It’s like being a senior citizen– meeting up with fellow RPCVs in any situation inevitability turns into reminiscing about the good ol’ days of bartering in rural markets, struggling through the learning curves of an obscure foreign language, laughing at the culture shock experienced while re-assimilating into American culture, recalling with fondness our Turkish toilets….the venn diagram of PCV experience has quite the large overlay.
And thank god! It’s a lovely mug of steaming comfort to know that, no matter where I go, there is a group of people who, like me, also went through a strange and wonderful 27( plus or minus) month experience in a remote part of the world. I’ve thought about this quite frequently lately, as just a week or two ago was my six (6!!!!!) month mark of being back in America. Within those six months, Mustapha and I have checked quite a few things off of “the” list. We traveled to Ohio for my brother’s wedding. Then Mustapha and I got legally married. I got a job. Mustapha took English classes. We took a trip to the beach. We got married again (a big fun party wedding). We drove from Atlanta to Boston for our big move. I started graduate school. Mustapha started work. See collage below for photographic evidence of the diversity of experiences (although I to admit there’s a disproportionate emphasis on holy matrimony….)
And now, here we are, settled in (kinda– we’re moving to our upstairs and final apartment tomorrow) and wondering what adventures we will find at our feet tomorrow. With change and newness being the only constants in our lives, I was so freaking excited to read about a get-together for “new” Boston RPCVs yesterday evening. It’s a rarity for me, but for once, I actually had pretty exciting plans for a Friday night.
In the spirit of my entire Peace Corps service, the simple journey to a RPCV happy hour turned adventurous in an unintentional way. I left my house and trekked over to the bar where the happy hour was happening. The bar was PACKED! I walked around a bit, trying to figure out which group of random people were the RPCVs. It was a great conversation starter– “Are you guys the RPCVS?” “The VCRS?!” “No, the Peace Corps volunteers?” “The WHAT?” Bars, in general, are great backdrops for effective human communication– especially when you’re speaking in acronyms! I felt like a rhyming elf, hopping around from group to group with a really freaking weird riddle. I wanted to play it cool, though, so to blend in, I purchased a beer. I just pointed to an IPA on tap and asked for a closed tab. Turns out I have expensive taste– I selected an 8 dollar beer. Oh Athens bars with your cheap prices, how I miss thee! After about 10 minutes with said trust-fund beer in my hand (and a lot of dead-end conversations with random people), I caved and re-checked the event information. Turns out, I had the location 100% correct and the time 100% wrong. There was a backyard potluck happening at an RPCV’s house prior to the happy hour. With that realization, I stopped pretending to be this cool, confident girl who didn’t seem to care she was at a bar by herself, left my pretty-much-untouched-but-still-freaking-expensive-and-not-as-delicious-as-a-burrito-that-also-costs-eight-freaking-bucks and followed the yellow brick road known as Google Maps (yet another thing that got popular while I was playing in the sands of Morocco) to my destination.
Well, turns out the guy’s house was a whole 1.5 minute walk away from my apartment. The bar with the pricey beers was about 15 minutes away in the opposite direction. Ugh. But the event was great– lots of people, good food, and free Peace Corps swag. Like I said, it is always great to get together with people and not feel like you need to censor yourself when a story has a really good segue to witnessing a sheep slaughter. Or that time your host family dressed you up and paraded you around town and negotiated several marriage offers. You know, things like that.
Sometimes, in the excitement of applying to Peace Corps, waiting for Peace Corps, and being in Peace Corps, you forget about the fact that most of your life will happen before and after Peace Corps. I for one had only a vague notion of a life post-Peace Corps. But here I am– existing. Some of the coolest things about it?
Peace Corps friends are seriously friends for life (or at least, we’ve made it past the first 6+ months). It was ahhmmaazzziinnnggg to dance the night away in a wedding hall in Athens, GA with my fellow Darija mujtahidin. It felt like we were back in Morocco again– except this time we were clean! And our hair was brushed! And we were wearing new clothes that none of us had ever seen before! Some of the fancier RPCVs among us even rented cars (it’s still strange in my mind to picture any of us behind the wheel). We met for morning coffee at this great cafe where two people had pet dogs….pure magic to be in the context of America together. We then got to stay with Lauren + Justin on our way to Boston and hang out with Bryant, and now that we’re here, I’ve gotten to see several other PCVs from different groups in Morocco. One “sighting” occurred at an outdoor food festival, another happened on the subway. NUTS. and WONDROUS!
The other great thing? Being outside of Peace Corps, you remember that not everyone has done Peace Corps. In general, I’ve found that PC Muggles view any time spent in the Peace Corps as this mythical being that only really special (and perhaps slightly crazy) people do with their lives. They think it’s interesting, that it’s different, and that it’s really incredible. Because it is! Objectively, leaving your entire life behind for two years because you want to put yourself into a situation where you might be able to help others and taking the time to understand and (attempt to) assimilate completely into another culture to do it effectively….that’s amazing. I often forget this myself, mainly because the memory of soaking in a bucket of water for the duration of summer is still fresh in my mind, but it’s nice to let yourself be reminded of it occasionally.
Mustapha once told me that during one of his trainings, their session leader instructed them about how to make an impression. The take-away idea is that you should always introduce yourselves with your name followed by something memorable. Friday morning– the same day as the ill-fated RPCV potluck– I got to hear the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, talk a bit about the state of US education. Afterwards, I may or may not have barreled through a crowd of CIA-looking men for a chance to talk to good ol’ Arne. When I finally got to shake hands with him, I kinda just blurted out– “My name is Sarah, and I just got back from serving in Peace Corps Morocco. It’s an honor to be working with the US education system again.” Based on the look on his face in this photo, I’d say he thought that was pretty damn awesome. The guy behind him thinks so too.
So that’s where I am now, my faithful readers. Mentally, I’m still transitioning out of Morocco and Peace Corps, the central part of my identity for 2.5 years. Physically, my feet are firmly planted in Boston as I run full speed ahead through a master’s degree. I honestly don’t find the Quinn in Boston to be half as interesting as the Quinn in Morocco, but I’m sure there will be occasional tidbits tossed into the blogosphere along the way. After all, it’s really hard not to want to share (enthusiastically) with people when I see a Moroccan restaurant, or I hear a conversation in Darija on the T, or I spot a tajine on a shelf in a butcher shop. I’ve also accepted the fact that I’m intertwined with Morocco for the rest of my life…till death do us part and all that. So, cheers to that, and to all of the lovely people who are in my life just because of Peace Corps.