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PeaceWorks Peace Corps Morocco’s Literary Magazine

spring 17


The Staff Executive Editor: Kelsey Holmes Production Editor: Young Kwon Literary Editors: Cassandra Ernst & Michael Triozzi Photo Editor: Senju Rajan


Letter from the Editor Greetings, Welcome to the Fall 2017 issue of PeaceWorks, Peace Corps Morocco’s art and literary magazine. This issue focuses on a question that is central to the journey of a Peace Corps volunteer: what is community? We asked volunteers to reflect on their year of service – infinite tea times, communication mishaps, and human connection. Through the eyes and words of volunteers across Morocco, we’re able to see that the concepts of identity and community are consistently relevant in the way we internalize, interpret, and communicate with our surroundings. On the front cover, Julia Smucker’s movement-filled piece depicts a scene that is familiar to many volunteers serving in Morocco – that of beautiful, unbelievably cohesive chaos. We see pieces delving deep into self-reflection and issues of identity in powerful writings by Ada Cruz-Torres and Anjel Richardson and begin to hone in on the fluidity of the word “community” through thoughtful reflections by Kate Gerry and Julie Sherbill among other inspiring works. As we move forward as a community in service, we look forward to the launch of our permanent website to showcase more of your thoughts, reflections and inspiration. It is our hope that in reading, viewing, and reflecting on these works, we can not only strengthen our sense of community among Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco, but serve as an avenue through which to expand our reach to our global communities. Through connection and creativity, this look into the lives of volunteers can not only bring us closer to understanding and appreciating one another, but to spreading that connection outwards. As always, we warmly welcome the opportunity to read and publish your submissions, and we are proud to be a part of your community.

photo by Pawsansoe Bree Front Cover art by Julia Smucker Back Cover photo by Savanna Stern

Regards, The PeaceWorks Editorial Staff 3


Definitions of

Those Who Matter Most Kate Gerry What is community? Is it the people you grew up with?

As I travel, I realize that the answer is, all of these and more.

Is it those with whom you share a faith? A culture? An identity?

Community is those new family and friends who make sure to send me home with some lamb ribs and insist on making sure I feel welcome.

Is it those friends in your life you never see? Those you see every day?

Community is those I’ve left behind, yet who still share in my adventures.

Is it those you barely know, who welcome and love you with abandon?

Community is those with whom I’ve united in service to our country and to our world.

Is it those whom you’ve chosen or those who’ve chosen you?

Community is everyone who’s touched my life, whether or not they choose to stay.

Is it your family and neighbors?

Community is the definition of those who matter most. 4


com·mu·ni·ty ͞ kəˈmyoonədē/ noun

1. The people who make you feel at home, no matter where you are in the world

photo by savanna stern


Night Fall Latane’ Elmo Brackett, IV

I remember where I was when the first handful of stars went out of existence. I was in the lobby of a hotel rereading an article that I thought was lying about the events that occurred. I checked other websites in hope that one of my worst fears had not come to pass, but they all read the same. I am unsure what took hold first. The anger I felt boiling behind my eyes, the sadness I felt freezing my chest, or the feeling in my head of the world ending because of the stars that continued to die. The night had fallen, but the people rejoiced as if stars had not just been blotted out. The morning that followed shortly after did not breathe new life into the flowers that began to wither when they realized the sky had become a chasm for a seemingly endless night to take hold. Even so we moved through this new-found darkness trying to figure out where everything was and trying to realign ourselves to a sky that gave us no light to navigate our future. A few of us fell into despair as we read the document hour after hour trying to understand why and how did this happen. Why did the morning sun not rise?

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Why were we trapped in this darkness? Were our flowers not important enough to grow? I fell into despair. Disorientated and flailing within my mind as the madness took hold around me. Trees were uprooted, vines were severed, gardens became overrun with weeds, and flowers were pulled from their beds while they slept. I wonder what would become of us as the beauty that had once been faded with each passing day; then I heard a voice that came from the untamed wilderness found within all of us. It said to me, “Trees have bark, vines can regrow, not all weeds are weeds, and flowers have thorns. These are the gifts that nature has given.” The voice left as mysteriously as it had arrived, yet it left something behind in its wake. A small seed so precious and pure that did not mind the dark because its life has been spent in the dark waiting for its time to come. It belted into the darkness defying the long night with every fiber of its existence and said, “My name is Hope and I sing in places where the stars no longer shine.”


