Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer Scatter

While a lack in writing often times reflects lethargy from the writer, it can also be the result of surrounding environmental conditions. In that sense, my writing hiatus perfectly reflects the current state that engulfs me. It is now Ramadan, and for those who are familiar with the most sacred Muslim holiday of personal sacrifice and discipline, you know that the entire trajectory of life in a Muslim country is altered to adjust to it. Stores close down erratically, fights break out over the price of tea and bread (not that they have changed, but just because it is something to fight over), and finding anything to eat or drink as a non-Muslim seeking to maintain their homeostasis is a serious challenge.

Fortunately for me, however, I managed to spend the first week of this life adjustment on the road. When traveling as a Westerner in Morocco, people assume I am a tourist (despite the beard and tan that I have worked on assiduously over the past two years), and actually expect me to eat and drink during the day hours. This makes for the one time of year that I enjoy sticking out, for it actually works to my advantage if I am not attempting to fast.

Skipping back a bit, last week I did return from yet another month of travel. It started with going to El-Jadida to help out with my final English immersion summer camp. This year camp was done a little differently, with a focus on country clubs instead of the traditional clubs of music, theatre, art, etc. Each camper was assigned to one of 8 countries, and spent the duration of the camp learning about their respective country, while competing against other countries for points. The entire camp was thus turned into a competition between nations towards triumph (which mainly consisted of bragging rights and a piece of paper saying they won- they were nevertheless highly motivated as a whole to beat out their competition and claim victory). Teams were able to win points through demonstrating good English, participation, and points earned in contests.

As the librarian for the camp I was given the ability to create any means of point distribution I saw fit. I decided early on that I would have two contests that would be carried out through the entire camp session for this- a reading race and haiku writing. Without thinking about the implications, I said that I would reward every haiku written with 5 points, which on the point scale was not a small number. Once campers realized the impact of writing these simple short poems, they began to really milk the system for them. By the third day of camp I became overwhelmed with haikus from all directions. Most of them were correct, although could have been a bit more creative. Example:
I like to ride bikes
they are very beautiful
I like to play games

The overflow of such poems became so strong that they began to define my camp experience. As for the team I helped lead, Jamaica, they were down many points and on the last day of camp became haiku writing maniacs, causing them to gain 150 points worth of them and win the camp long competition. Of course, me being the person responsible for such a large point distribution, it was my duty to announce the winning team to the group of 100 campers who had tried their hardest to win, yet simply did not milk the system enough. A daunting task. Despite the mania, camp was great as a whole and I will surely think of it fondly when I am doing something far more dull for work in the future.

Following camp I had about 5 days free before my COS (close of service) conference, so I stayed up north and went to Chefchaouen, a beautiful mountain town about an hour south of the Mediterranean, for a relaxing excursion and a final burning of my remaining vacation days. The small city of about 60,000 people is set on the side of a mountain, with most parts built on a slope. Its building are covered with blue and white, a staple of its beauty. Its surrounding mountainous fields being home to Morocco’s hashish(and therefore, much of the worlds) supply, it’s no wonder that everyone that inhabits the town is so peaceful and friendly, or that amazing artwork can be found behind every corner. After four days of taking in the tranquility, I was ready to move on to other things.

Following that came the time for the event that every PCV patiently awaits 2 years for: the conference that beings the 3 month check out process of our service. The remaining members of the stage (training group) that I swore in with nearly 2 year ago assembled together to reflect on our service and life after the Peace Corps. Needless to say, it was a pretty emotion filled event, and helped to have people re-connect and relate with one another on shared difficulties (especially those of us who are still trying to figure out what we are doing with the rest of our lives). Re-immersion into American society was a big topic, and felt very reminiscent of staging in the states, when we talked about the same sorts of things, but for cultural integration into Moroccan society. A panel of RPCV’s (returned peace corps volunteers) came in to speak with us about their experiences re-integrating helped to see different perspectives on the issue. It was a good eye opener, and helped us realize that maybe more things have changed in ourselves than we are capable of realizing while we are still in Morocco. Daunting yet helped, it was good time.

