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Electric Autumn


Often, on those electric Autumn evenings, I would wrap up my work and, finding myself unwilling to sleep, step out into the night. I liked to observe the town late at night, when most students were in their dorm rooms and most other folk asleep or reading a book in bed. Getting away from people was important. Away from people, things would acquire their own vitality. Sterling itself seemed to hold its breath, and I drifted about, aimless and content.

Oddly-lit structures drew me. I liked to observe the various moods Cooper Hall took on at different angles by moonlight, liked to see it in motion, walking the length of the sidewalk across the street, the contrasting motion of foreground and background.

Parks, too, drew me. As a child, the swings were dearest, and even today they lure me. I could swing for hours, ruminating, tracking the motion of the stars, taking in the gravity, the silence.

These moments are therapeutic. More than that - enriching. How often I've sought somebody with whom to share them. How often I've been disappointed in the search. Is it possible to share an experience which is essentially, profoundly inward? From stories, I've come to hope in that possibility.

For the time being, however, I live in a society for which this activity is wholly alien, even suspicious, most definitely unhealthy.

my building - I live on the top floor (with the tiny windows)
Though I yearn for those kinds of quality moments, Morocco has made me adapt to a surfeit of socialization. This year's holiday season ("the big feast," they call it) began five days ago. Knowing I would likely be invited to more meals than I could conceivably digest, I was careful in how I responded to invitations. On the day before festivities were to begin, my mudir called to say he had arranged that I would "pass Eid with mister Mosa," a man I had known only through the mudir and with whom I'd spoken only a handful of words.

As it turns out, "pass Eid with" actually means "spend every waking moment with." Over the next four days, I would take breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon and midmorning tea with the Mosa family. I would return home (accompanied by Mosa and his three-year-old son) well into the night.


sunset in a typical street in the PAM section of town, where I live
Happily, Mosa & Co. are a delightful bunch, and not a moment of my time with them was begrudged. I even managed to capture a pretty intimate video portrait of a goat slaughter (send me an email if you're interested).

my rooftop "mountain view"
Nonetheless, the memories of that calm, introspective peace which visited me on those nights haunt me, moreso because they have an air of unrepeatability, like a piece of history lost forever. Or perhaps they haunt me because they seem impossible. As life puts more distance between myself, my current context, and my past experiences, I grow increasingly suspicious of the authenticity of those memories. An older volunteer once told me that as our Completion of Service date nears, volunteers start to experience a good deal of anxiety, because we've forgotten what is normal in American terms. What if we don't remember how to act in our own country?
 
many neighborhoods exhibit a mix of colorful and dilapidated
Tonight is Halloween. More than anything, I'd like to be with friends tonight, engaged in all sorts of waggeries and mischief. I want to dress up and go to the Halloween dance, to be raucous and outrageous and laugh a great deal.

And this is the duality of life in Morocco: I want those quiet, solitary moments and those goofy moments surrounded by friends, and neither are readily available.
 
these storks are often spotted atop the water tower early evenings
Could it be that an important life lesson is waiting for me in this contradiction, in this tension? Likely. Likely. I'll be searching for this lesson, possibly for the better part of a year. With any luck, I'll find it - along with the companionship of a fellow seeker.
 
the sunset from my roof

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