The Road Isn’t Getting Any Shorter Zachary Schreiner

originally posted to Facebook on November 3, 2015: According to the Peace Corps, I’m about 10 miles from the nearest paved road. In order to prepare for a recent bike tour, I would bike those 10 miles and back each morning. Often, I didn’t want to. It was hot, I was tired, and 10 miles is a lot on a road that turns to puddy in the rain. When I started to feel that way, I would tell myself “the road isn’t getting any shorter”. I wrote that on my door and I read it every morning. This attitude has helped me a lot since coming here.


Art by Bethan Owen


H2O Cassandra Rose Ernst

In America, I loved to indulge in long showers and would take longer baths on weekends, complete with bubbles, incense, and books. This made me especially excited for Moroccan hammams. Who wouldn’t want to indulge in some weekly self-care in a communal steam room? I have only been in the hammam for five minutes, but so much sweat is dripping from my body it looks like I’ve doused myself with water. Maybe I can add some soap to the sweat and scrub myself clean. It may be the only option; there are so many women I can’t lay down my mat. I sit my bucket on the tiled floor, surreptitiously pushing it closer to the hot faucets. There are three hot faucets for a line of over twenty women, each trying to fill about four buckets. The last faucet manages a few drops. I slide my bucket under the last sluggish trickle of water. Ten minutes later, it’s half-full and the other women are trying to push theirs ahead. There is no concept of lines and I wish for the good ole days of American privilege when my Moroccan mama would make like Noah and magically part the line so I had hot water in under two minutes. A fight breaks out between the women about who should fill their buckets next; I slide low as I try to recall a childhood song about patience. I patiently hope I fill my bucket before I faint. 9


What good is water that only runs between eleven p.m. and five a.m.? When the rest of the women finished running water for cooking, cleaning, and scrubbing the dirt out of clothes. It was the only time enough water meandered up to my second story house, but I felt too inconvenienced to be grateful. I am sitting beside the window when I hear a familiar sound: the steady stream of water from the outdoor faucet. I grab a large jug as I bound down the steps. Sweet cold water is flowing. I don’t know how long it will last so I shove my jug under it, praying to get at least one filled for the day. My mama meets me outside and says something in rapid-fire Darija. She doesn’t like repeating herself, so I play the words back in my head. A party. For water. She wants to be upstairs by seven a.m. I assume she wants to celebrate the running water and will need to use my salon to accommodate the extra guests. At seven in the morning, I open the door and she tells me to hurry. There’s a white van waiting with fifteen women and enough supplies to feed one hundred people. I have made a grave mistake. 10

My mama calls out again, more urgently, asking me what time it is. Why did I get the only Moroccan family who cares about time management? It is only when I’m in the van, staring at the three sheep I’ll be eating as we speed over road bumps, that I realize I’d forgotten to pee. The party is in a field near one of the water towers. We’re the first to arrive, since we’re making the food. But I am forbidden to help as I watch the women work their couscous magic. The tents feed half the town in increments. While we wait, I entertain the children and everybody sings. There is no toilet in sight, so I keep my mouth dry as I chow down on couscous. The best part of the celebration is the sweet release of water when I return home. Sometimes we think of rain as a nuisance. It ruins our hair; it keeps our jeans wet. It makes us cold and uncomfortable and can ruin a pleasant night. But in Morocco, the word used to describe rain is baraka . . . blessing. I stumble upon my mama tying an Amazigh scarf around a stick with a dress. I join the group of women who are talking excitedly


in Tamazight, their mother tongue from which I’ve mastered a total of five phrases. The women surround me and begin to yell call and response songs. Without warning, we move down the road. My mama leads the way with her Amazigh scarecrow, as children trail us, the boys carrying empty sacks. I clap my hands and attempt to imitate the women’s cries as they stop at one of the houses. Their call and responses grow louder; we stand outside and wait. The door opens and it’s a dance frenzy. The woman holds a cup of water in her hands, which she sprinkles on us before throwing the rest over the head of the scarecrow. Everybody cheers. The woman pours flour in a boy’s bag. We continue as women throw water on the scarecrow and hand either sugar or flour to the young male envoys. Some of the women leave their house and join our songs. I don’t know what we are singing, but I repeat their words as I move to the beat. I cry out as I get to each house and imagine crying out to water spirits to give us rain for growth. I learn later that this is a prayer for the blessing of rain, but I can’t help but wonder if this Amazigh tradition is a remnant of a time before Islam.

