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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…