This brings me back to the present...the hot, sticky, slow, sandy, food deprived present. I have spent the past week hiding inside my house (which is pretty much the only thing to do during the day) and have been working on the many components of preparing myself for leaving Morocco. I have also been semi-fasting in my unceasing attempt to integrate with the locals. Fasting without breaking any of the rules consists of abstaining from all eating, drinking, or smoking of any substances during all daylight hours. In order to do it one must change his daily routine entirely. The way most unemployed people do this is by staying up as late as possible at night and sleeping in as late as possible during the day (see my previous submission from last September entitled “Ramadan: A month of adjustment” for more details). Furthermore, they must wake up at 3:30 in the morning to eat the dinner meal before the sunrise. This part is the hardest for me, in that I am not a morning person, and have difficulty eating anything, let alone a meal large enough to hold me over for the entire day to follow, at 3:30 am. So by “semi-fasting” I mean that I might take a sip of water from time to time, but am obtaining from food during daylight hours as much as I can. Despite the toll this adjustment might play on my health, it seems to be a good mental exercise, and something that I have no intentions of doing later in life while not in a Muslim country, so I might as well try it now.

Whew, that was a long one. Perhaps the diffusion of this entry, like the delay in writing it, also reflects the effect that this time of the year has on me. For those of you who follow this regularly and may have expected more order, I hope you understand. Until next time...

Friday, July 24, 2009

The trail provides

The past month and a half of my life has been more action packed than I could have ever imagined a Moroccan summer to be. Summer days that have previously been spent stuck to my sofa and swatting flies from my face have been substituted with making considerable progress on projects and taking what was easily the craziest(in a good way) vacation of a lifetime.

On the work front, this past month I was approved for the grant for the computer resource center that I have been working on since March. All of the SPA grant funds needed for purchasing 10 computers, 1 new laser printer, and all the things required in order to set them up was transferred to my Moroccan bank account, and just like that, the most daunting and potentially sustainable project that I have pursued in my time here is nearing completion. To top things off, the president of the association that I have been working with for it was recently elected the president of the local governing body in a major sub community of my town, which has given me extra credibility since I am working so closely with him. It’s a nice feeling to have friends and work partners in high places.

In early September I will be meeting with the association members to install everything in the center and have an opening celebration. If I hadn’t already seen the computers I might think that all this project completion is too good to be true. Sustainability here we come (inchallah)!

OK, so now to the good stuff...

Gnaoua Festival, tallest mountain in North Africa, and RUNNING OF THE BULLS

Things began by getting out of the desert and heading straight for the beach. After a month in the ruthless summer heat (which I may have mentioned in this blog once or twice before) the beach becomes a magnetic-like force, pulling you inexorably closer until all the sweat and sand is washed away and you can once again think clearly. Another reason for my travels, other than mere sanity maintenance was to check out the annual Gnaoua Music Festival which is held in Essaouira and drawls in people and music from many parts of the world. Upon arrival it was as if I had stepped into another of a variety of different sounds, people, and sights that I had not seen in Morocco in my 2 years here. For 4 days the beach side city of Essaouira becomes packed with people and music and is anything but dull. Wandering through the town is like wandering through a maze full of stimuli that envelop the senses waiting around every corner. Needless to say, it was quite a good way to start off the trip.

After the beachside festivities I moved from ocean line to skyline, as I journeyed to the highest mountain in North Africa, Mount Toubkal, with the intention of climbing it. Given my tight schedule the climb was made even more daunting in that I had to summit and return down the 14,000 foot peak in under 48 hours. A true test of endurance and my 6 year old New Balances, a few of my fellow PCV’s and I managed to make it all the way up within our time limit. After climbing up past the tree line to base camp and spending the night, we moved up and onto the roof of Morocco in under 3 hours...most certainly intense for people who spend their typical days sitting in a coffee shop sipping tea. After exercise of such proportions and exhilaration I don’t think I can ever go back to a gym.

After making it down the mountain, which was much more frightening then the ascent given all the loose rocks, I ventured onward, and made my way to Fes, and from there, straight to Spain.

Spain. So close to Morocco, yet seemingly so very far away. The moment I set foot in the airport in the neighboring country that I had heard so much about, I was reassured that much of what I was told about this first world paradise was true. Modern amenities, no “bonjours”, or inquiries of my religion, and most amazingly, vending machines with beer. With my horribly rusty Spanish and my bag of dirty clothes I set off with my friends to our first Spanish destination, a small rustic beach town in the Girona province.