People say that when you move to a foreign country, your relationship with water will change. I never knew how much water could represent community. We’re on the third week of no water and I’m waiting at the communal water faucet. I don’t want to talk to anybody, preferring isolation when I’m homesick. But if I don’t leave my house, I can’t do any cooking or cleaning. Two girls are filling their water jugs and they smile at me. We start talking as the younger girl counts my bracelets. Another woman joins. Her smile is folded and kind, her tattoos sun-faded against her face and hands. She greets me in Tamazight and I stumble through her mother tongue. One of the women from the association sees me. She reminds me to join them for tea. The homesickness fades away as I am reminded of community. My new community. Morocco has begun to feel like home.


Perfect Contact with a Moment/Morocco Blake Steiner On the short, dusty walk home a friend greets you, blesses you and your parents hands you the sweetest orange passing under a shade tree the hot wind and the call to prayer surge raising with them your awareness settled serenely on the open ground the smallest tuft of fur and whiskers as you kneel, right on cue the smell of mint swarms the air

photo by savann


na stern

photo by Jeanette Butler

photo by Cassandra Ernst

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I

have been to two wedding celebrations in Morocco: one in a small village in the north and another in Casablanca. At the village wedding anyone was welcome and even pajamas were acceptable. At the city wedding, much like the weddings back home, the invitation list was limited and attire was formal. While they were different, both weddings were joyous, warm, and incorporated many aspects of Moroccan culture. While different, both celebrations were equally Moroccan.

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More than one Morocco Originally published on Julie’s blog, wereallshoes.weebly.com

Julie Sherbill

I make this clarification because, from my perspective, Peace Corps is very focused on providing us with one view of Morocco — that is, the view from our Peace Corps sites. While it’s important for Volunteers to be focused on building relationships within their sites and not treating these two years like a giant vacation, it’s also important for us to have a complex understanding Morocco, in all its cultural diversity. While Fulbright Scholars are encouraged to travel throughout Morocco, Peace Corps Volunteers have often been scolded for spending too much time outside their villages and towns. Too much of this policy risks a simplified understanding of what “Morocco” means. This narrowed vision impedes the third goal of Peace Corps, which is “to help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.” Resisting the Urge to Generalize Morocco’s dynamic capacity, with its thriving cities as well as rural villages, reminds us that this country doesn’t need Peace Corps Volunteers in order to develop. And that is a very important thing to recognize if Peace Corps wants to advance, not hinder, social justice. If Peace Corps didn’t exist, Morocco would be the same. People-to-people relationships and cross-cultural learning would decrease, but Moroccan development would no doubt continue. Some Volunteers’ sites are more rural than others — some sites are more conservative, some have fewer resources, some have higher poverty, and some are more isolated. While these sites might make someone’s service more challenging, it doesn’t make it more “Moroccan.” In fact, it is problematic to associate the countryside with the core identity of a nation. This trope comes from intellectual elite that rely upon the imagined, stagnant nature of these rural, poor areas to

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“contain” an idealized, nationalistic vision. This vision of the nation is rooted in orientalism left over from the era of colonization. So, when Peace Corps Volunteers need a break from “Morocco” and head to the city for an iced chai latte, it is a sign of their class and economic mobility — not their Americanness. There are plenty of Moroccans that drink Starbucks on the regular. It’s just that none of them come from my village. But to say they are any less “Moroccan” is to reject Morocco’s dignity as a diverse, complicated, globalizing, and evolving country with many different classes, education levels, and human capital. The Third Goal is Not License to “America-splain” If volunteers are only aware of their site in a vacuum, they will offer their U.S. communities a version of Morocco that only reflects their specific experiences. What’s more, American PCVs who hang out together might go down the dark path of having conversations like “I hate when Moroccans do this,” or “the worst part about Morocco is that.” It’s so easy to blame an entire country for the flaws of one specific place, the inevitable trials of being a foreigner, or cultural norms that we have yet to understand. But we (myself included) have to recognize and check the racism and classism inherent in these conversations. At the same time, we as Volunteers can benefit from this very same, reductive vision of our host countries. We have the privilege of the Peace Corps brand name, network, and “street cred” within the federal government and development organizations upon our return home. Some of us even get jobs based on our incountry experience. But it’s important to remember that we are not even close to experts on this country and all its cultures. For example, in my site, many of the women are illiterate. At the same time, more and more Moroccan women are attending universities in the country as a whole. Indeed, I will never be qualified, and it will never be appropriate, for me to to explain to anyone the “situation of women in Morocco.” Even though we might be more familiar with aspects of Morocco than the average American, two years isn’t enough to speak about the country with any authority.

