A Bittersweet Fourth of July

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This Fourth of July is bittersweet.  On one hand, I get to spend it with three other Americans who I am doing camp with.  We plan on making American food and watching Team America.  On the other hand, The Staj of Love (Morocco 2013-2015) lost its first member.  He will be leaving tonight on a medical separation.  It’s sad to say goodbye to someone who shared in the struggles of being in a strange new environment.   He will be missed.

Our group of 95 is now 94.  Over the next 21 months, that number will gradually go down.  People get sick.  Family members die.  Peoples’ lives change in dramatic and unexpected ways.  It’s going to be hard to watch any of us leave.  But we know it’s going to happen.  I’m still in awe of my Staj.  We are approaching six months and still no one has left by choice.  It seems we all want to put our best effort forward.  Many of us will succeed.  Many of us will (and have) hit walls.  But it appears that we are ready to find ways around those walls.  No one here wants to give up easily.

As we celebrate Independence Day in our own way—whether it be eating watermelon or gathering with other volunteers—we are endlessly reminded of America.  I’m starting to realize how strange it will be to experience American Holidays in a place that lets the day pass without a second glance.  The Fourth.  Thanksgiving Day.  Christmas.  I’ll be lucky enough to have my parents here for Thanksgiving.  And Christmas will be a strange opportunity to gather with other volunteers and exchange stories.

On the other end of this equation, we are about to experience the biggest Holiday in the Muslim World.  Ramadan starts on July 8th.  For 30 days, every person will go without food and water during daylight hours.  Breaking fast will families will become the new form of integration for most of us.  I’m starting to get excited.  However hard it will be to go without American holidays for a couple years, I believe it is more than enough to experience another culture’s holidays in its place.

I’m starting to realize how long 27 months is.  It’s hard to believe that we are already 22% done with our service.  The time is flying by.  I’m doing everything possible to throw myself into my work.  There are plenty of difficulties, but they are always worth it in the end.  I just hope I can keep this positive attitude through the heat of the summer.

Until next time.

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