I gave myself three goals on returning to America. I swore that my first meal – the first food I ate period – would be a junkyard dog (with curly fries and a root beer) from Spike's. That probably sounds pretty easily accomplished, but you're forgetting that I landed in New York, and Spike's is strictly a Rhode Island franchise, and that's about four hours of hungry driving from one end to the other, but three Ramadans of training paid off, and at exactly ten o'clock at night, I had my hotdog.
My second goal was a promise that before the following weekend (when I went to Birmingham to see Salma) I'd take at least one shower every day. That one didn't work out quite as well, though I did get most of them. Obviously, it didn't bother me – it's the cleanest I've been in over two years – and nobody said anything about any smells, so I'm going to go out and say that the joke's on all of you for being stooges of the Shower-Industrial Complex.
My last plan is to have all my doctoral applications finished by Thanksgiving, which isn't looking too good at the moment, but, you know, inshallah.
In the meantime I'm working on remember how to be an American without forgetting that I'm a Moroccan. I'd expected that I'd have the most trouble with touching my heart after shaking someone's hand (what people do in Morocco), but it turns out that American's don't really shake hands that much. Of course, the few times that I did shake someone's hand I did also touch my heart, but I'm pretty sure that that one's just going to go away on its own by virtue of the fact that I'm not shaking hands with everyone I meet every time I meet them. What's been dying a lot harder has been Bismillah-ing everything. Here's your change, bismillah. Time to eat, bismillah. Start the car, bismillah.
I don't usually say that one out loud, but I make up for that with inshallah. In Morocco, everything is inshallah, which makes talking about the future a lot easier than it is out here. Here, someone says something about what's going to happen or what they're planning to do and everyone just lets it go at that, and I don't know what to do about it because where I come from, if you don't inshallah, how's anyone supposed to know if you're on board or not? “Let's meet again at six.” “Inshallah.” Now you know that I know the plan. If I don't say anything, though, then anything could happen at six, so I've been inshallah-ing as much as possible.
There's a handful of other Darijia words I've been throwing around, too. “Yumkin” (maybe), “wakha” (okay), “ajjie” (come here), and “enshof” (let me see) being some of the most frequent. It's not that I forget that I'm speaking English, or that I expect people to necessarily understand them, or that I just want to be that much more pretentiously obnoxious, it's just that these are the words that we (volunteers) tended to use with each other – and not just with our communities – which we obviously did, too. The English equivalents just don't exist for me anymore, which means that my family and friends get to enjoy that much more of Duncan-is-more-culturally-diverse-than-we-are.
Which, as it turns out, is probably going to be the Peace Corps legacy for me. I'm not going to be one of those RPCVs who goes around wearing jellabas (though I have already toured Birmingham, Alabama, in my finest stamping-out G Star). I'm not going to be calling myself Amin or listening to sha'abia music in my car, but I'm also not going to be able to blend back in with the normals. You're going to be able to tell that I was a Morocco volunteer. Inshallah.