Then How Do We Help? It is not our place to point out problems in other countries; it is our place to support other social change leaders who know their countries better. In the international development field — which has historically lacked local expertise and nuanced understanding of other countries — Returned Peace Corps Volunteers should use their experience to consult with, promote the leadership of, and integrate people from their host country into the social sector. Just like we’re “sidekicks” for youth development work here in Morocco, Peace Corps Volunteers — especially ones with more privilege — should continue seeing themselves as “sidekicks” in the inherently Eurocentric international development field. How to Make a Site my Home I’ve hopped around Morocco quite a bit this summer, visiting various friends, attending trainings, exploring, and yes, drinking some overpriced iced beverages. I’ve dealt with the guilt that often becomes a theme in the service of Volunteers who didn’t grow up poor or haven’t worked closely with vulnerable communities back home. When I bought plane tickets back to the U.S. for vacation, I thought about how no one in my area has ever been on a plane. But I’m not helping anyone by acting out of guilt. After all, Sidi Bouzid and its people deserve respect, not pity, from any outsider who chooses to live there. My productivity can’t be measured by the hours I spend in my site; my site isn’t counting my hours here, anyway. Rather, I’ll focus on the quality of relationships, sustainability of work, and new perspectives I am exposed to overall. Just like working at mission-driven organizations is a privilege, serving in the Peace Corps is a privilege — and I chose it. So I aim to be genuinely engaged in the work I’m doing while here. Morocco is a big, complicated country, and it’s okay — and even beneficial — to look beyond my site when I want to, and if I can. I want to miss my site and be excited to return when I’m gone. But I also need the drive to work in my site, even when I’m challenged by the difference in perspectives or lack of happy hours. After all, Sidi Bouzid is not the one image that traps me, but rather, one beautiful, intricate piece of a much larger, ever-changing puzzle that is Morocco. 15


art by Julia Smucker

The Happy Dogs Michael Triozzi They shot the dogs this morning. The whistling cracks of the policemen’s guns punctured the still morning air and shook me from sleep around dawn. (Houssam said the police did this sometimes – I don’t know if I believed him). The distant barking and howls were distressed, but not terrible, and they faded fast or were cut short. One of the dogs – Floppy, I think, or maybe Dusty – went down just outside my window: an explosion shook the quiet town street and made me jump from my bed and stand shirtless and bleary-eyed – framed by the window and squinting down at ruffled policeman, twitching form of dog, and twisted form of morning. Was that Floppy? Or Dusty? I couldn’t tell. I wanted to be more distressed – or at least a little sad. And maybe I was. It’s hard to remember. I laid back down and went back to sleep and the whole thing now has only a dreamlike quality: gunshots, dogs, and sadness all encased beneath a sheet of frosted glass. I had known some of those dogs – the Happy Dogs I called them. There was a time when I would feed them leftovers or coax them over for pats on their lean, scrawny heads. For a time I suppose we had a strange community between us.


Happy Dog had been the first to come over, and the first to get a name. The rest were merely her sidekicks at first: Happy and her Happy Dogs. Zippy came next, usually orbiting Happy with twice her speed and none of her direction. Dusty moved more slowly, cautiously. He was small and dark-eyed and brown – the runt of the pack, but brave in his own way. Floppy stayed in the back – the saddest of the Happy Dogs. She shrank back whenever I would try to toss food her way. I don’t know if she ever let me pet her. Having a dog follow you around is a fine thing in a strange country where it can be hard to make friends. Having an ever-growing pack of four or five or six street dogs mob you on your way to work can get old fast. They would see me coming and run at me and jump around and tear at the legs of my pants, with tongues lolling out of their heads and blank, uncomprehending eyes. They would follow me into shops or cafes until the waiters or shopkeepers chased them off with their waving hats and shouts. I began to avoid them, began to change my route back to my door, and began to curse out loud if one of them saw me coming and started bounding my way when I just wanted to be alone.

