me of the "Cheese Man" - my black market booze vendor during Ramadan. Other times the emails help me remember emotions I felt at the time, rather than the emotions that I impose on the situation in retrospect. Fez is now so familiar to me, I feel like I'm going home. But going back through my emails I remember how miserable I was my first couple of days. It was hell-hot, and I was lonely, and desperate to find an English-speaking friend - enter "Padre," an American friend of a friend, with his side-kicks Jack Bauer and Flag Especial.

I have been mostly content with my gmail archives as the primary storage for my memories, mostly because I didn’t see any need for them to be public. But now I do...

I feel a little bit like Huck Finn, who was so profoundly changed by his time with the Grangerfords, but when he got on his raft he left them forever. They never came back into his life – they were just a blip – but they were a blip worth recording. Without them, it's hard to fully understand why Huck changed in the ways that he did. I feel the same way about the people, places and things (nouns in general) that I encountered in Morocco the first time around.

There are a handful of people who had an enormous impact on me while I was there. I consider some of them among the most important people in my life. But most of them I will probably never see again for any extended period of time. I don't want to forget these blips, and I want to make known how I have been impacted by them. I think it will help other people understand me.

This blog will primarily be to record my newest adventures, and the newest characters in my life. But I wouldn't be surprised if nostalgic posts about people from my previous life in Morocco appear from time to time. After all, how can I visit the cheese man without thinking of Aaron Sakulich? How can I barbecue on a rooftop and not be reminded of John, Robert, Drew, Megan, Erica and others? How can I sit at a cafe for hours on end and not feel a tug on my heart for Nicholas Heuer, my partner in all sorts of crime? I hope, despite my failed attempt at blogging last time around, that these characters can be immortalized in this new one.

You’re all relieved, I’m sure, to see that I’ve progressed beyond the pepto-bismol color scheme of my high school blog. I hope to entertain, because God knows that I have a knack for getting myself into predicaments in Morocco. If it will be funny later, it’s funny now, so I’ll do my best to share my awkward culturally confusing misadventures. Beyond that, it’s a mystery what will pop up here. But stay tuned because things will no doubt get interesting.