From Girona we moved on to Barcelona, which has got to be one of the most incredible cities that I have ever visited. Huge, intricate, beautiful, and laid back, it possesses all the characteristics that I often look for in a place. We spent a relaxed 2 days there, exploring parks ubiquitous with talented street musicians, tasting savory food (of a much larger variety than is available in Morocco...and with pork!), roaming the beach, and discovering impressive sites around every corner in the historic district. Despite the sensory overload that this great city had to offer, there was nothing that could have adequately prepared me for what was waiting for me in Pamplona.

We arrived there a day early for the festival, since the early bus was the only one with any seats left. The first few hours there proved to be a good indication of our living conditions for the 3 days to follow. Without a hostel or hotel, and exhausted from the lengthy bus ride with no sleep, our first 5 hours at the place were spent passed out on the grassy area behind the bus station. Watching more than half of the passengers do the same, and seeing them also armed with sleeping bags and tents, it was comforting to know that we were among our own kind.

5 hours later one of my friends and I awoke and ventured out to do some exploring. In just an hour we managed to find a place to drop off our luggage for a small fee, booths to purchase the infamous running of the bulls outfit (white shirt, white pants, red bandanna, and red waist wrap if so desired), and a park to set up camp in for the duration of the festival. This first day was spent relaxing and taking in the sites...little did we know just how mandatory this resting period was.

The follow day was the opening day of the festival. Little did I know that this meant that everything aside from the actual running of the bulls was to start at noon, and to not stop for the next 7 days. By 8 in the morning there were already people crowding the streets with red and white, and running to local grocers to stock up on Sangria and 40 oz’s. The main thing that caught me by surprise initially was just how many people were in on this...everyone. Literally every person in the city, which itself is 195,769 people large without tourists that come in for the festival, was covered in people wearing these outfits, and preparing for the weeks worth of festivities that were soon to follow.

At 12pm on the dot the party started, just as planned. In a sea of red and white in the center city plaza, my friends and I toasted our various beverages to begin what was easily going to be the craziest party I have ever gone to, and will probably ever go to again. High school aged kids ran around and sprayed each other with wine and various food products, giving us no choice but to accept the inevitability of getting grimy and going with it. Where people weren’t trashing one another, they were shouting various Spanish cheers at the top of their lungs, or beating one another with inflatable bats. In one way or another, every person in that city was partying as if they never had before, and would never do so again.

For 7 days...

When one hears that a party lasts for 7 days, it may be instinctive to assume that such an event would stop occasionally for things such as sleeping, eating, cleaning, and intermittent recuperating. But no, this party does not stop until precisely 7 days from its starting time. After the opening event in the plaza there was some kind of signal (perhaps a gunshot, my mind is a little hazy of this time), which apparently indicated to everyone that is was time to disperse and create mayhem in the long, narrow streets that embody the old city. As far as the eye could see, down every street corner, there were people packed shoulder to shoulder, yet too drunk to mind it. The entire municipality became one drunken organism of red and white, moving capriciously in various directions like that of a planchette from a Ouija Board.

Every once and awhile whilst stumbling through the crowd we would discover a small marching band somehow penetrating through the masses and making their way on some kind of circuitous rout through the clustered city. Every time we would discover one of these, we followed them quite a ways, falling in line with them, dancing, and downing more sangria, in that we knew we would need to pass out early to give us rest for the life threatening activities that were scheduled the following day. We managed to stay awake and agile until about 9:00, when we somehow found a way back to our park, which was by then covered with other campers, and passed out.

The alarm went off at 5am. By the alarm I mean my over excited friend who stuck his head into my tent and said “Let’s go run with some bulls!”, or something to that extent. I got up, put on my 6 year old holey new balances, and we were off to find the starting line. Walking through the city at 5:15 in the morning was no different than walking through it at 8:00 in the evening. The streets were still packed with people, only this time they were a little less energetic, given the now 17 hour drinking, hash smoking, and whatever else might have been out there binge. After having squeezed through the masses and stepped over trash and people passed out in the streets, we made it to what was apparently a spot near the starting line.

While waiting there we met many other English speakers, and spent a good deal of time conversing, trying to determine the best place to actually start running from the 1000 lbs animals, along with strategies for not getting crushed (ie stay with the group, don’t run to the side by yourself, stay away from isolated bulls, and of course, do not consider running if you are still intoxicated from the nights festivities). After about 2 hours of this, we saw a large group of police come in, some of whom appeared to be equipped with riot gear. My friends and I watched as the group made their way through the crowd behind us, formed a tight line, and then slowly began moving forward, thus compressing all of us in front of them, and slowly pushing us backwards through the narrow street.

