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The Clink (New Friends)

Each other is all we have. It's no surprise, then, that when we think about the chapters of our lives, those chapters usually begin and end with the beginning and ending of relationships. My current chapter began in July 2016, when I made the move from Philadelphia to Denver. In many ways, it was the fulfillment of a promise made between Peace Corps friends; Carly, Evan, and I spoke often of our desire to live in the same place some day, and after two wonderful years spent with Kyla, it was time for me to join them.

The great advantage to this arrangement is that Evan and Carly had been cultivating friends in my absence, so upon my arrival last summer, I was met with a wonderful group of people who had been carefully conditioned by Evan and Carly to like me.

Readers of this blog will remember Evan and Carly from my Peace Corps days. They were the closest I had to family for two years, and by the end of our service, we were inseparable.


Evan

Pappy. Pop-pop. Dilly-dally. Evan is know…
Recent posts

Grieving in the Peace Corps

The shock of death shakes those both near and far.

A few days ago, a very dear friend notified me that his brother - our brother - died in his sleep. Ben Leake was just a little older than myself.

You have to understand that this is no ordinary family. When I was finishing high school, my parents' relationship took a series of really bad turns that wounded my sister and I in radical ways and which drove me out of my parents' households for a time. I had already made best friends with Daniel Leake, and I knew his family well, but I could never have expected that they would reach out to me the way that they did. For that very troubling time in my life, the Leakes took me in as if I were another member of the family. I slept in Daniel and Ben's bedroom, in the attic of the big house on Broadway. My days were filled with shenanigans dreamt up by the three of us. We ate together, went to school together, played together; we tormented our poor English teacher, Mrs. Feil, and we te…

Dr. Strangecountry, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Morocco

I wrote the following some time in the Summer of 2013 to be published in the Peace Corps literary journal, PeaceWorks. I just read the finished product, and thought I would be lazy and reproduce what I wrote there for this blog post. Enjoy!
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For one year now, I have listened to Moroccans tell me things—ridiculous things, shocking things, things that fly in from far out of left field, that make me choke on an olive or spray qhwa nusnus all over the table in astonishment. I suffer from chronic bruising about the nose and brow, the result of repeated face-palming (and periodic face-desking). Every volunteer, I imagine, is familiar with the flavors of absurdity to which I allude. A taste:
“Science has actually proven that Ramadan [denying the body both solids and liquids during daylight for one month, then, instead of sleeping at night, gorging on massive amounts of sweets, nuts, and carbs] makes you healthier.”
“Morocco is full of diversity! Not like Ame…

In which I sing the praises of my mudir

Admittedly, I don't often praise my local counterparts. Usually, getting them to work effectively with me is like getting blood out of a stone. For the moment, though, let's focus on what my mudir is like on a personal level.

We have a wonderful relationship. He has many names for me, including, "l3awni" (an old-fashioned Moroccan name, meaning "my helper"), "father Eugene," "my uncle," "Aristotle," and, since I've stopped shaving, "Barbarossa." He often tells me that he thinks of me as his son (he has no children).

We have a half a dozen different kinds of handshakes and fist-bumps, and he likes to deploy them at random in order to confuse me, which makes me laugh despite myself.

Mostafa likes to bring me things. If I call in sick, he is known to walk across town bearing a pot of soup and medicine (sometimes western medicine, sometimes traditional). Sometimes at the end of class, he'll usher me into his office, …

Frustration in the Peace Corps

Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.- Dale Carnegie 
Some days, I sit on my ponj and stare into space, immobilized by disappointment. A gloomy cloud lurks just beyond the outer limits of my vision. I can sense its existence, its inexorable approach. It is composed of millions of indistinguishable particles of ennui, and unless it dissipates, it will soon surround me and fill my lungs and settle in my pores and precipitate more indifference.

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—'Come out unto us.' But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.- Ralph Waldo Emerson
In September of 2012, I attended a library-building workshop in a strange and beautiful coastal town called A…

The Crazy Folk

The crazy folk. Not the most sensitive term, but admittedly the one I use with other volunteers. Every community has them. They are by turns amusing, tragic, and terrifying.

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My first was The Top. I met him in my first week of service in Aounate. At that time, I had no internet access in my home, so I lugged my old laptop, Lappy, to the sole wi-fi-enabled cafe in town. Sipping my bitter brew, I saw him there, in the cafe patio, deftly spinning in place. He must have been in his early 40's, in good physical health, by all appearances. Upon his head, a dark, curly quasi-fro, and on his face, intense concentration. His eyes focused on no man, and through his lips passed nothing intelligible. He simply spun. Spun and mumbled.

Another caffeinated patron noticed my interest and alarm. In a most reassuring tone, he said "Hania, hania. Mashi Xatir. Thnna." - "It's fine, it's fine. He's not dangerous. Don't worry about it." 

That night, long after my neig…

A Haunting

It was during my 14th year of life that I decided to start doing more with my time than play video games. That I had wasted so much of my burgeoning adolescence on electronic entertainment is only slightly less disturbing than that which came to replace it: fervent religious fundamentalism. With high school came devotional readings, bible camps, youth group, and a strong conviction that I had a duty to warn Sterling High that we were all balancing on the precipice, in danger of eternal hellfire. I suspect that this preoccupation made me somewhat awkward throughout high school.

It was then that I transformed from a shy, mild-mannered, sometimes-clownish kid into a terrifying spiritual force, constantly harassing foul-mouthed students, refusing to read Catcher in the Rye, waging war against the teaching of evolution in biology class (a battle which I took all the way to the superintendent's office). I once persecuted my economics teacher for handing out an article that included the w…