“Just kick them!” Houssam would blurt out, exasperated. “The cops are probably gonna shoot them soon anyway.” He didn’t mean to be cruel. The Happy Dogs kept running and I kept running away from them. Shortly after I started avoiding the Happy Dogs, I found out that I had hurt someone I loved back home. I didn’t sleep for days. Not knowing what else to do I went outside in the gathering dark of a late evening and started to run, up and down a long stretch of the main road that runs along the edge of town. I ran for two hours. In painless exhaustion my legs were mere mechanical parts of me – moving like marionettes on strings, all but independent from my mind. Turning back to run one last exhausted stretch along that road I saw a shade among the shadows of the nowblack night. There was Happy, alone, poised atop a hill of trash along the road. She stared at me with empty, unblinking, shining eyes, as if her pupils had been replaced by cartoon asterisks. Eyes that looked like vacant storefronts with nothing but “for rent” spray-painted across them in luminescent paint. It must have been one of those rare nights when dogs feel inclined to talk to unhappy men, because she opened her mouth and said:

“You run like a dog. And you acted like a dog to people you love. Come run with us. We are free! We snarl and we pant and we rip at the clothes of children and we steal from the garbage – free! All you have to do to be free is stop caring. Free! Free until the policemen gun us down!” I wasn’t sure I had enough left in me to speak after the pounding in my legs and the wheezing in my chest. Coughing back the taste of iron in the back of my throat, I choked out the words: “If I’m a dog, there are better ways to be a dog than to be you. There are better ways to be free.” She couldn’t have understood. Not with those eyes. Free is all so many of us ever want to be, but it’s not always worth the cost of being a dog. Happy and I never saw much of each other after that. None of the others either, except Floppy, who still mostly hung around the neighborhood. Lately when I’d pass them they’d just wag their tails and keep their distance – until morning came and the policemen gunned them down.

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photo by Pawsansoe Bree

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Being

Black in Birkwat Anjel Richardson So how have I chosen to share my culture with my community? I have chosen to exist unapologetically in their space as a Black woman. This can be met with many challenges. I assume many are unfamiliar with how to conduct themselves in the presence of Black Royalty. As a result, I am met with racial slurs and names I do not recognize or acknowledge. While here I have been called: K7la, Afrikia, Senegaliya, Shaklat Blackie, Black Bitch, and Nigger. Surely this melanin has attracted your attention, and the distraction has made you forget your manners, so you refer to me by color, as opposed to by name. Your fault. It is said that racism does not exist in Islam. While that may be true, it certainly exists in the hearts of some who claim to follow it. Whatever the root of the bias, An internal, however, incorrect belief that Blacks are inferior. Ignorance to the outside world. Aversion to all things different and exotic.

I simply do not care. I will continue to exist unapologetically in their space as a Black woman. Though you may deny my heritage, I assure you my bloodline runs deep in America, for it was my ancestors who built it. Despite what the media has taught you, those that came before me have contributed much more than Rap Music and athletes, so do not assume that you know me, or my story. There is not one way to be Black, and I do not represent all the ideals, values and beliefs of Black people. I represent me. I am who I am. I like what I like. You are welcome to converse and learn, but please keep your hands off my loss. And because I know who I am and am proud of it, you will not see me cover, cower or dim my light to make those around me more comfortable. On the contrary, I will exist unapologetically in their space as a Black woman.


Atmane Ahdach, Peace Corps Counterparts, and the French Foreign Legion (Originally published on Will’s blog, peacecorpsmorocco.wordpress.com)

William Burriss

I’ve found that an individual’s story can often provide greater insights into a foreign land than a textbook. For me, it’s the individual humans that give the macro facts and figures about a society any meaning in the first place. Today, I’d like to share the story of one such individual: Atmane Ahdach. Atmane is what Peace Corps administrators would refer to as a Counterpart – a local host country national that partners with a Peace Corps Volunteer to accomplish projects in their community. It’s pretty safe to say that Counterparts are a key component of any successful Peace Corps project. But what a bureaucrat in Washington would call a Counterpart, a Peace Corps Volunteer in the field would usually just call a friend. While working on creating a multi-media library in our youth center, I got a chance to hear Atmane recollect about his childhood in the Sahara Desert. A few of the stories stuck with me, especially the ones about his family. His father’s name was

Ibrahim, named after the prophet Abraham. And similar to the Old Testament patriarch, Ibrahim was 83 years old when his son Atmane was born. Atmane was born in a large town on the outskirts of Zagora, a small Moroccan city in the Sahara that has served as an important intersection on the caravan trade route for centuries. He and his family are Amazigh, and speak Arabic only as their second or third language. They are a part of the Ait Atta tribe, a group of over 130,000 Tamazight-speaking people from various oases that all trace their ancestry back to a common historical person. The more Atmane told me about his family, the better I came to understand that history in Morocco is not completely divorced from the present. It composes the context in which we find ourselves. Atmane’s father struck me as the personification of this. He was a living link to a pivotal but bloody part of Morocco’s history: a time in which European powers were laying claim to large swaths of