After about 10 minutes of this cattle like pushing and prodding it occurred to us that we were being kicked out of the course. Another 10 minutes later we were pushed out of the course and into a side alley, after which the police closed a large black gate, preventing re-entry. At this point, with only 20 minutes before the releasing of the bulls, we really started to get concerned that we would miss this insane event that we had travelled so far and prepared so much for (by prepared for I mean going to sleep early and getting decent nights sleep in a park before hand, but even that took considerable effort given the circumstances).

Like chickens with our heads cut off, the hundreds of us that had just been kicked off of the course ran around frantically from alley to alley, dodging the remaining drunkards of the previous evening and getting increasingly desperate for some possible mode of re-entry. After all the exits had been checked and deemed impassable, the one remaining friend in site and I considered the attempt to be futile headed off towards the main arena to try and watch some of the action from there. In desperation to see something through the myriad of bodies piled into every possible viewing space, we climbed up the metal gate of a locked entryway and watched as we heard the starting gun shot and saw the people in the front of the pack start to rush by. And then it happened.

I saw my chance when I noticed a man who was standing at the corner of one of the main fences blocking the track disappear. Without thinking twice, I called out to my friend “there!”, and went for it. As I squeezed around the side of the exterior gate, and then under the bottom rung of the inner-most gate, I could hear the sound of thunder approaching quickly. By the time I was in the course, all I could see at first were hoards people running frantically towards the areas entrance. Curious as to how far back the bulls were, but deciding to not take my chances waiting around for them, I started to jog with the crowd. About 5 seconds after I began to move I turned my head to the side and saw a very large, pissed off animal in my peripheral vision. This is when it clicked in my head “ok, this is very real, and I need to run faster now”. About 15 seconds later I entered the arena, and darted off to the right as 6 animal-tanks stormed off in a straight line from behind me. Taking in how happy I was that I had decided to pick up the pace when I did, I looked around me and was instantly struck by the scene. I was no longer a regular civilian...I was now a gladiator, in the middle of an arena designed for battle, full of spectators with the thirst for blood.

After the last bull entered, the doors were slammed shut, leaving approximately 250 of us in the ring with the savage beasts.

The bulls that ran the run were taken into a back stable, leaving the ring bulless, but only for one minute. Not knowing what was going on, I was busy being captivated by the giant projection of someone getting gored merely minutes before on the runway, when the first bull was released into the pit. A smaller bull, but still very large and dangerous, it stampeded around the sandy circle, getting increasingly angry as people would run up to slap its ass or perform some kind of daring harassment of the sort. Personally, I was comfortable just being a spectator, yet even so had to constantly run around and change positions in order to dodge both the frantic crowd and the bull itself. At several points the shield of people, which I attempted to maintain between me and the bull at all times, broke quickly, putting me eye to eye with the infuriated animal. Fortunately, despite being horrified, I was still able to run like hell and each time managed to escape the horns of death that came hurdling towards me on each of these occasions. This continued for an hour, with about 5 bulls being released into the ring one by one, until finally everyone was kicked out.

The rest of Pamplona stay was spent reentering the debauchery for a day, and then getting the hell out of there. In retrospect, the main thing I can say about this event for anyone who is interested in it is to go there and experience it for yourself. No matter how much it is written about and photographed, no documentation can suffice what it is like to be in this chaotic montage of partying and life risking activities.

The rest of the vacation was spent relaxing on the beach in San Sebastian, about an hour away on the Northern Atlantic coast, and then heading back to Barcelona, from where I headed back to reenter the lifestyle that is so different, yet that I have become so accustomed to that it really did feel like coming back home.

In other news, it is 120 degrees in my house and I have begun to stick to everything I touch. But more on that later. Until next time...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Work still kickin...more or less

It is now the time of year that I have come to refer to as the tipping point. This is the point when the weather is heating up at what appears to be a few degrees every day, and has an inverse relationship to the amount of activity that goes on in town. I am hesitant to admit that it is summer quite yet, in that I am not yet sweating bullets and forced to sleep with a soaked sheet draped over my naked body for protection from the deadly heat waves trapped inside my oven-turned house, yet it is most certainly getting there.

