A Bittersweet Good-bye

This week we’re having our Swearing-In ceremony, which is our first big landmark of Peace Corps service. It signifies the end of our training period and our transition from being Peace Corps Trainees to being actual Volunteers (which is actually a pretty big deal although it might not seem like it). This is one of those parts of service when Peace Corps people like to reflect about how far they’ve come and all that stuff… so hang on with us the next few weeks if our blog posts get a little cliché.

We left Taounate on Saturday to come to Rabat for our Swearing-In later this week, and leaving ended up being an extremely emotional experience.  We thought that integrating into the community and learning Darija would be the most difficult part of our training period, but it turned out that leaving our host family was pretty difficult and painful as well.  Our family has been amazing for us (which is not something that can be universally expected in the Peace Corps – it wasn’t even the experience for all of the trainees in Taounate) and we really felt like we had become part of the family. There were lots of hugs, tears, invitations, and promises to come back and visit in the days before we left. The final morning Mama Naima even got up at 5:45am to walk with us to the bus stop so she could give us each one last long hug before we left.

The whole experience of leaving really emphasized the power of making connections in the communities where we live. The Peace Corps has been telling us this from the start, but it wasn’t until we left our first homestay experience and looked back on it that we really understood the experience of connecting with a Moroccan family and their community. As Mama Naima has told us at least 20 times, we are welcome in their home for the next two years and probably for many years beyond that, which is pretty amazing. We might not be able to converse above a 2nd grade level, we might have miscommunications on a weekly (if not daily) basis, and we might not enjoy being told to “KUL!” long after we’re full at the end of a meal, but a Moroccan household has accepted us as part of the family. We’ve shared meals, laughs, and a mutual respect for each others’ cultures, and that makes up for a lot of what we’re lacking in other areas. And the fact that we made such a deep connection with our family in just two months really put in perspective what the friendships we’ll make during our years in Azilal have the potential to be. We need to make strong connections so we can put down roots in the community, so we can offer useful assistance, and so we can stay sane while living so far from our family, friends and fellow volunteers.  After living in Taounate for a couple months, we’re finally (mostly) confident that we can accomplish that.

We’ll end this post with a half-sad, half-funny story from the night before we left:
We made a handwritten card to give to Mama Naima and the family along with our thank-you gift to them, and we wrote it in Arabic script to make it a little extra special (she can’t read but we figured the rest of the family would appreciate it). When we brought it out to give it to her we wanted to read it out loud for her, but we were both so teary and emotional that we had a really hard time deciphering the Arabic script in the first place (even though we had written it) and pronouncing it correctly after we figured out what each word said. We interrupted our gift-giving to run and find our notes that we had used to write the card, but we still didn’t end up making much sense, so Anass had to re-read the card for Naima. I’m sure you all can imagine us sitting around crying a little, laughing a little, and hugging each other as this is all going on – it was a sad moment, but also something nice to be a part of. Hopefully Naima and Anass felt the same way.

Can’t wait to head to swear-in on Wednesday and head to Azilal to start the next two years on Thursday!
-Cori and Matt

7 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Good-bye

  1. Matthew and Cori,

    This is a very touching post. We, your family at home, so appreciate that Mama Naima and Anass welcomed you into their home and family with open arms and made you feel comfortable during your months there. I can only imagine the mixed emotions that accompany your leaving of Taounette, swearing in ceremony(ies), and arrival in Azilal.

    We miss you and think about you often. We share your posts with the kids here at home. (Claire was astounded when she told her fellow sixth-graders–who are studying Africa– that her aunt & uncle are in the Peace Core in Morocco and None of the 25 kids knew what the Peace Core was.) We are sending you love and big hopes that the next phase of this journey is as fulfilling as the first, if not more.

    xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
    Love, Lisa (and hugs from Claire, Emma, and Dave as well)…with a doggie snuggle from Luna

  2. I know exactly how you feel! I cried when I left my host family 3 years ago at the end of my study abroad time and it was so great to see them last summer when I came back. I know you will meet plenty of other people in the new site to miss terribly when you leave. Good luck in the new site!
    -Kelly

  3. We echo Lisa’s comments. We are so thankful you had such a lovely family to stay with when you first arrived in Morocco and that they treated you like their own. What a great experience! We can’t wait to hear about your new city and are so excited for you!

    Love,

    Mom and Dad

  4. Thanks for another great update – I’m glad to hear that you’re making such great connections to people while you’re out there. Much love from home…

    .Andrew.

  5. Loving the blog, and especially this beautiful post – can’t wait to read all about your adventures as you start the next part of your PC experience! Love to you both! ~Ginny

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