North Africa, and the modern state of Morocco was being born. During the scramble for Africa in the late 1800’s, the French laid claim to large portions of Morocco, and mixed military might with divide-and-conquer techniques until their realm of influence reached the Sahara Desert. Armed with a rifle and a horse, Atmane’s father Ibrahim was among those who fiercely resisted French imperial ambitions. Unfortunately for the French Foreign Legion, the desert tribes had perfected a style of warfare suitable to the Sahara over centuries of raids and repelling invaders. The Amazigh tribes turned an expectedly easy French victory into a costly venture – and stood with 19th century weapons against a professional army using airplanes, poison gas, and machine guns.

the strong support of the United States in the 1950s. It was at the end of this era – and the beginning of a new one – that Atmane was born. And although separated by 60 years, his father’s story seemed to link the two worlds together. Life in the Moroccan Sahara changed dramatically during this time period; arguably more during Ibrahim’s life span than the last 500 years combined. Moroccan independence, electricity, running water, and infrastructure development have transformed the lives of the Ait Atta tribe. The Peace Corps has been serving in Morocco for about 50 years now, starting about the same time when these changes began to occur.

Atmane first started working with Peace Corps Volunteer when he was 18, when he met a Peace Corps Volunteer working Despite possessing an with a local association. He took overwhelming technological advantage of the free English advantage and using controversial classes and helped her to create tactics, these desert territories a new computer lab, as well as would be the last lands in paint a world map mural on the Morocco to be “pacified” by the Dar Chabab wall. Not long after French, in the 1930’s. this, Atmane moved to central Morocco in Marrakech to attend As so often seems to be the case, the university. These days, when the invaders do not appear to have Atmane is not volunteering on benefited much from the tentative projects, you can most likely conquest. The French would retain finding him working to finish his their grip on the Moroccan Sahara Master’s Degree in Linguistics for less than a decade. For soon and Advanced English Studies after, France would be invaded at the University of Marrakech. itself by Nazi forces, and Morocco I first met Atmane while he was would gain independence with working as a Language and

Culture Facilitator for Peace Corps Trainees. He speaks two Tamazight dialects, Moroccan Arabic, Standard Arabic, and English fluently. I think I enjoyed learning about Atmane’s story for a multitude of reasons, and not just because his tale is so radically different from my own. Nor was it solely due to the fact he’s a good guy working to improve the wellbeing of others in an exotic place. Hearing stories about individuals such as Atmane are like tugging on a string interwoven into a greater tapestry. Pulling on one string reveals how it is connected to the rest of the garment. It explains a lot, like how a guy from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia ended up becoming good friends with a guy from the Sahara Desert.

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Night Joshua Eugene Griffin

I look upon you with ageless curiosity... Vastly unknown you are... A universe of sea, Which reflects light from your years past - illuminating closed eyes. Your darkness who brings light. A cave painted with diamonds - you shine. I look up to you, you leave me humbled every time our eyes meet. You are bigger than I’ll ever know. I wonder if you know me? Do you see me? Are you looking back at me? If you were I’d tell you: “Your depth is endless... Your presence evokes godly type conversations. Angels seem to shoot across the sky, as you fall to sleep. Their tails of star dust, tell the heavenly memoirs of the heavens. That supernovas are God particles bursting into life.” Did you know... ‘Big Bang’ wanted a wife. That he spent his life running faster than light. Expanding towards the love that is his life. She’s known to be somewhere, out there, on the edge of unknown. At the end of days, I don’t want to gaze alone. Will you sit & get lost in infinity with me? I’ll be the one, you wish upon, if you allow me...

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photo by Cassandra Ernst


Mute in Morocco

(North African Aphasia) Amy Carpenter

A net of words caught in my throat and brain So much to ask – to learn One long six-month stutter Who, til now, have felt words Flow so easily, now choking on sounds and thoughts That refuse to form Tears, more glib, more easily expressed The town mute approaches me – I sitting under a tree, hunched miserable and wordless in self-pity – And signs, round-faced and open, that he too Has no words, But smiles still Perhaps he doesn’t miss words, as I do mine, Having never had them I miss only what I have so cherished all these long years And I dare pity myself? So much to learn Still – after all these long years


