It’s been a hot, long month – that sweltering, god-awful hot where, as Anteus likes to say, it’s so hot your sweat sweats.
But yesterday afternoon, that heat spell was finally broken by an hour-long rainstorm. I was napping and woke up to the smell of the rain in the house and the sound of the droplets hitting the floor because I hadn’t covered the huge hole in my roof. Shower time, I thought. I jumped out of bed and ran to stand under the sunroof and just let the rain cover me right there in my hallway.
And that was it. That momentary relief was when I knew Ramadan was over.
After the rain shower (literally), I spent thirty minutes trying to brush the blue kool-aid off my tongue before I biked over to break fast with Allal and his family for the last time. When I got there, there was this explosion of happiness and joy in the air, and it wasn’t just the fact that Allal was stuffing his pipe full of hash the way he always does when I see him. It was this happiness that the holy month was reaching an end. You couldn’t hide from it.
I don’t remember being so grateful at the end of Ramadan last year, which is especially funny, because I didn’t fast this year (even though I was lying about that a lot), and last summer, I fasted every single day, even from water. I think a big part of it is that I’ve spent so much time with families this year, whereas last year, I may have been fasting, but I was doing it completely on my own. This time, there was this sense of relief that came with it that I don’t know how to fully describe. It was like letting go of some incredible weight. I definitely understand how this month can be so sacred to Muslims, even if I’ll never be Muslim.
This morning, for Eid Al-Fitur, that sense of relief was replaced with horror, as the delicacy of the morning was none other than goat liver wrapped in stomach lining fat and shoved onto a skewer. I think I might have to be conveniently sick and in Rabat for the upcoming big holiday, because I just don’t know if I can do even more goat organs, and this was a little reminder of the fact that I will still be here when the big holiday arrives.
As I was eating the kabob, I glanced around the room while one of the women prayed. I feel like that’s not something you get to see very often, the women praying, and I was a little shocked she was comfortable doing it in front of me. That’s a big difference between my host family and my landlord’s family. In my host family, it’s work just to get the women to eat in the same room as me or to get permission to watch them cook. In Allal’s family, it’s just one big party, and gender doesn’t seem to come with the same barriers. I sense that they aren’t quite as religious as some other families I’ve come to know, but I use that term loosely, because Allal and his family are definitely, definitely religious.
Glancing around, I noticed that the walls of Allal’s dining room (if you can call it that) are bare and pink. There is one black-and-white picture of an older gentlemen with his head covered who I suspect is Allal’s father. Moroccans generally leave the walls empty, because the Qu’ran deems it shameful to have idols in your home. That’s not to say people don’t hang things on the wall anyway, but if they do, it’s usually of someone extremely important – a family patriarch or the King. This morning, they covered the floor with beautiful, wool rugs. Allal doesn’t know it yet, but when I leave, I’m very likely to give him my two sofas, my bed, and my two couches. For a family that literally has nothing beyond rugs and blankets to sit on, I feel like that’s a pretty big deal as a gift, and Allal tells me that after I move, they are going to move into my house and live here. I find that exciting, and I know they’ll love it here if this house brings them half the joy it’s brought me with its turquoise walls and its candy-apple red, cement floors.
Allal’s family is obsessed with the fact that I’m leaving. They keep asking if I’ll call them from America, or they tell me things I shouldn’t forget before I leave. It’s still well over two months before I finish my service, but they make it seem like it’s coming tomorrow. Like today when Allal reminded me that I need to make sure I lock up the door and give him the key back before I leave. Cause we won’t have that conversation eighteen more times between now and then?
So, leaving’s sort of been implanted onto my mind, y’might say. I keep telling myself that I have a long way to go between now and then. Jonathan and I just submitted a $500 grant to Peace Corps for a diabetes workshop. I’m pretty excited for this project. Maybe even more excited than I was over the glasses, because this one was my baby, and the glasses project was a hand-me-down project from Caity that I grabbed hold of and ran away with.
I’ve mentioned the diabetes project a few times now, but the details are this: on a Saturday in late September, we’re bringing 50 kids over sixteen to the youth center and training them on the causes, effects, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of diabetes. We’re giving each kid two workbooks filled with information on diabetes and nutrition in Standard Arabic. Then, we’re feeding them lunch, and finally, they are going to be sent out as part of a peer education model to local shops and cafe’s to educate fifty additional people around town about diabetes. The next two days, we are partnering with the Ministry of Health and a local diabetes association to provide insulin and blood pressure checks for anyone in the entire community who can come to the health fair.
Y’know, for all the money Peace Corps forks out for AIDs prevention, I think this is far more important. I don’t mean to be knocking HIV/AIDs assistance, especially in Africa, but you’re far, far more likely to contract HIV in America than anyone is in Morocco. It’s just not the crisis here it is elsewhere in Africa. Of course, you could credit that to the good work people are doing to make sure Morocco doesn’t become, say, West Africa, but 2 million people have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes in this country, and there’s only about 8 million people in the country altogether. I’m hoping my project can set a precedent for other volunteers, because while I know of a few health lessons here and there, I don’t know any other volunteers who have done a whole project on this issue, and I think it’s absolutely daroori (necessary) that Peace Corps make diabetes education a major focus of its efforts.
In the meantime, the reminder of my service is relatively quiet. My director, Hassan, is closing the youth center so that they can build a second floor and put his house next to the building. No English classes. So, instead, I’m working on grad school applications, manuscripts, my second novel (six chapter deep), packing, saying goodbyes, etc. I’m definitely keeping busy. It’s just mostly a kind of busy that keeps me writing constantly, but I like that.
Tomorrow, I might even go to a cafe during the day and drink a coke. I can’t even begin to express how exciting that is.