In one of my many efforts to counteract the feeling of worthlessness that such a raise in temperature and a drop in anything productive tends to engender, I decided to hold a SIDA (French acronym for AIDS) candlelight vigilante at the Dar Chebab last Thursday. Despite my procrastination in advertising for this event, there was a remarkable turnout, and it ended up being a big success.

With a focus on empathy for victims of HIV/AIDS, we started things out with several activities that involved having a volunteer, or volunteers, needing to accomplish a task that required the assistance of audience members for its accomplishment. I always enjoy such activities in that the message pretty much speaks for itself and requires little explanation and analysis in Darija. My favorite of these activities entails taking 3 volunteers from the audience out of the room, and asking the audience members to pick an object in which the volunteers must locate as they come in one by one. When the first volunteer enters, the spectators are instructed to “boo” loudly and obnoxiously (was glad to help with this part) when he/she gets farther to the object, and do nothing when he/she gets farther away. With the second person, people are instructed to “boo” when he/she gets farther, and applaud when he/she gets closer. Finally, with the third person, people are told to cheer him or her on when going towards the object, and provide no negative feedback when going away from it. Gotta love an activity that involves being noisy to make a point.

This was followed by an incredible presentation from my favorite counterpart Merium, the Mudira (principle figure) the Dar Taliba (girls center). Entirely on her own she made up a game similar to “hot potato”, which involved passing a ball of multiple sheets of paper, each with a trivia question about an AIDS/HIV fact (i.e. “How can HIV be transferred?) around in a circle with music playing. Whenever the music stopped, whoever was holding the ball at that time would have to read a question out loud and attempt to answer it, with the audience adding to and critiquing the response as needed. It was probably the most captivating and information heavy activity I have witnessed since being here.

As for the candlelight vigilant itself, it all went according to our last minute haphazard plan. We created an AIDS ribbon in the gravel outside the Dar Chebab, handed out the candles, lit them for the kids, and walla, instant AIDS memorial. Despite it being short lived, it made for a great photo-op and the seemed to be rewarding for the kids. Inchallah, this can be something that future generations of PCV’s and community leaders can continue in the future.

Aside from the vigilante and occasional classes (which have been increasingly wearing thin given the time of year, and the cramming for the high school exams being carried out by my students), the past month has been pretty laid back. Indeed, it is the time of year that for me consists of the accomplishment of personal tasks, continued exploration of my surroundings here (which will not come to an end until my service does), and excessive amounts of relaxation. It is also time for me to begin finalizing my plans for summer travel to Spain, along with post PC travel through West Africa.

Oh, how I will miss my Moroccan summer schedule (along with my Moroccan life “schedule” for that matter). Until next time...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Strange Comfort

I have now been in this country for more than 20 months. I know this because I have a calendar that helps remind of what it’s like to have a real schedule, and to live in a world where time is more than just a concept, indicated primarily by calls to prayer and the rising and falling of the sun. Yesterday, while I was leading stretches (in Arabic) for a group of 20 young women as part of our basketball practice warm up, I was hit with a realization. It struck me that at this point in my service I have become so comfortable with the foreign milieu that encompasses me that it has reached a point of sub consciousness, in which I pay no mind to just how different my life is to that of the average American. Allow me to illustrate with the other events that made up yesterday for me:

I wake up at 8:00 to a donkey braying right outside my window. I turn to my side, doing my best to go back to my now-hazy dream involving a Boy Scout camping trip from my childhood. Just as the wood-licking flames of the campfire begin to cascade into view, the fly arrives. That fly. The one that always lands on the most inconvenient place possible, at the most inconvenient time possible, and is just as adamant on staying there as I am on killing it. After doing my best to cover my head and other parts of my body, my efforts are deemed futile against the incessant fly asshole, so I figure it is time to get up.

After a breakfast of eggs, cheese, and instant coffee, I get my papers together for the computer grant I am working on and head out to the post office to send them off to PC headquarters in Rabat. After a final meeting with the association I am working on the grant with the previous evening, it appears as if I finally have all the materials together for grant approval. This is good because it means all I have left to do for this project is wait; something I have gotten very good at in my time here.