[ Ms Neda ] Ada Cruz-Torres

To my fellow Elksibians I am Neda. Ada gets easily confused with the male name Aden, so I just go by Neda. I’ve come to embrace it. Soad’s mother — Soad is my host momma — named me. We had met a few times before, but I guess Ada did not sit in her mind as well as cous cous sits in your belly. One afternoon I arrived at Soad’s for some kaskrut eating and laundry doing. Her mother greeted me at the door. She kissed me hello, then proceeded to berate me because she had seen me out and I had ignored her. As it turns out, she had been yelling, “NEDA, NEDAAA!” across the street at me, and since that had not been my name for the last twenty-four years of my existence, I had had no reaction. We all laughed until we cried, and I was hence reborn as Neda. I have recently begun to introduce myself as Neda. Everyone then asks if I am Moroccan, especially with my facial features and my dark hair being b7al lmgharba. I think I could pull this off if my Darija was also b7al lmgharba. My Peace Corps business cards say Neda; I feel very professional the rare times I hand them out, whether it’s to strangers I wish to work with, or showing them off to my friends and family. The kiddos at the Nedi Neswi call me Ms. Neda — this is perhaps the biggest accolade of all. I never thought I would have the patience to teach, but I got a gig teaching art to a group of four year olds and it has been my favorite job, perhaps, ever.


There was one morning when I got there fifteen minutes early — this only happened once because I am Latina and therefore, perpetually late — just as one of the mothers was there dropping her kid off. “Wesh nti Ms. Neda?” she asked me with a curious look on her face. Oh no, I thought. What did I do? Did I say something weird? Does her kid complain because I make him draw dinosaurs and color outside the box? Oh dear. I’m getting fired. This is it. I nodded tentatively, my mind still running a mile a minute. “Wldi kat3jbih bzaf! Huwa tkllmt ela Ms. Neda kul nhar! Ah, nti zweena Neda!” she laughed and hugged me and kissed me twice on each cheek, then held the last kiss a bit longer. “Mar7babik f dari! Wesh katj3bk lhenna? Lyum blil inshallah ikoun 3ndk wakha?” she concluded, hugging me again. I smiled and laughed in relief, thankful that I had done nothing wrong yet — or that no one had noticed the few times when I muttered impatiently under my breath — and feeling a mixture of happiness and satisfaction as it dawned on me that these kids actually knew who I was. I did not really think they spoke about me, or enjoyed the art I forced them to make twice a week. I had not yet grasped who Ms. Neda was, or what her role could be, or whether her work was helpful in any way, shape, or form. The word ‘neda’ roughly translates to the dew you may see some early mornings. Although I was not a morning person before — and certainly not an early morning person — Morocco has molded me into one; particularly during the summer when I have had no choice but to embrace it. The temperature in Elksiba has gone up to a whopping 42 degrees, and my 100 MAD fan is just not cutting it. So, every night, I undress my mattress and drag it outside, where I re-dress it and adorn it with a mosquito net. I build a makeshift princess fort with my laundry line and clothes pins, and sleep under the stars. It all sounds very romantic until the call to prayer goes off at 4:30am — did I mention I live right next door to a mosque? —and the sun rears its ugly head two hours later, kicking my sweat glands into gear yet again. Groggily and grumpily I get up, my curls disheveled and misplaced, and look out over Elksiba. And during these moments, I think I can see some neda, ever so briefly, sprinkled all over it.

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photo by Lyla Amini

Aftermath photo by Matt Rogers


An offering photo by Matt Rogers During Eid El-Adha, “feast of the sacrifice,� Muslims slaughter sheep in honor of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Donating one third of the meat to the poor in my small village helps build stronger community bonds that last far beyond the three-day holiday. This year Ahmed and Khadija Harar, my host parents, welcomed me to their home to celebrate with the family. Before they can offer their share of meat, however, they must first skin and wash their favorite ram.

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Breaking the Fast Film screening for Youth photos by Mathew Crichton


Cowsmos Art by Jennie Williams

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I am Young Kwon

I am an uprooted weed, growing - no thriving on this infertile soil. I am my grandma’s request for a son her request to carry on the patriarchy in disguise of ‘heritage’ her blindness that a daughter can outshine the sun. I am Young, spelled just like an adjective - my mother’s consideration for your convenience but still pestering me how to spell or pronounce it. Y-O-U-N-G I am my eight-year old self My mom sitting me down, whispering in my ears that I am an American - just as much as I am a Korean. First time she told me my American name: Y-O-U-N-G I felt like a secret agent - or, or, an undercover princess me, with a special, hidden identity without knowing that I’d be the alien - always tagged with the guessing game because of my disgusting lunch or because of my chinky eyes or because of my ‘exoticness’ or because of my awkward English learnt from books or because of my Asianness or because of my name.


