Today, I said goodbye to Ahmed – Jonathan’s host brother (and previously Nicole’s).
It was the first goodbye of many in the next week. Ahmed’s gotten to know quite a few volunteers, and he’s become a good friend. As the owner of a “gite” (think, “bed-and-breakfast”), he’s played host to many Americans, and that’s actually how I got to know him well. When I first met him, he was suffering through all kinds of heartbreak (although, I think I’ve come to decide this is always the case with Ahmed), as he poured out story-after-story about how terrible his life was at the time. In fact, he stood with me on the edge of a cliff and made a few suicidal jokes at one point (mostly over girls). It was my first opportunity to use a very simple Moroccan proverb, one I’ve really come to love: lli fat mat. It translates nicely to mean “what’s done is done.” More literally, it translates to something like, “Whatever has passed is dead.”
Tall and particularly lanky, Ahmed is probably one of the most theatrical people you will ever meet, and he has the energy of a seven-year old child. He loves dancing, sometimes scandalously, to the chagrin of his parents, and I suspect he struggles as someone caught between the conservative nature of a rural, gossipy community (probably with some of that gossip stemming from his own words or actions) and the beckoning of a more fast-paced city life where you can more easily disappear. Come to think of it, this struggle isn’t unique to Ahmed but to most Moroccan youth living in the countryside. As for Ahmed, I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who works as hard and stays as busy but also manages to find the time goof off like a child. He’d make a great Wabash student.
When he came to say goodbye today, I made us a rice lunch that I knew Ahmed would love. He went on and on about how happy he was I didn’t spice it up the way Jonathan spices up all his food. We had several moments sitting there where we just sort of reflected on all that’s been. But our conversation quickly turned to thoughts about the future, about what was next for me and what he had in store for his bed-and-breakfast. I think that’s the way every goodbye should be, you know, an honest reflection on the past with a helpful heaping of hope for the future.
In the afternoon, we walked around town a little bit, as Ahmed went shopping for slippers for someone in his family, and one of the little shops we went into was playing 2M radio, and Hindi Zahra‘s song “Fascination” was on. I had this overwhelming sensation that I was in some gaudy American flea market. It was honestly kind of strange, and I loved every second of it. Then, after I helped him load a few things into a transit (including my bike and books), I gave Ahmed a big hug, told him not to forget me, said “God help you,” and that was that.
Y‘know, right before I left to come to Morocco, I remember feeling like I was in some limbo. I had just gotten word standing there in Greta Frensley’s house that I would soon receive my invitation and within a month-and-a-half be on an airplane for a whole new world. In the days that followed, the feelings were really ambiguous. I was torn between my life in America and the idea of this new adventure. Then one day, I don’t know what brought it on, but this strange affirmation overcame me. It was like everything just clicked for me, and I knew leaving was right. This has happened several times in my life. Call it intuition. I’m not sure what brings it on, and it doesn’t remove all the nerves or worries. It’s just this brief, fleeting moment where you look down at the things you have packed (or need to pack), and you just kinda feel as though you’re being moved in one very clear direction.
That hit me today with Ahmed. It was actually the echo of my empty living room when it just sort of reverberated through me: this time is ending. It’s time to go home. I’ve been thinking and talking about it for a few months now, it seems, but part of all that talk was some attempt to try to make it seem real. Now it is real. It’s happening. I’m actually saying goodbye to people.
Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and spend my day helping slaughter a family goat or sheep (I’m not sure which, but I’m hoping for baby goat). It is my way of saying goodbye to Rakia, Abdelqader, Mohamed, and Soufianne – my landlord’s family. And with each goodbye, when it’s done, it’s done. And it feels very good to know that I go carrying some kind of love I’ve built up for these friends and families over my two years, and that they will carry the same love with them for some silly American who could barely speak their language but enjoyed them all the same.