|By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 11:31 am: Edit Post|
From Tennessee to Al-Maghreb
From Tennessee to Al-Maghreb
It is official. I've been invited to Morocco - February 2nd. Maternal and Child health. Guyana has been offered as well.
I'm choosing Morocco because it presents more of a challenge to my comfort zone. And it is an important time to be a cultural bridge in a Muslim culture.
posted by Amanda at 6:12 PM // Comment (0)
People have been asking me why Peace Corps? Why now? A local newspaper editor nearly arm-wrestled me over the issue, feeling indignant to even be in my company. (Granted, he wasn't too smart and his makeshift little papel ain't doing so well.. But hey!) Often, when I was doing my various medical appointments, nurses would coo and fuss over me punctuating their various questions with statements like "bless your heart." One woman even told me that I had a reserved spot in heaven. I didn't realize there was a reservation desk in the afterlife, but it is good to know. Sometimes, after being confronted by this news, a personwill look wistfully away from me and then studiously at me, unable to say anything. Friends think it's cool. Family are not surprised as I've talked about this option for years and have shown that I will never give up the search for new living environs (nice euphemism, there). So, why am I doing this?
1.) I want to make a difference.
2.) I want to put my skills to use where they are needed.
3.) I want to live and travel abroad and make the vocational contacts to continue to do so for a long time.
3.) I want to act as a cultural bridge in this time of crisis. A bridge links two or more spots and ideally provides a smooth surface upon which to travel and reflect upon these various locales.
I don't expect to be saving anybody's world - not even my own. I know from talking to RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) that I will learn and gain a whole lot more than I will impart. This is a jolt, of course. I know also that these people have been changed for life, having gained a valuable multi-cultural perspective that has informed their work lives, their romantic/emotional attachments and choices, their entire cosmos.
It is big, I tell you. Huge.
posted by Amanda at 11:27 PM // Comment (0)
Oba! I just found this great collection of travel quotes. Impetus and loathing. Self-critique and self-congratulations. Some current favorites:
"Travel was flight and pursuit in equal parts" Paul Theroux
"Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art." Freya Stark
"The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it" Rudyard Kipling
[Me-notes: First Smells in Brazil: clay, salted mango, dead fish, that indescribable smell of ones own scent magnified by tremendous wind and sogging-down by rain. First smells of England: paper pulp, tobacco, gasoline. First smells of Venice:poop. First smells of Switzerland: snow, roses. Okay enough.]
"A wise traveller never despises his own country." Goldoni
"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going." Paul Theroux
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." St. Augustine
"People don't take trips . . . trips take people." John Steinbeck
"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." Robert Louis Stevenson
Ah, the travel-love builds!
posted by Amanda at 4:27 PM // Comment (0)
Okay, so I've been reading lots about Morocco - but I cannot seem to shake this newfound need to read everything written by Paul Bowles. My local book-lending places only carry the most popular Bowles books and thus I'm spending money actually purchasing these hefty books. Right now I'm in the first chapter of Let It Come Down - and it is already giving me deep dark satisfaction. Clearly Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue could set the mood for any sort of travel, as it deposits the reader directly and succintly into Bowles' quick and meaty trips through Morocco, India, Ceylon and Turkey. A Little Original Sin, a fine biography of Paul Bowles' late wife Jane, gives a much different perspective on the famous couple and their various geographical juxtopositions. After reading it I felt an instant nausea - so akin to the brutual honesty of catching a cheating lover, or happening upon the gruesome, yet oddly fascinating, detritus of a dead animal.
I'm also reading Dreams of Trespass and Scherezade Goes West by Fatima Mernessi - the renown Moroccan feminist sociologist, now living in Rabat - which is the city where I will train for three months. She has several other books and illuminates much about the status of women in her home country and the world.
While I like to think I have much more courage than fear re: this whole Peace Corps thang - I do feel daunted by my soon-to-be immersion into a Life Without Men. That is, I will work with only women and surely look to building rapport with Moroccan women as part of my job - and know I will not have access to the male sphere. It is times like these I wish I could adequately cross-dress - like the little girl (what was her name?) in Esther Freud's Hideous Kinky. This is all highly silly conjecture. I need to stop preconcepting myself into a box. Sheesh-Louise!
So far I've felt compelled to buy two guide books - Lonely Planet Morocco and Cadogan's Morocco. Before I left for Brazil in 1994 I bought the LP guide and poured over it like it was a Living Bible and I a new country convert. I wanted each paragraph in the "Health" section to metamorphosize into living diagrams that I could touch, smell and hear. Each mention of beasties that bore holes into the foot or fishes that swim an upstream breaststroke up unsuspecting swimmmers' urine flows made me visualize myself, in Brazil, with that particular affliction. It is all such sultry knowledge.
In John Coyne's collection of Peace Corps tales, Living on the Edge, Paul Theroux recounts the horrific tumba fly infestation of a friend in some Southeaster African country. He describes in vivid detail the scores of mean, shiny headed boils that, once popped, gave way to living maggots. This prompted me to buy How to Stay Healthy Abroad by Richard Dawood and to relive each second of that fateful scene in Alien when a phelmy baby alien birthed itself, Buddha-like, into the pristine white space-ship sickroom. Is that what going to a foreign country is like? Yes, it is.
Morocco does not have tumba flies or piranha last time I checked. But I will have to steer clear of space-ship alien baby ectoplasmic birth rituals. Signing off. God, I've got to get over myself. Pleh!
posted by Amanda at 12:57 AM // Comment (0)
Well, I've started something. I think. It is like the baby has come out shoulders-first, head wedged into an armpit, feet stuck in the ribcage, all waah and push. I know that this blogspot thing was the vanity internet publishing equivalent of an impromptu purchase at the sunglasses kiask at the mall, but ah well. Stranger things have happened.
I want to create a space, online of course, for daily writings about this new thing I'm about to do. Er, be. That is, in three months I will be leaving middle Tennessee, with all its lush green and grime, for the Peace Corps. Child and maternal health in Morocco. And that is about all I know.
Why the Peace Corps and why now? These are two of the central questions that I aim to kick about in this space - at least until I get to Morocoo. It would be silly to conjecture and predict the sorts of questions that will arise at the time of impact - and where all this might go. I'm sure at that point (iffen I have der Internets!) much more will surface - hopefully some of it intelligible.
I made this space for three reasons: 1.) To keep in touch with family and friends while I am away (with high hopes that I will have at least some internet access during this time. I know I will during the first three months.) 2.) To keep a quasi-journal about daily life in the Peace Corps and Morocco for whomever wishes to read it and 3.) To flex my creative word-making muscle in such a way as to ease myself into public writing about travel, culture and that life I've flung myself into (shoulders-first).
That is all for now - coffee's done.