This is the longest time I’ve ever been away from home. By home, I mean America, all of it. I love it. I miss it. I miss green things outside. I miss trash being in trashcans. I miss English. I miss being able to buy something without being asked why. I miss saying hello to somebody without them thinking I’m French. I miss things working. I miss people working. I miss having running water all the time, I miss electricity always working, I miss not having a landlord who unapologetically is always trying to screw me over. I miss having furniture. I miss having a toilet. I miss ice cream, I miss beer, I miss cheese, I miss green vegetables. I miss people, family, friends. Most of all, I miss the culture.
I miss individualism, personal choice, being left alone, responsibility, and the protestant work ethic.
I picked up a book from the peace corps library called ‘Humor and Moroccan Culture’. It’s by Matthew Helmke, an American who’s been living in Morocco for some time. He noticed, as I have, that he could understand every word in a joke, but he couldn’t understand why it was funny. It’s the difference between fhm and tfhhm in Arabic. For the benefit of any other pcvs who might be reading this, here’s a joke from the book in transcribed darija:
Wahid nhar ja ‘3nd Joha SHabu u Tlb yaslfu Hmar. Gal Joha, “Hmar diyali makaynsh.” Fnfs lwaqt alHmar diyal Joha bda yaghuwet bSut ‘3lay. U sm’3u SaHbu, “Gltni bli huwa makaynsh”. Jawb Joha, “shkun ktiq wash ana willa Hmar?”
واحد نهار جى عند جحا صحابو و طلب يسلفو حمار. قال جحا، "حمار ديالي ماكاينش." فهذه الوقت الحمار ديال جحا بدا يغوت بصوت علاي. و سمعو صاحبو، "ققلتني بلي هو ماكيانش." جوب جحا، "شكون كتيق واش انا ولا حمار؟
(Moroccan Arabic isn't written, so the spelling here is variable and this is written with the pronunciation one would hear in Fes. I never learned the standardized transcription of Darija, if that exists, so I did my best with the section above.)
One day, Joha’s friend came to his house and asked to borrow Joha’s donkey. Joha said “My donkey isn’t here.” At the same time the donkey began braying loudly. Joha’s friend heard it and said, “I thought you said the donkey isn’t here.” Joha replied, “Who are you going to believe, me or a donkey?”.
I think this is kind of a funny joke. Mostly because it seems that Joha is a witty jerk. However, and the author explains this in depth, Moroccans do not think it's funny because of that. They think it's funny that Joha wouldn't share his donkey. People here will blast music from an mp3 player or out of their window, thinking that they're "sharing" it with everybody else, not "pissing everybody off". This kind of communalism is absurd to me. I prefer sitting in a subway full of people wearing headphones. Here, if you can't acquiesce to somebody's request, you don't say "sorry I can't", you say, "god-willing". There is no directness. There are no clear boundaries drawn between people and their possessions.
In an effort to keep America alive and well in my heart and soul, I started reading a monstrously lengthy collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And one line in particular jumped out at me: "A man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work." This is America.
Anyway, enough whining. I don't feel as if I'm in a rough stretch- I'm just bored. I am hot and bored. It was 112 degrees today and I'm waiting for the water to come on. America, I will see you in 21 and a half months.