The Calm Before the Storm, or Awaiting the Arrival of 700 Eyejusters Glasses

All’s been quiet on the western front lately.  Lots of my classes have been canceled due to rain.  Even a light mist or lots of dust can keep students from coming, and it’s not advantageous for me to ride my bike all the way to the youth center if there’s not going to be anyone who shows up.  I’ve done lots of one-on-one tutoring for students, though, at cafe’s or in the youth center, and I guess if they think that’s helping them, then I’m happy with it, but I feel like my students are sometimes upset with me for not being able to magically click something in their brain that helps them get it overnight:  “BAM!  Now you know English (and we just spiced dinner).”  I’m sorry, but, if you don’t study the material, why are you even bothering to come to my class?

But mostly, the quiet and peace has been a good quiet and peace, though I know what it is – a calm before the storm.  Allal, my landlord, checks in on me a lot.  It’s become tradition to have couscous with him and his family and one of my students.  I’ve just about decided that moving into the house he built and paying him each month may actually be the most helpful thing I will ever do for a Moroccan family.  At first, I thought, well, he owns a house he’s renting out, so he must be wealthy, but owning buildings here is not necessarily a sign of wealth.  Buildings are actually quite cheap to build; in fact, there are more buildings out here than there are people, probably [#overstatement].  I can’t help but wonder if his sole reason for building it was a matter of desperation, hoping someone would want to rent it.  And then, he just got really, really lucky when an American walked by.

But the reason I think that I’m helping him by paying him rent is because I’ve seen his actual house.  There are dogs and cats and chickens and pigeons and rabbits.  But not in cages.  They’re all just running around making everything dirty.  He lives between the river and the fish market, and the foul smell next to the house is just overwhelming.  One of his kids, Soufianne, was excited to show me a severed cow head that was diseased just laying on the floor of the fish market.  Thanks, Soufianne.  I had to continuously fan my face from flies and gnats.  I caught myself going from thinking, “Wow, this is disgusting,” to, “Why are you so disgusted?  This is what you signed up to do; this is the actual ‘African poverty’ people devote their lives to helping.”  And then I had this moment of clarity (or guilt) where it just sort of hit me all over again, that colonial sense of self-importance where I realize I’m being the white man who has come to “save” these “poor” African people and how much I just don’t want to be that.  Actually, all of it disturbed me.  It disturbed me that I was disgusted.  Then, it disturbed me that I felt pity for them.  They are a happy family, a very close-knit and loving family, and in some sense, they have what, in America, is so hard to come by, happiness with what you have, with simplicity.  So, my take-away from those encounters has been some strange attempt to ignore the poverty and just enjoy the people.  Allal is a nice man (despite his insistence to try to marry me off to some Moroccan girl).  His family could not be more welcoming.  And despite their excitement over severed cow heads, Soufianne and M’hammed are good kids whose faces light up every time they see me.

I call all that the ‘calm before the storm,’ because I’m about to be insanely busy and stressed.  Tomorrow or the next day, I will start making my way for Zagora and Marrakesh.  Owen and Greg from Eyejusters have purchased their plane tickets, and 700 glasses have been shipped.  They are bringing an additional 100 on the plane with them.  Now for the stressful part – convincing the post office to give us the glasses without charging the ridiculous customs tax of nearly 500 quid.  Then, there’s the worrying over whether or not the glasses will arrive on time.  Owen thinks he can pull strings to make sure they arrive by 2 April, but I’m just a crazy worry-wart over it.  As of right now, the glasses are being shipped International Priority and are sitting in Paris.  I think I’ve got a lot riding on how smoothly this process goes, because Owen’s offered a potential several hundred more, provided all the kinks are worked out, and I know several volunteers who could benefit from that.  It’s nice to see it all coming together.  It’s just a lot squeezed into a short period of time.

I’ll get pictures posted or update everyone as soon as we’ve got the glasses.

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