As I pull up to the post office on my bike, I see one of my hanut(small store), Tijani, and walk up to greet him. Him being one of my better friends at the local market, I decide to go in for the classic cheek kiss greeting, starting with the right cheek “Allah aslamtik!” (Praise be to God for allowing me to see you again). Move on to the left. “Labas alik?” (Is everything good with you?)Move back to the right “Labas” (it’s all good. Back to the left again, completing the 4 kisses, which completes the standard greeting. “Wesh unta labas?” (is it all good with you?) “iyea, labas, lhumdullah” (yup, its all good, praise be to God).

Once we had finished our minute long greeting, Tijani was quick to remind me that later that day, in fact just a few hours from then, was going to be a soccer practice that he had been trying to get me to come to for months. Despite the fact that I hadn’t played soccer in 10 years, I had promised him that I would come out and practice some time just for the fun of it (or, moreover, to provide entertainment for the others who I would be playing with).

After killing the hours in between with reading on my roof (an aspect of just about every PC work day), I threw on some shorts and sneakers and took off. When I arrived to my towns soccer field (which is essentially a giant field of dirt, yet one of the best in the region nonetheless), I quickly realized that this was going to be no picnic. Once greeted by the coach, who was followed by a dozen other athletic guys in their early 20’s, it occurred to me that this was actually the practice of my town’s official soccer team, who, it turns out, is one of the best in the region. Despite the town’s size, this team often competes against large cities like Meknes, Fes, and even Rabat, so they indeed mean business.

Before getting a chance to back out, the coach threw some cleats and a jersey at me, and insisted that I get dressed immediately. I reluctantly did as he said (not that I had much of an option at that point), and started running laps around the giant dirt field with the rest of the Berber muscle machines that composed the team. The hour and a half that followed consisted of what was most certainly the most physically intense workout that I have experienced here in Morocco. Like basic military training with a soccer ball. Never while in this country did I expect to do so many pushups, sit-ups, stretches, and ball busting drills while being yelled at in French. However, once the soccer ball drills began to get beyond my point of feasible completion, I had to check out. As I said I was leaving, and turned toward to the grimy locker room, the whole team communally turned to me and said “bsha!” (to your health!), and the coach yelled after me to come back again next practice.

After taking a cold shower and making a tuna sandwich for lunch (tuna makes up about 90% of my lunches here) it was time for basketball practice with the women from the neddy (women’s house). I rode up the front door on my bike, walked inside, and found all the women in their sweats and sneakers, ready for athleticism. This is always a great site to see, in that before my presence working with them, many of these women never got a chance to play sports or do anything athletic at all, given that all the sport areas in my town are very male dominated. The mudira (neddy director) greeted me and asked if I could lead some stretches for the women before heading out to the basketball court. This kind of request leads me to believe that the women I work with here see me as more than just a regular guy, in that normally doing stretches of any kind in front of men is considered to be highly shuma (forbidden). Perhaps they see me as the awkward adopted American brother they’ve always wanted.

After the brief aerobics session, which they appeared to be very receptive to (fortunately, given that I had just been led in stretches earlier that day, knowledge of what to do was still pretty fresh in my head) we meandered over to the basketball court. I know about as much about coaching basketball as I do about coaching rugby...not much. Fortunately, given that the neddy women are all neophytes to the world of sports, this is pretty easy to cover up. My usual drills consist of lay-up lines, dribbling, passing, and shooting exercises, followed by a brief game. Despite the fact that the exercises vary, at any point these girls are viewed during practice it looks about the same: loud, giggling, head- covered girls running around aimlessly like chickens with their heads cut off. Clearly, this makes it difficult to be taken seriously by the hoards of guys who flock to watch like a heard of hungry and critical hyenas. Yet fortunately the point is not to be taken seriously, yet for the girls to enjoy themselves and get a workout that they otherwise could probably not obtain.

Basketball practice was followed by my English class for beginners. Without time to change out of my then sweat covered clothes, I had no choice but to carry on and teach parts of the body, starting off with “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” as a warm up.

Class was followed by a meat sandwich, which was then followed by reading the rest of the night away. And so it goes. This day, despite the irregularity with the boot camp soccer practice, was not different from most days I spend here. It is what I have come to know of as life at this juncture, and, as with all routines, I have come to go through these motions without really thinking about them. If it weren’t for the point of reference given to me by the internet and speaking intermittently with friends and family back home, then I might even forget just how unusual my life has become shwya b shwya (little by little).

Until next time...