but I am my motherland, treasuring my hair, my skin, my eyes, my tongue, my Koreanness, my blood, my Name. I am my mother’s broken English my mother’s eyes asking me to decipher the alienness I am my father’s warning - or his worry that an asian girl cannot shatter the bamboo ceiling and the glass ceiling. I am the distance between them and I, one foot on my motherland and the other - a half an Earth away - on this infertile soil. I am a woman of color, living vividly in this black and white world. or… invisible in this ghostly world. I am an uprooted weed, growing, no thriving, on this infertile soil.

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Leaving, Learning

& Finding “Home� Kelsey Holmes


I stepped out onto my balcony that overlooks the beginnings of the Atlas Mountains just outside of Marrakech this morning and admired the view. Grateful that the altitude of my home offers a slightly less demanding temperature, 90 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to the 115 of Marrakech, satisfied with the state of my house (I’d spent the morning cleaning) and feeling refreshed after my second cup of coffee, I felt fine. Above my balcony, a family of swallows has also made their home. A symbol of good luck, the bird family moved in the same time as I, and has been a source of comfort and peace from the beginning.

Today, though, I noticed something different. A tiny baby swallow, so small it was barely recognizable as a bird, had fallen from the nest. As I stared down at this dragon-like creature, my heart went out to it. Something about this tiny, lost bird hit close to home. I felt I could relate. This small bird, with its inherent sense of adventure, its natural instinct to leave the nest and explore, had found itself completely alone, helpless, and with no way of returning home. I picked it up, knowing full well that my scent could lead to the bird’s rejection by its mother, but unsure of what else to do. As I held this tiny bird in the palm of my hand, I noticed its

photo by Pawsansoe Bree


Art by Bethan Owen

quivering. It seemed unhurt, but was certainly afraid – cheeping and shaking, stretching out its small beak, asking its absent mother for food. Something about this small, lost bird touched something in my own heart. Here I was, thousands of miles from home. Equal parts adventurer and outsider, I asked myself the questions that had been on my heart since my arrival: what am I doing here? Am I just as lost as this small bird? Am I helpless, unable to improve my situation, so paralyzed by my new life without the conveniences of my privileged, modern Chicago life? And am I really going to let these fears define my journey? These questions are a common thread to the service of a Peace Corps volunteer. We find ourselves in strange places, often with little to no directive, trying to find our place in our communities. These fears unite us in a way that is unique to those who make the decision to step outside of their comfort, especially when that takes the form of uprooting our entire lives and moving across the globe. These questions and fears, however, do not define us. Rather, it is our connection with our communities, the daily experience of shared joy and sorrow, and the realization that asking for help may be just as important as extending it. We see the world around us in the way we have been conditioned to, the way we have been raised. Now, we have the opportunity to see it in a different way, and to take each moment as a lesson learned.

With the help of my neighbors, we carefully returned the baby bird to its nest, hopeful that upon her return, the mother would accept, not reject, her baby. I realized, that like this baby bird, I cannot go through life alone. It is in our human nature to need one another, to expect and depend upon the kindness of others to reach a state of happiness and fulfillment. Some days are hard. Some days we want to give up. But every day offers a new opportunity for betterment, for mindfulness, and most importantly for kindness. Once we realize that each day has the potential for us to positively affect those around us, we can begin to positively affect our own lives. With this realization, although I feel homesick, far from the nest I’ve called home my entire life, this family of sparrows continues to bring me inner peace. Human connection, kindness, understanding, and empathy are not things that come with material comforts. They are a part of inherent human nature, much like my own spirit of adventurousness; and together, this is what I want to choose to define my journey. To satisfy my restless spirit, remain unafraid to reach out to my community near and far, and to keep love and kindness in my heart. To always remember that none of us can do this alone, and that we are lucky that there is so much good in this world to make it possible to journey together.


Women Wearing Haiks Art bY Jennie Williams & Barbara Corrigan

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PeaceWorks Fall 2017  

Peace Corps Morocco's Literary MagazinePeaceWorks is a literary magazine created for and by Volunteers in Peace Corps Morocco! Read the Fall...

PeaceWorks Fall 2017  

Peace Corps Morocco's Literary MagazinePeaceWorks is a literary magazine created for and by Volunteers in Peace Corps Morocco! Read the Fall...

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