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Moving On, or: Why I love the Peace Corps Phone Plan

My Alleyway in Fes


Swearing-In took place on May 24th. My official acronym has changed from PCT to PCV.

This may not seem too significant, but it's importance cannot be stressed enough.

Firstly, it means that I'll now be living on my own. Until now, the Peace Corps has held my hand (and looked over my shoulder) at every moment of every day, tracking my whereabouts, calling me, sending me emails and phone-calls and visits from administration.

Now, nothing.

After swearing-in, Peace Corps took us to their compound in Rabat, fed us lunch, and said, "So long. Good luck finding your way back to the hotel and then to your site."

I possessed piece of paper with a name and a phone number, along with a limited vocabulary. Despite the circumstances, I managed to make arrangements with my new host father. In addition, I was expected to arrange transportation on my own, which to my general astonishment, worked without a hitch. Perhaps my Darija is better than I thought.



check out this Moroccan sofa
it has nothing to do with this post; I just wanted you to see it


Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the T-to-C transition package includes a good dose of isolation from my friends - much more than during training. Now, instead of seeing only 5 other Americans on a daily basis, I see 0. I have nobody to speak English with on a daily basis, nobody to translate for me, and significantly, nobody with whom to share frustrations and/or laughs.

Which is why I love the Peace Corps phone plan.

We get unlimited calls to and from others in the plan, which includes all Volunteers, Trainees, and Staff. They even give us a little credit each month for text messages (but not much).

Let me introduce you to some of the people I can (and do) call at any time, the people with whom I've shared many precious memories, the people with whom I'm honored to be friends.

Ted
I must start with Ted because he was my first substantial relationship in the Peace Corps. I first saw him at the hotel in Philadelphia, but at that time, I just thought he was a boisterous New Yorker. Well, he is a boisterous New Yorker, but also much more. I had the privilege of rooming with Ted both times I was in Rabat, and I had the luck of being stationed close to him for CBT. Ted is very bright, sometimes esoteric, always surprising in his choice of vocabulary. He makes me laugh, keeps me on my toes, and exhibits impressive leadership.

Now, he is 4 or 5 hours away, tucked in a mountainside village northeast of my site.

Kirsten
I first got to know Kirsten well one day in Rabat, making the site-seeing circuit. I first saw her in Philadelphia, and when she spoke of women's issues, I thought to myself, "She would make a valuable partner. She cares about the oppressed."

I was right. And in addition to showing great concern for the down-trodden, Kirsten is very well-read. She's into feminist theory and post-modernism, and she loves a good discussion. In short, she's one of the most interesting girls I've met. Although Kirsten knows much more than I do, I've never felt belittled or patronized; she is the kind of person to share interesting information with excitement and a touch of nerdiness, just the way I like it.Now, she is living hours away to the Southwest.

Charlotte
When I first saw Charlotte in Philly, I judged her by her glasses. I am ashamed to admit this, but it's the truth. I simply took one glance and thought "Hipster." Done. Safi. She ended up being in my CBT group, but even during our preliminary language sessions in Rabat, I didn't get to know her.

It wasn't until moving to Fes that we became close, both in a manner of speaking, and literally, for we lived right across from each other. Charlotte probably knows me better than anybody else in this country, and I've spent many hours blowing off steam, making jokes, and having coffee with her. I can't imagine my CBT phase without her, and when we said goodbye - I must be honest - I teared up quite a bit.

A mountain range and many, many hours of travel now separate us.

Jenna
I think of Jenna as a searcher. Always asking questions, always probing into the meat of the matter. Because of this, whenever I'm with Jenna, I find myself having novel thoughts and insights into myself and my service. One could almost say she's a muse of sorts. Jenna has a way of making me feel completely safe about sharing my thoughts honestly and in a straightforward kind of a way. I never fear judgment or disdain, two sentiments I think she's incapable of housing.

Luckily for me, Jenna is relatively close, maybe only a couple hours away. I get to see her at least once every three months for regional meetings.

Libby
Libby is the only one on this list that wasn't in my CBT Hub, so I didn't get to see her as often. Even before CBT, though, I spent a good deal of time with her, walking and talking about ourselves. In a word, Libby is chill. She's a good hang-out buddy, and whenever I was in her room, I found myself spread out across a bed, staring at the ceiling, relaxed and chatty. Some friends are exhausting, high-energy, intensive people and others are like a recharge. Libby is the latter. She keeps my sanity in check and helps me keep things in perspective. Another thing I admire about her is her no-nonsense, frank personality and her ability to just roll with whatever comes her way. If anyone can make it through two years without going insane, it's her.

Now, Libby is way up north, half a country away.

Zouhair


This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning my LCF Zouhair. Although I'd always thought of him as my elder, Zouhair and I are the same age. At first, I thought of him as my enemy, because he had displaced my first LCF, Said, whom I'd already gotten to love. Zouhair broke through my emotional barriers, though, with his goofiness and amiability. He always makes me smile, laugh, shake my head in amusement, and laugh some more.

Also, he is outrageous. His actions, reactions, blanket statements, confabulations, and perversions of reality are a constant source of frustration, thrills, and fodder for jokes later on. All in all, he made CBT what it was: fun and filled with tender memories.

Although Zouhair is in my region, he won't come to regional meetings (as an LCF, his job with PC is over for now). He is still several hours away, up in the mountains. I will make it a point to visit him in his shop when I have vacation time.

He is not on the phone plan.

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Another chapter in the emotional roller-coaster that is Peace Corps. And with the closing of that chapter, another one begins. Soon I'll post about my permanent site.
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