16 October 2014

Flipping the Switch

I'm back in Morocco.  This fact has ceased to surprise anyone: me, returning to Morocco, where it all started, but for me, every time is different, and I am very excited about the year ahead.

For those of you who don't already know, I'm going to be working for the organization CorpsAfrica/Maroc.  CorpsAfrica is a non-governmental organization that seeks to "provide young adults across Africa the opportunity to serve as 'Peace Corps Volunteers' in their own countries and help drive solutions to poverty at the community level (like 'AmeriCorps' for African countries)," and I will be serving as the Training and Volunteer Support Specialist for their second cohort of volunteers in Morocco.  It's a perfect match for my passions and experience, especially because I get to incorporate everything I've learned so far in my professional life and put it to good use.  And, you know, help some people or something while I'm at it.

I also feel quite honored to be where I am because I am technically serving as a Peace Corps Response volunteer, which means much of my funding and support will be provided by Peace Corps Morocco. This does a lot to assuage any fears my family might have about my safety and security, and also gives me great medical care and an 'out' if things get sticky here.  Which I don't really expect them to, but you never know.  On the other side of the Peace Corps coin comes the restrictions and responsibilities that come with receiving funding from the US Government - less talk of politics, travel restrictions, and making sure someone knows where I am at all times.  It is worth it to me for now, and a sacrifice I am willing to make for the benefits I get, and the people with whom I am privileged to work.  At least this time, there's no 5 Person Rule! (Back in 2007, we were not allowed to be more than 5 people in any city in Morocco except Rabat...)

Another part of this experience for me is how much I more I know, how much more aware I am going in.  I've lived in the city, I've lived in the semi-rural areas, I've visited the VERY rural areas and the completely empty areas.  I have a network of friends and 'family' that I can call if I need something or even if I'm just lonely.  I've been in Rabat since Monday and already hung out with six different people!

I can read Arabic - kind of - and I know about the politics and I feel I have a good handle on both sides of many of the controversies that exist here.  Morocco to me is not what it is was five years ago: I now see it as "normal" and a place where, at the end of the day, I can be myself in many ways that I wasn't able to in the United States, because my Self has changed and molded into a new kind of Third Culture global citizen.  I can, as the title of this blog suggests, flip a switch and become Zineb, my Moroccan identity, with the language and the polychronism and the traditionalism and the conservativism that describes many Moroccans (though not all, of course).  Or, I can remain Colleen, a young American woman who has fought hard for what she wants, is always 3 minutes early, and loves to engage in controversial discussions just to get a rise out of people.

Speaking of which, as I spent my first few days in Morocco here in Rabat, this article really struck me as a good one to share for starting out this blog - again.

Morocco's Mawazine Festival: Exposing Class Tensions and Social Unrest

I attended Mawazine in 2010, because hey, one can put up with a little groping and crushing crowds to see Shakira for free in the prime of her career, and Joe Cocker for free in honor of her father!  But, as I mentioned, I feel that in coming back to Morocco now, I have to take a step back when I consider whether or not to participate in these Western and popular events.  What does it say to people around me when I complicity support this festival that many believe is a complete waste of the government's money?  Am I being a hypocrite in working to empower and educate the rural poor of this country, and yet attend this "opiate of the masses" kind of event?

Today I go down to Casablanca from Rabat, and jump right into Corps Africa training.  Hopefully I will have plenty of time to post more about my job and my ruminations soon!