Well, this time next week, I’ll be scrambling to finish any last minute packing so I can get to the Nashville International Airport. I fly out of Nashville at 7:30 in the morning for a flight to Philadelphia. I’ll stay the day there for what the Peace Corps calls “Staging” or “Pre-Departure Orientation,” along with sixty-five other trainees making their way to Morocco. Then, we’ll take a bus to JFDelay (as a pilot to New York once described the airport) for the flight to Casablanca. Even though we won’t be staying in Casablanca (as we’ll be taking a two hour bus ride to Mehdya, a beach town north of Rabat), I’m excited to start this adventure in the same city my grandfather lived in for over nineteen months during World War II. It just seems appropriate to me.
Let’s see, from there, things get a bit more complicated. We spend a week or so in Mehdya and then move to Fez in the Middle Atlas, and we’ll be in that region for four weeks or so moving between the “hub” site and the “community based training” site. I’ll try to explain all of that later. By late October, I should have some idea where I move to and should be sworn in, hopefully, on November 24. Until then, I’m just a trainee, not a volunteer.
It’s a bit overwhelming to think about, honestly. Maybe it’s my cynical side, but I have a tendency not to get truly excited about something until it’s happening. I spend too much time leading up to it convinced something could go wrong, or that it won’t happen at all. That said – am I excited? Well, I know I will be the second I step onto the flight for Casablanca. Right now is more about anxiety and, as you know from the past few blogs, figuring out how to say goodbye.
Honestly, other than Mom, Dad, and a very small handful of people I hope to see this week, I’ve pretty much said all my goodbyes already. At least, I’ve said my goodbyes to people. There are a few other “goodbyes” that are going to be necessary, though. One in particular is going to be incredibly difficult.
As I type, he’s laying on the couch with his head buried between three pillows. King of the couch, he’s in a kind of regal position, stretched out as though no one belongs there but him, and of course, nearby sits Bearemy Bear, his teddy bear who seems to follow him around to the ends of the earth. Mom and Dad agreed to hang on to Abner, and I think having him around will make the fact that I’m not around a lot easier in ways. I mean, no matter how down you are, Abner always manages to do something just stupid enough to get a laugh out of you. Man’s best friend, y’know. I am taking quite a few pictures of him with me.
…and of course, there’s the Aztek. If Abner is my best friend, my Pontiac Aztek is like my armored, black stallion. Yeah, that’s right; laugh all you want; you know you’re jealous. Whether it’s sold and in the hands of a new owner by the end of the week or sold a few weeks after I leave, the Aztek will not be here when I get back. It’s funny that a car would be something I would get attached to, especially when I actually think it’s such an eyesore. I mean, let’s face it, a Pontiac Aztek is one ugly car. But ugly or not, we’ve traveled many miles together, from my recent trip across the Midwest to the Grand Canyon sleeping in the back on the side of the road. It’s carried me and my many friends and family to old and new places, to places I couldn’t wait to get to and to places I couldn’t wait to leave. So, to look at it all shiny and clean in the backyard, I can’t help but be sentimental.
I don’t suspect, though, I’ll ever own one again. I like change too much to get another Aztek. When I get back, I’m thinking… motorcycle. Or at the least, a small, fuel-efficient car.
Still, what strikes me most is that there are a lot of “things” that I cherish that might seem silly when I’m able to take them for granted, but once I’m in Morocco, how much will I miss them, the things I decided I just don’t have room to take? I can’t even really fathom what all those things are, really. A computer mouse? A t-shirt I like to wear? A pair of shoes I wish I could’ve taken with me? My grandfather’s war paraphernalia? Hard to say right now, but I’ll probably get a “wish list” going once I’ve been there for a few weeks.
We really love our stuff, right down to the things we put on the walls in the museums of our homes. To strip it all away and start over from scratch, in some ways, really challenges us to redefine ourselves, to really face who we are and what we care about. The next few months will be definitive for me in that sense. I just don’t yet know how.