Omar.

When I first got to his house two years ago, it was just a visit.  Before going to our final sites, Peace Corps dispatched us out on a one-week test run, so to speak, giving volunteers the chance to say, “Y’know, I went to this place, and I didn’t like it; send me somewhere else, please.”  But when I met Omar, and his brother Hamza, I knew immediately that I was where I was supposed to be for two years.

When I first arrived in site, Omar was 17 and studying like mad for his final semester of high school.  After every meal, we sat together in a freezing cold house under one blanket, and I taught him English while he taught me Arabic.  In my first three months of living with him and his family, I watched Omar grow into one of the most responsible and mature young men I’ve ever met.

A few weeks before I moved into the “January house,” I set up my mp3 player and a pair of speakers in my host family’s living room.  I then put my music on shuffle and immediately started dancing like a fool.  The first five minutes, I was a ridiculous joke, and Omar and Hamza couldn’t stop laughing, but after I refused to stop, they decided to join in, and for over an hour, we just danced.  My Arabic was still pretty awful at that point, but when you don’t have a common language, there’s so many other ways to communicate.  Dancing became our way of laughing and bonding.  Like brothers.

I’ve never been so proud as I was the day Omar turned out to be one of the top students in our town, passing the Baccalaureate exam (in English) with flying colors and guaranteeing himself a place in Fes at a prestigious university.  I was sad to see him go, and my second year in site was a much quieter one at first without Omar around to stop by my house.

Omar probably had one of the biggest impacts on me in my service, and I will miss him dearly.

Since today was my last day in Fes, I called him up and ordered him to meet me at McDonald’s where I bought him a Cheeseburger and a McFlurry.  We then took turns sharing pictures on our laptops.  I told him about the book I’m working on writing, and he told me about his plans to apply to school in France or America after he finishes school in Morocco.  I don’t know if that will happen, but Omar is always welcome in America, and I very much hope to see him again.

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